Saturday, March 31, 2007

Sports: 5:47 PDT

March Madness. Florida vs. UCLA, NCAA Men's National Semifinals. GeorgiaDome. CBS television.

Did this once before, and UCLA won!

So here we go again ...

With apologies to Russell Crowe (General Maximus Meridius), Ridley Scott and who ever else was associated with the film Gladiator:
Bruins!

Three weeks from now I will be potting my tomato plants.
Imagine where you will be, and it will be so.
Hold the line!
Stay with me!

If you find yourself alone,
walking in the beach with the sun on your face,
do not be troubled,
for you are on Spring Break
and you are at Santa Monica Beach!!
UPDATE: What can you say? Hats off to Florida. IN the end, basketball is a simple game: put ball in basket. And when one team has more ways to put the ball in the basket that team wins.

IN post game Bruintalk, the host said, Coach Howland had to pick his poison - play the Florida bigs one-on-one and get beat inside or double-down and hope you can pick off the pass going back out or they miss the outside shot. IN the first half, the double-downs worked with the exception of Brewer's 3 threes. But in the second half, the flood gates opened as Florida hit the threes and eventually also starting cleaning up inside as well - game over.

Hats off to Coach Howland, the staff and the 2006-2007 Bruins for getting this far. If you asked me after last year's Final Four that the Bruins would make the Final Four again after losing three starters from the 2005-2006 team, I would say that would be a remarkable achievement. Indeed, despite how miserable the Bruin team and staff and fans are feeling tonight, it is a huge accomplishment.

It says something about the winning formula when three of the four Final Four teams have a serious presence in the middle. UCLA was the only team without that benefit. They got there because they played team defense to cover up that weakness. That worked against Indiana, Pittsburgh and Kansas but Florida had too many options.

So for Bruin fans, we await the next season and as for Monday, Bruinsnation will become honorary Buckeye fans for a day! Go O-HI-O!!

Non-Profit of the Month: March 2007 - United Warrior Survivor Foundation

With news about the war in Iraq and Afghanistan, my thoughts turn to those who are putting their lives at risk.

For some, they have given their lives and my sorrow is for those who remain.

Having lived in DC from 1993-1997, I became familiar with Lincoln's 2nd Inaugural Address which ends this way:
With malice toward none, with charity for all, with firmness in the right as God gives us to see the right, let us strive on to finish the work we are in, to bind up the nation's wounds, to care for him who shall have borne the battle and for his widow and his orphan, to do all which may achieve and cherish a just and lasting peace among ourselves and with all nations.
Toward the end of my time in DC, the Korean War Veteran's Memorial was dedicated and two panels on that memorial especially moves my soul:
FREEDOM IS NOT FREE.

OUR NATION HONORS HER SONS AND DAUGHTERS WHO ANSWERED THE CALL TO DEFEND A COUNTRY THEY NEVER KNEW AND A PEOPLE THEY NEVER MET.
With these thoughts in mind, for this month's non-profit of the month profile, I'm donating to the United Warrior Survivor Foundation.

What is this foundation all about?
Many of these widowed wives are forced to become the sole bread winners for their families. Many of these spouses are unskilled, and are thrust into the market with little or no experience and must quickly adapt to a new role of primary provider. A study was conducted after 9/11 that found that within 6-9 months of death, service member spouses had taken the Service Group Life Insurance (SGLI) and spent it on paying off bills and old debts. The study further showed that these spouses became “cash poor” and were in dire need of financial aid and planning support to cope with losing not only a loved one, but all their military benefits as well.
...........
The United Warrior Survivor Foundation provides financial aid/support, financial counseling and investment planning support, emotional wellness counseling services along with the long term assistance of college scholarship grants, and educational counseling to spouses surviving these Special Operators.

“If Not You, Then Who? If Not Now, Then When?”
We strongly believe that if a woman chooses to stay home and raise her children as her husband goes off to war, if he dies in the defense of his country, the wife should not be forced to suffer any more than she has in her grieving.

These brave men have already given all they have and paid for our programs and services with their great sacrifice. Now We need your time, talent, and financial resources to accomplish our mission of helping give something back to their families.

Friday, March 30, 2007

Devotional Thoughts: Why. Why? Why!

In a previous blog post, I mentioned the usage of a couple of reference works: the NIV Study Bible and Bible Background Commentary: Old Testament. I generally try to take a text for what it is. However, because the text is originally in Hebrew (OT) and Greek (NT), reference works sometimes help bring to light things that the translators have that we don't have. As a rule, the English Bible translations will have footnotes if there are any questions about the rendering of some particular phrases. The reference works often will go into more detail that a brief remark in a footnote. What has struck me over the years in reading the Bible is that those footnotes though not insignificant in number aren't as numerous as one might think for something 2000+ years old and often time those uncertainties don't change the meaning of the text at all or not very much.

The other reason for reference works is the cultural gap! I'm sitting here 21st Century American of Asian ancestry. Job is probably 3000+ years ago Middle Eastern society! Some things are universal: facing suffering. But some things might have a cultural angle and good reference works help us see those dimensions.

Anyway, enough remarks about reference works.

Onto today's reading where we are hit with a 26 verse rant (understandable!) Job 3:1-26:

After this Job opened his mouth and cursed the day of his birth. And Job spoke, and said:

“May the day perish on which I was born,
And the night in which it was said,
‘A male child is conceived.’
May that day be darkness;
May God above not seek it,
Nor the light shine upon it.
May darkness and the shadow of death claim it;
May a cloud settle on it;
May the blackness of the day terrify it.
As for that night, may darkness seize it;
May it not rejoice among the days of the year,
May it not come into the number of the months.
Oh, may that night be barren!
May no joyful shout come into it!
May those curse it who curse the day,
Those who are ready to arouse Leviathan.
May the stars of its morning be dark;
May it look for light, but have none,
And not see the dawning of the day;
Because it did not shut up the doors of my mother’s womb,
Nor hide sorrow from my eyes.

The first thing I noticed is the change in the way the text is laid out on the online Bible (as well as in hard copy Bibles) which indicates we are looking at poetry.

Question: Does anyone within a click of this blog routinely speaking in poetry? 8-)

There may well have been a literal Job who literally went through the misery we have seen and may well have had long conversations about it with friends. But what we have in hand, in Job the book, is probably a dramatic retelling of those experiences. The cadences and aural qualities and word pictures of poetry can be deeply affecting to the listener. After all, how is it possible that Shakespeare is still revered today? C'mon, nobody speaks in iambic pentameter!?

In this initial 10 verse rant, Job is saying in many different ways: ARGH, I wish I had never been born so I wouldn't have to be sitting here suffering!

Job continued vv. 11-19:

“Why did I not die at birth?
Why did I not perish when I came from the womb?
Why did the knees receive me?
Or why the breasts, that I should nurse?

For now I would have lain still and been quiet,
I would have been asleep;
Then I would have been at rest
With kings and counselors of the earth,
Who built ruins for themselves,
Or with princes who had gold,
Who filled their houses with silver;
Or why was I not hidden like a stillborn child,
Like infants who never saw light?

There the wicked cease from troubling,
And there the weary are at rest.
There the prisoners rest together;
They do not hear the voice of the oppressor.
The small and great are there,
And the servant is free from his master.

Question: do you think Job believed in an afterlife?

He clearly described death as the great equalizer and there is an emphasis on the idea of "rest."

If Job believed in reincarnation, what would his poetry sound like? Would it be hopeful that in the next incarnation of his life, his lot would be better? Would it be fearful that the next go around would be even worse?

If Job believed that there was nothing after death, what would his poetry sound like? Would he describe nothingness as rest?

I've heard that the Hebrew Scriptures are somewhat vague about the afterlife though from what I understand Jewish folks generally believe in one if only to right the scales of justice. From reading this passage of Job, I do get that feeling of some afterlife concept. Rest is a good thing. Job believed if he were dead, he would enter into rest. This does not sound like reincarnation or annihilation.

Job continued vv. 20-26:

“Why is light given to him who is in misery,
And life to the bitter of soul,
Who long for death, but it does not come,
And search for it more than hidden treasures;
Who rejoice exceedingly,
And are glad when they can find the grave?

Why is light given to a man whose way is hidden,
And whom God has hedged in?

For my sighing comes before I eat,
And my groanings pour out like water.
For the thing I greatly feared has come upon me,
And what I dreaded has happened to me.

I am not at ease, nor am I quiet;
I have no rest, for trouble comes.”

Why. Why? Why!

I think God, in wisdom, included this story in our Bibles to give us permission to ask why.

The Bible does have its share of "pie in the sky" hopefulness but it also has a gritty realism that I have grown to love over the years of reading it. My feeling is if it didn't contain the down and dirty realities of life, I would be easily inclined to dismiss it. But here it is: Job, this righteous dude, is at the end of his rope asking God: Why. Why? Why!

Lord, thank you that you are a God who hears us. Thank you that you are a God who includes in the Bible people who doubt like Job here and are flawed like Peter and passionate leading to good and bad situations like David and sketchy like Jacob. Yet you have drawn them to yourself. Lord, thank you that you have reached out to them and to me through Jesus, through the stories of believers through the ages and through my life experience. Help me to always bring everything to you including the doubts and frustrations. Amen.

Thursday, March 29, 2007

Sports: Florida vs. UCLA, National Semifinals, Saturday, 5:47 PM PDT

The newspaper in LA is running an article or three each day in the run up to the Final Four. Fans are hoping for a win but the realists know that Florida is the favorite.

Las Vegas says Florida is the favorite by 3 points. BTW, they have GTown favored by 1 over the Buckeyes.

Last year, the Bruins starting line-up: Farmar, Afflalo, Bozeman, Mbah a Moute and Hollins. The Bruin bench was: Collison, Abboya, Mata and Roll.

This year, Collison has taken over the point for Farmar. Collison gives the Bruins more speed on both offense and defense. He will have a huge assignment covering Florida's point guard Green. Collison will need to force a few turnovers and disrupt the timing of the Florida offense in order for the Bruins to have a chance. If we see the Gators flying around in a dunkfest, we are looking at another blowout so getting back on defense will be a key. When in the half-court, Collison will need to pressure Green so the passes into the Florida bigs are a little bit off allowing UCLA's double teams to poke it away, steal it or leave the frontline with a less ideal shot causing a miss.

Afflalo is a year better and stronger and hopefully he will have a better game than 3 for 10 shooting he had last year in the game against the Gators. He was hitting so many shots against Kansas so hopefully his shooting touch is back and that it will carry over to this game!

Bozman was a senior and his spot is taken by Shipp. Shipp gives more offense but less defense. However, in recent games, Shipp seems to have stepped it up a notch. Hopefully, the extra offense that Shipp gives will give Collison and Afflalo some more room to work in the half-court sets.

Mbah a Moute has continued to develop. A bit bigger and stronger than last year when he was completely overwhelmed by Florida's frontline. We need him to play tough defense and grab those rebounds on defense and sneaking a few offensive rebounds.

Mata has been a valuable presence in the middle. Not as tall as Hollins but bulkier, he isn't afraid of mixing it up underneath. Horford and Noah are 1st round NBA picks and Mata isn't. But Mata with his grit might disrupt the Gator inside game. Kansas had it share of inside opportunities but they seemed to rush their shots just a tiny bit. Call it the Mata-effect!

UCLA's bench is a bit better than last year. Westbrook doesn't play as many minutes as Collison did as back-up point but Westbrook is key to keeping Collison fresh for the final push in the 2nd half and he has shown some ability to score. Roll brings some three-point shooting off the bench and his minutes to give Afflalo and Shipp a break will be important. He has gotten stronger and is more confident putting up the shot from last year. Abboya is bigger and stronger than last year. He isn't as tall as Florida's bigs and not much on offense but he has a nose for the ball on rebounds. A big part of UCLA's defense includes letting the other team know you are there! Abboya has to be careful if the refs have a fast whistle! But part of what Abboya does is put that body on the other team's star big guy so they get frustrated. If the pace of the game gets a little fast or there is foul trouble, we will see Wright and Keefe.

If any other Bruins wind up playing, it means the game is a blow out and fans in Westwood are heading for heartbreak hotel.

IN any case, Go Bruins!

Religion: Taking a look at the Koran

Like most Americans, I know next to nothing about Islam. I must say even though I live in the cultural melting pot of Los Angeles, I don't know any Muslims personally. I've attended one presentation about Islam which I blogged about and I hear what is in the popular media on television.

As a Christian, I do have a religious perspective to begin with. Nonethess, as a thinking person living in this world at this moment in history, I decided it was time to try to understand Islam a little bit better. I went to Amazon and ordered up a copy of the Koran.

Since the Koran is in Arabic, I have to have an English translation in order to read it.

In Christianity, the Bible's original language is Hebrew and Greek; thus, there are many options for English translations.

I chose the Koran prepared by Abdullah Yusuf Ali because one of the Amazon reviews said this, "This translation is considered the most authentic by Muslim scholars. It is the one that is supported by the government of Saudi Arabia and is most widely read by English-speaking Muslims."

I took his word for it and ordered it up.

In the table of content, one finds that the Koran is divided into 114 Suras.

A visit to the University of Southern California Muslim Student's Association gives the following introduction to the Koran:
The Qur'an is a Message from Allah to humanity. It was transmitted to us in a chain starting from the Almighty Himself to the angel Gabriel to the Prophet Muhammad. This message was given to the Prophet in pieces over a period spanning approximately 23 years (610 CE to 622 CE). The Prophet was 40 years old when the Qur'an began to be revealed to him, and he was 63 when the revelation was completed. The language of the original message was Arabic, but it has been translated into many other languages.
Wikipedia offers these items about the Koran:
There are numerous traditions, and many conflicting academic theories, as to the provenance of the Qur'anic verses that were eventually assembled into a single volume. Most Muslims accept the account recorded in several hadith, which state that Abu Bakr, The First Caliph, ordered his personal secretary Zayd ibn Thabit to collect and record all the authentic verses of the Qur'an, as preserved in written form or oral tradition. Zayd's written collection, privately treasured by Muhammad's wife Hafsa bint Umar, was, according to Muslim sources, later used by Uthman and is thus the basis of today's Qur'an.

Uthman's version, organized the suras roughly in order of length (excepting the brief opening surah Al-Fatiha), with the longest suras at the start of the Qur'an and the shortest ones at the end. More conservative views state that the order of most suras was divinely set. Later scholars have struggled to put the suras in chronological order, and at least among Muslim commentators, there is a rough consensus as to which suras were revealed in Mecca and which at Medina, with distinctive characteristics observed within these two subgroups. Some suras (e.g. surat Iqra) are thought to have been revealed in parts at separate times.

Money: Risk vs. Reward

I occasionally blog about money. Since I'm not a wealthy person my money advice has to be taken with that knowledge in mind.

I do try to be read up on some of the basic ideas you hear on shows like Suze Orman (I can't watch a complete show as she is a little too intense for me but I catch little tidbits), Bob Brinker and Ric Edelman. I'll visit web pages like the Motley Fool.

One of the big ideas is the risk vs. reward. In order to get a larger return on investment (reward) you have to be willing to take greater risks. The corollary is you can accept greater risk if your time horizon is longer.

In practical terms, if you know you will need the money within a year or two then park it in a very safe place like CDs and super safe short term securities like US government debts.

If your need is farther off into the future, increase the percentage that is in stocks. For instance as a 40-something who is looking at retirement 20+ years into the future, I'm putting retirement money (403b and IRAs) with a weighting in stocks in the 75% range. My thinking is when I hit my 50s, I'll begin to get a little more conservative and have 2/3 of my retirement funds in stocks. And when I hit my 60s, probably 1/2 of my retirement funds will be in stocks. I'll think about the 70s maybe 20 years from now!

Markets can be volatile but the general trend has been up because the US economy overall is doing reasonable well. For instance, on June 13, 2006 the S&P500 was 560.7 and it ended the year at 660.41 for an 18% run-up over a 6 month period.

However, since the beginning of the year, S&P500 hasn't done much closing yesterday March 28, 2007 at 647.87 which is nearly a 2% loss.

Economic news has been mixed of late (good GDP numbers but worries about the housing bubble) hence the sideways movement of the markets. Stay tuned.

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Devotional Thoughts: Being There

Looking at Job 2:11-13 this AM.

When Job's three friends, Eliphaz the Temanite, Bildad the Shuhite and Zophar the Naamathite, heard about all the troubles that had come upon him, they set out from their homes and met together by agreement to go and sympathize with him and comfort him. When they saw him from a distance, they could hardly recognize him; they began to weep aloud, and they tore their robes and sprinkled dust on their heads. Then they sat on the ground with him for seven days and seven nights. No one said a word to him, because they saw how great his suffering was.

Who are these three friends?

I looked at the study notes to (1) the NIV Study Bible and (2) Bible Background Commentary: Old Testament.

Eliphaz, the Temanite may have been an Edomite based on his name and from a city south of the Dead Sea (1) while the other resource speculated the city he was from was near Petra in modern Jordan (2).

Bildad, the Shuhite may have been a descendant of Shuah the youngest son of Abraham and Keturah (1,2) though it is possible he could be from the city of Suhu which was located in the middle Euphrates south of the Habur river (2).

Zophar, the Naamathite is very uncertain (1,2) but might be connected to Jebel el Na'amaeh in northwest Arabia (2).

In any case, whatever the ethnic background of these three guys and where they hiked in from, they are Job's friends.

The minute they heard about his troubles, they made the journey to Job and agreed to spend time with him together. When they got there, they put into practice the wisdom weep with those who weep.

Since I referenced the Beatles and Youtube.com in my previous blog post on Job, I had to again.



For 7 days they just sat there. In times of suffering, being there is the most important thing. No magic words.

Lord, teach me the art of being there. Of sensing the need of the other person in that moment. Sometimes, silence is truly golden. And when there is speech, listening may well be far more important than speaking. Help me to learn to give that sacred space to the other person so that they may speak and know they are heard and to be and know they are loved. Amen.

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

News: Tony Snow's cancer has returned

Tony Snow is the White House press secretary. I didn't know he had fought cancer previously. Excerpt:
Snow, 51, had his entire colon removed in 2005 and underwent six months of chemotherapy after being diagnosed with colon cancer. A small growth was discovered last year in his lower right pelvic area, and after months of monitoring, tests now show that it has grown slightly. It was removed Monday.

Doctors determined that it was cancerous, and found during the surgery, which was exploratory, that his cancer had metastasized, or spread, to his liver, White House spokeswoman Dana Perino said.

She said Snow is comfortable and feeling fine after his surgery and has pledged to aggressively fight the disease with an as-yet-to-be-determined chemotherapy treatment course. He will be in the hospital recovering from the surgery, a major procedure, for about a week.
I wonder if these intrusions (Edwards and Snow's battle with cancer) of real life and humanity will have any affect on the dialog in DC?

Monday, March 26, 2007

News: The Edwards Dilema

Heard the news about the return of cancer for Elizabeth Edwards, wife of Democrat candidate for President John Edwards.

Politics aside, they are in a tough situation.

The most thoughtful thing I've seen on their circumstances comes from Dean Barnett who has Cystic Fibrosis and is a political writer from the conservative camp. But on this matter, he writes simply as a fellow human being. Excerpt:
Over time, as my condition worsened and got more serious, denial was no longer an option. Compromise became the order of the day. On the golf course, I used to carry my bag for 36 holes a day. First I began to take a caddy. Then a cart. Soon I was playing twice a week instead of twice a day.

On more serious matters, compromises were also necessary. When you get sick, really sick, you wind up compromising on just about everything. Your disease forces you into the habit.

I CAN’T TELL YOU HOW BAD I FEEL FOR ELIZABETH AND JOHN EDWARDS. I’m familiar with the body-blow of a sudden diagnosis that turns your world upside down. It’s incredible – you walk into a doctor’s office and within a span of minutes you find out your life will never be the same. In the back of your mind you nourish the hopes of miracle cures or that you might be like that guy in Dubuque who got the same diagnosis but oddly enough lived forever, but the reality of the situation sits there in your mind. You can’t shake it – it just won’t leave.
.........
At the innermost point of the circle are the things that really matter: Family, faith, love. These things stay with you until the day that you die. At the very end, because the circle has shrunk down to its center, they’re all you have left.

But as we approach that end, we finally realize that all along they were what mattered most. As a consequence, life often remains beautiful and worthwhile right up until the end. The past several years for me have been a journey to what’s at the center of my life. One of the things I found there that I didn’t expect to was writing. (You lucky people.)

The Edwards have begun their own journey of that sort. Whether they still find presidential politics at the center of their lives a few months from now is an open question. Regardless, the journey is theirs, and one would have a heart of stone to wish them anything other than good luck and Godspeed.

Devotional Thoughts: Curse God and Die!

Earlier, we saw that Job was conscientious about doing the right things before God, had a great big happy family and lots of stuff. Satan showed up and told God, Job would abandon you if I took away all that from him. God permitted this and Job lost everything. Yet, he held onto God anyway.

Today, am looking at Job 2:1-10.

On another day the angels came to present themselves before the LORD, and Satan also came with them to present himself before him. And the LORD said to Satan, "Where have you come from?"

Satan answered the LORD, "From roaming through the earth and going back and forth in it."

Then the LORD said to Satan, "Have you considered my servant Job? There is no one on earth like him; he is blameless and upright, a man who fears God and shuns evil. And he still maintains his integrity, though you incited me against him to ruin him without any reason."

"Skin for skin!" Satan replied. "A man will give all he has for his own life. But stretch out your hand and strike his flesh and bones, and he will surely curse you to your face."

The LORD said to Satan, "Very well, then, he is in your hands; but you must spare his life."

So Satan went out from the presence of the LORD and afflicted Job with painful sores from the soles of his feet to the top of his head. Then Job took a piece of broken pottery and scraped himself with it as he sat among the ashes.

His wife said to him, "Are you still holding on to your integrity? Curse God and die!"

He replied, "You are talking like a foolish woman. Shall we accept good from God, and not trouble?" In all this, Job did not sin in what he said.

Wow!

Truth be told, I don't know if I could be like Job and remain so faithful. I really can relate to Job's wife here.

Yet, I retain a profound sense of guilt as I acknowledge that. For I've led a pretty easy life here in the USA. Sure a health episode here and there but nothing like poor Job. I have so much material wealth compared to the rest of the world so I really don't have just cause to be worried. And besides, my perspective is hopefully toward the realization that though it is nice to have "stuff" we all know it can't give us love.



Clearly, the hardest thing for Job would be the loss of his beloved children. Yet, he remains faithful to God?

I suppose the question that came to mind is how did he come to have faith in God in the first place?

One might say that if one has tasted of goodness in life, heard truth and seen beauty, one has had some knowledge of God.

Job has had this experience and he holds onto it in his current dismal circumstances. Hence, he can say, Shall we accept good from God, and not trouble?

If he had never seen even the slightest glimpse of God in goodness, truth and beauty than he would have had no justification for even claiming that God is out there?

Dennis Prager has sometimes wondered on his radio show, if people decide to remove god from existence because of evil in the world, are they willing to grant god credit for good in this world? In many way, the atheist has a heads I win, tails you lose attitude towards god.

Lord, help me to be like Job. I have tasted your goodness, heard the truth of your love in Jesus and seen incredible beauty in the changed lives of those who follow you. Indeed, when I lose focus on you and dwell on my circumstances, help lift my soul back to you. Amen!

Sunday, March 25, 2007

Culture: 24, 7pm to 8pm

Been a bit distracted by March Madness so haven't gotten around to checking up and writing on 24.

So to recap the latest hour ...

In the DC thread, the nuclear bomb happy Veep is all set to send Un-named country a message with a nuke attack on a remote part of that country. The implausibility here is that no one seems concerned except Karen.

Meanwhile, at CTU, as usual, we find out there is a mole and at the moment it appears that Nadia is the source of the leak. We shall see how that plays out in the episodes ahead but it doesn't look good for Marisol Nichols' contract negotiations for next season.

The terrorists have loaded one of the nukes onto a drone and have sent it on its way to San Francisco. The implausibility here is that the drones they have look like merely oversized radio control airplanes a hobbiest can buy. I just can't imagine one of those things can (1) carry the nuclear device and (2) has enough fuel to fly from the outskirts of Los Angeles to San Francisco!

We find out that Audrey (Kim Raver) is dead. I suppose it is possible she isn't actually dead but since her fan site says Raver has signed up for another tv series it isn't looking too good for her to return to 24. Also, her part in Night at the Museum suggests she has moved on from 24.

By the way, Night at the Museum was a fun sweet little movie. It isn't high art but for what it is, it was nice.

But back to 24, Jack, tortured for 18 months in China and then beaten by Fayed and beaten by the Russian Consulate Cops is taped up and sent out once again to lead the attack. With the help of Morris' computer skills they find found out where the drone pilot is located. Chloe used to get that part in the show ... oh no, Mary Lynn might need to spruce up her resume?

The raid is successful and Jack pilots the drone into an industrial locale without detonating the nuclear device. Unfortunately, the fire department arrives on the scene to get irradiated because the crash landing has caused a radiation leak.

Implausibility alert: it isn't likely that the device would spill its nuclear contents that easily. Additionally, you would think that CTU would warn those guys to approach the object with caution. Instead, they more or less run up to the thing and then get the gieger counter out to check!

Thursday, March 22, 2007

Sports: Western Regional Finals Next - Kansas vs. UCLA

Sat. Jayhawks vs. Bruins. Western Regional Finals.

Looking at the scores of today's regional semi-finals, it was about DEFENSE. KU beat SIU 61-58. Memphis edged A&M 65-64. UCLA defeated Pittsburgh 64-55. Quite striking that these games were all in the 50s and 60s. The only game that showed some offensive fireworks was the Ohio State vs. Tennessee game with the Buckeyes rallying furiously from a 20-point deficit. It looks to be coming down to the final possession or maybe even into overtime!

UPDATE: Its a final, Ohio State 85 UT 84!

UCLA vs. Pittsburgh game observations:

Was very nervous when Mata and Mbah a Moute picked up some early fouls in the first half. Keefe (10 minutes) and Abboya (19 minutes) played solidly in their place on the defensive end. If you look at their line scores there wasn't much offense but these guys helped keep the Panther's bigs under wraps defensively. In the end, the Panther's rally was lead by 3-point shooting late in the 2nd half.

An all around team effort: Roll put in some important minutes (10) and hit 2 big shots. Mata made his presence known in the rebounding department with nine and none bigger than that offensive rebound that he turned into an assist to Shipp who slashed to the basket.

I billed the game as UCLA's perimeter players versus the Pather bigs: UCLA perimeter players scored 52 of the teams 64 points! Pittsburgh Center Aaron Gray was limited to 10 points.

Kansas looks tough. I wonder what the Las Vegas line will be? I'd venture, KU favored by 4.

Nevertheless, go BRUINS!!!!!

UPDATE: UCLA 68 KU 55! Interesting stats: UCLA 24 turnovers. KU 21 turnovers. UCLA 15 steals. KU 17 steals. Whoa!

UPDATE: Have started to watch my VCR copy of the game, seems to me the turnovers and steals aren't about sloppy play but incredible pressure defense by both sides!

Sports: UCLA basketball return to glory???

6:40 PM PDT.

San Jose.

CBS.

Am nervous as heck about the West Regional semi-final match up between UCLA and Pittsburgh. In LA, the stories about the ties between Coach Howland and Coach Dixon fill the papers. It will be UCLA's perimeter players versus Pittsburgh's bigs. It is about two coaches who like defense. We shall see!

Expectations in BruinsNation is way out of control. UCLA's history since the last Wooden-coached championship in 1975 doesn't justify the demands of the fans. To put some numbers on it, in the last 32 years, UCLA has made the Final Four just four times.

Since Wooden, fans have been dreaming of a return to glory. There have been two shining moments prior to Howland that prompted optimism but each time it turned to ashes for fans of the UCLA basketball program shortly afterward.

1980.

Larry Brown arrived on the scene to take over a program in disarray where demanding fans ran out of town two coaches in four years. The Bruins came in 4th in the Pac-10 that year and drew an invitation which many analysts thought was simply because of the name brand. Brown took that starting line-up of 3 freshmen and 2 seniors on a magic carpet ride that ended in the championship game with a narrow defeat to a Denny Crum (former Wooden assistant) coached Louisville.

The following year, 1981, with expectations rising again, the #3 seeded Bruins were ousted in their opening game against BYU and the shooting of Danny Ainge amidst coach Larry Brown's impending departure. Indeed, Brown resigned from UCLA, assistant Larry Farmer took over but the Bruins were hit with probation for NCAA violations and thus no-post season play in 1982.

Bruins in Ruins became the mantra from 1982-1988.
1982 - probation, no-post season
1983 - defeated in the first round to Utah
1984 - didn't make the NCAA and declined an NIT bid, Larry Farmer resigned
1985 - Walt Hazzard took over the coaching duties and got UCLA's only NIT championship
1986 - UCLA lost in the opening round of the NIT to UC Irvine!
1987 - won the first round against Central Michigan then lost in round two to Wyoming
1988 - didn't make the NCAA and Walt Hazzard was fired

Jim Harrick took over coaching at UCLA and became the unlikely receptacle of the hope and dreams of the fans for restoration. However, Harrick, despite fairly successful recruiting, was widely criticized for not being able to win the "big game" as UCLA consistently stumbled early in the NCAA.

1989 - lost in round 2
1990 - lost in the sweet-16
1991 - lost in round 1, victim of Penn State in a 4/13 upset
1992 - lost in the regional finals blown out by Bobby Knight's Indiana
1993 - lost in round 2
1994 - lost in round 1, victim of Tulsa in a 5/12 upset

Then came ...

1995

Edney's end-to-end drive to get the winning basket against Missouri in round 2. A high scoring affair with UConn in the Regional Finals. A knock down drag out with Ok State and Big Country Reeves in the National Semi-finals. And the magical game against Arkansas when Edney tried to play with an injured wrist but it became apparent that he couldn't continue so Cameron Dollar took over at point and Ed O'Bannon and Toby Bailey did the rest with strong contributions from Charles O'Bannon, J.R. Henderson and George Zedek. The 11th banner was put up!

But, in 1996, it was all ashes when UCLA lost to Princeton in arguable one of the biggest upsets in NCAA history. And then 1997 began with promise but a few games into the season Harrick was fired for lying about a recruiting expense report and Steve Lavin took over the team. Mike Gottfried and Lorenzo Romar were Harrick's top assistants on the 1995 championship run so they had since moved on to head coaching jobs of their own leaving Lavin as the senior assistant.

Lavin by all accounts was a decent guy but clearly in over his head.
1997 - lost in the regional semi-finals
1998 - lost in sweet-16
1999 - lost in round 1
2000 - lost in sweet-16
2001 - lost in sweet-16
2002 - lost in sweet-16
2003 - didn't make NCAA and was fired at the end of the season

Ben Howland took over a program that was in a ditch.
2004 - didn't make the NCAA and the fans understood the shelf was empty from the final Lavin years
2005 - UCLA was probably one of the last at-large teams that year and lost in the first round which the fans accepted because these were the last few Lavin recruits and just the first few Howland recruits.
2006 - a magic carpet ride for the Bruins! A victory over Alabama in round 2 that came down to the final possession with Alabama missing the winning shot. The improbable comeback against Gonzaga in the regional semi-finals. The grind it out win over Memphis in the regional finals. The shockingly easy win over LSU in the national semi-finals. The ride ended in defeat at the hands of the Florida Gators.

The Bruins restored?

2006

Will the hope kindled by that incredible run in that incredible year turn to ashes as two other false starts in the return to glory?

2007 - In round 3, UCLA versus Pittsburgh might look like that football game in round 2 versus Indiana.

Expectations are high but fan is short for fanatic and even the love that Coach Howland has won already is fraying and will be sorely tested if the Bruins fall short tonight.

I've been listening to the Bruins on radio all season long. I've seen one game live and a few on TV. They are a solid team but they don't have the talent to blow people out. The Bruins have lost 5 games this season. One was to a speedy team like Oregon (two near losses were to speedy USC). Two were to hot shooting teams in West Virginia and California. Two were to teams with big guys inside (Stanford and Washington). To be honest, they could have lost many more if it were not for their defense that wears people out. Coach Howland deserves a ton of credit for getting this team to play as a team and to be far more than the sum of its parts.

Here's hoping the Bruins will find a way to win tomorrow to survive and advance.

Go Bruins!

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Devotional Thoughts: Came with nothing, leave with nothing

Continuing on to Job 1:13-22.

One day when Job's sons and daughters were feasting and drinking wine at the oldest brother's house, a messenger came to Job and said, "The oxen were plowing and the donkeys were grazing nearby, and the Sabeans attacked and carried them off. They put the servants to the sword, and I am the only one who has escaped to tell you!"

While he was still speaking, another messenger came and said, "The fire of God fell from the sky and burned up the sheep and the servants, and I am the only one who has escaped to tell you!"

While he was still speaking, another messenger came and said, "The Chaldeans formed three raiding parties and swept down on your camels and carried them off. They put the servants to the sword, and I am the only one who has escaped to tell you!"

According to the Jewishencyclopedia.com, the Sabeans were from southeastern Arabia. In any case, they raided the area, killed the servants and took all oxen and donkeys. A fire in the sky - lightening ? - killed the sheep and more servants. And then lastly, Chaldeans (perhaps the ancestors of the Babylonians which is now modern day Iraq) killed more servants and took the camels.

These verses described the loss of what Job had.

While he was still speaking, yet another messenger came and said, "Your sons and daughters were feasting and drinking wine at the oldest brother's house, when suddenly a mighty wind swept in from the desert and struck the four corners of the house. It collapsed on them and they are dead, and I am the only one who has escaped to tell you!"

Job had 10 children and now they were all dead killed by a tornado.

At this, Job got up and tore his robe and shaved his head. Then he fell to the ground in worship and said:
"Naked I came from my mother's womb,
and naked I will depart.
The LORD gave and the LORD has taken away;
may the name of the LORD be praised."

In all this, Job did not sin by charging God with wrongdoing.

How many of us would shake a fist at God for much less?

I confess, I can, at times, really whine about my circumstances and indeed, sometimes, I do shake a fist at God!

As I read this passage, I can't help but think of the famous song from Kansas, Dust in the Wind:
I close my eyes only for a moment and the moments gone
all my dreams pass before my eyes a curiosity
dust in the wind all we are dust in the wind

Some old song just a drop of water in the endless see
all we do crumbles to the ground though we refuse to see
dust in the wind

Now, don't hang on nothing last forever but the earth and sky
it slips away and all my money won't another minute buy

Dust in the wind all we are dust in the wind
dust in the wind dust in the wind
Lord, the age old question of would I follow you even if my circumstances changed? I want to believe that if push came to shove, I would be able to be like Job. But I know from my life experience, I would not react as Job did with humble worship before you recognizing I came into the world with nothing and will leave with nothing. Help me to be grateful for all you provide. Help me to live life fully knowing my life is but a vapor. Amen.

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Science: Genetically Engineered Mosquitos!!

In 2006 ... Amazing!

I know people often get nervous about genetically modified anything but this is potentially really good news.

The idea in the research project is to prevent the spread of Dengue Fever Virus by stopping them from growing in the mosquito which passes the virus to people when the mosquitos bite.

The Anthony James lab at UC Irvine genetically engineered mosquitos that hampers the virus reproduction. The lab took advantage of RNAi (inhibitory RNA) technology (watch that biotech space) by placing into the genetic material of the mosquito small bits of sequence that codes for RNAi which in turn helps set in motion cellular processes that destroy the Dengue Fever Viral RNA.

Now, today ... this transgenic approach has shown some promise as a possible way to fight malaria. See the CNN.com report .

In this story, the mosquitos have been genetically engineered to make a protein that inhibits the replication of the parasite that live in mosquitos that cause malaria in mice. The parasite gets transferred into the mouse when the mosquitos bite. But if the mosquitos don't have much parasite growing in them then the liklihood of transfering the parasite during a bite goes down.

However, sometimes, genetically engineered organisms don't grow as well as normal ones. The report shows that these engineered mosquitos actually did better than the normal ones. Thus, perhaps in the future, genetically modified mosquitos would be released and they would dilute out the normal malaria causing mosquitos.

Monday, March 19, 2007

Sports: And there were 16

4 #1 seeds made it through. I think that is unusual?

Anyway, they all looked pretty good in their wins and so perhaps we may have for the first time ever 4 #1s make it to the Final Four?

Suffice to say as a UCLA alum, I'm hoping at least one #2 seed crashes the party!

Of the six power conferences, they got in 12 teams (3 Pac-10, 3 SEC, 2 Big-12, 2 Big-East, 1 Big-10 and 1 ACC).

Of the 6 Pac-10 teams, the three (USC, Oregon and UCLA) more athletic ones got in. Following conference play during the season, I felt that WSU and Stanford were probably a step slower. Arizona was an enigma with all the talent in the world but somehow the pieces just never fell into place. As for UCLA, I think they are NOT as athletic as USC or Oregon but their pieces fit together well. USC clearly flew under the national radar but after the mauling they gave Texas, now everyone outside the Pac-10 knows these guys are for real. UNC will need their A game to beat USC and even then I think it will be a contest. Oregon had a mid-season slump but has been strong since.

There are no double digit seeds still in the tournament but Butler and Southern Illinois did a fine job upholding mid-major pride! I suppose UNLV is sort of a mid-major team too? Memphis has been a powerhouse for a while but it hails from the relatively weak CUSA. Gonzaga is in that category too though this year they had a harder time in the WCC than in the past.

Predictions:
Of the #1 seeds, I think UNC is at the greatest risk because USC has the athletes that can cause trouble. That should be the most exciting match up in the next round. Next, I would say Ohio State will have its hands full with the up-tempo style of Tennessee.

Of the mid-majors, Southern Illinois (playing Kansas) and Butler (playing Florida), I would say they have two chances of winning: slim and none. But if I had to pick which one has the better chance of pulling off the shocker of the tournament, I'd have to go with the Salukis! I'm just not sure Butler will be able to match-up against potent combination of Florida's speed and size.

The Ben Howland memory lane tour continues with UCLA facing his prior school Pittsburgh. It is probably going to be another grind it out defensive struggle like the game against Indiana. I'm hoping UCLA will be able to contain the Panther's big guy and find enough offense to survive and advance.

Saturday, March 17, 2007

Sports: Where Gus Johnson goes close games follow

Two dramatic games for Gus Johnson to call today. I remember him from last year's tournament when he went totally crazy during the Gonzaga vs. UCLA regional semi-final.

Today, in the opener, Ohio State looked dead down by 9 with Oden in foul trouble. But they rallied and hit a three with 4 seconds left to send it into overtime where they easily defeated Xavier 78-71. As you might imagine the excitable Johnson was having a blast down the stretch.

In the second game of that sub-regional, Louisville and Texas A&M were trading the leads and tying it up possession after possession. It came down to a dramatic finish with Texas A&M holding off Louisville and Gus capturing the emotions of the arena and the teams with his play-by-play.

Am hoping for a Bruin victory later today, prefer an easy win but will take *any* kind of win today!

UPDATE: By the end of the day there were 3 OT games! Most of the games were hotly contested into the final minutes if not into the last minute. UCLA held on to defeat IU 54-49! Whew, that was nerve racking!!

Theology: Did We Get the Right Jesus?

A few weeks back, I went to Biola University to hear a free public lecture. The speaker was Prof. Fred Sanders (click and scroll down for bio) and the event was part of the Christian Apologetics program at the school.

Sanders is far from a stuffy humanities professor. He was hilarious! He worked in comic strip images to make some of his points. He also showed some paintings from Art History to give us a flavor for the life and times he was describing.

The premise of his talk was: if you walked into "the Hall of Putative Jesi" how would you know which Jesus is the right one of the dozen or so individuals walking around in that hall claiming to be Jesus?

He mentioned that one approach is to examine the historical reliablity of the Gospel records and that much valuable scholarship is in that realm.

However, for this evening's presentation, he said he would focus on the historical development of our understanding of Jesus.

He said there were seven ancient church councils that met to discuss "who was Jesus?" In the fast paced presentation, he sketched out five of the councils in terms of what was the issue being debated, some of the players on both sides and other historical factors surrounding the council.

To summarize, he described the results of these councils as the "Chalcedonian Box." He believed the "box" provides the fundamental catagories to discuss Jesus and the identifies boundaries for describing what we know about Jesus from the Scriptures.



Sanders described the Council of Nicea (325 AD). The debate was whether Arian, a priest in Alexandria, was right in questioning whether Jesus was fully God, the position long held by the church. Athanasius critiqued Arian's arguements. As a result of this council, the Nicene Creed was drafted with its famous passage that affirmed the divinity of Jesus:
We believe in one Lord, Jesus Christ,
the only Son of God,
eternally begotten of the Father,
God from God, Light from Light,
true God from true God,
begotten, not made,
of one Being with the Father.
The next council Prof. Sanders summarized was Constantinople I (381 AD) which addressed Apollinarianism that questioned whether Jesus was fully human. The problem with this view is that would salvation by Jesus' life, death and resurrection be meaningful if he were not fully human?

The third council discussed in the presentation was at Ephesus (431 AD). There the question on the table was Nestorianism which said Jesus was two persons, a divine one and a human one. The council addressed the question and in particular, Cyril of Alexandria described Jesus as the union of two natures in one person.

The fourth council Dr. Sanders explained to the audience was Chalcedon which occurred in 451 AD. The council addressed the issue of Eutychianism held that Jesus had two natures but the human nature was so trivial that it was essentially absorbed within the divine nature. As a non-specialist, this sounded like a subtle variation on Apollinarianism mixed with Nestorianism?

The fifth council Sander's talked about was Constantinople II in 553 AD.

This council pretty summed up all the other councils in affirming there is one God with three persons (Trinity) and that the 2nd person of the Trinity is Jesus Christ who was one person with both a divine and human nature which the Son took on at the Incarnation.

Sanders was refreshingly honest about the fact that it is pretty hard to wrap our minds around all these things. The Incarnation is a statement of faith. It is much easier for us to have simple categories. But what we know from Scriptures points to a Jesus who defies simple categories and that Jesus was fully God, fully human, one person with two natures. We also know from the Bible that Jesus is the Son, the second person of the Trinity. How that actually "works" we don't know but we can attempt to describe it:

The Father is not the Son.
The Father is not the Holy Spirit.
The Son is not the Holy Spirit.
The Father is God.
The Son is God.
The Holy Spirit is God.
3 persons, 1 God.



image source: http://www.christian-apologetics.org/html/The_Trinity.htm

All in all a very mind blowing but informative evening.

It is really great to know that there are some theology professors who are energetic, humorous, creative and honest about how mind-blowing somethings are! If I had $1200 laying around, I'd consider taking a theology class with Prof. Sanders!

Devotional Thoughts: More than meets the eye



Image source: http://nssdc.gsfc.nasa.gov/image/astro/hst_ngc4414_9925.jpg

Taking a look at Job 1:6-12 this morning.

Now there was a day when the sons of God came to present themselves before the LORD, and Satan also came among them.

In this case, "sons of God" is more literal and is translated "angels" in the NIV which is an example of when translation merges with interpretation. The text I'm using in this blog post is NKJV. FYI, I vary the translation I use on this blog just to change things up now and then and not for any particular scholastic reason as I'm not a Bible scholar!

Satan is Hebrew for "adversary" or "accuser." Often Bible names describe the character of the person.

Thus, we have a picture of a realm we don't see with our waking eyes. Angels (probably a mixture of good ones and bad ones?) and Satan, another finite being, in a sense "report" to God in this story.

And the LORD said to Satan, “From where do you come?”

So Satan answered the LORD and said, “From going to and fro on the earth, and from walking back and forth on it.”

Then the LORD said to Satan, “Have you considered My servant Job, that there is none like him on the earth, a blameless and upright man, one who fears God and shuns evil?”

So Satan answered the LORD and said, “Does Job fear God for nothing? Have You not made a hedge around him, around his household, and around all that he has on every side? You have blessed the work of his hands, and his possessions have increased in the land. But now, stretch out Your hand and touch all that he has, and he will surely curse You to Your face!”

And the LORD said to Satan, “Behold, all that he has is in your power; only do not lay a hand on his person.”

So Satan went out from the presence of the LORD.

How do you feel about that?

God and Satan are looking at the earth at us running around upon it?

It is easy to think of our lives as insignificant.

I often wonder, who cares what I do?

I'm just one person in the USA which has 301,398,170 people in a world of 6,582,830,048 as I write this Saturday morning in 8:04 AM Pacific Daylight Time according to the US Census Population Clock.

Then place our planet earth as part of a solar system whipping around a galaxy with 100,000,000,000 stars.

Of course, our Milky Way galaxy is but one galaxy in a universe with perhaps 200,000,000,000 galaxies though only 100,000 have been cataloged.

Science has shown us how immense the universe is.

If there is no God who is capable of knowing us, then indeed, our lives are insignificant in the grand scale. Of course, our lives are of existential importance to us and to the handful of people who know us but beyond that, our lives mean nothing. We are here today and gone tomorrow. A small number might leave a legacy to be remembered by succeeding generations. And an extremely small number will leave a mark in the history books.

But if there is a God who is capable of knowing us and actually cares about what we are doing ... then there is great comfort, my suffering doesn't go unnoticed and my faithfulness has eternal significance.

Lord, please forgive me when I don't care about what is right and wrong. I live my life as if it doesn't matter as if you aren't there. The story of Job tells me that one man's situation is of significance to you. By application, then my life means something to You. Help me to be faithful and do what is good, true and beautiful even if the world thinks we should simply, eat, drink and be merry for tomorrow we die. Give me a greater vision for what is happening in this world beyond what meets my waking eyes. Amen.

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Devotional Thoughts: The happy life of Job

Job 1:2-5 on this blog post.

There were born to him seven sons and three daughters. He possessed 7,000 sheep, 3,000 camels, 500 yoke of oxen, and 500 female donkeys, and very many servants, so that this man was the greatest of all the people of the east.

Job was quite happy. He had a big family and lots of stuff.

What are we to make of the numbers mentioned here?

One of my old pastors used to say, when you see numbers in the Bible ask: symbol or statistic?

In some cases it may well be a statistic and meant to be taken as an accurate reflection of what was happening. In some cases, it might have a symbolic meaning. In this particular circumstances it would be hard to say. However, I'm probably more comfortable with these numbers being symbolic than more literal Bible interpreters.

In the Bible there are some favorite numbers: 40 (as in 40 years in the wilderness for Moses, 40 days of fasting for Jesus, etc), 12 (tribes, disciples, etc), 7 (creation week with the 7th day being the day or rest, Daniel's various mentions of 7 and 70, Peter asking if he should forgive 7 times and Jesus telling him 7 times 70).

Thus, Job having 7 sons would be a "complete set." 7 sons plus 3 daughters gave him 10 children. 10 is also a complete set because numerical systems are base 10. The same would be said of 7000 sheep. Then 7000 sheep plus 3000 camels is a complete set at 10,000. And finally, 500 oxen (male) plus 500 female donkeys gave him 1000 animals.

The point is clear: Job's life is full and complete in terms of family and in terms of material wealth.

His sons used to go and hold a feast in the house of each one on his day, and they would send and invite their three sisters to eat and drink with them.

We also see that his kids got along so it was not only a full and complete brood but a happy one.

And when the days of the feast had run their course, Job would send and consecrate them, and he would rise early in the morning and offer burnt offerings according to the number of them all. For Job said, "It may be that my children have sinned, and cursed God in their hearts." Thus Job did continually.

Lastly, we see that Job took spiritual matters quite seriously. He was concerned about his children and their right standing before God.

Lord, help me to be like Job in his consistency of devotion to you. He enjoyed life fully and cared for his children. Help me to approach my life with gratitude and to see the importance of the relationships that I am a part of. Amen.

Culture: 24, 6 to 7 pm

Jack manages to evade being killed by the Russian security people in the consulate but can't get off the grounds nor contact the outside world with the information the Russian Consul General gave him after some torture.

In DC, the "hidden hand" conspiracy continues to unfold though we still don't know who is really behind it. If Reed is to be believed from a couple of episodes ago, the Veep isn't actually in on it so he is willing unwitting participant.

Tom continues to vacillate about doing the right thing and in this case opts to back the Veep in claiming falsely that Assad triggered the bomb.

Meanwhile, the President Logan and Martha Logan thread takes a bizarre turn when Martha tabs Logan!

By the way, good old Aaron Pierce shows up as Martha's side kick.

In any case, Martha does make the phone call to the Russian President's wife who in turns convinces the Russian President to green light the CTU attack on the consulate.

The raid is successful and Kiefer is rescued and he tells CTU to look in Shadow Valley for the drones and the 3 suitcase nukes.

Implausibility alert: fingering Assad is a little too easy here. You would imagine the bomb sight is being gone over by the FBI, secret service and the military and someone will figure out the bomb had a remote triggering device. If Assad triggered it than he is now dead and the device should be on him. Some techie investigator will know that is pretty short order and it will move up the chain of command and the Veep and Tom's story will be quickly contradicted. I suppose the Veep could send all those people to Alaska to keep them quiet.

Implausibility alert: I'm a little surprised that the security forces in the Russian Consulate are having such a hard time finding one guy. I realize the Consulate might not be as heavily defended as an actual embassy but it also shouldn't be as big as an embassy.

Culture: 24, 5 to 6 pm

Am a bit behind in posting about the latest 24.

In fact, 5pm was last weeks show!

Previously, the bomb went off so now the actor who plays President Wayne Palmer won't have many speaking lines for the rest of this season unless he makes a miraculous recovery. Negotiating for next season might be hard for him as in his current state, he would be easily written off the show.

The Veep takes charge and is all set to establish the police state and the war the "hidden conspirators" want.

Meanwhile, this President Logan seeking redemption theme continues leading to Jack raiding yet another consulate.

Implausibility alert: way too easy how Jack breaks into the Russian consulate.

Friday, March 09, 2007

Sports: Bruins in ruins?

They lost to Washington. They lost to California.

Did they get bored and mail it in?

Or is it an indication of problems that this team has which will sink their chances of making a serious run in the NCAA?

I've never bought into the UCLA as #1 hype.

Just look at the team!

Affalo is a A level player with NBA prospects but he isn't an A+ player who will go high in the first round.

Collison and Shipp are A- players with some skills on top of raw athletic ability will need another year or two in order to be NBA ready.

Mata, Mbah a Moute and Abboya (the sixth man) are B+ players. These guys give a lot by sheer hard work on top of more modest athletic ability and skills. Their NBA prospects are not great. Perhaps second round projects and back-up role players.

Don't get me wrong, on paper, talentwise this team is probably better than 90% of the teams out there.

But how did they get the #1 in the country accolades?

Coach Howland has to be given a lot of credit for creating the "myth" of the #1 Bruins. In reality, it is smoke and mirrors. Howland's defensive schemes usually can cover up the weaknesses of the team (limited team speed and no dominant inside presence) but on their losses they were exposed. And as a fan who listens to the games on the radio, many other teams exploited those factors but they didn't have enough intensity and talent to fully overcome.

Anyway, one can hope the team can heal from aches and pains from the season and most of all, regain the play every possession with passion they have had all too infrequently this season. Hopefully, Howland can come up with the motivational talks to get them going and the Xs and Os to deal with teams that now really believe they can beat the Bruins.

Despite my concerns: GO BRUINS!!

Wednesday, March 07, 2007

Life: Life in the Big City

Went to a neighborhood meeting to discuss crime.


image source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dragnet_(drama)

Our guest was one of the lead officers from the LAPD division that covers our area. The approximate coverage area: Santa Monica Freeway to the south, Beverly Blvd. to the north, La Cienega Blvd to the west and Normandie Ave. to the east. The population in this patrol area is probably larger than many cities in the rest of the USA.

He acknowledged there is the planned number of cops to cover that beat and the reality of being short-handed. As such, good coordination between ground units and the helicopters is crucial. He also mentioned their careful observation of crime trends so they can deploy their limited resources to regions within the division area.

Another problem is that most police officers in our part of Los Angeles do not live there because they can't afford to. Thus, most commute in great distances and do 12-hour shifts three days a week. Ideally in community policing approaches, the cops would be on the beat most days of the week and become known individuals to the neighborhood.

I also found out that when you use the cell phone to call 911 in our neighborhood it will likely be routed to the California Highway Patrol! Thus, one has to clearly state what city before going any further in stating the nature of the emergency so they can connect the caller to the right place.

He reminded us that 911 is often overloaded on weekends when crime is highest. If that is the case, he advised we call the LAPD division office directly.

Tuesday, March 06, 2007

Devotional Thoughts: The Patience of Job

In youth group Bible study, I came across James 5:11:
As you know, we consider blessed those who have persevered. You have heard of Job's perseverance and have seen what the Lord finally brought about. The Lord is full of compassion and mercy.
Job isn't mentioned much in the New Testament. In fact, this verse is the only direct mention though I suppose there are other passages where you might hear the echo of Job.

Anyway, with the completion of my blog through of 1 and 2 Thessalonians, I have decided to dive into Job for the next series!

So here we go, Job 1:1.

There was a man in the land of Uz whose name was Job, and that man was blameless and upright, one who feared God and turned away from evil.

Where is the land of Uz?

Well, this tourism company says:
One of the earliest patriarchal figures in the Bible is Job (pbuh), whose book is one of the world's great masterpieces of religious literature. The city of Salt, northwest of the Jordanian capital Amman, houses the tomb/shrine of Job, the wealthy, righteous man from the Land of Uz who endured hardships with much patience and ultimately was rewarded with God's blessing (Job 1-3; 42:10, Ezekiel 14:14). Biblical scholars have located the Land of Uz in either northern or southern Jordan.

But to those who know the land, the rich biblical description in the Book of Job perfectly describes the varied natural environment, pastoral economy, and patriarchal social structures of ancient southern Jordan, known as Edom in the Old Testament. Job's three friends are identified as being from Teman, Shuh and Naamah, areas located in and near southern Jordan.
Wikipedia says more or less the same though they claim less certainty.

What about the name Job?

I don't know anyone who has named their child Job but it does have a meaning from the Hebrew:
The boy's name Job is pronounced johb. It is of Hebrew origin, and its meaning is "persecuted". Biblical: a man called by God "blameless and upright". Job is proverbial as an example of patience under trial.
For an artistic impression (there are 4 images) of Job, check out this web page.


Job visited by three friends - a fourth would join in later. The book of Job follows the conversations of these men as they struggle to come to grips with the suffering Job experienced.
image source: http://www.lavistachurchofchrist.org/Pictures/Treasures%20of%20the%20Bible%20(Job)/target2.html

Lord, whatever happens in my life, my deepest hope is that in the end of my life it would be said of me that I too was like Job, "blameless and upright, one who feared God and turned away from evil." Amen.

Saturday, March 03, 2007

News: James Cameron and the Jesus Family Tomb

It is all over in the news.

But the buzz seems to have settled rapidly compared to the Da Vinci Code.

I heard a brief report on it on my iTunes of a ABC Nightline podcast. The story didn't even merit a full show and the tone was somewhat skeptical of the claims made in the documentary. So even the secular news media isn't going crazy for it.

As you would imagine, the Christian scholarship community has been responding.

Be sure to check out the many posts from Mark Goodacre, an Associate Professor of New Testament in the Religion Department at Duke University. He rounds up a lot of posts from other scholars.

Ben Witherington has also posted extensively but unfortunately, he hasn't learned how to use the label feature in Blogger so I link to one of his earlier ones. Witherington is a professor of New Testament at Asbury Seminary.

One more place I'd recommend people check out is Stand To Reason's (by Melinda Penner) breakdown of the controversy.

Bottom line is that the tomb theory has a lot of assumptions and some of them not very good ones.

UPDATE: Greg Koukl of Stand to Reason has written a piece you should check out if you really want a very quick overview of the controversy. In particular, he calls to task some of the head-in-the-sand, knee-jerk (am I using contradictory mixed-metaphors here?) responses from some in Christian circles. He then uses his usual "Dragnet" "nothing but the facts" approach.

Culture: 24, 4 to 5 pm

The mid-season slow down is happening.

There is no way 24 can keep up the frantic pace.

TWP put it this way:
Kiefer persuades Wayne to let his brother's assassin out for the evening, and then he and Logan spend the rest of the episode getting dressed.
Meanwhile, Dave Barry put it this way:
Not enough Jack. Way too much talking. One boom -- one lousy boom -- at the end. The clear action highlight was Chloe yanking Morris out of the toilet.
Anyway, the 4 threads continue to unfold: (1) Chloe and Morris and their problems while trying to save the world as we know it; (2) Jack trying to track down the nukes; (3) the bad guys apparently have stolen some drones to deliver the 3 remaining nukes; (4) meanwhile, the plotting within the White House reaches a crucial point with the old liquid bomb in the tape recorder trick.

Implausibility alerts:
I guess they got 3 drones on that truck? Seems to me those drones might be a bit small to fly the suitcase bombs very far.
Do you think if a liquid bomb sprung a leak that it would still work?

For Google searchers looking for the Bible verse President Logan was reciting to himself, I think it was Psalm 40:2 (King James Version)
He brought me up also out of an horrible pit, out of the miry clay, and set my feet upon a rock, and established my goings.
However, I think the continuity people dropped the ball because when Jack opened Logan's Bible he saw Psalm 40:2 (New International Version) highlighted in yellow:
He lifted me out of the slimy pit,
out of the mud and mire;
he set my feet on a rock
and gave me a firm place to stand.
I wonder if I'm the only blogger who picked that up?

Friday, March 02, 2007

Science: Photos of Saturn from Cassini

Amazing images from the Cassini space probe.

Go to Nasa's page for more photos!

Blinding Saturn

image source: http://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/cassini/multimedia/pia08362.html