Friday, December 29, 2006

In Saturn's Shadow

With giant Saturn hanging in the blackness and sheltering Cassini from the sun's blinding glare, the spacecraft viewed the rings as never before, revealing previously unknown faint rings and even glimpsing its home world.

This marvelous panoramic view was created by combining a total of 165 images taken by the Cassini wide-angle camera over nearly three hours on Sept. 15, 2006. The full mosaic consists of three rows of nine wide-angle camera footprints; only a portion of the full mosaic is shown here. Color in the view was created by digitally compositing ultraviolet, infrared and clear filter images and was then adjusted to resemble natural color.

The mosaic images were acquired as the spacecraft drifted in the darkness of Saturn's shadow for about 12 hours, allowing a multitude of unique observations of the microscopic particles that compose Saturn's faint rings.

Ring structures containing these tiny particles brighten substantially at high phase angles: i.e., viewing angles where the sun is almost directly behind the objects being imaged.
This is a really cool, actual photo of Saturn and Earth. Oh, you can see Earth, by the way, about 10 o'clock just outside the bright white rings. You can see medium-res images from the JPL site: color-exaggerated version and the original image. Chris Drost also put up a 1280×1024 version with touched-up colors, if you're into that...

If you want really large, hi-res images, see

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Looking Back over 2006

2006 has been a good year, I think. Let's see...

Looking Back

Looking back over this year, I think I am a blessed man. Cathy loves me; my lovely wife sent me flowers on our anniversary, and she hid a card for me (that I found months later). She survived the Hepatitis-C treatments, I remodeled an apartment, and we moved again (from apartment #2 to #1).

I also became a pastoral intern, got a laptop upgrade, a newer camera, and a Pocket PC (each at little or no cost to me). We visited Las Vegas, Seaworld, and (soon) Disneyland.

When it comes to family, we raised several kittens, kept one, and also had a new nephew born to us. Dad got hit by a car but survived (thank you, Lord). Life is generally very good, with a few bumps along the way, I think.

On the "maybe not so surprising" side, I never did watch "The Da Vinci Code" and none of my family (including extended family) owns an iPod.


Cathy is doing well. She got a MRI on 12/21/2006 and we should get results any day now; the test is to determine, in part, whether Cathy has signs of damage due to MS (multiple sclerosis). In general, she's gotten accustomed to the dietary requirements and enjoys relatively good health. It is true that her energy levels are lower and get depleted quicker than before, but we've made enough changes in our life to minimze the impact of such changes. The biggest thing is just going to bed earlier.

I am doing well, as well. I've got some aches from the continuous stress on my body from all the stuff I am engaged in, but God has been gracious and sustains me. It will actually be a relief to work full-time and take 9 units compared to what last semester was like!

I'm almost completely done with the remodel - I just have to finish the closets and get the carpets cleaned. I'm quite pleased with the job I've done; I've learned more than I bargained for, but the results were satisfactory. Whenever I wanted to quit, I tried to recall the verse that says "do everything as unto the Lord" and ask myself if I would ask Jesus to live here. Of course, if it were Jesus, I'd ask for some carpentry tips, especially with those doors... anyway, I've only got some closet doors to hang, and some smoke alarm batteries to replace, and I'm done.

We did get an excellent family as new tenants. This family is from our church and attends (both husband and wife) the same seminary I attend. They have a new baby and an indoor cat. He's in the Army National Guard and served in Iraq. She was in my small group over the summer. Amazing stuff, how God works.

I didn't send out Christmas cards this year, either. *sigh* I did call Taiwan and a few domestic family members, but basically we had a quiet Christmas at home. This year, everybody got See's Candy and gift cards. Oh, and Cathy got a new kitten, Boaz.

The week after Christmas is action-packed, though. There's work, as usual, then a day at Disneyland on Thursday (12/28), Seaworld on Saturday (12/30) and a family gathering on New Year's Eve.

Looking Forward

I should graduate in 2007. I've got 6 selective units to take, and several required courses before my graduation. I'm cramming in three elective units into the month of Janurary (Winter interterm), then another three-unit elective over the Summer interterm session. For the Spring inbetween, I'll have four classes during for a total of nine units (one class is zero units, go figure). For Fall, I only have a single Hebrew class to complete, and I'll graduate in December! Looking forward to that...

Cathy & I have been married going on ten years, now. I've got about two months to find a nice anniversary ring for Cathy. This is a big one, and I need to make a big deal about it... so I could use any ideas that you may have to contribute.

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Boaz: Welcome Home

Sometimes, a kitten will just steal Cathy's heart. Cathy fell in love with Boaz, which means we have a new kitten around the house. He's really been purring loud for Cathy and sleeping in her lap at every opportunity; perhaps that's how he wiggled his way into our family.

So, last night we ran him through the paces. We let Boaz sleep with us, and after tunneling in and out of the blankets for about 15 minutes, he finally settled down under the sheets between Cathy & I and slept through the night. We're accustomed to having one cat sleeping on either side of the bed (Fanny sleeps next to me, Malachi sleeps next to Cathy, and Zechariah wanders around the house all night). Now we have Boaz in the middle.

The cats tend to favor one "parent" over the other. I hope Boaz sticks with Cathy; she's wanted a tom for a while, now.

So, welcome home, Boaz!

Monday, December 18, 2006

Jason McElwain: an Inspirational Story

I saw this video about Jascon McElwain. He was born borderline autistic and loves basketball. That's about all I can say without ruining it; you'll have to watch it for yourself.

Friday, December 15, 2006

Free Christmas Music Downloads

So, I like Christmas music, and I like free stuff. It is only natural for me to look for free Christmas music downloads. For example, there's those Christmas Messages from Max Lucado.

As for music, howver, here's what I've found so far:
Feels Like Christmas has Christmas music, stories, coloring books... very nice.
Songs of Praise has artist-contributed music. They only ask that, if you use them commercially or in church, to help them make some money back by reporting to CCLI. Mostly instrumental, but that was what I wanted, anyway.
Gargage Band consists of indie bands, some of which are good and some rather pedestrian. Anyway, if you look for songs in the sub-genres 'Seasonal/Holiday' 'Christmas' you'll find a significant amount of music. For example, I found a version of 'O Come, O Come Emmanuel' I really liked.

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Jesus Christ: Superman?

Spoiler Alert: if you intend on seeing "Superman Returns,"
read no further.

So Cathy & I saw "Superman Returns." The movie was 2.5 hours long, yet we did not notice the passing of the time. We really enjoyed it, and I felt like there are numerous Christological references in the movie. Some were subtle, some were apparent, and I am convinced that the writer/producer intended for this effect.

I am sure I am not the first to make these observations, and there may be more, but here's a quick list of things that occurred to me:
  • Superman falls into his mother's arms like Michelangelo's Pietà
  • Superman has a deceased earthly father
  • Superman has a wilderness experience
  • Superman was sent as an only son (see below)
  • Superman refers to himself as a savior
  • Superman is beaten and stabbed in the side
  • Superman saves the world and falls with his arms and legs in the shape of a cross
Superman the only son: Superman recalls his father saying, "They can be a great people, Kal-El, they wish to be. They only lack the light to show the way. It is for this reason above all, their capacity for good, I have sent them you—my only son."

Superman the savior: Superman is flying with Lois over the city, and he asks her, "What do you hear?" Lois replies, "Nothing. It's quiet." Superman says, "I hear everything. You wrote that the world doesn't need a savior. But everyday I hear people crying out for one."

Superman's cross: Superman saves the world and falls with his arms and legs in the shape of a cross as he is falls back to Earth from the exosphere.

A quick Google search turned up this article entitled "The Spiritual Side of Superman Returns." It looks like the impression was quite deliberate. Interesting...

Side note: I prefer DC comics over Marvel. My favorite comic book characters are Spiderman, Batman, and Superman, usually in that order.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Making Your Blogger Beta Header a Graphic

I haven't spent much time in the HTML of my template (yet). However, I did want to know how to add a graphic as part of my header, perhaps a table with a graphic. There's a great solution I saw with a simple Google search which required only changing the template to NOT lock a template element. I wanted to know how to unlock template elements anyway, and I didn't want to actually modify the header widget in HTML file directly.

Anyway, I tried a work-around that doesn't require editing the HTML template at all. It occured to me that I could just put HTML where the header text would go. And, it worked.

When you edit your template (Dashboard > Template tab > Page Elements), click to edit your header. You can remove the Blog Description text completely if you like. In the Blog Title field, insert the HTML code for your image, with a 99-character limit, like <img src="" />

You should have, as a result, a header with a graphic in it. That's it. I still like the "unlock widget" method best, but this work-around requires no customizing at all.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Opinion on "The Break Up" Movie

Spoiler Alert: if you intend on seeing "The Break Up," read no further.
We saw "The Break Up" last night.

I hated it. If I want "real life" I'll watch reality television. When I watch a movie about romance, I either want "that's romantic" or "that was nice," not, "well, that sucked."

Just my $0.02

Monday, December 11, 2006

Update on Boaz the Kitten

click for larger version of Boaz
Boaz is getting to the adoptable age. The fact that we haven't talked about him much isn't due to any deficiency on his part... I've just been too busy.

Boaz has earned a couple of nicknames around here. First, I started calling him Squishy, because he was constantly underfoot, and often in the way of a closing door. Amazingly enough, Boaz hasn't gotten himself hurt yet. Second, Cathy started calling him Gimpster. Some time last week, he hurt his right front paw and limped a little. As soon as that was well, he hurt his left from paw, too. He's back to romping full speed now, but Gimpster kinda stuck.

Oh, and I love on him by calling him Squishy, picking him up, hugging him, and lightly massaging him. He loves it!

Here's a cute photo of him. He does remain stationary for extended periods of time during the afternoon and after dinner. He is soooo cute, we're actually tempted to keep him.

We may have to keep Boaz, actually. He peed on our bed once about four weeks ago. He hasn't done it since... but still. Also, Boaz is soooo playful, and he likes to nibble pretty hard. He hasn't bitten me, but Cathy says he come close to drawing blood on her. He needs another kitten to be with, so he'd have to go to a home with another young cat, and with no kids under kindergarden. *sigh*

Anywho, enjoy the photo... I have that as my desktop background right now.

Switching to the New Blogger

12/11/06 08:54 AM
I'm switching to the new version of Blogger. So... I'm saving a copy of my template. I'll add a post later to note anything I had to adjust to make things work.

12/11/06 10:34 AM
Click for animation (467k)

Well, that wasn't too painful... The template elements are easy to manipulate. Naturally, none of the customizations I did transferred across. However, I saved a copy of my previous template (which Blogger apparently saves for you anyway).

I love the new font and color controls... don't have time to make changes right now, but at least labeling will work better, now. I supposed I'll have to relable my previous posts...

12/11/06 10:46
Wow. Comments sure come up faster.

12/12/06 13:06
Tagging is easy... and fast. I've already re-tagged my entire blog (all 460 posts). The performance is great, too. Next, I've got to figure out how to put my customizations back in...

12/15/06 15:23
Since I use Google for my homepage, my email, and my feed reader, posting a new entry is easier now. I no longer need to stop and enter separate credentials.

Thursday, December 07, 2006

Christmas Messages from Max Lucado

Max Lucado is offering six messages on the meaning of Christmas from his UpWords site. Download the MP3 files from There's plenty of other material on the site as well.