Showing posts from 2007

Politics: Choosing a candidate to support

There hasn't been such a wide open nomination race in a long time.

I'm trying to decide who I want to support.

As for full disclosure, I'm a registered Republican. My politics are center, center-right with a little libertarian thrown in.

Mayor Rudy certainly has the inspirational quality from his 9/11 experience and the New York city turnaround. But the hint of scandal seems to dog him and it would be a drag for his candidacy if he is constantly having to to fend off scandal stories. Counter-point: Clinton got elected twice despite a swirl of scandals.

Huck from what I'm told is quite the rousing speaker and that is big part of his meteoric rise in Iowa with the social conservatives. But from what I hear, he is too much the neophyte when it comes to foreign affairs and he isn't so fiscally conservative. Of course Jimmy Carter, Bil Clinton and George W. Bush were also largely untested governors and they all became president!

That leaves me with three serious options…

Sports: UCLA football coach search, the saga continues ...

Plaschke has a point:

Two days. That's how long it took Mississippi to find a new head football coach.

Fifteen days. That's how long it took Washington State.

Sixteen days. That's how long it took Northern Illinois.

Nineteen days. That's how long it took Duke.

Twenty-five days and counting. That is how long it is taking UCLA, the self-styled heavyweight dropping in class by the day.

If this goes on any longer, the Bruins will be reduced to dueling Temple for the services of a coach with a 5-19 career record.

Oh, wait, that has already happened.

And UCLA was knocked out.

The guys over at Bruins Nation are trying to hold their fire and they are honest enough to admit that the coaches on their list are long shots.

So DG should hire RN soon unless as the BN people speculate DG is working up a deal no one has caught the scent of yet.

We shall see!

UPDATE: Its official. UCLA has hired Rick Neuheisel.

Youth: One of the favorite lyrics from Wicked

Many of the students in the youth group I'm a part of can break out in song from Wicked at the drop of a hat.

One of their favorite parts ...

"So much of me
Is made of what I learned from you
You'll be with me
Like a hand print on my heart
And now whatever way our stories end
I know you have re-written mine
By being my friend ... "

-- from "For Good" from the musical Wicked

Devotional Thoughts: Why does the Almighty not set times for judgment?

Job 24...

As I read the second half of Job's current monologue (started in Job 23), he is going all over the place: on one hand, the wicked getting away with it, on the other, the vulnerable suffering, and yet on another hand, the wicked getting whacked by God.

The wicked getting away with it...

Why does the Almighty not set times for judgment?
Why must those who know him look in vain for such days?
There are those who move boundary stones;
they pasture flocks they have stolen.
They drive away the orphan's donkey
and take the widow's ox in pledge.
They thrust the needy from the path
and force all the poor of the land into hiding.

I'm guessing moving boundary stones would be a way to rob somebody of their land or extending the reach of one's own. And how evil is it to steal someone's flock? And to top that evil they take advantage of the orphan, the widow, the needy and the poor. It is bad enough to cheat and steal but to do so at the expense of the downtrodden is a …

Elsewhere: Not your typical stuffy seminary prof

Ben Witherington is a serious hard core Biblical scholar. And it is great to see he is funny as heck too ...

Just love it.

And this too!

Devotional Thoughts: I am not silenced because of the darkness

image source:

Job 23

Then Job answered and said:
Today also my complaint is bitter;
my hand is heavy on account of my groaning.

Ever felt like this?

I can think of a few things I could (and do!) complain to God about.

Oh, that I knew where I might find him,
that I might come even to his seat!
I would lay my case before him
and fill my mouth with arguments.
I would know what he would answer me
and understand what he would say to me.
Would he contend with me in the greatness of his power?
No; he would pay attention to me.
There an upright man could argue with him,
and I would be acquitted forever by my judge.

Job believes that if he got an audience with God, he would be heard.

I have to confess I wonder if Job is over reaching here?

I think of Isaiah who got an audience with God in Isaiah 6. In verse 5, Isaiah says: Woe is me! For I am lost; for I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips;…

Life: Faith and Christmas

Have been sick the past few days and have been sleeping a lot.

Well, tonight, was channel surfing and came across CBS's 48 hours Mysteries.

On this Christmas night, they rebroadcast their 1 hour exploration of Christmas.

The program interviewed three scholars who were skeptical of the details of the nativity as recounted in the Gospels.

In the second half of the broadcast, Ben Witherington was interviewed along with on location filming of many Biblical locales. He gave some reasons why the Gospel accounts might be plausible.

Some interesting tidbits were his hypothesis that Luke interviewed Mary for the details of Jesus birth in Jerusalem and that Matthew did the same with other followers in Capernaum.

As for the slaughter of innocents which to our ears sounds so horrible, he explained would have been very consistent with Herod's paranoia. He also pointed out that Bethlehem of that time was only at most a few hundred people and thus the killing of children under two might have e…

Travel: Honolulu and Kauai September 2007

This post took a bit longer to get around to. But, at last, below are photos and travelogue of my most recent travels.

To see two YouTube videos about Kauai go here. One of the videos is mine. The other is put out by people on Kauai concerned about overdevelopment.

Saturday, September 15, 2007

Arrived in Honolulu!

The last time I was in Honolulu was as a teenager many decades ago!

Sunday, September 16, 2007

My uncle took me to Pearl Harbor to see the Arizona Memorial. The lines were long so we didn't make the trip to the site.

Nonetheless, reading the various interpretive displays was very moving even though the attack occurred 66 years ago. I'm sure it really impacts some of the older visitors who have memories of the actual event or knew people who were there.

Our next stop was the Punchbowl Memorial Cemetery.

There are murals that recap the Battle for the Pacific during World War II. The number of battles is unimaginable.

The visiting side of the trip came to an end and I don…

Culture: Wicked Lottery

Yup, I finally saw the musical sensation Wicked!

First, the practical LA Scene side of the story.

The Wicked Lottery offers up 26 front orchestra seats for $25 each. The names are collected from 2 1/2 hour to 2 hour before show time. You can request one or two tickets. You must be 17 or older with ID and pay in cash. It is quite the festive atmosphere as the guy calls out the names of the lucky winners.

After the lottery ends, and if you don't win and this evening, I did not, you can get in line to buy left over tickets to certain sections at a discount.

This is really smart marketing by the theatre company. I'd say there was well over 200 people there for the lottery and of that group probably 1/2 lined up to get at the discounted tickets. What a great way to get people to get out on a rainy Thursday night to insure a packed house!

As for the appeal of the musical, the clear favorite numbers were "Defying Gravity" and "For Good" which were the emotional…

Sports: UCLA football coach search

Hmmm ... so far the only official interviews with the Chancellor have been with Neuheisel (former U Wash and U Colorado coach) and Golden (current Temple coach).

Color me unimpressed.

Neuheisel has UCLA ties having played and assistant coached at UCLA. However, he left two previous programs under a cloud. As for Golden, he may be a fine young coach but that is the problem, he is young and Temple doesn't exactly leap off the page as prime proving grounds for a coach.

So there are two possibilities: the search committee isn't committed to finding a top notch proven coach or the top notch proven coaches they have approached have turned them down.

Thus, the AD has either got a rabbit in the hat somewhere or we look to be stuck with either a re-tread coach or taking a chance on a young guy like the Dorrell hire.

The guys over at Bruinsnation are justifiably upset at the current state of affairs.

I'm sure the USC fan readers of this blog are enjoying the Bruins predicament and ar…

Politics: Powdered soup of the day

Blatant rip off of Dennis Miller's Soup of the Day ...

Instant political analysis by yours truly ...

Today, split pea in a pouch ...

The Romney scenario is the easiest. Win Iowa and New Hampshire and he rides the wave to the nomination according the business plan they set up at the beginning. But if Huckabee wins Iowa and McCain wins New Hampshire, Romney is done.

Huckabee needs an Iowa win to stay afloat because he will crater in New Hampshire. With the Iowa win, he lives on to fight another day on turf friendlier to him than New Hampshire. He is taking a lot of hits on his foreign policy inexperience. But apparently, his likability index is high which can make up for other concerns people may have.

McCain needs a New Hampshire win to stay afloat.

Giullani has to win *somewhere* before Super Tuesday. At the moment, his support is a mile wide and an inch deep and Romney, Huckabee and McCain are poaching away his support. He was counting on his national name recognition to do well…

Non-profit of the month: December, 2007 - Salvation Army

There was the periodic rattling of carts as two young employees of Ralphs after rounding them up pushed them back to the store.

Airplanes came in for landings every minute or so at nearby LAX much like any other evening but with the holidays one wonders of the thousands of stories of people traveling this holiday season.

Cars trundled up and down the parking lot to find a space to visit the Ralphs or Blockbuster or Starbucks or any number of other stores in the shopping plaza.

There was the quiet tinkle of a bell.

Yup, it is Christmas in the city.

On this night I was the bell ringer manning the kettle in front of the Ralphs for two hours.

It was neat to see parents give their kids some change or a dollar bill to put into the kettle.

"Thanks for your contribution!"

I smiled inside myself contemplating the internal dialog of people who walked past the kettle, stopped, walked back and placed in a contribution. What might have prompted a change of heart? Perhaps a recognition that c…

Culture: Goodness, truth and beauty

Continuing a riff on beauty from yesterday's post Culture: Hot or not? ...

Is there an instinct for beauty?

I suppose in the distant past when societies weren't so dominated by relativistic post-modern thinking the answer would be yes.

But today, the notion of absolute goodness seems quaint. People will say that goodness is sociologically determined and a cultural construct.

Likewise, today, truth is up for grabs when people say, true for you but not for me.

And of course, there is a time honored cliche which we all acknowledge some truth to: beauty is in the eye of the beholder.

However, I suspect if we truly search our souls, we do have an instinct for each of these things.

I can't imagine anyone can look at a murderous rampage and declare there is no such thing as good and evil. On the positive side, anyone who has seen the life and works of Mother Teresa or other such "saintly" people would be hard pressed not to acknowledge there must be some reality called goo…

Culture: Hot or not?

One of my friends moved to Southern California to get into the business a number of years ago. Well, after many years, he eventually threw in the towel. We occasionally talk about the two most interesting subjects in the world: theology and women.

So onto a non-theological discussion we have had.

He has remarked that living here means you meet a lot of LA Nines. What he meant was that as a typical guy, we do have the habit of rating women based on their appearance. Additionally, since TEN would be perfection, no such person exists, the best would be a nine. However, Los Angeles draws the best of the nines, hence, an "LA NINE."

While randomly reading the latest movie news, my eye was caught by Jenna Fischer one of the cast members of the huge hit the Office and co-star in the film soon to be released Walk Hard.

She had a quote, "I don't feel like I should have gotten it, but I did audition for the role of Sydney Bristow in Alias. I don't think I even got a ca…

Devotional Thoughts: Eliphaz sort of right but totally wrong

To recap Job:
Ch. 1-2, sets the stage
Ch. 3-14, 1st set of monologues where Job speaks, friends respond, Job responds and so on. All three friends speak
Ch. 15-21, 2nd set of monologues, all three of Job's friends speak and Job responds.
Ch. 22-26, 3rd set of monologues, only two of Job's friends speak and Job responds.
Ch. 27-31, Job speaks at length
Ch. 32-37, Elihu, a fourth friend speaks at length
Ch. 38-41, God and Job speak
Ch. 42, conclusion.

Picking things up at Job 22 ...

Then Eliphaz the Temanite replied:
"Can a human being be of benefit to God?
Can even the wise benefit him?
What pleasure would it give the Almighty if you were righteous?
What would he gain if your ways were blameless?

Eliphaz is simply wrong.

The god described by Eliphaz is (1) unmoved by his creatures doing right and (2) only interested in zapping those who go astray as described by Eliphaz later on.

We know from Job 1 God is aware of Job's righteousness and is pleased by it.

"Is it for…

Politics: John McCain sounding like his old self again

In the 2000 campaign, I attended one John McCain event in Los Angeles. I have to admit as a public speaker he was a little stilted. Nonetheless, his biography was compelling and he was doing the "straight talk" approach which was refreshing.

He is much older now and he has done his share of things to poke the Republican base. However, his steadfastness on Iraq has been a profile in courage.

In this article by Fred Barnes, it seems that McCain still has some fight left in him.

Politics: Fred Thompson sticks it to "the man"

The media controls a lot of what we know about the candidates. Though with the internets we can bypass the media somewhat.

Nonetheless, Thompson had a good moment when he stuck it to the media at the Iowa debate.

Politics: USA presidential elections by the numbers

If you know your US history and politics, you know that it is the electoral votes that matter.

However, the popular vote does tell you a bit about the sentiment of the nation.

If you look back, since 1980, how often do you think the elected president got 52.5 % or more of the popular votes?

Think about that: if the elected president got 52.5% of the popular vote that means 47.5% of the people who voted, voted for somebody else (either the major opponent or a collection of minor party candidates). Or put another way, 525 out of 1000 voted for the winner and 475 voted for the various opponents. Would you consider that a convincing win?

Well, if you check out the numbers, since 1980 ...

Only 2 presidential candidates won with more than 52.5% of the popular vote. That would be Ronald Reagan in 1984 and George H.W. Bush in 1988.

Since that time, the Republican candidate has only cracked the 50% line once, in 2004.

On the Democratic side the numbers are even more striking. When was the la…

Life: Pinch hit Bible study trainer

A number of years ago, I was very involved in the West Coast Chinese Christian Conference.

It is a conference that gathers various Chinese churches in California between Christmas and New Years with the intent of providing training, broadening of perspectives and challenge for college and early career age Christians.

One special feature of the Conference is that the theme is explored in a variety of ways. There are morning and evening speakers who preach on the theme. There are also small group (8-12) Bible studies as well.

I was a last minute "pinch hit" facilitator for the training session for the Bible study leaders in Southern California.

The Bible study coordinator had a family responsibility and wasn't able to do the training session. He asked someone to fill in. Unfortunately, the designated trainer had a heart attack! I'm happy to report he is doing well but as you might guess he opted to find a replacement. And that would be me, the third option…

Culture: Los Angeles Opera-blogging

I've gotten a bit behind on my opera-blogging.

So dear gentle readers, you are getting a four-fer!

The most recent opera I saw was the crowd pleaser, La Boheme. It has all the features of opera a non-opera person like me would like: beautiful colorful costumes, nice sets, brisk pace, moments of humor, romance, likable characters and pleasant music.

It is the stereotype that there is death at the end of the opera and so I'm not giving anything away by saying one of the main character dies at the end. And so as I watched the characters get introduced and began to like them, I got that sad feeling inside just like watching any flavor of Romeo and Juliet. Inside I feel, falling in love is worth it even if in the end it is a hopeless love.

I'm told the LA Opera company opted to go with a young cast in line with the story of young love in 19th century Paris. I think the lead character Rodolfo was sung by Arturo Chacon Cruz. Good strong voice. Mimi looked like the lovely Maija…

Devotional Thoughts: Inspiration of the Scriptures and the Christian Journey

Was talking with a "mentor" the other day.

Can't say I ever formally asked someone to be a mentor except in the academic context.

There simply have been individuals further along in their Christian journey whom I enjoy and benefit from sharing with.

I was asked what I learned about the Christian life from studying the Gospels at my first Fuller Theological Seminary class.

I couldn't really put it into words so I fumbled around saying something about how God has entrusted his message to us. I mentioned that we could have gotten our Scriptures by dictation but God didn't do it that way. Instead, God apparently worked through mortal frail humanity in a mix of oral tradition and written sources. I felt that was truly amazing.

My mentor replied, indeed, God works in our lives the same way. With Scriptures, his intentions are accomplished but through the agency of human means. God is in control but we get to participate. Same in our Christian journey.

A recent Scriptur…

Theology: Thoughts on the Kingdom of God, Part III

How the future of the kingdom unfolds has been a source of theological debate. A detailed description of the various perspectives is beyond the scope of this essay and can be found in the books like, The Meaning of the Millennium: Four Views.[xxiii] However, a brief summary of some of the issues confronting Biblical scholars reveals the reasons for interpretive uncertainties.

One view is called dispensational premillennialism where the kingdom is a literal restoration of a national Israel upon the second coming of Christ.[xxiv] Historic premillennialism retains a millennial kingdom of some form after the second coming of Christ but diminishes the literal role of a national Israel in God's plans.[xxv] A third view, postmillennialism, supposes that God working through the church would usher in an age of peace, prosperity and goodness followed by the second coming of Christ.[xxvi] Amillennialism interprets the kingdom as Christ and the church age followed by his second coming.[x…

Politics: Tribes within the GOP

As a political observer, I think within the GOP there are three major tribes: national security conservatives, fiscal conservatives and social conservatives.

If a candidate can get all three tribes into his (or her someday) tent, the nomination is within easy reach.

As it stands right now, I think Mayor Rudy is pulling in the national security conservatives.

The surprising rise of Mike Huckabee I would have to guess is the social conservatives gathering around him after standing on the sidelines for much of the past few months.

The social conservatives thought maybe Fred Thompson might be their guy but so far, from what I hear, he just hasn't lived up to the hype. Mitt Romney had positioned himself as a social conservative but I suspect there has been some doubt about his actual convictions on those matters because of his past statements while running for office in Massachusetts.

I have no idea where the fiscal conservatives will go within the GOP. I would guess all the candidates …

Theology: Thoughts on the Kingdom of God, Part II

Lin called Matthew 5-7, the Constitution of the Kingdom.[xi] Thus, the Beatitudes (Mt. 5:3-12) served as a preamble describing the character aspirations of kingdom people much like the United States Constitution’s preamble described the aspirations of a budding nation. However, the character traits highlighted by Jesus do not touch on nationalistic attitudes or martial qualities. Rather, they were contrary to the protect oneself and rise to the top impulses of our human nature. As the people of the kingdom of God living in such a way, the result could be persecution (Mt. 5:10-12). However, positively, we become salt of the earth (Mt. 5:13) and light of the world (Mt. 5:14) with the potential impact that others will be gathered in to acknowledge the Father in heaven.[xii]

Jesus launched into an exposition (Mt. 5:17-48) on how to truly practice the Law in day-to-day life. In six “you have heard that it was said … but I tell you” passages, Jesus raised the bar on the rabbinic interp…

Sports: Bruin basketball, first impressions

Have only seen a little bit of them on TV and have heard parts of several games on radio. They were beating up on lower level teams so they seemed better than actually are.

The real tests were against Michigan State and Texas and in both cases they fell behind and had to play catch up.

This year's team is last years team but a year older, without Aaron Afflalo and adding Kevin Love.

They are still having trouble running the offense against the zone.

Kevin Love is obviously a plus but he does look umm... a bit heavy? I wonder if he has the stamina for full time banging down low and running up and down the court?

With so many early injuries, the team isn't quite in synch yet and not up to full conditioning so things will go up from here hopefully.

Go Bruins!

Theology: Thoughts on the Kingdom of God, Part I

An immediate thought is that the kingdom of God is the rulership of God. However, a first-century Jew might think: has God forgotten us and is God still in charge? Thus, when the Gospels speak of the kingdom of God, a more specific idea than the unfathomable sovereignty of God must be in play.[i] As such, when Jesus proclaimed, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand” (Mt. 4:17, Mk. 1:15), the more specific idea of God’s reigning in the lives of those gathered by Jesus was being emphasized.[ii],[iii],[iv]

Besides the present tense aspect of the obedience of Jesus’ followers (repentance being the first step), there was a future dimension revealed in the prayer Jesus taught his followers in the petition, “Your kingdom come” (Mt. 6:10, Lk. 11:2). Thus, a tension existed between the way things are and the way things will be; the kingdom of God is both here and yet to be. At the first church I was a part of, the pastor explained that the kingdom of God exists in two stages: the k…

Sports: BCS mess!

My predictions before this weekend now modified:

USC (pac10)
Hawaii (at large, wac) At this moment Hawaii is down 21-0!
UPDATE: Oh my, Hawaii rallied to win 35-28! Alas, I think the Rose Bowl selection committee will go for the Dawgs to set up the Cowherd National Championship game. I'm guessing Georgia fans will bring in as many dollars as Hawaii fans.
Georgia (at large, SEC)
UPDATE: The Rose Bowl committee might stick with the Big10 in which case they go get Illinois. Also, "stealing" Georgia might violate the conference affiliations agreements so the Rose might not be allowed to take Georgia away from the Sugar.
ACTUAL MATCH: USC vs. Illinois

Oklahoma (big12)
Boston College (at large, ACC)
Arizona State (at large, Pac10)
UPDATE: Will the Fiesta feel it is too much "nepotism" to take an Arizona school? Who will they go get then? Boston College?
ACTUAL MATCH: Oklahoma vs. West Virginia

LSU (sec)
Mizzou (at large, Big12)
Boston College (at large, …

Sports: UCLA vs. USC, game day

Can UCLA win?

If the special teams steals a TD and gives UCLA good field position and puts USC in bad field position.

If the defense comes up with an unbelievable game like last year.

If the offense can keep the QB from getting hit. Why did UCLA have their 2 QBs injured this season? The OL didn't protect them.

If all three happen then maybe UCLA is still in the game late in the fourth quarter with a miracle shot at pulling off the upset.

Otherwise, the game could be over like other years by half-time or sooner.

Go Bruins!

UPDATE: USC 24 UCLA 7. What can you say? No surprises today. Congrats to USC for their 6th Pac10 title.

Non-profit of the month: December, 2007 - Chrysalis

When people talk about social welfare programs, whether they are run by the government or by non-profits, one definitely must talk about job training.

Indeed, there are people who aren't able bodied and they need help.

But what about those who are able bodied but for various reasons struggle to find and keep work?

One of my friends volunteers with Chrysalis.

They provide nuts and bolts help:
What if you are poor and don't have good clothes to wear for work and interview?
What if you are an employer who wants to take a chance and give someone who needs a second chance a job, where do you find someone who has taken some steps toward recovery?
What kind of support does a person transitioning from homeless have?
These kinds of concerns and many more are addressed by this non-profit.

Non-profit of the month: November, 2007 - Camp CAMP

It is already December!

Its been a hectic month and I missed my monthly posting on non-profit of the month where I highlight good causes big and small that I come across that I will support either with a one-time gift or regularly.

For this post, it is long overdue that I mention Children's Association for Maximum Potential.

When you hear from family and friends that they are expecting, it is great news! And most of the time, the child arrives in the usual way without any difficulties.

But the reality of life is that some kids come into the world with special needs.

And thanks be to God that there are parents who have that extra measure of love to care for them and for groups like Camp CAMP to help those kids and those parents.

Check out their story here and see if you want to support them. I'm sure in your local area there are organizations just like them so be sure to check them out too. I don't live in Texas but I have a friend who does who has had a long association with …

Science: Stem cells and the overlap of technology and morality

As a molecular biologist, the embryonic stem cell debate was a difficult one. Possible cures on one hand; moral problems on the other.

Scientists as a group hunger for new knowledge. On the positive side, they dedicate their careers to the progress of their respective fields. Their personal traits are dogged determination to figure out why this experiment failed and how another approach might push back the boundaries of the unknown. As a group they exhibit all the worst of human behavior in pettiness and ego just like any other group in any other profession. But at its best, it is filled with the joy and wonder of discovery, passion and commitment to truth.

As we expand the boundaries of what we know, scientists began to push into territory where morality was standing in the embryonic stem cell technology.

Do we destroy existing embryos to find cures?

Do we deliberately make embryos to destroy them to advance the research?

If scientific progress is the end all and be all why not?

Is th…