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Showing posts from September, 2006

Culture: Where to park your retirement money?

Like most people my age, we wonder what shape Social Security will be in by the time we retire.

My guess is that it will still be around when I hit the golden years (as a 1963 child, I'm considered by some to be in the very tail end of the Baby Boom) but for people younger than me, it is possible that by then it will have to be seriously modified to be sustained.

So what to do?

Certainly, as much as possible, I'd advise self-financing your retirement.

If you work is offering a 401k or 403b plan, then by all means sign up and start parking some money in it.

If your work place doesn't offer such things, look into an IRA either a traditional one or a Roth. I'm still learning which one to use under which circumstances. The Roth IRA uses currently taxed dollars which then are tax-free when you draw upon it in retirement. The Traditional IRA uses current untaxed dollars which will be taxed (theoretically at a lower tax rate) when you draw it out in retirement.

If you are a f…

Non-profit of the month: September 2006 - Stand to Reason

Ever have questions about the Bible?

Or something you don't understand about Christianity?

One of the places I go to for a good discussion about something I'm puzzled by is Stand to Reason.

What is their mission statement? Check it out here. I cut and paste it below:Stand to Reason trains Christians to think more clearly about their faith and to make an even-handed, incisive, yet gracious defense for classical Christianity and classical Christian values in the public square.So next time you have an issue you are concerned about or someone raises with you, mouse click over to STR.com and run a search to see what insight they have over there.

Sports: Nomar does it again!

Went to my sixth game at Dodger stadium today and it was another dramatic finish! Nomar hit a walk off grand slam to keep the Dodgers in the race in the 5-1 victory over the Arizona Diamondbacks.

Last Monday, Nomar hit a walk-off two-run homer to give the Dodgers an 11-10 victory over the Padres!

There are 6 games left. The Dodgers are 1 1/2 game behind San Diego in the NL West and 1/2 game behind Philadelphia in the wild-card.

Playoff tickets go on sale on Monday.

In 2003, the Dodgers were in the hunt but they were only going to get into the playoffs by winning the NL West and they were playing catch up. It was pretty easy to get playoff tickets. The Dodgers put your money in the bank and collect interest. When the Dodgers failed to make the playoffs, I had to send back my tickets before they would issue a refund. I wonder how much in interest did they make on true believers like me who bought the tickets hoping they would pull it off.

In 2004, the Dodgers lead the NL West (clinch…

Devotional Thoughts: How will it all end?

One of the debates in Christian theology is how does the world as we know it come to an end. We all agree that in the end, God's justice will prevail. However, how do we get there?

Joel 3 appears to be one of those passages in the Bible that looks at how it all works out. Its long and its confusing so I'll try to blog through it a little bit at a time.

I'll make the disclaimer right up front: I'm not a theologian. I'm just an ordinary Christian who is trying to understand what the Bible is saying. On 99% of matters, the Bible is pretty clear - what part of the 10 Commandments do I not understand? Or how does my life stack up to the definition of love in I Corinthians 13.

Here goes, the first three verses of Joel 3:

In those days and at that time,
when I restore the fortunes of Judah and Jerusalem,
I will gather all nations
and bring them down to the Valley of Jehoshaphat.
There I will enter into judgment against them
concerning my i…

Devotional Thoughts: Your sons and daughters will prophesy

Joel 2:28-32 is on the screen in front of me.

To recap, previously, there was the vivid descriptions of the locusts and the damage they leave in their wake. This was followed by calls to repentance. In the passage before this one, we see how the Lord answers and restores what the locusts have eaten.

What happens next?

And afterward,
I will pour out my Spirit on all people.
Your sons and daughters will prophesy,
your old men will dream dreams,
your young men will see visions.
Even on my servants, both men and women,
I will pour out my Spirit in those days.

Isn't this a beautiful sight?

We think of prophesy as people predicting the future like a fortune teller. There is some of that but mostly it is about speaking for God.

God is not silent. As part of restoration after repentance, God will pour the Spirit on people such that even though they are of the younger generation, they will speak for God. Additionally, it mentions that both sexes will par…

Sports: Dodger Fans are Nervous

1/2 game lead. The Padres who have beaten the Dodgers like a drum all season are in town for four games. A showdown between two wily veterans. It doesn't get any more dramatic than this in baseball.

GO Dodgers!

News: Ford Trims its Workforce

It is a sign of the times. Normally, this kind of news doesn't register with me very much. However, I do happen to drive a Ford Focus. The other day I was driving to the dealership to do routine 20,000 mile maintenance and it seemed odd ... the dealership was closed. The service section was closed. There were no cars in the showroom.

I called the number for the service department and got a voice mail saying the location was closing after all these years and it has been a pleasure to serve all our loyal customers.

Hopefully, all those folks at that dealership will be able to find jobs at other locations or find new careers in other industries.

In my family's car experience, the quality bench mark is what happens around 50,000 miles. Some of the cars we have had in the past, domestic and imports, started to fall apart at that point. However, we have had some champs that blew through that milestone all the way up to 100,000 with little difficulty.

My purchasing of a Ford F…

Culture: Writing to the LA Commission on Human Relations

Subject: Los Angeles County Commission on Human Relations Award
Date: September 14, 2006 10:46:30 PM PDT
To: rtoma@hrc.co.la.ca.us, risaacs@innercitylaw.org, afroAmNews@aol.com, scumming@ix.netcom.com, adriandove@hotmail.com
Cc: Mantonovich@lacbos.org, Dknabe@bos.lacounty.gov, Zev@bos.lacounty.gov, Molina@lacbos.org, Yburke@lacbos.org, rtoma@hrc.co.la.ca.us

Dear Los Angeles County Commission:

I have recently been informed that your commission intends to recognize Dr. Maher Hathout of the Muslim Public Affairs Council with an award later this year.

In reading comments for (Daniel Sokatch) and against (David A. Lehrer and Joe R. Hicks) his selection for this award in the editorial pages of the Los Angeles Times of September 14, 2006, I feel compelled to express my opinion that you should seriously reconsider your decision.

A search of the LA Times yielded an article by Teresa Watanabe dated September 12 that described the heated public hearing where both sides expressed their views on Dr. …

Religion: What is a PC-USA Church Member to Do?

Was listening to Dennis Prager on the radio this morning and he mentioned a report in the Wall Street Journal (I don't have a subscription) that the Presbyterian Church USA's publishing house has released a book with the title, Christian Faith and the Truth Behind 9/11. The book is currently the Featured Book on its home page.

The book summary on the web says the author argues that the US Government was complicit in 9/11 and that the USA is the new Roman Empire.

Unbelievable.

I wonder what PC-USA bloggers Hugh Hewitt and Mark D. Roberts will have to say.

I attend a PC-USA church which I am pleased to be a part of. My guess is that most of the congregation if told about such non-sense would be outraged.

What is the typical PC-USA church member to do?

Devotional Thoughts: Restore what the locusts have eaten

Am looking at Joel 2:18-27.

Previously, we saw vivid descriptions of the locust swarm that was about to hit the nation. This was followed by a call to return to God. This was the organization of chapter one as well as the beginning part of chapter two.

Here we continue on in chapter two and find the response of God.

Then the LORD became jealous for his land
and had pity on his people.


Ever heard of the word, anthropomorphism?

This idea is the habit of humans to give human attributes to the non-human. Some might go so far as to say, humans have created god in his own image. Certainly, those who don't believe in god would spin it that way.

However, if there is a god, then how do we describe that god?

Alas, we have to use human terms however imperfect they may be.

In my journey of faith, the book Disappointment with God helped me more fully grab onto the idea of God as wanting a relationship with us.

Indeed, there are descriptions of God as fiery and angry at sin and evil and injustice. …

News: Path to 9/11

There have been many documentaries and dramatizations about the events of 9/11.

The ones I have seen have focused mostly on United flight 93. I've seen some television programs that looked at the timeline of response by the FAA, the military and our political leaders. We would get thumbnail sketches of the terrorists.

In watching Path to 9/11, I think the most striking thing was the picture we get of the terrorists. It is one thing to see their pictures in the paper and a brief blurb about them. It is another thing to see them fleshed out in the dramatic recreation.

Most of the the outcry of about the film has focused on what some view as inaccurate portrayals of the Clinton Administration.

Certainly, factual inaccuracies and excessive dramatic license should be criticized. However, as it were, people are majoring in the minors.

The "heart" of the movie are the terrorist. We see them in their determination. These people are not crazy. They have a view of the world a…

Travel: Yosemite 2006 - Tuolumne Meadows, part III

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Fishing Tips

Am not a expert fisherman but I have a friend who loves trout fishing. Thus, before setting off to Yosemite, I got his advice for a simple approach to what could be done right out of the backpack.

I got a "pack rod."

I bought a 5'6" rod that broke down into four pieces from Troutlet.com. Specifically, I got this one.

I got a budget reel. If you poke around the Troutlet.com site, you can spend 10x more money!

My fisherman friend recommended 2lb test line from Maxima. He said, trout can see heavier lines and get wary so going with 2lb will improve your chances.

Lastly, I picked up four lures at Sport's Chalet. I used a Rooster Tail but got it snagged after a few casts and lost it! I then tied on the Super Duper. While at Fletcher Lake, Leonard and I caught about four trout with this lure!



Here is one of the little guys we caught and released. We think it was a Brook Trout?

We went to Townsley Lake and continued to cast with the Super Duper and I la…

Travel: Yosemite 2006 - Tuolumne Meadows, part II

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Friday 18 August

Back in the city, I'm usually awake a bit before 7AM because the traffic noise outside my apartment wakes me up.

While in the wilderness, there is no traffic noise!!!

The previous day's hike up to Vogelsang took a lot out of me. However, at night, the wind kicked up so things were flapping around quite a bit and my heart rate and blood pressure was up due to the altitude which also kept me awake much of the night. All of this to say, I didn't get a great night's sleep. Yet, it seems my internal clock still functions!

I poked my head out of the tent and saw beautiful blue skies and the sun peaking over the horizon. I put on my various layers for the cool morning and grabbed my digital camera and made my way to the shore of Fletcher Lake.



After a breakfast of oatmeal bought at Trader Joes, I lay down on a rock and looked at the sky.



Can you see the moon in this picture below?



After the epic 7 mile hike the previous day, we decided it would be a light da…

Travel: Yosemite 2006 - Tuolumne Meadows, part I

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Pictures are toward the bottom if you want to skip the administrative details!
The itineraryTuesday 15 August - went to LAX to pick up my buddy. We then drove up to Oakhurst and stayed at the Comfort Inn. Had dinner at Mountain House which is on the 41 near Bass Lake. For information about other services in Oakhurst area, go here.

Wednesday 16 August - got up early and drove to Tuolumne Meadows to see if we can get a campground. We wound up at Yosemite Creek. It is a 5 mile windy road down from the Tioga Road so be prepared! We got our permit and took a quick hike to Dog Lake.

Thursday 17 August - got up early and set off for Vogelsang going south on the Rafferty Creek Trail! We pitched tent near Fletcher Lake.

Friday 18 August- did some light hiking in and around Fletcher Lake. We went up to Vogelsang Lake and Vogelsang Pass. We also went to Townsley Lake.

Saturday 19 August - we set out east and visit Evelyn Lake and then down to Lyell Canyon.

Sunday 20 August - we get up and hi…

Devotional Thoughts: Sound the Shofar

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Checking out Joel 2:12-17 today.

In chapter one, there was a section describing the locusts, Joel 1:2-11 and then a part describing the response Joel 1:13-20. The same appears to be true in Joel chapter two. Joel 2:1-11 described the locusts and now this part in verses 12-17 looked at the response desired by God.

"Even now," declares the LORD,
"return to me with all your heart,
with fasting and weeping and mourning."
Rend your heart
and not your garments.
Return to the LORD your God,
for he is gracious and compassionate,
slow to anger and abounding in love,
and he relents from sending calamity.
Who knows? He may turn and have pity
and leave behind a blessing --
grain offerings and drink offerings
for the LORD your God.

God's desire is a whole hearted genuine return on the part of the people.

Sometimes people have a picture of God, especially the God of the Old Testament, as a blood thirsty God.

There is no question that God cares about holiness because God is holy

LA Scene: Hiking Mt. Baldy

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As Angelinos, we see it ... well, when we can see it: Mt. Baldy.

On a clear day, it is the tallest peak we can see. In winter, it is often snow covered. It is part of the whole Southern California appeal: go from a snow covered mountain to the sandy beaches in one day.

For Labor Day weekend, me and a couple of friends decided it was time to hike the famed peak.

We drove on the 210 to Claremont. We got off at the first Clarmont exit and went north (very short distance) to Baseline Road. We headed east on Baseline until we hit Mill Road where we turned left. Mill Road runs through some residential areas. Eventually, we turned right onto Mt. Baldy Road. It is curvy at parts so take your time. We parked at the ski lifts.

The round-trip cost of the lift is $15. People can hike that stretch but it adds 7 miles to the journey. The lift drops you off at Top of the Notch. From there, you walk a bit north and then turn left and follow the hikers up the mountain. Eventually, you hit De…

Devotional Thoughts: The locusts are coming

Am looking at Joel 2:1-11.

Remember the context of the passage, in chapter one, Joel described the locust swarms. This reality hung over their heads. In chapter two, he described the dread they felt knowing what was coming. Also, remember that he was writing in poetic style so imagine the pictures he has created with his words and listen for the sound of it.

Blow the trumpet in Zion,
And sound an alarm in My holy mountain!
Let all the inhabitants of the land tremble;
For the day of the LORD is coming,
For it is at hand:
A day of darkness and gloominess,
A day of clouds and thick darkness,
Like the morning clouds spread over the mountains.

If you have ever been hiking you know that you don't want to get caught outside in a thunderstorm where you can get drenched or worse hit by lightening. As you are hiking along and you see the clouds gathering quickly ... its nervous time.

In addition to visualizing the motion picture, listen for the s…