Sunday, March 31, 2013

"He arose!"

"He arose! Hallelujah! Christ arose!" Christ did arise and is still alive. If he hadn't, there would be no Christian religion. If it was proven that he didn't rise from the dead, the hopes of Christians everywhere would end. It ain't gonna happen, though. People have tried disproving Christ's death and resurrection for centuries.

The words at the beginning of this post are from the old Robert Lowry hymn "Christ Arose". I enjoy singing it, along with a lot of the other great hymns. But now, many churches have switched to more contemporary songs. Eventually, they may prove to be as long lasting and insightful as the old hymns but I miss singing hymns from a hymn book. With the music in front of you, you could sing in parts (what's that?) and it helps to have an organ or piano leading the music because that helps pick out parts to follow. And being a bass (that is, singing in the low range of male voices - not a fish) makes it hard to sing along on songs that are mostly pitched for sopranos and tenors. But I don't want to come across as an old curmudgeon. I do enjoy the newer worship songs, too. I love the songs of Paul Baloche, Chris Tomlin, Amy Grant, Michael Card and the artists of Hillsong. Their music is inspired and inspiring. They are all terrific musicians and their songs are deep and worshipful. It's just a shame that churches seem to go all one way (with older, traditional hymns played on organ or piano) or the other (contemporary music played on guitars and electronic instruments).

Our church does include an old hymn once in a while but it's hard to be able to sing parts when all the instruments are just playing chords as accompaniment. But the enthusiasm and musicianship of our church's worship band is remarkable. It really does lift our spirits and helps our soul worship the Lord. I don't want this to come across as a complaint against the use of contemporary praise and worship songs in church. I just miss the old hymns and the loss of the more classical instruments. Why does everything seem to have to be one way or another?

This year, Easter is early and it's still cold outside. To save from the usual crush of people in church on Sunday, we took advantage of our church having a Saturday evening Easter service this year. It was still crowded but it wasn't overwhelming. This morning, we're going to wait for it to warm up before starting the Easter Egg hunt.

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Suspended Coffee

I read today about "Suspended Coffee" and thought I'd pass it along. As usual, it's a practice that has been going on for decades (at least) and I'm just finding out about it.

Each day, I check the "What's New" section of the Snopes website and saw this article talking about Suspended Coffee. My first thought was that it must be a way of brewing coffee - you know, like leaving the grounds "suspended" in the boiling water (like tea) instead of running water or steam through the grounds. I was wrong. It's a very nice tradition that apparently started in Italy after World War II.

After the war, many people had lost everything. Most people didn't have much but some people still had enough to enjoy a cup of coffee. They saw people who couldn't even afford that. So, in the city of Naples, a few people who had the means would buy a cup of coffee for themselves and then pay for another cup and tell the owner it was a suspended coffee. They called it "caffe sospeso" (suspended coffee or pending coffee). Later, if someone came into the shop who didn't look like they could afford a cup of coffee, the owner would ask them if they'd like a cup. This was a nice way of telling them that a cup of coffee had already been bought for them. By staying anonymous, the buyer didn't embarrass the person who got the free coffee and there was no worry about the receiver of the gift needing to reciprocate.

No one seems quite sure how it got started. Why would people who couldn't afford a cup of coffee come into the cafe in the first place? How would the people who paid for two coffees know that someone might come in later to claim it? I don't know either but somebody started it. Perhaps it was a marketing scheme. The cafe owner would look like a nice guy if he spread the word that he would offer that service. I prefer to think that kind people suggested it - remembering the words of Jesus:
Then he turned to his host. “When you put on a luncheon or a banquet,” he said, “don’t invite your friends, brothers, relatives, and rich neighbors. For they will invite you back, and that will be your only reward. Instead, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, and the blind. Then at the resurrection of the righteous, God will reward you for inviting those who could not repay you.” Luke 14: 12-14 NLT

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

I can make all the coffee I want

Our company provides free coffee and tea for us. The coffee comes by way of a coffee maker and it is up to us to cooperate and make a new pot when it runs low. For the tea, the company just provides free tea bags. I mostly drink tea and make a pot in the morning and drink it throughout the day. I sometimes drink coffee, though, so I take a turn making coffee when I see that the coffee is low. Some days it feels like I'm the only one making coffee because every time I walk into the cafeteria, the coffee pot is nearly empty and I end up making a new pot.

Today, I happened to be in that area more often than usual and, again, the coffee was almost empty each time I was there. Making a new pot is simple and takes only a minute or two. That's because the coffee comes premeasured in bags and the water is plumbed right into the machine. You just put a clean filter in the basket, add the coffee grounds, put the empty pot under the the basket holding the grounds and hit the switch. If it's so easy, why don't more people pitch in to help? I don't know.

I get the feeling that no matter how often you make coffee, it would still disappear quickly and there would be almost no coffee left the next time you came in. The faster you make it, the faster it disappears. My theory is that people rush to take coffee when the pot is nearly full for two reasons:

  • So they won't have to make a new pot
  • Because they think it is fresh

Otherwise, they will skip having a cup and wait for someone else to make the new pot. I used to get really upset about the number of people that act this way. But you can't change that behavior in people. So, I changed my attitude to look at the good I am doing. It's good to be helpful. I feel like Thomas the Tank Engine. He's happiest when he's being, " a really useful engine". As long as I don't spend too much time doing it (that's not why I am employed here), I'm being a really useful engineer.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

A book I know I'm going to get

Earlier this year, I wrote about Nellie Bly's trip around the world (my post was "Nellie Bly returns"). Yesterday, there was a fascinating show on National Public Radio's The Diane Rehm Show. Diane Rehm interviewed Matthew Goodman the author of a book titled Eighty Days. In it, he recounts the race around the globe between Nellie Bly and Elizabeth Bisland who was working for a rival publication and traveling the other way around the world. I learned that Nellie didn't even know she was in a race with a real competitor until she was half way around the world. She thought she was only trying to beat the eighty days it took the fictional Phileas Fogg in Jules Verne's story.

I told you a bit about the story in my earlier post as well as a bit about Nellie herself (born Elizabeth Cochran, later changing the spelling to Cochrane and then later taking the pen name Nellie Bly). I even pointed out how to get Nellie's own account of the trip but I think you'll enjoy this book even more. It goes into much more detail and also tells the equally interesting story of Elizabeth Bisland and her trip the other way around the world. Mr. Goodman also tells a lot about how newspapers were run back in the late 1800s and while a lot of things have changed since then, he points out that a lot hasn't changed much. He researched this topic extensively and reports from primary sources and can be a bit more impartial than Nellie can be about her own trip. It sounds like I've read the book already but I haven't. I got all this from the show.

If you go to this link at The Diane Rehm Show, you can listen to the story by clicking on the Listen button. You can read the transcript by, surprisingly, clicking on the Transcript button on that same page. You can read an excerpt from the book there, too. I know I'll be buying it the next time I'm book shopping.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

I rode my scooter in today and...

Finally, it seems that the weather has broken and I can safely ride my scooter to work again. I need to do some work on it before too long but for now, it's fine. After not using for over a month (I last rode it into work during a thaw in January), it started right up! Honda sure knows how to build a reliable scooter.

The work I need to do on it is:
  • Change the oil
  • Change the air filter
  • Change the spark plug and adjust its gap
  • Check and adjust (if necessary) the valve clearance.
They are all easy, step-by-step jobs and I have the service manual to help me along.

I used to really enjoy working on my car but now the engines of automobiles are so complex that I don't feel competent to work on them. But this scooter is manageable. And everything is smaller so I can work on it in a smaller space (our shed for instance) and I don't need help to move big parts. Also, you're not reaching down into a "box" to get to parts (and scraping your knuckles when the wrench slips). You just remove the side panels and everything you need to get to is right before you.

The numbers are the right of way priorities
And now for the "and..." in my title. Notice the traffic drawing here. I've put numbers next to the vehicles showing their relative right of way with '1' having the most right of way.

On the ride in today, I was ready to turn left onto a side road (on the left in this drawing)  from the highway I was traveling on (running vertically in the drawing, my little red Honda scooter is the red ellipse marked with a red '2'). The traffic was heavy and I was waiting for an opening. There was also a car in the side road waiting to pull out on the highway (marked with a '3' in the drawing). I noticed the car but, having the right of way, knew that I has first chance at a break in the traffic. Lots of times, I'll give the other driver a break and let them pull onto the road first and then make my turn. But this morning I was running late and decided that I'd better make the turn as soon as possible. BUT - as usual on my scooter, I know to be careful. In an accident, I'm the one who is going to be hurt. And it's a good thing I did.

The car coming toward us (marked with a '1' in the drawing) was also making a turn onto that road and he definitely had the right of way over both of us. But he slowed way down and flashed his lights to "go ahead". Just as I was starting to make the turn, the car on the left, '3', pulled out without even looking at me. Sure enough, that driver was on their cell phone and didn't even look my way. Fortunately, I was ready for this and there wasn't even a close call. I should have beeped but I figured that would just make them slow down or stop and that would make things worse.

It just drives me crazy how many people are talking on their cell phones while they are driving. And it's not just on long stretches of open highway. They are on their phone in tricky situations. And the really sad thing is that most of the time they don't even realize the trouble they have caused and how close they came to causing an accident. That's why I thought about beeping - to make them aware of what they just did. But, as I said, if I'd have beeped in that situation, I'd have probably just made it worse. What do you do? Just stay alert I suppose. It looks like no one is going to give up their "right" to be distracted while driving.

Thursday, March 07, 2013

Pedometer or petometer?

I opened a new bag of dog food the other day and inside I found a prize. But instead of the usual useless toy or coupon for more dog food, it was a pedometer. As you can see from the picture here, it is from Purina® and is part of their Project: Pet Slim Down™ program. I get more out of our morning walks than my dog Charlie does, though, so I think of our morning walks as something good for me. Charlie does enjoy inspecting the neighborhood and making sure everyone is doing things right. He especially enjoys garbage day and smelling what everyone had for dinner during the past week.

I used it on a few of our morning walks and found we went about 2400 steps. Well, I took 2400 steps. Charlie took at least twice as many (having twice as many feet as I do) and he has shorter legs so he has to take more steps to keep up. Maybe I'll attach it to him and see what it reads. I took it to work one day to see how far I walk around the office. Also, I wanted to make sure it was working so I was looking down at the display (in the picture to the left) to see if it was incrementing for each step. I had to hold my belly in to be able to read the display. It took so much effort and concentration that I almost ran into someone.
As you can see in the last picture on the right, if I don't hold my belly back, I can't read the display. Obviously, I'm in very good shape. I do try to walk a lot but this winter has made that difficult and it's been very busy at work so I've been missing a lot of my walks at lunch. But now I realize the real purpose of this pedometer. Its purpose is to encourage me to walk often enough and long enough to get my belly size down so I can read the display of the pedometer without needing to push my belly back out of the way.