Friday, September 30, 2005

Free: Opera Browser

I should probably mention that the Opera browser is free now. I doubt Opera is motivated by alturism (I don't think they were making money off the desktop market anyway), it would be a worthy download since I still believe it is likely the best browser on the market.

Unmodified, FireFox isn't a big deal compared to Opera, but I have my FF customized big-time. If you are looking for an alternative to Internet Explorer (or if it broke), I would suggest Opera if you want a stock browser, and switch to FireFox if you want to add features or customization (or if you feel like bucking the system). Either way, I recommend avoiding Internet Explorer unless you absolutely must use it.

Thursday, September 29, 2005

Gah! Hebrew is Difficult!

Just figured I would vent. I did quite well on my first Hebrew Exam. I thought I was doing pretty well since the exam went O.K. I got a little concerned when we started covering interrogatives and personal pronouns, but I got that after a few attempts. But then we got to pronominal suffixes... gah!

There's my progress so far. The class meets Monday and Wednesday evening, and we've been covering a chapter each class for five weeks now. That does not leave much time between Monday and Wednesday to learn new material! I have to budget my time and get ahead on Mondays. *sigh*

I have asked myself several times, "why learn Hebrew?" After all, it is not as though the text is seriously in dispute, and I know of no actual translation issues; it's been long enough that the issues are settled by now, right? But each time I ask myself that, an unsolicited answer comes up, usually in class, where the teacher illustrates something that you just don't see in a translation.

One good example is the play on words between 1 Samuel 2:27 through the end of chapter, where the word for "weighty" is variously translated honor, glory, or heavy as appropriate. The fact that Eli considered his sons more "weighty" than God, and Eli was a "heavy" man and broke his neck, and the "glory" of Israel departed with Ark... It is interesting to see the narrative tied together by a single, unifying word.

That is why I'll continue studying; I want to see and understand these things in order to better proclaim, "Look at what God is saying to us!"

Domestic Peace

I woke up at 07:30 and stayed in bed, enjoying the company of my (unconscious) wife and the comfort of our bed. There’s something sublimely satisfying for a man to wake up next to his wife. She is so very beautiful to me.
With snoozing felines sprinkled around the room and our faithful canine stationed at the door, the vision that greeted my senses was that of a tranquil, domestic peace. Every man should wake up next to his wife and feel this way!

Monday, September 26, 2005

Random Thoughts

I updated the post on Vito's First Meal with a video.

I got home early tonight since my Hebrew professor lets us leave after we are finished with an exam; I finished, so I left. That gives me the time that I have lacked recently to make a more thoughtful entry that is not entire devoted to domesticated mammals.

I try to be transparent in my everyday life. I avoid compartmentalizing my life as much as possible; I don't stop being a computer nerd when I am with friends, in school or at church, and I don't stop being a Christian when I'm shopping, at a client or at work. I do try to leave my job behind when I leave the office, but I try to be me, everywhere.

If you ask me, "how are you?", I try to give you a real answer, not just a monosyllabic "fine". As such, when I was asked this morning how my weekend went, I quickly narrated the most pertinent experience of my weekend, which involved reassuring my lovely wife that we would get through her illness together.

My B.A. in Psychology influences my thinking a great deal, often on the subconscious level. When I was related the experience I noted above, I explained the precursors in terms of Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs. In short, people look for basic necessities such as shelter and food before they seek out psychological fulfillment or intellectual curiosities. I think that Cathy's quiet demand for reassurance is both justified and a good sign. Now that her body is getting somewhat better, she actually has the mental energy to concern herself with her psyche. That is a very good thing.

Much to my disappointment, I returned to an empty apartment. I believe that Cathy and her mom have taken Koda (photo) to the vet. It is amazing how much of my comfort at home is tied up with the presence of my wife. Which, I suppose, is why I am blogging right now.

It was a few days ago that we celebrated Cathy's mom's birthday. As Cathy is almost exactly 20 years (19 years 10 months) younger than her mom, when I wished Rhonda a happy birthday, Cathy thought I had miscalculated. She honestly thought she was two years younger than she is (true age withheld to ensure continued attachment of my limbs). But, from what I have read recently, the age gap between Cathy and me should not concern her; it certainly doesn't concern me.

So much of my time is occupied by attempting to learn that I rarely have time to just sit and think. Most of my thinking is done on the road, lying in bed, while showering, waiting in line, painting a wall... you get the idea. When I find myself engaged in an activity that requires only a fraction of my attention, my mind begins to process all the ideas that store up in my brain.

Naturally, I set aside time to think on very specific things. I have set time aside to consider material that I have read and how I can apply my new knowledge. But that is not terribly satisfactory for the most part, as it is simply too task-oriented. I need temporal room for my mind to play. Blogging fulfills that as it allows me to place some thoughts on a more permanent media than my short-term memory, and it allows me to defrag my brain.

I am looking forward to preaching again; my previous endeavors were sincere and empassioned, but they lacked focus and purpose. My recent time in class has given me material for improvment which I desire greatly to employ.

If the Lord is willing, we will finally have the apartment ready for rent. The flooring is finally getting installed tomorrow after much delay. I will then embark upon a rapid construction project of installing cabinates and plumbing fixtures. My mother-in-law has been instrumental in finishing the painting while I have played catch-up last week, and I am truly grateful.

Ah... the girls have returned. Cathy has some Baskin Robbins sundae. À bientôt!

Sunday, September 25, 2005

Cathy's Recovery Not THAT Fast

Cathy is not feeling well today and won't be going to church with me. The poor girl has had a headache since Friday morning, and today it is really bad. Cathy thinks she is still improving, and I think her body may be acclimating to the the side-effects from the treatment themselves. *sigh*

Your continued prayers would be appreciated.

Saturday, September 24, 2005

Vito's First Meal

Vito ate his first meal tonight! As soon as Cathy offered him a taste of semi-solid food from the finger and led Vito to the plate, he just started chowing down! He got food all over his little chin!

Update: Here's the video of the event...

Friday, September 23, 2005

Oliver Watching Over Vito

Oliver Watching Over Vito

Cathy pointed out that our "doggedly dog-like dog" was not being given equal exposure on the blog... He's quite protective of the kitten. That's a pretty good (though indistinct) image of Oliver's attentions to Vito.

First Fangs and Litter Boxes

Vito is growing quickly, as all kittens should. He's more playful now and is increasingly energetic.

Cathy did manage to get a photo that show's Vito's first fang! You'll have to click on the photo for the enlarged version; just squint, it's there (no, really!). And here's Cathy impressing upon Vito the importance of covering your tracks. :-)

Tuesday, September 20, 2005

Vito Update

Vito grew his first tooth! It's a lower fang, and it appears other teeth are also coming in. I can't really get him to hold his mouth open, so I can't show you... but Cathy swears he has grown since last night!

What a Privilege

I had taken the day off to work on the apartment remodel, but the rain and lightning is preventing me from painting or replacing the electrical outlets. I suppose God wants me to focus on my new preaching class and my Hebrew midterm.

I was at the library for a couple of hours today, perusing commentaries and other reference materials. Several times, as I was moving between rooms of the library, I noted that the walls were inscribed with Scripture and was nearly moved to tears. It hit me again as I was reading a sermonic commentary, and again as I left the library.

Previously, the reverence I felt before preaching struck fear in me; I know I am inadequate for the task. Yet today, as God made time for my training, my fears and my anxiety were replaced by an assurance of God's providence.

I am being prepared to do a grand thing, to preach the Word of God! How awesome a task to prepare for! I feel unworthy, and therefore priveleged to be called to preach.

I feel like crying again. Back to studying.

Hebrew & Preaching Progress

I thought it may be interesting to visually track my progress of learning Hebrew. Here's a screenshot of what I can read of Genesis 1:1 so far:

I was leaving my Hebrew class when I ran into my Homiletics teacher; I'm in! That's both good news and bad news... The good news is that I get to take the class for credit, but the bad news is that my school workload just doubled. :-O

I was sixth in line on the waiting list for the Saturday class, but I had asked to sit in on the class anyway, and the professor agreed. His student drop rate is very low, so I didn't expect to get in. But a student in the Monday class dropped, and a Saturday student transferred to Monday, so I got in (since the other five didn't stick around)! Yeah! and Yikes! Better buy books quick...

Monday, September 19, 2005

Introducing Vito the Kitten

This is Vito, the new kitten that Cathy is hand-raising for the cat shelter. We just picked him up yesterday. He's is likely almost three weeks old. Some very kind people found him in their back yard. He had a cat mother until 5 days ago, when his mom just disappeared. The very nice people took the little kitten into their home, but cannot keep him due to family allergies. :-(

Well, they gave Cathy a call, and we picked him up. His hosts had named him "Evita" as he was crying so much. At first, we thought the name should be Evita, but as it turns out, all most orange tabbies are male (and all calicos are females); closer inspection verified his gender. Since the meaning of Evita is related to Eve ("life-giving"), we renamed him "Vito". It sounds manly and tough, doesn't it?

Vito has an excellent start. His immune system should be quite strong as he lost his mother well after receiving two weeks of milk. His eyes were just barely beginning to open when he was found abandoned for a day. Vito is already struggling mightily to walk around and has begun to play. He had the runs and fleas, but an adjustment to his diet and some cleaning will take care of these things. He should be ready to potty train shortly, so we probably will not have him around for more than a month before he finds a new home. That's good, as we shouldn't get too attached in that period.

It is cute watching the other critters interact with Vito. While we are keeping them separated for a time, the other cats and the dog are being allowed to observe vito from a distance. Zechariah has taken to guarding the new kitten, and Oliver watches over Vito as well. Malachi is curious but unconcerned. Fanny, however, feels mildly threatened by the newest baby in the family; I guess she wants to keep the status of youngest cat; everybody loves on the youngest cat! :-)

Friday, September 16, 2005

Update on Zechariah

Cathy called me this afternoon from thet vet. She had taken the cats for their boosters and a checkup. Zechariah now weighs a healthing 9.9 lbs! The average cat is 10 lbs.

This is a great increase from the 8 lb 8 oz she was after her surgery in December. For the longest time, Zachy-Pooh had a skinny little butt, and now she's got a normal hiney. :-)

Tuesday, September 13, 2005

Searching for Hurricane Katrina Survivors

People have complained that the Internet is too accessible. Many web sites have popped up trying to help, but searching through them all is a pain.

Google is doing it's part as a search engine company by adding a special search at that only searches public databases of Hurricane Katrina-related web sites.

The only other search engine to do so is Lycos, and they are unfortunately no longer a major player...

Also try these two website that attempt to automatically combine information from the dozens of refugee listing sites into a single search database: Katrina Safe and Katrina List. Now that's a good use of technology!

Google Katrina search
Lycos Katrina search
Katrina Safe
Katrina List

Monday, September 12, 2005

Change, Change, Change...

My lovely wife, Cathy, is proud of me. I know because she told me herself. She is proud of me for being able to do all that is asked of me right now. I told her that people do it all the time, but she's proud of me anyway. Between her being sick, me being in school, working, changing jobs, remodeling, and having mom moved back in with us, she thinks I've got a lot on my plate.

OK, yes, I have a lot on my plate. But, let me say that I know that I am blessed. In every way, things always work out for good. I often wish I were carefull to record all the blessings that God reveals to me through daily life, but, alas, I fall down in the regard.

It's official: I'm switching jobs. I'm not changing companies, but I am changing departments. Formerly, I "made stuff work;" I am currently a Systems Engineer. If it doesn't print, or can't let you logon, you call me. Or, at least, you called me. Soon, however, I will be learning accounting to the end of training our clients. Ultimately, I will be a traveling trainer, going to locations to setup a computer system (which I do now), help a client get their buisness running, and train them in daily operations. Yikes. I alternate between going "woah, cool" to "woah, what've I done?" I think it is the right choice, though.

I learned today that my laptop is simply not powerful enough to run our software. I also got a demonstration of how true my hardware advice to others tends to be; if you want a performance boost, add memory. I doubled my laptop's memory and everything ran sooo much faster.

I've learned the Hebrew noun system as of yesterday. My vocabulary is limited, of course, but learning Hebrew isn't as bad as everybody makes it out to be. In terms of nouns, it is actually easier than Greek. I have a feeling, though, that the verbs are going to hurt...

The remodeling continues... I've been doing it almost entirely on my own, although I've had sporatic (paid) help from friends and family. The flooring will (please, God) get installed next week, and I will rapidly install the fixtures and the kitchen. If the Lord is willing, I will be able to rent it out (finally!) for October 1st. As much work as I'm putting into it, it will be very nice, and we're probably not asking enough for it; whoever our new tenants are, I think they will be blessed.

A change for the better: Cathy appears, at long last, to be acclimating to the Hep-C treatments. Normally, Cathy feels lousy all day Saturday and Sunday, then just bad and aching on Monday and Tuesday, but by Thursday she's back to "normal." This week, however, she's feeling on Monday how she's normally feeling by Thursday morning. That is a huge improvment, and we praise God for it. I am hoping the trend holds!

I think mom is getting used to living with us again, and we're getting used to having her around again. Being "just the two of us" was nice, but I think it is more important to honor our parents.

Finally, as proof of God's goodness, I came across this post about Zechariah, from when I was convinced I was going to lose her. She is a healthy cat now, and she's even gained weight and no longer has a skinny butt!

Praise the Lord, for He is good!

Saturday, September 10, 2005

SG-1 & Wormhole physics

Stargate SG-1 thought: have you ever wondered why StarGate Command arrays their defense units in front of the Stargate instead of behind it? OK, it makes sense to stage a mission from in front of the Stargate, but why put persons in front of it if they can be shot by incoming fire?

Wormhole physics (per StarGate SG-1) appears to indicate that matter can go pass the event horizon (thus you can see through the gate from the back when a wormhole is established), so objects traversing the field of the wormhole from the back should come out the front, right? Or would it merely be converted to energy? or just repelled?


Fanny & Malachi

Here's an adorable photo of Malachi, our "middle child." She is so totally cat calendar material!

Here's Fanny doing the two of the three things she does best, sleeping and being cute (the third is eating).

And, finally, being cute together. Awww!!

Friday, September 09, 2005

Dig a Really Deep Hole...

Ever wonder where you'd end up if you dug a hole straight through the Earth's core? Now you can find out.

Update: page moved to

Cat Photo Blog

I was poking around the Blogger sites and came across this "my favorite people are cats" blog. They've got cute cat photos that (almost) rival the cuteness of my kitties. It makes me want to post more photos!

Here's Caleb and Koda, my mom-in-law's two cats. You hardly ever see Koda as he is always hiding, but I guess that can be cute in a way.

Malachi and Zechariah are getting along with the new cats fine. Fanny (not pictured) is starting to play with Caleb! Zachy-Pooh is starting to gain back her normal weight; every once in a while she lets her papa massage her entire body and check for weird bumps, and there are none, thank God!

Wednesday, September 07, 2005

News: Roy Hallums Freed!!

Roy Hallums, held hostage since 11/01/2004 in Iraq, has been freed by U.S. troops! (related stories)

I happen to know Susan Hallums. I'm sure the family is elated!

Monday, September 05, 2005

Some Personal Reflections

this is an audio post - click to play

It is true that I recognize the dynamic tension between a sober judgment of myself and the notion that God will not rebuke me for being imperfect. But the upward draw of being mature and complete is difficult to reconcile with the marred image that I bear. I do not feel that I represent God well at all, and it is this conflict that drives me. I would not say that it depresses me, but it does sober me a great deal.

Sunday, September 04, 2005

I'm All Blogged Up

I just told my wife I'm all caught up, or "all blogged up"... which she thinks sounds like a medical condition. :-)

Mom-In-Law Back For A While

For those of you that know Rhonda, my mother-in-law is staying with us again. She moved back to California Friday evening and showed up during my lunch break on Saturday. We get one hour for lunch in my preaching class, and I decided to run home to check on Cathy for a few minutes. While I was home, Cathy said her mom would be dropping off her cats and picking up Oliver. Then she showed up!

The story, as I gathered later, is that my brother-in-law and his best friend drove up to Arizona and moved her back to California. They got going late, and they ran out of time and had to unload Rhonda's stuff in Palm Desert before all the storage places closed.

So mom (Rhonda) heads up on the mountain to Idyllwild, where there are camp grounds, but all the campgrounds were full. She ended up sleeping overnight in her car with her two cats. The plan was to camp out for a month while she got a job and found a place to live, but that did not work out.

In order to give herself a small measure of security, she wanted to pick up our dog. Also, since the cats would be cooped up in the car, she wanted to drop them off with us. After hearing this story, we invited her to stay for the month instead of camping.

Rhonda was soooo happy to hear that, since sleeping in her car really kinda scared her. So, she's with us right now. In fact, we just gone done eating dinner. We've cleared some space in the office and I've moved all my tools and the shelving into the tool shed.

I think having Cathy's mom living with us for the month that Cathy is on disability is providential. If these things were going to happen anyway, mom being homeless and Cathy being on disability at the same time is actually quite convenient. Rhonda has a place to stay, and Cathy has company and some help around the house. Is God good and wise, or what?

Preaching is like...

"A sermon is like last Thursday's dinner: you can't remember what it was, but it did the job at the time." I learned this and other interesting things in my Expositional Preaching class. Actually, I'm not really in the class per se, but the professor is letting me attend in case somebody drops out of the class.

Why preach? While preaching isn't the only important job in a church, it is what most people remember about visiting a church. When you say, "Honey, what did you think about that church we visited?" your spouse will think first of the sermon, then the worship and other ministries.

Why preach? Another reason is that it is cost-effective; you can influence more people at once for God's kingdom. Also, there are some things that can be said in the anonymity of a service that people may not accept when you say it to their face.

Why preach? Because, like it or not, good preaching is the daily food that feeds the congregation. They may not remember it next week, but it "fed" them. Bad preaching could be compared to mac-and-cheese or TV dinners, I suppose...

That is why preaching is important and should take up a large portion of a pastor's time. When I've prepared sermons in the past (I've only preached twice, although I've prepared several more sermons), I have spent no more than 15 hours on a 30-minute message. My professor suggests that anything less is doing a disservice to the congregation as well as the Word of God; he thinks good sermon preparation will take closer to 20 hours.

I'll be preparing two sermons this semester... I sure hope I get better (I'm confident I will) because of this class. even if I don't get course credit for it, I think the time will be worth it.

I did ask how important preaching is to the health of a congregation. In a large congregation, in the absense of a pastor, good preaching is critical to maintaining church health. In a small body, if there is a strong sense of community, good preaching will certainly help, but its absense will not kill thebody. A small congregation without a strong idenitity will disolve quickly without good preaching.

New Orleans Satellite Maps

Google has an updated New Orleans satellite view via Google Maps Katrina. It is interesting to compare the damage to the hybrid map view.

While much of the attention has been focused on New Orleans, Hurricane Katrina also badly damaged Biloxi and other parts of the Gulf Coast. Here's some "before and after" satellite images.

Thursday, September 01, 2005

Beeping at Three in the Morning

It's 3 in the morning, and I'm hearing a beeping sound... it keeps going on, like a smoke alarm or something. Finally I get out of bed and discover that that the neighbor's dumpster, at the end of the alley, is pile full of junk and construction trash. This pile of trash was beeping.

It's a little dark out, and I stood there staring at the beeping pile of junk, struggling to comprehend the situation in a state of incomplete consciousness. Finally, I decided I wasn't going to climb through junk at three in the morning, so I called the Orange Country Sheriffs. Within 15 minutes they were out there and the beeping stopped shortly thereafter.

While Cathy and I lay in the darkness discussing the excellent response time of the sheriffs and the crazy nature of people dumping trash in the wee hours of the morning, I decided on a new explitive that I shall being using. Instead of "darning" things or saying "gosh darn it!" I will henceforth say, with deep emotion and great conviction, "Begadkephat!"

Hurrican Katrina and a New Orleans Survivor Blog

I had previously mentioned places you can donate to help with Hurricane Katrina relief. Just so you know, Samaritan Purse is already on location and on the job.

If you want to see how things are in downtown New Orleans, try reading this blog. It's a tech who works at an ISP, and is trapped in the building. There's a link to a web cam on the page as well as photos, if you are so inclined.

The Red Cross is still staging equipment, but if you want to donate to the Red Cross, Lowes Home Improvement is matching donations dollar-for-dollar up to $1 million; locate a Lowes store here.

While this may seem unimportant to some, if I were in New Orleans, I would hope that somebody would rescue my pets, so don't forget about the Humane Society.