Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Woah Has It Been A Month Already?

Gee, nobody's gonna come here if I don't liven this place up a little. Maybe my new year's resolution will be "blog more often". I'm at work right now so I still ain't gonna post anything substantial. Suffice to say I've been keeping myself busy this past month with many random things (books, music, and Ultima VII lol!). For now, I'm going to quote from this article from The Sun:

"No China women allowed"

Where's Bruce Lee when you need him?

Sunday, November 19, 2006

Spirituality with Shades On

Your nature is a hard thing to change; it takes time. One of the extraordinary transferences that happen in your spiritual life is not that your character flaws go away but they start to work for you. A negative becomes a positive: you've got a big mouth: you end up a singer. You're insecure: you end up a performer who needs applause. I have heard of people having life-changing, miraculous turn-arounds, people set free from addiction after a single prayer, relationships saved where both parties 'let go, and let God'. But it was not like that for me. For all that 'I was lost, I am found', it is probably more accurate to say, 'I was really lost, I'm a little less so at the moment'. And then a little less and a little less again. That to me is the spiritual life. The slow reworking and rebooting of a computer at regular intervals, reading the small print of the service manual. It has slowly rebuilt me in a better image. It has taken years, though, and it is not over yet.

Bono from 'U2 by U2' (with Neil McCormick)

Friday, November 17, 2006

Right Where It Belongs
Nine Inch Nails

See the animal in it's cage that you built
Are you sure what side you're on?
Better not look him too closely in the eye
Are you sure what side of the glass you are on?
See the safety of the life you have built
Everything where it belongs
Feel the hollowness inside of your heart
And it's all
Right where it belongs

What if everything around you
Isn't quite as it seems?
What if all the world you think you know
Is an elaborate dream?
And if you look at your reflection
Is it all you wanted to be?
What if you could look right through the cracks?
Would you find yourself
Find yourself afraid to see?

What if all the world's inside of your head
Just creations of your own?
Your devils and your gods
All the living and the dead
And you really are alone
You can live in this illusion
You can choose to believe
You keep looking but you can't find the woods
While you're hiding in the trees

What if everything around you
Isn't quite as it seems?
What if all the world you used to know
Is an elaborate dream?
And if you look at your reflection
Is it all you wanted to be?
What if you could look right through the cracks
Would you find yourself
Find yourself afraid to see?

Saturday, November 04, 2006

Extreme Bumper Cars

Ok, so I got into an accident three weeks ago in which my car got totalled, and I went and bought a new car right after that. I've finally gotten all my photos and semi-facts together, so here's everything that happened (as far as I can tell).

It was on a Tuesday, and nothing was going on at the workplace, so I decided to go home and get some work done for one of David Pope's other projects. That was about 2:30pm, and I wound up driving West on Sutherland Avenue, which is the road I usually take to go home. The day before, a Cadillac that had been brought in by D (I'm just gonna use initals for eveyone else who was involved in the accident) to Budget Transmissions at the intersection of Liberty and Sutherland. They left the car in the lot with the door unlocked and the keys in the ignition, since they figured the transmission was busted and nobody in their right mind would steal the car.

Of course, the car gets stolen, and on Tuesday, D goes to Budget Transmissions, calls the cops, and a police officer shows up. They are standing right by Budget Transmissions making a police report when D spots his Cadillac at the very stoplight they are standing right next to. He says "Officer that's my car". The driver of the car notices he's being eyeballed by the police, and makes a left turn without checking oncoming traffic. He runs into me, hitting my front driver-side tire.

The first thing I tried to do after realizing I'd been hit was try to get my car off the road, but after a couple of tries, I realized it wasn't going to move. The wheel that got hit was completely bent out of shape. I get out of the car, looked around, and saw that a cop had someone pinned to the ground by the driveway of a house near the intersection. I'm completely confused, since I figure the car had tried to make a run for it, so I walk over and gather that this guy was the driver of the car (we'll call him J).

There was a gal sitting nearby looking very distraught, and I asked her what the heck is going on, and from her weepy babbling I gathered she was J's girlfriend, that she had been in the car when it hit me, that J didn't know the car had been stolen, that his 13-year-old nephew had stolen it, that his nephew had been in the car too, and that he had ran after the accident. I also figured out that the car that was parked in the house's driveway was the car that hit me... I didn't realize that was the car that hit, since I guess I was expecting it to be sitting on the road somewhere in a more haphazard fashion.

Cut a long story short, a million cops show up, they go looking for the 13-year-old kid, find him, bring him back, and carts everyone off to jail. The wrecker service shows up and takes my car, I call my friend Michael who'd just graduated and hadn't found a job yet, so I knew he wouldn't be doing anything (lol), and we go to Carmax where I buy my brand new (ok, used) 2001 Toyota Prius. Yup, that same day. Why wait, I figure, since Carmax has no-haggle prices, and there's no point playing the wait-and-see game. I also had it in the back of my mind that my next car would be a Toyota or a Honda and it would be a hybrid. I also had a bunch of cash reserved for exactly this sort of thing, so that I wouldn't have to think twice about it in case of an emergency. Everything worked out pretty well, all things considered.

Here's a page from the police report I got a few days later, with some stuff I added to make it clearer what happened (you can click on the image to see a larger version):

V1 was the stolen Cadillac, V2 was my car. If you read the narrative, you'll see that it says "Vehicle 1 struck Vehicle 2 and then all passengers of Vehicle 1 attempted to flee on foot". Oddly enough, when I came out of my car to look around, I saw the cop had J pinned down a few yards south of the stolen car, and J's girlfriend sitting close by weeping. Apparently when they "attempted to flee", J fled in the direction of the cop, and his gal come back and sat down after realizing J wasn't fleeing with her.

Just sayin'. Something ain't right there.

Anyway, the next Friday I was subpoenaed to show up at the sessions court, where the court folks just wanted to talk to me and D to get our stories. There was a lot of time in-between when they wanted to speak to us so I was allowed to walk around the county building and stretch my feet. After grabbing a coffee I spotted J having a cigarette outside on the patio (I guess he was out on bail or something), and I asked him to tell me his side of the story. He insisted he was innocent, and that his nephew had shown up with the car and told him the car hadn't been stolen. His nephew wanted to drive the car over "to a friend's house", and J and his girlfriend decided to drive it for him. They were going along in the car when they got spotted by the D and the police officer, at which point his nephew panicked and said "This car's stolen!", and that's when they freaked out and ran into me.

I thought certain aspects of his behavior was consistent with the story he was telling. Why else would he drive by the exact spot where the car had been stolen, if he knew it had been stolen there? And why would he park the car, get out, and go in the direction of the police officer? He said he was trying to explain himself to the cop, but the cop pinned him to the ground immediately. I still wasn't 100% convinced (he might've been trying to act innocent), but I did tell him if the case went to court that that would be an argument in his favor.

Two hours later, though, when I was speaking to the witness assistant, she told me J was going to plead guilty to stealing the car. I didn't get to talk to J again, so I'm not sure what changed his mind. Brent thought that he might've been advised that pleading guilty would've been a much easier way out than going through a trial that he might lose. That might be true, but if so, that really sucks. Oh well.

Now on to the old car. Here are the pics of the old Geo Prizm that the Geico insurance adjuster took when he went to assess the damage at the wrecker's:

I got 2500 bucks for it. Schweet.

And here's my new car, the 2001 Toyota Prius:

I just washed it a couple days ago, so it's whiter than usual.

I've still got the Carmax plate on it. Hey, that temp tag is good for 30 days. The actual tags are still laying in the truck =p. I'll change the tag today. Or something.

A view of the dashboard. You can see the LCD display, which tells you what the car is doing while it's running.

A closer view of the LCD display. When the car is running, you'll see animated arrows telling you when the gas engine and the electric motor are driving the wheels, when the batteries are being charged, etc. Pretty distracting, really. Staring at it is gonna get me into another accident one day.

The front seats. It's roomier than it looks. Then again, I'm a small fella.

Under the hood! You can see the gas engine on the left and the electric motor on the right.

A closer view of the electric motor. I wonder if they cleaned it up at Carmax... everything's awfully shiny under the hood.


Monday, October 30, 2006

Old, Mad, and Tech-Savvy

I try not to pay too much attention to Malaysian politics (and if there's one thing I can't wait to pass away with the rest of the world, it's politics), but this message that former prime minister Tun Dr Mahathir sent out to the whole damn country is just too interesting to not mention:

Tun Dr Mahathir's Rant

I'm just impressed he resorted to email and the blogosphere. Way to go, Tun!

Monday, October 23, 2006

Running With Caesars!

Ok, first things first. I got into a wreck and the car was totalled. Poor Jo. I barely got to know her. Lydia will miss her old car too. I got a police report and a very unlikely story to go with it, but I'll hold off posting the report and telling the story because I want to hear more about it in court this Friday, and see if I can't get all the "facts" straight(er). I've been subpoenaed to appear at the court hearing for the guy driving the other car. Yeah.

Second unlikely story: My aunt saw a strange flying object in New Zealand while she was driving and decided it was a spiritual calling. She's converting to Catholicism. Yeah.

Ok, as promised, here are screenshots from Caesar IV, and the city I built in Lugdunum!

View of the middle(Equite)-and-lower(Plebian)-class housing area.

View of the upper(Patrician)-class housing area.

The riverside, with a trader's boat coming to give me mo' cheese.

Some waterfall they put on the map. Does not affect gameplay. Makes a nice screenshot though!

Wide view of the city from the front gate. Yes, aqueducts go through the city walls. Rhawk.

A calvary fort situated a ways from the general population. Those aren't ponies.

One of the industrial areas.

The city square. I'd place a shopping mall there if I could! Or a video arcade.

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

A Quote Paul Slay Gave Us Which I Need To Think About

Prayer requires that we stand in "God's presence with openhands, naked and vulnerable, proclaiming to ourselves and to others that without God we can do nothing. This is difficult in a climate where the predominate counsel is, "Do your best and God will do the rest." When life is divided into "our best" and "God's rest," we have turned prayer into a last resort to be used only when all our own resources are depleted. Then, even the Lord has become the victim of our impatience. Discipleship does not mean to use God when we can no longer function ourselves. On the contrary, it means to recognize that we can do nothing at all, but that God can do everything through us. As disciples, we can not find some but all of our strength, hope, courage, and confidence in God. Therefore, prayer must be our first concern.

Henry Noumen

Monday, October 09, 2006

Ave, Campers

Phew, it's been a busy month. It seemed like there was something going on every night for the past three weeks. Kevin and I have been getting together to play music and record stuff, and I'm pretty excited about the few things we've managed to put on hard disk (we don't use tape... I wonder if anyone still does? Craaaazy). I haven't gotten round to cutting things up and editing yet, unfortunately... because I bought Caesar IV two weeks ago and it's destroying my life.

For those not in the know, Caesar IV is a city building game from Tilted Mill, and is the latest in the series of Caesar games that used to be put out by Impressions way back when I was still in school. I only played Caesar III, but I also played Pharoah and Zeus which were both based on the same city-building engine. That was like 6 years ago, but when I heard a sequel to Caesar was coming out I knew I'd want to play it. I've been going at the single-player campaign for a week now, and I'm probably about halfway done, and there's still an online component to explore after that.

Apart from that, I've also been putting in time to work on stuff for Celeris after hours. It's pretty cool stuff so it's not too much like work, though it DOES get in between me and my Caesar IV. There've also been a bunch of random things going on to make sure I don't stay planted in front of the pc. In addition to the bible study on Tuesdays at Paul's office and the guy's group on Thursdays (which latey has been kinda maybe-we-will-meet-maybe-not), I've started attending one at Xin-Yan's house on Mondays. Folks from Temple Baptist have been coming to her house to answer questions about scripture (apparently she has a lot) and she invited me to attend as well. So far I've only been once, but it was a good time. I also don't get to hear a lot of King James at Cedar Springs, so that part is refreshing.

I went car-camping last weekend, too, which was outdoorsey. I remembered to bring my camera this time (I'd gone camping a couple weeks before that and forgotten my camera), and I got quite a few good photos at the camp and the 12-mile hike we did. We had smores by the campfire and told stories. I got to tell my lame halloween story from two years ago (they liked it well enough). Wisam's story was better because it really happened and it involved him driving a car through a blockade of gunmen in Iraq. *Sigh*, I need to get out more.

We had a GREAT breakfast in the morning, courtesy of Brent and Marci, who brought lots of quiche, coffee, and fruit. That was a surprise for Rachel's birthday, which was on that day or thereabouts. We hiked 6 miles to Abrams Falls, hiked back to the cars, drove to the LemonGrass in Maryville, pigged out, and went home happy.

On to the pictures... first, here are three panoramas I took that are probably better viewed in a separate window: The river which we camped by, Abrams Falls, and our tents (mine is the red one on the left).

Here's everyone that went on the hike. Clockwise from the top left: Me, Brent, Xin-Yan, Wisam, Mike, Becca, Rachel Turner, Marci (holding Jack), and Kathy.

Here's a better picture of everyone that went on the hike.

Here's a part of the trail that had collapsed when a tree fell over.

A view of the fallen tree from the trail. And Wisam!

During the campfire, Kevin was breaking branches for firewood using a tree as a wedge. Based on his numerous feats of sheer strength, Xin-Yan christened him a "Five-son man". I wonder what Lydia thinks of that.

That's me by the campfire, just chillin'.

Next... Caesar IV screenshots, and why I'm never picking up the phone again on Sunday nights!

Monday, September 18, 2006

What's The Confusion Here?

From CNN:


The Guardian Council in Iran, the constitutional body that examines legislation to be sure it doesn't conflict with the constitution, issued a statement saying, in part, that the statements "emanated from [the] pope's ignorance about Islam."


On Sunday the pope said he was "deeply sorry" for the reaction to comments he made last week when he quoted from a 14th-century emperor regarding Muslims.

"These in fact were quotations from a medieval text, which do not in any way express my personal thought," he said in his regular Sunday blessing, the Angelus.


The remarks came last Tuesday, when the pope spoke to professors in Germany and quoted 14th-century Byzantine emperor Manuel II Paleologus.

"Show me just what Mohammed brought that was new, and there you will find things only evil and inhuman, such as his command to spread by the sword the faith he preached," Benedict quoted.


The killing of an Italian nun and her bodyguard Sunday at a children's hospital in Mogadishu, Somalia, raised speculation that it was carried out in reaction to the pope's remarks on Islam. (Full story)

In addition, Palestinian security sources said a church in Tulkarem was attacked Sunday with Molotov cocktails, and there was an attempted attack on a church in Tubas, near Jenin.

Authorities were also investigating Molotov cocktail attacks on three churches in Nablus on Saturday, as well as an attack on a church in Gaza.


Would some astute observer explain all that to me? The Pope was just quoting some old text to a bunch of academics. And THEN, turns out the guy he was quoting might've been right.

So what am I missing here?

Saturday, September 09, 2006

When The Deal Goes Down
Bob Dylan

In the still of the night, in the world's ancient light
Where wisdom grows up in strife
My bewildering brain, toils in vain
Through the darkness on the pathways of life
Each invisible prayer is like a cloud in the air
Tomorrow keeps turning around
We live and we die, we know not why
But I'll be with you when the deal goes down

We eat and we drink, we feel and we think
Far down the street we stray
I laugh and I cry and I'm haunted by
Things I never meant nor wished to say
The midnight rain follows the train
We all wear the same thorny crown
Soul to soul, our shadows roll
And I'll be with you when the deal goes down

Well, the moon gives light and it shines by night
When I scarcely feel the glow
We learn to live and then we forgive
O'r the road we're bound to go
More frailer than the flowers, these precious hours
That keep us so tightly bound
You come to my eyes like a vision from the skies
And I'll be with you when the deal goes down

Well, I picked up a rose and it poked through my clothes
I followed the winding stream
I heard the deafening noise, I felt transient joys
I know they're not what they seem
In this earthly domain, full of disappointment and pain
You'll never see me frown
I owe my heart to you, and that's sayin' it true
And I'll be with you when the deal goes down

Thursday, September 07, 2006

Panoramic Technique

Cousin Paul mentioned that uncle Francis might be interested in knowing how to create a digital panorama like the two I've put up here before(this one and this one), so here's my two sen on how to do this.

It's not hard to create a panorama from a bunch of digital photos, but you need the right software. You also need either a camera tripod, or a steady hand to hold your camera and rotate it. If you just google for 'free panorama software' or something like that there'll be a bunch of links that should point you in the right direction. There's a bunch you have to pay for... try to find one that's easy to use and free. It's been a while since I experimented with software that's available online, so I'm not familiar with the free panorama software that's out there now... these days I use the software that came bundled with my Nikon. They all work off the same principles though.

All panorama stitching software will need you to provide photos taken from a single point, with the camera rotating around that point. The important things to remember when taking the digital photos for the panorama are:

1) Keep the center of the camera in the same place as much as possible. Moving the center creates parallax motion between the images, and the stitched panorama will be distorted. For this reason, if you're taking pictures by hand, scenery that's further away tends to produce a better looking result that stuff that's close-up (like in a tight, enclosed space). If you use a tripod, this shouldn't be a problem.

2) Keep the vertical orientation of the camera constant (try not to tilt it). Again, this isn't usually a problem if you have a tripod.

3) Try to keep an approximate 50% overlap between photo pairs, and make sure there's enough detail in the scenery so the software can merge photos accurately. Also, the details should be fairly spread out. Panorama software works by finding the correct transformation between two images that it is trying to merge, and it uses these detail points to figure out how one image maps to another. Trying to create a panorama of a room with bare walls or an outdoor area with nothing but blue skies and little or no detail on the ground is usually futile.

Once you have your photos, plug them into your software and follow the instructions. Some software allows you to manually select corresponding points between photo pairs, to make sure the merge is accurate. If your photos were taken well, though, most of the automated algorithms used these days should produce acceptable results.

That's it! Have fun!

Saturday, August 19, 2006

Dead Man's Rope
G. Sumners

A million footsteps, this left foot drags behind my right
But I keep walking, from daybreak 'til the falling night
And as days turn into weeks and years
And years turn into lifetimes
I just keep walking, like I've been walking for a thousand years

Walk away in emptiness, walk away in sorrow,
Walk away from yesterday, walk away tomorrow,

If you're walking to escape, to escape from your affliction
You'd be walking in a great circle, a circle of addiction
Did you ever wonder what you'd been carrying since the world was black?
You see yourself in a looking glass with a tombstone on your back

Walk away in emptiness, walk away in sorrow,
Walk away from yesterday, walk away tomorrow,
Walk away in anger, walk away in pain
Walk away from life itself, walk into the rain

All this wandering has led me to this place
Inside the well of my memory, sweet rain of forgiveness
I'm just hanging here in space

Now I'm suspended between my darkest fears and dearest hope
Yes I've been walking, now I'm hanging from a dead man's rope
With Hell below me, and Heaven in the sky above
I've been walking, I've been walking away from Jesus' love

Walk away in emptiness, walk away in sorrow,
Walk away from yesterday, walk away tomorrow,
Walk away in anger, walk away in pain
Walk away from life itself, walk into the rain

All this wandering has led me to this place
Inside the well of my memory, sweet rain of forgiveness
I'm just hanging here in space

The shadows fall
Around my bed
When the hand of an angel,
The hand of an angel is reaching down above my head

All this wandering has led me to this place
Inside the well of my memory, sweet rain of forgiveness
Now I'm walking in his grace
I'm walking in his footsteps
Walking in his footsteps,
Walking in his footsteps

All the days of my life I will walk with you
All the days of my life I will talk with you
All the days of my life I will share with you
All the days of my life I will bear with you

Walk away from emptiness, walk away from sorrow,
Walk away from yesterday, walk away tomorrow,
Walk away from anger, walk away from pain
Walk away from anguish, walk into the rain.

Monday, August 14, 2006

Love Is The Seventh Wave
G. Sumners

In the empire of the senses
You're the queen of all you survey
All the cities all the nations
Everything that falls your way
There is a deeper wave than this
That you don't understand
There is a deeper wave than this
Tugging at your hand

Every ripple on the ocean
Every leaf on every tree
Every sand dune in the desert
Every power we never see
There is a deeper wave than this
Swelling in the world
There is a deeper wave than this
Listen to me girl

Feel it rising in the cities
Feel it sweeping over land
Over borders, over frontiers
Nothing will its power withstand
There is no deeper wave than this
Rising in the world
There is no deeper wave than this
Listen to me girl

All the bloodshed, all the anger
All the weapons, all the greed
All the armies, all the missiles
All the symbols of our fear
There is a deeper wave than this
Rising in the world
There is a deeper wave than this
Listen to me girl

At the still point of destruction
At the centre of the fury
All the angels, all the devils
All around us can't you see
There is a deeper wave than this
Rising in the land
There is a deeper wave than this
Nothing will withstand

I say love is the seventh wave

Saturday, August 12, 2006

Work Schedules, 8-bit Memories, and Babies!

Well it looks like I'm going to have to work weekends from this point on. My boss was hoping to get me exclusively on Fridays so I can work on other stuff that's pretty important (as far as keeping me here goes), but the people we're contracting with are *insisting* on 40 hours a week. I won't be able to get much done on weekdays for my boss, so I guess there goes my Saturdays. I suppose that's better than working in Singapore, though!

I moved into Cherie's old office last week, the reason being I needed a network connection that I wasn't able to get in my old office. I'm now in charge of testing the product installer for our client, too, in addition to all the legacy stuff. I've been in charge of that for a month and a half, actually, but I only just started working with the installer test box last week. That, plus the stuff I'll be working on on weekends means I'll be pretty busy during the days ahead.

The evenings ahead are a little less busy, though. I do a Tuesday night bible study with Paul Slay and some international folks, which is a lot of fun, and I usually have a bible study with Brent and the guys on Thursdays, though that's pretty hit-and-miss these days. I have not been as diligent in my private study as I need to be, and that's something I need to get back into regularly. I did get all the way to Chronicles, though after a year-and-a-half I suppose it's fair to say I should've finished the whole bible twice over by now. Mercy!

I've been going emulation-crazy the past couple of weeks. I've had Kevin, Brill and Clint over (not all at the same time) to play some old NES, SNES, Genesis, and arcade games, and it's been pretty stupid fun. The best time I had this past week was when me and Kevin tried to get through Double Dragon II for the NES... man that brought it all back. I was 12 again.

I got some very good news from home... Rodney and Paige are now the proud parents of twins! Samuel and Sara are two healthy, adorable babies. Well I'm assuming they're healthy... I know they're adorable. Here's the proof!

This is little Samuel:

And this is Sara:

It could be the other way around, but that's how the pictures were labelled and I'm sticking with that story =).

Sunday, July 30, 2006

One More Salvo

Okay I'm getting addicted to this camera, and I promise this is the last time before I actually start writing stuff again. There's a lot to write about, I guess... I really need to get to it.

I finally got to see a play on Market Square yesterday evening. They were playing 'The Taming Of The Shrew'. I actually ran into a few folks from YAMs, and got to talk with David Kendall and Doug for a bit. David Kendall says he checked out my blog a few days back, and he provided a link to here. Here's returning the favor, David! It's a thoughtful blog, with a lot of thoughtful thoughts. Go get thoughted out!

I left the play early because Brent and Marci wanted to hang out and eat. They'd just gotten back in from Nashville to visit Brent's politically-inclined friend, Doug, and his wife, Robin. Doug's not really a politician, he just wants to make policies for them to consider. Good policies. Community-minded policies. Policies that will Save The World. This picture shows Brent and Marci's shining countenances after spending a weekend with him.

The next day, I brought my camera to church, and took this picture of Kevin, Yong Hun, and Tzeng Hao. That was almost too much testorone for one camera to handle...

... so I took this picture next. That Kevin's wife, Lydia, speaking to a Chinese lady whose name I don't know. Yeah, I need to mingle more.

Kevin's leading worship during the class, and I'm taking a picture.

"One of these things is not like the others..."

At lunch, after church, Lydia takes a swig from a little bottle labelled "Drink Me" at the Japanese restaurant we went to, and grows to TWICE Kevin's size. Holy Cow!

One more shot of Brent and Marci at the same restaurant, this time with the camera color set to Sepia mode. It looks like I took a picture of them 50 years ago (Yay).

Friday, July 28, 2006

A Second Post Of The Day In What Seems Like Forever

Well I tried to watch Shakespeare On The Square today in downtown Knoxville, but apparently they cancel whenever the place gets wet. They were scheduled to start at 7pm, by which time the raindrops had ceased, but I guess they didn't want to deal with a soggy backstage. It was not a total loss... I brought my camera along and made like a tourist. Here's another three-hundred-and-sixty degree panorama, this time of Knoxville's Whirl-Famous Market Square.

I'm feeling generous tonight. More so considering this is actually the second post of the day. Here's a shot of the inside of the World Grotto. It's a really cool joint on Market Square, with some really sharp and trippy eastern-themed decor. All that's missing is the opium smoke. I need to drop in again with company someday.

My Desk, The Office, Cherie at Lunch

I'm still not quite over my new toy.

This is what I stare at 8 hours a day. I still got perfect 20-20 vision. Go figure.

Travis and Gretchen in my office. Travis is trying to get answers from me and I'm backed up against the wall, with a Coolpix as my only defense.

It's a little blurry, but I swear that's my ex-Netlearning colleague, Cherie Brown, across the table from me and Travis at lunch this afternoon.

Thursday, July 27, 2006

My Hangout Spot, My Car, And My Room (Again)

A little more Coolpix action today. I didn't try very hard to make the pictures look good. So.

Like a beacon in the night.

She used to be Lydia's. Now she's mine. Love that paint job.

There it is again.

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

360 Degrees Of Shakey Photography

I just bought a Nikon Coolpix digital camera today, and one of the first things I did was create a panoramic image of my room in Quicktime Format, for your panning viewing pleasure. Here it is. Just click and drag to the left or right within the viewing screen to pan the image, and it'll almost be like you're standing in my room! It's not the best panorama ever, because I couldn't keep my hand perfectly steady as I rotated the camera, but it's ok for a first time.

Oh yeah and I changed the blog template. Change is good. Keeps you guessin'.

Monday, July 24, 2006

So Just Call Me Chief

"In one way Man was to be haughtier than he had ever been before; in another way he was to be humbler than he had ever been before. In so far as I am Man I am the chief of creatures. In so far as I am a man I am the chief of sinners. All humility that had meant pessimism, that had meant man taking a vague or mean view of his whole destiny -- all that was to go. We were to hear no more the wail of Ecclesiastes that humanity had no pre-eminence over the brute, or the awful cry of Homer that man was only the saddest of all the beasts of the field. Man was a statue of God walking about the garden. Man had pre-eminence over all the brutes; man was only sad because he was not a beast, but a broken god. The Greek had spoken of men creeping on the earth, as if clinging to it. Now Man was to tread on the earth as if to subdue it. Christianity thus held a thought of the dignity of man that could only be expressed in crowns rayed like the sun and fans of peacock plumage. Yet at the same time it could hold a thought about the abject smallness of man that could only be expressed in fasting and fantastic submission, in the gray ashes of St. Dominic and the white snows of St. Bernard. When one came to think of one's self, there was vista and void enough for any amount of bleak abnegation and bitter truth. There the realistic gentleman could let himself go -- as long as he let himself go at himself. There was an open playground for the happy pessimist. Let him say anything against himself short of blaspheming the original aim of his being; let him call himself a fool and even a damned fool (though that is Calvinistic); but he must not say that fools are not worth saving. He must not say that a man, qua man, can be valueless. Here, again in short, Christianity got over the difficulty of combining furious opposites, by keeping them both, and keeping them both furious. The Church was positive on both points. One can hardly think too little of one's self. One can hardly think too much of one's soul. "

G.K. Chesterton, Orthodoxy

Thursday, July 20, 2006

Hellbound Thieves, Homemade Pasta, And My Demands Of Matt Forsythe

Phew! What a week it's been, and it's not even Friday yet. My car got broken into sometime between Tuesday night and yesterday morning, and I'm now stereo-less, which means I have to sing to myself in the car, or think very deep thoughts. I'm mad that I didn't get to hear NPR on the way to work for the past couple of days, and it WAS a sweet stereo. They also took the MP3 CDs I burned, which annoyed me even more since they aren't even going to like what I put on them, and they won't sell for anything. Geez.

The break-in happened in my apartment complex's parking lot, and they got into my neighbor's car too. She was the one who found the windows smashed in on Wednesday morning. We got to hang around and chat while the crime lab lady dusted for prints, and later on she went to the junkyard to get a new window for her car and mine, too, since they had it as well. I was glad I didn't have to go myself. She even had a friend at her office whose husband offered to put the windows in for cheap. Earlier this evening we watched him do it. Frankly, I think I'll take it to the shop next time and pay a little more... the door's not quite the same way as before he took it apart (and it's not just the replaced window). The lock sits a little lower now, and there's a little gap between the rubber gasket and the door that might let a little water in... not into the car, but into the door. I'm going to have to find something to seal it just so it doesn't let water in.

At least I got to know some neighbors (Jane, the other car owner, and her man, Chris). That's always good.

On a brighter note, I bought a pasta maker and used it for the first time today. I decided I wanted one after learning how to use one at Brent's place last week. I dropped in last Monday and he was making fresh pasta that night. I saw how it worked and decided I wanted one, simple as that. On Saturday he made fresh pasta again for dinner with a bunch of folks, including his mom, who was in town to visit. Cliff was there to show me a couple more tricks with the pasta machine, so by the end of the evening I was pretty darn knowledgeable.

Tonight my first batch of pasta turned out really well. I used buckwheat flour (which I bought from the food co-op on Broadway, for what seemed like a pretty cheap price to me), and it came out just the way I wanted it to. My own homemade buckwheat noodles! I made lots more than I could eat in one sitting, so there's plenty of leftovers. I'll probably give some to Jane and Chris tomorrow. Make a little lemonade out of the lemon I was handed yesterday. That sort of thing.

Matt and Gretchen were in town this past weekend, and I met them at Barley's on Monday for dinner with them and the Terrys and the Copens. I know Doug and Terry pretty well, the Copens not so much. I spent most of the time catching up with Doug and Mary, since it had been longer since I talked to them. I told them about the pasta machine I was getting, and we brainstormed a few pasta ideas. Mary came up with chocolate-flavored pasta. Me and Doug thought it was an awful idea at first, but then we realized that if it was sweetened, chilled, and served with canned fruit, it might make a good dessert. That's my next project after tonight's buckwheat noodles.

We also talked about investing in the stock market, which I'd been thinking about. Mary thought I should try mutual funds, since they're safer. I told her I'm young and reckless, and I either wanted to lose a lot of money or gain a lot of money, or have a lot of fun and stress watching my money do nothing. My optimism was dampened, though, when I found out the next day I needed at least 2k to trade on the stock market using Ameritrade. I was thinking 1k was an acceptable amount of expendable cash. I might do a little more research on other trading websites this weekend.

Matt and Getchen were doing great, I think. Matt's going to start a blog soon. Matt! If you're reading this, where's your blog?!

Sunday, July 09, 2006

Fireworks, A Lack of Ducks, The Rules Of Chess

Last Saturday I went with Roy, Kevin, and Lydia Zinn, and Chung Hao (who's not a Zinn but then again neither am I) to go see the hugest annual event in Alcoa, the pre-Fourth fireworks, which were done three days early because assumedly they didn't want to have to compete with the show Knoxville puts on. It was put on at the Alcoa City duck pond, which got me pretty excited because I thought we were going to see ducks. To my dissapointment, we wound up sitting a little too far from the pond to see ducks, and Kevin and Lydia thought they might've ferried the ducks elsewhere so they didn't get traumatized by the fireworks. I guess the idea of preserving collective duck sanity appeased me, so I settled for not seeing ducks at the duck pond. It was a fireworks show anyway.

While we sat and ate ice-cream waiting for the show to start, we started talking and eventually the conversation came round to how fast some people decide to get married. Rachel and Wisam had known each other for two months, and then he proposed to her. We compared that courtship to a drag race. Sometimes you just know where you need to go, and there's no sense taking corners, you just go in a straight line as fast as you can. Then Kevin said Roy had proposed pretty quickly too. I'd been subject to a few comments about my singleness of late, so I thought I'd ask Roy what the correct method of courtship was. He, being a pastor, surely wouldn't give me bad, worldly advice. You know, the sort you get from magazines.

He said "Well, first, you make a move. Then you wait for her to make a move. Then you respond with a move, and then she makes another move."

I blinked a couple times. "So it's like chess?"

"Yes, it's like chess. Then eventually, after a lot of moves, you ask her to marry you, and that's checkmate."

"Huh, ok."

"Yes, basically you're asking a girl if she'd like to play chess."

I thought about that for a bit, then I asked "Well, what happens if you make three moves in a row?"

He shook his head. "No you're not allowed to. Then you lose. However, while you're waiting for her to make a move, you can remind her that you made a move."

"Isn't that in itself considered a move?"

"No, it's just a reminder."

I thought about it a bit more, and then decided I was neither good at chess or courtship. Maybe someday she'll just fall in my lap when I'm not paying attention. I kicked back, finished my ice-cream, watched the fireworks, and looked around me from time to time at all the chessplayers, young and old, sitting on folding chairs, lying on the grass, gazing up at the sparkling, smoky sky.

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

An Apology, And Several Facts About Chuck Norris

Before I forget, I think I need to write a retraction. On November the 18th, 2003, I wrote that Gretchen Forsythe hates NPR. That's wrong. That's just flat out wrong. And she told me so in person. She just can't stand that one tune they play on NPR. The one that goes Da-da-da-da-da-da-da-da-da-da-da-da-da-da-DA!!! That's what I remember her saying, and I mistakenly thought by that she also meant she abhored the whole public radio thing. Sorry, Gretchen!

Matt and Gretchen were in town last-last weekend and had rented a cabin. I and Brent and Marci stayed the night. Kevin and Lydia joined us for dinner, but went home after that, I think because Kevin's back hurt. Over dinner the guys started trading Chuck Norris facts. If you've never heard of Chuck Norris facts, they are the awesomest thing ever. They are facts... about Chuck Norris. THE Chuck Norris. Apparently they've been going around for a while and we got wind of em late, but boy, better late than never, I say. Here's a sampling:

"Guns don't kill people. Chuck Norris kills people."

"The chief export of Chuck Norris is pain."

"When the boogeyman goes to sleep every night, he checks his closet for Chuck Norris."

"Chuck Norris once roundhouse kicked someone so hard that his foot broke the speed of light, went back in time, and killed Amelia Earhart while she was flying over the Pacific Ocean."

"Chuck Norris is the reason why Waldo is hiding."

"Chuck Norris doesn't wear a watch, he decides what time it is."

"Chuck Norris is so fast, he can run around the world and punch himself in the back of the head."

"If you ask Chuck Norris what time it is, he always says, "Two seconds 'til." After you ask, "Two seconds 'til what?" he roundhouse kicks you in the face."

"The quickest way to a man's heart is with Chuck Norris' fist."

"When Bruce Banner gets angry, he turns into the Incredible Hulk. When the Incredible Hulk gets angry, he turns into Chuck Norris."

"Fool me once, shame on you. Fool Chuck Norris once and he will roundhouse you in the face."

You can find a bunch of others facts about Chuck Norris here. Get educated!

Sunday, June 25, 2006

Did Jesus Want People To NOT Understand Him?

I've been attending a bible study at the Navigator office that's really close to where I live, and last week we looked at Mark 4. This chapter of Mark has a problematic little ditty in it I'd always wondered about but never dug deep into. The gist of the issue is in verses 10-12:

Then he was alone, the Twelve and the others around him asked him about the parables. He told them, "The secret of the kingdom of God has been given to you. But to those on the outside everything is said in parables so that,
'they may be ever seeing but never perceiving,
and ever hearing but never understanding;
otherwise they might turn and be forgiven!' "

The problem here is Jesus seems to be saying he speaks in parables so people won't understand, and repent, and be forgiven. At the time we were studying this I chipped in and said this might have to do with Jesus wanting to fulfill the prophesy in Isaiah 6:9-10(which he was quoting), but I wasn't sure where I was getting that from. Also, Paul Slay said Jesus had a specific timetable in mind in which he wanted to reveal truth about himself bit by bit (this goes hand in hand with Jesus telling people he had healed to not speak about what he had done at early points in his ministry).

Later on I decided to do a little digging on the internet for commentaries and opinions. The skeptics as usual had fun things to say, but I did find a couple things that I thought were pretty helpful. First, there's the parallel passage in Matthew Chapter 13, verses 10-16:

The disciples came to him and asked, "Why do you speak to the people in parables?"

He replied, "The knowledge of the secrets of the kingdom of heaven has been given to you, but not to them. Whoever has will be given more, and he will have an abundance. Whoever does not have, even what he has will be taken from him. This is why I speak to them in parables:

"Though seeing, they do not see;
though hearing, they do not hear or understand. In them is fulfilled the prophecy of Isaiah:
" 'You will be ever hearing but never understanding;
you will be ever seeing but never perceiving.

For this people's heart has become calloused;
they hardly hear with their ears,
and they have closed their eyes.
Otherwise they might see with their eyes,
hear with their ears,
understand with their hearts
and turn, and I would heal them.'

But blessed are your eyes because they see, and your ears because they hear. For I tell you the truth, many prophets and righteous men longed to see what you see but did not see it, and to hear what you hear but did not hear it.

Now that's probably where I got the idea that Jesus was fulfilling prophecy. But the next question becomes 'Is fulfilling prophecy sufficient reason in and of itself, or do parables say something else about how God deals with us?' The main concern behind that question is this: would God make it more difficult for people to believe simply to prove the point that Jesus was the Messiah?

There are folks who might say God does not owe it to any member of the rebellious race of man to reveal any divine truth, and that the parables were the device by which God darkened the understanding of some, while leading others into the truth. Some may say this is accomplished by the parables firing up imaginations and getting people to ponder the nature of the kingdom of heaven. Others might say parables serve merely as a sieve, and that these things are not possible to fully comprehend unless God's spirit allows it. Those are not bad explanations, but they don't really fit with the historical accounts of Acts and the epistles, where we find everyone trying to be as clear as possible about who Christ is, what the kingdom of God is, and what you have to do to be saved. The gospel of Mark itself tells us what the parable meant right after the parable itself, so it wasn't meant to be kept mysterious forever.

I guess that's where the idea that Jesus was timing the dispensation of truth begins to make a lot more sense to me. My guess is what Jesus was really saying was so topsy-turvy that he might've gotten crucified before he was done mentoring the disciples. That's the first thought that comes to mind. I guess there could be other reasons if I just dig deeper, but I'm about done thinking about it for now.

I did look up the passage in Isaiah that Jesus was quoting:

Then I heard the voice of the Lord saying, "Whom shall I send? And who will go for us?"
And I said, "Here am I. Send me!"

He said, "Go and tell this people:
" 'Be ever hearing, but never understanding;
be ever seeing, but never perceiving.'

Make the heart of this people calloused;
make their ears dull
and close their eyes.
Otherwise they might see with their eyes,
hear with their ears,
understand with their hearts,
and turn and be healed."

When it says "Otherwise they might see with their eyes, hear with their ears, understand with their hearts, and turn and be healed", I get an image of God in my head rolling his eyes and adding "... and we wouldn't want THAT happening now, would we?!" I guess when God has to deal with people who sees a deliverance one minute, and forgets the deliverer the next, we get a little divine exasperation in the form of sarcasm.

Friday, June 02, 2006

Snikt! Snikt! Snikt!

It's a little late, but I thought I'd speak up and say how great a movie Xmen: The Last Stand is. I enjoyed it more than the first two. The reviews have me dumbfounded. X3 is exactly how a movie with a gajillion super-powered characters should be handled. Everyone just chugs along and does what needs to be done, says what needs to be said, and doesn't pause to tease you with a little bit of heavy philosophizing that the movie's not going to have time to give you a good payoff for anyway. We know most of these guys and their motives, already... we can extrapolate what's going on in their heads just by watching what they say and do, the little gestures, the passing comment here and there. That's what the movie gives us in a fairly brilliant manner. No one is allowed to get on a podium and preach to the audience for anything more than five seconds. They are always talking to each other, relating to each other, or beating the crap out of each other, and the audience is just there to watch these guys live out they're lives as honestly as they can.

X3 does share one problem with X2 that had me very annoyed with X2, and that is there were too many characters to keep track of, and no time to give everyone their due. But X2 gave just a little of bit every character to remind the audience they're missing something of everyone's story, and after each bit of exposition rudely yanked your attention away to something else. Some folks like that little bit of weight. Me? It feels lukewarm and a little A.D.D. to me. It frustrates. Either focus on a couple of things (like X1 did and did pretty well) or don't bother with the heavy stuff at all. X3 doesn't try to meet every one of its characters halfway. Instead it assumes you know these guys already, throws them into situations where you sort of know know what everyone's thinking, and then lets the battle play itself out. That works. Really, it does.

Granted, X3 is not as character-driven as the first two. I'd argue however, that that it didn't need to be, because again, we already know the important players here. We just need a good story for them to be in, and there's a pretty good story to be found here. The new characters admittedly do not get as much attention as some would like, but I thought what little there was was sufficient. Hank McCoy was handled fairly brilliantly (and never overstayed his welcome on the screen, which made him all the more endearing), and Angel, Juggernaut, and Multiple Man get to show off their abilities, which is all I needed them to do.

My one major complaint is that, once again, Cyclops gets the shaft. Some things never change, I guess.

Monday, May 29, 2006

Schofar, Scho Good

It's Memorial Day, and I want to say thanks to the troops who've given up so much for many. I don't just mean soldiers, but all who went into any battle and lost their bodily lives with the God-given conviction they were fighting for something good. There's no Martyr's Day, so I guess this is the closest I can get to that. Regular soldiers are cool, too, as long as they don't murder, rape, and pillage in the process.

Among the odder things I've been doing lately is visiting a Messianic church here in Knoxville. For those folks who have no idea what that is, it's a church of Jews who acknowledge Jesus as being the Jewish Messiah. Except they don't call him Jesus. They call him "Mashiah Yeshua", which I guess is the correct Hebrew form of the name "Jesus Christ". They both mean the same thing: Jesus/Joshua/Yeshua The Anointed One. My friend Natasha was the one who invited me to visit (she's a Russian Jew who moved to Knoxville when she was still a kid), and I attended the service for the second time this past Saturday. Natasha is also leaving for Russia today, to be with her dad, and then plans to move on to Israel in a couple of years, so I wanted to visit the Messianic church with her there one more time while she was still in town.

I'm not too familiar with what a regular Jewish service is like, but my understanding (from speaking with one of the members of the church) is that there is a lot of traditional Jewish liturgy, but all of it is given meaning that they didn't neccesarily have in their original context (or given their true meaning, depnding on how you look at it, I suppose). Of course they sang a lot of songs and did things specific to a Messianic congregation.

The worship is a decidedly different flavor from any I've ever seen... there are a lot of traditonal Jewish melodies and rhythms, and a lot of songs have an upbeat tempo but are in a minor key. The more I think about it, though, that odd tension between a joyous rhythm and a mellow key makes sense... we have joy, but we also hope for things we haven't seen. We have the hope of a new Jerusalem, but we still see the brokeness that remains in the world and within us. The Jewish songs capture that tension for me in a way no contemporary Christian song does. The same dynamic, one might argue, can be found in the old Reformed hymns, with their solemn melodies but joy-filled words. You can't dance to those hymns, though. There is a lot of dancing at a Messianic service.

I was so taken up with the worship that I asked Natasha for a CD, and she gave me one yesterday just before the Cedar Springs service. I've been listening to it non-stop since... it's really good stuff. I don't understand 99% of it, since a lot of it is in Hebrew, but I've already learned one phrase:

"Sh'ma Yisrael, Adonai Elohaynu, Adonai Echad (Hear Israel, the Lord is our God, the Lord is One)"

Saturday, May 27, 2006

You Can Open This Box

Well it's been a while hasn't it? I think I stopped posting just before Easter, and then just never got round to starting again. Well I've gotten into quite a few things this past month and a half, but I guess the first thing I want to share is that Pandora is a good thing. Gretchen Paxton thinks that sometimes it sucks, and I guess your mileage will vary, but if you like music and you like getting introduced to new music, and you like free streaming music on the net, then quite reading my ramblings and click that link now!

Still here? Well... that's all I was going to share for now :p.

Saturday, April 15, 2006

Who Is This, So Weak and Helpless?

Who is this, so weak and helpless,
Child of lowly Hebrew maid,
Rudely in a stable sheltered,
Coldly in a manger laid?
’Tis the Lord of all creation,
Who this wondrous path has trod;
He is God from everlasting,
And to everlasting God

Who is this, a Man of Sorrows,
Walking sadly life’s hard way,
Homeless, weary, sighing, weeping
Over sin and Satan’s sway?
’Tis our God, our glorious Savior,
Who above the starry sky
Is for us a place preparing,
Where no tear can dim the eye

Who is this? Behold him shedding
Drops of blood upon the ground!
Who is this, despised, rejected,
Mocked, insulted, beaten, bound?
’Tis our God, Who gifts and graces
On His church is pouring down;
Who shall smite in holy vengeance
All His foes beneath His throne

Who is this that hangs there dying
While the rude world scoffs and scorns,
Numbered with the malefactors,
Torn with nails, and crowned with thorns?
’Tis our God Who lives forever
’Mid the shining ones on high,
In the glorious golden city,
Reigning everlastingly

William How

Tuesday, April 04, 2006

Morning Prayer

Sometimes it hurts to think
Most times it doesn't
But sometimes it hurts to think
How hard it is to get
One thing

I want to love you
I'd love to love you
I want to love you
I'd love to love you
I've a friend who asked me once
If there's a difference
I think there is:
In one case I'm doing it
And the other, I'm not
At least that's the way I see it
But I guess I can see how
You could see it the other way too

Wednesday, March 29, 2006

The Evil It

As a child It was called "little elf"
But Its father was Satan himself.
It has tasted the goodness of Light
And yet dove into darkness inspite.
Ever hard'ning Its heart It has been:
Now It is given over to sin.
But before Its damnation's assured
Into wickedness It will be lured.
It will hate and be hated in turn
And the way of despair It will learn,
Every dream It has had will be crushed,
Its attempts to cry out will be hushed,
Very soon It will breathe its last breath
For Its heart is the wellspring of death.


Monday, March 20, 2006

A Theologyless Presentation Of Christ?

Last night I was at the little weekly meeting at the Slays' house (which was actually quite a bit more crowded than I remember it being in the past... Paul had picked up quite a few folks over year I guess) which had just started again for the Spring. It was quite a collection of believers from various nations... there were folks from Iraq, South Korea, Ethiopia, Russia... and I can't remember where Godswill and Ruby were from exactly :p. One of the African nations. We all have had wildly different backgrounds. There were teachers, engineers, an ex-pastor, and an ex-politician. A couple were actually under political asylum. As far as histories go, there were a few heavies last night.

Paul had mentioned to me a couple of times during our conversations that he was interested in dialoging about different cultures and thinking on how the gospel might be best presented in the cultures that internationals return to. Last night he gave us an article by Herbert Hoefer (an former missionary to India; you can find the article here) to read that presented what was to me maybe one of the most important ideas that had come to my attention in a long time, namely, the presentation of Christ as it appears repeatedly in the new testament to new believers in those ancient accounts - minus a lot of theology.

What am I talking about? The article really says it best, so go read it. I'll summarize very briefly: often times in the new testament, the death, resurrection, and ultimate lordship of Christ is clearly proclaimed, but the details aren't. "'Repent, believe, recieve' is the gospel proclamation" is how Hoefer puts it, and very often in the new testament accounts that's pretty much what a lot of people who recieve the gospel get to hear. Hoefer asks what if that is all that is proclaimed initially, and we let the cultures we're speaking to meditate on that and allow the Holy Spirit to lead them to the rest?

Of course questions may (and probably will) come soon after the proclamation... stuff along the lines of "What does that mean?". The point I think though is at least the listener gets a chance to frame it within his or her own worldview first. Then having attempted to make sense of it, they can really repsond with what they think of the gospel, instead of trying to make sense of, in addition to the gospel, the various intepretations or theologies we may be tempted to heap onto those basic facts.

I'm not knocking theology. I love it, and I like a little structure to my beliefs. Scripture itself tells us to watch our doctrine closely. We should all be trying to make sense of what the gospel says and internalizing it, making it a part of our hearts and minds. But the primary worth I see in any school of Christian theology, be it Calvinist, Arminian, or what-have-you, is that people are caring enough about getting it right to try to make a system of thought. Ultimately though, and I think this was one thing that Paul Slay is trying to get at, a system of thought is simply a religious form. The substance of faith is exactly what's in scripture and nothing more.

For the moment, I'm enjoying thinking about the new ways to talk about the gospel with people. I do think I've come across as being pretty heavy-handed when talking about Christ in the past. There's been this mental leash, a sad insistence that I get the internal logic right within myself before I open my mouth, when really, it is the Spirit that works, and it is the Spirit that convinces the heart of the listener. I forget that at the first moment I met my God, I didn't know all the details. I only knew he loved me more than I could imagine, and that Christ on the cross had something to do with that.

That day, my heart truly broke for the first time, I truly wept for the first time, and I knew I was never going to be the same again.

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

Croatians Rock

For two reasons:

1. Croteam has created a beautiful 3D Engine in the Serious Engine 2. Yeah the humor in Serious Sam 2 gets pretty lame towards the end, which only means someone needs to license this engine and slap a better game onto it.

2. Jan Fiala has created what has to be the most useful piece of freeware I've ever come across: PSPad, a freeware HTML, PHP, JScript, VBScript, MySQL, Perl, yada-yada editor. I haven't started using it extensively yet and it's already impressed me thoroughly just looking through its features. Also, it's gotten nothing but kudos on the web so I'm giving it the benefit of the doubt. That something like this can come free without spyware is frikkin' amazing to me. Ijust might give Jan a donation after I've gotten some mileage out it.

If you code, go check it out. You might like it too :).

Saturday, March 04, 2006

The Problem Of Suffering And The Loving God (Part 3)

I was invited to go have dinner and watch a movie at Brian Todd's house last night. He lives pretty close to Brent so finding it wasn't a problem. He's also invited a few international students over, and the dinner was a pot-luck kind of deal. The movie was Hotel Rwanda. I won't go into too much detail about what the movie is about (here's a rotten tomatoes link if you want to read reviews, and the official synopsis), but here's a short summary: In 1994, Hutu extremists begin a genocide campaign against Tutsis in Rwanda after the assassination of the nation's (Hutu) president. Paul Rusesabagina, assistant manager of the posh Belgian-owned Hotel Mille des Collines, is a Hutu who takes it upon himself to run a secret refugee camp for Tutsis and moderate Hutus in the hotel after all the whites (and his manager) are evacuated out of the country. The Tutsi people are without hope: the international community refuses to intervene, deeming the genocide as just another incident in Africa.

The movie was intense, and unless you're stone-cold dead, it'd be hard to go through the whole movie without wondering once how something like that could happen on God's green earth. And yet it did happen. It still does. In places like Sudan and the Congo the same story replays itself over and over. Guys like me see it on tv, and then (to paraphrase Joaquin Phoenix's reporter in Hotel Rwanda) say "That's awful" and go to eat dinner.

We talked about the movie after it was over. One question Brian asked was "So what does that have to do with us?". That was a tough question. Many folks in the room doubted they wielded enough influence to make a difference. But Brian did a neat thing. Apparently all the international students in that room were involved with tutoring kids from lower-income families (it was something Brian was involved with, which is how he got to know them I guess), and he reminded them that that is making a difference, reaching out to help folks whom you have little or no reason to help.

That may sound like syrupy, airy-fairy, what-EVAH logic, but let me frame it like this. To different degrees, the same brand of ethnic enmity we saw in that movie also causes persecution and death (either physical, social, or spiritual) throughout the entire world. "The entire world" includes individuals, believe it or not. It doesn't have to mean whole racial groups. I can be a complete jerk all by myself without my people telling me to. The question is, if I'm really so concerned about evil being perpetrated thousands of miles away on people I've never met, how concerned am I about the evils that happen within me and around me?

Genocide doesn't just happen. People need reasons to hate, just like they need reasons to love. My point is there are always reasons. Hutu hatred for the Tutsis might have started because during the Belgian occupation, the Tutsis were made into something of a ruling elite... collaborators with the occupying force, if you will. The Hutu extremists had reasons to hate. The Hutus also wanted what was, in their minds, justice. The Hutu extremist mind made sense to the Hutu extremist.

What's missing from that logic? I think it's the same thing that's usually missing everywhere else: grace. *That* is how the Hutu problem is also my problem. They lacked a sense of grace, of forgiveness, and leaving judgement to the one holy God. They didn't want to rebuild burned bridges. Why should they? In their minds, they were wronged first. They only wanted justice.

We all have the same problem. We don't want to forgive, and we don't want to rebuild bridges that (in our minds) someone else burned. When we act and speak in that manner, and we pass it on to our firends or our family, and we approve that same behavior every step of the way, what kind of seed are we planting? Exactly how are we different from the Hutu extremist? We might say to ourselves, "Well I'm not killing anyone". Oh, but we could be. I could be murdering a person's spirit with the very words I use. I may be teaching a child to commit physical murder later in life, not directly, but indirectly, simply by saying "these things you must not forgive". The same lack of grace in the Hutu is the same lack of grace in me, and may not manifest the exact same results, but death happens every time, one way or another.

The grace that forgives wrongdoing is kind of passive in that it simply allows wrongs to go unpunished. In other words, it's the kind of grace that says "You won't get what you deserve". There's another kind of grace that's usually missing that I think is even more important, and inseparable in practice from passive grace. This is active grace, which is a grace that says "You will recieve what you've done nothing to deserve". This is the same grace Brian was telling these students they were practicing by using their time to tutor poor kids. Let me clarify a little: these aren't the most self-motivated kids you'll ever know. A lot of them probably don't even want to be there. They have the opportunity that many kids in impoverished parts of the world could only dream of, which is to recieve an education for free. All they have to do is try. But a lot of times, I wouldn't be surprised if all they do is complain.

Active grace says, lets give them a chance anyway. Some of them will make something of it, and some of them won't, but all of them will be given that chance. Why do I think that passive grace is inseparable from active grace? Passive grace only allows for the opportunity for bridges to be built, by virtue of the fact that it causes us to quit burning anything that may begin to get built. Active grace actually does the building. I dare say that without active grace, people are prone to get bored, and revert to bridge-burning behavior in very short time. That's just how we are. Passive grace only holds off the enemy for a while, but people are such that we can't just sit around and do nothing, and if we aren't doing something good, we're most assuredly reverting to doing something bad.

What does this have to do with "the problem of suffering and the loving God"? Well I kinda went about it in a roundabout way, and I realize I haven't exactly been transitioning well between paragraphs here, but I'm about to get to the point. A lack of grace caused unspeakable suffering in Rwanda. People who were with sin were not being forgiven by people who were ALSO with sin. I haven't touched on why God would allow such suffering yet, but what I want to do here is contrast what the Hutus did with what God did. He who was wronged, who was without sin, and who had no cause to suffer, came to join us in our suffering. We burned every bridge to God, and he came down to build one that would never burn. We insisted on suffering and making others suffer, and so he suffered. We provoked him to his face and ran away from him, and he came looking to bring us home while we were lost in the wilderness.

That's one thing I believe about suffering and the loving God. He saw us suffer, and chose to suffer with and for us. The contrast between that kind of grace and what we're so prone to doing has amazed me and countless Christians for generations, and it causes us to despise ourselves and fall before him in humble adoration.

Monday, February 13, 2006

This Is Not The Best Time To Be Philisophical

Ok, so I bought Half-Life 2 about five days ago, and I just finished it last night, after five marathon gaming nights (and almost one whole day on Saturday). That is not something I need to be doing often. I think I also got a clear indicator that I'm starting to get old. I didn't have as much fun as I did with Half-Life 1. Go figure. It was *very* nice looking though. My PC rhawks.

Right now I'm thinking more about getting some sort of audio recording setup going on the PC. I shopped around online a bit for audio interfaces, and looked at the Tascam US-122 and hemmed and hawed over it a little. It's two hundred bucks. And that's low-end. It does come with Cubase LE, an entry-level recording software thingy. Also, it looks pretty versatile, and it's powered through USB. That means you can use it with a laptop fairly easily, which makes it ideal for roadtrips. I'm of course talking about this mythical roadtrip I have planned in my head that will take me West to places I haven't been to before, and that I probably don't need to go to. Why I would want to record any audio on said trip is beyond me, but it'd be nice to know I could if I wanted to.

Hem, haw.

Aside from thinking about how to set up a budget studio, I've also got a few books I just need to finish reading, so that I quit feeling bad about not finishing them. One is R.C. Sproul's "What Is Reformed Theology?" and another is C.S. Lewis's "Perelandra". Cherie also lended me a couple of books about the origins of the universe from a Christian perspective, "The Genesis Question" and "The Symphony Of Creation". Oh yeah, I also borrowed a book from Doug and Mary Terry about being Christian to Muslims, "Waging Peace On Islam". There's a Starbucks nearby that probably makes a good place to go sit down and read, so I got no excuse. I just need to decide to stop... sitting... in front... of my computer!

So... when am I going to finish writing about suffering? God knows. I'm certainly not close to the heart of suffering right now. Life's great. Well, some things going on at work are a little distressing, but it's not that bad. So, yeah, life's great. What can I say about suffering that's not going to be almost completely speculative? Well, right now I'm just going to keep it scoped to this: What I think about suffering, what the bible says, and what places I could do well to meditate on.

And YES, it'll be completely speculative. It's the best I can do now. Especially since I got a Dwarven Priest I need to be levelling in World of Warcraft. Ack!

Wednesday, February 08, 2006

And Now We Return To Our Regular Program (Almost)

Well, after about three weeks of putting my life back together, I finally have my own desktop pc in my own apartment. I guess I can get back to blogging regularly now. Big shoutout to Paul Gibson for building this rig for me. It, apparently, is a beast. He was very impressed with how fast it ran.... World of Warcraft. We cranked every single thing we could find in the display options to the max, and it still held at a fairly steady 55-60 FPS. Granted, WoW's not the uber app I was hoping to run on it tonight, but it at least indicated to me that this pc could run *something* really really well. After we were done with WoW, we ran Half Life. Not Half Life 2. Half Life. The first one. From 1998. I could hear the rig mocking us. Paul quothed it thus: "You do not serve s**t on a silver platter".

I'm going to have to give this thing a name. My car's name is Jo (many thanks to Kevin and Lydia for helping me figure that out), and, yes, it's a she. Mostly because it was a she when it belong to Lydia. Being good evangelicals, we do not approve of sex changes. The pc will definitely have to be a guy. Can't have too many women in my life.

I went to my first superbowl party in a while last Sunday. It was at the Slays' house with a bunch of international folks. Godswill was there, he was the only guy rooting for Seattle. For some reason everyone else was behind Pittsburg. I was just there for the ads.

I might pay a visit to YAMs on Thursday night, if only to say hi to Michael Wender and Mark Tichon. One of the last things I did before I left a year ago was play guitar for Mark's wedding... it'd be nice to catch up with him again. However, that means I can't be at Brent's house for small group. Hrrrm... I'll have to call Brent if I do that. Many thanks to him and Marci, btw, for letting me stay with them when I first got back here. I might've wound up on the street if not for them.

I totally forgot to go to David Kendall's taco dinner tonight. I can be such a doofus.

Oh yeah if anyone reading this blog didn't know... I'm back in Knoxville.

Friday, February 03, 2006

I Was Brought To My Senses

Alone with my thoughts this evening
I walked on the banks of tyne
I wondered how I could win you
Or if I could make you mine
Or if I could make you mine

The wind it was so insistent
With tales of a stormy south
But when I spied two birds in a sycamore tree
There came a dryness in my mouth
Came a dryness in my mouth

For then without rhyme or reason
The two birds did rise up to fly
And where the two birds were flying
I swear I saw you and i
I swear I saw you and i

I walked out this morning
It was like a veil had been removed from before my eyes
For the first time I saw the work of heaven
In the line where the hills had been married to the sky
And all around me
Every blade of singing grass
Was calling out your name
And that our love would always last
And inside every turning leaf
Is the pattern of an older tree
The shape of our future
The shape of all our history
And out of the confusion
Where the river meets the sea
Came things I’d never seen
Things I’d never seen

I was brought to my senses
I was blind but now that I can see
Every signpost in nature
Said you belong to me

I know it’s true
It’s written in a sky as blue
As blue as your eyes
As blue as your eyes
If nature’s red in tooth and claw
Like winter’s freeze and summer’s thaw
The wounds she gave me
Were the wounds that would heal me
And we’d be like the moon and sun
And when our courtly dance had run
Its course across the sky
Then together we would lie
And out of the confusion
Where the river meets the sea
Something new would arrive
Something better would arrive

I was brought to my senses
I was blind but now that I can see
Every signpost in nature
Said you belong to me
I was brought to my senses
I was blind but now that I can see
Every signpost in nature
Said you belong to me...

Monday, January 02, 2006