Saturday, August 18, 2007

Wowio

Wowio is a fun source of e-books. Their apparent business plan is interesting.

You register for an account to download e-books. So far so good.

As part of registration you are asked to fill out an optional survey of interests and reading habits. Each e-book you download is a PDF file with a few extra pages at the beginning and end. Before the e-book are pages of ads by sponsors according to your interests. After the e-book are pages from Wowio advertising similar e-books to the one you just finished reading in case you do not know what to read next.

The result is that you hit "page down" a few times to skip some ads and then have a nicely formatted e-book. The extra pages at the end are even less obtrusive since you almost instinctively close your PDF reader when you get to the end of the story.

I'm caught up, but I cheated

Last night I stayed up until 2:30am working on the P'nei Adonai website. I'm not done with it, of course. I still have to catch up with old Matthew studies, and then go through all my old sermons to build both vocabulary essays and revised Parashot commentary pages. But after a month of changes in the community the website is at least "done" in that it represents what P'nei Adonai is doing.

I've also done my best during the past two weeks to catch up on e-mail. Two weeks ago I had almost 150 non-spam e-mails in my inbox. I just now finished catching up with them. Yea!

Of course, everyone I just wrote to is about to write back. Having a shiny clean empty inbox will not last long, nor would I want it to!

In writing three of the many e-mails to friends tonight I cheated, and messed up. One problem with blogging is that if I put all my personal news in the blog then I don't have anything to write about in a letter. So I brainstormed as best I could, and wrote something to a friend. Then I used that e-mail as a template for writing to two other friends. In each case I put in new stuff -- I dislike form letters, which is why I started blogging. But in turning that first letter into a template I forgot to remove this sentence:
I think Granite Falls might be even more isolated than Canaan sounds like, but I'm not sure yet.
Amusingly, it appears in the middle of a paragraph in a manner that makes perfect sense to friend #1, but will be completely meaningless to friends #2 and #3. If anything, it sounds like I am comparing a small town in Minnesota to an ancient territory often mentioned in the Bible (which was on a major trade route, not at all isolated!).

Oh well.

Sesame Street Songs

Groovy.

Three More Squirrels Exiled

Our squirrel count increased by three this past week. Our yard still has two, including one huge gray one. But my wife's garden is slightly safer.

We're still 6 behind Iran, but ours are not the same kind. Ours are warm and fuzzy. They just like burying the peanuts some neighbors are giving them in our newly planted seedlings, which is a no-no.

P'nei Adonai website major update

As part of the current congregational merging that I've been writing about, P'nei Adonai is shedding the label of "congregation" and instead focusing on its calling to be an organization helping any and all congregations have a lifestyle more like Yeshua's first-century followers.

So the P'nei Adonai website is quite different now. I am pleased with how it is a "tighter package" and hope what I wrote effectively communicates what God is doing with and through us.

The Messianic Jewish "congregation" in town is now just Sar Shalom, and my ministerial responsibilities of a congregational nature are shifting to that organization. I'm still doing discipling, teaching, community organization, etc. Since Sar Shalom is so new it has not yet set up any congregational government my roles there are a bit vague and I do not yet have any official title, but such things are not really website material anyway.

I feel a little bit like I did when, as a college student, I moved from a studio apartment to a one-bedroom. Now there are two distinct places to place the same stuff I had before, but it's also pretty obvious which items go in which place so unpacking is not confusing or difficult.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Puffy Pancakes

This recipe makes a puffier and more traditional-tasting pancake than the variable pancake recipe.

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

In a mixing bowl or blender combine:
  • 1 1/2 cup gluten-free flour mix
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp xanthan gum
  • if desired, some nutmeg or cinnamon
  • if desired, 1 Tbsp sugar
Omitting the sugar creates a pancake that does not burn as easily. If you are using syrup or a sweet topping, this is recommended.

Stir or shake well. This dry mix can be prepared in advance for camping.

Next add the wet ingredients:
  • 1 egg
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1 Tbsp olive oil
  • 1 tsp citrus juice (we use lemon or orange)
Stir well, then make pancakes!

The batter is not very greasy, so the frying pan will need to be sprayed with oil before each pancake.

Sunday, August 12, 2007

Hamsters Make Music by MIDI

Here's a one-of-a-kind computer peripheral.

And I thought some things on my to-do list were strange...

Saturday, August 11, 2007

Big Future Disasters

If you want to be more worried about earthquakes, read this.

Celiac in the Register-Guard

In March the local newspaper, the Register-Guard, had an article about celiac.

Grain Species Tree

Here is a pictorial representation of a family tree of different types of grain.

First, notice the group triticeae that consists of wheat, barley, and rye. Spelt is not on this picture but is also in this group (as far as genetics goes, spelt a kind of wheat). These are the gains that contain gluten. They are also the grains that all rabbis agree have hametz.

Oats are almost as closely related (group pooideae). Some people with celiac also cannot eat oats. Most rabbis consider oats to have hametz.

(In the U.S. almost all oats are shipped in the same train cars as wheat.  So almost all oats, oatmeal, and food that contains these have gluten contamination even if listed as "no gluten ingredients".  A few companies do sell genuinely gluten-free oats or oatmeal shipped specially and tested for gluten after processing.)

Not closely related to wheat are rice, corn, millet, and sorghum. These grains are not a problem for people with celiac. Nearly all rabbis consider these grains to not have hametz. Amaranth and quinoa are not pictured but also also in this final category of grains distant from wheat.

Two Different Internal Struggles

Twice this week I have shared a bit of practical theological application. I should probably blog about it as well. :-)

Paul writes (in Romans 7 and 8) about one kind of internal struggle: when our conscience is healthy enough to know what is the right thing to do but our inclination is to do otherwise.

As disciples of Yeshua we can still face this first kind of struggle, but we should not. If we were devoted to God properly (what Paul calls living empowered by God's Spirit rather than our flesh) our inclination would also be purified to match God's ways.

A second kind of internal struggle is not mentioned as explicitly in scripture: when both our conscience and inclination are righteous but we are not sure what to do next. There is still a small struggle because after finishing a task we still need to pause, focus on God, and seek to be with him and doing his will. In this case the old saying is appropriate: "the good can be the enemy of the perfect." It is simpler to create things to do for God, and call that devotion, than to take the time to listen to God so to join what he is doing and be set apart for him and with him as he himself desires.

This second kind of struggle should be part of normal life as disciples of Yeshua. This dynamic of fellowship and surrender is what Paul calls "giving our lives as a living sacrifice".

Heschel wrote that the fundamental Jewish act was pausing and focusing on God throughout the day. May we be following Yeshua properly, so that when we pause our struggle is only to listen to which good thing to do next with God, not to resist an evil inclination.

Friday, August 10, 2007

Barbarian and Bard

Hee hee.

(Actually, not-too-bright fighters that sing is an old troupe.
Oo-de-lally, Oo-de-lally // Golly, what a day.)

E-mail Address Image Generator, WebBot Simulator

If you're sad because having your e-mail online attracts spam, this tool can help.

If website ads require you to pretend to be a WebBot, this tool can help.

Efficiency versus Effectiveness

Washing machines now also have issues.

The Standard Model and College Physics

Frank Tipler writes about the lack of the Standard Model in college physics. It's a short yet interesting read if you've studied physics.

Thursday, August 09, 2007

The Hulk Goes on a Date

I apparently completely missed the comic book phenomenon of "Mini Marvels". Oh well.

Someone said the best issue was Hulk Goes On Date.

Red Shirt Statistics

How dangerous is wearing a red shirt when near Captain Kirk?

This article answers the question in great detail. The final graph is delightful.

UPDATE: The article is now here.

Past Hurts

Forgiveness and grace are important parts of living in a Messianic Jewish community, with conflicts resolved according to Matthew 18:15-17 when people have problems.

One question that a community needs to answer is "Once a conflict has been resolved, when is it appropriate in the future to mention those past hurts?"

A nearly identical question is "When is it necessary to explain yourself during a conflict?" Although defending your perspective and actions is the natural response, the more helpful and scriptural attitude is to seek reconciliation by asking the other people involved "What need I do?" Tallying who is wrong at what times is pointless, as we are all sinners saved by grace. But sometimes issues cannot be resolved without people explaining themselves or bringing up past hurts.

This question was an issue a couple months ago at P'nei Adonai. Your thoughts and answers are welcome.

To me, the answer seems to be twofold.

First, it is appropriate to tell even a newcomer of a past hurt when this is part of clarifying how to avoid repeated rudeness and thus build peace.

Here is an example. Person A is not comfortable with physical contact. Person B likes hugs. Person B tried to hug Person A hello but was rebuffed. For a time there was a conflict in which Person A felt like his/her personal space was not respected and Person B felt like his/her action of affection was rudely refused. Now those two understand the situation. It is valid to tell a third person, "Person A does not like hugs. Please do not try to show affection to him/her in that way. The last time someone offered Person A an unwanted hug it caused needlessly hurt feelings to both people."

Second, it is appropriate to remind someone who hurt you of a past hurt if this is relevant to confirming that both people really do care about each other's feelings.

Sometimes hurts cause doubts even after forgiveness has been offered and accepted. If Person A acted inconsiderately towards Person B, then even after that issue was resolved Person B retains the right to check on their friendship with a question such as, "If our past conflict is really resolved and you really do value my feelings then why are you now doing such-and-such?"

What do you think?

Teaching Roles

Here are four definitions from a sermon I heard. I have no idea who the original author is, so I apologize for the lack of proper referencing.
Discipling - student and teacher work together
Mentoring - student follows as teacher works
Motivating - student works after teacher helps
Monitoring - student works as teacher supports

Four Aspects of Discipleship

My ministry work is changing to allow me to do more discipleship. I should be more specific about what "more discipleship" means.

In the first century the master-disciple relationship was well established. The goal of discipleship was for the disciples to become like the master. Our goal, as followers of Yeshua, is to become like him.

Currently God is doing many things among American believers in Yeshua to emphasize the foundational importance of discipleship and being set apart for God. Within American Messianic Judaism, God has been highlighting four aspects of discipleship.

The first is the need to pray as Yeshua and his early disciples did. This is a bit different from how traditional Jews or Christians pray. God has taught the Messianic Jewish movement quite a bit about this during the past two years (although there is no sense of having learned enough).

The second is the need to understand the world as Yeshua and his early disciples did. This is why I work on sharing the scriptural understanding of concepts through which Yeshua understood the world. In this aspect, also, there has been a lot of progress, although no sense of satisfaction or completeness in quantity.

The third is the need to have a lifestyle of repentance as Yeshua and his early disciples did. Focusing on God instead of ourselves and our desires is tricky. From what I have seen, the Messianic Jewish movement has not learned as much about this aspect of discipleship as the previous two, although some notable progress has definitely been made.

The fourth is the need to read and interpret scripture as Yeshua and his early disciples did. Once I have put it online (hopefully next week), the congregation's Matthew study notes for chapter 12 (in which some Pharisees confront Yeshua in a grain field and both parties cite and expound of scripture) are a good example of how Yeshua uses the written Word of God in a manner quite different from how Jews and Christians have been taught. From what I have seen this is the this aspect of discipleship in which the least progress has been made: in general, Messianic Jews still approach scripture through Rabbinic or Christian perceptions and methods of analysis quite different from Yeshua's own.

P'nei Adonai, along with many other Messianic Jewish groups, is prayerfully learning more about these four aspects of discipleship. Please pray that our eyes and ears are open to learn from God!

I expect that six months or a year from now, were I to get a phone call from a local pastor asking me if my congregation wanted to exchange with theirs what God has been teaching us about discipleship and holiness, that I would have a more coherent picture to share. Currently that phone call would be a bit much for P'nei Adonai; we are not yet ready. But we will be.

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

Bye Bye Bazillion

I've been told the Bazillion comic is very short and I didn't miss anything.

Now I just need a friend to check these free computer games to find the best. :-)

A Nice Day

Yesterday was a nice day at home. I got to go running, complete a lot of congregational work, drink peach smoothies, do dishes and two loads of laundry, and even finish a pleasure-reading book.

I even had time in the evening, while my wife was finishing a book, to read silly things on the internet. The best was fun ways to tie shoelaces, which is nifty but no use to me since I usually wear Keens (my back prefers their aid to proper posture).

It's strange how similar today will be, except with almost nothing the same.

Thursday, August 02, 2007

Matthew Study: Parables of Chapter 13

I'm slowly getting caught up with work after being out of town.

Today I was able to prepare for the Thursday evening Matthew discussion and even put my notes online. This page will be updated with what other people contribute during the discussion.

A Very Short Bill

This makes me smile.

H. R. 1897 is a very short bill currently being proposed. The proposal itself (Section 3) is one sentence:
No Federal regulation shall restrict any individual from possessing or carrying a firearm if that restriction is based in whole or in part upon the fact that the individual is in a unit of the National Park System.
which is apparently needed because Federal laws about National Parks are confusing and potentially conflicting.

Notice that rather than changing poorly written laws, Congressmen Ron Paul and Virgil Goode, Jr. are adding a new one-sentence "trump" statement. As someone fond of proper organization I find this dreadful. But as someone who struggles with tax forms each year I find the idea of a one-sentence law quite refreshing.

Do old laws rendered obsolete by newer "trump" laws ever get removed from the books? I would not be surprised if that requires time and effort no one is willing to expend, so obsolete laws stay around forever, hovering in the background...

Regarding this proposal itself I cannot offer any informed opinion. There may be certain locations that are "units" of the National Park System that are so un-park-like that it would not make sense to allow armed self-defense there (coastline near a sensitive government building, etc.) in the same way a concealed carry permit does not allow carrying into a courthouse. I have no idea, nor any idea if this proposal could lead without much fuss or delay to such locations being reclassified more appropriately.

UPDATE: Besides the link above, here are two other useful resources for finding the text of proposed Federal or Oregon legislation.

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

Wacky

Someone showed me this comic, which I don't have time to read. I only looked at the first few pages: enough to show me that an adventure entitled "William Bazillion and the Race for Santa's Nazi Gold" was either going to be utterly terrible or very entertaining.

That's even more far-fetched than the idea "American Robot Air Attack Squadron Bound for Iraq".

(Is something remote controlled really a robot? Don't robots need to be self-guided through their programming? Apparently an external power source counts.)

If anyone reads William Bazillion, please let me know if they liked it. Some day I'll once again have time to read fun stuff on the internet. (Orwell is next on my list. I did have time to read the highly amusing A Study in Emerald last month.)

The Chicago Tribune asks if Messianic Jews are Jewish

Here's a comment section with a sense of foreboding. So far the comments have been polite even though they often express disagreement.