Thursday, November 26, 2009

Smiley's Thanksgiving Non-Dinner

Thanksgiving day is going very nicely. Smiley is especially excited and entertained by playing with two of his cousins.

He took a long nap this afternoon (after yesterday being four hours deficient compared to his normal sleeping). We woke him up at the end of dinner. By then his cousins had finished their meal and so they were quite distracting to him while he was eating. He ate very little of his dinner, even though he likes yams, stuffing, and especially cranberries mixed with carrots and orange juice.

Wanting to avoid waking up hungry in the middle of the night we let him have a special treat at dessert time: his first ice cream from a bowl. (Previously he has had frozen yogurt in a bowl once, many months ago, and an ice cream on a stick more recently.)

Ice cream for Thanksgiving dinner is certainly not traditional, but it was a nice treat on a day not renown for normally healthy eating.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Winter Food

During the Summer my family ate a lot of my wife's yummy and spicy tofu cabbage salad.

Now it's nearly Winter. Previously, this cold season was the time I felt most restricted by needing to live in a gluten-free house. Growing up, Winter mornings almost always had oatmeal, and often also had English muffins.

But this Winter will be better. My wife has developed a yummy quinoa porridge recipe that can replace oatmeal as a delicious warm breakfast, and she has found a great gluten-free English muffin recipe at the blog of Gluten Free Girl.

We're still working on modifying the English mufin recipe to use our healthier flours. So far our attempts have produced a tastier muffin but it is a bit too dense and chewy.

Updated Toddler Nutrition Log

Back in June I shared the toddler nutrition log we were using.

We no longer use it, but I finally got around to "finishing" it by adding a note that explains how large is each serving size.

It was quite useful for a few months. It helped my wife and I got used to the different nutritional needs of our growing boy, and made it easier to keep track of what he was eating on days when both of us spent time at home with him while the other was at work.

November Economy Summary

Two articles posted today on Fidelity's website summarizes the November economy:
The stock market tends to form V bottoms and rounding tops. Perhaps we're beginning to map out such a top now.
Also note that the nation's change in unemployment has entered a new stage:
The hardest hit [in October] were younger workers and those with high school or lower education. Workers younger than age 24 lost nearly half a million jobs, while adults (those over age 24) with less education (high school or lower) lost 508,000 jobs. On the other hand, adults with more than a high school education gained 463,000 jobs.
It appears that my Math students, seeking a community college degree, are doing the right thing.

Monday, November 16, 2009

The Messianic Vision in a Gentile Church

Two weeks ago a friend from the IAMCS wrote a nice e-mail to me. One thing he said probably deserves a blog post.
It must be a great loss to have no Messianic community for worship and fellowship.
Actually, it isn't.

I certainly did miss the Messianic Vision. But my family has recently found a nice church named The River that allows us to continue being part of all six points within this plan of God.
  • As a church, it naturally can't be a synagogue. But two of the local synagogues are happy to have Messianic Jews visit, so my family can still participate as much as we desire in local synagogue life. (Sadly, this is currently quite limited by my wife's extreme gluten sensitivity.
  • The group is big on discipleship and making our lives appropriately like Yeshua's.
  • The pastor is knowledgeable about the Jewish roots of his faith and the significances of Yeshua's Jewish identity.
  • It is a good place for Jews and Gentiles to be worshiping together.
  • The group was expressly founded to be welcoming and helpful to people with big life-problems. Eugene, like many medium-sized cities, has its share of churches whose members look and act respectable to an extent that people struggling with addictions, poverty, family problems, etc. do not feel like they fit in. The River is not one of those. Because of this church purpose, the natural human aversion to God's difficult refining is talked about and not tolerated.
  • The River does little for Israel, but is at least more pro-Israel than the city's biggest synagogue!
I had earlier tried visiting the churches nearest my house (in case there was a sense of neighborhood I could be part of) and a Shabbat-keeping church (so I could worship on Shabbat). But I kept having the same problem: on many weekends only Smiley and I attended because of my wife's extreme gluten sensitivity. It just was not working to try to regularly worship without my better half!

I'm sure there are other churches in Eugene or Springfield that fit the Messianic Vision as much as The River. But for my family The River is best because several gluten-free families go there. So folks there know what precautions to take so gluten-sensitive people stay healthy.

Anyway, back to my friend's e-mail: worship and fellowship.

I still do the Messianic Jewish style of worship dance at home. That's really enough. I also dance in worship at any church I visit; I don't mind doing it alone. I suppose that if I wanted, Eugene has enough young believers that at any church I really joined instead of merely visiting I could probably rally together a group that also enjoyed learning to worship in that way. (I have not yet tried at The River.)

Regarding fellowship, a church is much easier than a Messianic Jewish synagogue. Part of this is the gluten: in a synagogue it is difficult to do anything without challah crumbs everywhere.

The other part of better fellowship is having less arguments. At a church led by the Holy Spirit people ask, "What is God telling us about how to worship?" In my experience, God is able to answer this question a lot more clearly (usually because people hear His answer more accurately) than when Messianic Jews instead ask, "What is God telling us about how to worship Him while using Jewish culture?"

Any of Yeshua's followers can have a more meaningful and sensible walk with God by knowing more about the ancient Jewish background of their faith. It is nice to know what the writers of scripture had in mind when they wrote what they did! But in many Messianic Jewish synagogues more time is spent discussing the ancient and modern Jewish applications: how to act, think, relate to God, and relate to other people.

As someone who grew up Jewish I love that culture immensely, yet at the same time it has been so refreshing to live a year almost without any discussions of what a rabbi said. Those discussions about applications were always much more divisive to community than helpful to spiritual growth.

So do I miss the Messianic Jewish worship? Only a little. Dancing in a group in unity is indeed part of why that type of movement is worshipful. Do I miss the Messianic Jewish fellowship? Not yet.

Would I miss the Messianic Vision? Tremendously, but I still get to be a part of that even without a Messianic Jewish synagogue.

Sunday, November 15, 2009


When I was little, one of my family's favorite car songs was Magalena-Pagalena.

I've found four versions online, none of which completely match what my family sang. I know we had more verses than below, but I can't remember them.
Oh, Magaleena-Pagaleena-Roomastina-Iodina-Hoka-Poka-Loka was her name.

She had four hairs on her head, two were alive and two were dead.

She had two eyes in her head, one was blue and the other was red.

She had three teeth in her mouth, two pointed north and the other pointed south.

Below her waist she had two hips, they were as large as battleships.

(mournfully) A ten truck truck hit Magaleene, (quickly) the fellow had to buy a new machine!

Friday, November 13, 2009

Turkey Jumping Parade

A group of wild turkeys lives in our neighborhood.

On October 12th, six of them visited our house. Normally they walk around the front yard and then go uphill to more interesting places.

But that day they arrived through the back yard. The marched, single file, to the back of our house. Then they flew up onto our roof, and walked across it. Then they flew down to the front yard before leaving to the sidewalk.

Smiley and I were inside the house, and stuck by how much noise the large birds made on the roof.

It was like a children's book that has never been written.
Six wild turkeys walk in the back yard.
   Gobble, ka-gobble, a-gobble. Gobble, ka-gobble, a-gobble.
Fly onto the roof!
   Thump, bump, thump. Thump, bump, thump.
Walk across the roof!
   Pitter, patter, scritch. Pitter, patter, scritch.
Fly down to the front yard.
   Flap, flop, flup. Flap, flop, flup.
Bye bye, birds! Bye bye, birds!

Saturday, November 07, 2009

Oregon Travel and Activity Survey Ethics

My family is participating in the Oregon Travel and Activity Survey.

I normally ride the bus weekly. On Tuesdays I take Smiley to the library for their Tiny Tots story and singing time. Parking at the library costs money, but the library is across the street from the downtown bus station. So we park a little ways away and take the EmX.

I bicycle with Smiley often (last week only three times, but it was rainy). But not daily.

The survey provoked an ethical issue that made me laugh. I noticed I wanted to be sure to take the bus and bicycle on the day I record all my family's traveling, to promote those modes of transportation. I found it humorous that my subconscious would never stoop to lying on the piece of paper but was quite willing to fudge the data by altering my behavior.

Toy Trucks

Smiley is still crazy about trucks. (In the car he'll happily read his truck-themed picture book all the way to Trader Joe's.)

So I decided to get him some toy trucks. I was surprised that the toy store had so few that were sturdy and medium-sized.

There were lots of tiny, metal Matchbox-sized trucks, but those are always underfoot. And Tonka makes large sturdy ones, of course. But in between nearly all the toys were flimsy plastic and full of buttons, lights, and noises. Now what Smiley needs!

But John Deere makes what I wanted. Hooray!

I cannot find the dump truck and front loader I got online, but they seem to be a variation of this 1/64th scale series. I also got him a Gator with big puffy tires that will be easier to push around in the yard.

Some day he'll be old enough for a Big Loader set. That was a great toy. I bet the Big Trak has been replaced by something else to teach programming a list of instructions.

Wednesday, November 04, 2009

A Personal State of the Union

I was hoping to write this soon after Rosh HaShanah. Oh well.

When I was young I had a framed painting in my room of a boy pulling a wagon. The caption read,
Please be patient with me. God isn't finished with me yet.
My mother once had a tee shirt that said,

God put me on earth to do certain things, and I'm currently so far behind that I will never die.
Both seem to be true for me lately. As I was doing some self-inspection and life introspection before and during the Days of Awe it occurred to me that I've never blogged concisely about all my projects.

So here we go.

(Note that I don't count parenting or teaching or being a good husband among my "projects" even though these take up most of my waking hours. So I won't write about them in this essay even though they dominate my life.)

Scriptural Concept Studies

On the website are a bunch of essays about the scriptural understanding of some concepts.

I'm supposed to be writing more of them. They can be a great aid to viewing the world as Yeshua did. I have not seen anything else like them on the web.

Since the middle of 2007 this has been the only public "ministry work" God has specifically told me to do. But it is not helpful to my family, so I have not devoted much time to it this year.

The task is to take my old sermons from the years P'nei Adonai was a congregation and extract word-studies and concept material from what I learned those years through study and prayer. The concept essays have a certain format, so I would also need to do some research to fill out any missing parts of the format (for example, a concept I studied in Biblical Hebrew but not in Biblical Greek).

I also need to edit the existing essays to add scholarly footnotes and citations.

This project is in one sense the most important, because I know God wants me to do it so that what he taught us at P'nei Adonai does not get forgotten. But I have not been told a time limit, so I focus for now on things that help my family.

Role-Playing Game

This year I've spent a lot of time designing a role-playing game specifically for adventures played with only two people (narrator and hero/heroine).

I think this is a unique niche. I don't know of any other such RPGs. A few others work acceptably with only two people, but not great. My wife and I can't be the only nerds who have wanted such a thing!

Along with the game mechanics I've developed a fantasy setting whose design also promotes adventures with a single hero or heroine. Lately God has been helping me with this, which is exciting.

This project is almost done: the game mechanics are complete and the setting is nearly finished. There's no reason to try to publish this in paper form.

I will continue to add maps and adventures as I make them for my family's use, but that's a much smaller bit of work.

Two Math Books

Most high school or community college math classes are low on real-life applications.

So I've written a workbook about real-life problem solving math applications. The book is appropriate for Math 25 at LCC, and could some day be published for general use. I am waiting for more "testing" at LCC before I pursue publishing it.

I've also just started a workbook to teach fun math: using some famous patterns, puzzles and pictures that have delighted mathematicians through history to teach about how mathematical thinking can be fun even for people who don't like arithmetic or algebra.

Unlike the concept essays and RPG I have no evidence that God wants me to be doing this, so it's very much a back burner project. But maybe, God willing, I'll some day have published a beloved pair of math textbooks, the ones we all wished we had in high school: Real-Life Math and Fun Mathematical Thinking.

Two Fantasy Novels

How many children's fantasy novels can you name that besides having a fun adventure also teach important spiritual truths (if the reader is old enough to notice)?

Not many, right? It's a another niche that needs more filling. Even the Narnia books often only have virtue/vice lessons and Aslan making deus ex machina appearances.

A few years ago God helped me write two children's fantasy novels, Windsong and its sequel The Sandy Isles. Both describe, better than any other children's adventure stories I know, how knowing God only adds adventure and suspense to life. The first novel is about what it means to be a good person; the second about being a good couple. The novels also prompt us to question our assumptions about what a messiah might be like (or avatar if the reader had that type of religious background).

Years ago I actively tried to send these to publishers. I found out that only a few secular publishing houses have any interest in children's fantasy, and all of those require working with an agent. I could pursue a religious publishing house, but that might needlessly limit the audience.

I keep praying about whether I should restart trying to publish. So far God has not told me to do so.

When I was leading P'nei Adonai I expected that some day, after the congregation ended, I would be helped to write a matching third novel about what it means to be a good community. But apparently that isn't part of God's plan.

Other Games

In years gone by I designed many board games. A few are online again. Some day, when I have time, I'll share more of them.

This is just a fun thing. It's not anything God has asked me to do or helped me with.

Other Writing

Similarly, over the years I've written many poems and short stories. Some day a bunch of them will be on my website. But this is also low priority.


Last night Smiley suddenly had a high fever. Since his afternoon nap he had been irritable and clingy.

We're not sure how high the fever was, but our digital thermometer read 101.2 Fahrenheit in his armpit so it was at least that. We started him on toddler ibuprofen, which soon removed the fever.

Currently none of the colds going around in Eugene have both a sudden onset of fever and muscle aches. Also, the seasonal flu has not yet reached Eugene. So anyone with both those symptoms nearly certainly has H1N1. My wife was wiped out by that flu for most of last week. Smiley cannot tell us about muscle aches, but it's nearly certain he caught the H1N1 flu from my wife.

So Smiley visited the doctor today. We had a nice bike ride there and back.

Although Smiley is currently almost symptom free (just more tired and clingy than usual), the high likelihood he has a flu caused the doctor to give us a guarded recommendation for prescribing Tamiflu (drops twice per day for five days).

The drug is still quite effective against Oregon's H1N1. It will probably do very little: perhaps shorten the duration of Smiley's flu by one day.

But the small chances, that we'll probably not see, are what matter most.

There's a small chance that Smiley could experience Tamiflu side effects. Among toddlers these usually look like aggravation, caused by spaciness, confusion, or even hallucinations. If his behavior changes we stop the medicine and the side effects soon stop too. (This chance is supposed to be very small, but both the doctor and drug store had lately seen more cases of it than the official statistics predict.)

There's another small chance that Smiley could develop pneumonia. Pneumonia can be extremely bad news for a 19-month-0ld. The chance of him developing pneumonia is affected by lots of current conditions and impossible to know accurately, but is probably greater than the chance of Tamiflu side effects. And if it did happen it would be much a more dangerous problem.

Tamiflu's main benefit is that it reduces the chance of pneumonia to nearly zero. We're basically swapping a chance of pneumonia for a chance of a few hours of spaciness/confusion. That's an easy choice.

UPDATE: Someone comments, "People are more likely to be trippy in Eugene?" Heh.

Tuesday, November 03, 2009

Local Messianic Composer

A friend of mine who lives in Lebanon, Oregon, has been writing Messianic music.

He has finally collected extensive samples his music on a web page.

If you like his work and have contacts among recording studio folk, please contact him! He also enjoys doing home concerts.

Sunday, November 01, 2009

Jim Henson versus Spike Jonze

I have not yet seen the Where the Wild Things Are movie. I would like to see it in the theater, but I'm not in a rush to do so.

I've seen an earlier film adaptation of a Maurice Sendak book. I'm not sure if Spike Jonze can fill Jim Henson's formidable shoes, and I'm quite certain Max Records cannot fill David Bowe's tight pants.

Tangentially, Sendak’s version of King Grisly-Beard is one of my favorite childhood books.

3D Again

The laptop is an Acer Extensa 4620Z, which has an Intel GMA X3100 graphics card. This card should run 3d games, but poorly for modern games. But the card lacks GLSL support.

The laptop only has Ubuntu on it. I've learned to live without any 3D games since Ubuntu was unable to make that graphics card run even the most primitive 3D games.

Until a few days ago: Ubuntu 9.10 is now out and it handles the graphics card flawlessly.

Not Sick

I was either caring for a sick wife of myself sick for all of last week.

Now we're healthy, so I'm blogging again.

Because of a combination of rainy weather and ill parents, Smiley had more time than usual watching me process his videos this past week. Lots of new ones on BlipTV.

Conservation of Worry

In July I wrote about what I've inaccurately nicknamed "conservation of risk".

Something else similar only in name is what I've nicknamed "conservation of worry".

The idea is that parents (especially moms) are kind of programmed to worry a certain amount about their kids. Now that life in America is amazingly safe, all that instinctual need to worry gets channeled into making mountains out of mole hills.

Parents used to have genuine worries about their children starving, dying of illness, being eaten by wild animals, and so forth. These are quite rare now. So we worry about pacifiers, allergies, television, BPA in plastic, child car seats, and other minor issues that would have been laughably small concerns even a few generations ago.

I probably do this as much as most dads in Eugene.

Child car seats are actually a great example. Insurance companies have known for years that child car seats do very little to prevent fatalities (although they help prevent less serious injuries). All of the time and money this country has invested in child car seats could have saved many more lives if instead applied to disease research. However, as a parent I can see a change by buying a child car seat for me child: no similar feedback happens from donating money to cancer research.

Crime is a revealing issue. Violent crime rates have been decreasing, but worry has not decreased because crime is makes a convenient worry item. (Especially in a culture where we are comfortable with steps to prevent fires but not shootings in schools.)

I just wrote about vaccination again. Now I'll add, sort of as a concluding post-script, that it makes a lot of sense to me that parents who have little need to worry about their children dying of illness instead worry about the potential harm of "what big medicine wants".

After all, if we were really rational creatures then we would spend the time saved by our laundry machines sitting and watching them, enjoying half an hour of relaxation, rather than rushing on to the next chore. (Hm. Conservation of hectic-ness?)

Herd Immunity

I've written three earlier posts about vaccinations. A few October news articles can help me elaborate.

There is an effect nicknamed herd immunity that can allow vaccines to protect even the unvaccinated. Depending upon the disease, if enough people are immune then the disease lacks a large enough pool to stabilize.

For example, rubella is not very contagious, so if 80% of the population is immune then rubella cannot prosper with only 20% available to attack. Measles is quite contagious, so 95% of the population needs to be immune to squeeze out measles.

Now, H1N1 is so amazingly contagious that I doubt we can hope for herd immunity. We'd need more than 95% immune but sometimes vaccinations don't cause enough of an immune response to work, and some people are not candidates for vaccination.

Also, some diseases don't need to be fought with mass vaccinations. For example, chicken pox is not very dangerous to most kids and suffering through the disease provides a much more thorough immune system response than a shot. That's why parents of normally healthy kids have for generations been using "chicken pox play dates" instead of vaccinating against chicken pox.

But let's ignore H1N1 and chicken pox. This essay's point is that vaccinations like the MMR are enough to create herd immunity, and those three diseases are dangerous enough that parent's certainly don't want to use "measles play dates" instead of a shot!

That's why it's a problem when too many parents opt out of vaccinating their children. By ruining herd immunity, their choice is putting other people at risk. It's especially sad because their choice is often based on prejudice and ignorance.

I would not want government to require vaccinations, but I fear something like a resurgence of measles will happen before vaccinations are no longer villified.

H1N1 might cause the social change despite the fact it's probably not able to be fought with herd immunity. Americans are seeing many young people die within a few months (usually due to complications, not H1N1 by itself). As a culture we're not used to being culled. Our people in poor health generally either take medications to keep living reasonably well, or die at a slow rate. Seeing many people simultaneously suffer and die has not happened for a few decades. Now our illusion of health entitlement is shattering.

Friendship Not Conspiracy

Last month I wrote some about the fundamentalist Christian home schoolers I knew.

The day after that essay, the news contained a pair of articles that provide a great example: first, an article about network television promoting the "I Participate" project; second, an article describing the secular slant of that project.

(Curious, I searched for local volunteer opportunities near my own zip code at and As alleged, neither suggests any of the multiple opportunities to help veterans within 10 miles of my zip code. But I did not see other "liberal" bias.)

I know of no comprehensive online database of local volunteer opportunities. It is commendable that an organization is trying to create one.

I also know what I would do if I were assigned the task of creating one. I would start with a web search and the phone book but those ideas would soon be used up, so I would change to asking those I spoke with at non-profits what others they have heard about.

Thus I'm not surprised at all to learn of a feedback loop of idealogical slant. As an example, in Eugene and Springfield there are both liberal and conservative groups who give food to the hungry and I know from having talked to them that they are much more familiar with others of their kind.

So I do not agree with those news articles that there is any evidence the "I Participate" project is deliberately trying to promote secular values. Rather, I expect its database is still quite incomplete and more the result of relationships than research.

But do you catch how this would be perceived by someone taught to see a "political America" in which secular and religious folk battle to define the priorities of a "secular America"?