Friday, May 30, 2008

Culture: Battlestar Galactica



Is there a Cylon in my house?

I'm late to the pop sci-fi phenom the re-imaged Battlestar Galactica. I watched the original on ABC back in 1978.

I don't have cable tv (the "Cylon" is my new digital TV converter box) and I haven't watched seasons 1-3 on DVD. Rather, I've watched the last few episodes as they get posted on the Battlestar Galactica web site after it is aired.

The basic premise of the show is the same as the original 1978 ABC series: Cylons nearly wipe out all the humans in a sneak attack and the surviving humans form a ragtag fleet around the last Battlestar, Galactica, in a quest for the mythical lost 13th colony of humanity called earth.

However, the re-imagined version has added considerable complexities.

To catch up, I read this item on Salon which sums up everything very nicely.

Also, be sure to check out this summary on Beliefnet about the theology behind the show.

So who will be the last mystery Cylon?

Will they find earth?

Will the humans and Cylons live in peace?

Stay tuned!

Non-profit of the month: May 2008 - World Vision and Americares

There are a handful of groups I think of immediately when disaster strikes. With all the terrible news coming out of China due to the magnitude 7.9 earthquake, one of several groups I recommend donating to is World Vision.

Earlier this month, I mentioned Americares in light of the Myanmar cyclone.

Please consider donating to either group or another one you trust to bring aid to these two hard hit peoples.

Saturday, May 24, 2008

Life: Community-Acquired Pneumonia

Earlier this month I had the flu. I returned to work for 1 1/2 weeks. Unfortunately, by the middle of the month, I got hit with one of the complications that can follow on the heels of the flu: pneumonia.

I wasn't feeling great on the Wednesday night from a week and a half ago. I made it into work on Thursday but by half the day, I was coughing so hard everything hurt. And when I wasn't coughing, I felt aches from my feet up to my headache fogged head. I got home and poked a thermometer in my mouth as I was shivering under the blankets.

I hit 101F and called the MD to set up an appointment for Friday.

I straggled into the office and after a description of my symptoms, he tested my temperature and I clocked in at 102.3. He listened to my lungs and said, that sounds a bit odd. His diagnosis: community-acquired pneumonia. Since I didn't get it while in a hospital, it is called "community-acquired."

I got a prescription for Azithromycin. It was for 6 tablets. The plan called for me to take 2 on day 1 and then 1 tablet on day 2,3,4 and 5. The antibiotic is supposed to be long acting and that the levels of drug should be active in my system for 10 days overall.

I also was given an RX for Hydromet cough syrup.

I was also instructed to take acetaminophen for fever. Additionally, I was to soak in lukewarm water to help bring down fever as needed.

I got my meds and got home and took them. I felt awful. I took my temperature and clocked in at 102.7. I made a bath of lukewarm water and soaked for 30 minutes which got my fever down to 100.8 and I got out and feel fast asleep.

Well, it is now Saturday night, one week plus one day from my diagnosis, I'm feeling better but the cough still lingers and I simply feel exhausted.

If you blunder onto this blog because you are reading about pneumonia because either you have it or someone you know has it, all I can say is I feel your pain, its pretty icky and take care and hope you get better soon!

Monday, May 19, 2008

Politics: Prop 98 and 99 Eminent Domain Reform

A few years back the US Supreme Court in Kelo ruled that local governments could use eminent domain to obtain land for private purposes but its wording essentially invited governments to write in restrictions.

As a result of that ruling, many states have made efforts to pare back the reach on eminent domain.

Now, in California, we get to vote on this matter in Prop 98 and 99.

I have to say I have heard more supporters of prop 99 than for 98.

If both reforms are bad, I may vote against both. But the risk is that both will pass and the one with more votes will take effect in which case the voter might be stuck with voting for the one they think is less worse!

Today, I ran a search in the Los Angeles Times online and found the paper itself is against 98 and for 99 but to their credit they did run an item against 99 because the author feels it is strong enough. The author seems to support 98 but didn't say much about 98.

The author warms that 99 is too watered down ...
... protects only owner-occupied residences against condemnations with the purpose of transferring property to "private persons." That leaves renters -- 42% of Californian households -- unprotected. If the buildings they live in are condemned, renters can be forced out even if their leases haven't expired. Owners of farms, small businesses and homeowners who have lived in their residences for less than one year also would remain vulnerable.
... is likely to be ineffective, because the measure allows the condemnation of owner-occupied homes if they are "incidental" to a "public" project. This means that homes could still be taken for transfer to private developers if the proposed project allocated some space for a "public" facility such as a community center or library.
The LAT Op-Ed in favor of 99 and against 98 can be summed up as 98 sneaks in rent-control abolition with eminent domain reform while 99 doesn't go far enough but at least its a start. Excerpt:
Once Proposition 98 took its present form, backers of a less-sweeping initiative went to the ballot as well, leaving voters with two measures to deal with.

The problems with Proposition 99 are that it attempts to address a complex topic with the blunt instrument of the initiative process, and that it achieves too little.
....
Voters should take the opportunity to protect homeowners, but that only starts the job. Lawmakers have to do the rest, with legislation that allows eminent domain to move forward only for legitimate public purposes. This time, perhaps property rights advocates will proceed in good faith and avoid yet another bait-and-switch initiative.

In the meantime, The Times urges a no vote on Proposition 98 and a yes vote on Proposition 99.
I went to the SF Chronicle where I found a editorial in opposition to 98 and in favor of 99. The SF Chronicle is down on 98 for going too far. Here are some excerpts:
Supporters of 98 like to portray it as an attempt to defend our homes against the prospect of a hostile takeover through eminent domain. If that were the case, the measure would be carefully tailored to accomplish its stated purpose. It is not. It goes further. Much further.

Prop. 98 is disingenuous and dangerous. It threatens to wreak havoc on the ability to achieve collective goals throughout the state. Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, former Gov. Pete Wilson and Sen. Dianne Feinstein all oppose 98 out of a concern that it could imperil this state's ability to assure an adequate water supply for the future. A Coastal Commission analysis warns that it could undermine efforts to protect the coast and keep it accessible to the public.
....
The ostensible purpose for Prop. 98 is the 2005 U.S. Supreme Court decision against Susette Kelo, a Connecticut homeowner who was trying to fight off government efforts to seize her house for a redevelopment project. That high court ruling, which upheld the ability of a government to shift private property from one owner to another for broadly defined public purposes, created widespread outrage, and for good reason. No one would want his or her home or farm to be seized against his or her will just so a local government can reap the sales and property-tax bounty of a Wal-Mart or Home Depot.

Prop. 98 clearly precludes that possibility. It expressly prohibits the use of eminent domain for the transfer of property for private use.

But that is just the start. It also prohibits any new rent-control laws - and begins the phaseout of such laws in San Francisco, Oakland, Berkeley, San Jose, Los Angeles and Santa Monica. It would wipe out rent-control laws on mobile-home parks in more than 100 cities and counties. Supporters of Prop. 98 - who have received the bulk of their financial support from landlords - suggest that abolition of rent control is a logical extension of eminent domain reform. We regard it as a stretch - an overreach, to be precise.
I went to the Sacramento Bee to see what they have come up with on Prop 98 and 99. I found this item about the old adage in politics: "follow the money." It would seem both sides are getting money from sources with a lot at stake in the outcome which is what you would expect! Here are some excerpts:
In the June 3 ballot showdown over governments' power to take private property, both sides agree on one thing: Their opponents rely on tainted money that reveals their true motives.

One side gets much of its money from landlords and mobile home park owners that stand to benefit from Proposition 98's ban on rent control.

The other side opposes Proposition 98 and supports a far less restrictive initiative, Proposition 99. Much of its campaign money comes from local government groups that resist major curbs on their use of eminent domain.

Both sides have made an issue of the other's campaign cash, using it to discredit their stated motives.
....
Proposition 98's campaign focuses on ending alleged abuses of eminent domain. But opponents say its money tells a different story. A detailed analysis commissioned by Proposition 98's opponents found that 37 percent of the $5.2 million in contributions came from apartment owners and their associations. Another 47 percent came from mobile home park owners and associations, according to the analysis, with the remaining 16 percent donated by the California Farm Bureau Federation and other supporters.

That means 84 percent of the money was ponied up by those who would benefit from the provision of Proposition 98 that bans rent control.
.....
The Jarvis organization and other Proposition 98 supporters likewise find hidden motives in the opposition's campaign funding.

Despite Proposition 99's claim to protect private property owners, they say, the measure is so riddled with loopholes that it does almost nothing. And that is the whole point, they say: cities, counties and redevelopment agencies don't want to be hamstrung by new rules restricting their power to take property.

They see another problem with the money behind Proposition 99: No one can tell exactly where it comes from.

Almost $3 million of the $6.7 million raised so far comes from something called the League of California Cities Non-Public Fund.

The league is a nonprofit association that collects dues from cities for lobbying. It also publishes a magazine geared toward city officials and raises money by charging for exhibition and booth space at conferences.
I'll keep looking into the issue and will blog. As of now, pencil me in as undecided on both prop 98 and 99.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Devotional Thoughts: Strong bulls of Bashan have encircled Me


image source: http://stephiles.blogspot.com/2008/01/proverbs-14-verse-4.html

By the way, the blog post I got the photo from has a positive spin on the role of oxen in our lives!

But for this blog post, I wanted you to see how big one is. And imagine how scary it would be to be surrounded by a bunch of these critters. And of course, they have horns! Though the one above has little nubs on the horns!

In case you are curious, Bashan appears to be the northmost of eastern Palastine, now modern day Syria. For more about Bashan see here.

Am looking at Psalm 22:12-21 this morning.

Many bulls have surrounded Me;
Strong bulls of Bashan have encircled Me.
They gape at Me with their mouths,
Like a raging and roaring lion.
I am poured out like water,
And all My bones are out of joint;
My heart is like wax;
It has melted within Me.
My strength is dried up like a potsherd,
And My tongue clings to My jaws;
You have brought Me to the dust of death.
For dogs have surrounded Me;
The congregation of the wicked has enclosed Me.
They pierced My hands and My feet;
I can count all My bones.
They look and stare at Me.
They divide My garments among them,
And for My clothing they cast lots.

Looks pretty grim, eh? Kind of like that crisis clinic about to go over the falls?


image source: http://www.lechatnoirboutique.com/products.php?pg=16

Anyway, back to the emotional mood of the text. I suppose when we are in a jam, we can exaggerate the situation? Or it really is quite grim and we feel it is quite bleak and as such our powers of poetry and metaphor becomes quite active in describing the predicament we are in.

What struck me was the usage of some creatures of the animal kingdom to embody the threats being faced: bulls (many and strong!), lion (raging and roaring!) and dogs (a whole congregation of wicked ones surrounding and enclosing!).

What happens next?

But You, O LORD, do not be far from Me;
O My Strength, hasten to help Me!
Deliver Me from the sword,
My precious life from the power of the dog.
Save Me from the lion’s mouth
And from the horns of the wild oxen!
You have answered Me.

Eh, no problem, with the LORD answering, the dogs, lion and oxen are dispatched!

Lord, help me to bring my troubles to you. Thank you that you will find it okay if I prattle on and on about my troubles. Help bring me to the point of trust. It may take time to get there but please get me there! Amen.

Saturday, May 17, 2008

Sports: Dodgers 6 Angels 3

The Angels have dominated the freeway series for quite some time, often in sweeps. So it was nice to see the Dodgers actually win a game. They go for the series victory tomorrow.

Aside from simply growing up listening to the Dodgers on the radio and seeing the games occasionally, the Dodgers have been in the forefront of bringing Asian players into the MLB.

In today's game, Chan Ho Park from South Korea started for the Dodgers and put in 4 decent innings in the 98 degree heat. Hong-Chih Kuo from Taiwan pitched 4 shutout innings of middle-relief. Takashi Saito from Japan finished up the ninth.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Politics: Electoral College for Political News Junkies

Obama 274 McCain 264 is the current forecast.

For records of past elections go here.

To test out different scenarios, go here. By the way, I clicked around and came up with a scenario where it was Obama 269 McCain 269!

Do you know how an electoral college tie is resolved?

Pros and Cons of the electoral college.

Of the many reasons for and against the electoral college, the biggest reason I support the electoral colleges is that a strict popular vote system would tip the balance to urban areas (large media markets) where candidates can more easily run up vote totals. I don't think the national interest will be better served by presidents who owe their election to urban voters exclusively.

Friday, May 09, 2008

Movies: Hotel Rwanda

While sick at home from the flu last week, I dusted off the Netflix envelope that had gotten buried.

I put into the DVD player, Hotel Rwanda.

It was a film that showed the evil of humanity but also inspirational in how Paul Rusesabagina (played by Don Cheadle) managed to find ways to save lives in such a desperate situation.

The backdrop of the film is about the Rwandan genocide of 1994 when it is estimated that 800,000 people were killed in 100 days. For a backgrounder, check out this item from BBC News. The specific story line followed Paul Rusesabagina, the hotel manager of Hotel des Mille Collines, a luxury hotel in Kigali, the capital city of Rwanda, and how he was able to turn the hotel into a haven for over a thousand refugees from the genocide.

One might wonder, how can 800,000 die in a third world country? What kind of technology would be available to kill that many people?


image source: http://www.rudyfoto.com/machete.html

Though many died from gunfire, most were killed by machete.

Wednesday, May 07, 2008

Music: The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald

Am listening to Gordon Lightfoot's The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald.

We think of our technology as being so powerful. But in the face of nature, it is not.

Many of the lines from the famed ballad are haunting so here below are some of the final words from the song:
"And all that remains is the faces and the names of the wives and the sons and the daughters"

"Lake Huron rolls Superior sings
in the rooms of her ice water mansion
Old Michigan steams like a young man's dreams
the islands and bays are for sportsmen
and farther below Lake Ontario
takes in what Lake Erie can send her
and the Iron boats go as the mariners all know
with the gales of november remembered"

"In a musty old hall in Detroit they prayed
in the maritime sailors' cathedral
the church bell chimed 'til it rang 29 times
for each man on the Edmund Fitzgerald"

"The legend lives on from the Chippewa on down
of the big lake they call Gitche Gumee
Superior they said never gives up her dead
when the gales of november come early"

Tuesday, May 06, 2008

Non-profit of the month: May, 2008 - Americares

The news coming out of Myanmar is very bad.

Excerpt:

ANGON, Myanmar (CNN) -- Bodies are being thrown into rivers by Myanmar cyclone survivors in desperate need of help.

The government-run radio station said Tuesday that 22,464 are confirmed dead and 41,000 are missing, and the United Nations says that up to 1 million could be homeless.

CNN's Dan Rivers is the first Western journalist to reach Bogalay township, where China's state-run Xinhua news agency says 10,000 died. He reported miserable conditions.

Rivers said that bodies were being dropped into rivers and that survivors had only small amounts of eggs and rice. The area's rice mills are destroyed, leaving Bogalay with a five-day supply. Water pumps were also ruined, and fuel was scarce.

He reported destroyed homes along 30-kilometer stretches. In one area, only four homes remained from a total of 369. People were taking shelter under canvas sheets, and the weather remained awful.
....

There are many relief agencies mobilizing to help the people of Myanmar. I hope you'll consider supporting one you feel comfortable with.

One group I have supported over the years is Americares.

To read the story of how they got started go here.

What would you give to save someone's life?

Well, in this situation, what we give helps provide medicine, clean water and shelter that will save lives. After I publish this post, I'll go to the donate tab at Americares and give. I hope you'll do the same with a relief organization of your choice.

UPDATE: I received an email note from Americares and here is some additional information you can check out on the internet about what is happening.

Americares is taking advantage of Twitter to post updates on where they are at in getting aid to Myanmar.

Here is an item in Chronicles of Philanthropy describing the response by various aid organizations including Americares.

Sunday, May 04, 2008

Life: The Flu

Can't say for sure I have the flu but the fact that I'm still feeling pretty icky on day 6 suggests it is more than your usual cold bug which a typical adult should be able to beat off in a day or two.

Been doing some web surfing about the flu.

Good starting point is the CDC.

Based on the symptoms page, I probably have the flu.

Fever (usually high) - I have only had ~ 99-100F
Headache - YES
Tiredness (can be extreme) - YES!!
Cough - YES!!!!
Sore throat - YES!!
Runny or stuffy nose - YES
Body aches - YES
Diarrhea and vomiting (more common among children than adults) - Fortunately, no.

From the Flu Summary Map, it looks like the flu season is tailing off as most of the country is listed as having sporadic activity. If you hit the previous week tab, you'll see that in February 2008, the flu was widespread.

I did get the flu shot earlier in the year. Unfortunately, this year's mix of strains missed what is hitting us hard. Excerpt:
Each year, health officials - making essentially an educated guess - formulate a vaccine against three viruses they think will be circulating.

They guess well most of the time, and the vaccine is often 70 percent to 90 percent effective.

But this year, two of the three strains were not good matches and the vaccine was 44 percent effective, according to a study done in Marshfield, Wis.
How do you know when you should go to the doctor when you have the flu?

The usual thing to do with the flu is plenty of rest, lots of fluids and symptom management with OTC meds. There are anti-viral medications which if taken early on can help but those require a doctor's prescription. But if you get any of the following as mentioned on the CDC web page go to the doctpr:
In children, emergency warning signs that need urgent medical attention include:

Fast breathing or trouble breathing
Bluish skin color
Not drinking enough fluids
Not waking up or not interacting
Being so irritable that the child does not want to be held
Flu-like symptoms improve but then return with fever and worse cough
Fever with a rash

In adults, emergency warning signs that need urgent medical attention include:

Difficulty breathing or shortness of breath
Pain or pressure in the chest or abdomen
Sudden dizziness
Confusion
Severe or persistent vomiting

Seek medical care immediately (call your doctor or go to an emergency room) if you or someone you know is experiencing any of the signs above. When you arrive, tell the reception staff that you think you have the flu. You may be asked to wear a mask and/or sit in a separate area to protect others from getting sick.

Friday, May 02, 2008

Music: Scarborough Fair - The History Behind the Lyrics



Still sick at home. 8-(

Came across this interesting music video.

Like most people my age, I am most acquainted with the Simon and Garfunkel version Scarborough Fair/Canticle. That edition blended anti-Vietnam war lyrics with the haunting love song with non-sensical love song lyrics.

Seeing the video and following some of the links from its home at youtube.com helped explain the point of the non-sensical lyrics: the song poses tasks (impossible ones) to the two lovers in order for their love to be realized.

To read more, check out these links:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Scarborough_Fair

http://www.geocities.com/paris/villa/3895/

Here is a rendition with Simon, Garfunkle and Andy Williams ...



And here is one by a fan using the original track mixed with art images from the middle ages ...

Thursday, May 01, 2008

Devotional Thoughts: not only the old who are wise

Job 32 ...

So these three men stopped answering Job, because he was righteous in his own eyes. But Elihu son of Barakel the Buzite, of the family of Ram, became very angry with Job for justifying himself rather than God. He was also angry with the three friends, because they had found no way to refute Job, and yet had condemned him. Now Elihu had waited before speaking to Job because they were older than he. But when he saw that the three men had nothing more to say, his anger was aroused.

Elihu appeared on the scene without prior mention in Job 2:11. Job had been having a back and forth with those three friends. The short version of what was said would be: Job saying, as far as I can tell, I've lived rightly with his friends saying, since you are suffering you must have done something wrong.

Elihu, apparently, quietly listening all this time, decided to enter the fray.

So Elihu son of Barakel the Buzite said:

I am young in years,
and you are old;
that is why I was fearful,
not daring to tell you what I know.
I thought, 'Age should speak;
advanced years should teach wisdom.'
But it is the spirit in mortals,
the breath of the Almighty, that gives them understanding.
It is not only the old who are wise,
not only the aged who understand what is right.

His remarks made me think of Joel 2:28-29,"And it shall come to pass afterward, that I will pour out my Spirit on all flesh; your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, your old men shall dream dreams, and your young men shall see visions. Even on the male and female servants in those days I will pour out my Spirit."

Certainly, we should respect our elders but, of course, wisdom can come from youth when it is directed by the Spirit. And so Elihu continued to set up his remarks ...

Therefore I say: Listen to me;
I too will tell you what I know.
I waited while you spoke,
I listened to your reasoning;
while you were searching for words,
I gave you my full attention.
But not one of you has proved Job wrong;
none of you has answered his arguments.
Do not say, 'We have found wisdom;
let God refute him, not a mere mortal.'
But Job has not marshaled his words against me,
and I will not answer him with your arguments.
They are dismayed and have no more to say;
words have failed them.
Must I wait, now that they are silent,
now that they stand there with no reply?

Though this passage doesn't advance a particular argument at this point, I think it is an interesting window into the dynamics of the discussion.

Like Elihu, in reading much of the preceding prior chapters, I felt dissatisfied. At times, it all seemed repetitive. In some cases, the rhetorical flourishes were interesting but the point was essentially the same.


image source: http://www.7gadgets.com/2007/11/28/wine-bottle-holder/3593

And so I await what Elihu will say... but first a bit more drum roll by Elihu!

I too will have my say;
I too will tell what I know.
For I am full of words,
and the spirit within me compels me;
inside I am like bottled-up wine,
like new wineskins ready to burst.
I must speak and find relief;
I must open my lips and reply.
I will show no partiality,
nor will I flatter anyone;
for if I were skilled in flattery,
my Maker would soon take me away.

I suppose one lesson I can draw from this passage is in light of my role as a youth group volunteer. The adult people in the group do our share of teaching and we should. But clearly there are times when the youngsters are ready to speak up and we should give them that opportunity.

Lord, help me to teach others with wordless actions and when words are used may they be with humility mixed with boldness. Help me to encourage young people to explore your words and be open to give them the opportunity to express themselves in questions and a receptiveness on my part to learn from them. Amen.