Monday, January 31, 2005
I am still taking classes for my master's degree. My interests are somewhat pioneering for my school, and my academic advisor and I had worked out a plan to accomplish the education I would require for my goals. Apparently, however, my path leads me through two disciplines at the university I attend, and it would require the cooperation of the head of two schools.
Since my academic advisor was the head of one school, he spoke with the head of the other school and laid out my plans and ambitions. They both agreed that my goals were worthy of pursuing, and they worked something out.
Two semesters ago I began taking classes in the second master's program. The registrar’s office was concerned with my class selections, but after discussing the issue with the various department heads my classes were allowed. This happened both semesters, and I decided that there was likely a communication problem, but I was not too concerned.
Well, this semester I went to sign up, and once again the registrar noticed that I was crossing disciplines. I had also failed to drop a class last semester (stupid me) that I never attended. The dean of the registrar got involved due to the (not) dropped class and cancelled my registration. After trading emails with a half-dozen people simultaneously, explaining that I had done this for a year now, and what the goal was, I sat back and waited to hear from somebody.
A busy couple of weeks go by. I go to NC for work, come back and play catch-up with life and my job, and noticed that, oh my, classes are beginning this week! Having received no correspondence, I emailed for an update. A short message from the dean of the registrar indicated that he had spoken with my academic advisor, who, by the way, agreed with the registrar that I could not take these classes. I was advised to go back to my original master's degree path and register for classes.
That felt like a kick to the head, or the gut, with a nice, steel-toed boot.
What I do not understand is why my advisor would agree with the registrar? He helped me develop this selection of classes, and was (marginally) involved in the last two semesters. Now it appears I may have squandered time and money toward my degree. *argh*
Friday, January 28, 2005
This is troubling to many people who believe in God, and Christians are no exception. Since I have come to the conclusion that Christianity has the greatest merit in terms of explanatory power and logical cohesion, and given my existential experiences, I have also had to deal with this issue as a Christian.
The question is much easier to address if you already believe in God.
Essentially, at worst a believer considers suffering a mystery that will be solved in the future, when all things are restored to a right relationship with the Thing Maker. I have a fair degree of acceptance with the notion of suffering in the world. While suffering causes me to feel compassion and compels me to what action I can and do take, it does not lead me to question the existence of God.
If you do not believe in God, or just never got around to addressing the issue of the meaning of life and the reality of the hereafter, the question "why does X happen" can be posed in genuine intellectual curiosity. However, it can also be an emotional response. Since both the intellect and the emotions are involved in belief, I believe such queries are valid. But the question, asked two different ways, are essentially two questions.
An intellectual "if God why X" can be addressed with logic and philosophy. It is a general, "why does X happen at all?" question. An emotional "if God why X" would likely stem from personal loss and pain, and it is likely a far more restrictive "why did X happen to me or my loved ones?" type of question.
At this point, I seek only to answer the intellectual question. I do not think that personal pain can be addressed just by a post. Personal pain requires a personal response, and the path to healing is different from the path to intellectual enlightenment. It is necessary to take great care to weep with those who weep, rather than to try to answer all the question of a human being in pain. Answers may well have to wait until the tears have subsided.
For the intellectual questioner, "if God why X" can be answered along the lines of my previous post in Philosophy and Religion. Essentially, God is also just (that is, honorable and fair, morally right), and a just God must allow for free agents to choose their own course of action freely. Humans are not perfect, and we do not always desire what is best for all mankind. Thus we see human suffering at the hands of other free moral agents. The rest of creation reflects such a corruption of its intended purpose.
It is my belief that, once a person has had enough history behind their lives, they may begin to see the corruption inherent to their beings and seek something better and purer. The Creator will allow all creation to run its course as well, and then when He correct Creation and restores it to its origianl beauty, then every being that exists will be able to fulfill the original destiny it was created for, and the created will also bring no more harm or pain.
But I believe we can begin that journey now. Restoration is available through God, and you can experience that now.
If there are specifics that anybody would like to address, let me know and I will respond systematically.
Thursday, January 27, 2005
Google purchased Picasa, hoping to boost it's blogging service, and is now offering their latest version of Picasa for free. It's a pretty sweet application suite, and the intergration with Blogger.com is good, too, although I've not decided whether I'm going to switch over.
And if you want a photo and slideshow program, try Microsoft Photostory 3. I haven't used this as much, but just about everything I've heard says it is worth the download.
Wednesday, January 26, 2005
I started with CF cards when Wifey-Pooh bought me the oh-so-wonderful Compaq iPaq. I migrated to SD cards when I bought my first digital camera. I would love to get a couple of 512 MB or 1 GB Sandisk SD cards with the built-in USB connector. Man, that is truly desireable!
I listen to music when I am performing monotonous chores alone. I would love to get a pair of Sony MDR-NC11 Noise Canceling Headphones. Some people cannot stand earbuds (Wifey-Pooh, for example) but I do not mind them and they more-or-less stay securely in my ear canal. But at $149.99... yikes, I think I'll hold off. Maybe the Sony MDR-G94NC Noise Canceling Headphones at $69.99 would fit my sensitive wallet better.
Protect yourself from Phishers
Some people are fans of Internet browser toolbars. Here's one that I think is handy, which I would recommend to most computer users. Netcraft offers a free toolbar to protect you from phishing attacks.
Remove Common Viruses
Also, Microsoft has release a new Malicious Software Removal Tool for Windows 2000 & XP users. You can run this online, and I would recommend you do this on the 15th of each month, as the tool is updated on the second Tuesday of each month. For those of you interested in an alternative, also try McAfree Stinger or the avast! Virus Cleaner.
I looked at several book clubs, and the best deal seemed to be www.mysteryguild.com. The book clubs I looked at all offered hardback only. The inital cost was acceptible; I could walk away with 10 books with nothing left to buy at $5.89 each. Long term, however, the books averaged closer to $8.89 each, even when purchased in large quantities. If I wanted hardback books, I would probably have purchased the entired line of "Cat Who..." books from Mystery Guild over two membership subscriptions (subscribe, buy, get out, they want you back, buy, get back out), but Books-A-Million was still cheaper.
That'll keep Wifey-Pooh buried in reading for a while...
Tuesday, January 25, 2005
Well, Wifey-Pooh discovered Lilian Jackson Braun's series of "Cat Who..." novels. There's 25 of them so far, and she's eating them up like they are M&M's or somethnig.
So, either I can buy them at a discount for $5.95 each online ($148.75 total) or buy them individually and pay tax. Otherwise, I could go to www.half.com and buy them used, but somehow I don't think that will fly.
I'm hoping for a discount from BAMM as they are the least expensive online bookstore I've found that sells brand-spanking-new books... *sigh*
If anyone reading this has an idea, I'd love to hear it.
Rental Plan Cost DVDs Limit/month
Netflix 2 at a time $11.99 2 4
Wal-Mart Double Feature $12.97 2 Unlimited
Wal-Mart Standard $17.36 3 Unlimited
Blockbuster 3 at a time $14.99 3 Unlimited
Netflix 3 at a time $17.99 3 Unlimited
Wal-Mart Plus $21.94 4 Unlimited
Blockbuster 5 at a time $27.49 5 Unlimited
Netflix 5 at a time $29.99 5 Unlimited
Blockbuster 8 at a time $37.49 8 Unlimited
Netflix 8 at a time $47.99 8 Unlimited
Both BB and NF offer 14-day trials. WM offers a 30-day trial. BB also gives you two in-store rental coupons a month, and that has come in handy. From what I hear, Netflix has a better selection of obscure titles, but NF new releases are hard to get after your membership honeymoon period.
I've used Wal-Mart's Double Feature plan in the past, and frankly it suited the Joneses' pace of DVD consumption just fine. I don't see the point of getting Netflix unless you need to obscure titles, and their turn-around time does seem to be a day shorter at times. For the cost-conscious, I'd go with Wal-Mart. Otherwise, Blockbuster kinda takes the cake on DVD rentals so far, especially since I live in 20 miles from a BB distribution center.
There's no way for me to gain from referring you to these services (that I am aware of), so consider this an impartial opinion.
Monday, January 24, 2005
The passage that prompted my consideration is from James chapter 1, verse 26
If someone thinks he is religious yet does not bridle his tongue, and so deceives his heart, his religion is futile.
While I was in NC, I worked long hours, but had trouble sleeping at night due to both the time change and the separation from my family. I tend to tinker with information when I find myself bored, and I happened to come across a definition for the "f word" on www.reference.com. While I always doubted the "for unlawful carnal knowledge" explaination, I had not found an authoritative reference up until now.
It got me thinking (and I had a LOT of time for that last week) about language and its uses, especially in light of the passage I was studying. What makes a word a cuss word? If words are merely symbols attached with a commonly accepted meaning, then what makes one word offensive and another acceptible?
And why do they tend to be four letters, anyway?
I think most words considerd to be vulgar have suffer from perfjoration, and commonly the words are interpreted in a sexual nature or for the humiliation of others. For the most part, obscenity I am able to tolreate, although I find it unpleasant. Profanity, on the other hand, I cannot stand for. I tend to view individuals who punctuate their speech with obscenity and profanity for expletives as less articulate (correctly) and even less intelligent (not necessarily).
Wifey-Pooh and I agree that expletives contribute to such a perception, so we have resovled to become accurate in our communication. Instead of "this sucks" I will likely state "this is highly unpleasant" or "that is unfortunate". The meaning is just so much more clear.
Although I doubt James was referring to accuracy in communication, I believe that the careful avoidance of obscenity and profanity is part of the meaning. More likely, James was referring to the meaning we convey, whether our speech is littered with expletives or not. Thus, speaking articluately and with clear meaning with a calm demeanor does not absolve me from injuring someone with my words. After all, the notion of "would you kiss your mother with that mouth" also applies to whether one should praise God with the same tongue.
Friday, January 21, 2005
Did you know that New Bern, North Carolina is the birthplace of Pepsi? Caleb Bradham was the pharmacist that formulated Brad's Drink, which became Pepsi-Cola after 1898. They still have a bottling plant in New Bern, at 3610 MLK Blvd. Ironically, Coca-Cola has a plant at 3710.
Did you know that North Carolina was "first in flight?" Not that everybody agrees, since the Wrights apparently hail from Dayton, Ohio, which claims (probably correctly) to be the "Birthplace of Aviation". From what I read, it is now official. The debate apparently rages on, as you can see in this humorous video (requires Real Player). Here's a little more info on the Wrights themselves.
Aside from that, NC was not terribly exciting. Long, flat drives between locations, and not much to photograph, although there were an awful lot of Free Will Baptist churches. New Bern has a Super Wal-Mart! And that's about it.
Thursday, January 20, 2005
The short answer is "no, I do not believe that a perfect deity would create imperfectly."
For the long answer, I think it would be useful to clarify the standards for perfection. For example, how would you answer, "What is a perfect deity like?"
I think part of the question of "why would God create this?" depends upon how you describe a perfect God. That would, in turn, describe a perfect creation and whether it had a purpose.
Of course, it would probably be advisable to define "God." The question, as it was posed, asked about "a perfect deity," which is by definition God, since there can only be one "perfect deity."
When the question was originally posed, it seemed to me to presuppose that existence is flawed and has been from day one. If God does exist, then creation would be perfect, since a perfect deity that messes up is, well, no longer perfect, thus not the Sovereign God. An imperfect deity is merely a very powerful being, not the All-Powerful Being. If the question were posed as an argument, one could argue that since creation is not perfect, God does not exist.
A perfect deity could easily a world where everybody did exactly as they were told and never stepped out of line, where volition was suppressed, if not altogether absent. But a deity that creates only robots would not be as perfect as a deity that creates free creatures, right? And it seems clear that we have free will.
By what standard are we measuring perfection? Is a perfect life where there are no traffic jams, no "common cold" or toothaches, where nothing unpleasant, let along bad, ever happens? Is such a world possible with human free will?
I can't keep going on like this, so I'll summarize as follows:
God is perfect, so creation would have originated in a state of perfection, populated by free moral agents, orpersons. The presence of free will means potential (and actual) corruption of that perfection. Yet a perfect God would correct that corruption, thus allowing free creatures to voluntarily live free of corruption in harmony with God and others.Whew!! Get all that?
Monday, January 17, 2005
We usually meet with the Van Zwienens after church; even though we moved, we still attend our old church, and it's only about 30 minutes out of the way to see the VZs. We eat, talk, discuss philophy and religon and passages of the Bible, and, more recently, their plans to move to Florida. Since we had planned a trip to see my new niece on Sunday, we dropped in on Saturday, instead. That evening I put the sink in... sorta. I attached the vanity to the wall, cemented the counter top in place and actually got running water!
Since our church does not have an early service, we went to a church we'd never been to before. This church was larger, and they used digital projectors during the sermon, which always unnerves me for some reason.
Cathy and I spent a pleasant Sunday visiting Blakely Skye with the inlaws. She's a cute little baby girl, although still a little too new to this world to interact much with Uncle Lee. I've added a picture of here in the Friends & Family album.
I didn't get Monday off for MLK Day, oh well.
Friday, January 14, 2005
It's been a hard week at work. I'm a Computer Systems Engineer (sounds cool) by trade. I work with SCO UNIX and Microsoft Windows server operating systems. I'm in the System Integration department, so my job is primarily to "make it log on" or "make it print".
Or, as in the case of this week, if your server computer is ancient (by MTBFor service life standards), i.e. "more than 3-years-old", and you finally put it off so long that the probability of a disaster finally caught you, "(please) make it work again".
For performance alone, I would think three years is the useful service life of a hard disk. After three years, even if the server/desktop/laptop you are using is as fast as the day you got it, your perception will closely mirror the law of diminishing returns. Your computer will seem slower to you. Daily usage will slow performance, and Microsoft has some suggestions to counter that, but in the end, I find that disciplined maintenance still only staves off "Windows Rot" instead of eliminating it. Anyway...
I began the week with three server issues... one left from last Friday (I was waiting for a part to show up), one that got pawned off to me by another technician, and one that called out of the blue to announce, "I ran /etc/badtrk (bad track) in destructive mode and now it won't boot. Can you help me?"
An extremely long work week, hours of ergonomically frightening computing efforts and four days of headaches and backaches later, I now have all three clients back up and running. In the mean time, there are five new IBM xServers waiting to be staged for upgrades or fresh installations in my "office."
Next week, I'm supposed to travel to three locations to install some firewalls and set up a new system, and I'll probably work four straight twelve-hour days.
I get paid salary, by the way. :)
But I want to point out that, through it all, I get to come home every night to my lovely Wifey-Pooh, my adorable cats and my devoted canine. I get to shelter myself from the weather, eat well, spend time with my wife, pet my pets and sleep in a large, comfortable bed. I know who I am, the meaning of my existence, and I have reasons to live.
While I do not presume to have the answer to everything, I have a pretty good notion (just kidding, OK?).
Well, I'm off for the weekend. So Long, and Thanks For All the Fish.
Thursday, January 13, 2005
The question is so interesting and so important that people discuss it all the time. For example, PBS recently did a program entitled The Question of God, pitting Sigmund Freud and C.S. Lewis in a debate about the meaning of life.
I do not believe I can answer the question of suffering in one brief post. But, I do want to begin to address some comments I've received. Most of the questions in the comment seems to be along the lines of "how can you believe in a god when X is true?" As such, I would like to start by addressing the concept of belief.
The word "belief" does not tend to sit will with skeptics and critics. Perhaps more accurately, skeptics would object mostly to the concept of "faith," equating belief with faith. "Faith" seems to conjure the popular notion of some mental construct which does have proof or evidence, perhaps a belief held out of ignorance or superstition. Naturally, you and I would object to such "faith."
I will likely use the word "faith" quite frequently. As such, I should probably define it now. I think such a topic should engender discussion if there is interest, and I find myself interested in discussing it.
Faith involves three aspects:
Greg Koukl, a former atheist who set out to prove Christianity wrong, has already written a good article for Christians on the notion of faith, and it may benefit you to read it.
So I address the first question that was posed to me: why Christianity?
I grew up in a Chinese culture, so I am familiar with several Eastern religions. I knew many missionary kids, so I came to know Christianity, Catholicism (if you draw a distinction) and Mormonism. I was familiar with Hindu thought, so New Age mysticism in the U.S. was not strange to me.
Thus, the decision was not made by default... I had plenty of choices! But what gives Christianity more validity are twofold... first, it is falsifiable, and two, it has not been proven wrong.
Now, that assertion may strike you as preposterous, but I have seen much evidence for the veracity of Christianity. It is internally consistent, contains mysteries but no illogical concepts, has great explanatory power, and has tremendous testimonial witnesses to its truths.
I would expect that, if posted in a highly public forum, this would attract many demands for proof. And as I have stated before, I intend to answer any and all comments in an orderly fashion. Still, I hold no grand notions of a worldwide audience, so this may sit for a long time and come back to me years from now.
Monday, January 10, 2005
FedEx has a dizzing array of U.S. "services" which is both impressive and disheartening. Impressive, because Americans are by and large want choices, although our choices often show who we truly are. Disheartening, because none of the services seem to work particularly well, except perhaps the FedEx letter service.
Knowing that the package would be delivered on Saturday, I had called FedEx customer service to arrange for them to leave the package at a FedEx store. They indicated they would pass the message on to the driver. Great, right? Saturday comes, and I called customer service so I could see if my package arrived. Did you know that FedEx does not allow you to talk to an in-store employee by phone? I was unable to call the FedEx store which should have received my package, and customer service would not connect me. When queries as to why, the parroted answer was "it is corporate policy." I drove to the store, and (naturally) no package. Three days, four "customer service" representatives and one drive to FedEx later, and nobody can help me.
I know the name of my UPS driver. Is it any wonder I ship UPS whenever possible? I was reminded of Tom Hanks in Cast Away, yelling at FedEx employees, "(This package took) four days!...Our competition is killing us!" They'll gladly allow a moving to use their brandname in an airplane crash, but they won't let you call their offices... heh.
Wifey-Pooh and I were wondering why FedEx is so secretive about their location phone numbers when the conversation turned to what happened in Cast Away. What would we do in such a situaiton?
The odds of a plane crash killing me this year are about 310,000 to 1. Nonetheless, what if I was "Cast Away?" It is a weird scenario to consider, but it would not be unreasonable, after three years, to come back and find that Wifey-Pooh had remarried (despite her protestation that there is nobody else for her). Nobody would blame her, and I probably wouldn't re-introduce myself to her life.
This is what we settled on: Wifey-Pooh and I both want the other to remarry if one of us died, but we would probably not do so unless there were physical evidence of death. Otherwise, it could lead to the uncomfortable situation of "I've remarried, but I have not been divorced, so I need to leave you for my wife." Eeek!
Friday, January 07, 2005
Actually, I had the oven ready Wednesday evening. However, Cathy and I worked on the kitchen cabinets weeks ago. While the standard freestanding U.S. range needs a 30-inch opening, so that is what we made space for. However, little lips near the bottom of the cabinets (I'm not sure why they are there) prevented the stove from sliding in easily. I guess I should have left that extra 1/4" in there after all.
Anyway, I disconnected one cabinate and moved it over sufficiently to slide the oven in place, and voila, we have a lot more space now.
Next, top cabinets!
Thursday, January 06, 2005
And the hallway has bottom cabinates now. Yeah! I'll try to post some photos of the remodeling tomorrow.
Wednesday, January 05, 2005
Since I grew up in a Chinese culture, the predominant religious beliefs were
- Folk religion
- Agnosticism / Atheism
While I have friends who are Buddhists or into Feng-Sui, I could not accept the notion that "life is pain" and you can end your suffering via mental and societal discipline.
I grew up among Christians, or at least among the children of Christian missionaries, and frankly their conduct and behavior did not cause me to want to worship Jesus Christ.
I pondered Atheism, but the outlook was so bleak that I abandoned that rather quickly. First of all, the notion that there is no grounding reality, no God to look to, was too much for me; with no absolute, suicide seemed as logical as having supper. Secondly, I had seen too much unexplained phenomena to dismiss a spiritual reality.
Warning: this paragraph could be a little gory, you may want to skip it.
When I was about 13 or 14, we lived next door to a Chinese monk. During the Hungry Ghost Festival that year, the monk invited a god to possess his body as he marched in a procession. The physical harm I saw inflicted upon this man's body was terrible as the procession went by our house. The surrounding township watched the procession of dozens of monks, and as my neighbor danced down our street in a frenzy, cutting his back with a sword I had watched him sharpen, devotees struck him with spiked clubs and stabbed him through with shiny metal spikes. Yet as I watched the devotees rince him off with a hose and pull the metal spikes out of his back/chest and arms, he appeared comletely unharmed, though weakened by the apparent loss of blood. I didn't hang around his kids much after that.
Anyway, what I had seen caused some questions in my mind. So I tried to follow the philosophical Way of Taoism, which essentially teaches that you should unite with the source through detachment from the world. As a side note, I find it interesting Taoism teaches that "The Tao produced One; One produced Two; Two produced Three; Three produced All things." Taoism left me to my own recognisince, and frankly I was not up to the task.
Despite my experience as a child, I was a young man in high school when I became a Christian. When I encountered the Living God, or actually when He confront me, I became convinvced of my need for forgiveness, and my need for meaning and significance available through God Himself.
It may be my foreign background or religious experience that gives me unusual theological dispositions. Maybe I stared at the stars too much as a kid. But now I know who I am and why I live.
If you want meaning, belonging, and significance in your life, you need God. You need Him, and God is ready and waiting for you. Don't wait, you won't regret it.
Speaking of space, here's more on the Martian Sundial.
Have you ever seen those "zoom-in" video clips, where a movie scene shows the earth getting closer, then a continent comes into view, then you go through clouds and arrive over a land mass, which looks like an aerial photo, then there are freeways, then streets, then buildings and houses and trees, and then it zooms in on a person? When I looked up at the night sky of stars as a young man, I thought of "zooming out" and the thought was overwhelming.
I was reading last night, and felt pulled to read from the Book of Psalms, and I read the following in Psalm 8:
Tuesday, January 04, 2005
We have some really cool conversations.
Anyway, while scientists have argued whether the Martian sky is red or blue since the Viking lander touched down in the 1970s, NASA’s Mars Exploration Program’s camera images have not helped, as you can see from these two photos (Red Sky and Not-So-Red-Sky) from the Spirit Rover, which are identical except for their color hue. This shouldn’t be a problem anymore since the Spirit Rover has a color wheel which allows adjustment of combined images from the Pancam to true color. This is the Marsdial, a fascinating (to me) sundial mounted on a Rover, which is a moving platform.
Anyway, regardless of whether or not the sky is blue on Mars (and I would like to think it is), I still need to get home at a decent time. Later!
Monday, January 03, 2005
Note that race refers to biological aspect not in observable physical features but rather in such genetic characteristics as blood groups and metabolic processes. Thus, Caucasian does not exclusively mean 'white' or 'European' but rather 'belonging to the Caucasian race,' a group that includes a variety of peoples generally categorized as nonwhite. Depending on how you slice it, I'm either Asian or Caucasian, or both.
Anyway, that led me to wonder about why only three ancestry types, and whether there is an actual basis for this. It is interesting that most Asian languages share some similarities, and they say that if you know Chinese it is not difficult to learn Hebrew. There appears to be three major language origins (Wifey-Pooh's into Anthropology and stuff), as well. I found this interesting.
The notion of three races and languages, suggesting three original sources of the world's cultures and peoples is fascinating. It naturally caused us to think of Genesis 7:13 and the account of Noah and his three sons.
Speaking of the Flood... the Chinese word for a ship involves eight people on a boat. Go figure, huh?