Thursday, May 28, 2009

Proof that Jesus never married

There have been a few books and movies over the years, The Last Temptation of Christ and The Da Vinci Code for instance, that use the plot device (or perhaps they think it really happened) that Jesus was married.

I can tell you for sure that this is impossible. Jesus was without sin when he died on the cross as payment for our sins. That means Jesus never told a lie. If he had been married, how could he have answered the question, "Does this make me look fat?"

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

A surprise find in our supermarket

While we were all shopping the other day, I took Emma over to the section that holds a variety of cheeses from around the world. What a surprise when she saw a picture of Wallace and Gromit on one of the packages. Could it be? Wensleydale? Well, yes it was - direct from the Wensleydale Creamery in Hawes in the Yorkshires dales.

We had some last night and it was delicious. As Evan said, it was good enough to travel to the moon for.

Monday, May 25, 2009

Peanut farming in New England

Last year, we finally had a garden at this house. Even though we moved in the fall of 2006, we just couldn't get going on a garden until the spring of 2008. It turned out that the soil left by the builders was not the nice loam that had been there. They charged us to haul that away and left us with sandy soil with lots of pebbles and stones. So, we had to buy some loam from the guy next door who runs a nursery and does landscaping. He gave us a really good price. We decided to make a raised bed garden because the thought of mixing that nice loam in with the horrible stuff in our yard was like putting cream and sugar into a glass of bath water and expecting it to taste good.

So, at the end of last year, our garden looked like the top picture. We let the kids pick out some flowers and one other plant to include in the garden. Emma picked a watermelon and Evan picked a peanut plant. I didn't think Evan's peanut plant would do well so far north but we were intrigued by the idea. The plant got nice and bushy and stayed green all summer. We forgot about it in the fall, though, and didn't dig up the roots to dry out the peanuts.

When I dug up the garden this week-end to prepare for this summer's garden, I found some peanuts still in the soil! The picture on the left shows Evan with one of them. Yes, it looks like he's grown a sixth finger so I included another picture of him holding it in his had so you can see how big it is. If only we had more faith in our one little peanut plant and treated it right after it had gone to all the trouble of growing such big peanuts. Maybe Evan will grow up to be President like another peanut farmer we know about.

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Medical help and the lack of it

For the most part, I've been pleased with my doctor. He and his staff have helped me over the years although when I was sick back in April, the nurse said it wouldn't be worth the time for them to examine me because I had a virus and they couldn't cure that. I'm not sure how she determined it was a virus over the phone. When my symptoms worsened, I went the emergency room and the doctor there found that I had an inner ear infection, gave me an antibiotic and cured it. But my complaint this time is about two other doctors. My wife's former doctor and the pediatricians who treat my kids.

I remember when the kids were much younger, we'd call the pediatrician about some symptoms the kids had and we'd answer the same two questions each time: 1) Are they still urinating? 2) Do they have a fever? If we answered yes to #1 and no to #2, the doctors didn't want to see them. No matter what the symptoms. I think it is just hard for doctors to treat kids who either can't talk yet or can't explain what is wrong and where it hurts. It is my firm belief that pediatricians should have to take courses at a veterinary school to see how the animal doctors do it.

My wife has always had a problem where she feels hot all the time. In can be the middle of winter and she goes around in a short sleeve shirt. I finally convinced her to bring it up with her doctor (she was sure he wouldn't do anything about it). His answer was to laugh and say, "Yeah, my brother has that same problem." That was it. Maybe doctor's should also have to take some classes at the engineering school. Doesn't a problem like this pique their interest? Wouldn't you think that they would want to investigate something like this? What would the doctor think if he took his car into the mechanic saying it accelerates to high speeds with no warning and the mechanic laughed and said, "Yeah, my brother has a car that does the same thing", and do nothing about it?

Thursday, May 21, 2009

One way to fight a "war"

There is a lot of arguing over ways to fight various wars. Some will advocate for going all out. "Total war is the only answer", they say. Others will go the other way and say war solves nothing. Then there are the wars that aren't really wars at all. The war on drugs is one of those. Here the arguments are often similar but in this war, there are some people who say the way to fight the war is to declare all drugs as being legal and this will remove the incentive for the so called drug lords and their minions to be involved because prices will drop. Some would call this not winning the war but capitulating to the enemy. The other side won't have soldiers killing people anymore because they don't need to. They will have won.

We've been fighting this war a number of different ways: keep new users from getting started on drugs, help current users to stop using drugs, intercept the drugs as they come into the country, find and arrest the people who distribute the drugs and in some cases destroy the plants that are used to make the drugs in the first place. It is this final way of fighting the war that was addressed in an interesting story I heard on National Public Radio's Morning Edition this morning. Here is a link to the place where you can hear the story yourself.

What they are finding is that one small area of Columbia which used to be one of the highest coca producing areas of the country is now seeing production plummet. The reason is that the government is helping to develop the area. They are building schools and roads. They are helping the farmers find alternative produce to plant. Because there is less coca production, the armed rebel groups are staying away and leaving the people alone to take care of their businesses and their families. Wouldn't it be wonderful if this really works? Wouldn't it be wonderful if other places can use these methods?

The idea of destroying the coca plants and trying to get farmers to plant other crops has been tried before but now Columbia is showing that this doesn't go far enough. You have to invest more in the towns and people than just handing them some bags of seeds and tell them to go at it. They need roads to deliver their crops. Their children need education to have a hope for a better life. Isn't this what we should just be doing all the time anyway? it seems like we get so easily side-tracked by fighting various wars that we forget what we're supposed to be doing in the first place.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Enjoyed the new Star Trek movie

My son and I went to see Star Trek this week-end. I wasn't really sure what to expect. I try not to get my expectations up too high because I don't want to be let down when the movie doesn't meet my expectations. I'd heard many glowing things about the movie but some things I heard troubled me:

1) There was time travel involved. I think time travel can be a good plot device when used properly. Too often, though, it is used to get out of a problem in the plot without enough thought involved.

2) Supposedly, both the Kirk and Spock were going to be involved romantically with Uhura. I'm all for romance in the movies but this seemed to be forcing it to be where it wasn't necessary.

3) It was being made by a director, J. J. Abrams, who didn't like the original Star Trek or at least he wasn't a fan. I worried that he wouldn't understand what people who have seen every Star Trek episode and movie ever produced would expect in the movie.

I shouldn't have worried. It was a very good movie. It turns out that a good movie is just a good movie. It wasn't a replay of an earlier episode. It didn't slavishly reproduce the old movies or TV episodes. It was fresh with an interesting story and a lot of action.

There were some disappointing parts but I won't go into those. I just hope that the fact that the movie was well received and made a lot of money will mean that there will be more Star Trek movies in the future.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

A quick story

I got an e-mail from a friend lamenting the fact that NASA had made a big production about conducting a poll to come up with a name for a room in the International Space Station. The name that came out on top of the poll, Colbert, was a write-in by followers of Steven Colbert and was an obvious joke. But there were a number of other names that should have been used. Instead, they went with the name that came in eighth - Tranquility. Why even go through the exercise if they weren't going to take the top name the poll came up with that wasn't tainted? It's one thing to throw out the name that won by ballot stuffing but it's another to just pick the name you wanted all along.

It reminded me of an incident in my own life. Our school district built a new junior high school that opened as I was going into the eighth grade. We, along with the seventh graders and the ninth graders, were the first students in the school and one of the things that needed to be done was to pick a school mascot. They wanted to teach us a lesson about Democracy so they ran this elaborate election where mascots were nominated by different groups and ballots printed. They had advocates campaign for each of the entries. We had studied the Whiskey Rebellion in history class (which happened in our area of the Monongahela Valley of Pennsylvania) and one group came up with the idea of using the Rebel as the school mascot. To the teachers' credit, they let Rebels be on the ballot with the other nominees but Rebels ended up winning. Then the uproar began and the principal decided that Rebels was inappropriate. So, they had another election with "proper" mascots on the ballot. In the end, the Finley Junior High mascot was the Knight. Like they didn't go out on the town and mix alcohol and wenches once in a while!

The picture on the left is from

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

A thought on the way to work

As I was trying to make a left on a busy road, I saw a small gap a few cars ahead and prepared to turn so the kind person leaving the gap wouldn't have to slow down. Well, the "kind" person sped up! The gap was too big and I was able to safely get across but instead of being mad and making an unfriendly gesture at them, I waved and said (not that they could hear me), "Thank you". I felt better for it and thought of the words in Proverbs 25:21-22 that were repeated by Paul in Romans:

Do not take revenge, my friends, but leave room for God's wrath, for it is written: "It is mine to avenge; I will repay," says the Lord. On the contrary:
"If your enemy is hungry, feed him;
if he is thirsty, give him something to drink.
In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head."
Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.

Romans 12:19-21 [NIV]

Saturday, May 09, 2009

How Mom got into the RAF

My father was born in Wales and was brought up there, in London and in Western Pennsylvania (lots of Welsh folks were in Pennsylvania due to the coal mining). My mother's family were mostly Welsh, too, and had been in Pennsylvania for a long time for the same reason: they were mostly coal miners. My father was still a British citizen and was in the Royal Air Force during World War 2. His assignment changed between Britain and Canada a few times during the war. He always said he felt safer at his base in Wales than when he visited my grandmother in London at that time. Of course, he felt even safer when he was stationed in Canada and when he would go to visit relatives in Western Pennsylvania. His uncle had married my mother's aunt so that is how my parents met. My mother's father didn't like my father, though. He was a foreigner and in a foreign military and likely to get shipped out at any time. Grandpa didn't trust him, I think. But every time Dad got leave, he'd go out with Mom and they fell in love.

He came for yet another visit during one leave and asked Mom to marry him. She knew her father wouldn't agree so they decided to elope. The story goes that when they did, my grandfather headed for the train station (some of the stories say he had a gun) but Mom and Dad went to the bus station. They got to Buffalo, NY and got married there. But by now, Dad's leave had run out and he was AWOL (Away Without Leave). But, lucky for him, he was in the Royal Air Force Police (insignia shown above). and knew the guards at the gate. So, he was able to get on the base but he had to find a place for the two of them to live and needed more money to support his new wife. They always needed office help on the base so my mother worked there. Actually, I don't know if she joined the RAF. [Added later - She may have just been a "civilian contractor" - kind of like the Haiburton of the Second World War.] I will have to check on that.

Anyway, my grandfather was not at all happy about this but by the time my parents got time to go back to visit, things had settled down and my father, who was a very outgoing, likable guy, became one of my grandfather's favorite people (he was one of four sons-in-law). Perhaps I'll tell some stories about my father next month.

Tuesday, May 05, 2009

Mom and the Tiger Moth

As I mentioned in my last entry, my mother is pretty reserved. She's quiet. She's not a big adventurer and doesn't like to take risks. Yet, there was a time when she wasn't like that. She wasn't wild or anything but she did some things I don't think I'd ever do. The story of how she and my father were stationed at a Canadian Air Force base during World War 2 is another story.

The Tiger Moth I'm speaking about is shown in this picture (from this link). The Tiger Moth was a training aircraft that was used in Britain, Canada and other Commonwealth countries. Mom worked in the office on the base and once in a while, the trainers would take the girls in the office up in those flimsy looking things. No cockpit. Noisy. Not much between you and the air rushing by. And the pilots, of course, wanted to see if they could get the girls scared. So, I could almost imagine my mother going up the first time. But once she knew what to expect? Just amazing. Mom, you never cease to amaze me!

Do we get scared as we grow older or just wiser? Do we think we're invincible when we're younger or do we just need to be more careful because we have people we're responsible for when we're older? I don't know but we definitely seem to do fewer crazy things as we age. But I'm glad we have the stories to tell.

Monday, May 04, 2009

An ironic story from my mother

I hope to have a few stories about my mother this week leading up to Mother's Day. Here's a short one (the picture here, taken in 2007, is of Mom and her two grand-children):

My mother is rather reserved and doesn't like to push her own ideas. She has a lot of good ideas but she often feels she is either ignored or dismissed by others. This usually happens in groups where she volunteered like at our church or at my school where she was active in the Parent Teacher Association. She wondered how she could get her opinions to be considered without having to "sell" them. Also, she didn't want her ideas to be artificially pushed ahead of the ideas of others. Why couldn't all ideas be considered? Why did the pushy people think their ideas were better than other ideas?

She heard about a book that was supposed to help in this area. I don't remember the title but it was something about how to get yourself taken more seriously. Or something like that. She couldn't find it in local book stores or in the library. So she asked a book store to order it for her. She got really excited when they called and said it had finally arrived. She picked up the book and brought it home and started reading it right away. It broke down it's advice in a number of "easy to follow" rules with the first rule being the most important idea for being taken more seriously by your peers. The first rule was, "When someone asks for your name, only tell them your last name. Always use just your last name when talking with other people." The rest of the book remained unread.

Sunday, May 03, 2009

Finally starting to feel better - and other things

I finally started to feel better yesterday, Saturday, May 2. That's almost a month after I began to feel sick. It has been a progression of problems: first the flu (or a really bad cold), then a sinus infection, then hearing loss and plugged up ears (with fluid build-up in my middle ears), then I started to get an itchy rash. Then, when I went to a second appointment with the ear, nose and throat doctor, he got worried about the look of my eyes. I thought it was just my allergies kicking in a bit early but he thought not. He sent me to a ophthalmologist who said I had an infection in my eyes. She said the over-the-counter eyes drops with allergy medicine I was taking was just making it worse. She prescribed some eye drops with antibiotic and steroids and that seems to have finally done the trick. My eyes are feeling much better and the skin rash has gone away. My hearing is still not good but it has improved over the last week and I feel my ears popping as the pressure equalizes in them. I think Monday at work will be the first day since April 7 that I'll feel like I'm in control of my mind and body. Before this, I felt like I was just struggling to stay aware of what was going on around me.

On Friday, May 1, we had a small lunch with the fellow that was fired on April 2 (I wrote about it here). It was sad in some ways but he has always handled his problems with a sense of humor. It was almost as if he felt he needed to cheer us up and encourage us. He has a couple of possible directions to go. He's started writing again, for one. Previously, he wrote a number of magazine articles on programming and even wrote a book on using software components in the Java programming language (they are called Java Beans). But this time, he may try his hand at fiction. He is an accomplished musician and is teaching a guitar student and playing the piano in a restaurant one night a week. Our lunch was at one of his favorite Chinese restaurants and it is amazing to watch as he converses with the waitresses in Chinese. He also speaks Portuguese, Russian and Spanish. It's almost as if he has so many talents that he will have a hard time deciding which direction to go. I would imagine he will do well once he decides and he will probably look back at this disruption in his life as a good break from a stagnant position at our company.

What makes this more difficult is that I (and others) think his dismissal was unjustified. He hadn't been given enough time to make the transition from database administrator to a member of the software group. There is a real sense of being wronged here. Did they really need to fire him right now with the economy in such bad shape? My friend not only has to try to find a new job but has to contend with the questions about why he lost the old one. How do you correct what isn't fully explained? Perhaps there is nothing to correct.

While I think it is important to forgive and move on, I think this is one of the hardest things to do in life. We don't want to let the people who caused us pain to know it was a good thing in the end. We want those who cause us grief to also suffer - and the longer the better! Making the best of a bad situation could be thought of as relieving the guilt of the people who caused the disruption in our lives. But isn't it better for us, and those who depend on us, to get back on our feet as soon as possible and to put these bad things behind us? Harboring anger and resentment only makes our situation worse. It only makes improving our situation more difficult. I think that is what my friend is doing and I congratulate him for that. He's a better man than I am!

Colossians 3:12-14 "Therefore, as God's chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity." NIV