Showing posts from October, 2005

Life: 1300 babies will be born prematurely today

12% of births are premature in the USA.

That translates to 500,000 babies!

November is Prematurity Awareness Month.

March of Dimes was founded to fight polio. Now, their focus is on the health of infants.

@ the Movies: Little Man

Little Man is an incredible documentary. An intensely personal tale of life, a mother's devotion, medical technology and the complexity of some of the hottest hot button social issues of the day.

At the showing that I saw, the LA premier of the film, was the writer-director Nicole Conn and many of the people involved in the production of the film. Also in attendance were some of the medical personnel shown in the film.

Ms. Conn had originally set out to do a documentary on surrogate mothers. She and her partner enlisted a surrogate mother to carry to term their son the result of using their eggs and donor sperm. Conn was intrigued by the kind of individuals who would participate in such a process.

The story took an unexpected turn when they discovered the surrogate had misrepresented her health status. Compounding the problems was the poor health of the baby growing inside the womb of the surrogate.

Baby Nicholas was born via emergency cesarian section 100 days premature. The…

Devotional Thoughts: The Transfiguration

Matthew 17:1-13 described a brief moment when three of the disciples were able to catch a glimpse of Jesus unambiguously divine.

In watching him through the various episodes, they saw his power to heal, to calm the waters and to "know" how to evade the wily opponents. These all pointed to his divinity. But here, they (Peter, James and John) had a "Moses and the burning bush" type of moment, where the divinity of Jesus was unveiled. In fact, they even got to see Moses! Elijah was there as well. All of this is described in vv. 2-3.

Then there was a brief moment of Biblical humor for in v. 5 it says that God interrupted Peter who was yammering away. Some of us cower in fear in response and others like Peter have nervous yammering!

Verse 6 said they were terrified and in v. 7 Jesus "touched them" and said "Don't be afraid."

Having an encounter with God is going to have a tremendous impact on mere mortals.

There definitely is fear because God …

Devotional Thoughts: Jesus predicts his death

Matthew 16:21-28 I suppose described the "end of the beginning."

It said in v. 21, "From then on Jesus began to tell his disciples plainly ... He would be killed and he would be raised on the third day."

Prior to this, Jesus spoke of "the sign of Jonah" as a way of indicating what his future would hold. Now, he spoke openly of his meeting with destiny at the Cross.

Upon hearing this Peter, brash Peter, in v. 22 took Jesus aside and said, "Heaven forbid, Lord. This will never happen to you!"

Jesus responded forcefully, in v. 23, "Get away from me, Satan! You are seeing things merely from a human point of view and not from God's."

In v. 24, Jesus told them, "shoulder your cross and follow me."

To our modern ears, that doesn't leave much of an impression on us. But for people of that era, that is a HORRIFYING thought!!

If one saw the film, The Passion of the Christ, one gets a sense of how terrible crucifixion is.

The Roma…

Politics: No on prop 78, No on prop 79

The two proposals are intended to make prescription drugs more available to low-income people.

Who can be against that?

BUT, should those kinds of program be created by ballot box?

That just doesn't make sense to me.

And If I'm reading it right, on page 42-43 of the voter guide, it says that people already can get medications through Medi-Cal, Healthy Families, private insurance and soon through Medicare. Seems to me, we have various ways to get them discounted to some degrees already?

It is easy to demonize the drug companies. But since I work in molecular biology research (at a non-profit research institute), I know from first hand experience how slow progress can be. Thus, I don't begrudge a drug company their profits when finally one drug makes it big when so many others turn out to be dead ends.

In the lab, it is one thing to find a compound that can solve a problem in a test tube. Kill a bacteria in a test tube? Great! Now, can you give it to a person without killi…

Yes on Prop 74

The summary of Prop 74 is on pages 12 to 15 in my voter guide book.

It proposes two changes: (1) extends the probationary period for newly hired teachers from two years to five years (see chart on p. 12, most states set the number at three years) and (2) changes some of the rules for beginning the process of dismissing teachers who have tenure.

In my mind, there are two question: would this harm recruitment and retention of good teachers and help reduce the number of bad teachers?

I think the answer would be NO and MAYBE. Therefore, I recommend a Yes vote on Prop 74.

The LA Times, no friend of Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, came out in support of Prop 74. Excerpt:Everyone on campus - and some people off campus, such as involved parents - knows who the bad teachers are. These teachers stay on in part because many principals have neither the time nor the inclination to go through the complicated procedure necessary to fire a teacher, and in part because school districts prefer to avoid …

Yes on Prop 76

Since the SF Chronicle said, IF THERE is one thing as reckless as ballot-box budgeting, it's ballot-box energy policy, the next proposition I read was Prop 76 which further regulates the state budget. The "analysis of the legislative analyst" runs from p. 22 to 29. Complex, eh?

My instant reaction is to vote NO. Why should the public have to determine budget priorities and limits? That is what the elected officials are for.

However, Tom McClintock, one of the more sensible and straight-shooting politicians in California on budget matters, has come out in support for Prop 76. My guess is that he believes Prop 76 is better than the status quo.

One of the criticism of Prop 76 is the power it gives to the Governor, the SF Chronicle complains:Schwarzenegger is right in saying that legislators are not making the tough decisions to balance the budget. But the solution is not to put the state budget on a new course of autopilot while shifting power to the governor's off…

No on Prop 80

Prop 80 attempts to write some new rules for California's electrical utilities. I have some libertarian instincts and the idea of regulating the electrical utilities via ballot initiative strikes me as dubious. My gut reaction is to vote NO on Prop 80. It is nice to know that even a lefty paper like the SF Chronicle agrees. Quote:IF THERE is one thing as reckless as ballot-box budgeting, it's ballot-box energy policy.
It would take a two-thirds vote of the California Legislature to make even minor changes in Prop. 80. As we have seen too often during budget negotiations, a supermajority requirement is an invitation to gridlock in the Capitol.

The rarely united California Public Utilities Commission was unanimous in recommending an emphatic "no" vote on Proposition 80.

This measure does not belong on the ballot. We urge its defeat.

Yes on Prop 75

Prop 75 requires that public employee unions get permission from union members before they take money from their paychecks for usage in political expenses. The LA Times said this about the measure:The U.S. Supreme Court has ruled that union members cannot be forced to finance political activity, and Proposition 75 merely requires that public employee unions get written consent from their members before their dues and fees are used for political purposes. Currently, union members must request specifically that their dues not be spent on politics, and there is some question about how realistic a choice this is in some unions. Shifting the burden to the union to gain the consent of a member - as Washington, Utah and other states now require - does not seem onerous, and may even encourage greater accountability on the part of union leadership.Therefore, this blogger joins the Los Angeles Times in recommending a YES vote on Prop 75.

Yes on Prop 77

Prop 77 is the redistricting plan. Right now, the districts are incumbent safe and are examples of gerrymandering. This plan will put it into the hand of an independent group. Sounds like an improvement to me. I'm recommending a YES vote on Prop 77. The Sacramento Bee said this of prop 77:Proposition 77, the governor's redistricting plan, aims to end the conflicts inherent when lawmakers map their own political districts. Because of this gerrymandering, members of Congress tend to keep their jobs for life; legislators keep them as long as term limits allow.

Schwarzenegger's initiative proposes to separate politicians from the maps, which is why party bosses such as Rep. John Doolittle, R-Rocklin, and Rep. Howard Berman, a San Fernando Valley Democrat, are raising big bucks to kill it.UPDATE: SF Chronicle, LA Times and Sacramento Bee all agree in their support of Prop 77.

Yes on Prop 73

Prop 73 is the parental notification of abortion by minors. There is a judicial bypass for circumstances where it may be problematic for parents to be notified.

Abortion remains one of the most contentious social issues of our day. What troubles me is that the pro-choice side seems to see no moral difficulty in abortion. They may say, we want abortions to be legal and safe but rare. But anytime any measure is raised that might make abortion even a little bit more difficult they object. Prop 73 provides one more opportunity for re-consideration of abortion. This blogger recommends a YES vote on Prop 73.

Devotional Thoughts: Who do you say that I am?

Matthew 16:13-20 described a dialog between Jesus and Simon Peter and the disciples.

Jesus simply asked (v. 13 and 15), who do you think I am?

The disciples gave various answers in v. 14 but Peter in v. 16 said, "You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God." (New Living Translation)

Jesus commended the answer.

In some other translations, Christ is used instead of Messiah. It turns out that the two words mean the same thing. Christ is Greek and Messiah is Hebrew for "anointed one."

I ran a search on Biblegateway to see how often the word Christ and Messiah is used in Matthew within the New American Standard Bible translation which is regarded as one of the more literal translations into English.

I was surprised to find out within the book of Matthew, the word Christ only appeared in 13 verses and Messiah in only 4 verses. In some cases, it is Matthew using the terms in his narration. In some cases it comes up in dialog with Jesus. And indeed, in the book of Matthew…

Politics: Waiting for the Miers Hearings

Was just watching a video clip from where Brit Hume interviewed Sen. Sam Brownback. He remains neutral wanting to gather more information and waiting to hear from Miers in the hearings.

I think he is making a lot of sense.

However, I can sympathize with Jonah Goldberg of NRO who was on the fence but now has turned against Miers because of the latest report on her views on quotas.

The steady drip of information that calls her views in question and the sense she isn't ready for prime time isn't just people out to get her. When the Roberts nomination was moving forward there were detractors but the reality is that the charges didn't stick to him because people could tell critics were reaching. In the Miers case, the criticisms are sticking.

National Review has been out against Miers very strongly for some time already. They realize the politics of the situation is really in the hands of a few key Senators. Excerpt:Conservatives will have long memories about ho…

Devotional Thoughts: Thinking with their stomachs

Matthew 16:5-12 is another example of how Jesus used the ordinary stuff of life to make his point.

Once again food was the immediate concern as seen in v. 5 that said, "the disciples discovered they had forgotten to bring any food."

You can imagine them looking at the crowds of people who were milling around Jesus while he was teaching and healing people and thinking uh-oh, how are we going to feed all these people?

I suppose this might mean that on many occasions they actually do plan ahead and have some food to give to people. But sometimes they worry they may run out or they forgot to bring any at all. Maybe they figure the crowd looked thin today and not real excited so maybe they didn't plan ahead and bring food only to find out their crowd estimate was off.

Jesus knowing their anxiety then says in v. 6, "Beware of the yeast of the Pharisees and Sadducees."

The disciples, thinking with their stomachs, think, huh?

I suppose they may have thought Jesus meant th…

Devotional Thoughts: The Sign of Jonah Again

Matthew 16:1-4 seems vaguely familiar ... religious leaders asking Jesus for a sign and Jesus telling them they will get "the sign of the prophet of Jonah."

I flipped back a few pages in my Bible and found it in Matthew 12:38-42. It isn't surprising that the same kind of exchange would take place. It wouldn't surprise me if Jesus had that conversation many other times. In the Matthew 12:38-42 incident Jesus makes more remarks.

In that passage, Jesus explained that the sign of Jonah was a way for Him to forcast His own death and resurrection.

There can be many "signs" to "prove" Christianity. But the big one is this exorbitant claim: Jesus died and rose from the dead.

This is a stumbling block for people. One can praise Christianity for its collection of ethical teachings but the idea of Jesus as the Way, Truth and Life who died and rose from the dead for our sins to restore us to God is just too much for some to take.

One can argue about how m…

Devotional Thoughts: Feeding the 4000

In Matthew 15:32-39, Jesus feeds 4000+ people for in v. 38 it says 4000 men who were fed that day, in addition to all the women and children. Perhaps it was more like 8000-12,000? Anyway, lots of people.

The story says that they had seven loaves of bread and a few small fish (v. 34).

How does this small amount feed so many people?

For those who believe in miracles, there are two possibilities: Jesus multiplied what was there so everyone had enough or people were somehow filled by only eating a small amount. For those who don't believe in miracles, the people supplied their own food by reaching into their own backpacks and started sharing because Jesus and the disciples started handing out food. For people who like a "spiritual" interpretation, they say this incident was like Holy Communion and what the people experienced was really a spiritual feeding with the bread representing Jesus.

How do you feel about the four explanations?

The problem with explanation number fou…

Wild West Coast Football from the PAC-10

Am a UCLA alum (1986) but as a sports fan have to tip my hat to USC, Leinart, Bush and Carroll for their big win yesterday. has essays from Wojciechowski and Maisel.

Also, must give a shout out to Coach Charlie Weiss and Notre Dame for planning and executing the game plan that left them on the doorstep of victory. As huge underdogs, they did almost everything right to capitalize on their strengths and exploit their opponent's weakness. They were soooooo close to victory but one of the intangibles that makes a team great is the will to win against all odds and USC showed that.

Meanwhile, the Drew and Drew show came through once again to save Bruin fans from heartbreak hotel. When I saw the score at 38-21, I pretty much gave up. But the gutty little Bruins managed to score 17 unanswered points in the fourth quarter to send it to overtime where they won it 44-41.

This Bruin team is reminding me of some Toledo era teams: all offense and no defense. The team is 6-0 but eas…

Pray for Iraqi Voting

Tomorrow, the people of Iraq will vote on their constitution.

Engle at isn't too optimistic.

However, there is a cliche that says democracy is the worst form of government except for all the others.

Here's hoping that the voting goes well with minimal violence.

UPDATE: Voting so far okay.

Give for Pakistan Relief

With the terrible news coming from the earthquake, it is time once again to reach into our pocketbooks to help. Consider giving to World Vision as they help with relief efforts in Pakistan.

If you are able to click to this web page to read this appeal, it is a metaphysical certitude you have more, much more, than those who have suffered from the earthquake.

LA Dining: Taco Hunt - El Loco

My latest entry at is up.

LA is a taco town from catering trucks to small taco stands to fast food chains to sit down restaurants.

El Loco locations:
3309 North Mission Road
Los Angeles, California 90031-3111

845 W. Cypress St.
Covina, CA 91722
(626) 339-6025

437 Glendora Ave.
West Covina, CA 91790
(626) 814-3474

Devotional Thoughts: Healing body and soul

This morning am taking a look at Matthew 15:29-31.

I've been following the "heading divisions" in the New Living Translation so some sections are longer than others as the divisions are based on the subject matter of the text.

A few quick words about the different types of Bibles you can find at the book store.

The various books of the Bible were written originally in Greek (Christian Scriptures or New Testament) and Hebrew (Jewish Scriptures or Old Testament). Complete Greek NTs have been found as old as the 4th Century and a fragment of the Gospel of John has been dated to the 2nd Century. Complete Hebrew OTs date to the 10th Century. However various parts of the OT have been found in the famous Dead Sea Scrolls and those are from the time of Christ and may even be a century or two older. In both OT and NT, there are multiple copies with remarkable consistency between texts that have been found. After all, if the people who made copies over the centuries believe the …

More on Miers

Was listening to Laura Ingraham this morning and she has come out against the nomination. On the morning of the nomination, she was disappointed but was willing to wait for more information. I don't listen every morning to her show so I don't know when she made the decision to oppose the Miers nomination. In today's radio program she cited items from the New York Times by David Brooks (his material requires a subscription) and from Wall Street Journal Opinion Online's John Fund.

I'll have to take a closer look at what they have to say. At the moment, I am still a supporter but remain open to new information.

James Dobson on Harriet Miers

James Dobson of Focus on the Family became part of the Supreme Court nominee story because he came out in support of Miers and cited his conversations with White House advisor Karl Rove. Since it was a private conversation he was reluctant to share what was discussed.

Critics of the Bush White House began demanding to know what Dobson was told by Rove. Dobson decided to speak out after gaining permission from Rove to reveal some details of their conversation on Dobson's October 12, 2005 radio broadcast. A transcript can be found here.

Dobson explained that part of the confidentiality was that Rove told him about the nominee, aspects of the nominee's background and some aspects of the selection process prior to official public announcements. Dobson felt he should not comment specifically until those facts were made known by the White House and other official spokespersons of the White House. Excerpts: ....... my conversation with Deputy White House Chief of Staff, Karl Rov…

Devotional Thoughts: Knowing Who to Ask or I want to be a Little Dog in the Kingdom of God

Taking a look at Matthew 15:21-28 tonight.

Here Jesus healed the daughter of a Gentile woman who sought Jesus' help persistently. Jesus commends her for her faith in v. 28, "Your faith is great."

This story is also found in Mark 7:24-30.

Some critics of the Bible point out that in Mark 7:26 the woman is described as a Syrian-Phoenician and in Matthew 15:22 she is called a Canaanite. However, the two terms might actually be interchangeable. The Syrian-Phoenicians were probably Phoenicians who lived in Syria and Phoenicians were derived from the Canaanites.

Another unusual feature of the story was Jesus saying in v. 26, "It isn't right to take food from the children and throw it to dogs."

From the context, Jesus seemed to be equating the children with the people of Israel and the Gentiles with dogs!

Sounds harsh!

However, in context, it sounds like these dogs aren't wild dogs but rather family pets. In v. 27, the woman said, "the dogs (little dogs i…

Miers Will be Confirmed to the Supreme Court?

The arguments against Miers run along these lines: (1) we really don't know where she stands (2) her resume indicates she isn't up to the job (3) she is a crony.

The crony charge is actually a variation of the second argument. If Michael Luttig (a favorite of the conservative activists) was a personal friend of Bush 43 and was nominated there would be no charges of cronyism.

The questions of her resume really breaks into two issues. (1) She isn't smart enough for the job. (2) She lacks the experience to handle Constitutional Law issues. Some critics will cite both aspects but some say she's smart enough but just not experienced enough.

In the context of neurosurgery, you would hire a surgeon who has the training and experience.

Is the Supreme Court analogous to neurosurgery?

Does the job require that high a level of specialization?

If the answer is no, then her experience in private practice should readily transfer over.

Some critics look down on her Southern Methodist Univer…

Israeli-Palestinian Conflict

Iraq is a tough situation.

Another tough one is the ongoing conflict between Israel and the Palestinians.

I was surfing thorough some PodCasts available for free from iTunes.

There was a news program called: alt.muslim.

I downloaded and listened. It talked about various things going on in the Muslim community. It highlighted some of the charity work being done by Muslims as a result of the displacement of the people of New Orleans. That was very encouraging to listen to.

There was also a discussion of the Israel-Palestine conflict.

What was rather eye-opening to me was the comment from one of the guests: Palestinians believe that the Jews are white-European colonists who took their land just like how the whites set up colonies in Africa a couple of centuries ago.

If this perspective is wildly held, then peace in the region is impossible unless (1) Israel ceases to exist as a nation and the Jews leave or (2) the Palestinians accept the existance of Israel in secure borders.

More Sunnis maybe onboard for Iraq Constitution

The vote on the constitution for Iraq may go better if this item turns out to be true.BAGHDAD, Iraq (CNN) -- A deal struck in last-minute talks Tuesday night between a major Sunni Arab party and the Shiite-Kurd coalition could aid approval of the proposed Iraq constitution this weekend, sources involved in the talks told CNN.

The sources asked to remain anonymous because the sensitive agreement has not been formally made public. An announcement was expected Wednesday.

The deal involves changing the constitution to remove the de-Baathification process -- an effort to eliminate vestiges of ousted leader Saddam Hussein's Baath party -- the sources said.

In return, the Iraq Islamic Party indicated it would withdraw its opposition to the document to be voted on Saturday in a nationwide referendum, according to the sources.

Other Sunni politicians, however, indicated they still won't support the proposed document, raising the likelihood of a political division in the Sunni Arab communi…

Sunset in Southern California

Ever have a roll of film sitting around a long time?

In the era of digital cameras that is happening to me less and less.

Anyway, the other day, I got around to developing a roll of film that had been sitting around in the camera awhile.

I think the image is from a couple of weeks ago when I saw it and took it because I thought it beautiful.


Devotional Thoughts: Evil starts from the inside

Am reading from Matthew 15:1-20.

We have a picture of Jesus as the friendly figure with a lamb in His arm and the children around Him.

That is a true picture of Jesus for he does reach out to people and love them and accepts them.

But Jesus is also the one who makes it clear what is right and wrong.

His ire is especially strong upon those who are religious leaders who mislead.

In this passage, critics were after Jesus because of "ceremonial hand washing."

Beats me why those critics wanted to be contentious about that!

Jesus thus lit into them citing Isaiah, "These people honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far away. Their worship is a farce, for they replace God's commands with their own man-made teachings."

He then turned to the crowds and said, "You are not defiled by what you eat; you are defiled by what you say and do."

Jesus finished off this discussion with the following: For from the heart comes evil thoughts, murder, adultery, all other …

The Drew and Drew Show

As in Maurice Drew (299 yards by punt return, pass catching and rushing yards and 5 TDs) and Drew Olsen (225 yards, 2 TD passes, 1 rushing TD) doing whatever it took as UCLA wins over the Cal Bears!

A modest proposal: Blawggers should help Senators on Miers questioning

As a somewhat regular reader of Glenn Reynolds a.k.a. Instapundit, Volokh Conspiracy, Professor Bainbridge and Hugh Hewitt, I've been alternately amused and appalled at the sackcloths and ashes over the Miers nomination.

Hugh Hewitt has been gamely trying to find supporters of Miers among his legal blogging buddies and fending off the critics.

As a non-lawyer but political news junkie, I confess I was surprised at the pick. However, I wasn't out on the ledge like many critics of the pick. I remain open to persuasion either way. Maybe it is my generally sunny disposition that leads me to give people a chance. I don't know.

However, if the Blawggers want to provide an invaluable service to the Country and to the Conservative movement they feel is threatened by this nomination then it is time for them to step up to the plate and call their favorite Senator on the judiciary committee and offer their services in providing appropriate Constitutional Law questions for them to us…

LA Dining: Kosher Seafood @ Fish Grill

My latest entry at LA.foodblogging is up.

Photos and brief narrative about my dining at Fish Grill can be found.

Fish Grill
7226 Beverly Blvd.
3 blocks west of La Brea
(323) 937-7162

3628 Ventura Blvd.
1/2 block east of Woodman
(818) 788-9896

Devotional Thoughts: Jesus Walks on Water

Am looking at Matthew 14:22-36 today.

Another famous story.

In summary, the disciples were on their boat late at night and the weather went bad. Jesus walked on the water over to them which frightened them even more! Peter impulsively said, let me walk out to you. Jesus said, sure. Peter walked on water too! But he began to sink after he looked around at the waves. Peter offered a three word prayer, save me, Lord! They both climbed into the boat and the wind stopped. The disciples worshipped Jesus and said you really are the son of God. Once the boat docked crowds began showing up bringing their sick to be healed.

I'm a visual type of person so I went to the web to see if there is any information on boats of that era. I came across this item about a boat found in the Sea of Galilee.

The photo on that web page showed the boat all covered up as they were trying to make sure that ancient artifact didn't fall apart. I wonder if the restoration of that boat was completed?


Photos from a San Francisco Wedding

The venue: the Dutch Windmill of Golden Gate Park.

A little Japanese flavor.

Paths of color.

Lovely flowers on the field.

Groom's mom and dad.

Bride's mom escorted.

The flower girl.

Bride escorted by dad.

The bride and groom.

A little Chinese flavor.

The blogger.

Congratulations to the bride (my cousin) and groom! May you both have much happiness in the times ahead!!

Eugene Volokh on What We Think We Want in a Supreme Court Judge

In my previous post below on the Miers nomination I ask: In the abstract, what is the "best" experience base for a judge?

That question is a variant of the question: what qualities are we looking for in a judge?

Not surprisingly, Volokh offers an answer with his usual thoroughness and honesty that he might not have it all figured out.

Volokh's list:



Willingness to consider the possibility that one is wrong.

Ability to work effectively on a multi-member Court.

Ability to set aside one's personal annoyance with or hostility to particular colleagues, lawyers, or litigants, even when the annoyance or hostility is justified.

Understanding of the world and of the likely practical effects of various legal rules.

Clarity and precision of thinking, and ability to write clearly and effectively (or to edit subordinates' work well).

Creativity in thinking up (within the permissible legal boundaries) solutions that accomplish the goals that one is (properly) t…

Talkin' 'Em Off the Ledge: Miers Nominated

It's Miers!?

My first reaction was surprise. When W picked Roberts, I saw that as a possibility as his name was on many lists though never on the top line. In comparison, Miers was mentioned rarely in lists of supreme speculations.

After hearing the news, went to talk-radio to get immediate reaction of political news junkies. Here in Southern California, that would be the Laura Ingraham show on KRLA 870AM.

The callers were unhappy. They felt there were other choices with a more clear cut history of conservative judicial thought. Laura largely agreed but was willing to wait for a little more information on Miers to come out but she was concerned and disappointed given the higher profile of some of the other nominees.

I visited a few of the obligatory conservative web pages to get their take and most were in the same mood as Laura and her listeners. The only one I found so far that was unambiguously optimistic was Hugh Hewitt who raised the point that Roberts and Miers bring sig…