Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Magnitude 5.6 quake hits near Alum Rock.

Sigh. Here I am in Idaho and I missed the earthquake.

Monday, October 29, 2007

I am off for another exotic trip.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Thoughts on fires and construction.

Having lived in the Orange County area, I was quite familiar with the Santa Ana winds and the wildfires. I used to like the Santa Ana winds because they made for a fast bicycle ride 20 miles downwind and a nasty struggle back home. The conditions for wildfires have always been there and are well known. There are typically multiple wild fires every year from San Diego all the way to the San Francisco area.

The picture shows typical house construction here in California. The walls have a pressed plywood outer layer that is called a shear wall and helps with earthquakes. The metal ties are also required by building code to keep the structure from falling apart during the shaking. This one will have a stucco finish for the outside. The big problem, however, is that the structure is all wood and will easily go up in a fire. So why do we insist on building flammable houses in a fire hazard zone? Most of the construction that I remember from Taiwan and Singapore was reinforced concrete. This will handle earthquake, fire and typhoons. With environmentalist howling about forests being cut down, I can't comprehend why we don't start moving a bit away from wood and towards concrete.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Regarding San Jose's controversy over internet pornography availability at the library.

Apparently the use of public libraries as porn distribution centers is still a controversy. As usual, there is one side insisting that the issue is academic freedom. Given all of the things that academics can pursue, I wonder why they always seem to have a need to pursue porn. With this logic, we could also require porn magazines and videos to be made available to the public via taxpayer funded libraries. It is really hard to set a limit. Hopefully the public can join together in scoffing at those who try to promote moral depravity under the guise of academic freedom.
Total Ice = Snow Fall - Melt?

Global Warming Theory: Total Ice = 0 - Melt.

The news is obsessed with the rate of melting, but seems to have missed something else more important - how the ice got there in the first place. Evaporation puts humidity into the air which eventually condenses and is deposited as snow. Greenland is far enough north and high enough that there is little worry of snow changing to rain most of the year.

The most important missing item is the Saturated Vapor Density. This is the amount of moisture that air can handle and a key factor in determining how much ice is going to be deposited onto the glaciers. Every 10 degrees that the temperature of air rise, the saturated vapor density roughly doubles. Thus, a small temperature increase can have a significant effect on the amount of snow transported to the glaciers. With less sea ice, there will be more evaporation. The actual situation is considerably more complex than what is presented by the alarmist.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Another sacrifice to appease the Litigation gods. One of my favorite springs was closed off on Mission Peak, although this one hasn't yet been affected. In the summer, it is hard to overstate the need for water as we travel long distance along the trails.

Monday, October 22, 2007

From the news, it seems that all of California is burning. It is a long way from here to the LA area. This is a picture looking over a ridge towards San Francisco with Mount Tamalpais in the background. We have had early rains this year and the grasses are already turning green.

Another flat tire. Time to make some changes.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Looking up at the redwoods. It is hard to get the lens dry.
This is on the descent into the redwoods from Alpine Road. The climb from Palo Alto to the top on Page Mill Road is nasty, so this is the first time I have attempted it in many years. It is still difficult.

Friday, October 19, 2007

Eucharistic theology quiz. Looks like I got a B-.

Eucharistic theology
created with
You scored as Calvin

You are John Calvin. You seek to be faithful to Scripture, and to harmonize difficult sayings. You believe that in the Lord's Supper those who have faith are united to Christ, who is present spiritually, yet in a real way.













James Watson apologizes and embraces syncretism.

Yep, all men (and women) evolved equal.
Monday at the top of Mission Peak. We have been getting some early rains this year.

Poor Sarkozy. I sympathize with someone who must deal with a national crisis and a family crisis simultaneously. Economic modernization will come only by confronting the unions on big issues and the unions always shut the country down even over trivial stuff. I spent one wonderful day in the Charles De Gaulle airport outside of Paris when the custodians had been on strike for a week. It was completely disgusting with trash piled everywhere and a sticky floor. Hopefully Sarkozy will stick to his position for the sake of France. Even better if he pulled what Ronald Reagan did: Start firing all of the transport workers and re-hiring others. With a high unemployment rate, this might be feasible.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Some Canadians, enjoying the good life and exploiting the government supplied benefits south of the border.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Evolution: Syncretism rules!

Back in the good 'ol days, we had the notion of Eugenics. Why on earth would we expect different races to evolve equally? After all, closely related animals can have some widely varying intelligence. Even varieties of dogs have different characteristics. Why not for humans?

Christianity gave us something different: "All men are created equal". This is getting a bit silly today as we expect someone with birth defects to be as successful as someone born perfectly healthy and given more opportunities, but there is a notion of equality that has become the basis of modern thinking that derives straight from Christianity. Today, however, the Christian connection can't be uttered, so we end up with a different paradigm: "All men evolved equal". The result is neither satisfying to the fundamentalist Christian nor to the fundamentalist Darwinista, but is perfect for our post-modern syncretic intellectualism.

Dr. Watson has reopened the can of worms by suggesting the obvious: If mankind evolved, then we certainly didn't evolve equally. Given the history of Eugenics, however, this viewpoint is equally unpalatable. The easiest way to handle things is to tell him to shut up.
Armenian Genocide: Pragmatism vs. Principals.

Moral grandstanding is always so much fun. After WW2, the West stood in horror at the holocaust and condemned the evil. War criminals were hunted for decades. Why can't we have the same kind of justice for the Armenians?

The sad answer is that Germany was utterly defeated after WWII. It is easy to look down your holy nose at someone when they are in a position of total defeat. The Turks were defeated at the end of WWI, but not to the level of Germany after WWII. Americans know little of history and the fact that Turkey was once the greatest empire in the world is almost completely unknown. Turkey still has a great influence and its pride is great. To get along in the world, we simply must put down our principals and work together with others, in spite of the flaws that are apparent and unapologized for. This is life on both a global scale and within a family.

A similar problem occurs with Japan. This country committed countless atrocities throughout China, Korea and the Pacific. After WWII, however, we needed Japan to recover quickly and this took precedence over the moral posturing. Thus, there remains animosity continuing to this day.

Christian forgiveness is something that would really help. In fact, I think it is good to also forgive those who refuse to confess and do not want to be forgiven. As Jesus said while dying on the cross, "Father forgive them, for they know not what they do".

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Church, State and the Democrats.

With Bush and the Republicans constantly being bashed for trying to establish a theocracy, this article is something to provide some balance. The sad part of this is that conservative Christians are fairly well trained about the need to distinguish between the Kingdom of God and the government. Liberals, on the other hand, don't seem even capable of making this distinction.

Monday, October 15, 2007

With the bike in the shop and too much energy to burn, I decided to do a 7 miler on Mission Peak. The knee seems OK, but I won't be doing more than one of these per week for awhile.

The spoke repair is easy by itself, but the bike still won't be safe for high speed descents off of mountains. Thus, I make sure the bike shop trues and re-tensions all of the spokes.
English Teeth Decaying?

We will need that new Airbus A380 to get patients to dentists in America.

Sunday, October 14, 2007

A broken spoke stopped me 3 miles from the top of Mount Hamilton Saturday. This new bike has some strange aerodynamic spokes. Given the limited spoke count, it wasn't safe to simply remove a spoke and re-true the wheel before making the fast, windy descent. I will carry a few extra spokes and the proper tool from now on.

I bummed a ride down the mountain and called my wife. Just to make this trip stranger than fiction, the minivan that I bummed a ride from was being driven by Chris Marrou, the television news anchor from KENS 5 Eyewitness News, San Antonio Texas. His brother, Andre Marrou had been the Libertarian candidate for the US Presidency. (He didn't win - sigh.) Chris was driving across the country with two friends and they made a pilgrimage to Lick Observatory as a last stop. Y'all have a nice trip back to Texas, and thanks for the ride.

The words "Mom" and "Dad" are banned from California public schools.

Apparently Schwarzenegger signed the bill that the gays have been pushing. It is basically designed to eliminate any traditional concept of gender and firmly puts the most mentally disturbed transsexuals in charge of the moral education required by the state. Boys are now permitted to use the girls lavatories whenever they want and vice versa. Thus, in successfully resisting becoming a Christian theocracy, we have managed to become a theocracy of depravity.

Saturday, October 13, 2007

Fall is in the air. The rains of last night have definitely changed the smells on Mount Hamilton. This is around about the 3,000 foot level.

Friday, October 12, 2007

Chicken Little wins the Nobel Peace Prize.

Another Genocide Center Opens. In Illinois.

One thing that always infuriates me is the condescending fury of the Left when it comes to putting down terrorists. When the issue is children, however, they suddenly reverse course and become equally arrogant about the exact opposite position. The only thing consistent is the arrogance and condescension.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Anti-tobacco regulation for apartment blocks passes.

Well, I am not a smoker. Given my need for fresh air exercising and a mild, exercise induced asthma, I am actually quite hostile to tobacco. This ruling, however, strikes me as way over the top. A smoker in an apartment building will have more to fear than a pedophile.

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

Remembering Pete Wilson, Governor of California.

He was the presiding Republican governor when the party imploded here in California. Today, we have an odd-ball Republican governor, Arnold, who has a number of Democrats on his immediate staff.

Pete Wilson started out as a "moderate" (translation: pro-abortion, obey the law, but if there ain't a law, then it must be good) mayor of San Diego. Although San Diego was fairly conservative at the time, he was best grouped with similar liberal Republicans who were voted in to take care of some of the countries worst trouble spots: Guiliani in New York, Richard Riordan in Los Angeles, and Christine Todd Whitman in New Jersey.

At the time, I had mostly thought of this as just an amusing anomaly. Yes, they were Republicans, but the main stream of the party was somewhere else. A Republican that was right for the cesspool of New York certainly wasn't going to be plausible nationally. I was wrong.

The problem, of course, is that big donors still count in the Republican party and they are way to the left of the Republican base. Most of the main stream media would also like the Republican party to move left. The result is that these "moderate" Republicans have quickly come to dominate the party and left the Reagan/Goldwater Republicans out in the cold.

As a point of historical reference, Roosevelt and the media concocted the "Country Club Republican" caricature of a party led by people who were rich and out-of-touch. The Democrats dominated for decades as a result with Nixon as the last great leader of the Country Club Republicans, while instituting price controls and appointing liberal judges. If things continue the way they are going with the Republicans now, I think it is definitely best to sit the election out. The sooner the Republican party dies the sooner it can be resurrected.

Monday, October 08, 2007

A view on Burma from Burmese pastor.
It is easier to maintain group harmony if everyone keeps their mouth shut.
A view of the San Francisco Bay from the end of the Alameda Creek Bicycle Trail. The winds are quite strong and blowing up some good waves on the bay.

Sunday, October 07, 2007

Bush's Al Arabiya Interview.

What is bothersome is that President Bush stated that the Oklahoma City bombing was done by a Christian. The bombing was done by Timothy McVeigh, who drifted somewhere between agnosticism and Roman Catholicism. Unfortunately, this interview reflects so much of the mainline religious philosophy: All religions are alike. They provide comfort to people, but are otherwise devoid of meaningful content. Thus, fundamentalism is merely a mental disorder. It makes things easy, because we never need to take ideas seriously.

Saturday, October 06, 2007

This was taken on Skyline Blvd at about 2180 feet elevation behind Woodside. The 59 mile ride took 4.5 hours, which is pathetic. Guess I really am slowing down as I get old. According to the altimeter, the low point of the ride was at 140 feet below sea level, which was right where I was crossing the San Francisco Bay. It is encouraging to know that my altimeter is already calibrated for when global warming melts the Antarctic ice caps.
Meet Sidney, the California Vain Deer.

He posed patiently while I stopped my bike, pulled the camera out of my back pocket, started it up, cleaned the sweat off of the lense, and took this picture. Probably he is looking for a movie part.

Friday, October 05, 2007

Changing a flat tire. The leaves don't change color much here in the fall, but a lot of thorns drop down onto the roads. I found two of them in my front tire. Bicycling is much easier on the knee than trailrunning, but maintaining a decent bicycle is much more expensive.

Thursday, October 04, 2007

Cocaine yes, tobacco no? Intolerance of the week.

Two California cities are voting to ban smoking in apartments. Needless to say, the disease of intolerance would still be with us and not in any way diminished if religion were completely stamped out. This brings back memories of living in a condo in Newark, California several years ago. We received a very threatening notice regarding hanging our clothes out to dry. Apparently several neighbors were traumatized by the sight of undies hanging on the line.
Isn't she adorable? I spotted her on the road while riding. This Tarantula is about the size of my hand.

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

Thoughts on Buddhism.

First, let me say that I am sympathetic to the plight of the Burmese and hope that they can live in peace and freedom. Realistically, that corner of the world isn't the most free when compared to China, Vietnam, Indonesia and Bangladesh. At least the Buddhist monks can worship freely. They are still better off than China.

My main familiarity with Buddhism is through those who practice it. Having lived most of my life among Asians and spent several years working in Japan, my views of Buddhism are more based on what I observed from the practitioners. Of course, I will always object to Christianity being described by the worst behavior of its practitioners, but this is perhaps the viewpoint I have of Buddhism. Given that the West has primarily received a fanciful notion of Buddhism from the entertainment industry and pinhead intellectuals, a reality check might be worthwhile. Other parts of my view are filled in with my general enthusiasm for news and history.

The first thing I would say about Buddhism is that it seems primarily to be a religion of worldly gratification. They go to the temple to pray for prosperity, health, children, a spouse, good grades, ... There is a complaint about Christians and the "prosperity gospel". This is the notion that we should become Christians in order to get wealthy. It is no surprise that the prosperity gospel is by far the strongest in Korea, where Christianity is largely a direct conversion from Buddhism. In fact, one Korean I met specifically said that he wanted to show to his Buddhist relatives that he could become rich while being a Christian. Of course, Christianity is about accepting Jesus as savior and recognizing that in the end we are all dead and all need forgiveness to be reconciled with God. Excessive wealth is harmful in Christianity, but to be longed for in Buddhism. Note that much of the personal moral requirements in east Asia come from Confucianism, which is embraced together with Buddhism. Thus, it doesn't seem to me that personal morality is a strong part of the religion.

Note that there are altruistic strands of Buddhism. The Tsu Chi organization is quite active and aggressive in my area in raising funds for various relief efforts. What I also know is that Buddhism will quickly embrace methods of competing religions to achieve its goals. Not being a scholar of Buddhism, I can't say directly to what extent charity is fundamental to Buddhism or merely an import from Christianity. Then there is the contrast between Christian charity and Muslim charity. Muslim charity is specifically for extracting conversions, whereas in Christianity, we give charity without strings attached. Which model is Buddhism?

A second item is that Buddhism seems to be about as superstitious as Huckleberry Finn. Charms hanging from rear view mirrors in cars are a common sight. One that I saw not too long ago was the character 財, which simply means wealth. There are those who complain about the superstitions of Christians, but Christians are vastly less superstitious than Buddhists.

Finally, there is the notion of Buddhism as peaceful. Sri Lanka's bloody civil war among Buddhists is probably something to be considered. Japanese soldiers visited Buddhist shrines during WWII. Recently there have been expulsions of missionaries in Cambodia due to Buddhist complaints and a bit of uppity behavior in Thailand. If you watch a few Chinese kung-fu movies set in ancient times, a monastery is inevitable where heroes learn the tricks of the trade. I won't claim that violence is inherent to Buddhism, but it doesn't seem to have any particular claims to being especially peaceful either. Jesus said "turn the other cheek" and "love your enemies". I have never heard anything comparable quoted from Buddha.
Back on the bicycle seat. Here is a view from top of Palomares Canyon road.

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

Purpose Driven Reflection.

Our church has been consumed with purpose driven mania for awhile. It is clear to me that PD isn't heresy, because it emphasizes so much that Jesus is Lord and we need to look to the cross for our salvation. At the same time, something is amiss and it has been difficult to pin point it clearly.

Perhaps the picture of the Titanic will help clarify things. What would the PDL model for the Titanic be? It would emphasize that the ship must have a clean and well maintained engine room. The rudder must be operating along with the navigational equipment. The various electrical and mechanical systems must be well maintained. All of the safety equipment must be in order. The kitchen crew must be busy preparing meals and the various housecleaning operations must be efficiently maintained. All of the interns must be accounted for and properly supervised.

So what could possibly be missing? Nothing, except for a direction. And it does seem that everyone is so busy that there is no one to look out for the icebergs.

This is our church in a nutshell. The elders were chosen from those who have been faithful administrators. So the chief engineer who spent his entire life in the engine room is now the captain on the bridge. He asks what that blue stuff out there is and someone informs him that it is water. The best we can hope for is to efficiently run in circles. Otherwise, there is no telling what we might hit.
Quebec leads the way ...

By introducing a carbon tax. This is quite refreshing compared to the usual solution to global warming: Hire an army of bureaucrats, issue them paddles, and send them off in jets, SUVs and snowmobiles to spank CEOs wherever they can be found.
I don't watch much TV these days. Last night, I went to order a takeout pizza and sat in the restaurant waiting 15 minutes. The TV featured CNN with all of the latest, most practical news stories. It was an extended review of Britney's custody dispute. Burma (um Myanmar), America sympathizes with you, but we have more important things to worry about.
Primitive Baptist? Isn't that redundant?

Monday, October 01, 2007

Thinking about GM and Unions

I spent a year living in Pittsburgh in the 1970's. The winter snows would be gray due to the mix of snow and soot. The city was busy, but more than the air was unhealthy. Recalcitrant unions had been making demands for decades. Investment in plants was down and layoffs were on the horizon. Several years later, I returned. As a bicyclist, the first thing I noticed was that many of my favorite backroads which used to be paved were now dirt. No money to fix roads. The snows which had previously been gray were a nice clean white. Driving the highways (that isn' quite the right term, since driving over 40 MPH was dangerous) into Pittsburgh, the old steel mills were quiet rusting hulks from an earlier era. Two decades later, they were replaced by shiny new industries that had nothing to do with steel.

GM, Ford and Chrysler are heading the same way. A year ago, I went to an engineering conference and met two of my old friends from Ford. They were high up technical managers in R&D. Both had to pay their own way to the conference. Ford has no money for such things anymore. The unions are killing the US car industry now. Nothing can stop it.
Live free or die! - Buddha