Showing posts from 2013

New template

Turned 50 this year!

This blog has been left someone underused these days. But I've decided to recognize leaving the 40-something life with a new template and color scheme.

Hope to write here occasionally!

Politics: Syria giving up chemical weapons - practical realities

On paper the idea of Syria's Assad giving up their chemical weapons to UN inspectors sounds great but there are some possible practical problems - they can get moved and hidden (as indicated in CNN report below which may or may not turn out to be correct) and, of course, Syria is an active war zone so sending UN inspectors to go inventory them and supervise their neutralization is easier said than done. And finally, Syria is a client state of Russia. Thus, with one hand the Russians can say to Syria give up your chemical weapon stocks (seriously or with a wink) and, on the other hand, give them more conventional weapons to continue the war with the rebels.

Syria may be moving chemical weapons into Lebanon and Iraq.

Money: What would Jim Cramer think?

Am not a financial analyst but I do try pick some stocks along with leaving a good portion to the "index ETFs" so I don't have to think too hard.

Currently, have long positions in these 4 companies:

Verizon (VZ) - Wireless is huge and will keep getting bigger. Of the 4 biggies in the USA (Verizon, ATT, T-Mobile, Sprint), I went with VZ because its a big Dow30 stock with solid dividends. I've been surprised at the run up in the price since I picked it up a while back so does that make this a growth stock?
Disclaimer: I use ATT Wireless because I signed up with them eons ago and am too lazy to change. Also, since I do travel to Europe occasionally, Verizon's CDMA phones probably don't work in GSM Europe. But many of my friends like their Verizon cell phones because of good coverage in a wide range of locations.

Whole Foods (WFM) - With the increasing health consciousness of Americans, WFM is positioned for growth. Also, I like CEO John Mackey's free market pe…

News: Politics of coverage

Time now Wednesday 10:04AM PDT. Just checked,,,, ...

Four of the five news sites have the Ohio kidnap story as the main story. I define main as big fonts with prominent photo at the top of the web page.

One news site has the Benghazi hearings as the main story.

The other four that have the Ohio story prominent do have "watch live" links.

What does this say about the editorial decisions at the major news sites?

Faith: Elder Ordination

Had the honor and duty to be ordained as an elder in the PCUSA last Sunday, April 7, 2013. I'll be serving as the clerk of our session (the governing council in our church). I was moved as it sank in that I was stepping into a stream that has been flowing for 2000+ years when Jesus inaugurated the church. As part of the ordination, the following questions are asked and answered:

a. Do you trust in Jesus Christ your Savior, acknowledge him Lord of all and Head of the Church, and through him believe in one God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit?

b. Do you accept the Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments to be, by the Holy Spirit, the unique and authoritative witness to Jesus Christ in the Church universal, and God’s Word to you?

c. Do you sincerely receive and adopt the essential tenets of the Reformed faith as expressed in the confessions of our church as authentic and reliable expositions of what Scripture leads us to believe and do, and will you be instructed and led by those con…

Faith: Rule of Benedict 5

#ruleofbenedict 5: humility begins with obedience

Faith: Rule of Benedict 4

#ruleofbenedict 4: good works come from loving God and othes above self, realizing time is short and trusting in God's mercy

Sports: Looking back on the 3 Final Four runs of UCLA under Howland

Three Final Fours (2006-2008) and Coach Howland was viewed as having a job for life at UCLA.

Well, things went downhill rapidly and by 2013, he was fired.

Those three great runs were of course fueled by talented players who have made for themselves a place in the NBA and by Coach Howland's emphasis on strong man-to-man defense. Of course, some fans second guessed that he didn't allow the team more freedom on offense which may or may not have kept them from the NCAA Championship.

The reality, looking back, is that the difference between victory and defeat is often very slim and UCLA and Howland's fortunes could have been much less.

Turn the clock back to 2006 and what basketball fan will every forget the epic collapse (if you are a Gonzaga fan) or comeback (if you are a UCLA fan) in the regional semi-finals? That first Final Four and Championship game appearance could easily have ended as a "mere" Sweet 16 finish.

In 2008, UCLA was down for almost the whole game a…

Faith: Rule of Benedict 3

#ruleofbenedict 3: good decision making requires listening of and respect for all involved

Faith: Rule of Benedict 2

#ruleofbenedict 2: a leader knows they answer to God, seeks the well being of group, teaches by example, adapts to each person

Faith: Rule of Benedict 1

#ruleofbenedict 1: commit to a community that has expectations upon its members

Faith: The Rule of Saint Benedict for the Twitter Age?

Late last year, had the chance to interact with Greg Richardson at our church day retreat. Richardson who goes by the name "the Strategic Monk" is a lay oblate of the Benedictine order. There are Benedictine monks who reside in traditional monastic communities. However, one can adhere to "The Rule of St. Benedict," be associated with a particular monastic community but live out in a regular profession which is what he does, hence, he is a lay oblate.

The rule is the guide by which a particular community lives. For example, you can read about the Rule of St. Francis that guide the Franciscan friars or the Carmelite Rule of St. Albert. The Rule of Benedict has been translated into English and can be found in various printed editions and in many languages online. I found the edition pictured above in the library and am reading through it now. What I'll attempt to do is summarize the "rules" in Twitter sized bites. I wonder how St. Benedict would react …

Sport: UCLA vs. Minnesota

Everyone is saying UCLA will lose even though they are a "6" playing an "11."

There are good reasons:
1) Jordan Adams was injured at the end of the Pac12 semi-final and needed surgery on his foot and is out for the rest of the season. His scoring and crafty steals were a big part of the success of this year's Bruins and were sorely missed in the defeat against Oregon in the Pac12 finals.
2) Rumors swirl around the impending firing of Coach Howland.
3) And now, a report surfaced that Shabazz is actually one year older than he has been claiming furthering the circus atmosphere around the burning ship that is the Bruin's basketball program.

Keys to tonights game:

1. First 5 minutes - if the team is in disarray they will be down double digits and they will either fold or be in a hole too big to dig out of.

They got off to a slow start.

2. Shabazz maybe the star but Larry Drew II is the key. His leadership keeps the team calm and he can pick his moments to score.

Faith: What to make of those strange laws in Leviticus?

I'm guessing I'm pretty late to seeing this widely circulated email:
Dear (name removed) the WISE ONE,

Thank you for doing so much to educate people regarding God's Law. I have learned a great deal from you and will try to share that knowledge with as many people as I can. When someone tries to defend the homosexual lifestyle, for example, I will simply remind them that Leviticus 18:22 clearly states it to be an abomination ... End of debate. However (name removed), I do need some advice from you, regarding some other elements of God's Laws and how to follow them.

1. Leviticus 25:44 states that I may possess slaves, both male and female, provided they are purchased from neighbouring nations. A friend of mine claims that this applies to Mexicans, but not Canadians. Can you clarify? Why can't I own Canadians?

2. I would like to sell my daughter into slavery, as sanctioned in Exodus 21:7. In this day and age, what do you think would be a fair price for her…

Faith: Christianity today in the USA - some thoughts on the current scene inside and outside the PCUSA

1. The PCUSA (the church I currently belong to is part of the PCUSA) has a lot going for it conceptually. 
Most of my church life has been in congregational ruled churches and I have friends mostly in those settings as well. There is good and bad to congregational rulership of churches. The bad is that sometimes there can be a "cult of personality" which can be very unhealthy so the oversight and accountability structures of the PCUSA are noble and wise. I have seen those mechanisms used effectively to help a PCUSA church I was a part of get back on its feet after a season of conflict within its leadership team.

2. PCUSA as an entity is deeply divided.
I have heard those rumblings back in 1998 when I first started to attend a PCUSA church and because of the growing troubles in the denomination nationally, the thought of leaving PCUSA has occurred often. The Church (big C) will survive because it is God's instrument but PCUSA itself is not sacred. I had heard in some preac…

Science: GWAS = genome wide association study

As a molecular biologist/biochemist trained in the 20th century, I have to say my head is on a swivel trying to keep up with all the new technology being used in research.

Old school molecular biology and biochemistry techniques are being pushed to new levels made possible by the nanotechnology and computer revolutions. One such implementation is the GWAS, genome wide association study.

The idea is based on the fact that there are genetic variations in the human population. Thus, population X (without disease condition Y) is compared against population Z (with disease condition Y). Do the genetic variants distribute the same in population X and population Z?

For example, let's say there is a gene variant P that exits in 75% of the study population (X + Z). If P is NOT associated with disease condition Y then P should show up in population X and Z at 75%. But, in an extreme example, variant P shows up in 55% of population X and 95% of population Z then you would say variant P is as…

News: Medal of Honor to Clint Romesha

The incredible story of the battle at COP Keating and the role of Clint Romesha had on that day by Jake Tapper.

The base was attacked from all sides by Taliban early in the morning and nearly overrun. Romesha and his team was able to fight back.

An amazing story of courage under fire.

Valor according to Merriam Webster:
strength of mind or spirit that enables a person to encounter danger with firmness : personal bravery

Of course, Romesha, as have other recent recipients of the Medal of Honor have said, they simply did what they had to do.  Romesha said after the ceremony:
"I stand here with mixed emotions of both joy and sadness for me today," he said. "I don't think I'm much different than Medal of Honor recipients Sergeant First Class Petry and former Staff Sergeant Giunta and feeling conflicted with this medal I now wear. But joy comes from recognition for us doing our jobs as soldiers on distant battlefields, but is countered by the constant reminder of the l…

Theology: What does Psalm 110:5 mean?

"The Lord is at your right hand; he will crush kings on the day of his wrath." Psalm 110:5 (TNIV)

I've seen three interpretations of this verse:
(1) The Lord God is at Messiah's right hand; God will crush kings on the day of his wrath.
(2) Lord God, at your right hand is Messiah who will crush kings on the day of his wrath.
(3) Messiah is at God's right hand; Messiah will crush kings on the day of his wrath.

For the kings who get crushed on the day of wrath, it doesn't really matter which of the three is the correct interpretation!

Nonetheless, which interpretation is most likely to be correct and why?

Are there some other interpretive options to consider?

In memoriam: Kuan-Teh Jeang, 1958-2013

Earlier this week, I was working on slides for our departmental research seminar where I would present results from our collaborative research project we have with a clinical group at the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia. The talk was informatively if dryly titled, "Immunomodulatory Effects of Vitamin D3 Supplementation in Children, Adolescents and Young Adults with HIV/AIDS." As I prepared, emails starting arriving in my inbox from all over the world with news of the sad and sudden death of Kuan-Teh Jeang. I decided to include some brief remarks at the beginning of the seminar. I hope in some small way these thoughts could honor Teh's memory and encourage the young researchers in the audience. Text of what I shared this morning are below.
Before I start today’s seminar, I would like to offer some brief remarks in memory of Kuan-Teh Jeang who died last Sunday, January 27 at age 54. I was a post-doctoral fellow in his lab at the NIH from 1993 to 1997 working on the…

Politics: Reflections of a non-gun person

I do not own a gun. I have never even fired a gun. If I saw a gun on the table, I would leave it alone because I would not know how to check to see if it is loaded or not. If an emergency were in progress and I would need to use a handgun and there was one because a security guard with one was down, I wouldn't know how to remove a trigger lock or anything about how to hold, aim and fire it accurately.

I do think, maybe, I should know these very basic things. But of course, why should I gain those skills if I don't actually purchase a gun. Emotionally, I don't know if I am ready to go there.

The Newtown shooting was horrible and it has made me think about what should we do about guns in America?

According to this article in Huffington Post:
First 911 call was at 9:35 AM
SWAT team arrived at 9:45AM
Shooter confirmed dead at 10:30AM

This item from Middletown Press:
9:35 AM Dispatch, “Sandy Hook School, Caller’s indicated she thinks someone is shooting in the building.”
9:40 A…

Technology: Motorola Atrix Phone Shut-Down Problem

I have a Motorola Atrix phone through ATT. A handful of months later, it was replaced by the Atrix II.

The phone has worked reasonably well. With any first generation device, it has some occasional buggy-ness. For instance, the phone would crash periodically much like the early days of the Windows operating system. But, overall, the Atrix has worked pretty well.

But, recently, my Atrix phone would power down by itself and attempt to restart but eventually powering down again during the restart cycle. If unattended to, it would keep doing this multiple times.

I was able to stop this behavior by interrupting the restart cycle by pushing the power button and doing a forced POWER OFF. The other thing I did was pop off the battery during the restart cycle which also stopped the repeated cycle. But eventually, the phone would have the same problem in a handful of hours and sometimes sooner.

A Google search of the problem seemed to indicate that many users think this problem is due to an AP…

Politics: The "Fiscal Cliff" Deal and the Road Ahead

Part I of the drama has concluded: much of the Bush era tax rates were retained with the exception for those $400,000 and up.

Part II of the drama, the spending sequester, was pushed back 2 months.

Part III of the drama, the debt limit will be coming up around the same time as the sequester deadline.

At one time, there was the thought that tax cuts would "starve" spending because the debt would become unbearable.

But, today, going forward, it is equally likely that the massive spending of recent years would "feed" the need for taxes because the debt would become unbearable.

It will be interesting which of the two "narratives" will ultimately win out.

Part II/Part III of the "Fiscal Cliff" drama could result in more taxes or cutting spending or more likely more budgetary shell games kicking the can down the road.

On the spending side, there are essentially three almost untouchable pillars being advocated by Washington:
the elderly in the form of …