I was visiting a church called Trinity @ Payar Lebar and I was surprised at how this new church has embraced commercialism. There was a sign for a church "camp" in Thailand that the church was having which looked like something from ClubMed. A beautiful family of four was splashing around in a swimming pool, and there were notes about the food and the guest speaker. This new megachurch also had a food court located inside the building on the second floor. Why go out to eat after church when there is a restaurant in the church?
To me, the most alarming item in the church was sign for something called the "Funky Believer Card." The poster contained a picture of a smiling Caucasian girl with a list of a whole host of discounts that could be obtained with the card: a 5% everyday discount, a 10% birthday discount, and an up-to-50% discount on other selected items in the church's Christian store. All of this could be had for a mere five dollars.
I'm concerned about this for several reasons. The problem lies in how this might make younger people view the gospel. The good news tells people that the first will be last, the rich will be poor, and the blind will see. When you become a Christian, your view of your self worth changes. You realize that you don't have to judge yourself based upon that pretty person in an advertisement, what your neighbor owns, how trendy you have become, or even if your are "normal." Your self worth and image comes from the fact that through repentance and believing, you enter into His kingdom and become a child of God.
It is tempting to treat church as an extension of the world; your church will get lots of followers that way. However, if a large number of people at your church are seeking friends, social outings, and discounts on fashionable items, then your church simply becomes a poor-man's ideological Rotary club. By offering material rewards and incentives for the "funky believer," you are also offering a carrot attached to a stick. This carrot might cause people to accept the absurd, and unlikely faith-based conclusions of Christianity without a sincere spiritual change or a deep acknowledgment of the Bible's life changing truths.
When a person becomes a Christian, they are accepting that there is one God and that the Gods of all other idolatrous religions are false. They are accepting that the salvation of the world rested on the shoulders of one man, Jesus, and that it is proven specifically because he came back from the dead. You are also accepting that a few dozen individuals throughout history have had direct connections with God and were able to write down his thoughts, commands, and judgments- and that everyone else who claims to do this is suspect.
I cherish the doctrines of Christianity because they are based on faith, sincerity, and a true change of heart. If even one person is attending church for the discounts, trips, and other perks, they weigh the whole institution down, and, by the world's standards, cause the ideological legitimacy of the church to be even more suspect than it already is.
Please strive to be a sincere believer, not a funky believer.
Saturday, May 31, 2008
Friday, May 30, 2008
Thursday, May 29, 2008
Tuesday, May 27, 2008
1) You will have time to write.
Many people become English teachers thinking that they'll have a posh job that gives them two to three unstressful summer months each year to work on their personal writing endeavors. This is incorrect. You might have time to write, but you will find yourself eking out moments here and there. In the summer you will undoubtedly be asked to do some "professional development" and during the school year you will be so exhausted that you will come home and want to hit the couch.
2. Students will read what you assign.
Most students will not attempt to read the books that you assign. Many students, especially among the hodge-podge in the public schools, do not have the discipline to sit and read a book for even thirty of forty minutes, let alone several intervals that will allow them to finish a book of two or three hundred pages. Many students will go online to Spark Notes or get summaries from their one friend who actually completed the reading. In order to get students to read, you need to give incessant, highly detailed quizzes or provide class time and allow the students no other option except to read.
3. Students will listen to your sagely advice.
You are not Robin Williams in The Dead Poets Society. You might have a small handful of students that ask you for advice, but that is because they are not getting good advice at home or they have bad friends. You will have a small group of other students that silently follow your example, but they never let you know. It wouldn't be cool. In other words, you won't start any movements, but you will occasionally make small differences in the lives of your students.
4. Students will write wonderful things that will get published.
Your students will write wonderful things. There is a bounty of unrecognized writing talent in the world, but students will not seek to get their work published. It is the job of the English teacher to find contests and opportunities to display the work of his students. Most of these opportunities will be tied annoyingly to corporate programs that push advertising or a particular philosophy into your classroom.
5. You won't have to teach grammar.
Monday, May 26, 2008
K.T., the wife of seminary student W.T., wrote a detailed critique Oprah's spirituality and posted it on her Facebook page. I've been good friends with the couple since my college days, and I was so impressed by the detailed point-by-point analysis that I asked her if I could repost it on my blog. She said no problem.
The main point of K's response is that Oprah's love and acceptance of Eckhart Tolle's ideas as found in his book A New Earth are substantially different than the ideas taught by orthodox Christians. Christian teachings about creation, human sin, salvation, and the nature of truth are simply not congruent with the ideas that Oprah espouses on her television show and supports by promoting certain books. K. believes as I do that when you accept New Age spirituality you settle for a cheapened, relativist version of truth that denies you the opportunity to see the "life-giving, sovereign plan and grace" that is offered by the one true God.
Please enjoy the article:
Oprah recently concluded her webcast covering Eckhart Tolle’s book “A New Earth”. The discussion was one of many New Spiritualist teachings facilitated by the talk show hostess. During the webcast many people called in, primarily women, asking how Tolle’s teachings could be reconciled to Christianity. Oprah reassured the callers that she herself is a Christian, but “A New Earth” has helped her find depth in her spirituality without the constraints of doctrine and belief systems.
I want to briefly distinguish between Tolle’s (and all other New Age thought) and the claims of Christianity. I am not seeking to degrade Oprah or her character….just analyze her theology as she presents it. First of all, it seems that the confusion between New Spiritualism and Christianity is not due to the similarities between the two. It is due to the lack of biblical knowledge within the church. Oprah told one caller that she initially did not accept the God of the Bible because she heard her pastor say He was jealous. Not understanding the biblical definition of a jealous God, she assumed that God was jealous of her… like he wanted her stuff. The Bible is clear that God is self-sufficient and needs nothing from us. He is jealous for us. He wants us to be His. He made us for Himself.
1. God is Indescribable
Spiritualists deem God indescribable because if He can be described, then He isn’t that great. The Bible is also clear that God is great. And in His great goodness toward us, He has described Himself to us. It is not that man is capable of describing God, He is the one who described Himself.
2. God is a Force
Due to God’s greatness, Spiritualists also assume that He cannot be a person or being. Instead, He is a force. They say it is only religious men’s arrogance that has depicted God as a person with attributes like us. Once again, it is not men who have depicted God this way, it is God Himself. He has attributes like omnipotence, omnipresence, and immutability that are not like us. But He does have attributes like emotions, the ability to act in the world, and speech like us. But He is not like us…. We are like Him. The Bible has made this clear as well. We are made in His image. He made us to share Himself with us. We are in His image to commune with Him. Men did not dream up a God like them, God created men like Him.
3. All of our Problems Are Due to Egoic Disfunction
Humanity’s inability to love one another is due to making distinctions and having our own opinions. When we see ourselves separate from one another and the rest of creation, we are letting our egos disrupt the cosmic consciousness that we all share. We have forgotten that we are all part of the divine One (god force) which is evolving. We need to remember our divinity and oneness with the universe.
4. Salvation Comes by Awakening
The title of the book “A New Earth” refers to a hopeful time in the future when all human consciousness will awaken. Tolle describes the hateful attitudes of humanity and looks forward to when all humans will evolve to the next level of consciousness...one of acceptance and unity. Oprah is hopeful that this leap in consciousness will save our planet. This echoes the New Age dreams that humanity will begin a new age of utopia with no more wars and poverty.
Hopefully, outlining Oprah’s theology demonstrates its opposition with Christianity. I am not sure how anyone could reconcile these doctrines with the biblical message. I can see how they could be reconciled with morals and ethics.
New Spiritualism teachings are in direct opposition of the gospel of Jesus Christ. Let me briefly outline the gospel on a cosmic scale:
1. God creates a People for Himself
God is Trinitarian. He is three persons. The Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are equal in essence, but different in roles. God created people in His image that we might share in the communion that the Godhead shares within Himself. When He created, He made clearly defined physical structures like planets, rocks, flowers, animals, people, etc. He also made clearly defined relational structures within creation. The most important would be His authority of creation. It makes sense that a creator would have authority over his creation.
2. People Betray God
When living in the authority and distinctions set up by their creator, people are fulfilled and experience communion with the personal, wholly other, God. However, His people chose to ignore God’s authority and establish themselves as their own authority. Instead of confessing that the creator is the ultimate source of truth and sets the framework of reality, they located the source of truth within themselves (hence, postmodern thinking). They no longer accepted the physical and relational distinctions that God created. It began with people thinking they were no less than God and led to thinking that people are no greater than animals. Soon, there would be no physical distinctions. All is one. Tolle and Oprah encourage us to go the park and not name and distinguish between anything, simply sense the “stillness” or consciousness in which we all exist. Believing yourself, instead of God is sin. Our problems result from sin, not egoic disfunction. God told His people, they would die if they didn’t acknowledge His authority as creator. When the people betrayed God, all became futile.
3. God Re-creates
The first Adam betrayed His creator. Because of His love for His people, the Son (second member of the Godhead) became the second Adam (named Jesus). He took on flesh and died for His people. At the resurrection, rebirth of the cosmos was initiated. When any person submits themselves to the authority of their creator through the work of the Son, they take part in His resurrection and are re-birthed, or born-again. Finally, when God sees fit, He will end the futility and finalize the renewal of the cosmos and all things will become new.
Those who acknowledge God, through the work of Jesus Christ, will finally experience the fullness of His joy and love that He has for us. The cosmos will not be renewed as we awaken and evolve to a new state of consciousness. It has already been set aside for renewal through the resurrection of Jesus Christ. Do not awaken to the numbing teachings of Oprah, but the life-giving, sovereign plan and grace of our Creator and Redeemer. Awake you sleeper. Rise from the dead and Christ will shine on you.
K. also recommends a Christian Science Monitor article by Peter Jones titled "The Old Error of 'A New Earth.'" Jones give a slightly different analysis of these beliefs as well as provides reasons why a critique on Oprah's theology is necessary.
Please note, the reason that I had to repost K.'s article was that it was originally published on Facebook. I'm increasingly growing frustrated with Facebook because it is a closed platform. People write good articles and generate quality content, but unlike Blogger it is only available to other Facebook users. Due to privacy concerns, keeping content only on Facebook may seem like a good idea, but that strategy goes out the window when you realize that there are approximately sixty million Facebook users.
It's not hard to see why. [Tolle's book] appeals to many disaffected believers, because it claims to liberate us from old, ideological, "I am right; you are wrong" religious beliefs. It offers a new spirituality that supposedly lies at the hidden center of all religions.
It has thus generated great confusion, and a serious backlash among those who see in the Tolle-Oprah juggernaut a pernicious teaching. "The Church of Oprah Exposed" video clip on YouTube has been viewed more than 6 million times.
Sunday, May 25, 2008
There's always a pen and paper available. A writer is thinking about what he's supposed to be doing, whether he's actually doing it or not, every waking hour. He's constantly pondering problems.
(qtd. in The Secret History of Star Wars)
Saturday, May 24, 2008
A new report came out in Best Life magazine that ranked the best places to raise kids. It is not a surprise that beautiful places like Honolulu and Virginia Beach ranked in the top two slots and sparsely populated Helena, Montana came in at third.
What shocked me is that my hometown of Springfield, Missouri, was ranked near the bottom of the list. Apparently, only nine other towns in America are worse places to raise kids than my beloved hometown. I need to cry foul on this one. I seriously doubt the editors of Best Life magazine have ever visited Springfield, Missouri.
My opinion is that the criteria used by Best Life magazine produced skewed results. In order to rank the towns, the researchers looked at the number of parks, museums, student-teacher ratio, and property values found in each town. The editors might not have considered that some of the criteria isn't necessarily relevant to Springfield, Missouri. For instance, it is true that Springfield is weak on the museum scene, but a three hour drive will yield the vast intellectual and historical riches of St. Louis, Kansas City, and Jefferson City. Moreover, Springfield contains several universities including Drury and (Southwest) Missouri State, and these schools regularly hold cultural presentations and festivals open to the whole community. I do concede that Springfield doesn't spend much per capita on parks, but this isn't required: driving only thirty minutes outside of Springfield will cause one to find hundreds of square miles of campgrounds, lakes, and stream. God's original playground is far superior to the well groomed carefully manicured play places of the big cities. I did a quick perusal of Best Life's online archive and it appears that the writers and editors routinely ignore matters of faith. They just don't have many articles about the subject. If you want to raise your children in a community of faith, Springfield has large churches with devoted members that will help you do that. The Assemblies of God has their headquarters in Springfield; there is a strong Southern Baptist presence; many Methodist churches; and there are both Catholic and Protestant Christian schools.
The schools in Springfield do need some work, but that is because they have been constantly growing and the voting population is skeptical to new taxes. I'm not sure how to fix this, but it certainly doesn't make it one of the worst places to raise kids.
Here's a link to the Best Life article
At 27A Thompson Road in Singapore you can find Cheeky Chocolates, a new restaurant that specializes in chocolate desserts. They serve a variety of crapes, chocolate cakes, waffles, and chocolate drinks. There are a few entree items on the menu, but that is not why you would go to this place.
When I visited this new food boutique about two weeks ago, I was able to sample a crepe that was perfectly formed and smothered in delicious chocolate syrup. The crepe had firm consistency that melted after a few chews, and the chocolate syrup covered the inside of your mouth with a warm, smooth taste sensation.
While I was there, I shared half of a chocolate cake that contained a warm, melted-chocolate surprise in the middle. This was even more delicious than the crepe. The chocolate cake would have been delicious by itself, but the heated inner-chocolate filling made this the pinnacle of chocolate eating goodness. I tried a similar dish when I visited the high class Morton's of Chicago, but I must say that the Cheeky Chocolate version was better.
The most distinctive item on the Cheeky Chocolates menu is a cold chocolate drink that has been made spicy by adding chili and Tabasco sauce. If you are a spicy food lover, I recommend this concoction because it will simultaneously shock your sweet tooth, cool your throat, and heat your palate.
HungryGoWhere Reviews of Cheeky Chocolates
Friday, May 23, 2008
Coffecup's Twitter Feed
Today after watching Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull I tried wasabi flavored ice cream with chocolate chips from the Uzumaki ice cream stall at Orchard CineLeisure. Eating this ice cream isn't really a snack; it is more of an experience. The ice cream had a neon green appearance and the chocolate chips countered the silky texture of the ice cream. When I at the ice cream, I could feel the slight numbing and burning sensation of the wasabi counteracting the ice cream's cool sweetness. It created a Nipponese flavor explosion in my mouth.
It is too bad that it costs four dollars for one scoop.
Thursday, May 22, 2008
Wednesday, May 21, 2008
This is third third post in my dialogue concerning Dr. David Catchpoole's creationism seminar at City Gate Church. I created a blog post critiquing his presentation, and on the Creation Ministries Internation website he gave a very strong response to it; he went so far as to call me a "wolf among the fold."
One point that David Cathpoole believes is that because his organization was non-profit, he and his organization, Creation Ministries International, could be excused from all accusations of "profit motive." He also fancied himself as "equipping" people to argue the creationist position not necessarily "selling" books:
The reality is that being non-profit doesn't excuse any organization from having a profit motive. I have worked for several non-profit organizations including Christian schools, public schools, Christian camps, and Boy Scout camps, and churches. While I conceed that perhaps "profit" in the legal sense of the term isn't what these organizations are after, I assure you that employees at every "non-profit" would like your money. When participation and donations are high and the big bucks start rolling in, infrastructure is upgraded, positions are added, and sometimes employees even get raises. In short, life gets better for the employees and they have an easier time accomplishing their mission. There's nothing wrong with this. If you work for a church, school, or camp you want more people to attend, and you want to further the altruistic purposes of your organization. Most people who work for non-profits don't do it solely for the money and they get paid a little less than market value for their services; however, unless your salary, staff, and working conditions are etched in stone and you live like Mother Theresa, you also want another secretary, an additional research assistant, a nicer desk, or a $500 a month increase in your salary. How do you get those things? You do that by soliciting donations to your cause or selling something, many times it is books.
But any ‘selling’ doesn’t happen until after the conclusion of the service/presentation, when members of the congregation go outside to the book tables to browse and make their purchases.
Also, we have made it clear that it’s the equipping more than the money. If we were streng verboten from promoting our resources, we would likely not accept an invitation, even if the
church offered an honorarium that would more than cover any lost proceeds.
People who engage in this often use euphemisms to describe their activity. I'm friends with one Campus Crusade staff member who refused to call what he was doing "fund raising"; he insisted on calling it "partnering." Some camps don't call it fund raising; they call it "advancing." Apparently CMI calls it "equipping." I don't pander to this euphemistic shift. If I'm in a position to raise funds or sell something on behalf of an organization, I call a spade a spade and call my activity "selling" or "fund raising"; from time to time if the activity involves the possibility of other contributions such as prayer time or material goods, I call it "support raising", but this is not much different.
David Catchpoole also excuses himself from having a profit motive because he and his organization offers books online for free:
And, given CN’s [his nickname for me is CN] jibe re ‘profit motive’, it would have been surely appropriate for CN to have also reported on a point DC emphasized when mentioning those books, viz. that all chapters from both of those books can be printed out for free from our website.
The truth is that offering books on a website does not in any way excuse someone from profit motive. In the new emerging internet economy, it is actually beneficial for authors and organizations to make their material available online for free. Compared to printing, online publishing doesn't cost that much and all of the evidence is that it leads to increased sales.
A popular secular science fiction author named Cory Doctorow writes enthusiastically in the forward of his new book Little Brother about the benefits of giving away free e-books:
What's more, I don't see ebooks as substitute for paper books for most people. It's not that the screens aren't good enough, either: if you're anything like me, you already spend every hour you can get in front of the screen, reading text. But the more computer-literate you are, the less likely you are to be reading long-form works on those screens -- that's because computer literate people do more things with their computers. We run IM and email and we use the browser in a million diverse ways. We have games running in the background, and endless opportunities to tinker with our music libraries. The more you do with your computer, the more likely it is that you'll be interrupted after five to seven minutes to do something else. That makes the computer extremely poorly suited to reading long-form works off of, unless you have the iron self-discipline of a monk.I feel that this excerpt explain's an author's rational for giving publications away for free. If non-Christians can be honest about the benefits of their distribution strategies, you can be sure that Christians who are called to "freely give" should be honest about the benefits of their methods too. Whether I collect profits or not, if I ever get around to having a book published, you can bet that I will make every effort to have the book available online for free.
The good news (for writers) is that this means that ebooks on computers are more likely to be an enticement to buy the printed book (which is, after all, cheap, easily had, and easy to use) than a substitute for it. You can probably read just enough of the book off the screen to realize you want to be reading it
So ebooks sell print books. Every writer I've heard of who's tried giving away ebooks to promote paper books has come back to do it again. That's the commercial case for doing free ebooks.
One final thought, I noted in my earlier post that David Catchpoole offered an extensive critique of my thoughts without giving a link back to my site or any specific attribution. Since the beginning of this blog, I have chosen not to copyright the material here but to make it available via a Creative Commons 2.0 license that is labeled as Attribution-NonCommercial. This means that as long as you aren't making money and you provide attribution, you can use the stuff on this blog in any way that you see fit. (BTW- My preferred form of attribution is a link.) The information about my license could be discovered by clicking on the Feedburner icon on my blog. Unfortunately, I blundered about a month ago when I did a blog redesign and I forgot to add the Feedburner chicklet to my blog redesign. (I'll be fixing this problem soon and upgrading the license to 3.0 because it includes the "share-alike" clause.) The Creative Commons logo wasn't on the site or the feed when David Catchpoole wrote his critique so he is not guilty of breaking any licenses or copyright, but I still maintain if he were publishing such a critique in any type of professional publication he undoubtedly be required to present a link to the original text as a matter of courtesy.
The most shocking museum that I visited while in Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon) was the War Remnants Museum (Bao Tang Chung Tich Chien Tranh). This museum was formerly called the War Remnants Museum of China and America, and the small compound that it rests upon is dedicated to displaying the horrors of war.
The museum compound consisted of a large building circled by several smaller buildings. The smaller building contain displays of what seemed like mostly Life magazine photos documenting the horrors of war. There were a few old recreations like a guillotine and a replica POW cell. (I'll make a blog post about later.) The inside of the main building contained a few more photos and a few horrendously gruesome items. There was a video continuously playing that explained the birth defects caused by Agent Orange. There were also some American land mines and artillery shells surrounded by pictures of children who had been mangled and maimed by them.
The center of the museum contained something that was so horrible that it is almost unmentionable. I started to take a picture of it until I realized it was real, not some replica. When I finally acknowledged what I was looking at, I almost vomited. Behind a glass case in the War Remnants museum were two jars of Agent Orange deformed babies preserved in formaldehyde. One had a gigantic head and the other was a mangled mass of indescribable limbs and body parts.
Yet despite seeing all of these gut wrenching items, the relic that had the greatest emotional affect on me was available in the gift shop. They were selling the dog tags of American solders.
Some of the tags were old, some were rusty, and some looked suspiciously shiny. They had a five dollar price tag on them. I asked the lady if they were real. She knew enough English to reply, "Bullets fake, tags real." At first I totally believed her.
My first thought was that I wanted to use this blog or some other form of media to try and return these tags to the soldiers or their families. My Grandpa Cleo served in World War 2 and my Uncle Elbert was in the Korean War. I knew that if I ever found actual artifacts from their war experience, they would become the most cherished heirlooms.
It made me angry that a museum designed to document the horrors of war was making a profit from the dead and the MIA.
Later on when I was talking to some other tourists they told me that I was probably lied to. They said the information on the dog tags is real, but the ones for sale are probably replicas.
I looked it up on the internet, and it turns out that in 2001 two American business men fell for the same ploy, and they had apparently gone on the Today show and started returning dog tags.
Anyway, I don't know if the tag that I picked up is real or not, but if Basil L. Taylor, an Army officer and a Baptist, or his family would like the tag back, I have it in my possession. I'm deliberately not posting the social security number or the Army service number in the off chance that Basil is still alive or some criminal would try to impersonate him.
Here are links to two other groups of people who are also making attempts to return Vietnam War dog tags. There's no way of knowing if these dog tags are real. But I guess if the family members of these people care, the information is out there.
Tuesday, May 20, 2008
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One of my dumbest tourist moments came while my flatmate and I were traveling in Vietnam.
Vietnam is legendary for the
crazy bold and daring people that you will see riding through the streets on motorbikes. I saw entire families of four perched on speeding scooters; I saw construction workers propping up large panes of glass and speeding down the highway; and I saw old aunties trucking around on motorbikes with heaping piles of fresh produce. (I wish I could have gotten some better pictures of these characters, but my little Kodak CX7530 doesn't take quick, well-focused snapshots very well.)
One of the most impressive sights on a bike was a fashionista who piloted her green Vespa while dressed as the green Might Morphin' Power Ranger. It's possible that she's never seen the show, but she definitely bears a resemblance.
The lady and her friend had stopped their bikes next to an ATM, and I wanted to get a shot. She wasn't posing in a way that allowed me to get a good candid shot so I worked up enough courage to ask to take her picture. Just when I was starting to feel like a schmuck tourist because I was stopping people on the street, my crazy flatmate got the harebrained idea to jump in the picture too.
I have no idea what cultural taboos we broke in the process; I just wanted to get a picture of this green Mighty Morphin' Power Ranger. Hopefully she went home flattered. Fortunately, I didn't see Rita Repulsa chasing her down the road.
I decided to work my photo editing chops a bit to see if I could get my flatmate out of the picture.
Monday, May 19, 2008
In Vietnam they like hard boiled eggs. They are just like American hard boiled eggs except there is one catch: the eggs have been fertilized and they contain a developing chicken.
I saw another Westerner bravely try this delicacy. He ate the egg in two bites, and he said he could feel the soft, forming bones and the fuzzy developing feathers in his mouth as he chewed. I wanted to take a better close up shot, but unfortunately my camera ran out of batteries.
If you want to learn more about eating Vietnamese embryonic eggs, you can check out the Slurp! blog.
Sunday, May 18, 2008
Saturday, May 17, 2008
Tim Torvil, Springfield Cardinals official home game scorer, takes his dog on trips to hospitals and prisons to provide emotional therapy. Joe Hickman of KY3 News interviews Tim and and some of the people that are blessed by his dog. There's a really brief interview of a nurse named Lori Nunn, she's the wife of one a guy that I've been friends with since third grade. Don't blink, you'll miss her.
KY3 News: Angels of Mercy Come in Many Different Forms
Friday, May 16, 2008
The facts about the recent cyclone are startling. A Swedish missionary in Burma sent this out as part of his report. I would post more, but I'm not sure what kind of publicity he wants.
The population of Yangon division is about 8 million people. When the cyclone hit many homes were demolished, completely or partly, in the outskirts of Yangon division. Many lost everything they had and can’t get any income because the whole society system is out of order. Many starve and many lack clean drinking water. We don’t know how many lost their lives in Yangon division but it must be well over 20 000. In the city of Kwan Jyan Gon alone, which had a population of 19 000 we estimate that only 7 persons survived.
I've heard about four-day-a-week schools, and they sound incredible. In these schools kids only go to school on Monday through Thursday or Tuesday through Friday. All non-instructional activities such as sports games and dances are moved to the day off. Kids only go to school about one hour more each day.
I had a friend who briefly worked at one in Fairplay, Colorado. She said the atmosphere was much more laid back than that of most other schools. During the winter, most of the school district would spend every Friday skiing. Best of all, there's apparently no gap in achievement between schools with a four day week and schools with a five day week. Every now and then the school board in Fairplay votes to extend the school week, but the only members of the community who favor this are households where both parents work.
I just read from NPR that Maccray school district in Collegeville, Minnesota, is moving to a four day week in order to save money on transportation and utilities. It sounds like a good idea to me. I hope that it represents a trend.
A west central Minnesota school district has decided to switch to a shorter school week. The MACCRAY school board has voted to shorten the school week to four days, in an effort to save money.
Wednesday, May 14, 2008
I just got an e-mail from one of my former students. He felt the quake, but he was safe and unhurt by it. Here's his brief account of what happened:
our family is alright. we were fortunate. we only felt a mild shock compared to what the power of the earthquake. although, it still was freaky. i was in school when it hit and i thought the roof was gonna collapse. the scariest part, though, was the earthquake hit just 20 miles away from a place we had been the day before. had we still been there......Also, had the earthquake actually hit in [omitted Chinese city], millions rather than thousands would have died. God spared us.
Cyclone Nargis has ravaged Myanmar in the past week. At least 30,000 people have been killed and more than 40,000 are missing.
World Vision has been at the forefront in distributing essential supplies to people affected by the crisis. In the immediate aftermath, World Vision has extended humanitarian aid to affected villages and regions. Further pre-positioned aid from our warehouses in Dubai and Germany are available pending Myanmar government approval.
We estimate that US$3 million will be needed to sustain emergency operations in the first 30 days. We would like to invite your church to be part of this worldwide humanitarian effort and alleviate the pain and suffering of the Myanmar people at this time of crisis and in the days ahead.I would appreciate it if you could distribute the attached flyer to your congregation.Please also feel free to contact me or my colleague, Kalene Lua (Tel: 6221 1040, Hp: 9699 4512, Email: kalene [at] worldvision.org.sg) for more information.James Quek
Phone: 6221 1040
Mobile: 9389 2721
Email: James_Quek [at] wvi.org
"Our Vision for every child, life in all its fullness. Our prayer for every heart, the will to make it so."Thank you and blessings.
I've got a good friend, and she is always making comments about my feet. She tells me that my toe nails aren't trimmed properly, that I keep too much dead skin on my feet, that I should do a better job grooming my cuticles, and that I should do something about my calluses.
While I was in Vietnam, I decided to put an end to the fuss. I got a pedicure. I'd always thought of such operations as vain and effeminate, but truthfully the whole operation required quite a bit of guts and fortitude.
The gal started out by soaking my feet and then using a special device that had a razor blade attached to a curved surface. This pseudo-medieval torture device was used to shave off several layers of dead skin from the bottom of my feet and the calluses on the sides of my toes. Next, the pedicurist used a pair of clippers to cut back layers of my cuticles and allowed me to see parts of my toenails that had not been visible since birth. Finally, and most painfully, she used an alcohol swab to sterilize my toes, and after that she dug out my ingrown toenails.
I don't think that I'll make a habit of doing this, but the whole experience was better than I expected. At least it wasn't too expensive. Since I was in Vietnam, the whole thing cost around eight U.S. dollars.
Tuesday, May 13, 2008
Over the weekend, I met a girl from a Buddhist family. She heard the gospel when she was thirteen, but her parents forbid her from regularly attending church. The only times they allowed her to go were Christmas, Easter, and immediately after the school term ended; they said that studies were more important than religion. In order to read the Bible, she had to wake up at 6:00 A.M., before her parents got out of bed.
Her faith was sustained by phone conversations with Christian friends and friendly notes of encouragement.
Hearing her testimony realized how much I take for granted. Sometimes I moan and groan because my church starts at the early hour of 9:00. I don't always consistently read the Bible.
Her story did have a happy ending. After graduating she eventually got baptized and joined a church. She recently married a YWAM (Youth with a Mission) missionary, and they are striving every day to live a life of faith.
Her dad once asked her, "Have you sold yourself to Jesus?" After a little consideration, she answered, "Yes."
I hope that I can have this type of faith.
DoyenDoy`en"\, n. [F. See Dean.] Lit., a dean; the senior member of a body or group; as, the doyen of French physicians. "This doyen of newspapers." --A. R. Colquhoun. Webster's Revised Unabridged Dictionary, © 1996, 1998 MICRA, Inc.
Monday, May 12, 2008
M1 Mobile Broadband is repeatedly doing unacceptable things to web pages that their customers try to download.
Now they are doing some other bizarre thing. It seems that they are changing the URL of images as you download them. They are adding a 172.31.254.xxx address and corrupting the original image address by doubling the last letter of the original URL. To demonstrate this I will show what happens when I click "View Source" on webpages that I commonly visit.
For instance, take a look the hypertext for the picture of the sugar cane juice at Chomp Chomp Hawker Center that I posted:
What the heck is "blogger.comm" ??!
Now I'll go to tomorrow.sg, a popular Singapore blog aggregation site.
Their logo comes from this URL:
Now I'll go to the KY3 news website hosted in Springfield, Missouri, my hometown in the USA. Magically, the site logo is still being intercepted from 172.31.154.245. Look!
This nonsense should be stopped. I don't really mind paying for a slow internet connection. However, I hate that I'm paying for a filtered, modified, and slowed down internet connection. That combination is unacceptable. At the end of this month I will cancel my M1 subscription and go back to Singtel.
The purpose of this sign is to tell people not to handle or harrass the wildlife near Singapore's MacRitchie Reservoir. However, if you have the Chuck Norris-like dexterity to catch wild birds with your bare hands, I think that you are probably above the law.
BEIJING: A powerful 7.5-magnitude earthquake rocked southwest China on Monday, the US Geological Survey (USGS) said, shaking buildings in Beijing and felt as far away as Taipei and Hong Kong.
The quake struck 93 kilometres (58 miles) from Chengdu, capital of Sichuan province and a major population centre with more than 10 million people.
The people at Creation Ministries International responded to my post about the logical fallacies of their speaker. They do make some good points about the limitations of my criticisms and they clarify some things that I misunderstood. I suppose I was a little bit "reminiscent of a beginning philosophy student who has learned about logical fallacies for the first time."
Their response did bring to light some fundamental errors that I made. I made the error that Creation magazine is a quarterly publication and not a monthly one. I can also understand why they think that I used the rhetorical technique of poisoning the well during the introduction of my article. Sometimes you just have to confess your mistakes.
I'm a little frustrated and hurt that they resorted to name calling in their response. I'm not a "wolf among the fold." Unlike secular scientists and athiests, I really do believe the Genesis account of creation can yield important knowledge to understanding the creation of life and the place of man in the universe.
I'm also a little miffed that they did an extensive critique of my article, but never provided a link to the original blog post or even bothered to use my real name or online alias. They just refered to me as CN. If they had truly wanted to promote independent thought and inquiry, they would have let their readers see the original context of the article.
It should be noted, I also made a fairly fundamental error in understanding how Creation Ministries International views the age of the earth. I'm a little embarrassed about this, I think. Here's what they say in their refutation of my comments:
Of course, DC [David Catchpoole] never said (and nor has any other CMI speaker) that the earth has only been around for 4,000 years—rather, it actual age is around 6,000 years. CN may have made an elementary error of confusing c. 4,000 BC with 4,000 years ago.
The response also somehow associates my accusation that Creation Ministries International has a "profit motive" with the thinking and reasoning of 20th century totalitarians:
‘Profit motive’? It is folly to ascribe motive to other people’s actions, bearing in mind that ‘man looks at the outward appearance, but God looks at the heart’ (1 Samuel 16:7). The secular Jewish political theorist Hannah Arendt also pointed out that the great achievement of 20th-century totalitarians was to turn questions of fact into questions of motive.
One thing that I have learned from this is that scientific arguments should not be proclaimed in the same way that one makes religious and moral statements. Some Christians will cite the verse where Jesus "spoke with authority" unlike the scribes and the pharisess (Matt. 7:29), but Jesus was speaking about right and wrong and man's place before God. He wasn't delivering science lectures and selling DVDs.
You can read Creation Ministry's entire critique of my thoughts at the following website:
Sunday, May 11, 2008
Donald Miller, author of Blue Like Jazz, now has a Twitter account. He's going to be biking across the United States this summer and documenting his experiences.
Here is where you can subscribe to his Twitter account.
(Via Donald Miller Fans.net)
Here is a post that I wrote a while back where I made a few observations about Don's first novel, Prayer and the Art of Volkswagen Maintenance
I snapped a shot of this drink in the 7-11 at the Budget Terminal of Singapore's Changi airport. It is Breakfast Flavoured Milk- Malt Flavor.
I want to know if other varieties will be on the market soon. Since it's "breakfast flavoured" will I be able to get French toast, fried egg, or sausage flavoured milk soon.
Maybe omelette flavoured milk with floating chunks for cheese and green peppers will be available. I'm not sure that I'd want to try that though.
As an American, looking at this also makes me wonder when the appropriate time to use a "u" in flavor occurs. In "flavoured" the u is present, but in flavor the box designers left the u out. Very interesting...
Saturday, May 10, 2008
I have the best students and I work with some of the most wonderful colleagues. At the end of March several of my homeroom students went on a mission trip to India. They shared the love of Christ with children in an Indian orphanage by playing games with them, teaching them a few lessons, and helping to meet a few physical needs. While my students were in India, they bought me this little monkey sculpture. The entire thing has been carefully carved out of one single coconut.
This camel was given to me by a colleague who visited the Holy Land. It has supposedly been made of some special wood (maybe acacia) and treated with olive oil.
Everyday these two little critters greet me when I sit down to work at my desk each day.
Friday, May 09, 2008
For a while I could easily update my Facebook status by sending a message to my Twitter account. On my Facebook account it would display the annoying "is twittering" prefix, but the message would appear. It appears that the functionality has now been disabled. The message "is twittering" no longer shows up on the display. It seems like the only way to get it to work is to be logged into Facebook and Twitter at the same time. I think that kind of defeats the whole purpose.
I think it is because Facebook is now trying to monetize the whole process. Watch out everyone, you'll soon be paying for Facebook.
If you search for a Facebook application called TwitterSync, you can get your updates to start working again.
In Singapore there's a a place called Chomp Chomp Hawker Centre. This isn't some weird video arcade or Pac-Man place, thus stunning example of onomatopoeia is an open air food center located near Serangoon Gardens.
When I ate there about two weeks ago I had some delicious carrot cake with prawns, gigantic crayfish, and delicious fried noodle.
However, the most memorable part of the evening was the gigantic mug of sugar cane juice that I drank. I've never seen such a large beverage served in Singapore and every sip was sweet and refreshing.
Here are more details about Chomp Chomp from Singapore Infopedia.
Thursday, May 08, 2008
Earlier this year, I had to make my rent deposit in cash. This required withdrawing a huge wad of cash from the bank. When I went to the bank they gave me something that I had never seen before, $1000 Sing dollar notes. Singapore isn't some weird inflated third world economy. (When I was in Vietnam my flatmate once withdrew 1,000,000 Dong from an ATM, about $50 US.) This single piece of paper is worth around $700 U.S. dollars. I've got a slight propensity to lose things, and rarely have I been as nervous as when I had to carry a small stack of these from the bank to my flat.
Wednesday, May 07, 2008
I recently read an article called "Quitting the Game to Enjoy the Party" that makes me reconsider how Christian churches, ministries, and schools portray their image in flyers, posters, and advertisements. The author Aaron Plumin concludes that unless Christians admit their faults and emotional insecurities they will never be able to present themselves in a way that allows Christ's love to shine through.
Here's an excerpt:
Here's the rest of the article via The Ooze:
Once, on my way home from the library, I drove past an advertisement in a bus stop for a local church. The word, "Belonging" adorned the poster along with the name of the church and the face of an attractive curly blonde, smiling woman with teeth so white you could have mistaken it as an add for whitening toothpaste.
It seemed ironic to me that a seemingly happy and outwardly flawless woman was being used to represent a community of people who have committed their
lives to loving someone described with the words:"He had no beauty or majesty to attract us to him, nothing in his appearance that we should desire him. He was despised and rejected by others, a man of suffering, and familiar with pain."
(Isaiah 53:2, 3 TNIV).
Tuesday, May 06, 2008
The newest book by Cory Doctorow, a young adult fiction title named Little Brother, is now available for download. I haven't read it yet, but it is supposed to be about some kids who use technology to take on the Department of Homeland Security and restore the freedoms granted by the Bill of Rights to the citizens of the United States. Along the way, the book has references to websites that teach kids how to do useful, interesting, and potentially disruptive things such as design propaganda t-shirts, create pepper spray bottles, block and disable RFID chips, start flash mobs, and avoid digital camera signatures.
Cory recognizes that the internet makes old distribution models obsolete so he slaps a Creative Commons license on his books and makes them totally legal to download, share, and redistribute.
Here's a link to download the book Little Brother.
(I haven't even gotten to read it yet.)
Here's a link to the Instructables website that explains how to use the techniques of the book's protagonist.
(It's an RSS feed.)
Monday, May 05, 2008
I never thought that I would dress up like a soldier in Vietnam, but that's what I did. Last Thursday started Singapore's Labor Day holiday. My flatmate and I searched for the cheapest possible place to visit. We ended up heading to the country of Vietnam.
The business card of "Lion Dragons Lee."
He pulled up to us on the curb and asked, "Hey, you want to be in a movie?" in a high pitched Italian accent.
My flatmate and I anxiously said yes, and we agreed to meet the guy the next day at a little cafe down the street called 171; in Vietnam many shops are just named with numbers.
When we arrived at the cafe, we met the four other guys who were going to be extras and we found out that we would have non-speaking parts as America soldiers.Those were all of the details that we were given. A couple of the guys in the group seemed mildly disappointed that it wasn't going to be some raunchy movie, but it was the world's biggest relief for me. We were also told that we would be back in Saigon by evening.
We rode a bus and a van for about an hour and a half and on a ferry through the Mekong Delta until we finally stopped at a fairly nice hotel. At this point, I was convinced that our buddy "Dragons" had roped us into some kind of a scam. He told us that we would have to stay the night and that production was behind schedule.
I went up to my room a little frustrated and tucked away a few of the things that I brought with me. It wasn't until about an hour and a half later that we got on another van and met the movie director, Chris McIntyre, that my frustration was finally lifted.
He told us that the movie's title was 21 & Wake Up, a movie that draws parallels between the consequences of pulling out of Vietnam and withdrawing from Iraq. Our job as extras was to check the paperwork of the villagers. He told us that during the Vietnam war there was a program to register everyone in the nation; and if the people did not have the correct paperwork it was assumed that they were members of the Viet Cong.
I was impressed at how kind and humble all of the professional Hollywood actors and studio personnel were to us lowly extras. We had conversations with the three main actors about their other projects and we all traded e-mail and blog addresses. The Vietnamese casting director was a nice gal named Kim Nguyen and the second assistant director was a BYU and USC graduate. He put me to shame as he fluently spoke three languages and impressed me with some of his stories of moving around as the son of a retired CIA agent.
During the filming process, I also became of aware of the intensely quick and knee-jerk decisions that go into Hollywood movie production. During college my professors loved to pick apart the subtle prejudices and deconstruct the hidden societal messages that manifest themselves in films. After the first take the second assistant director told me that I wasn't being aggressive enough, I obliged and changed my style a little. However, doing this was totally stupid and created drama and victimization when it wouldn't otherwise be necessary. In the film, I was interrogating two unarmed old men, a woman, and a baby. None of them spoke English. Moreover, since the prop department ran out of plastic M-16s, I wasn't even armed. If the old men had gotten angry and decided to fight or pull out a gun, there wouldn't have been much I could do. I guess I don't know much about being in the military, but I think if I had really been in that circumstance, I would have tried to stick with my armed buddies or taken my chances being as kind and congenial as possible. But I suppose you're living in a fantasy if you think movies are supposed to be realistic.
However, I am grateful for the experience. To me it seems like the ultimate tourist activity. When I arrived in Vietnam, I thought that I would be spending Friday looking at historical places surrounding Vietnam War events, not reenacting them. I am glad to have been given a rare glimpse into the film making process. If given the chance, I will definitely work as an extra again.