Thursday, December 15

Christmas Music Extravaganza

I'm not 100% sure why I'm enjoying Spotify so much. There are a number of things I don't like about it, and the top one is having to install a desktop application. However, that's a post for a different time.

I set myself the goal of coming up with the Best Xmas Playlist Ever. But I couldn't do it. After working on it off and on for a couple weeks, I've created six playlists so far.

One more editorial precursor: I've been really happy with the selection of Xmas albums available on Spotify. There were quite a few I'd been wanting to listen to or buy and I've found many more worth listening to.

The Best Xmas Playlist Ever is really more of a goal than a fact. And the parameters are pretty confined. I've tried to pick stuff my friends would want to hear. I have tried not to over-represent any one album or artist (this resulted in playlist two, below). This playlist is semi-serious and tends to refer to Jesus in some way.

If you're interested, here's how you should use it: I doubt many people will be interested in listening straight through. Pick a song or artist you think you might like. If you like the song and want to hear more, click over to the album or albums.

The second playlist is Merry Sufjan Christmas!, only selections from Sufjan Stevens' five-volume (though they're basically EP-length) Songs for Christmas. This remains my favorite Xmas album (I think this is the fourth year running). I've narrowed it down to 27 tracks that Spotify says run for one hour. I hope you'll give Sufjan a try if you haven't yet. If you like these selections, you should listen to the whole album. (Important note: If you don't normally like Sufjan's music, we have that in common. I love his Xmas music, but basically don't listen to anything else of his.)

I think my favorite thing about Sufjan's Xmas songs is he seems to come from a real place of reverence for the faith and tradition. From that point of departure, he does standards but also cheesy originals and downright depressive commentaries (especially the epic 'That was the worst Christmas ever').

Third: no comprehensive collection of Christmas music would be complete for me without Fun, Silly Xmas/Winter Songs. They just didn't fit, for me, in the main, relating-to-Jesus list.

Finally, a couple of outliers. Best Xmas Rejects/non-Spotify is a list of songs that didn't fit in the lists above or aren't available on Spotify so I can only listen to them through the Spotify app on my computer. Some good songs here, some I wanted to just keep track of, one amazingly cheesy song from my childhood: stuff like that.

Favorite New Christmas Songs is short: my four favorite songs I heard for the first time this year. Jars of Clay's 'O, Little Town of Bethlehem' is my favorite single this year off of my favorite new-to-me Xmas album of the year. Low is a 'slowcore' band I've been enjoying. Shawn Colvin's 'Little Road to Bethlehem' is sweet. And how did I live this many years without hearing Jackson Browne's Rebel Jesus? Jackson and I would disagree pretty quickly about Jesus, but he's got some nice critique of the excesses of the season and a good, strong point about Jesus' concern for the poor.

And then I started Classic Carols last night and it only includes one album so far and is a total work in progress.

If you've read this far you must: a) really love me (hi, Christine! :-) or b) have some similar geeky music bordering-on-OCD characteristics. I conceive of projects like this, then want to be comprehensive, and usually give up. In this case, it ballooned into something I'm sure beyond the interest of my audience. But there you have it.

Merry Christmas!

Saturday, November 12

Comparing America's politics to Alice's Wonderland

My friend, Carol, sent me this article, and I thought it was really good, so I'm reposting it, along with my comments to her.
American Wonderland, by Morton Keller
From global warming to the Tea Party, our political landscape is patently absurd.
Although Morton Keller seems to come more from the right, probably a Libertarian standpoint, he has lots of good observations and criticisms. Furthermore, I think the comparisons with Alice in Wonderland are interesting and effective. Here are some of my thoughts:
In sum, we have convinced ourselves that in theory we are engaged citizens, while in fact most of us are the self-family-sports-media-obsessed folk that polling tells us we are. But not all of us, all the time. A substantial number of Americans claim some identity with regard to public life. A fifth of us are ready to say we are liberals; close to twice as many identify themselves as conservatives.
There is as well a political class that has career self-interests, or a cultural (or psychological) inclination to be steadily engaged in public affairs. Many are drawn by self-interest and by the sheer excitement of the political game. Others enjoy the ample outlet for commitment to causes that politics, as compared to much of the rest of contemporary society, provides.
while both of these paragraphs are a good start, they (understandably) don't take sin into account. so, in reality, the problems are even stronger than the proclivities that are implied here.

+ Power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely.
+ Power attracts the corruptible (this version from Frank Herbert of Dune fame). I almost always think of this version when I think of our politicians.

i know political demonization is older than the Republic, but i still hate it. the Founding Fathers themselves treated one another unconscionably.

but wasn't there a time, say most of the 20th century, when, even if i didn't vote for him, he was still my president?

again: i think our biggest problem is not political polarization but self-absorption and lack of civic involvement.

further, part of my concern with political polarization and its rhetoric (and this is has probably also always been true) is that too few Americans think about it critically and don't know the difference between 'entertainment' and fact. if Rush or Rachel says it, and it sound ok and fits into their worldview, they accept it uncritically.

and this dynamic, along with the others mentioned here, is probably worse with our 24-hour newscycle, talk radio and tv, and that cesspool of ignorant self-expression, the Internet ;-)
A proper concern for excessive government coexists with excesses such as former Colorado Congressman Tom Tancredo’s observation that “People who could not spell the word vote or say it in English put a committed Socialist ideologue in the White House.”
this kind of thing exactly typifies the problem i have with at least some of the Tea Party. and isn't it racist? i repeat my criticism from 3 years ago: if someone can exaggerate and say Obama is a committed socialist, couldn't we also say Bush was a committed fascist? my point: both have about the same grounding in reality.

Wednesday, November 9

Tim Keller addressing 9/11

I have come across two Keller items recently that I wish I had known about two months ago for the tenth anniversary of the 9/11/2001 attacks.

The first is an mp3 of most of Redeemer's first worship service after the attacks, as Manhattanites were trying to cope and process. This mp3 includes most of the service, including scripture readings, prayers and music in addition to Tim's sermon, 'Truth, Tears, Anger and Grace'.

The second item is the full text of a brief talk Tim gave at a five-year memorial service. In the form found over at Reformissionary, it includes a brief introduction by Tim's son, Michael. I reproduce both pieces in full below.
Michael Keller has provided a transcribed version of Tim Keller's "Sermon of Remembrance and Peace for 9-11 Victim's Families", given on September 10th, 2006.  It's a "must read," and I've included the full text below as well.  The White House transcribed it and sent it to the Keller's because Bush (who was present) asked Karl Rove for a written copy. 
Michael's intro to the sermon... 
Below is a sermon that particularly resonates with me on multiple levels. First, it is a sermon delivered by dad to 9/11 victims’ families and national dignitaries (Bush, H. Clinton, Bloomberg, Pataki, Giuliani, etc) about suffering and what they can do with their very personal suffering that still exists. It impacted me because I saw concisely in the sermon the power the resurrection has to those suffering. Secondly, it was a sermon given at an interfaith memorial (8 min long) and therefore as a student currently studying presentation to multiple audiences, I was impacted at both the kindness he had towards the “resources” of other faiths, but also the honesty and clarify that he still spoke from his own convictions. This is the way, to affirm others, and still not lose the distinct Gospel voice that we deem as so powerful in today’s society. Lastly, it impacted me because while many others would have used the pulpit in front of so many political figures to espouse either their own political views, or some well meaning, yet hopelessly ill-timed, alter call type message- dad focused on those suffering and in pain and tried to speak to them in their loss of their loved ones with the message that there is a God, the God, who knows exactly what it feels like and can therefore relate to them in their pain. Way to go dad.
Below is the transcribed version of the sermon done by individuals at the White House who also apparently liked it. 
Here's the full sermon text...
    Ground Zero/St Paul’s Chapel Tim Keller
    Sep 10, 2006
    As a minister, of course, I’ve spent countless hours with people who are struggling and wrestling with the biggest question - the WHY question in the face of relentless tragedies and injustices. And like all ministers or any spiritual guides of any sort, I scramble to try to say something to respond and I always come away feeling inadequate and that’s not going to be any different today. But we can’t shrink from the task of responding to that question. Because the very best way to honor the memories of the ones we’ve lost and love is to live confident, productive lives. And the only way to do that is to actually be able to face that question. We have to have the strength to face a world filled with constant devastation and loss. So where do we get that strength? How do we deal with that question? I would like to propose that, though we won’t get all of what we need, we may get some of what we need 3 ways: by recognizing the problem for what it is, and then by grasping both an empowering hint from the past and an empowering hope from the future.
    First, we have to recognize that the problem of tragedy, injustice and suffering is a problem for everyone no matter what their beliefs are. Now, if you believe in God and for the first time experience or see horrendous evil, you rightly believe that that is a problem for your belief in God, and you’re right – and you say, “How could a good and powerful God allow something like this to happen?”
    But it’s a mistake (though a very understandable mistake) to think that if you abandon your belief in God it somehow is going to make the problem easier to handle. Dr Martin Luther King, Jr., in his Letter from Birmingham Jail says that if there was no higher divine Law, there would be no way to tell if a particular human law was unjust or not. So think. If there is no God or higher divine Law and the material universe is all there is, then violence is perfectly natural—the strong eating the weak! And yet somehow, we still feel this isn’t the way things ought to be. Why not? Now I’m not going to get philosophical at a time like this. I’m just trying to make the point that the problem of injustice and suffering is a problem for belief in God but it is also a problem for disbelief in God---for any set of beliefs. So abandoning belief in God does not really help in the face of it. OK, then what will?
    Second, I believe we need to grasp an empowering hint from the past. Now at this point, I’d like to freely acknowledge that every faith - and we are an interfaith gathering today – every faith has great resources for dealing with suffering and injustice in the world. But as a Christian minister I know my own faith’s resources the best, so let me simply share with you what I’ve got. When people ask the big question, “Why would God allow this or that to happen?” There are almost always two answers. The one answer is: Don’t question God! He has reasons beyond your finite little mind. And therefore, just accept everything. Don’t question. The other answer is: I don’t know what God’s up to – I have no idea at all about why these things are happening. There’s no way to make any sense of it at all. Now I’d like to respectfully suggest the first of these answers is too hard and the second is too weak. The second is too weak because, though of course we don’t have the full answer, we do have an idea, an incredibly powerful idea.
    One of the great themes of the Hebrew Scriptures is that God identifies with the suffering. There are all these great texts that say things like this: If you oppress the poor, you oppress to me. I am a husband to the widow. I am father to the fatherless. I think the texts are saying God binds up his heart so closely with suffering people that he interprets any move against them as a move against him. This is powerful stuff! But Christianity says he goes even beyond that. Christians believe that in Jesus, God’s son, divinity became vulnerable to and involved in - suffering and death! He didn’t come as a general or emperor. He came as a carpenter. He was born in a manger, no room in the inn.
    But it is on the Cross that we see the ultimate wonder. On the cross we sufferers finally see, to our shock that God now knows too what it is to lose a loved one in an unjust attack. And so you see what this means? John Stott puts it this way. John Stott wrote: “I could never myself believe in God if it were not for the Cross. In the real world of pain, how could one worship a God who was immune to it?” Do you see what this means? Yes, we don’t know the reason God allows evil and suffering to continue, but we know what the reason isn’t, what it can’t be. It can’t be that he doesn’t love us! It can’t be that he doesn’t care. God so loved us and hates suffering that he was willing to come down and get involved in it. And therefore the Cross is an incredibly empowering hint. Ok, it’s only a hint, but if you grasp it, it can transform you. It can give you strength.
    And lastly, we have to grasp an empowering hope for the future. In both the Hebrew Scriptures and even more explicitly in the Christian Scriptures we have the promise of resurrection. In Daniel 12:2-3 we read: Multitudes who sleep in the dust of the earth will awake….[They]… will shine like the brightness of the heavens, and…like the stars for ever and ever. And in John 11 we hear Jesus say: I am the resurrection and the life! Now this is what the claim is: That God is not preparing for us merely some ethereal, abstract spiritual existence that is just a kind of compensation for the life we lost. Resurrection means the restoration to us of the life we lost. New heavens and new earth means this body, this world! Our bodies, our homes, our loved ones—restored, returned, perfected and beautified! Given back to us!
    In the year after 9-11 I was diagnosed with cancer, and I was treated successfully. But during that whole time I read about the future resurrection and that was my real medicine. In the last book of The Lord of the Rings, Sam Gamgee wakes up, thinking everything is lost and discovering instead that all his friends were around him, he cries out: "Gandalf! I thought you were dead! But then I thought I was dead! Is everything sad going to come untrue?"
    The answer is YES. And the answer of the Bible is YES. If the resurrection is true, then the answer is yes. Everything sad is going TO COME UNTRUE.
    Oh, I know many of you are saying, “I wish I could believe that.” And guess what? This idea is so potent that you can go forward with that. To even want the resurrection, to love the idea of the resurrection, long for the promise of the resurrection even though you are unsure of it, is strengthening. I John 3:2-3. Beloved, now we are children of God and what we will be has not yet been made known. But we know that when he appears we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is. All who have this hope purify themselves as he is pure.” Even to have a hope in this is purifying.
    Listen to how Dostoevsky puts it in Brothers Karamazov: “I believe like a child that suffering will be healed and made up for, that all the humiliating absurdity of human contradictions will vanish like a pitiful mirage, like the despicable fabrication of the impotent and infinitely small Euclidean mind of man, that in the world’s finale, at the moment of eternal harmony, something so precious will come to pass that it will suffice for all hearts, for the comforting of all resentments, of the atonement of all the crimes of humanity, of all the blood that they’ve shed; and it will make it not only possible to forgive but to justify what has happened.”
    That is strong and that last sentence is particularly strong…but if the resurrection is true, it’s absolutely right. Amen.

Keller: The Meaning of Marriage

Tim and Kathy Keller's new book, The Meaning of Marriage is out. I look forward to reading it

Nice, long interview (about an hour) with Tim and Kathy for the release last week of their new book. Some great principial and practical stuff in here.

Also, Redeemer has one free sermon to listen to all the time on their main sermon page in addition to the 150 free sermons they always have. The current freebie is a lecture Tim and Kathy gave on marriage on April 1, 2005 (no joke! ;-). This one is even a little more practical and well-worth listening to.

Tuesday, November 1

Happy Reformation Day

494 years ago on Monday, Martin Luther nailed his 95 theses to the door of the Castle Church of Wittenberg.

The Ninety-Five Theses

The first thesis is:
1. When our Lord and Master, Jesus Christ, said "Repent", He called for the entire life of believers to be one of repentance.
Or, to phrase as I've heard Tim Keller do, 'All of life is repentance.'

Repentance, as Luther taught, is not a not a 'once and for all' kind of thing. Repentance is necessary daily, sometimes constantly, like every five minutes.

Repentance should be considered in a semantic domain with concepts like confession, humility and submission.

For your listening enjoyment, there are 3 different versions of 'A Mighty Fortress' performed by us, The Wartburg Choir, in 1990, the first three tracks of this album: A Mighty Fortress is Our God (and a bonus 4th track with Psalm 46 as the text).

Here is a straightforward translation of the 95 Theses, with no ads.

40. A truly contrite sinner seeks out, and loves to pay, the penalties of his sins; whereas the very multitude of indulgences dulls men's consciences, and tends to make them hate the penalties. 

Thursday, October 27

More analysis of the F-35 problem

Not much different from what I said last time, but since I read coverage of this issue everyday, the outrage just breaks out again sometimes.

First, a comment from an Ares reader:

Jeff-N is exactly right. The problem, as always, is the empty promises. 
It's like we're going to get the 2011 Honda Accord in 2016 (maybe) with 2006 Honda Accord capability, but we're paying the 2016+ plus price for it. 
In the meantime, the Hyundai's are getting better and cheaper. So are the Fords, too, btw.

(Jeff-N's is the previous comment, if you're interested. I thought his take was too mild. Sure, programs are problematic. So why in the heck do we keep buying promises of the moon and getting a plate of cheese?!)

My comment:

i like wjmb75's analogy. 
an additional problem is so much 'strategy' planned around those numbers and capabilities. the cascade effect on jets in 3 US services is massive. if we had been more cautious then with the claims, what would we have decided about F-16s, F/A-18s and F-22s and what would the end cost and capability be? without running the numbers, i sense it would be an egregious delta, likely even a criminal one (as in, some people should go to jail). 
the American taxpayer foots the bill (well, at least makes interest payments) and LM continues to make money and pay shareholders. 
to say nothing of the effects experienced by partner nations (which closer observers should feel free to add).

Tuesday, October 25

My old Blogger profile

Just saving it here before I switch to the Google+ profile on blogger. Not much to see ;-)

Amazon Wishlist:

Christianity, Tolkien, fantasy, science fiction, politics, technology, culture, the internet, sports, fantasy football, music, movies, economics, military issues, games, etc.

About me:
writing about all sorts of stuff that is interesting to me, from tech to politics, pop culture to philosophy, faith to football, Tom Barnett to Tolkien

Favorite movies:
The Hunt for Red October, The Lord of the Rings, Gattaca, Pride and Prejudice

Favorite music:
REM, Bill Mallonee, Linkin Park, Smashing Pumpkins

Favorite books:
The Lord of the Rings, Disappointment with God

Note: some of these inclusions and exclusions seems a little random. If I were editing I would change them, but here's a strange little time capsule :-)

Wednesday, October 12

Keller's Beholding the Love of God

1 John 3:1-3
See how very much our Father loves us, for he calls us his children, and that is what we are! But the people who belong to this world don’t recognize that we are God’s children because they don’t know him. Dear friends, we are already God’s children, but he has not yet shown us what we will be like when Christ appears. But we do know that we will be like him, for we will see him as he really is. And all who have this eager expectation will keep themselves pure, just as he is pure.
Beholding the Love of God

Eusebius story of John chasing down lapsed convert
     young man ran away though armed
     'I'll gladly suffer death for you.'
where do you get this kind of courage?
from knowing God. from fellowship with God.
must be born again
John begins to emote here. 'Behold!'
       to make a present, bestow
we are adopted -- called
and we are -- made, nature, born again

1. way to know God
       personal experience
       John demonstrates in this passage
       truth overflows mind
       beyond knowing to 'seeing'
       truth goes through you like lightning through a lightning rod
       movement from analysis to intuition
       truth moves from something you understand to something you stand under
       moves from detachment to connections
       seems ancient and fresh at the same time
       moves from mind to heart
       moves from mere knowing to beholding
       in the 60s: experience has to be anti- or a-rational
       -pathway is still through truth, but it's more than truth
       Thomas Goodwin
               boy walking with father
               knows he's a son
               father picks up boy, hugs and kisses, 'i love you'
               no new knowledge
               knowledge becomes new, fresh
       knowing God means feeling His embrace
examples of 'radioactive' idea
       every great story is two stories
               we will fly (like Peter Pan)
               there is a Prince Who will kiss us and wake us from sleep to new life
               a Beauty will love us and transform us from beasts
               there is a Superman from another planet who comes to save us
       time in Philadelphia
               Xian record, Is 53 'the results of His suffering he shall see and be satisfied'
               we are the results of His suffering that satisfies Him
               can't program it. can't plan it.
       you have to seek it. you have to know it's posssible.
       go back into 1Jn2: if you're not experiencing God:
               1. are you obeying God? is your conscience clear?
               2. do you have fellowship with other Xians?
               3. study the Truth, ask God to open it up
2. the mark of knowing God
       you see God's love for you as a miracle
       Gk idiom: from what country?
               'Behold what country this love comes from'
                       from what planet? unreal?
                               Fisher King illustration
                                    'are you real?'
       a real Xian is a person who says 'it is an absolute miracle that God loves me. it's a miracle that i'm a Xian'
       there are two kinds of people who go to church: religious people and real Xians
               real Xians see everything as a gift. we're totally in debt to God.
               religious people work hard, try, make an effort, go to Bible studies, 'just say no'
               deny themselves trying to put God in their debt
               trying to save God through their good works, think God is in their debt b/c they've tried so hard
               Xians have a spirit of wonder: how miraculous. how unreal. me a Xian? incredible! unbelieveable!
               religious person: of course i'm a Xian. sure i'm a Xian. i've always been a Xian.
               if you're a Xian, there's no 'sure'ness about it. there's no 'of course'ness about it.
               acid test: spirit of wonder, even when things go bad.
               a moralist says: what good is all my religion. i tried hard. God owes me.
               a Xian says: it's amazing how good God is to me. i deserve much worse.
               it's all grace. every good thing is mercy

to the degree that we experience and behold God's love, we'll be able to handle 'bad' circumstances.
'my Father must have a purpose here b/c He loves me'. He doesn't owe me a good life.
and you're amazed by good things
if you've lost it you're slipping back into moralism
'Amazing love, how can it be, that You, my God, would die for me'

Tuesday, September 13

Wil's first program

As noted here, Wil started a little programming on Saturday.
RFI: I told Wil I wrote a BASIC program before I was his age to randomly generate D&D characteristics. He wants to start tomorrow. Start him on BASIC or something else like Javascript (which I have only the slightest familiarity with)?
I decided to go with Small Basic because of the simplicity and because I was confident I could help him quickly and we could get the program up and running.

 He really enjoyed it and spent a lot of time on it. Instead of working on the S&D characteristic generator, he spent most of his time on this Tron-inspired dialogue:
TextWindow.WriteLine("Hello Wil")
TextWindow.Write("Enter your Answer: ")
answer = TextWindow.Read()
If (answer = "Hello computer.") Then
  TextWindow.WriteLine("Shall we begin?")
  TextWindow.WriteLine("Sorry Sir?")
TextWindow.WriteLine("Enter your Response: ")
response = TextWindow.Read()
If (response = "Yes.") Then
  If (response = "Pardon me computer. Let's begin.") Then
  TextWindow.WriteLine("Yes, lets.")
  If (response = "Yes." Or "Pardon me computer. Let's begin.") Then
    TextWindow.WriteLine("I don't understand.")
TextWindow.WriteLine("Enter your command: ")
command = TextWindow.Read()
If (command = "Begin scan.") Then
  TextWindow.WriteLine("Begining sweep.")
  If (command = "Enter camera mode.") Then
    TextWindow.WriteLine("Camera mode is already active.")
TextWindow.WriteLine("Enter specific instruction: ")
  instruction = TextWindow.Read()
  If (instruction = "What's my sister doing?" And Clock.Hour < 7) Then
  If (instruction = "What's my sister doing?" And Clock.Hour = 7) Then
    TextWindow.WriteLine("She is on her Ipod.")
  If (instruction = "What's my sister doing?" And Clock.Hour > 12) Then
    TextWindow.WriteLine( "She's on the computer.")

Tuesday, August 2

Final RAGBRAI 2011 Post

What more is there to say?

As I planned, Friday we did our own highly-modified route. We offloaded 10 miles to Saturday (to leave from the farm both days), rode 33 back west past Marengo and then 33 back to the farm.

If went really well. We went out fast. I bet the West Amana to Marengo leg was the fastest of our whole week. We must have averaged 15 mph or more and hit 20 some of the time. That was fun.

Friday's map

We stopped under a tree in South Amana and talked with a lady (I'd guess she was about 80) who told us some of her life story: that she moved to Amana from Oklahoma (to get married, I think), that her new mother-in-law told her how everything was to be done and she later took over the whole house and that she wasn't crazy about being married and would never get married again.

I stopped in Oxford to have lunch at Augusta with my friend, Tina Riggan. We had a nice long lunch and then I biked the last 7 miles for that day to the farm. It was nice and easy and the thought crossed my mind that maybe I should have done more. The next day I wished I had.

In terms of nostalgia, I passed my elementary school and the fields where we used to play baseball twice this day.

Saturday's route

Checked my bike tires and the front one was flat. Not much to do but pump it up and see how far I could go.

The first thing we had to do, route-wise, was make-up the almost 10 miles we hadn't ridden the day before by riding from the farm into Coralville. These were the biggest hills we had to contend with all day until we got to Davenport. But we were relatively fresh. We rode into IC on the IWV, turned left on Mormon Trek and right on Highway 6. We then turned left on Iowa Ave, left on Madison and right on Jefferson at the IMU to go up that hill on the north side of the Pentacrest. Another little, early challenge. Then we basically followed Rochester Ave. It became Herbert Hoover Highway and we rode it into West Branch.

Sentimental journey: passed by the high school I attended and, one block to the south, the hospital I was born in.

One of my better jokes of the trip: we were riding in and someone said 'Welcome to West Branch!' I said, 'Dang, I thought this was Davenport!' ;-)

Decided to go ahead and stop at a repair tent and check my tire. Tech found a staple-sized piece of metal in my tire, changed the tube and we were on our way. Didn't have to wait too long and it was worth the 12 bucks.

West Branch to Springdale to Moscow to Wilton was all fine. Stopped for water between Springdale and Moscow at a roadside vendor. Told him my mom was born in Cedar County and he knew the Suchomel name. Told him I was from Tiffin and he said his dad was a Schneider from Cosgrove.

Some bar (the name escapes me) did a good job of advertising their tent and Maid Rites, so that where we ate in Wilton. Christine and the twins met us and we had a pretty leisurely lunch.

Wilton to Durant to Walcott was the worst part of the day and one of the worst legs of the whole week. I think I was just completely tired by then. F58 was an unrelievedly straight and level road that was hot and I think we were fighting a little bit of a headwind, too. Sometimes you wish for a little hill to climb for the change and then the opportunity to coast a little. My mantra for day 7: anytime I can coast at 15 mph, I'm happy to do it.

The bad leg ended in Walcott with a freeze pop a little girl handed me as I rode by and a free water station at a fire hydrant. I felt totally refreshed.

Then, it was just a matter of finishing the last 14.2 miles to the Mississippi, watching over every hill and around every corner for signs of Davenport. I have to say, it felt like they took us through the worst streets in Davenport. On the outskirts, we ran into a bunch asphalt that was either fresh or it was runny because of the heat. Our tires picked up the tar.

There were also two, short but steep hills to finish off the trip. I polished them off and wished them good riddance!

Finished up the ride by finding Christine and the twins in the shade of a little tree and Al rolled in just a couple of minutes behind me. The line for dipping our front tires in the Mississippi was longer than we wanted to wait for, so we just walked over to the railing to get a picture by the river. But Al said (I think it was him) 'The water's almost close enough to touch' and I thought 'I can touch that water', so we lifted our bikes over the railing and dipped the front tires in the river.

I was so happy to be done with RAGBRAI!

Anything else?

As I've intimated before, RAGBRAI would have been much harder without Christine. I certainly wouldn't have wanted to experience it that way.

I love Iowa and RAGBRAI is a great way to see it. There were many nice moments and beautiful, big sky, green fields vistas.

We had great home stays and enjoyed visiting with Kevin and Cindy, the Carlsons outside of Carroll, Ken and Jeanine in Granger and my own family on the farm (though Dad was out of town).

Lance Armstrong was on the ride one day, the same day we rode up the biggest hill (the one I broke a spoke on). Wish I could have seen him fly up it. I'm not a huge Lance fan anymore, but there you have it.

Two posts about him:

Considered a titan in Iowa, Lance Armstrong returns to RAGBRAI today
More excitment in Carroll when Armstrong comes to town

And, if anyone want even more RAGBRAI information, there are about a hundred posts on their weblog.

Thursday, July 28

RAGBRAI 2011 Day 5

Today was my best day of RAGBRAI this year. The sky was overcast most of the day, which really made a big difference. We also had a little rain shower when we were in Colfax. Maybe most crucial: I didn't have any mechanical problems.

Today's map

We basically started at the beginning of the official route and ended at the end, for a change. It was the third biggest day of climbing (3,202 ft), but comparatively short (57.5 miles).

Preview of tomorrow

the map

Since our family farm is on the route tomorrow, but we're staying here tonight about an hour east of Grinnell, we're going to change our approach tomorrow. We're basically going to ride the route backwards for about half of the mileage we want to do tomorrow (I think the total will be about 65 miles) and then come back and finish at the farm (without doing the last 10 miles into Coralville. Clear?

(Since we're going to do an extra 10 on Saturday, we can cut off 10 tomorrow.)

Wednesday, July 27

RAGBRAI 2011 Day 4

Something I neglected to mention yesterday was how much we owe to Christine and how grateful I am to her for all her support on the ride.

I had a great beginning to this day. Took ibuprofen for my bottom this morning and was able to pedal like I thought I could.

Today's map

I am very motivated to cycle myself out of traffic. So, leaving Luther and leaving Slater, I really got a great start (for me). Was probably riding in the 20s. Even tagged onto the back of a pace line leaving Slater and was able to hang with them for quite a while because they were actually going too slowly.

Plus, we had an overcast morning that just made it so much nicer to ride.

Going into Elkhart, I felt my rear tire start to thump on every rotation. So I rode it into town and stopped at the first repair tent. Sure enough, tire had blown out (it kind of takes on a zig zag shape, maybe a 'cord' breaks?). No line, got the repair done and headed out, so it was the best possible scenario for needing to change a tire. (I had actually noticed a partial cut in that tire when we left this morning.)

But then, just a few minutes to the west of Elkhart, the same tube blew out. That was really frustrating. I am so tired of repairing this stupid bike. (We had actually left the route at this point to just bike back to our home stay in Granger.) I could have tried to hitch with a support vehicle back into town, or even had Christine drive me back into town and get the tube fixed and finished my ride, but I just didn't care anymore.

I'll try again tomorrow and I'll try to push through some breakage and discomfort, but I just don't care enough this time to push myself to ride all of the real route or all of the real mileage.

Tomorrow's route

Altoona to Grinnell. 57.5 miles. 3,202 feet of climb.

Tuesday, July 26


Ok, first night of Internet since we started. I know many of my fans have been dying for information, so let me try to catch you up a little ;-)

Daily Maps

A little gnarlier data, if desired

First day: climbed 4,298 feet, heat index was over 100. 50 people were treated for heat exhaustion (that we heard of). Felt ok.

Second day: Had a nice, overcast morning to keep temperatures down. Then I broke a spoke in the first town, Elk Horn. It was the best place to break a spoke, but still a pain. Started to fade at the end, but had a nice conversation with a woman from Waverly as we rode into Carroll, so that helped distract me.

Third day: uncomfortable, bad day on the bike. Same, basic heat. My bottom was really sore most of the day, then my little toes started to fall asleep and I had trouble keeping my hands comfortable. Had to take longer breaks. Then, as I was climbing the toughest hill we face this year, I broke a spoke. I doubted more than once that I would be able to finish it without walking, but was able to do it. Not sure how much the broken spoke contributed. The wheel goes out of true and starts to rub against the brake (for those of you who don't know). Christine was able to meet me at a crossroads pretty shortly thereafter.

So then I had to go in to Urbandale tonight (we're staying with Christine's aunt in Granger for the next two nights) to get the spoke repaired. The guys at Bike World were great and I really appreciate them!

Preview of tomorrow, Day Four: similar to today in climb (just a couple big hills). Short: just over 56 miles to ride. We'll see how I do and if I can get a little more comfortable on the bike. I feel like I've got the legs for RAGBRAI, but I'm just having trouble being at ease. Not sure what's different this time. The bike is technically higher quality. I did more training this time, like 100 or 200 miles more. On the downside, I'm 7 years older and 15 pounds heavier. Are those two factors really making it that much worse? I don't know. It's driving me crazy.

Friday, June 24

Copywrong: The Case of 'Kind of Blue'

Andy Baio captained a tribute album to 'Kind of Blue' done with 8-bit sounds. He carefully licensed all the music. But he didn't think about the cover art and the original photographer sued him. He settled out of court for $32,500.

This story makes me sick. Artists should control their art, of course. But it just seems ethically wrong and legally asinine to punish your fans.

Some of the takedowns and commentary I've read:
+ Andy Baio was sued for Kind of Bloop
+ Why fair use doesn't work unless you've got a huge war-chest for paying lawyers
+ Bescizza tweeted some good stuff on 6/23
+ Kind of A Dick Move
+ The MetaFilter thread (if you want to go completely down in the weeds, though there are some interesting comments by mathowie and waxpancake (Baio himself) before the thread goes to complete noise.

Saturday, May 28

Champion's League Final

Friday, May 20

The F-35 Disaster

F-35: Dodging One Bullet, Taking Another.
And, finally, Lockheed can expect fallout from McCain's apparent belief the company is avoiding shouldering any of the cost overrruns caused by its poor performance on the program. Carter said the current cost-plus development contract only allows the Pentagon to withhold awards fees. But the contract is being renegotiated...
Is there any way to interpret the F-35 program as something other than an unmitigated disaster?

We will never build the quantities necessary to approach any economies of scale and all the other savings that were promised have already evaporated.

Then, to add insult to injury, LockMart continues to profit from American taxpayers.

I used to think F-35 was too big to fail, but now it's starting to look like the failure will be too large to salvage. We will start to lose our international 'partners' and end up building many fewer jets. Will anyone else (besides the Israelis, who we basically give them to), hold out to buy any?

I'm starting to think the B will get canceled outright. Will any Cs get built or will the Navy go with Super Hornets til they can get to UCAV? Probably some As will get built, at least.

Can a good argument be made that we should just cancel the whole thing and make do with upgrades to what we have? Would it be possible to re-open the 22 line? Can we stomach doing any more business with LockMart?

What was the mistake? Overreach. We thought we could do more, more cheaply, than we really could. In hindsight, we never should have tried to build the 'Joint' -- three versions with a common planform. We certainly should have built more 22s. We should have stuck with more incremental developments of 16s and 18s and UAVs.

The Pentagon and LockMart are probably equally to blame, but only one of those is profiting in the midst of this disaster.

I said it before, I'll say it again: it's a good thing we probably won't be fighting with a near-peer air force any time soon.

Thursday, May 19

Our Elvish Names

I've known about Now We Have All Got Elvish Names since at least September 30, 2005. It came back up when I linked Speak geek: The world of made-up language in this Facebook post, partially in reference to the ElvenSpeak iPhone app.

As it says in the post linked above, I've known for at least five years that my Elvish name is 'Eruntalon'. Christine asked what hers would be and, based on NWHAGEN, I derived 'Christ-follower' into Eruhilyë. Then Christine asked about Elizabeth and Wil.

That's when I found this more expansive reference for Elvish names (linked from the bottom of NWHAGEN) by someone with more ability than me: quenya lapseparma. So, new method: look at both references for your names. If there are multiple choices, pick the one you like most (unless you have the Quenyan chops to do better ;-)

For myself, I'm sticking with 'Eruntalon', though quenya lapseparma says 'Erufailon' is better.

For Christine, she can go with my humble 'Eruhilyë', or choose from these options:
CHRISTIAN (m.) - from Latin 'follower of Christ, christian'; based on Helge Fauskanger's suggestion "Christ" could be translated as Laivino (from *laivina) "Annointed one", so Laivino itself or Laivindil ("Christ-friend") or Laivindur ('"Christ-servant"); in the meantime Tolkien's own translation of 'Christ' was published: Elpino, so we perhaps can derived an adjective from it: *elpinoina "christian", so Elpinoino

CHRISTIANA, CHRISTINA (f.) - fem. form of CHRISTIAN (q.v.), thus Laivine; or Elpinoine (see CHRISTIAN)
ELISABETH (f.) - Erunyauve, see NWHAGEN; it might be 'god's promise/oath'; Eru "god", vanda "oath", so Eruvande
WILLIAM (m.) - Old Ger. 'will + helmet'; níra, selma "will"; cassa "helmet", thus Níracas or Selmacas (-casso in declinations), another possibility might be Mercas (with an element mer- "wish, desire, want"; this name is already used)
There you have it :-)

Saturday, May 14

Four Chord Song Omnibus

I knew, of course, that you could play an absurd amount of popular songs by knowing just a few chords. That's what made it so easy for me to learn to play a little guitar 20 years ago: you learn the most common chords, let's say four, in the most common keys, maybe three or four of them. I only had to practice for about an hour a day for a week to be able to make the changes in rhythm (I already had a strong vocal music background and some instrumental work) and I was able to play along with many common songs.

My friend, Jeff, mentioned the 4 Chord Song, so I looked it up on YouTube:

Funny stuff.

Then I started to dig a little deeper:

The Axis of Awesome: Four Chords Song
"Four Chords" is one of The Axis of Awesome's best-known works. It is a medley of popular songs that all follow the pop-punk chord progression. The work is an attempt to outline the perceived formulaic nature of popular music. The "Four Chords", in Roman numeral analysis, are written I - V - vi - IV.[6] The band also uses a vi - IV - I - V, usually from the song "Save Tonight" to the song "Torn". The band plays the song in the key of E so the progression they use is E-B-C♯m-A. Many of the songs featured in the medley have been transposed from their original keys.

The medley of songs that composes the "Four Chords" song is continually varied, often incorporating new releases. The Axis' song "Birdplane" is always included (itself a parody of the Five for Fighting song "Superman"). The melody usually starts with Journeys Don't stop believing.
Pop-punk chord progression
In the form vi-IV-I-V this was named sensitive female chord progression by Boston Globe Columnist Marc Hirsh[2]. In C major this would be Am-F-C-G. Hirsh first noticed the chord progression in the song "One of Us" by Joan Osborne.[3] He claims he then began to notice the chord progression in many other songs. He named the progression because he claimed it was used by many members of the Lilith Fair in the late 1990s.[2]

Both are a variant of the doo-wop I-vi-IV-V "Heart and Soul" progression, familiar from songs such as "Earth Angel" and "Donna"[2].
50s progression

As you can see, you can play a ton of songs with just four chords in these three progressions.

I am very tempted to make a comprehensive list of the songs in these categories, or at least the ones I like. This would be one place to start: Axis of Awesome 4 chords song list?

This video takes the form of an expose, listing many of the songs with the pop-punk and sensitive female progressions:

Of course, there are different melodies and instrumentation. And I'm actually inclined to marvel at the flexibility of basic pop structure rather than belittle it.

And here's the funny Pachelbel Rant:

Hard to believe: a useful YouTube comment:
it's funny, but he's technically wrong towards the end. Pachelbel's Canon goes I, V, vi, iii, in keeping with baroque chord conventions.  Most of the songs he plays are I, V, vi, IV, which is a different phenomenon all together.

Monday, May 9

Will May 21 Be TEOTWAWKI? I Feel Fine.

I don't know about you, but we've got billboards all over Columbia that say Judgment Day is coming May 21st. The Bible guarantees it!

For our part, we're pretty sure Judgment Day is not May 21st. Elizabeth adapted the lyrics of It's The End of the World as We Know It (And I Feel Fine) tonight to accommodate May 21st. Point is, we're not worried

Turns out Family Radio Worldwide and Harold Camping are behind it.

It's pretty clear from the Bible that all Christians will be strange to the world in some ways. I wish some of us didn't have to add to the non-Jesus-originating strangeness. Kind of hard to sort it all, I bet, if you're not familiar with the different kinds of craziness. In my opinion, it makes the Christians look even worse for unnecessary reasons. It's sort of like friendly fire.

Just to confuse the issue, I do believe Jesus will come back one day and that the end of the world will come and justice will roll down like mighty waters. And I'm ready.

But I'm about 99.99% sure the Bible doesn't guarantee the May 21st date.

(Also, to confuse matters more, Camping believes in the 'rapture' and I do not. There could be a rapture, but I don't think there will be.)

The Young Victoria and More

Christine and I watched this tonight for Mother's Day. She loved it and I liked it.

One of my favorite parts was the repeated use of Zadok the Priest, which I think we sang my freshman year in high school (1986).

The Young Victoria has nine clips from the movie (including the trailer).

The Wikipedia article on Queen Victoria makes the movie sound pretty authentic, which is nice for a change. Unfortunately, though the couple was shot at, the movie has Albert actually getting hit.

Saturday, May 7

Short Review of Thor (no spoilers)

Stuff I liked:
  • fine for kids
  • reasonably humorous
  • Asgard - planet/dimension treatment
  • Loki 'origin'
The reviews I've seen act like it's not bold enough, too boring, maybe not edgy enough. I'm fine with that for the tradeoffs. A nice, family popcorn movie.

I was really disappointed with Natalie Portman's character, as you can see from this post on Facebook:
Pathetic female physicists in movies:

Denise Richards, The World is Not Enough
Elisabeth Shue, The Saint
Natalie Portman, Thor

NP's character was probably my least favorite part of Thor, probably at least half-due to writing and direction.

You should still see it. Wil and I are going tonight :-)

Monday, May 2

Osama bin Laden Is Dead

A few thoughts.

1. I'm glad. Part of me wants to celebrate ObL burning in hell right this minute.

2. However, I know there are Christian reasons to not be glad.

3. Furthermore, my understanding of Hell, especially following Tim Keller following CS Lewis, is a state for people who reject God to be away from Him forever. And God is love. So, it's not quite the 'happy' image of ObL roasting and brings home the eternal consequences of all of our decisions.

4. As I said in this Facebook post, it makes me sick that ObL was living in comparative comfort, including with one of his wives (so he got to have regular sex). I begrudge him every need and luxury.

5. I regret so much about our mishandled responses to 9/11 -- not so much attacking the Taliban and Saddam Hussein, but how we screwed them up. Too many Americans and Afghans and Iraqis lost their lives or their loved ones on account of our mistakes.

6. And, as I said on this Facebook thread, many of the things that we fought for and have tried to accomplish will likely be short-changed and squandered. What are the chances of a decent outcome in Iraq, not to mention Afghanistan and Pakistan?

That's it for now.

Friday, April 1

Sermon notes: He Came to Himself by Tim Keller

Original Series Name: The Fellowship of Grace (original name)
New Series Name: The Prodigal God

He Came to Himself
Luke 15:11-20

A story about the meltdown of community and its restoration. Family is the most basic human community.
To ask for your inheritance when your father is still alive is to wish him dead.

The Importance of Repentance
'Came to his senses' is a Semitic idiom that refers to repentance
If you want the power and love of God to explode into your life, the fuse is repentance.
You notice how often Jesus says 'repent and believe the Gospel'
'If you don't repent, I don't have anything to give you.'
Martin Luther's 1st of 95 theses: 'Our Lord and Master Jesus Christ, when He said Poenitentiam agite, willed that the whole life of believers should be repentance.'
'All of life is repentance.'
Lord Byron: 'The weak alone repent'
What the world thinks about repentance: it's a sign of weakness, it's an experience of disempowerment, it's an aberration - you hope it hardly or never happens
Luther says the opposite. Repentance is a sign of strength. Do you realize how full of joy you have to be, how loved you have to feel, how strong spiritually and emotionally you need to be in order to repent at the drop of a hat when you do something wrong?

--Yes, I do because I so seldom have that strength!

The inability to repent is a sign of weakness.
Who do you agree with? Luther and the Bible or Byron and the world?

Repentance brings liberation. Finally free from pretense and evasion. Free from the need to always win every argument, from the need to defend yourself, from the need to expose others, to show other people 'you're not so great'.
A repentance person is vulnerable and happy to do it. 'Yes, I was wrong. Let's make it right.' Quick to repent. Joyful in repentance. It's liberation. I don't have to control what everybody thinks.

In fairness, there really are two kinds of repentance.
2 Cor 7:10 Godly sorrow brings repentance that leads to salvation and leaves no regret. But worldly sorrow brings death.

The Anatomy of Repentace
what did the young man in the parable do right?
1. came to his senses
biggest problem sins are ones you don't see. you're in denial. the human heart runs on denial the way my car runs on gas. coming to your senses happens to you. wrongdoing sets up strains that lead to breakdown. when we come to our sense because of pain, we can repent.
anyone who sees themselves clearly knows we don't always see ourselves clearly. they come circumstantially, not at our command.
what did the younger brother do right?
realized that first he sinned against God
Psalm 51: against you only have i sinned
whatever sin you've done, primarily you've sinned against the goodness and greatness of God.
what wakes us up to what is wrong with us? pain.
and what is wrong with us is a form of self-centeredness.
when the pain comes, it is possible for 'repentance' to be not a change from self-centeredness but a deeper kind. it is possible for 'repentance' to be self-absorbed
story of manipulative husband. he was really upset -- for himself
beautiful Charnock quote: 'i have offended a god who has the deportment of a friend'
How could I treat God so badly given all that He has done for me? How can I break His heart?

'i have sinned against you. i am no longer worthy to be called your son.'
no blame-shifting. takes responsibility.

The Key to Repentance
what didn't he do?
make me like one of your hired men.
NB: this is an illustation of God's love. not all of it applies to our human relationships. eg, if we were the younger son, we should try to make things right, try to pay back. restitution is appropriate in human relationships.
but, in this story, the son's approach to repentance, if it's ours with God, is totally wrong.
religion v. Gospel
religion: 'if i have a good record, then God will bless me'
in religion, repentance is a disaster. it's weak. it separates you from your source of power.
it's a form of atoning for sin. self-flagellation. loathing. bent way of trying to get good record back. 'surely only a good person would think he's so bad, right?'

the father is watching for his son
does not allow working way back in or abjectness
God's love empowers the repentance, makes first part of son's speech easier
in the Gospel, repentance connects you more deeply to your source of joy and power. it's Jesus' record, not ours.
amazing that Jesus told this story, when that was not how Jesus was received by God on the Cross

you're so hopeless, Jesus had to die for you. it's humbling and keeps us from thinking too highly of ourselves, sins of pride.
other times, i feel like i'm not valuable, but the Gospel affirms us: Jesus loved us and valued us and died for us and that affirms us. fights sins of self-hatred.

The Kind of Community that Results From Repentance
1. if 'coming to our senses' doesn't necessarily happen on command, if we sometimes need to be brought to our senses, then what kind of community do we need to be in?
Odysseus had himself lashed to the mast.
too many of us are simply church consumers. we don't join. we don't take a vow that members (elders, officers, pastors, friends) who see us going crazy can confront us. and if not, then you don't understand repentance yet. a Gospel Christian understands that sometimes you're going to be out of your head and need to be brought to your senses. sometimes we say 'tie me to the mast and wait 'til I go sane'
you say 'i've been in a church where authority was abused'
well, there are quack doctors, but you don't swear off anti-biotics.
in a repentant community, any person trying to help you will be gentle and not give up on you
don't you want to be in a community like that? truth and love? no abuse, but no neglect of people who are have lost their senses, either.

Tuesday, March 22

Various and sundry Keller stuff

Yes, I'm on quite a Keller kick these days. Hopefully it's not idolatry ;-)

+ How Timothy Keller Spreads the Gospel in New York City, and Beyond, The Atlantic

+ Tim on MSNBC's 'morning joe', What is Christ's appeal in 21st century

+ Tim on Fox News: What is the True Word of Jesus?

Interestingly, in this one, the interviewer is a member of Keller's church.

+ Probably will interest only me: pdf of Keller's sermon notes -- abridged and somewhat cryptic.

+ The preachers Tim listens to on his iPod while he's jogging.

Monday, March 21

Sermon notes: Sin as Slavery by Tim Keller

Sermon Series: The Faces of Sin
Sin as Slavery (The mp3 can be streamed or downloaded for free here)
Num 11:4-6, 10-20

Notes preceded by '--' are my thoughts.

--God Sends Quails, The 77s
'you failed, you spit out manna and God sends quails'

why when we know what is right to do, don't we?
all religions basically agree on right behavior
the main reason for our problems is that we don't live that way
what is it about the human condition that we can know exactly what we're supposed to do and the consequences when we don't and we still do the wrong thing?
--and, a little more disturbingly, we go to great lengths to convince ourselves that those behaviors are not the right ones, after all
we are slaves to sin. sin is not just an action, it's a power.
every sinful action has destructive power on the faculty that engaged in it: reason, emotions, will

the Israelites want to go back to Egypt
that's insane
--in the same way, we trick ourselves into going back to slavery
'what rational person says 'there was an upside.'?'
they're spiritual slaves, powerless to do what's best for them.
so are we
Rom 7 -- i am sold as a slave under sin
if you're not aware of your spiritual slavery, your moral ambition is too low
'i challenge you to live be the Golden Rule for 12 hours'
--we all agree it's a nice idea, but few of us really try concertedly to live it out
if you think you can do any good you would want to, you're not trying very hard

structure of the slavery
sin undermines ability to do right
craving overwhelms reason
--God turned them over to their desires
addiction pattern
every sinful action becomes an addiction
3 parts of addiction cycle
1. distress
choose to deal with agent
agent promises transcendence and freedom, sense of liberation and escape
tolerance develops. the more you do, the more you need. your emotions are shriveling up.
2. denial
rationalization. can't think objectively
3. dissolves and destroys willpower
trying to deal with distress with very thing that caused distress
thinking disobeying God will bring you freedom is taking your freedom

sin is craving something more than God, living for something more than God.
there's a tolerance effect in life: desired career pales. marriage cannot satisfy us in place of God
emotions shrivel. mind shrivels.
Aldous Huxley is honest: i wanted there to be no God b/c i wanted to sleep around. philosophers aren't objective. i chose my atheism as an act of sexual liberation
holding a grudge rots your mind. you have to feel morally superior to that person.
will shrivels
Jonathan Edwards: sin turns the heart into a fire and there's never been a fire that said 'enough fuel, i'm satisfied'. in the same way, there's never been a heart that said 'i've had enough success, love, approval, comfort'.
what do i tell myself would make me happy if only i had it? shows your idol, your slavery.
the larger the fire grows, the more fuel, including oxygen, it wants

how are we healed?
few good examples in this passage, but some insights
God says 'You've rejected me'
God performs an intervention
we need waking up
our real problem is God is not burning at the center of our lives
there's no bigger slave than the people who don't know they're slaves
'you will loathe the meat b/c you have loathed Me'
we can't stop ourselves by willpower or trying harder
we need an appetite for God, tasting God.
beyond believing and obeying
taste and see that the Lord is good
we need great worship, as much as possible
you can't have quality time with God without quantity time
we need a new fire that says 'if only, i saw the Lord. if only i could feel Him to be as great as i know Him to be'
--and we can remember back to the times when He has shown Himself great to us
the reason nothing else tastes is you haven't tasted that the Lord is good
and there is no tolerance effect
His mercies are new every morning!

we need a real, better-than Moses
Moses wanted to die rather than bear the burden of the people
Hebrews 3: there's a better-than-Moses
Jesus was willing to take the burden and die thereby
if we know the Truth and continue in it, It will set us free

Friday, March 18

Sermon notes: Sin as Predator by Tim Keller

Sermon Series: The Faces of Sin
Sin as Predator by Tim Keller
Genesis 4:1-16, Cain and Abel

What's wrong with us, the human race? The evil we are capable of is terrifying.
'Terminator' -- Characters keep underestimating the predatory power of the Terminator.

1. 'Sin is crouching at your door.'
Sin is what's wrong with us.
Sin hides itself.
'crouching', like leopards and tigers (in the Hebrew)
crouches in a kind of hiding, taking on a smaller profile
Our sin looks smaller than it is. We rationalize it. There's a monster in the middle of our ordinary lives.
both Cain and Abel bring offering ('minha' in Hebrew, used of dedications (v. commonly taught need for blood)).
like an engagement ring. expensive token of whole being
'i give you this ring and with all that i am and all that i have i honor you'
unless we back up worship with our whole life, it's not love, it's bribery
1 Jn 3:12: Abel's deeds were holy and Cain's were not
Cain is like the average churchgoer
doesn't give God everything. ordinary, half-hearted religion
Cornelius Plantinga's Not the Way It's Supposed to Be
Sin is treating yourself as first cause and God is accessory.
ordinary half-heartedness and absolutely infernal
'i deserve a better life than this!'
in this envy is hidden murder.
Eichmann and Nuremberg trials: terrifying because evil is ordinary. we wish it was only in monsters, but it's not. 'banality of evil'
FDR didn't believe reports coming out of Europe. was recommended Dorothy Sayers and Kierkegaard on original sin.
your biggest sins looks smaller to you than anyone else.
every grudge is murder in a little ball. it wants to be murder.
every lust is adultery in a little ball. it wants to be adultery.
every instance of envy wants to be robbery
sin says 'i'll just stay in the corner. i wont hurt you.'
we tolerate it.
'have quit with sin,' said the old Puritans
sin is coiled in a little ball
you think you can handle it, but it will not stay in a corner

2. Sin is powerful
'It's desire is to have you.'
Sin is not done with you after you are done with it.
Sin takes on a being and life of its own that will chew and devour you.
when you lie, you're not done with lying. you have to lie again. and you will be lied to.
sin has an addictive power. not all addictions are sins, but all sins are addictions.
it's easier to do it the next time.
at first the Nazis killed the Jews because they hated them, then they hated them because they killed them.
you have to keep hating to justify your murder
East of Eden
sin is not just wrong, it's self-damaging, which means it's stupid.
God is not mocked.
liars are lied to. cowards are deserted. haters are hated. gossipers are gossiped about.
The Terminator is after you.

3. There is hope for the defeat of sin.
'you must master it'
God appeals to Cain. he asks him. and not for information. God already knows. He's giving a chance for repentance.
to Adam and Eve: where are you?
to Jonah: do you do well to be angry?
to Cain: where is your brother?
your real enemy is not Able. your real problem is not what he or I [God] have done to you. your real problem is your sin
you're not miserable because of what has happened to you, you're miserable because of what's in you. you're not a victim. there's hope if you can take responsibility.
God says to us: why are you cast down and angry? yes, some bad things might have happened. but you're miserable b/c of your response to what's been done to you. self-pity, anger, bitterness, refusal to forgive, pride, hurt feelings, insistence that certain things (idols) will save you.
repentance is the only hopeful answer
God gives Cain one more chance to repent.
Cain says 'am i Abel's babysitter?'
'Abel's blood cries out to Me from the ground.'
every human life is valuable. our blood cries out to God and He cannot let it pass b/c that would be unjust.
what if Cain had repented?
what if we repent? 'my main problem in life is my sin.'
God takes us, also, to a pool of blood, but it's not Abel's
Abel was the first of pure people who show up the half-hearted
and Jesus was the ultimate Abel because he was perfect
Hebrews 12.24: Jesus cries out: Sin must be paid. I have paid.
'i'm religious, but not fanatical.' watch out, Cain.
when we repent, God takes us to Jesus' blood
the mark of Cain preserves us from getting what we deserve until we die so we have a chance to repent.

Tuesday, March 8

Where Does Home Field Advantage Come From?

Interesting excerpt in Sports Illustrated from new book Scorecasting: The Hidden Influences Behind How Sports Are Played and Games Are Won. ESPN calls it 'Freakonomics for sports', which makes the book sound like it's right up my alley, and I certainly enjoyed the part I read. Unfortunately, SI doesn't make it's articles available for free on the web anymore, so I can't link it for you. Here's the Wikipedia summary and some related resources:

+ Home advantage
Sports Illustrated, in a 17 January 2011 report, reported that home crowds, rigor of travel for visiting teams, scheduling, and unique home field characteristics, were not factors in giving home teams an advantage. The journal concluded that it was favorable treatment by game officials and referees that conferred advantages on home teams. Sports Illustrated stated that sports officials are unwittingly and psychologically influenced by home crowds and the influence is significant enough to effect the outcomes of sporting events in favor of the home team.[3]
+ More on home field advantage and why the price of beer at Wrigley is the largest influence on the Cubs' financial success: A Conversation With Tobias Moskowitz

+ Book excerpt: Wertheim's Scorecasting

+ The curse of the No. 1 draft pick

Sunday, February 27

STS-133 Amalgamation Post

Had a chance to see STS-133 launch with a press credential, which was most excellent.

Most of my stuff was over on Facebook, and mostly in an album, so here's a link: STS-133 Facebook Album

I also wrote three posts for Aviation Week. Here they are:

+ View from the Cape
+ Robonaut Is Ready for Launch
+ Discovery STS-133 Launches After Brief Hold

My friend, Heather's Flickstream of the launch: Spacegasm 2011

And new friend Rick Mann's Flickrstream: STS-133

Thursday, February 3

Nietzsche, Nihilism and More!

My friend, Curtis Gale Weeks, picked up on a Facebook post of mine about Nietzsche. After a few exchanges, he went far beyond my humble beginning in this really large post: The Worldviewer in the World.

For some reason, TypePad won't accept my comment (too long? html?). That's ok. As it got longer, I planned on copying it over here anyway. It's almost impossible that anyone besides Curtis and I will read it, but here it is for posterity.

stream of consciousness comment:

dude, how long is this thing?! ;-)

self/world: yes, a shocking number of people don't at least have a working understanding of the objectivity/subjectivity issues wrangled in modernism/pomo. that said, i work on the assumption that physical objectivity is trustworthy about 99% of the time. that number falls precipitously when it moves into less 'scientific' areas like psychology, sociology, philosophy, etc.

i get the purpose of your WOODA and don't disagree, but wonder if it could benefit from Occam's Razor...

right: naive realism is a big problem. i'm continually surprised at how many people trained in science don't have this basic concept and the criticism thereof as a critique. NR, in many ways, gets us the horrors of the 20th century, including 2 world wars, the Holocaust and, to overlap a little, Hitler, Stalin and Mao.

then again, maybe it's not modernism, strictly speaking, that is the problem, but more uncritical modernism, or naive realism. we get a lot more skewed by our self-limited/interested opinions and presuppositions (limits of human psychology) than any legitimate quantum objectivity concerns. one example from my quotidian work: all of the hubris, politics, etc. that make us unable to procure military equipment on time and on budget.

i'm inclined to think that, for all our speculation in the subjective fields, it's largely moot (using the term strictly): we can argue about it forever without much progress. sure, the analysis is worth it, but you'll likely not convince an opponent, and there we go. most objective progress will be made in more-objective domains. in subjective areas, have we really made much progress as a species? sure, we have a thin veneer of civility sometimes. some places we have made progress with 'liberal' law, etc. but are people more moral than 4000 years ago? more noble? of course, ethics may be the second most esoteric subject (the prize reserved for theology ;-)

right: the funny thing is, naive realism is so easily destroyed. if only they'd read the critiques ;-)

ahh, the sweet Danish prince. i was a lot more into him when i was young and brooding ;-)

Second, the attempt to avoid the recursive tautological dilemma of naïve realism invariably leads to a presumption of the existence of an extra-real, because outside the objective reality, first cause or prime mover; i.e., to avoid U=U and its tautological insufficiency vis-à-vis meaning and value, a meaningful G in some form is imagined to exist outside “the rest” of objective reality that will give meaning to the World. These in conjunction will lead to a philosophical idealism in practice, or to philosophical subjectivity misconstrued as objectivity, or else to philosophical relativism — i.e., ultimately to nihilism, since meaning and value, rather than existing inherently in objective reality, will be found in extra-real or imaginary realities, subjective meanings, imagined relationships, and so forth, and these may begin to appear arbitrary.

hmm. do i agree? i happen to believe in an extra-real, but is that necessarily my guarantee of any objective world? i believe there is an objective world (realism metaphysic) but am skeptical (epistemology) about our ability to know it (in the justified true belief sense). therefore, am in on the hook for your criticism here? they don't seem to apply to me, though maybe it is arbitrary (unprovable, philosophically) in the end. i'd be ok with that ;-)

N's 'God is dead', as you describe it, is, of course, very valuable.

so, which of these labels do we apply to Nietzsche? was he just a critic (valuable, but limited) or did he espouse something? does his philosophy have positive, constructive content?

Saturday, January 29

Notes: The Problem with Sparta

Ok, I give up. I was going to write a full-fledged paper on this, then I got three new video games for Christmas. Time to just cut bait.

So here are some of the ideas and notes, for posterity.

The Problem with Sparta (and Greece)

300 (original graphic novel by Frank Miller and better-known movie)
Gates of Fire, Steven Pressfield
The Peloponnesian War, Thucydides
A War Like No Other, Victor Davis Hanson
Sailing the Wine-Dark Sea, Thomas Cahill

The fiction glorifies Sparta while the non-fiction is more critical than laudatory. I was struck by how much the fictional Sparta, in three stories I really love, did not match the history I'd been studying.

Did Pressfield make his story more palatable to his readership by soft-pedaling Helot slavery, radical conservatism and aristocracy, oligarchy and homosexuality and pederasty?

We moderns are very critical of the real, historical Sparta. Insofar as it stands in for Greece in the fiction above, it's an inaccurate portrayal. To say nothing of all the problems with our view of the Golden Age of Athens...

Friday, January 28

A Few Reviews

Happened across some Orson Scott Card reviews recently that I liked pretty well. Here they are:

Strokes and Scott Pilgrim

Tangled, Conversations, Gelato, Zagat

Prince of Persia, Medium Season Finale

Tame Dragons and Hornblower (How to Tame Your Dragon and Horatio Hornblower)