Friday, October 31, 2003

It is interesting... now that I'm not reading the Bible and praying every day, I'm also no longer plagued by doubts about the veracity of the gospel or indeed of anything at all. Indeed, it is so interesting that it inclines me to hold more firmly to my Christ-centric worldview... if biblical mandates were no more or less valid than any other set of instructions, then why should following them lead to such mental anguish while ignoring them provides a respite? Why indeed unless there was in fact some folks interested in ensuring that I not continue to follow biblical mandates...

Of course, on the other hand, it could just be the electrochemical patterns in my brain which tend to respond and indeed force patterns upon the often random natural world have merely formed a pattern and impressed it upon my experience...

This whole situation has lead me to consider writing a series of essays generally falling under the rubric of On Naturalism. I've had so many ideas that are like the germinating seeds of essays, yet I haven't really been able to get anything to sprout thusfar. Hopefully in the coming weeks/months I'll be able to put up what I can on the web for your consideration.
I've been playing too much Madden 2003.... I picked it up on the cheap from the local EB last weekend, and I've already played a complete season with Green Bay.

We won the Super Bowl.

We actually had a not real great season, only 11-5 (although 9-1 in conference), and Farve was out for 7 weeks in the middle with a wrist injury, but Green ran for almost 2000 yards in the season and helped set up wins against the Jets and the Rams to clinch the divisional title. The Super Bowl against the Steelers ended up being a blow out...

Now we'll just see if we can do it again next year...

I just wonder if the salary statistics in the game are accurate... if so, football players make a fair amount of money... even the ones who aren't stars. I've got left tackles who make 400-500K a year for 4 year contracts. I mean, they're definitely an integral part of the team, but... wow...
I guess football players work pretty hard though.

Tuesday, October 28, 2003

I took the plunge this weekend into the wild world of carpentry.

I have a new appreciation for the work that engineers do... it's easy to think up something that you want to build, but it's a bit more difficult to ensure that what you imagine is actually feasible.

So, I went to home depot with a plan for a desk. After a quick cell phone consultation with my dad about what sort of fasteners to use with the wood I was purchasing (it was good that I did so, as I was thinking nails, and the real answer turned out to be screws), I spent $50 on wood, screws, and electric drill. I felt good about the purchase, since buying a pre-assembled or even self-assembled desk would have cost around $100 and wouldn't have left me in posession of a very useful drill.

Now it's time for an ASCII scematic:

/ | / | /|
/ | / | / |
| |____|__ |______/__|
| / | / | /
| / | / | /
|/ |/ |/

That's what the base of the desk was designed to look like...the completed desk is that thing with a flat piece on top as the desktop. The dimensions of this lovely piece were to be 48" width x 32" height, with those three supports being of 16" depth, and the desk surface being 32" in depth.

The main problem I faced was getting the parts to line up so that I could fasten them together... they didn't want to line up straight until after they were fastened. Finally I balanced the back piece on top of two end tables I have, and used a textbook and some random paper to hold the end supports up to the proper height to drill through and then screw them. This gave me a free standing letter "C" shape, and from there I was able to assemble the rest without incident.

The thing is huge and heavy, and when I move out of this apartment I'll likely throw it away, since it's not particularly good looking either... but, it's functional, I'm proud of it, and I learned a bit making it... I think my next project will be a bookshelf, which thanks to the knowledge I gained on this project will probably be something that will look good and which I will want to keep upon my departure.

Wednesday, October 22, 2003

Confidential to Tim in MN: I'd like your thoughts on the most recent AT&T Wireless television commercial.

Confidential to Ben in Evanston: Stack 'em to the heavens, stack 'em to the heavens.

It's shaping up to be an interesting month.

Oh, and I really want to paint up some Russians for Crossfire after seeing this scenario.

As I was walking in to work just now, I saw a house driving down Blakemore.
I love the surreal moments that life throws at you sometimes.

Monday, October 20, 2003

Saturday evening was both surreal and enjoyable.

Di and I had received an invitation from one of Esther's high school friends to attend a pot-luck type gathering on campus. I was really quite unsure of what to expect, since information had not been really forthcoming, so Di and I set out with a little trepidation to find out what was going on.

What we stumbled into was some alternate universe.

Or so it seemed to me... it was as if I had stepped into the world of some alternate version of me, where everyone was familiar, yet not quite the same people that I actually know. It really was a scenario from my late night imagination, where I stumble back in time o into some parallel dimension... the location was a two story version of a kemper suite, the attendence was that of any IV function from my years at NU, the music, the food, the entertainment... all comfotably familiar...

I just didn't know anybody.

Thankfully people were rather cordial, and (contrary to initial fears) the whole crowd was not freshmen. There were actually several other post undergrad folks there.

Overall it was quite an enjoyable evening, presque vu and all.

Friday, October 17, 2003

I think that what I've generally believed about the end of the world may be wrong.

I don't know about you, but when I consider the question of Jesus' return, I generally conceptualize it as an event that will most likely not happen in my lifetime, but probably will come in the next couple hundred years at most. Certainly he's gotta come back before things get too crazy around here, right?

But I've thought about it a bit more, and I'm not certain that my feeling is even in the right order of magnitude of time... it certainly could be, but there are other possibilities.

Of course there's all sorts of language in the NT about how the kingdom is near, but... what if near means a year in the future... according to God's temporal accounting practices, that could be 365,000 years from now (plus or minus 1000 years). What if Christ isn't returning until humanity has colonized the far reaches of the Milky Way galaxy.

I was thinking about another thing as well... the bible starts off "In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. How do we observe that? Well, scientists generally view the origin of the universe as the "big bang". Now I'm not certain what the current view in astophysics is, but I know the idea has been tossed around that we're in a "closed" universe... ie. one with enough mass to have gravity eventually kick in and drag everything back to one super dense point... essentially the opposite of the big bang. What if the end of the world is a mirror of the beginning of the world? Of course, this view might be a bit difficult to reconcile with the view of a 1000 year reign of Jesus on earth...

Thursday, October 16, 2003

You know that scene in movies where someone is talking to someone else, and then the person who is being spoken to kinda of fades out as the camera zooms in on them, and then you get transported to some other place and or time that they are imagining... Well, thanks to my mp3 player I got to experience the sonic portion of such a cut scene just now... it was really amazing.

I'm afraid that I put down the wrong email address for someone to send something to me... I hope that I still get it... we shall see.

Well, it would seem that the Cubs have maintained their status as perennially lovable losers... pity... Toyama would have been so happy had they not lost.
I saw the 8th inning in Tuesday's game... that was really sad... Chicago should have had that game in the bag, but they gave up, what? 8 runs in quick succession by 3 different pitchers? I mean, come on!

At least this makes things simpler for me... I get to root for whichever team wins the AL series now in the world series... yes, yes, I prefer even the Yankees to Florida... maybe in another 10 years they will have in my mind joined the canonical teams of the sport...

Ok, so what's the deal with Dashboard Confessional? Have you heard their latest radio single??? I think it may be the most perfect pop song yet created... it's sickeningly catchy... It's been running through my head for the past 48 hours at least. Thankfully this mp3 player is changing that.

It's rather surreal to walk around the supermarket, the campus, the Home Depot, all while listening to Blindside, or Ben Folds, or Bon Voyage... It's like I've got my own personal sound track now.

I'm going to have to cut my hair this weekend...

Wednesday, October 15, 2003

I got my shipment from today! Music and memory galore! Drinks are on the house... although I must confess, I'm a bit confused about how the whole thing happened. According to the shipping log, the package was on the truck to be delivered here yesterday, but at 2:39pm, an unsuccessful delivery attempt was made... it was unsuccessful due to a bad address. I called up FedEx when I read that notice at around 3:00pm, and talked with a woman who asked me what the correct address was... I proceeded to tell her the EXACT SAME ADDRESS as was already listed for the package, both on my receipt from newegg, and the shipping log from fedex... and today around 1:00pm the thing shows up in the lab... weird.

Tuesday, October 14, 2003

This came out a few days ago, but you should definitely read it...
Gee... wonder why the press didn't give more coverage to this particular testimony before the congress? Maybe cause it would have revealed them as charlatans and schiesters?? Nooo.... couldn't be...


Or, for those who can't translate comittee-speak...

KAY TO CONGRESS: "Here's the WMD stupid"

For once the electoral college proved itself useful, cause if Gore was president right now, we would have lobbed a few cruise missles and then sent $87 Billion to bail out Gray Davis... I think the Iraqi people need it a bit more than the illegals in California...

Monday, October 13, 2003

I had a fun time with Di this weekend.

Saturday I met her at the public library near her house. She studied, while I read... mostly Tintin books... man, those things are great even as a twenty-two year old. I think I'll have to see if they have Asterix here as well...

We went to lunch at a Mexican restaurant -- "Las Palmas" -- which wasn't quite as good as the e-town version in my mind... my stuffed pepper seemed a bit too cheesy. We returned to the library and spent another three hours there. Di went home for dinner, and I went out to the store. I bought an electric hair trimmer thing, and about ten dollars worth of cleaning supplies, and then I went home and gave my apartment the cleaning it had missed for the last few weeks. Toilet, sink, and dishes all got washed up. I've also decided to try one of those "2000 flushes" thingys... any cleaning that involves only passive effort on my part is ok by me.

Sunday we went to the same church as last week, and I'm afraid that once again the pastor seemed to have a knack for rambling... I really couldn't discern a central theme to his message... the place seems alright with that one caveat... the music this week was not as country either :)

After Di went home sunday, I went to the public library in Green Hills, closer to my apartment. The building's only three years old, and was really nicely furnished. I got a library card, and checked out a few books, including some Tintin's.

When I wasn't engaged with fun activities with Di however, I was busy wrestling with Naturalism -- both the possibility of its veracity, and the conclusions that could be made if true. It's been a pain in the butt. And the head. Very surprising actually... it was like the Soviet 1944 summer offensive... it just swept over my mind and broke through what I had previously considered impenetrable arguments for the truth of my Christian shaped world view. Every new argument that popped up was instantly pounded by counter-arguments, or even more often, outflanked and rendered inconsiquential. A veritable blitzkreig through my brain. Thankfully, some bastions of reason have managed to hold out thusfar, and in fact the very speed of the advance has left my mind with a few powerful counterattacks.

One thing that I've been considering however is that this experience is in fact a method God is using to break down my pride, and help me to understand other people... at least that is a way that I've conceptualized other sins in which God has allowed me to become entangled. We shall see in the end I guess...

Sunday, October 12, 2003

It sucks when the part of the bible you can most identify with is Ecclesiastes...

Friday, October 10, 2003

Holy horse hockey...

I just spent $300.00 by accident...
I can afford it... I'm not going to bounce anything...
It's for some things that I want and (sort of) need...
I didn't really mean to get it right now...

I was just checking the shipping costs at newegg, and evidently I misread the buttons at the bottom of the screen, cause before I knew it, I had ordered new RAM for my computer and a new Creative Zen mp3 player...

Perhaps it was my subconscious pushed me to make the purchase... oh well, little other recreation for me for the next month or two...

guess I'll be listening to a lot of music while reading books from the library at various random locations around campus... or maybe just the stacks :)

Thursday, October 09, 2003

Watched baseball last night... despite my rather blasse attitude towards the Cubs, I was compelled to root for them. I mean, come on... Classic team version most recent expansion team? When I sawt a two out homer in the 9th to tie it up, I knew the Cubs would win. And then... they didn't. Oh well... as I write this they are up eleven to nothing in the 5th, so I'm pretty confident they will head to Florida 1 - 1.

Today we had a visiting prospective post-doc from Cambridge visit the lab. Listening to her talk about Notch-Delta signalling in the patterning of groups of visual cells in the drosophila eye made me think about how little is actually known about developmental biology... certainly there are some well established canonical pathways, but... it's really just scratching the surface of the complete picture.

In other science news, I Pubmed-ed a really interesting article which I cannot now find. Having just read the abstract, I'm not certain of the methods or the conclusiveness of the findings, but I'll give you the gist... they inoculated human volunteers with a protein expressed on the surface of cells composing the lining of the (Anopheles) mosquito midgut. Mosquitoes were then allowed to feed upon these volunteers, who had (because of the innoculation, presumably) produced antibodies to this sepcific midgut protein. Using some method which I did not get the chance to read about, they measured the ability of plasmodium to cross the membrane and multiply in the mosquito, and found a signifigant percentage deduction. In theory what would be happening is that the antibodies in the human blood ingested by the mosquito would do their antibody thing and bind to the surface of the cells lining the mosquito's gut. Then the plasmodium, which is also taken up in a blood meal from an already infected human, is faced not with the normal gut lining that it normally penetrates to get to the mosquito's salivary system (from whence it is expelled into another victim), but rather with a gut lining covered in additional layer of antibody protein. I'm not certain how great an affect an x% reduction in plasmodium survivability in the vector would affect morbidity and mortality of the disease in whole populations, but if it had a signifigant effect, or could be tweaked to have a signifigant effect, innoculating people with gut proteins would (probably) be a pretty economical means of fighting the disease.

Now, let's discuss the reason I found this article in the first place. I was tossing around in my mind an idea that is somewhat similar... my idea however would be to innoculate some animal with a plasmodium surface protein, and then collect monoclonal antibodies. This middle part's a bit fuzzy, but I think that through protein sequencing, and possibly genomics, one could create a DNA sequence to code for the antibody. That sequence could be attached behind a promoter that would express in the tissues of the mosquito where the plasmodium normally reside, and then used to create transgenic mosquitos via injection (a very difficult process, but one that or lab is hopefully going to become acquainted with in the next month or so). The idea would be that the mosquito would produce mammalian antibodies against the plasmodium, and thereby reduce or eliminate them while in the mosquito.

All of this is probably rather far-fetched, and in particular the idea of releasing transgenic mosquitoes into the wild to compete with native mosquito populations seems rather unlikely to ever garner support, even if the science works, but it was fun to speculate about.

It was illuminating to look at the map that showed the California recall election results... suspicions were confirmed, as the only districts that had a majority for the dem candidate were centered around SF.

Wednesday, October 08, 2003

Seriously, the more I learn, the more I am convinced that the only hope for mankind is if a man named Jesus was killed and then came back to life some time early in the 1st century. Of course, if this event did not actually happen, then the notion of hope is probably meaningless anyhow.

"With much learning comes much sorrow." I believe that's what Solomon wrote...

So... what have I been learning? Well... the "Diversity" title by Peter Wood has been good thusfar, and I would recommend it to everyone... even if you write it all off, it would be good for you to be exposed to it.

Secondly, I've been working my way through J.S. Mill's essay/book entitled "On Liberty". It has been great thusfar, and you should absolutely read it! I'm not sure if folks outside of the Vanderbilt community will be able to use this link, but you can try to access it on the web.

Thirdly, I've picked up a novel by Sinclair Lewis entitled "It Can't Happen Here". I'm not entirely certain where it is going to lead, but based on the title, I'm thinking it may end up being a rather dark and pessimistic piece... great, just what I need. I haven't gotten beyond the first few pages as of yet, so I can't yet comment on whether you should get it or avoid it.

Over the weekend I day-dreamed a bit about the future... my future, but also how my future may be affected by world events over the next few decades. I came up with three main scenarios, one decidedly optimistic, the other two less so. The optimistic one ended with my visit to Mars in the year 2072 (at age 92, which is the 21st century equivilant to about age 60 due to health care advances) to visit my son and his family for the first time in 30 years after his having set out with among the first of the martian colonists.

Of the two darker scenarios, one involved an atomic weapon being detonated in a major American city within the next decade, and the other involved my forced emigration from the US to somewhere in south-east asia.

Di and I went to a new church this sunday, which we liked enough to agree to go their next week. This church also met in a public school building (I guess the ACLU doesn't keep up with events in Tennessee very well), but had a rather smaller congregation than the Presbyterian church we attended several weeks ago. The pastor also lead the singing, and played guitar which was somewhat unusual, but not unwelcome. His message seemed a bit disorganized, but that may have been due to his notes going AWOL... we shall see next week... the only thing I didn't like was what seemed to be an over-elaboration of some issues about the prcise temporal nature of the holy spirit's occupation of the Apostles... plain reading of the text seemed to make the pastor's acrobatics around the issue unneccessary (at least to me). Anyhow, we shall see how the place works out... and hopefully we won't get lost next week on the way there :)

Saturday, October 04, 2003

I just got back from the library... it's really starting to grow on me... I'm afraid I may even start liking more than the NU libraries... The stairs between floors remind me of a ship... they're so narrow and steep... the whole place reeks of oldness... and just visiting the place today made me reconsider my concerns about boredom in eternity... already there is so much written material that one could digest... if people just keep on creating at a constant rate one will never run out of new things...

Anyhow, down to business. Yesterday I mentioned that I would have an assignment for you... let me explain how it came about.

When I was researching World Vision, I obviously read through the material that they had published on their website. Included with other information on their purpose and vision, was a note about how they were working to eliminate agricultural subsidies and market protection in place in "developed nations" -- particularly the US and EU. When I read this I must admit I basically dismissed it... with a sort of "oh sure, one more demand upon the 'evil' developed world" scoff, and no second thought. Essentially a knee jerk reaction to what seemed intially to be simply "west" bashing.

Well, it would seem that some else may have other ideas about the matter... I've noticed that sometimes certain issues, which seem new and unimportant will sometimes be reinforced in my mind by seemingly random reminders. I was browsing this blog the next day, and I came across this post on American agricultural subsidies. What was most interesting was the link that was posted to a searchable database of subsidy payments since 1995.

Now, I must confess, agricultural subsidies are not a subject upon which I have generally spent a lot of mental energy... what view I had of the situation was largely that of the 1930's era dust-bowl relief program... Old Pa Clampett and his wife Martha, and their young'uns Billy-Joe and Mary-Sue would lose the old family acrage if Roosevelt didn't step in with a little helping hand... you know just until things return to normal... a relatively benign social hand out, that was actually helping the hard-working "little guy", without even requiring them to read about how Heather has two mommies...

Well... that doesn't seem to generally the case... rather it would seem that the US government has its hand in propping up inefficent industries and artificially setting the price for certain commodities. I'm not going to summarize Denbeste's analysis of the situation here, but suffice it to say, if you'll remember you basic economics, price setting is a bad thing, and shoring up inefficent firms isn't exactly a great thing either... at the very least it's a ludicrous proposition that the farmers of the United States, blessed with naturally fertile land, technological ingenuity, and huge amounts of capital resources cannot compete with the impoverished, beast-of-burden utilizing farmers of the third world without assistance from Uncle Sam.

Anyhow, read through those websites, and draw your own conclusions, but I would encourage you to write to your senators and your district's congressman if you end up coming to similar conclusions as I did... obviously removing US ag subsidies is not a panacea for the problems of the third world (they've got other serious problems like corruption and the vestiges of Marxism), but, it does offer benefits to them in the short and long term, with short term costs that are basically absorbed by certain US firms in the industry.... and since they've been sucking at the teat of government largesse for years I don't think it would hurt anyone too much if they were forced to subsit on their own...

You can find out who your senators and congressperson are at the senate and house of representatives websites.

Oh yes, and shifting gears entirely...
Last night Di and I went to the last even Five Iron Frenzy show in Nashville TN. It was at a club called Rocketown, and was as expected filled with young'uns. Thinking about it, I think it was the first time since Cornerstone '99 that I saw them... that's over 4 years. Anyhow, it was a great show, but, just as they are on their farewell tour, it reminded me that I have indeed said farewell to many aspects of my youth... no regret, just sentimentality. :)

Friday, October 03, 2003

I've got something to say about agricultural subsidies, but I'm going to catch a Five Iron Frenzy show tonight, so it will have to wait till later...

Suffice it to say, I'm going to be imploring you to write letters to all your congressmen and senators....

I know I will be doing so...

Thursday, October 02, 2003

Interesting day...

Last night after work I went over to the main library on campus and sat in the stacks reading for a while. I really like school libraries... there's just something about the stacks... you don't get quite the same feeling in a public library with all the children running around. Anyhow, I picked up a book entitled "Diversity: The Invention of a Concept" by a fellow named Peter Wood, an anthro prof from Boston. Thusfar I've only read through the first chapter and a half, but it's already been a good read. I always have to second guess myself when I read works about how the idea of America is threatened by various forces... 'isnt' this all a little overblown and hysterical' my internal skeptic asks. However, it does make sense that there are people who, both deliberately and inadvertently, are advocating various ideas and practices that are contrary to the idea and ideals embodied by America. After all... the founding fathers managed to create a nation rooted in the proposition that all men are created equal, and were endowed by their creator with certain inalienable rights. How much does this sound like fingernails on a chalkboard to those who believe that man is not anyone's creation, and that the notion of a creator is merely a vestigial "meme" from our species' childhood... It's when I consider this fact, and the fact that human nature hasn't changed since there were first humans that I recognize that internal threats to our nation can in fact exist...

Speaking of which, the article Power is a good one, and I would in fact suggest that you read the whole set of a dozen essays on the site.

Finally, today I decided to sponsor a family through World Vision. I looked into their finances a bit and discovered that 79% of their income goes to actual help of people "on the ground" as it were, while the remaining 21% is split equally between administration and advertising. Considering that the group administers a budget of over a billion dollars and is working in dozens of countries this seemed like a reasonable percentage. This will provide an outlet for a portion of my monthly tithe budget... and if I get a raise next year, perhaps I'll take on an additional child...
Once I have received information on the family I am supporting, I think I shall send them some photographs... it's not quite the internet, but if I was living in only one little village, I think I would enjoy at least seeing other places...

Wednesday, October 01, 2003

Well, I had a great time this weekend.

Left Nashville Friday morning a little later than intended, around 8:30. The drive up was somewhat surprising... I really didn't think that Kentucky was as wide as it is between Nashville and Louisville... I expected the the Kentucky to Perdue leg of the trip to be the longest, when in fact the Nashville to Louisville leg was marginally longer.

Anyhow, the drive was pleasant, and after the first two hours I was fully awake as well, which helped out. Arriving in West Lafayette, I was rather shocked that a school of 40,000 students could be sustained by such a small-town feeling... well... small town. With the help of a cell phone I was able to navigate through the campus to pick up Dan, and soon we were on are way to chicago.

We missed the interstate.

Somewhere along the line we must have missed a turn, because rather than finding ourselves back on I-65 we found ourselves on some state highway running parallel to I-65. Thankfully it was four lane divided the whole way, so I just kept on driving.

Of course, we ran into insane traffic coming into the south side of chicago.

I think it only added about two hours to the length of the trip.

Friday night we played a Pafrasian game. It was nice to see everyone, and we ended up playing till around 2:30 when we decided to call it a night.

Saturday I woke up early to pick Jeshua up from OHare, and managed to get lost on the way there.

We ate lunch at Thai Sookdee, which was.... incredible... good Thai food in Nashville... non-existant. (as far as I know... if you know different please enlighten me)

In the afternoon, after seeing NU get thrown around by last years national champions, we fooled around with the Armati rules. Cliff took command of my new Republican Roman force, while Carl commanded his newly painted Spartans. I contented myself to watch the contest, preferring to glean information on successful tactics by observation as opposed to the school of hard knocks.

In the evening I cooked dinner for everyone (just a simply past bake style meal), and Carl ran a Crossfire game. I was on the werhmacht side, and we got whipped. I'm still not sure about scenario balance, I'm going to have to think about it for a while, but hopefully I will publish my thoughts either here or on Carl's website.

Sunday I met with my parents who had come down just to see me. It was good to see them.

The drive back was shorter than the drive up, due to less traffic, however there was a bit more rain in Indiana this time.

I realized something this weekend. The roadtrip is perhaps the greatest of inventions... I really love driving around this country. Even the interstate -- which might be considered rather insular and sterile compared to the smaller US highways -- seems to communicate so much during the drive. Each stretch of roadway has its own personality, which is gradually revealed to the driver during the course of the trip. Multiple person roadtrip is great, but even the solo drive is an amazing experience. I feel so privledged to live in this country in this time period, and be able to travel so freely and at such little relative expense. I think the only thing that may eventually surpass the roadtrip in providing such pure exhileration of freedom is if personal spacecraft are ever developed... however, even then, I think few places in the universe could hold such interest as America...

Maybe if we take to terraformation... :)