Monday, October 29, 2012

Request for advice:

I got an email from a struggling missionary requesting prayer.  The end of the letter had a quote, as many who write emails are prone to do:

"Do not spoil what you have by desiring what you have not, remember that what you now have was once among the things only hoped for. - Epicurus"

The problems with this are numerous, starting with the fact that Epicurus was the founder of New Atheism, never mind that he lived in 300BC.  He argued that atheists were morally superior to theists, which is the core of New Atheist theology.  He also claimed that there were gods, but that the gods were too feeble to actually do anything for mankind, nor did they even care, thus, making him the patron saint of Mainline Christianity.  The last major point that Epicurus argued was that all his opinions were science, thus, anyone who disagreed was a slave to superstition and not fit to debate with him.  This, of course is the core method of evolutionary science, global warming theory, and much else of the intellectual disaster of modern education.  Finally, I would note that the really good things that God gave me were mostly not even imagined, thus, they could not have been hoped for, so I don't even think the quote makes sense.

So how do I respond to a missionary who requests prayer, but then finishes the letter by quoting someone who taught that prayer was utterly worthless and misguided?  Should I correct this poor soul?  Or should I just trust that God in his mercy and grace will make use of this uneducated, but well meaning and passionate child of His?

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Fremont Eid al-Adha festival.

My wife was wondering about the commotion at our nearby park.  She had an event at the park the same time as the festival, thus, unexpectedly putting her in the center of a lot of congestion.  I was checking out the Chinese news agency, Xinhua, and came across a note that jogged my mind and pointed me to the event.  Xinhua has quite a collection of photos.  Dr. Wiki gives a description of Eid al-Adha here.  For Christians, this is a significant event also as it is a reminder of the Biblical story of Abraham when God tests him by asking him to sacrifice his son, Isaac, to prove Abraham's trust in God.  God stopped Abraham when it becomes apparent that he would be fully faithful.  Mohammed changed Abraham's son Isaac to Ishmael on retelling the story.

There is plenty of symbolism surrounding Isaac and Ishmael, so there is quite a difference in implied theology.  As Christians, we also view that a son had to be sacrificed to reconcile God with Man, and that this sacrifice that Abraham was willing to do was simply not sufficient.  Thus, God stops Abraham because God's only son, Jesus, would become the sacrifice on the cross to provide the hope of salvation to all people.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

6 AM at the lake.

It is a half mile to the shore on the other side, but we usually start by swimming about 3/4 mile on a course that leads into a far cove to the right.  The lights are amplified by the time exposure on the camera, but it is still possible to use them for navigation ... except when the fog gets really thick.  The water temperature was checked at 67 degrees yesterday and this morning's air temperature was 56 degrees.  We did a long 3,000 yard loop, then finished up with an out and back for a total of 4,600 yards (4.2 km, 2.5 miles).

Delirious asked why I don't wear a wet suit.  None of the four of us wear one, so I will give a list of the top ten reasons that we don't wear a wet suit to keep warm during the swim.

10. Wet suits get me all chaffed up and sore.
9. Wet suits aren't fashionable.
8. Wet suits add some buoyancy and disrupt the swimming stroke.
7. We are getting ready for the annual polar bear swim, and we need to acclimate so that we will be ready for the 48 degree water that is typical for the New Year's day swim.
6. The women who swim with us don't use wet suits, and it would be humiliating if people thought the ladies were tougher than me.
5. I am too cheap to buy a wet suit.
4. The lake monster likes to eat seals, and a wet suit would make me look more like a seal.
3. Only the new open water swimmers use wet suits.
2. There is no good place to hang my wet suit at work after the swim and I don't want to leave it all wet in the car.
1. Swimming in cold water without a wet suit consumes 50% or more calories than would be used otherwise, making this great for fitness.
0. The Earth will end by fire, so we must enjoy the cold while we can.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

One more early morning lake swim.

I should take my camera to get a view of the lake when it is still dark.  There is only one more such swim before the winter time/schedule changes force the swims to start later when it is light.  There was a lot of storminess and rain over the last two days, which left the air temperature down in the 40's and the water a tad cooler - probably around 65-67 degrees.  I had to get to a meeting at work, so cut the swim short with only 2,400 yards (2.1 km).  My nose pinch couldn't be located in the dark, so I swam without it and am now suffering from a case of "lake nose", which is an allergic reaction to the water.  The nose pinch showed up when I got out and it was light.  It actually had fallen out last Thursday, but the park is rarely visited now so it was still where it fell.

The cold shower outside is doing a great job at keeping the swimmers itch away.  It still seems odd to me that the cold shower seems warm, but the shower water was warmer than both the air and the lake.  This time I ended up shivering for the rest of the day.  Hopefully I can acclimate a little better.  Maybe I need to keep a winter parka at work.  One of the other swimmers has a similar problem where he can't get warm for many hours after the swims.  The other group members were telling me of last November when the air temperature was below freezing.  There is still much to look forward to!

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Shadow Cliffs Swim Report.

The Big Dipper is just above the horizon to the port side.  Orion is to the starboard.  That means I am swimming roughly east, which is the intended direction.  The morning swim started in the dark at about 6:05 am with three of us.  The air temperature was about 50 degrees, but the water was a balmy 69 degrees.  This is the first time I have tried to do this since last year, but I managed to complete the 3,000 yard (2.7 km) loop.  It felt good to be back in the water.  About half way through my arms started feeling quite heavy. Last year it would have been easy and I would have been pushing hard, but this time I am mainly just going through the motions.  The group agreed to a 6:30 am start for the next few times.  Starting in November, the park won't open until 7:00 am which will be light, given the time change.

The swimmers itch didn't really bother me this time.  The general advice is to get a shower and scrub down after the swim because this gets rid of most of the problem.  The swim area has an outdoor shower for this.  Most people would probably not think to get a cold outdoor shower in the cool air, but as usual this felt warm after the swim.  The only part of me that felt cold was my bare feet when walking on the cold sand and concrete.  This cools faster than the water.  Part of me said I need to get some flip flops.  The other part says that I should just tough it out and get used to it because things are going to get colder.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Back to the early morning lake swim ...

It has been a year since Whooping Cough put an end to my serious swimming.  I have done some pool swimming recently, but that has maxed out at about a mile of swimming each time.  It is too tedious and we have to share lanes. This morning a water polo team from a nearby high school took over a third of the lanes since their regular pool had equipment problems, making the regular swim lanes especially crowded.  With the pre-dawn lake swims, I only need to figure out how to share a 1 square kilometer patch of water with three other swimmers.

Tomorrow morning I will give a try at Shadow Cliffs again.  The regulars are still there going strong at 6:00 AM.  I checked to see if I could join them and the response was favorable, so I will try again.  It is generally dark at 6:00 AM and we swim 1200 yards (2/3 mile, 1.1 km) to the far side.  There is a streetlight to help guide us, although they told me the lake was fogged in a few days ago which would have made it especially eerie on the early crossing.  Coming back is when things start to get light, at least if the sky is clear.  This should be a lot of fun.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Great Courses:  Being Human.

This is the latest lecture series for the Wednesday lunch time group.  The 1st lecture was an introduction.  The 2nd lecture compared humans to baboons and came to the startling conclusion that humans would be physically healthier if we all behaved like a bunch of wild baboons unencumbered by the technologies of society.  The Noble Savage myth still has legs and a tail and lives in an ivory tower.

Prof. Sapolsky compared the health of baboons who discovered a garbage dump in Africa to Americans in North America.  The baboons who discovered the garbage dump stopped foraging and enjoyed the bounty, growing quicker and bigger, yet being less healthy.  For comparison, an Indian tribe was considered since the tribal branches exist both in Mexico and in the US.  The fact that the group in America was wildly obese was taken to be a sign of the evils of modern farming, which apparently equates to the baboons garbage dump.  But what does the Mexican branch of the tribe eat?  He didn't tell us.  Of course the problem north of the border is something called "welfare", which allows America's poor to eat unlimited amounts of food without ever getting out to forage for themselves.  Thus, the baboon's garbage dump might be better equated to the modern welfare state, rather than mechanized farming.

Backing up a bit, Prof. Sapolsky first criticizes modern technology for leaving society sick and diminutive, based on sizes of people during the middle ages.  His final criticism, however, is that we are over sized as a result of technology.  So which is it?  In fact technology changes things in many ways, which the lecture acknowledges.  What is bugging me is that I should like to see what the overall patterns look like, but Prof. Sapolsky is giving a few random anecdotes that come from a sea of data.  Are the anecdotes representative of anything?  Stay tuned for the next episode ...

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Obesity?  What obesity?

Today I went shopping in an attempt to replace some of my frayed pants.  The Robinson Crusoe look is cool, but there are limits to this at work.  In the end, I could hardly find any pants that fit.  My waist is about 38 inches, which makes a 39 inch (99 cm) size pant fairly comfortable.  The problem was that most of the stores maxed out at 34 to 36 inches.  Some had 38 inches which fits, but is just too tight.  Probably I just need to fast a few days.  What I am wondering is where all those fat Americans are and where it is that they shop.  But maybe I am the fat American and I don't need to wonder.

Tuesday, October 09, 2012

The unemployment rate drop (8.1% to 7.8%).

There is an article about this here which considers some of the nuts and bolts of this.  Basically it looks like the informal Household Survey component of the rate showed a 1 million job increase from August to September.  I suspect some explanation will eventually be given that shows there was a methodology change, but that it won't be announced until after the elections.

The number to watch is the Labor Participation Rate, which is the percentage of those of working age who are working relative to the total population.  This moved up from 63.5 to 63.6 in September, which is just one notch off its low.  Of course this doesn't give information on those who have part time jobs or are taking low paying jobs because their skills are no longer in demand.

Sunday, October 07, 2012

Hebrew study update.

This has been a challenge.  The past several weeks have seen me doing overtime both during the weekdays and on Saturdays.  There is a good chance this will continue for another month.  The laptop crash didn't help and my Bibleworks CDs are bad so I can't get things re-installed.  With all that, I have not been making the schedule and my brain hasn't been fresh enough to study well when I do have time.

On a positive side, I have done fairly well memorizing the vocabulary.  The full verb conjugation table is something we are supposed to have memorized, down to the vowel markings and accents.  I haven't done this fully, but did have some time to re-memorize much of it.  Still the level of familiarity needed just isn't there yet.  I almost wish I could just start everything over so all the things that were barely stored in my brain the first time around could be put in more securely the second time.  I will be checking with my adviser for options ...

Friday, October 05, 2012

Obama vs. Romney debate pondering.

Yes, I listened to the entire 90 minutes.  Note that this debate was limited to economic issues.

Imagine a debate competition where you are up against a random opponent, the coin is tossed, and you are required to defend the  proposition,  "Arnold Schwarzenegger is a model husband."  If you survive to the end of the debate without being KO'd, have you not done well?

Thus, we must consider the nature of the proposition that is being defended and its defensibility before declaring whether or not we think a debater did a good or bad job.  In this instance, the economy is at high unemployment, we are running trillion dollar deficits, students are loaded with a trillion dollars in unpayable loans, but can't find jobs.  Healthcare threatens even the upper middle class with bankruptcy, while most of the employed are nervous about layoffs.  There is little hope of improvement and demographic changes are making things worse in the long term.  How would YOU do arguing for the policies of this carnage?

Given all this, I really don't think Obama did badly as a debater, nor do I think Romney did especially well.  What would it have been like if they had been compelled to switch roles and argue the opposite positions?  Of course there are many other things at work in this kind of a debate.  One is the belief in the doctrine of the total intellectual and moral superiority of Leftism, which didn't quite shine through like it should have.  The other is the notion that Obama was especially great as an orator.

Other than this, I am pleased that Romney gave some defense of free markets, education vouchers and states rights.  The Dodd-Frank beastie got some well needed criticism.  Many things went unsaid, like giving loans to people who study degrees with no economic utility, or the disaster of public sector unions in education., but not everything needs to be said in a debate.  The real question is whether or not a president Romney can de-fang the ultra-leftwing monster state.

Tuesday, October 02, 2012

Last driver installed on my laptop recovery.

This was for the audio.  Now to test it.  Since I am a tiny bit old fashioned, I picked this song.  It is called "Dies Irae", or "Day of Wrath".  Some songs never lose their timeliness.

Laptop Recovery:

The old disk drive was put into a disk case and plugged in to see if anything was recoverable.  A chkdsk took nearly 24 hours to run with all the problems, and the drive was so hot I could hardly hold it.  The overheating probably had something to do with why it failed.  This was a 7,200 rpm drive (200Gb Seagate Momentus) which was a fast spin rate for laptops, so it is probably wearing out.  The file system was pretty badly trashed, but there were still a lot of recoverable files on it.

The SSD always runs cool, so this should cause a lot less heating for the laptop overall and the battery will run longer.  So far I really like how responsive the computer is with the SSD replacement.  Everything that required cached data before now comes up almost instantly.