Thursday, April 29, 2004

As I read this and thought about it, I have become terribly sad. I like to keep a good sense of humor about life, as all of you readers know, but this issue really breaks my heart.

(edit: link now linked to proper post)
You know, it's hard to believe that these two were voted "most popular" in their high school.

Wednesday, April 28, 2004

Large photo montage of ugly women protesting for abortion. I'll abstain from commenting that it seems a moot point for most of them. Thanks to Barb for pointing this out.

(added: I think "superfluous" would have been the proper adjective)

Tuesday, April 27, 2004

Anyone ever tried online hypnosis?
Books four and five will be reviewed next week at the latest. I'm most of the way through Singer's stories. It's by far the largest of the contest books, so it's taking a while. Good stuff there. The Dawson book I just started last night and don't have any comment to make yet. I'll just mention that among recent reading was Paul Theroux's Riding the Iron Rooster, a story of riding all over China by train. While Theroux gives all appearance of being a really lousy travel partner (says little, snoops around a lot, doesn't follow rules, annoyingly liberal), he writes really well and gives you lots of interesting tidbits. My favorite was this: there is a law in China that a husband may not initiate a divorce against his wife while she is pregnant or for one year after giving birth. As I though about this, I found myself thinking, what kind of society are we that we don't give this kind of protection to women. (BTW, women are not under those same obligations. If the husband is really troublesome she may initiate)
Contest review 3: Theology After Wittgenstein

This book certainly lived up to what I had hoped it would do, i.e., introduce me gently to Wittgenstein's thought. I had already gotten some inklings through reading Ray Monk's bio while I was on jury duty. I discovered through reading this that I have already developed an affinity for the sorts of directions W was pointing in. Where this affinity comes from I would be hard pressed to say, but I know that I tend to distrust dualisms of all kinds and introspectivism where I find it. While of course things can be deceptive, normally one should expect that they are not. We can't, without risking absurdity, begin philosophical discussions as if the possibility of communication is debatable.

As I think about it, much of my affinity for this no doubt goes back to learning ethics under Brian Sayers who was well read in Neitzsche, Russell, Moore, Kiekegard and Wittgenstein. I still remember him convincing me that the mind is not really separable from the body, at least not as we ordinarily conceive of minds and bodies.
Contest Review 2: Bellwether

A pretty good novel. Talks of trends, hairstyles, science lab management, sheep, and really annoying people. Satisfies one of my criteria for a good novel, namely, it had an educational function. Also an easy read, which made it a nice contrast to book one. Just a little too predictable in terms of where the plot was heading though. Still enjoyable.
Contest Review 1: Being as Communion

Just due to the nature of things, I don't have a lot to say about this one. The author is the Metropolitan of Pergamom, and seems to be knowledgeable in a wide range of theological writings, both ancient and modern. Much of the work is a critique of certain trends in western Christianity, namely a downplaying of the work of the Holy Spirit (it all comes back to filioque for these guys), a lack of understanding of the nature of God's own communion within the trinity (ok, does anyone really understand that), and a lack of true catholicity in the eucharist. While I feel myself saying, "I bet he's right" about much of this, the world of Orthodox theology is just so foreign to me that I have a hard time understanding, much less evaluating what he argues. I hope that a few years down the road I'll come back to it again and be able to draw more from it.
I seem to remember discussing this book already somewhere. Probably on Scott C's blog. It seems my (entirely negative) impressions were pretty well founded. I think we, as a culture, still generally value honesty fairly highly. Thus I would be surprised if "cheating", in the sense of dishonesty, was really significantly increasing. On the other hand, we do not seem to value constancy at all, so I'm sure that in the sexual realm cheating has been increasing over the last several decades.

Sunday, April 25, 2004

Someone has definately crossed the line between Scottish and gay.
Fascinating NYT article on Japan's hostages.

Saturday, April 24, 2004

I always find it interesting when people do ACTUAL research on sex differences. But I have to imagine that the folks who did this one will still be subject to a degree of ire. Still seems interesting. I especially like the conclusion about same sex education. I happen to think that co-education has an adverse affect on boys as well, since they can perceive education as a feminine activity and thus feel pressured by their peers to perform badly to prove masculinity.

Friday, April 23, 2004

I suppose when the opportunity smacks me in the face to share the gospel, especially in a way that is very comfortable to me, I should take advantage. I received this in my email today:

"Dear Paul,

My name is John Forth from Melbourne Australia. I got your e-address from Amazon reviews.

Neil Postman is absolutely correct about the totally insidious nature of television anti- "culture".

I wish to point you to 2 essays which address the same themes as Postman but also offer a way of really doing someting different.

Please check out:

Cooperation and Doubt at:


Radical Politics For Ordinary Men and Women


Grace Shines

John Forth"

Here's what I sent in response:

Hi John,

You might be pleased to know that you are the first person to contact me through an amazon review. I have actually made a couple of freinds through contacting them via amazon reviews myself. I'm glad that you wrote to me and hope that you are enjoying your life in Australia. I often think about what an interesting place Australia is. I read Robert Hughes book, The Fatal Shore some years ago and found it interesting and disturbing.

I appreciate the articles you sent to me. They do of course have some degree of overlap with my own perspectives on our modern world. This is particularly the case in the area of how we are affected by "news" and also by the idea that we need to be part of a community which has its own values which transcend our time and place.

Having said that, the differences are almost as great, if not greater. The shorthand version would be that I am a Christian and not a Hindu. But shorthand is often deceptive, so allow me to expand that just a little. I'm not at all an expert on Hinduism of any variety, so forgive me if I mischaracterize anything. I'm also assuming that you more or less share the perspective of these articles (you did send them to me), so I apologize if that is not the case.

I think as a Chistian, while I stand with you and criticizing the materialism and other evils of modern "western" culture, I have a rather different view of what the proper goal and expectations of a human life are or should be. These views, I feel, are inseparable from my conception of who God is. I believe in the God who created heaven and earth, who called Israel out as his chosen, representative people, who punishes sins (the nature of these sins being summarized in the ten commandments), who sent his very own (and only) son to earth to die for his people and who extended the nature of who are his people out from Israel to "all who believe in his name", as the gospel of John puts it. And as the apostle Paul says, if we die with him (Jesus) in baptism, we shall be raised again to a new life. The goal then, as it were, of the christian life is to be faithful to God in this world and live in the hope of resurrection in the next, where all things will be set right.

I would be happy to converse with you more about any of this or about anything else you like.

Paul Baxter

I was just trying to think how to sum up the essentials of the faith in a really short form and figured I probably should just paraphrase the apostles creed, more or less. I hope y'all don't jump all over me for what I left out or said badly, but pray for John to think over these things and let God's Spirit move in his heart.

Thursday, April 22, 2004

Obscure trivia contest (probably with no prize):

Anyone guess which author said this once in an interview? Your only clue is that he's one of my old favorites.

"Yeah, usually. Lots of people come. There's no merchandise, although I'm always asked, "Where are the key rings? The belt buckles?" It's interesting to be touring for a book that was written a while ago. In order to do a book tour well . . . you have to repatriate yourself into the country of that book, even though you've probably moved. But it's fun. I mean, when people ask me, "Do you have your bodyguards with you?" It takes me a minute to know what they're talking about.

I really play this (tour) stuff to the hilt. Like room service: the other day I called for a cookie just to see if they'd bring me one. They said, "No, we have an assortment of cookies, sorbet and ice cream." And I said, "No, I want one cookie." I wanted to see the one cookie on the big plate and when the guy took the silver lid off there'd be one cookie! And they always tell you what it is, no matter what you get. In a fine hotel, the waiter comes up, and he'll say, "Mr. Leyner, this is your coffee, your egg-white omelette, this is your croissant," as if you're a complete moron. I just wanted to see him say "This is your. . . cookie" when there was nothing else there."

Tuesday, April 20, 2004

It seems patently unjust to me at this moment that the Swiss get this and we just get Groundhog Day. We need to do something about this (Todd????).
This guy leaves me speechless.

Monday, April 19, 2004

Let someone else save you the trouble of listening to AirAmerica yourself, I say.
To be honest, I don't know how we've survived as a species without these.
Found an absolutely great help site for anyone dealing with computer viruses/adware/spyware/unexplained phenomena:
computer cops

I've read this before, but I still think this is just the greatest quote:

I was recently asked what it takes to become a writer. Three things, I answered: first, one must cultivate incompetence at almost every other form of profitable work. This must be accompanied, second, by a haughty contempt for all the forms of work that one has established one cannot do. To these two must be joined, third, the nuttiness to believe that other people can be made to care about your opinions and views and be charmed by the way you state them. Incompetence, contempt, lunacy—once you have these in place, you are set to go.
Someone was thinking outside the box. This could be really bad, though, if it became popular.
I have no idea if anyone would find this interesting, but here's the 1914 Catholic Encyclopedia article on "Lemberg", where I'll be going in July.

Saturday, April 17, 2004

(Just for Barb) You could always see if these people are hiring.
Panoramic view of Independence Square, Kiev.
The race for worst Passion review may not be over. Just for the record, if someone says they oppose the film and do so on non-christian grounds, I'm happy to just ignore them. When someone says the crucifixion is somehow OPPOSED to the christian message, then they are idiots.

Thursday, April 15, 2004

I see; they are only practicing for the competition.
I know you've been saying to yourself, "Self, I'd like to get one of those nice jewelry implants in my eye that Paul had linked to, but I'm afraid to have it put it in my own eye." Do I have the solution for you.
Reason number 43 why I don't need tv: Frank tells me straight up what Bush said.

Tuesday, April 13, 2004

What value do we place on the gospel?
I'm trying an experiment. The forum at GoneGold has opened a new section on religion and politics. I'm going to see if I can get some discussion going about the ethics of playing video games. My hopes are not especially high, but I always enjoy seeing if I can prod people into thinking about their lives.
Do you like both a good challenge AND a lot of cheese?

Monday, April 12, 2004

Amazon lets you see which books are popular on certain campuses aroung the US. Most of what I found was pretty dull (DaVinci Code, blah blah blah), but the listing for MIT was quite different. I was amused to see this book on their list. One would assume that they need such a book, or at least perceive that they do.
Sorry for no posts for a while. Busy weekend, as I'll mention in just a bit.

I was looking today at some nice articles on being a better web writer, this one being both concise and helpful, thanks to a link through Mr Froyd. It made me think a bit about what I am and am not doing well as a weblogger.

I did intend this blog to help me practice my writing skills, since I don't have any other regular reason to write, at least not with any consistency. I don't see myself writing a novel, at least not anytime soon. I think I might like to submit something to the Piano Technicians Journal on ethics and the practice of the piano business, but I think I'd better learn something about business practices in my industry first. In that regard, now that I mention it, I'd love to hear any juicy stories from y'all about your experiences with piano tuners, either good or bad.

But back to my weekend, since I'm sure you are longing to know all the details of my life. I did some work on Friday morning. Oddly, the customer who scheduled that appointment asked me, "hmm, so you work on Good Friday?" Well, yeah, YOU requested that time. Not a big deal. Very nice customer too--played me a couple of his favorite Philipino melodies when I finished up.

Had about 45 minutes to read before meeting my wife at the noon service at CGS. During the scripture readings I was thinking to myself, "This would be a good day to go see The Passion again with Lenise (who had not yet seen it)." So after the service she agreed. We went to SouthPoint ("Mall of Doom" tm") and got some lunch and baby shopping done before the matinee. Maybe you can bug her for her own comments on the film, but it struck me even more powerfully than the first time I saw it. Also noticed some nice details like the sweat like drops of blood in Gethsemane. Just speaking for myself, this movie really makes me think about how much we keep inside our little term "gospel". I won't rehash all I've said already, but I thought Gibson did a great job showing why Jesus ended up crucified and how those events were perceived by the participants. I also woudn't even want to see a more "accurate" depiction. The story of the passion is an awful and bloody and miserable story.

Saturday we did some more shopping and Lenise made a dessert for Easter. It turned out great, despite her protestations that it was ruined. It was a chocolate truffle cake with lots of whipped cream in it. The mixture didn't come out as consistently as the recipe would have indicated, but it tasted great. We were both reflecting on the fact that we had not really come to terms with how much we relied on one cookbook, made clear since we loaned it out to our Russian friends.

Easter morning was a wild rush. The mad Wesleyans at the church accross the street decided to hold a sunrise service without so much as consulting us first. Lenise said her first thought of the morning was "why are these hoodlums playing a piano so early in the morning." Then it was off to pick up a friend on the way to an early choir practice. I hadn't practiced our Easter music yet, so it was pretty necessary for me, plus we were short in the tenor department. Music turned out great though, mostly due to our great trumpet players drowning out our singing. Unfortunately I ended up being a little too sleepy during the sermon to truly appreciate it. It's too bad. Our pastor is, IMHO, one of the great orators in our nation and was finally finishing up a series on Matthew which has taken a number of years to get through.

Pretty much the rest of the day was spent at the Nelson's. We had lamb (what could possibly be better for Easter?) and ham and plenty of other goodies. The Nelson girls kept us entertained throughout. They just keep getting cuter. We ended our time there watching Shrek, which has apparently become a favorite of the girls. The penultimate Nelson girl (age 3?) has been overheard singing "I like big butts . . ." from the film. I was able to introduce them to the adventures of Seinfeld and Superman. The Wyoming song quickly became popular as well.

Thursday, April 08, 2004

More, ummm, Passion news, I think.
Bill over at GG cracks me up yet again.
A friend (this usually means Kirk Nelson, and this case is no exception) asked me recently if my wife and I are only communicating through my blog. I told this was not true, but apparently this is now my only communication with Todd.

Wednesday, April 07, 2004

I think this can only be followed by actual eyeball piercing. Or perhaps a stake running through one's thorax. Have any of you had this done?
Today's amusement.

Tuesday, April 06, 2004

I think it's time to give a big award to the worst review of The Passion yet. Bet you can't top this:

Although Gibson claimed "The Passion of the Christ" remains true to the history of the Gospels, Bovon pointed out that this might be a hollow claim. "The Gospels are history and interpretation," he said. "The Gospels are not our best sources to the history of the passion of Jesus."

"The problem is that much of this stuff in the movie is in the Gospels," countered Cox. "It's read every Good Friday in churches." The film may push Christians, he said, to scrutinize what he called "these terrible passages" of canonical sources.
Camille on art, religion, and today's students.
I guess I had never really applied myself to the question of HOW square wheels on vehicles might work. Good things we have mathematicians.
I was remembering a conversation I had with a friend a few months ago. It was one of those that started, " I don't know if I should tell you this, but . . .", you know that sort of conversation. The end result of this one, as it turned out, was to upset me about someone else who, in my estimation, exhibited a fairly bad attitude towards me. The more I have thought about that particular situation, the more I have thought, "I wish I just hadn't been told." Perhaps the next time someone opens with that line to you, or you plan on saying it to someone else, you should ask, is this going to build people up? Will this reflect badly on one or more parties? We tend to blurt out all kinds of things in the name of "truth" that really should be kept hidden. Sometimes it seems difficult to keep information to ourselves. Well, sometimes being virtuous is difficult. It wouldn't be praiseworthy if it was easy.

Saturday, April 03, 2004

A friend whose initials are Kirk Nelson sent me this article about some hopeful news in the job market. I think further study is needed though. Is this in your line, Scott C?

Thursday, April 01, 2004

I have to admit that I am of a split mind on this topic. Thanks again to Todd for pointing out a particularly good statement of this view. When I say I am of a split mind, that does imply, at least, that I am somewhat sympathetic. I will certainly agree that scriptures outside the context of the church, in my experience, cause a lot of trouble. Not that they don't do that in the church as well.