Sunday, May 06, 2007

Piracy, Purity, and Petey

Looks like I'm averaging one post a month now. I have been busy, but it's mostly been a silly kind of business. I bought Sid Meier's Pirates a couple of weeks ago with a gift card I got for my birthday, and I've been sailing up and down the Caribbean making a nuisance of myself like a good pirate should. I have been going to the gym an average of 5 days a week, taking about 2 hours to get through my workout each time. I've gotten a little bigger over the past four months, but it's nothing super-dramatic. I think I've only gained about 8 pounds since I started.

Aside from the silly-busy, there's the not-so-silly busy. I've been teaching a series for the international class about the beatitudes (From the Matthew 5 text), and that's taken up a bit of preparation every week. The preparing part isn't really the hard part of teaching a class like this. It's asking yourself if you're doing any of what you're talking about that's hard. It's been a a crazy few weeks in that sense. Some days it feels like the word of God is a refreshing stream. Other days it's more like a sword, and it cuts. Ouch! Painful personal growth and reflection aside, I've gotten a lot of good feedback about how the series is going, so God is using it to edify the body.

The next beatitude we're going to talk about this coming week a bit of a doozy. It's something that's been on my mind a lot lately: purity. Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God. The obvious problems with purity apply to me... I don't think there's any need to go into detail. I'm single, I'm young, I'm a guy. What more is there to say! I have a friend asking me from time to time how I'm doing on that front, so I have a little help there. It's still a struggle though. I was talking about it with him early last week, and he tells me he found hope at the end of the tunnel... when he got married. He hasn't had a problem with lust since. Ah, great, I thought. Something else I need to improve my progress on.

That's a narrow view of purity, though. I like something John Wood said a few sermons ago about purity: all it is is desiring one thing, not two mutually-opposed things. Single-minded pursuit of God's desires. Not a NARROW-minded, but single-minded. I think of narrow-minded as wanting something your way and your way only. I think single-minded merely means you want what God wants, regardless of what your expectations or preferences might be, and God's imagination can be a little bigger than ours a lot of the time. I'm not really good at wanting what God wants either, though. I guess it's a good thing Jesus talked about mercy right before this beatitude, because if God's mercy wasn't on your mind you might lose hope thinking about purity!

Oh! I saw Spidey 3 yesterday. Here's my 2-cents: if you saw the first two, you probably need to see this no matter what. I personally thought it was emotionally satisfying, but very, VERY uneven. There were a lot of attempts at hockey comedy, which will definitely get on some people's nerves. I didn't mind so much, since I was in the mood for a laugh. A lot of the dramatic/poignant moments kinda fell flat, though. I wish they had done a little more with Aunt May... in retrospect, she was just a little too one-dimensional in this series. Aunt May from the Ultimate Spider-Man comic-book series is infinitely more interesting, and they probably should've included some elements from that interpretation of the character.

Aside from that, I have two major gripes about this movie. There's plot holes the size of Venom's mouth in this baby. It's as if the movie's running time got too long and they decided to leave some important plot points on the cutting-room floor. The thing that bothers me is there was a lot left IN that just seemed unnecessary. I'll just mention one of those goofy things: Parker's Landlord's daughter. What. The. Hell. I couldn't understand that element from Spider-Man 2 and it made just as little sense here. I should've looked in the credits to see if she was, like, the producer's daughter or something.

My second major gripe is the very last act, when everything just kinda gets rushed to a conclusion. This rush to get things over with results in the laziest example of a deus ex machina since The Matrix Revolutions' hokey ending. In case you haven't seen it, I won't say too much... just two words: Harry's butler. You'll know what I'm talking about when you get to it. Three movies worth of drama building up, and who gets to resolve all that conflict? The butler did it!

The action is top-notch though. So it's not all bad.

Sunday, April 08, 2007

Oh Noez!

Well, I finally let it happen. I didn't renew the website I had been hosting all my pictures on for two years, and so all the picture links are down. I suppose I should move all my pictures to a free image hosting site, but... I'm too lazy right now =p. When I have pictures to show in the future, I'll probably go looking for a place to put them, and then maybe start the process of moving images there. For now though, it's all text here!

The reason I didn't renew the site was because I really wasn't doing anything with it. When I first started with it in Malaysia, I had planned to create a new blog from the ground up in PHP. Well, life kinda got in the way and I soon found I didn't have time to work on it. Ditto when I arrived back in the states. In an email conversation I had with Chun Liang this week, the same thing came up. Working with open-source is great fun, but it takes time, and unless you're really dedicated to that as a past-time, or it's your actual job, you're not going to make much headway.

I'm still thinking about getting another website, though. This time, however, it's going to be a .NET site. Yup! I've hopped on the Microsoft development boat. It's kinda hard not to. Ever since I started working in .NET at work, I've found it to be a productive, streamlined experience. It's far and away the best thing I've ever worked with. Granted, my experience isn't that vast, so I'll be more specific: It beats scrounging the internet for PHP tools and busting your chops setting up PHP and MySQL so that they work on whatever version of IIS or Apache you're thinking of using, and it light-years ahead of Visual Foxpro (OK, EVERYTHING is light-years ahead of Visual FoxPro, but I digress).

I'm pretty sure that's what I'm going with, but I'm still a little iffy about what I'd be building a website for. I've found a place that will host a barebones ASP and MSSQL Server Express site for 4.50 a month. That and every other place will also host a real MSSQL Server 2000/2005 for about 10 bucks. That's not too bad, but I suppose if I were to pay that kind of money I'd like to be able to justify it. The old idea of a new blog site ain't bad, but Blogger's done good by me so far. For the most part I'd just be creating a blog for the sheer heck of it. There's worse things I could be spending 4.50 a month on... but I think I'll think about it for a bit.

If any of you guys who have my email have an idea for a site, feel free to make a suggestion!

Oh, and Happy Easter! He is Risen!

Sunday, March 11, 2007

My Pledge To The Forsythes, My Shenanigans With 5th-Graders, And Why One Kid I Know Wants To Be In The Army

Well, looks like I've been gone so long, they decided to merge my blogger account with my gmail account just so the account doesn't get dusty LOL. Seriously though, the problem, I think, is that I'm getting all this stuff to actually *do*, and that makes it hard to sit down and write about what I'm doing. I certainly lacked that excuse today, though, and so I here I am on a Sunday evening, making it up as I go.

For a while, I doubted anyone actually comes here anymore, but when I visited Matt and Gretchen Forsythe, they told me that they had looked up my blog to see if I'd written anything about the Christmas dinner I had with them at Gretchen's dad's house last year. I hadn't! What a rotter I was. For penance, I now pledge to blog some reference to Matt OR Gretchen at least once a month for the rest of the life of my memory of this pledge.

So what *have* I been up to? Well as it turns out I'm finally the last real programmer who's at my place of work everyday. All the others left for greener pastures. That's kinda depressing, except I'm not really even employed there, just contracted out to the place by my boss. It's kinda odd to have all the responsibility of keeping the old products afloat and running, and working on some fairly important new software besides, all for a company that doesn't even employ me. I think that's their preferred business model, though. Oh well! As long as they pay, I'm good with that.

I started tutoring at Dogwood elementary a few months ago with an old friend from Fellowship Church, Mark Hughs. We were in Matt Forsythe's small group together. That's TWO Matt Forsythe references in one blog by the way, so I just finished my quota for two months! That's right, it's an accumulative tally. Anyway, I started tutoring 5th grade math (*everyone who knew my math skills in secondary stifles a laugh*) at Dogwood Elementary, and so far it's been a lot of fun. Me and Mark got to hear about the tutoring opportunity one evening at All Souls Church downtown. The kids we work with come from lower-income families, I think. As least that's what I remember the lady at All Souls saying.

The kids are actually pretty smart. They mostly have the same problem I did in school: they just couldn't be bothered. When they do put they're minds to a problem, they usually get through it pretty quick. A lot of times, however, they simply aren't trying. The presence of a personal tutor sitting with them and going through the problems that gives them a little incentive to work at it.

I tutor the kids on Thursday afternoon, right before th lunch break, and so I usually wind up sitting with them during lunch and yucking it up. I really get a better sense of where these kids are coming from during these times... they talk about their interests, the stuff they see on tv, and the things they want to be when they grow up. They're a lot different from me in my childhood, that's for sure.

Maybe the most surprising thing was this one kid, Nathan, that made up his mind five years ago that he wanted to be in the army. He's in 5th grade! I could never make up my mind about anything when I was his age. I wanted to be an astronaut when I was in kindergarten, then an architect, then a comicbook artist, then a rockstar. I sure didn't hold on to one ambition for five years. I asked him what he wanted to be in the army for, and he said "I want to kill people who want to hurt my country!" My jaw dropped. I asked him if he knew killing people was serious business, and that it's not good to kill people. He says, "Well they shouldn't be trying to hurt my country!"

I couldn't argue with that, really. That's about as fundamental an argument for defensive warfare as you're ever gonna get, and it doesn't matter what page in the history books you're looking at. It just boils down to whether you agree with that premise or not. I'm not pretending that Nathan has really turned over all these things in his head (more likely he just likes the idea of shooting people dead... c'mon, how many young men don't at least fantasize about it?), but I hope he eventually does think things through, and that whatever he decides to do with his life, he does so with a clear mind.

The other kids are a hoot, too. Maybe I'll get round to talking about them someday.

Friday, February 16, 2007

I Guess I'm Old Now

My brother Andrew and his wife Marcia have just had their first kid, Elizabeth Ann Ng. She was born four days ago, on the 13th, and she's adorable!

Here are the pictures Carol sent me...

Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Deep Thought

Two couples I know, Brent & Marci and Kevin & Lydia, are expecting. It's pretty exciting for all of us, and Brent & Marci have been poring through a book of baby names trying to figure out what to call the little 'un when he or she arrives. That has me wondering... isn't it a little short-sighted to give your baby a name from a book of baby names? It's gonna grow up someday, so maybe you want to give it an adult name, just so it's not stuck with a baby name all it's life.

Just sayin'.

Saturday, January 20, 2007

Someone Else Does My Work For Me Muahahaha

Ok, so a couple of weeks after Urbana I went on another road trip, this time to the Navigators Southeastern ISM conference. I kinda forgot where it was, but it was a few hours on the road to get there. I got to start taking note of these things.

Kevin Zinn was there too, and he kindly went ahead and put up a website chockful of video, photos, and mp3s, and saved me the trouble of having to describe it myself! So here you go. That link starts at a page with MP3s of Bill Mackenzie's messages. Bill was the speaker at the conference, he and his wife Crystal have a ranch in Mississippi, and they're pretty swell folks. I don't know them too well, but these kinds of things I guess you can just sorta tell.

The other pages have photos of us at the conference and at Rock City, Georgia, which we visited en-route. Rock City is significant in my mind for two reasons:

1) It is home to a grotesquely lit exhibit of fairy tale locations populated by frighteningly misshapen gnome statues. Scary clowns have nothing on these monstrosities! The exhibit must've must be for kids, because I didn't like it. Oh, wait.

2) Lookout Mountain is here! That's right, all ye die-hard Transformers fans, Autobot City in the classic 1986 Transformers animated movie is located in Georgia! I was at the spot where Daniel and Hot Rod spotted the Decepticons as they infiltrated Autobot airspace in a hijacked spaceship. Supposedly you can see seven states from there, too. That's one heckuva tourist location.

There are pictures taken from Lookout Mountain on Kevin's site, but none of the gnomes, which is probably for the better (it's a family-friendly site!). The conference itself was great... a really relaxing time after the somewhat more hectic Urbana conference. Bill's messages were good to soak up, and there was quite a bit of stuff to do between sessions. I did the zip-line (there's video of that on the site), a bit of canoeing with Chung Hao, and some hiking. I'll put up some pictures of the hike that I took, maybe in a couple of days. Kathy Brackman, Wisam Lazim, and I also did a couple of songs for the talent night. Personally, I think we'd make a pretty decent worship team if there was ever a need! Kathy and Wisam have great singing voices, and were both enthused singers.

Aside from that, I got to know a couple of folks better. I spent some time talking with Katie Slay and her good friend Rebecca, who'll both be going to UT soon, *probably*. Katie's still speaking in non-committal terms, even though she hasn't been looking anywhere else lately. Doesn't hurt to keep your options open, I suppose! She's a bright young lady, and she could go anywhere she wanted to; I'm sure everyone's glad she's leaning towards staying in town. I know I am.

I never got into a deep conversation with Chung Hao, but we hit it off as usual. He is nothing if not personable. Wisam was a big goof as well, but I did find out that if you want to talk about more spiritual matters he could switch back and forth between serious business and turkey business pretty quick, and stay pretty lucid either way. That's the sort of guy you wouldn't mind having around a lot.

Phew... I need to get to bed. It's getting late. I'll put those hiking photos up here soon... hopefully by Sunday.

EDIT: Kevin posted my pictures for me =). He's a swell fella. Here's the link.

Wednesday, January 03, 2007

North And South Of The River

I want to reach out over the Loch
And feel your hand across the water
Walk with you along an unapproved road
Not looking over my shoulder

I wanna see, and I wanna hear
To understand your fears
But we're North and South of the river

I've been doing it wrong all of my life
This holy town has turned me over
A young man running from what he didn't understand
While the wind from the Loch just get colder, colder

There was a badness that had its way
But love wasn't lost, love will have its day
North and South of the river

Can we stop playing these old tattoos
Darling I don't have the answer
I wanna meet you where you are
I don't need you to surrender

'Cause there's no feeling that's so alone
As when the one you're hurting is your own
North and South of the river

Some high ground is not worth taking
Some connections are not worth making
There's an old church bell, it's no longer ringing
Some old songs are not worth bringing
North and South of the river

Tuesday, January 02, 2007

I Ought To Be In Bed...

... but I'll take a couple more minutes to wish everyone a Happy New Year, a whole day late =). I just got back from the Urbana missions conference in St Louis. It's usually held in Urbana, Illinois, but this year it was held in St Louis so they could fit a bigger crowd, or so I'm told.

I'm not the kind of guy who goes into these things with very particular expectations, but I suspect that even if I did, whatever measly expectations I had would've been blown completely out of the water. I heard new things about what God was doing in Malaysia from the other Malaysians who showed up. I heard about how Christianity was becoming and perhaps had become, once again, a religion of the East. I heard about a church moving with power to heal both the bodies and minds of individuals, communities, and nations.

After I'd heard about all these things going on in the world around me, I thought I'd had my fill, and that the sum of what I'd bring home with me would be simply a new awareness of what God was doing in that world. In retrospect, it should've been obvious that God had more in store, since He's not interested in just having another employee. He wants us as partners. He wants us as friends. He wants us as sons. In the state I was in and in the direction I was headed He knew I just wouldn't do. At the table of the Lord, I encountered, once again, the God I'd almost forgotten since the days of my youth... the great lover, the compassionate forgiver, the faithful one. I'd always known Him in my head, but He reintroduced Himself to my heart. I did business with my God at that table. He showed me the junk from the past that had needed dealing with for a long time. My heart was renewed with life, a new tenderness. Stone to flesh! I've started walking again, and Dad's holding my hand.

I might blog about details later, or not. I'm thinking I'll start journaling again instead =). Suffice to say, though, it's gonna be a good year. I can't wait to get to work.