Sunday, April 30, 2006

Behind the Times

I don't have a TV, and I don't follow most news issues carefully unless an election is coming up soon and I need to be informed to vote intelligently. So I sometimes feel a bit left out when people discuss politics, or completely clueless when people talk about TV shows.

(For some things I am glad others keep track.)

But at least I know that a mugger trying to rob David Copperfield should doubt that the magician's pockets are really empty.

Or that a mafia boss using codes should pick one that would take a computer more than a few seconds to decipher.

Thursday, April 27, 2006

Oregonian Cartoon Wars

Apparently I have less excitement in my life because I'm not teaching math at LCC instead of U. of O. The university is apparently having it's own cartoon controversy because of some anti-Catholic cartoons of nature.

Most striking to me is that the university's official newspaper responds by writing an such a confused editorial.

Nothing is mentioned about how the Danish cartoons were published to clarify that mainstream media coverage mostly ignored that the cartoon's crisis was initiated months after the fact by Muslim leaders who inserted three extra super-offensive cartoons as part of a planned excitement to global rioting.

Nothing is mentioned of the more offensive anti-Catholic cartoons.

Nothing is mentioned of how the rioting against the Danish cartoons ironically supported their slanderous accusations.

The fact that the anti-Catholic cartoons do not refer to "relevant religious and social issues" and were "intended to provoke" apparently means they can be true to the "admirable goal" of "arousing dialogue" even though they "seem intended to simply incite controversy for controversy’s sake rather than making specific social commentaries".

Finally, the closing remark that "poking fun at the religious beliefs of the majority is inherently different from attacking an already oppressed minority" seems to be something the editors might soon regret publishing, since the university's official policies on diversity and tolerance make no such distinction.

As someone living in Eugene, Oregon, it is no surprise that in this city a conservative student paper would publish the Danish cartoons or that a liberal student paper would respond in this manner. But I guess I expect more from the official university newspaper.

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Big Food

One last post for today, and then I'll have cleaned out my current list of funny or interesting links.

My wife found this website yesterday: Pimp My Snack.

...and that was how many calories per 1,300 gram serving of the Behemoth Bourbon Cookie?

History of Video Games

Well, there went 46 minutes...

(Quite relaxing, to watch this last night after a very long day. And the ending was remarkable! I would never have imagined that the decision of which country would dominate the video game industry in the 1980s was made in Moscow by the KGB, while representatives of American, British, and Japanese companies were simultaneously meeting in the same building without knowledge of this fact...)

Fake Science

Here's a funny thing...

A web page describes a science experiment that claims to be evidence that microwaved water is bad for plants. It gets picked up here, and debunked here by people who notice the pictures have been photoshopped so much there is doubt any experiment happened at all!

The person who created the original webpage is not deterred, however. He updates the page to include his original pictures. But this only supports the debunking: this picture which is now provided is clearly the same as the supposed Day 1, Day 3, and Day 5 pictures but with different photoshopping of the left plant. You can switch back and forth between them in your browser to check this.

Sigh. I guess all the experiment really proves is that on the internet, everything can have its own web page.

Making Windows XP Efficient

This article was interesting, especially it's link to this page that lists which "background services" are safe to set so they no longer are always running in the background.

There are things more cool (warning: link has noise) than optimizing Windows XP, but the Windows XP tricks are less likely to cause injuries.

Friday, April 21, 2006

Peanut Butter Cookies

This recipe still needs a little tweaking. The cookies are yummy, but taste not quite "finished" in some way that my wife and I are still trying to figure out.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

In a large bowl (or electric mixer's bowl) combine:
  • 4 whole eggs
  • 1 cup brown sugar (not packed)
  • 1 cup white sugar
  • 1 cup yogurt, nonfat vanilla
  • 2 cups peanut butter (equals 16 oz. or 1 jar)
  • 1 Tbsp vanilla
Mix well, then add:
  • 5 cups gluten-free flour mix
  • 1/2 cup flax seed (or flax seed meal)
  • 1 1/2 cups chocolate chips
  • 2 teaspoons xanthan gum
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda (or 2 Tbsp baking powder)
Mix again. Bake on a greased cookie sheet (or cookie sheet with a silicon mat) for 14-15 minutes, until the bottoms begin to brown.

Makes about 90 cookies.

Not a Force Field

Um, well, a tank that automatically blasts out of the air anything that comes near it is pretty nifty. But that's not a force field.

I feel nervous correcting a tank.

The Sixty Second Seder

I forgot to blog about this during Pesach: the 60 Second Seder! Click on the yellowish box to start it.

Duck Hunt

I never played Duck Hunt much as a kid, since my Nintendo did not have the gun "controller". I could only play it at a friend's house. It was not a favorite game of my friend or I. And I still have no interest in playing it, except to spend 30 seconds finding out it's much easier with a mouse (warning: link has sound).


Ooo! Pretty!

Messianic Jewish Mysticism?

Messianic Jews do a lot of things that resemble mysticism. We have times of silent prayer where we simply listen for what God wants to tell us. We have times of worship with dancing to music, getting our whole body involved. We sometimes pray by "speaking in tongues". We believe that God imparts his nature into us, especially when a small group of people share a meal with him (as was done literally with the Tabernacle's sh'lamim offering, and as is now done metaphorically).

Is there such a thing as Messianic Jewish mysticism?

This is a tricky question, because "mysticism" is such a loaded word.

Technically, mysticism refers to something concealed. Two kinds of concealment can count.

Some mystics believe they have secrets not know to most people. The Roman, first-century "mystery cults" are examples of these. (The early followers of Yeshua were sometimes classified by outside Romans as one of these mystery cults).

Other mystics believe that something not secret is ignored by most people, but has power of recognized and used in a certain way. Thus something is concealed by misunderstanding or apathy even while being out in plain sight. An example of the latter is seen in some of the modern "sacred name" movement, where people believe that they know how to pronounce God's name and that doing so does something special.

Since so many people worldwide have accepted Yeshua and his teachings, it is difficult to claim that Messianic Judaism has anything concealed, by either kind of concealment.

Furthermore, although Messianic Judaism tries to be appreciative of Rabbinic teachings and use them as appropriate, almost all of Kabbalah (Rabbinic mysticism) is blatantly against Yeshua's teaching and cannot be incorporated into Messianic Judaism. So any attempt to call certain parts of Messianic Jewish culture "Messianic Jewish mysticism" would cause more harm than good, as it would cause many people to falsely imagine the existence of a sensible blend of the teachings of Yeshua and the Kabbalists.

(Kabbalah does not take scripture literally, but redefines and reinterprets it; see the Zohar's commentary on the crossing of the Red Sea for an accessible example. Kabbalah interprets scripture differently, emphasizing Gematria and other sod mysteries and codes. Kabbalah has very non-Messianic understandings of what it means to make something holy, of what it means to be redeemed, of what the evil inclination is and what it means to conquer it, of what is broken about This World and how to be united with God, and of what the Messianic Era is all about.)

To further complicate the language, besides the Kabbalah Iyunit (the philosphy of Rabbinic mysticism) there is "practical Kabbalah", which is often an embarassment to followers of the Kabbalah Iyunit as well as others who value Torah. Because the Talmud, in Tractate Shabbat, has the line "Whatsoever effects healing is not considered witchcraft", in the five centuries since Rabbi Isaac Luria popularized Kabbalah the name "Kabbalah" has become associated with all sorts of spoken formulas, use of amulets of healing and protection, staring meditatively at modern Hebrew letters, and so on.

In Deuteronomy 18:10-11 there are seven different types of magic which are prohibited:
  • kosaym (divination): predicting the future or answering yes-no questions about the future
  • onayn (conjuring): bringing clouds or judging optimal times for activities
  • nachaysh/chashayf (fortune telling): interpreting signs and omens
  • chovayr (charming): making charms or amulets connected with people, or putting demons into snakes
  • sho'ayl ov (inquiring as a medium): speaking with the dead or spirits
  • yeedonee (knowing one): gaining knowledge by using bones
  • doraysh el ha'mayteem (seeker of the dead): laying down on graves to become posessed by the dead
The cited Talmudic verse was probably considering healing by laying hands on people while praying, anointing the sick with oil, or using ritual immersions: all of which were common practices in the first century Jewish world and are not contrary to Deuteronomy 18:10-11. But that Talmudic verse has been misused to supercede scripture, regrettably in a way that is also called "Kabbalah". Thus there is even more reason to avoid trying to give meaning to the phrase "Messianic Jewish mysticism".

So, is there a better phrase for the things Messianic Judaism does that are about calming the soul, knowing God more deeply, and becoming more filled with God?

I cannot think of one.

The only other word I can think of with even remotely similar meaning is the modern Christian term "charismatic", but that is an equally loaded term which means different things to different people and is about certain behaviors rather than generally calming the soul, knowing God more deeply, and becoming more filled with God.

Any ideas?

Yeshua the Judge

I was recently asked what the gospel of John teaches about Yeshua judging.

In verse 5:22-30, Yeshua introduces one theme about life and death which is later elaborated in scripture: on the day when the Book of Life is opened and read, the Father will do no judgment about life and death. By that time judgment will already have been done through people's works, and apparently it is the Son who is given the honor, in Revelation 20:12-13, to read who is written in the Book of Life.

Verses 5:22-30 also teach that accepting Yeshua and his words will result in positive judgment on the Day of Judgment. More about this later...

In verses 8:10-11, Yeshua does not judge a woman caught as an adultress. The context is about hypocrisy, including that the woman was apparently framed, for the man she was with was not also taken even though the Torah perscribes both equally to death. So this lesson seems to be that Yeshua reserves the right to judge, but will only do so fairly. He would rather let free a (repentant) criminal than judge unfairly.

Most scholars agree that verses 8:1-11 are a latter addition to the original text, apparently inserted in the middle of a discourse given on Hoshannah Rabbah (7:37) or Chanukah. These would be the natural time to start a discussion by making a metaphor about light (8:12). The reason for the inserted text appears to be a clarification of the awkward use of "judging" in verses 8:15, 16, 26, and 50. Yeshua is not currently judging, but he will, and will do so fairly because his judgment will be based on what the omniscient Father has seen.

Verse 9:39 adds to what verses 5:22-30 taught about criteria for judging. One criteria the Father will observe is how people react to Yeshua. After all, anyone not willing to now kneel before the King of the Kingdom of God has no assurance the he or she will be able to do so and enter the Kingdom of God after death. This reaction might be quite inconsistent with their previously established track record of understanding spiritual truths. And verses 12:46-47 later explain that Yeshua's teaching serve the same purpose for those who never meet Yeshua personally. (Verse 5:24 claims there is a way to accept Yeshua and his words properly and be assured of a positive judgment, while Romans 2:14-16 and Hebrews 11 contain examples showing there can be other criteria for judgment besides whether people accept Yeshua.)

In verse 12:31, Yeshua says that "the world" is judged, and then clarifies that he means that Satan is about to loose influence. Later scriptures clarify that all who have the evil inclination are, knowingly or not, serving Satan and prevented from participating in the Kingdom of God. Death is one cure. But those who accept Yeshua's new covenant are made innocent of the evil inclination, and can participate in the Kingdom of God before they die.

Verses 16:8-11 hint at a theme elaborated on elsewhere, that participating in the Kingdom of God will be clear to see because of how the Holy Spirit affects those who do participate in the Kingdom of God.

In summary, Yeshua is not the kind of judge who must decide on a verdict. All verdicts on that day will be from what the Father has seen and written in his Books. Yet Yeshua is part of judgment in three ways: (1) how people react to his life and his words will be one criteria of judgment, (2) he will have the honor of reading the names in the Book of Life, and (3) his covenant allows us to effectively experience the Day of Judgment early and enter the Kingdom of God now.

Meditation and Brain Activity

On Tuesday I had lunch with someone who had called the congregation, wanting to talk about theology. It turned out he actually wanted to talk about meditation of a specific sort.

This person has a brain dysfunction that makes it easy for him to stop thinking logical thoughts and let his brain "idle". This not only allows him to stop actively wanting things (a common element of many types of meditation) but also to have mental peace and a feeling of joy.

Now, it is true for most people that the brain works less (by 10% to 20%) during rest than during active thinking. When we start thinking, our brain "focuses" and uses more energy, but some regions of the brain that are active during rest quiet down a bit. (This does not happen as much for people with alzheimer's or certain types of ADD, which hampers their problem-solving.)

But this fellow believed the opposite. He claimed that our brains are quite inactive when we do logical thinking, but when they are idle every neuron is firing 100%. Furthermore, he believed that this state of keeping the brain from logical thought, whether we were observing what was around us or really resting, was heaven on earth. Why? Because it was as heavenly as anything he had imagined, and it seemed to fit Yeshua's saying about "entering heaven like a child."

Furthermore, he was fond of select passages from the Gospel of Thomas and Shochet's first volume on Kabbalah, and claimed these were the "true teachings of Yeshua", which were also taught by Abraham. Anything in scripture or these two books which was evidence of the contrary was refused as being either misunderstood or some false teaching later added by editors.

Now, it does seem true that meditation can help improve our ability to "focus" our brain. And I am happy for this man, that he can rest his brain and have peace and joy.

Moreover, the conversation we shared has prompted me to think some worthwhile thoughts about Messianic Judaism and mysticism. The sermon I am composing for this coming Shabbat will be along these lines.

But I also am pondering what to say when I meet with him again (for lunch and to return his two books), at which time I should probably try to explain to him that his understanding of brain physiology and Yeshua's teachings are so incorrect.

UPDATE: The second meeting went quite well.

It turns out I had misunderstood his claim about brain activity. His actual belief is both simpler and involving more steps. He claims his "quieting the mind" increases his endorphin levels (quite possible, even taking placebo drugs can increase endorphin levels). This in turn maximizes how many neurons are firing in his brain (online I find articles discussing how endorphins can both aid or suppress neuron activity; I can't evaluate this part of his claim but its also not a necessary step). This produces a joyful state which reinforces his not actively thinking (quite reasonable, if he is having an endorphin high). So basically, he believes he has learned to create an endorphin high at will by stopping his rational thoughts. Assuming he can really do so, it would explain why he finds this practice pleasurable, addictive, and of an intensity easily confused with a genuine religious experience.

He's looking for people to train in this habit. Maybe five years from now Eugene, Oregon will be known for people who don't need television to "vege out". I suppose there must be many people willing to exchange their productivity for hedonistic meditation.

Or perhaps a student in the University of Oregon's neuroscience department wants somebody to use as the subject of an interesting senior thesis?

Thursday, April 20, 2006


After a Pesach week of experimenting with baking crackers as our main "bread", here is our favorite cracker recipe, which makes a large cracker suitable for 1 serving.

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.

In a small bowl or measuring cup combine:
  • 1 Tbsp milk
  • 1 Tbsp flaxseed meal (or almond meal)
  • 1/4 cup gluten-free flour mix
  • 1 tsp sugar (either white or brown sugar work)
  • 1 tsp olive oil
  • 1 pinch of salt
(For thinner and crispier crackers, double the amount of milk. The runnier dough will roll much thinner.)

Knead with a fork or by hand. The dough should be barely moist: not dry enough to shed powder when kneaded, but not wet enough to be sticky. Add a slight amount of water or flour mix as needed.

Roll flat on a silicon baking sheet. (To make rolling the dough easiest, cover the dough with plastic wrap.)

Bake until it starts to brown. (It takes about 9 minutes, or 6 minutes if you doubled the milk and have a very thin cracker).

Note that this recipe contains neither gluten nor leavening, and thus fits Sephardic customs for Passover food.

Commentary: The simplest cracker recipe would have only flour mix and water. Everything else is "extras" to help either texture or taste. We use milk, salt, almond meal, and brown sugar for taste, and olive oil for texture. Be brave, since it is easy and safe to experiment. We've made nice crackers with different nut meals (and/or flax seed meal) and with juice instead of milk. If you leave out the olive oil your cracker will be healthier but will be more difficult to roll thin and will not be as crispy -- in other words, you'll probably get a thicker cracker that tastes much better fresh from the oven than it will later on.

Monday, April 17, 2006

Gluten-Free Flour Mix

For a long time my wife and I would use different proportions of our various gluten-free flour types for our various recipes. Then my wife invented this blend, which works for almost anything and makes baking much simpler!

1 part
  • Tapioca Flour
  • Potato Starch
  • Rice Flour
  • Quinoa Flour
2 parts
  • Amaranth Flour
3 parts
  • Millet Flour
We buy our quinoa, amaranth, and millet as grain and use a grain mill for our DeLonghi mixer. Tapioca flour, potato starch, and rice flour seem cheaper to purchase as already-ground flour, especially at certain Asain grocery stores.

Normally we do enough baking for a "part" to be 1 cup, so this mix prepares 9 cups of flour mix at a time. In the heat of summer we make less at a time.

Different grains have different protiens and different amounts of important vitamins. Even if we did not have anyone gluten-intolerant in the family, we would probably still use a flour mix similar to this one but with some whole wheat flour added, so our baking would be healthier than if it used only wheat flour.

This recipe will not work for certain breads (such as challah) that require the texture of glutenous flours. But it works for a surprising variety of recipes!

The flours that have gluten are the same flours that are not allowed during Pesach according to Sephardic customs (because when wet they naturally self-leaven). Among this flour mix's benefits is that it is usable during Pesach for recipes without yeast, baking soda, or baking powder.

UPDATE: During 2007 we changed our flour mix twice. The newer version are here.

Variable Pancakes

This thin batter can be poured thinly to make a Swedish-style pancake, or thicker to make a typical pancake. Either way the pancake itself will taste like a normal pancake, due to the gluten-free flour mix.

(Based on the Swedish pancake recipe of a college friend, Don Lawrence, that uses regular flour, of which up to half can be whole wheat.)

Turn on the stove to medium heat, and get a frying pan that heats evenly.

In a 2-cup measuring cup combine:
  • 1 egg
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 1/3 cup gluten-free flour mix
  • some salt, vanilla, nutmeg, and cinnamon
Stir well. The batter will be thin, and will require a fresh stir before pouring each pancake.

If you will be using a filling, prepare that. Put a small amount of butter on the frying pan and use your spatula to spread it evenly.

Then make and enjoy your pancakes! Remember that if you are making thin pancakes the second side will cook much faster than the first.

Note that this recipe contains neither gluten nor leavening, and thus fits Sephardic customs for Passover food.

Thursday, April 13, 2006

Raccoons and Aluminum Foil (Squirrel Count: 6)

Happy Passover!

This morning I'm going on a bicycle ride with my wife. Hooray for a holiday-Shabbat!

We have at least one raccoon living under our deck. It ambles around our back yard in a very nonchelant manner. If we yell at it, it does not bolt like one of the squirrels, but simply backs away a few steps while watching us with what seems like an amused expression.

Unlike the squirrel live trap, our raccoon live trap has not yet been successful this year.

I realized one problem is that while the squirrel trap has a solid roof, the raccoon trap does not, and the the open can of cat food we are using as bait got flooded with rain water. Yesterday I put in fresh cat food as well as some peanut butter, and then wrapped that end of the raccoon trap in aluminum foil to keep out rain. Now it looks like we are trying to trap a Buckrogersian Space Raccoon.

This morning we had our sixth captive squirrel. I just found out it does not work to attach the live trap to my bicycle pannier rack with bungee cords. (So I'll drive the squirrel a suitable distance from home later.) If empty, the trap could be strapped to my bicycle without problem. But a large, upset squirrel makes it lurch about enough that I'd worry it might fall off just as we are crossing a street.

Sunday, April 09, 2006

More Recipes Forthcoming

My wife and I have been doing a lot of recipe experimentation. She has found a gluten-free flour mix that seems to work in just about everything. We've done not only the oldies (bread, power bars, pizza, scones, cookies) but also biscotti, blitzes, skillet pancakes, and Belgian waffles.

Before posting our new recipes, I'm considering starting a secondary blog. Then people intolerant to gluten could have a useful reference rather than being required to search through this blog for "Category: Recpies".

First we need to do some more experimenting today, because Pesach is approaching. We need to find some way to make gluten-free matza or a similar large cracker.

UPDATE: I decided to just add a sidebar of recipe links, rather than try to start a whole new blog. That will be much easier. And our experiments of making matza and other crackers went quite well! Perhaps I'll have time this week to share the results here.

Saturday, April 08, 2006

A Better "Rub Your Tummy, Pat Your Head"

Happy Shabbat!

Here is a silly challenge, for when you a break from resting and studying Torah, from a popularly circulating e-mail:
While sitting at your desk, lift your right foot off the floor and make clockwise circles. Now, while doing this, draw the number six in the air with your right hand. Your foot will change direction and there's nothing you can do about it.
With a little practice I could over-ride the effect. Very entertaining for a few minutes!

Squirrel Count: 4

My wife is fed up with squirrels attacking her garden. So we got a live trap to catch them and release them by her workplace. For bait we use peanut butter we put into half a walnut shell.

Spring has just started: we've only had squirrels routinely awake in the back yard for a week and a half or so. And we've already relocated four.

We have no idea if this effort will actually help, or if the back yard just becomes a "squirrel vaccuum" once emptied of resident squirrels, which will simply attract the nearest squirrel looking for a roomy unclaimed place.

Park a Bike Here

This might be profitable, if I bicycle, since bicycle fines are usually smaller than automobile fines.

Wednesday, April 05, 2006

Escher Starbucks

Hee hee. I can imagine the press release: "Starbucks, having now proven that identical business can prosper in close proximity, had decided to extend this marketing plan in all theoretical dimensions."

Songs Backwards

Heh. So at the time when playing Rock songs backwards was talked about, Weird Al used this in one of his songs to encode the message "Satan eats Cheese Whiz"...

In high school I listened to Weird Al a lot. His band was quite talented (with many styles of music) and many of his songs were not merely humorously cute but truly funny. I don't think any other musician has made me laugh aloud on so many occasions.

Nice to know he was classy, too.

Tuesday, April 04, 2006

A Bug in Excel!

For my Math 20 classes, I have developed a huge spreadsheet with many pages of activities, which also generates random tests.

While finishing up the page that generates versions of the first midterm, I found a bug in Excel! (I use Excel 2002, Service Pack 3.)

I've been using Excel since my elementary school days. It has always been a great program. As much as various Windows operating systems have bothered me, part of me could never really villify the company that so nicely refined the spreadsheet. And, in all those years, I've never once seen it have a bug, or act up for a reason that was not actually my fault as the user -- until today. I feel stangely disappointed and triumphant, as if I caught my boss searching the web for naugty videos or something.

To see the bug, open an Excel spreadsheet, make sure the add-in "Analysis ToolPak" is enabled so the GCD function is enabled, and in the cells A1 and A2 enter the following:
  • =6*0.018*1000
  • =GCD(A2,1000)
The first cell calculates to 108. The second cell find the greatest common divisor of that value and 1,000. It shows 1, even though the GCD should be 4 (and Excel knows this if you replace the formula in cell A1 with the number 108).

The bug happens again if you edit cell A1 and replace the six with a nine. The GCD of 162 and 1,000 is not 1 either!

Very strange...

Monday, April 03, 2006

Robot Wrestling

More people with so much time to build things! (But this is not nearly as cool as the remote controlled shark.)

Sunday, April 02, 2006

A Clever Way to Say "Duh"

I mentioned earlier that in January I began using the "read through the Bible in a year" feature on my Palm's Bible software.

This scheduled reading can be interesting for a variety of reasons. Recently I read Proverbs 17:25-26 and it made me laugh.
A foolish son brings grief to his father and bitterness to her who bore him. Also to punish the righteous is not good, nor to beat nobles for their upright behavior.
Um... duh!

I do not normally memorize verse references, or cite them in everyday speech. But I think I might make an exception here. For example, "Well, that was a Proverbs 17:25-26 moment."

John 11:4

So, building of two earlier posts, you may ask what is an example of how God currently treats us more as a disciple (to whom teaching is focal) than a spouse (to whom intimacy is primary)?

Consider John 11:4, a verse seldom discussed but deeply troubling.
But when Yeshua heard it, he said, "This sickness is not to death, but for the glory of God, that God's Son may be glorified by it."
First, a point of terminology: the verb "glorify" was adapted vocabulary which the apostles used differently, and different from its usual Greek meaning. When John uses the word it's always about public exaltation. (By Paul's use of the term you can glorify God while alone in a room, but not by John's.)

Second, realize the context: that El'azar (Lazarus ) had just died. In order for the death (and thus the resurrection) to be irrefutable, Yeshua purposefully delayed in traveling to that town. El'azar's relatives are in deep and grievous mourning, and his daughters are now unmarried and fatherless and thus also in financial trouble.

Yeshua says that all that family's pain and anguish is acceptable to God for the chance at publicly exalting the Father and Yeshua.

Note that Yeshua does not add, at that time, that he will raise El'azar and the family's pain and anguish will be replaced by joy and celebration. He could have said that, but he didn't. That was a secondary issue. Apparently the family's suffering would be worthwhile to God even if they were not about to have their suffering reversed, just because it created an opportunity to publicly exalt the Father and Yeshua.

More personally, if we are also followers of Yeshua in This World then our suffering is also not something Adonai minds if he can use it to be glorified.

More simply: suffering we learn from is valued by God.

That's how you treat a disciple, not how you treat your spouse.


"1996 - Instant messaging created as a way for people all over the world to interrupt each other."

(Spring term begins tomorrow. I'm trying something new: providing my instant messaging addresses to my math students. Hopefully I will not be put in the awkward situation of having to "ban" one of my own students for being rudely and unreasonably verbose.)

Personal Relationship

In February I wrote about being a disciple of Yeshua. A recent post at "Out of Ur", the blog associated with the Christian magazine Discipleship, asks whether having a personal relationship with Yeshua is scriptural.

Of course it is! But the personal relationship is currently that of master and disciple, more than that of groom and bride. The problems the other article mentions come from focusing on intimacy with Yeshua, which is currently quite possible but should not yet be the focus of the relationship.

Saturday, April 01, 2006


Yesterday my wife and and I went downtown to visit a certain store, only to find that a lack of staff made it closed! Since we had already put some quarters in the parking meter, we decided to visit some other stores we had not ever been inside.

At one of them we bought a new board game, Carcassonne. We also got an expansion set. (Prices were much less expensive that at these links!)

We've now played the game four times, twice with friends and twice just the two of us. It's very fun and certainly recommendable.

We have not tried the expansion yet. It will change the game a lot.

The basic game is a "building" game where you are putting together a map and claiming which "features" on the map you are investing in making big. There is very little direct competition among players, since placed map pieces cannot be removed (or moved) and bids cannot be withdrawn. Also, it takes notable luck and skill to have a bidding war over a particular map "feature".

The expansion allows a player (again with some luck and skill) to remove their own or opponent's bids. Thus you can perhaps withdraw your bid on a "feature" that turned out to have low potential, or remove an opponent's bid on a high-potential "feature". Until we have tried it, we're not sure if this will make the game more fun or ruin it.

UPDATE: We've now tested the expansion in a four-player game, and it was helpful. The main effect relates to how the game starts with a the map divided into two halves by a road, and the first players to start farming on either half typically have an advantage. The expansion removes the likelihood that early farming will be worthwhile, thus making the game more fair to the players who do not move first or second.

UPDATE: The rules (or perhaps their translation into English) have a couple vague points. While searching for clarification online, I found out the game has a blog!

Habakuk and Amona

This one is for a friend. She does not have a computer, or know about blogging or searching online for images. But if she did, she would have created this after she noted how Habakuk 1:2-11 reminded her of recent events at Amona. So I will make it for her.
Adonai, how long will I cry, and you will not hear? I cry out to you "Violence!" and will you not save?

Why do you show me iniquity, and look at perversity? For destruction and violence are before me. There is strife, and contention rises up.

Therefore the law is paralyzed, and justice never goes forth; for the wicked surround the righteous; therefore justice goes forth perverted.

"Look among the nations, watch, and wonder marvelously; for I am working a work in your days, which you will not believe though it is told you.

For, behold, I raise up the Chaldeans, that bitter and hasty nation, that march through the breadth of the earth, to possess dwelling places that are not theirs.

They are feared and dreaded. Their judgment and their dignity proceed from themselves.

Their horses also are swifter than leopards, and are more fierce than the evening wolves. Their horsemen press proudly on. Yes, their horsemen come from afar. They fly as an eagle that hurries to devour.

All of them come for violence. Their hordes face the desert. He gathers prisoners like sand.

Yes, he scoffs at kings, and princes are a derision to him. He laughs at every stronghold, for he builds up an earthen ramp, and takes it.

Then he sweeps by like the wind, and goes on. He is indeed guilty, whose strength is his god."
My commentary:

What happened at Amona was about politics and age. Those Israelis who were forced from their homes in Gaza last August were promised much governmental help from the government which was not provided. The people of Amona knew they would not be receiving assistance in restarting their lives. The current (older) political leadership has been pursuing "unilateral disengagement" and the younger side of Israeli has been protesting that this policy is fruitless and hurting Israel. The polically active youth of Israel came to Amona to protest more than this one forced evacuation.

This generational divide was already heated and intense. It became so physically violent at Amona because here were protestors and police who were full of anger before the conflict began.

Last year, Israelis (and Jews worldwide) wondered if the Gaza pullout would provoke a civil war. The abundance of promises to those who lived in Gaza kept the nation from that, but at Amona the divide was again made visible.

Spring is Here

It's odd how different life is with Springtime.

Two weeks ago, seeing the thermostat read a current temperature of 62 would seem cold: time to put on a sweater or light the fire. Now that seems an okay temperature for just a long sleeve shirt.

I'm doing yard work and enjoying it.

I'm wanting to exercise more. My fondness for corny martial arts movies (which inspire me to get in shape) has returned.

I'm playing Go before bedtime on my Palm, after not playing for months. Yesterday night I even visited the Go Teaching Ladder to download two commented games to use as bedtime stories.

I'm less interested in political absurities, and even really annoying political things (see updates here) or societal issues that in colder times would instill quite an urge to discuss them with someone.

Computer Anonymity

Some of my friends think I'm a bit paranoid in my internet use because I avoid putting my e-mail address as a link that spambots would find. I don't spend time worrying or testing. I don't think I do any of these things except check for "https" on webpages with financial transactions and using free software to periodically check for adware.

But it's interesting what can be done, if I was actually paranoid.

UPDATE: Hm. Perhaps I should change some of my passwords. Eight letters takes a single modern computer only a short time to figure out!


Earlier this week, a friend taught me how to trim our rhododendrons. This turned out to be a lot of fun.

I'm not much of a gardener. I don't find most gardening enjoyable or relaxing, and the plants often don't find my efforts helpful.

But trimming rhododendrons is quite foolproof. The plants have potential branches all over, and many bifurcations. Thus I do not need to worry about finding a node to cut just beyond, nor the angle of the cut. I just cut off dead branches past the fork they originate at. And the dead branches are usually dried and come off readily, like a berry ripe for picking.

Also, in the back yard my nemeiss is sticks. We have a push mower, which can be clogged by even small twigs. I spend a lot of time picking up sticks from the lawn. Normally the last thing I want to do is produce more sticks for our yard waste bin. But rhododendrons like having their toes in a thick layer of leaves and pieces of twigs, so all I have to do while trimming them is use the pruners to cut the pruned branches into small pieces. That's quick and easy.

It's also true that the yard's spiders have not woken up from winter yet. We get lots of spiders in the summer. They are small and harmless, but their webs can be annoying. So it was nice to not have to swat webs out of the way before climbing into the rhododendrons. (The squirrels are back, but they're not a big deal. We have live traps.)

Finally and best, a rhododendron with its dead branches removed is more hollow inside. Since the rhododendrons are taller than I am, the result is large enough to stand in comfortably -- or for some of the rhododendrons, even climb around inside. As a child I used to love bushes that were "forts". Now I get to make lots of them! However, eating lunch inside one wasn't as innately entertaining as I remembered.

Spring Break

Last week was Spring Break. Apparently I did not do any blogging...

Actually, I noticed this on Wednesday, and it was part of a larger trend/mood. I am not sure why, but my psyche reacted to being on Spring Break by really not wanting to create anything.

I did gardening, cleaned up the house, and was productive but only in non-creative ways. I mostly read books, watched movies, went biking, went swing dancing, and spent time with friends. I did taxes without going into hiding.

I had expected to do many creative things: blogging, catch up on e-mails, work on the P'nei Adonai website, work more on preparing for my upcoming Math 20 classes, baking, finish making the new role-playing game to play with my wife. But those were the last things I was in the mood for.

Interesting... Well, apologies for being out of touch.