Thursday, May 31, 2007

Music: something old, something new

Purists will probably turn over in their graves but I just love it when artists take something old and familiar and making something new out of it.

Check out probably the most famous organ work spiced up with violin, an orchestra and a rockish feel ...



Then there is this item brought to my attention by my NBA fan nephew where a romantic era symphonic work is mixed with hip-hop-rap and pressed into an ad for Nike ...



UPDATE: Here are the lyrics to the Nike ad. I went and downloaded the full track from iTunes. Great music to start you up in the morning. Lyric excerpts:
Now say goodbye to the past.(why?)
The future is here at last.(at last)
The second coming.(yea)
The new beginning.(yea)
The truth is speaking.(uh huh)
You should listen.
So glorious.
Victorious.
..............
If you drop, get up and try it again.(uh huh)
If you fall, get up and try it again.(uh huh)
If you drop, get up and try it again
We tired of being runners up.
We coming up. Yup.
We ready for whatever you put in front of us. (Whatever)
Blood, sweat, tears, (yeah)
We dripped all three just to get here.(here)
No longer will I wake up and my dreams just vanished.(nope)
It’s staring right at me, I must take advantage.
Hard work pays off, you get what you put in.
So why stop now?
Gotta keep pushing. (Keep pushing)
We in a fight to the finish,
So why not fight 'till you finished?
Dig it?
I’m my own author, here’s my story.
My life’s been full of pain,
Now where’s my glory?(ahh)
So glorious.
Victorious.
Of the two remixes of classical works, I think the Nike one is more powerful. The redo of Bach's Toccatta and Fugue is good and entertaining but it is a bit cliche in my book after the excellent violin work. The Nike Ad uses music from the 5th movement of Berlioz Symphony Fantastic... shall I say it is fantastic?

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Politics: The immigration debate

As an American of Chinese ancestry, I have great appreciation for America's welcome of immigrants. I was born in the USA but my ancestors for several generations interacted with the immigration system of the USA. So my number one point is that America is a great nation in part because of its welcome of immigrants and how those immigrants have contributed to the American story.

According to this report (see p. 32), in 2000, the USA naturalized 888,788 individuals as citizens. On p. 33, we find that 42.6% are from other parts of the Americas and 35.1% from Asia. Thus, the USA is accepting around 900,000 new citizen annually through legal channels. This rate of immigration is similar to other countries though I suppose some people might feel it is too many while others feel it isn't enough.

There is of course also illegal immigration. From news reports I hear, of the 300 million living in America today, 12 million are here illegally.

I'm sympathetic to immigration as my ancestors were immigrants.

However, is there an amount of immigration (legal plus illegal) that is too much?

As it is right now, it is an "accident" of geography that Mexico shares a border with the USA. If China shared a border with the USA, how many would cross? If an African nation shared a border, how many would cross?

Also, in the era of terrorism, how important is border security?

We know the LAX millennium bomber Ahmed Ressam was caught crossing the border from Canada.

Do we have similar concerns about our southern border?

As a realist, I know that illegal immigrants are a part of the American economy and it isn't feasible to deport 12 million people. However, for terrorism security reasons, we need to do a better job on the border.

Additionally, there is the basic question of FAIRNESS: is the illegal immigrant from Mexico more deserving than the family trying to come to America legally from Latvia, Liberia or Laos?

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Devotional Thoughts: if a then b does not mean if b then a

Am looking at Job 8:8-22 this evening.

Bildad continues his monologue ...

Ask the former generation
and find out what their ancestors learned,
for we were born only yesterday and know nothing,
and our days on earth are but a shadow.
Will they not instruct you and tell you?
Will they not bring forth words from their understanding?

Bildad appealed to human experience. Though our own life might be finite, there is the collective wisdom of the ages. What does Bildad think those years of knowledge tell?

Can papyrus grow tall where there is no marsh?
Can reeds thrive without water?
While still growing and uncut,
they wither more quickly than grass.
Such is the destiny of all who forget God;
so perishes the hope of the godless.

He used a botanical metaphor: plants die without water. Likewise, people who forget God are in trouble.

Bildad goes on to say why those who forget God are in trouble...

What they trust in is fragile;
what they rely on is a spider's web.
They lean on the web, but it gives way;
they cling to it, but it does not hold.
They are like a well-watered plant in the sunshine,
spreading its shoots over the garden;
it entwines its roots around a pile of rocks
and looks for a place among the stones.
But when it is torn from its spot,
that place disowns it and says, 'I never saw you.'
Surely its life withers away,
and from the soil other plants grow.
Surely God does not reject the blameless
or strengthen the hands of evildoers.
He will yet fill your mouth with laughter
and your lips with shouts of joy.
Your enemies will be clothed in shame,
and the tents of the wicked will be no more.

All true Bildad.

But all irrelevant to Job's situation.

The reasoning he is using is: if A (plants without water) then B (they die). If A (you forget God) then B (you are in big trouble). So Job since you are in B then A must be true!

As a matter of logic that isn't necessarily true. Using a lousy example, if (A) Romeo and Juliet are in love then (B) they died. Does it logically follow that those who died were in love? Nonsense. I never took a logic class but I'm sure they must have a name for this kind of logical fallacy.

Nonetheless, it isn't a good idea to forget God.
Can papyrus grow tall where there is no marsh?
Can reeds thrive without water?
While still growing and uncut,
they wither more quickly than grass.
Such is the destiny of all who forget God;
so perishes the hope of the godless.
Psalm 1:1-3 tells us:
Blessed is the man
who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked
or stand in the way of sinners
or sit in the seat of mockers.
But his delight is in the law of the LORD,
and on his law he meditates day and night.
He is like a tree planted by streams of water,
which yields its fruit in season
and whose leaf does not wither.
Whatever he does prospers.
John 14:1-4 says:
"I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener. He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes so that it will be even more fruitful. You are already clean because of the word I have spoken to you. Remain in me, and I will remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me."
Lord, we all jump to conclusions. Bildad did. Help me to keep a clear head about me when I deal with people who are in tough spots. It is very easy to assume they did something wrong. In some cases that is so. But in all cases, I want to respond with love and grace. Clearly, I don't want to forget you in my day-to-day life. Alas, I know I often do run off in my own direction without even a second thought about your ways. Help me to be alert to what your wisdom is in my life. And when I'm not sure, help me to slow down and bring the situation to you for your guidance. Amen.

Sports: the hunt for the illusive corbina and spotfin croaker

Have fished the waters off Southern California for many years but by no means am I an expert fisherman.

Have caught many of the species commonly found in these parts: barred surf perch and other perches, yellowfin croaker, white croaker, jack smelt, mackerel, bonita, opaleye, halibut (but I've never caught one big enough to keep as the law is 22 inches!), sea basses (unfortunately, none have been the required 12 inches to keep - I've never even seen someone catch the rare white sea bass which has a 28 inch limit!).

Have hooked rays and sharks and actually saw them at the end of my line near the surface of the water but in the end they were too large for my gear and broke the line.

I've seen others bring in barracudas (they have teeth!) but I've not tangled with one yet.

The illusive ones on my radar are the corbina and the spotfin croaker. I hear the spotfins are somewhat rare in comparison to its smaller cousins the yellowfin and the white croaker. I haven't seen one caught in quite some time but I am not out fishing all that often so that might not be saying much.

I hear the corbina is more abundant than the spotfins but extremely weary. These fish are known to feed by swimming right up to the beach. In fact, I have on occasion, while wading in the water with my rod felt fish hit my feet and it is mostly likely these critters. I've seen these sleek gray fish cruising in water less than a foot deep. Alas, I've never battled one.

So begins another summer in the hunt for the illusive corbina!

To see pictures of the corbina and other commonly caught fish in the surf, go here.


image source: http://www.scsurffishing.com/images/corbina.jpg

Monday, May 28, 2007

Culture: 24 - 4 to 6 AM

The season comes to a close!

The Veep orders the exchange of Josh for the component. Doyle is in charge of the hand-off and Jack is in custody to be taken back to CTU to keep him out of the loop. Yeah, right!

Jack uses his phone to enlist the help of Karen back in the White House. Karen calls Bill whose house is being turned upside down looking for evidence since he was ousted for letting Fayed (lack of evidence but Bill is being scape-goated) go sometime in the past. Of the various romantic angles in the story, I think I like the Bill-Karen one the best. I suppose it is because they are older folks like me! Anyway, Karen convinces Bill to help with the "whatever it takes to stop the exchange" non-command command. Karen gets the data for Jack's location and gives it to Bill.

Implausibility: I'm not sure the FBI would let Bill just walk out of the house under the circumstances. What is the hypothetical off-camera conversation?
Bill: I am going to go to 7/11 and get a big gulp. You want me to bring you guys a few?
FBI agent: Sure, awfully nice of you!

Anyway, Bill fakes crashing into the SUV carrying Jack and so it crashes and Jack knocks out one guard while the other guard talks to Bill wondering what is going on. Jack clobbers that guy too. Jack and Bill race to the beach.

Back at the beach, two guys in a boat land at the beach with the component. Unfortunately, for Doyle, the device is a fake and blows up injuring him and the bad guys take Josh.

Jack and Bill arrive just as they leave but Jack sees the oil rigs and asks CTU to figure out which one might be owned by one of his father's shell corporations.

Meanwhile, back at CTU, Chole faints. Its 4:59AM.

CTU figures out which oil rig has ties to BXJ Corp. The White House orders up two F-18s to hit the rig with missiles to destroy the chip but killing Josh too.

Jack decides to disobey orders to recover his nephew. Bill offers to fly the helicopter. Woo hoo! Great to see that! The other season it was so cool to see Jack and Aaron team up for some mayhem and the other time when it was Jack and Wayne Palmer (prior to becoming POTUS) knocking off some bad guys!

Meanwhile back in DC, the Veep tells Subarov that they will attack an oil rig where the chip is located. The Russians report that they have intel that says a Chinese sub is nearby... a fact not available to the USA!

Implausibility alert: I hope the US sub detection net is better than that???!!! Maybe it it isn't? Yikes.

The fighter planes are on the way while the helicopter with Bill and Jack close in on the rig. They shoot up the bad guys and land the copter and Jack searches for Josh.

He finds him and sends him back to Bill and the copter and Jack confronts his father. Not exactly like Luke and Darth Vader in Empire Strikes Back. Jack decides not to kill his father (though he was shot once by Josh when he tried to take the gun back from Josh) but he can't drag him back to the copter in time to escape before the attack. Hmm, does this leave the door open for Philip Bauer to return for Season Seven? It would be pretty hard for such an old guy with a gunshot wound to survive falling into the water after the oil rig is hit by missiles and then swimming ashore but who knows?!

As the copter flies back with Jack hanging onto the rope Bill left for him, Jack lets go as they near the beach and Jack swims ashore. Bill knows that Jack has unfinished business and doesn't pick him up.

Things wind down at the White House as they have live coverage feed to the Russians.

Back at CTU, we and Morris find out Chole is pregnant.

Jack's unfinished business is to find Audrey. He has a confrontation with Heller but realizes Heller is right that Jack can't really protect and provide for Audrey. Jack reluctantly leaves Audrey.

The finale was pretty solid. Some great action set pieces. The relationship angles were mostly tied up.

The episode finishes with Jack staring out into the ocean wondering what is next. Indeed, it is a metaphor for what the 24 creative team is thinking. The season was very uneven. There were too many plot devices recycled from previous seasons. Also the turn to more "soap opera" was at times "cheesy." What will they do for Season Seven?

We have to wait until January 2008 to find out.

Religion: Koran reading, Sura 2

Religions have some features in common. For instance, there is usually some attempt to explain how things got to be where they are now. You might say that is the religion's "cosmology" or "worldview."

Religions vary on the degree to which god (of whatever type) is involved. Even atheism, a world view where there is no god, has a way to explain how things got to be where they are now. Their explanation is that evolution explains everything even religion itself. Am not going to debate the strengths and weaknesses of evolution in this blog post but I will state that atheism necessitates evolution. Simply put, if an atheists does not believe in evolution, then they are stuck with no ability to explain reality.

Aside from attempting to establish some narrative to explain the world as it is today, religions offer rules to live by and the Koran appears to offer that as well in the chapter I've been looking at.

The second chapter of the Koran is pretty long, 286 verses.

Sprinkled throughout the second Surah but mostly toward the end of the chapter are various admonitions on how to live: prayer, charity, Ramadan, the Pilgrimage, money and marriage/divorce.

In the second Surah, from verses 1-30, there is much about the right and wrong path and to God being the creator. Koran 2:2, "This is the Book; in it is guidance sure, without doubt, to those who fear Allah." Then in Koran 2:29, "It is He who created for you all things that are on the earth."

Interestingly, we meet Adam! Just like in Genesis of the Hebrew Scriptures, we meet Adam and Adam falls, Koran 2:36, "Then did Satan make them slip from the (Garden), and get them out of the state (of felicity) in which they had been."

Other figures familiar to Jews and Christians make their appearances in this chapter of the Koran. For instance, Koran 2:87, "We gave Moses the Book and followed him up with a succession of messengers; We gave Jesus the son of Mary Clear (Signs) and strengthened him with the holy spirit. Is it that whenever there comes to you a messenger with what ye yourselves desire not, ye are puffed up with pride? - Some ye called impostors, and others ye slay!"

Whoa!

Doesn't this sound a lot like Matthew 23:37, "O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones God' messengers! How often I have wanted to gather your children together as a hen protects her chicks beneath her wings, but you wouldn't let me."

It is really interesting to see that the Children of Israel are mentioned so explicitly in the Koran. See Koran 2:40, 47, 122, "O Children of Israel! Call to mind the special favor which I bestowed upon you."

Then there is Koran 2:116-117:
They say: "Allah hath begotten a son" :Glory be to Him.-Nay, to Him belongs all that is in the heavens and on earth: everything renders worship to Him. To Him is due the primal origin of the heavens and the earth: When He decreeth a matter, He saith to it: "Be," and it is.
I am not clear on what it is saying here. Perhaps the English translation and its word order is very murky.

It seems to be saying, "God begot a son, glory be to the son. No. To God belongs all that is in heaven and on earth ...."

I have no idea if this passage is a rebuke to Christians who hold that Jesus is God, the second person of the Trinity?

Another verse that caught my eye was Koran 2:136-137
Say ye: "We believe in Allah, and the revelation given to us, and to Abraham, Isma'il, Isaac, Jacob, and the Tribes, and that given to Moses and Jesus, and that given to (all) prophets from their Lord: We make no difference between one and another of them: And we bow to Allah (in Islam)." So if they believe as ye believe, they are indeed on the right path; but if they turn back, it is they who are in schism; but Allah will suffice thee as against them, and He is the All-Hearing, the All-Knowing.
All very interesting! It sounds as if all three theistic religions with their roots in Abraham are valid in Islam's theology?

I realize that I may well be mis-reading this verse. The Koran probably (?) has other verse that are much less open to other faiths. That issue aside, my other question is this: if in Judaism the blessing came through Isaac and in Islam, the blessing came through Ishmael, then why is Jacob and Moses and Jesus (all descendants of Isaac) mentioned in the above mentioned passage?

Also, when it makes reference to "the Tribes," are they referring to the descendants of Ishmael?

Perhaps Islam believes that god worked on parallel tracks through both lines?

If so, then why the hostility toward Judaism and Christianity?

By the way, I define hostility in a very narrow sense. I don't think it is hostile if someone tells me I'm going to hell because I believe in Jesus or the wrong conception of Jesus. However, I think it is hostile if someone will try to kill me because I believe in Jesus. My thinking on this has been influenced by Dennis Prager who is a Jewish radio talk show host in Los Angeles. Prager often talks about religion on his program and people have asked him, how do you feel when people of other religions tell him, you are going to hell?

Prager responds by saying, that maybe so and people are free to believe it is so but they don't have the right to send me there prematurely!

Art: Spirituality in Contemporary Art

The Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels in Los Angeles is hosting an art exhibit with the title: The S-Word: The State of 'Spirituality' in Contemporary Art. It is running from April 21 through August 24, 2007.

Here is the description:
The Cathedral Fine Arts Committee presents 'The S-Word: The State of 'spirituality' in contemporary Art, exhibited at the Cathedral Arts Chapel. Including the works of ten artists: Lynn Aldrich, Sandow Birk, Rob Clayton, Einer & Jamex de la Torre, Daniel M. Diaz, John Frame, Laura Lasworth, Ruth Weisberg and Patty Wickman.

My reaction to contemporary art ranges from: that's profound to that's a pile of junk to what is it!

Contemporary art more so than "traditional" art is context dependent. Thus, items being displayed in a church with an exhibition title as described above provides a context for the art. As such the net result for the observer is now a combination of:
(1) the artist intentions to the degree it is apparent in the art object
(2) the context of its display which influences the mindset of the viewer
(3) the experiences and perspective the viewer brings to the occasion.

I hope to check it out sometime soon and blog it up here!

Saturday, May 26, 2007

Technology: Netflix Movie Rentals - Godfather, Part II and Casino Royale



Image source: http://movies.yahoo.com/movie/1802814933/info

It is a breakthrough business model that combines the old technology with the new technology. New: the web based system of ordering up movies. Old: snailmail to get it to your house.

Unlike traditional brick and mortar rental shops they don't have to have the overhead of brick and mortar stores just places to store all the DVDs and people to fetch them and put them in the mail.

Until on-demand movies via high speed internet gets going, I don't see the Netflix model being defeated.

Anyway, I've now seen Godfather, Part II.

The device of moving forward and backward in time was very well done. It was interesting to hear Coppola in the director's commentary track say that he had the switch backs more frequently but eventually decided to let each period episode run longer so the audience could engage with the characters more. Coppola was on top of his game.

Vito (Brando in part I and DeNiro in part II) is much more restrained and controlled seemingly more able to separate business from personal vendettas while Michael (Pacino) is more volcanic. Though obviously both characters are dark, the obvious difference between Vito and Michael is the impact of revenge upon the characters. It consumed Michael much like Ahab looking for the whale while Vito seemed able to restrain that impulse to some degree.

Much like Star Wars - A New Hope and Star Wars - the Empire Strikes Back, these two Godfather have a similar legacy. The first Star Wars was the ground breaking film but Empire Strikes Back was the more interesting story line but the first film has the virtue of being the first film and creating the pop cultural icons. The same is true here: Brando will forever be associated with more of the iconic moments in film lore but the 2nd film is the more interesting story line.


Image source: http://movies.yahoo.com/movie/1808476050/photo/970427658

Casino Royale is the 21st installment of the iconic James Bond series. The reviews on Daniel Craig's edition of Bond have been positive and I can see why. He has drawn the inside straight of revitalizing the Bond character that is at the same time more brutal and more human!

Aside from Craig's very physical performance as the franchise has opted for less gadgets and more brawn, Eva Green was by far the most interesting Bond girl ever! She gets some terrific lines, some real emotions to work with and if blondes have more fun then we must say brunettes are a lot more interesting ...



Image source: http://movies.yahoo.com/movie/1808476050/photo/970415671

Friday, May 25, 2007

Youth: Entertainment Choices and Other Tough Decisions

Am leading the Bible discussion tonight for middle school on this topic.

The Bible part is fairly straightforward. Here is the "three-point" outline I've come up with ...

(1) Life's little instruction book
2 Timothy 3:16-17
Principle: What does the Bible say?

(2) Are you going to eat that?
1 Corinthians 8:1-13
Principle: Do not cause others to stumble

(3) Bonum, Veritas, Pulcher = Goodness, Truth, Beauty
Philippians 4:8
Principle: Monitor what we put into our minds

Now, I need to work on the discussion points to lead them into these concepts!

UPDATE: Had three poster boards (red light, yellow light, green light) and had the group jot down things they thought fit into each category. We tied those items to the 3 Biblical principles above.

If so inclined, prayers appreciated!

Thursday, May 24, 2007

Art: To be a Neo-Platypist is to love yellow


image source: http://www.platypusart.com/art.html

This site is kind of funny! I wonder who is behind this web page? The Neo-Platypist Manifesto was interesting. It is hard to tell if the artist was being tongue-in-check or serious!

Non-profit of the month: May 2007 - Joni and Friends

One of my friends is going on an overseas trip to help people in India with their wheelchairs as part of the Wheels for the World effort of the Joni and Friends organization.

The group was founded by Joni Eareckson Tada. Her story ...
A diving accident in 1967 left Mrs. Tada a quadriplegic in a wheelchair, unable to use her hands. After two years of rehabilitation, Joni re-entered the community with new skills and a fresh determination to help others in similar situations. “My church made a huge difference in my family’s life as they demonstrated the love of God in practical ways,” says Joni.

Mrs. Tada wrote of her experiences in her international best-selling biography, Joni. Her name is now recognized in countries around the world following the distribution in many languages of her biography and the full-length feature film JONI. She has personally visited over 41 countries.
Please consider supporting their efforts.

To see other non-profits this blog has highlighted, click on the label link just below.

Theology: I'm post-modern-emergent??

Very interesting!

Actually, as I look at the numbers, it all kind of makes sense!

I scored 71% on the Evangelical Holiness/Wesleyan scale.

This makes sense as I grew up in a Southern Baptist church with Armenian flavor in regards to salvation which I never fully bought the idea but felt it had a lot of good points. I spent four years in a non-denominational church that had several United Methodist trained ministers and was founded by United Methodists to serve the immigrant Chinese population.

I scored 68% on the Reformed Evangelical scale.

I'm currently at at Presbyterian church and as such I've read up a little bit on Calvin's TULIP which I don't fully buy into but believe it has some good points.

I scored 75% on the Emergent/Postmodern scale.

I suppose being a scientist by training and by personality leaning toward the rational side, I have come to see the value of reason but also the limits of reason. As such I tend to hold my beliefs with varying degrees of certainty. I'm not a relativist by any stretch of the imagination but I find dogmatism hard to defend. I also am currently involved with the youth group at my church and this whole emergent-postmodern thing is big among the young people even if they don't know to put that label on it.

You scored as Emergent/Postmodern, You are Emergent/Postmodern in your theology. You feel alienated from older forms of church, you don't think they connect to modern culture very well. No one knows the whole truth about God, and we have much to learn from each other, and so learning takes place in dialogue. Evangelism should take place in relationships rather than through crusades and altar-calls. People are interested in spirituality and want to ask questions, so the church should help them to do this.

Emergent/Postmodern

75%

Evangelical Holiness/Wesleyan

71%

Reformed Evangelical

68%

Classical Liberal

64%

Neo orthodox

64%

Charismatic/Pentecostal

46%

Modern Liberal

46%

Roman Catholic

43%

Fundamentalist

39%

What's your theological worldview?
created with QuizFarm.com


HT: Reflecting

Theology: I'm Anselm?

I have to say I have heard of the name but know nothing about him!

I guess I'll have to read up about him!!

You scored as Anselm, Anselm is the outstanding theologian of the medieval period.He sees man's primary problem as having failed to render unto God what we owe him, so God becomes man in Christ and gives God what he is due. You should read 'Cur Deus Homo?'

Anselm

100%

Jonathan Edwards

80%

Augustine

73%

Karl Barth

73%

J├╝rgen Moltmann

73%

John Calvin

67%

Friedrich Schleiermacher

67%

Martin Luther

53%

Charles Finney

53%

Paul Tillich

47%

Which theologian are you?
created with QuizFarm.com

HT: Reflecting.

Youth: Lee Eshleman Aug. 28, 1963 - May 17, 2007

I saw the comedy team of Ted and Lee, at the Youth Specialties Conference in Anaheim last year.

Their humorous and thoughtful skit showed how drama can communicate spiritual truth. I saw them at their booth and went to say hello and thanks for their work and engaged in some small talk. I wound up talking to Lee Eshleman for several minutes and found him to be a gentle and somewhat shy soul which I'm told is not uncommon for people who perform on stage.

It was with great sadness that I read over at YSMarko that he took his own life after a life long struggle with depression.
Ted & Lee first performed at a ys convention in the mid-1990s, and have been part of our extended family ever since. I don’t use the word “family” lightly here: they’ve been part of who we are, and we part of who they are, for over ten years. we’ve laughed and cried together, shared questions and doubts and encouragement and spiritual journeys.
May God's peace and blessing be upon his wife, Reagan, and their children, Nicolas, Sarah and Gabe and all the friends who now grieve the loss of Lee Eshelman.

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Devotional Thoughts: In this life or the next

Taking a look at Job 8:1-7.

Reading Job isn't so easy. It is kind of like reading only the bad news parts of the newspaper without ever reading any of the good news or "fun news." But will keep marching through and use it to guide my reflections on life and faith on this blog.

Here, a second friend, Bildad, speaks up.

The message is similar to Eliphaz's in Job 4-5 though Bildad is more direct. Bildad immediately goes after Job ...

Then Bildad the Shuhite answered and said:
How long will you say these things,
and the words of your mouth be a great wind?
Does God pervert justice?
Or does the Almighty pervert the right?

Eliphaz said a few nice things about Job in chapter 4 before making essentially the same argument.

Eliphaz talked in general terms about the relationship between innocence and blessing, sin and suffering. Bildad personalized it immediately ...

If your children have sinned against him,
he has delivered them into the hand of their transgression.

What Bildad said has elements of truth. Indeed, God is just though we may not see the full scales of justice balanced until the afterlife. There are consequences to sin but because we live in a fallen world suffering befalls both the innocent and the guilty. So I suppose one might say Bildad's observations don't convey the whole picture of what is going on.

But clearly, here is an example of NOT speaking the truth in love. I once heard someone tell me, speaking the truth in love is hard because so often we speak the truth without love and that is cruel. Likewise, we can speak in love without truth and that turns out to be hypocrisy.

Bildad goes on to say more that have grains of truth but because we have the totality of Scripture in our hands we know his perspective is incomplete...

If you will seek God
and plead with the Almighty for mercy,
if you are pure and upright,
surely then he will rouse himself for you
and restore your rightful habitation.
And though your beginning was small,
your latter days will be very great.

Bildad's perspective seemed limited to the here and now. If justice as an ideal actually exists and there is a god who is just then an afterlife is necessary to balance the scales of justice. Illustrating this idea is a dramatic moment in the film Gladiator where the Russell Crowe's character Maximus spoke to the man who ordered the death of his family and tried to have him killed as well:
My name is Maximus Decimus Meridius, commander of the Armies of the North, General of the Felix Legions, loyal servant to the true emperor, Marcus Aurelius. Father to a murdered son, husband to a murdered wife. And I will have my vengeance, in this life or the next.
Though we trust in God for the righting of the scales of justice ultimately, I think there is a place for striving for justice in the here and now.

As a personal note, though I understand the sentiments of Christians who are pacifists, I respectfully do not hold to their view. If God cares about justice then with a great deal of humility on our part, we need to seek justice in the here and now. Thus, for instance, criminals need to be punished and to the best of our ability we should find punishments that match the crime neither over doing it or under doing it. Likewise, in conflicts between nation-states and in the era of terrorism, conflicts with non-state actors, there is a place for justice involving careful use of violence.

As a final thought for the morning, one can make arguments for the existence of God: there is a creation, therefore a creator, there is design in the world therefore a designer, there is a concept of god in the minds of humans therefore there is an actual god, there is a sense of morality within us therefore there is a source for morality from god. People don't have to buy any of these arguments as they certainly don't constitute proof in any strong sense of the word but they are suggestive of god.

But the last one is the most intriguing. We do feel a sense of outrage at the injustice in the world. Where does that come from? We have two choices:
(1) Our outrage is purely emotionally with no foundation in any real concepts of justice. We watch the animal world and see the brutality of animals to each other in cannibalistic behavior and slaughter of prey by predator with zero remorse. One may conclude that justice is irrelevant but survival is.
(2) The outrage comes from a sense of justice thus the argument for god based on morality. But then comes the next problem, how do we feel about a god who is just allowing some much injustice to exist? That is a tough one.

As a Christian, it is an article of faith that I believe that God ultimately will balance the scales of justice. Job and people like him, in this life or the next will be vindicated (in the story, Job is vindicated in this life). Likewise, bad guys, like people who gleefully plan for car bombing children, they too will be punished in this life or the next.

Lord, have mercy on us all! There is a lot of injustice around the globe. My prayer is that there would be individual acts of compassion and mercy in many pockets of the world. And indeed, my prayer also is that for those who have been granted power, help them to use their power for justice but with humility and caution. Amen.

Friday, May 18, 2007

Travel: Spring Break April 2007 - Kansas!

Thursday April 19

Arrived in Kansas City on a red-eye AA flight from LAX via Dallas-Fort Worth. Got a rental car from Enterprise. It was a Kia Spectra. Had breakfast at McDonalds.

Specifically ...
McDonald's at 1515 S 169 HWY, SMITHVILLE, MO 64089
A Drive-Thru and a Playland or PlayPlace Exists on the Site

Had second breakfast at Waffle House (I'm a hobbit at heart!) located at ...
6840 EAST FRONT ST.
KANSAS CITY MO 64120

I then drove to the Truman Museum!



The photo of Truman with the Dewey Wins newspaper is probably the most iconic image of his presidency.

Below is a replica of the Oval Office under Truman.



You got to give Truman a lot of credit for raising to the occasion. He became FDR's Veep in 1944 but was kept out of the loop on pretty much everything. I think I read on one of the displays that he had only talked to FDR twice as VP before he got the phone call telling him he was POTUS. He made the big decisions like using the atomic bombs to end World War II, opting not to fight the communist Chinese in that civil war, fighting for the South Koreans in that situation, sending aid to the Greeks and Turkish as the fought communism, agreeing to the Marshall Plan to help Europe get back on its feet and implementing NATO the the doctrine of containment against communism.

After the library, I hit the road and went into Kansas City to see the National World War I Museum.

Here is the famous tower that marks the locale.



There is a walkway that takes you into the exhibit area. This section is to commemorate the "Flanders Field" poem.
IN FLANDERS FIELDS the poppies blow
Between the crosses row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.

We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders fields.

Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.


The museum helped shed some light on World War I which is not very familiar to me. The first thing that struck me was the brutal conditions of trench warfare. Some of the displays are devoted to explaining what it was and to show the difficulties involved. Quite sad was the part of the exhibits explaining how the war started. It seemed that everyone "backed into" the war because of treaty obligations that got invoked when one assassination occurred. Lastly, and understandably, there was a significant part of the museum dedicated to America's entry into the war in 1917. The fresh infusion of US forces helped bring the long war to a close.

After touring the interior exhibits, I went to the elevator to the top of the tower and the two exhibit halls that flank the tower on the upper plaza.

I then drove northwest away from downtown Kansas City to visit the Cabelas sporting goods store!









For those who don't know. Cabelas is a superstore (it is really huge - think Costco sized) for sporting goods! This particular store boasts the largest collection of mule deer on display!

For dinner, had a sandwhich at Bichelmeyer's Steak House ...

427 E. 4th Street
Tonganoxie, Kansas 66086

Friday April 20

Good morning Tonganoxie!



One of Kari and Brent's faithful watch dogs is in the bottom of the image.



Here is one of their faithful watch cats on the job.

My first tourist stop was Brown v Board of Education National Historic Site.



"Separate but equal" in public education came to an end with the Brown v Board of Education decision. The multi-media displays that chronicle the history of that decision as well as race relations in America are informative and moving and take about an hour to go through.

I then went to see the state capitol building.





In the capitol there is the John Brown mural. He was an ardent abolitionist who was a major player in the Bleeding Kansas episode before statehood when there was a struggle within the state over slavery.



There was an endless supply of school children touring the capitol building. I heard one of the groups was going to try to see the Governor as she was in the building. The legislature was in town but when I visited they weren't in session.

I think the photo below is of the State Senate chamber.



My next stop was the Eisenhower Museum.

The Place of Meditation is where Eisenhower and his wife are buried.



The home he grew up in has been restored. The Eisenhower's raised six sons in this home!



The famed general who lead the Allied Armies to liberate Europe in World War II became president and guided America to economic expansion, preserving the peace during the Cold War, the beginnings of the Civil Rights era and initiated the Interstate highway project.



I spent the night visiting and staying over with friends Christin and Mike and their little one and their little one on the way in McPherson.

Saturday April 21





For the morning, we went to Lindsborg and had breakfast at Swedish Country Inn.
112 W Lincoln St
Lindsborg, KS 67456
(785) 227-2985



Aside from highlighting its Swedish immigrant past, Lindsborg is also known for the World Chess Champion Anatoly Karpov's International School of Chess.



I did some gallery and knick-knack shop browsing in Lindsborg's main street before heading off to see the Bison.
Smoky Hill Bison Visitors Center
2660 E. Hobbs Creek Road
Assaria KS 67416
785-667-2707

No travelogue of Kansas would complete without some scenes from the wide open spaces of rural Kansas.







For the evening, I met up with Kari and her KSU fan friends Janet and Jeanne at the Kansas State spring game.





After the game, we had dinner at Hibachi Hut.
608 N 12th
Manhattan, KS 66502
785-539-9393

Sunday April 22

Went to church at Tonganoxie Christian Church and had lunch at the La Mesa in Lansing ...
710 North Main
Lansing, KS 66043
913-727-3309

It was a windy afternoon and the right pace for a viewing of this classic film.

I got to the airport and found the flight delayed. Arrived in Dallas-Fort Worth and had to sprint to the tram for a ride to another terminal building and then a sprint to the gate and was the 2nd to last person for the connecting flight. Got to LAX and filed for delivery of my luggage to my home as the baggage didn't make the connect. Rode the Blue Van Super Shuttle home and so ends my spring break.

Thank you Kansas friends for a wonderful time in the heartland of America!

Travel: Spring Break, part II May 2007 - Mammoth Lakes

May 17. 2007

Drove from LA to Mammoth Lakes. We saw our first bear on the roadside to Mary Lake!

The lake still had a bit of ice left on one of the shores.



The blue sky, clear waters and striking mountains are just gorgeous!





Click on image to get a larger view!

We had dinner at Shogun.
452 Old Mammoth Road
Mammoth Lakes, CA 93546
760-934-3970

May 18. 2007

Got to Crowley Lake at 6AM and were on the water by 6:30 AM.

Peter landed this biggie after the first one broke the line and got away. He used nightcrawlers.



Meanwhile, I just looked colorful!



The wind kicked up at 11:30 AM and we headed back to the dock.

After lunch, a nap and a little shopping at June Lake, we swung by Silver Lake to take some pictures.



The photo just doesn't do justice to the rich green color of the leaves!



Of the lakes in the June Lake loop, I think Silver Lake is the prettiest.

We headed back to Mary Lake to fish a little bit as the sun was going down. Peter caught a small brook trout which he released. I caught a modest sized rainbow which we kept. We hope to catch a few more trout on Saturday so we can have trout for dinner on Saturday night.



May 19. 2007



Click on image to get a larger view of Virginia Lake!



Here is Peter with our stringer of 15 trout (13 rainbows and 2 brooks). He, his father and I caught our limits for the day. We arrived at the lake at about 8AM and were done by 11AM!



The lake is absolutely gorgeous. It is around 10,000 feet so it took the breath away literally and figuratively.

Well, that brings this spring break trip to a close. We head back to Los Angeles Sunday morning.

If you are planning a trip up to Mammoth, consider using Mammoth Premiere for your lodging needs.

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Travel: Heading for the mountains ...

... to try to outwit these critters ...



Image source: http://www.flyshack.com/DisplayItem.aspx?ItemID=23158

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Devotional Thoughts: Honest to God

Looking at Job 7:12-21 this night.

Am I a sea monster or a dragon
that you must place me under guard?
I think, My bed will comfort me,
and sleep will ease my misery,
but then you shatter me with dreams
and terrify me with visions.
I would rather be strangled -
rather die than suffer like this.
I hate my life and don’t want to go on living.
Oh, leave me alone for my few remaining days.

Job is continuing to pour out his heart. For those who don't read the Bible often, I wonder how surprised are they when they come across a passage like this?

It sounds sacrilegious to say something like this! The Bible in this regard is as real as the dirt on the ground in sharing the messiness of life.

What are people, that you should make so much of us,
that you should think of us so often?

When David penned Psalm 8, I wonder if he had Job on his mind?

The feeling of deja vu all over again continues ...

For you examine us every morning
and test us every moment.
Why won’t you leave me alone,
at least long enough for me to swallow!
If I have sinned, what have I done to you,
O watcher of all humanity?
Why make me your target?
Am I a burden to you?
Why not just forgive my sin
and take away my guilt?
For soon I will lie down in the dust and die.
When you look for me, I will be gone.

David says similar things in Psalm 139.

Scholars believe that Job might be one of the oldest books in the Hebrew Scriptures. David may well have grown up hearing from his elders the story of Job and those words came to his mind as he wrote Psalm 8 and Psalm 139?

In any case, both men describe God as being very much aware of who they are and in David's case this knowledge brings a sense of awe. Poor Job feels it is a burden.

What does it feel like to be God to hear Job speak with such dispair?

In Job 1-2, God takes pride in the righteousness of Job. As far as God is concerned Job's life is very worthy and not a waste.

What might God say to the angels in the heavenly realms as this is taking place?

Perhaps ... "I wish I could intervene right now and let Job know everything is okay. But I have a greater purpose for Job in what he is going through. His story of faith will be told for many successive generations. His example of honest wrestling with Me will be a source of inspiration for multitudes to come in the hundreds and thousands of years to come. I will let this play out a bit longer before I enter the stage."

Lord, I've seen friends take up this kind of persistent faith blended with honest struggle. I want to be able to be like that when I face difficulty. I want to be able to step back and see that perhaps God's view on it is different than my own. It isn't easy but if indeed you are watching then my reactions mean a lot more that I could imagine. In this regard, there are no insignificant people. Help me to care for others with this in mind. Amen.

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Culture: 24 - 3AM to 4AM

24 is at its best with gunfire, running around and Jack involved with generic mayhem.

The Chinese assault team depleted by Jack take Josh away but leave behind a small contingent to keep the CTU team bottled up.

Implausibility alert: I don't think they would have hesitated to kill all of the CTU personnel to keep them from following them.

Anyway, with the short handed Chinese commandos trying to put the lid on the CTU staff, Jack, Nadia and Morris manage to keep the Chinese agents at bay as Doyle and his team storm back in to restore order.

Jack and Doyle and the rest of the gang chase after Chang and his guards and Josh. The running gun battle is nice and lively after the previous hours of political intrigue and interpersonal angst. Josh is rescued by Jack but of course we knew it wouldn't be that simple.

Meanwhile, "super-agent" Lisa Miller finally cracks and tries to kill Bishop. Reminds me of a previous season when another betrayed woman was used to try to get information from traitor hunk and that guy wound up dead. Well, in this case, Lisa almost winds up dead but the agents who were parked one block away finally get there and rescue her and force Bishop to feed the intel to the Russians. Of course, the Russians were watching Bishop so they knew it was all a set-up and they implacably continue to threaten the US base in unnamed Central Asian country

Meanwhile, back in Los Angeles, Grandpa Bauer has the chip and the Chinese don't have Josh anymore which leads him to make a deal with someone else. He calls up the acting Prez and demands Josh in exchange for the chip. In the swiftest command working its way down the chain of command, Jack is told to go one way while Josh is snatched going the other way.

Its 3:59AM and we have two hours to go.

Culture: 24 - 2AM to 3AM

I wonder whose idea was it to have the scriptwriters work in a little more the young and the restless soap opera stuff into the series?

I can understand romantic interests for the main character Jack and I suppose once in a while with one of the other characters but the whole Milo-Nadia-Doyle-Morris-Chloe thing is just a little too cute for their own good. Give me some gunfire please!

Anyway, with the reappearance of Marilyn and Josh, you kind figured Grandpa Bauer would make an appearance as well.

In the major implausibility of the episode, I can't believe the President's Chief of Staff is running field ops to sting the Russian spy who is getting information from an unknowing Lisa Miller! Also, sending Lisa Miller back to the informant was bound to lead to trouble. Can you imagine those agents parking a whole block away from the apartment?

Well, my desire for gunfire was finally satisfied when the Chinese invade CTU to capture Josh at the behest of Grandpa Bauer as his price for fixing the chip. But before we reach that little surprise at the end, poor Milo was written out of the show with one bullet.

Sports: Dodger Dogs to be struck out?

Don't know if Camille Johnston expected to have to talk about hot dogs when she signed on to be Senior Vice President for Communications with the Los Angeles Dodgers. Alas, that is part of her job these days.

This morning, I was listening to KPCC and they reported that Farmer John, the supplier of hot dogs for Dodger Stadium was being sued for cruel treatment of animals used in the preparation of their hot dogs and other pork products. Additionally, the organization bringing the lawsuit, the Animal Legal Defense Fund, has written a letter to Dodger owner Frank McCourt requesting that the Dodgers end its lengthy relationship with Farmer John. The basic facts of the story were described in this story.

Meanwhile, on the field, the Dodgers are atop the NL West but fans are very nervous as the team isn't scoring many runs and the pitching is showing some signs of strain and it is only May. The question on the minds of followers of the team is whether or not manager Grady Little and GM Colletti will make some changes.

I haven't been to a game yet this year because parking is now $15 a car and prices of all sections have gone up.

One of the ways the Dodgers are trying to get more people to the ball park is the new all you can eat right field pavilion. I suppose I'd better hurry up and go before the Dodger Dogs are cut from the menu?

Monday, May 14, 2007

Travel: Where am I? Answers to post on 7/14/2007



If the flowers don't give it away certainly the photos below will give it away as does this song.

If you're going to San Francisco
Be sure to wear some flowers in your hair
If you're going to San Francisco
You're gonna meet some gentle people there

Obviously, I'm in San Francisco!

The flower shots were taken at the San Francisco Botanical Garden at Strybing Arboretum (SFBG) in Golden Gate Park.



Click to get a larger view.

Added another ballpark to my list of visited ball parks!

It is ATT Park, home of the Giants!



What do you think these people are doing? 8-)

Fans hoping for a home run ball to drop into McCovey Cove which is beyond the right field Arcade level. Its a pretty short distance but the wind is often working against the hitters on that side of the field and the Arcade is high.



If you know this town, you will know where this is!?

It is Grace Catherdral.



This one should be easy to identify!

Palace of Legion of Honor in Lincoln Park.



The bridge is familiar! But where did I take the photo from?

Land's End in the Golden Gate National Recreation Area.