Monday, October 30, 2006

Pressing and Blessing

An observation by Jonathan Cahn:

Yeshua gave blessings just before departing. He did this before dying (Luke 23:34), and later before ascending (Luke 24:50-51).

An an aside, he also said blessings at other typical times, such as before eating (many verses) or when greeting (Mark 10:16).

Saying blessings before departing can be hard to do, even if you are not being brutally killed. Yeshua got the strength and perspective to do so by praying at Gethsemane. In Hebrew this place is Got Shemen, "press of olive oils". In a place where olives were pressed and changed, Yeshua was pressed and changed.

Sometimes we have difficulty in departing from things. To move on from today, from a hurt, from a destructive friendship, etc., we must first, in prayer, experience pressing and blessing. Once we know how God wants us to pray about it and we intercede for it, then we can move on.

Sunday, October 29, 2006


My sister called today, and introduced me to the Skype webcam conversation software.

Very nice: free software, harmless EULA, easy to install, simple to use. I got to see my neice make faces. She got to see our lovebirds.

It does use more memory than Trillian when waiting in the background, but it loads much quicker, and I have more RAM than tolerance for slow-loading software.

Dangerous Yard Work

Well, yard work is mostly done. I raked most of the back lawn, and the roof. I cleaned the back gutter while on the roof. Doing chores on the roof is fun.

A bunch of old "shooters" cut from our apple tree had worked well as a sukkah roof, but their usefulness was over. Using my cute little chainsaw I cut them into bits and put them in the yard waste bin.

To paraphrase Rita Rudner, it's amazing what a guy will happily do if danger is involved.

Picture of the Day

Okay, time to go do yard work.

In parting silliness, I'll say that pictures of people holding cute pets are fun. But I think today's picture of the day is the kid-friendly Cthulhu license plate.

Fourfold Renewing the Mind

It's been a while since I wrote about anything related to ministry work. I actually have a pile of articles and notes with neat spiritual things to blog about. But none of these ideas are ones I need to process more. So they wait for when I have a better block of free time.

Yesterday's sermon and its subsequent discussion are worthy of more processing, however. Here is a summary.

Do not be conformed to This World, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may discern what is the good and acceptable and complete will of God. - Romans 12:2
How does the God's Spirit within us renew our minds? Let's consider four ways. We should be aware of each, to be grateful and cooperating with God in its progress.

First, our conscience is restored. The Apostles write a few times about how people are given pure consciences by God but can then distort their consciences until they find evil acceptable. God's Spirit within us renews our consciences to their intended purity. (The Biblical Greek work for "conscience" is suneidesis. There is no Biblical Hebrew equivalent.)

The author of Hebrews uses suneidesis to mean something else: our mental paradigms, our understandings of the world that guide how we think and act. In Biblical Hebrew these are collectively called yetzer and the sages write about the "good yetzer" and the "evil yetzer" that argue within us. The author of Hebrew also uses those phrases, and in verse 10:22 explains that faith in Yeshua's sacrifice that grants us forgiveness of sin will remove the "evil yetzer" from our minds.

So a second way our minds are renewed is when our evil paradigms are removed. (Ephesians 2:3 emphasizes that this is different from being enslaved to sin through "the flesh").

Other authors of the Apostolic Writings instead use the Greek word dianoia and its conjugations when referring to the yetzer. They even include this work in the Greatest Commandment, which is surprising to a modern Jewish reader: compare Deuteronomy 6:5 (ending in 'muchness') to Matthew 22:37 and its parallel verses (ending in 'paradigms/understandings').

(The author of Hebrews also uses dianoia when not contrasting the good and evil yetzer. Compare Jeremiah's prophecy of the New Covenant in Jeremiah 31:32(33) and its restatement in Hebrews 8:10 and 10:16: Besides our hearts, God's ways (his torah: teachings) are put on our 'inward parts' in Jeremiah, specified as our 'paradigms/understandings' in Hebrews.)

Third, the indwelling Spirit of God grants our minds strength and protection. In First Corinthians 10:13, Paul writes that God will arrange circumstances so that followers of Yeshua (while following God's plans) are never tempted by more than they can resist or avoid.

Fourth, God shares with us his some of his plans. Not only do we have better thoughts, but we can even know what God wants us to think about and do.

Tao of Yeshua: Chapter 27

A skillful traveler need not follow the wheel-ruts.
A skillful speaker need not offer blame or praise.
A skillful accountant needs no counting-tallies.
A skillful locksmith need not use bar or bolt to make a door impossible to open.
A skillful binder need not use twine or knot to make a bundle impossible to unwrap.
The Saint is thus considered always skilled at saving men, for he need not reject any man.
He is always skilled at saving things, for he need not reject any thing.
This is called a twofold understanding.
Thus this good man is the master of all men who are not good, and these not good men are the material for his goodness.
However wise one may be it is a great error to not value one's master, or to waste one's potential as material.
This is called the chief wonder.

The skilled are not constrained to only work with optimal materials.
Yeshua can bring salvation to anyone who truly repents,
no matter how evil their heart they can escape slavery to sinfulness.
Do not consider yourself too wicked for Yeshua to save!
This is an insult to Yeshua's ability to turn wickedness into goodness.
Do not consider yourself too weak for God to use!
This is an insult to God's ability to show his strength through your weakness.
Share with all people Yeshua's offers of salvation and strength.

An Expensive War

No real point to this, just a mathematician being distracted by numbers.

During his 23 years ruling Iraq, Saddam killed about a million people. That is about 44,000 people per year.

The highest estimates and countings of deaths since the March 2003 U.S. invasion total about 50,000 people. That is about 21,000 people per year.

So the U.S. invasion, compared to Saddam's reign, is "saving" about 23,000 lives per year. That is the good news.

The U.S. invasion has cost about 500 billion dollars. That means it costs about 9 million dollars for each life "saved".

Is that a worthwhile use of money? Saving lives is a noble endeavor, but that is not an efficient use of U.S. Taxpayer money to save lives in another country. Once we are looking beyond our own borders, there are plenty of health and policy issues that could save many more lives with such a vast sum of money.

For the other side of the argument, assume that if the U.S. had not done its invasion then terrorists would have nuked all of New York City by now. By this scenario the U.S. invasion has prevented an additional 8 million deaths, reducing the cost to $62,000 per person "saved".

Not even considering the extra "collective damage" of New York City vanishing, many Americans spend that much on their own health (especially over three or four years) to stay alive. We could still be saving more lives per billion dollars globally, but as a domestic issue this becomes defendable.

In reality, the war has prevented some domestic terrorism but probably not the total eradication of New York City. The actual efficiency of our war dollars per life saved is thus, of course, somewhere between the two above extremes.

And, of course, saving lives is not the only issue. But you were warned there was no real point to this post.

For another interesting analysis of numbers in Iraq, see Eye of the Beholder by Victor Davis Hanson.

Thursday, October 26, 2006

Three Completions

Today has been a rewarding day. I got a lot done, including making up math quizzes for the next few weeks and math PowerPoint slides for next week.

Especially nice was getting three things completed.

I have been busy working on an update of the congregation's prayerbook. Today I finished that project. (This Shabbat everyone will look at the draft and make comments, and then a final draft will be made.)

In my Tai Chi class, we finished learning the Chen 18-move short form. Of course I still must practice a lot to achieve any degree of proficiency, but I know how to do the entire form.

For a long time I was not able to make time to do Tao Te Ching translations at night. Tonight I got three more chapters done, up through chapter 36. This completes "Book One", the first half.

I am grateful to God for energy today! It surely was not from getting enough sleep. When I got home from LCC I thought I might need a nap, but I was able to get a lot more work done.

Now it's time to stop being on the computer and spend time my wife as she is processing garden basil in the kitchen.

Tao of Yeshua: Chapter 26

Heaviness is the root of lightness. Stillness is the master of restlessness.
Therefore the Saint travels all day with his wagon, quiet and at ease although there are magnificent views.
Why should a lord of ten thousand chariots react with lightness to all things?
If he conducts himself lightly he will lose his root. If he is restless he will lose his self-mastery.

Our eternal life is grounded in Yeshua.
We should act from this foundation, not react to circumstance.
If we are easily swayed or double-minded,
we will become less connected to Yeshua,
and lose our self-control.

Sayings to Ponder

I read a silly saying today, which I later found out was from the comic A Softer World (which I've never read, so I'm not sure if it is safe to link to):
"I was so sure my search would end when I found God, but then I could not find my car keys and my cat ran away."
One of my congregants is struggling to be at peace with God while having worries about her cats, so this was particularly timely.

Speaking of sayings that make you think about spirituality, how about Zen Koans as shared by a ninja? Chasidic Judaism also has a vast collection of short parables made from events in the lives of its famous practitioners, but unfortunately I don't have links to any. Nor do I know of any compilations shared by Jewish ninjas.

Skateboarding Progress

I mentioned earlier that my week is a little less hectic, now that the term has started and Fall's Jewish holidays are over.

One benefit is that I can schedule my time to do all my grading on campus. Since I do not need to bring papers home and back, I do not need to carry my satchel (a simple yet sturdy little Ikea bag).

I've found that the lack of a satchel means I can do skateboard wheelies (a "manual" in skater jargon) while commuting to and from the bus stop. Even if I'm new to this and my wheelies are very quick, this is fun and also allows me to get over a few uneven places in the sidewalk. Of course, I fall off more as I try the wheelies, but at my slow commuting speed those "falls" are actually "run forwards" and no big deal.

I still can't ollie.

Adobe Acrobat Annoyance

My math teaching now has me editing PDF files (post-lecture Starboard notes). I had forgotten how stupid Adobe Acrobat can be.

My latest problem was trying to break a large file (8.09 MB) into two smaller files so students using a phone line modem could download them more flexibly. But when I copy the file twice, and remove half the content from each copy, Acrobat saves the resulting files as bigger files!

Sigh. I've made a recommendation to the Math department that they get Foxit instead of Acrobat.

UPDATE: In January 2011 someone sent me an e-mail request to advertise Classic PDF Edtior as well as Foxit.  It's probably from someone associated with that software, but it was politely worded to I have added the link.  Know that I have not myself tried it, however.

Tao of Yeshua: Chapter 25

There were things in a form of unity before heaven and earth were formed.
Still, boundless, isolated, changeless, yet now it is in everything and never tires. It may be regarded as the mother of all things.
I do not know its personal name, so I call it the Way and can only describe it as Greatness. As Greatness it departs, goes far, and returns.
The Way is great, heaven is great, earth is great, and the king is great. In the world there are four great things and the king is one of them. Humanity patterns itself after the earth, the earth patterns itself after heaven, heaven patterns itself after the Way, and the Way follows itself.

Adonai was a unity before creation.
But before creation Adonai had nothing to sustain.
So Adonai decided to create and sustain the world.
Blessed are we to know the name Yeshua!
In greatness he departed heaven, came to earth, and returned to heaven.
He was great before creation, while first in heaven,
when on earth, and now when seated on the throne.
Humanity was created from the earth and is still earthly.
But Adonai has invited us to participate in his work
of transforming the earth to be like heaven.

Tuesday, October 24, 2006


Fall has turned cold. I mentioned the start of this event. Daylight is getting shorter just as raking and power-washing need to be done.

Fall has certain opportunities. Maybe I'll learn how to do Maple leaf origami. Mornings are misty and evenings have nifty clouds. There are fewer squirrels attacking the garden.

(If my readers will pardon some links with slightly risque humor or frightening images, I can mention that although I do not do anything for Halloween I'll get to see some of my math students in costume at school. I did have a "silly hat day" in one of my classes a little while ago so the students would have a chance to see me look foolish.)

Today I'm happy not because of Fall (although the trees and mists are quite nice) but because I have a three hour block of free time! This has not happened since before the start of the the term and all the recent Jewish holidays. I got more caught up on e-mail (now only 15 in my inbox) and can share silly links here. Hooray!

UPDATE: Can a crocodile costume make a pug dog cuter? Yes.

Sunday, October 15, 2006

A Nice Short Story

My father sent me a link to a nice short story: The Shabbos Goy by Joe Velarde.

It's amusing to me that the congregation has a "Shabbas Goy". Our nursery worker happens to not be Jewish, and so the congregation is spared any dilemma about someone working for us on Shabbat. (We just avoid giving her any paychecks on a Shabbat.) We did not plan it that way, but it works out nicely.

May she find hanging out with us as beneficial as Joe Velarde found his experiences!

Movie Review: Ushpizin

Last night I saw Ushpizin, a movie about Sukkot and how God acts in circumstances.

What a wonderful film! There's nothing to criticize, and I'm also afraid that if I praise any particulars I would spoil the film for people who have not seen it.

Now I'm wondering how many of the apparent times of rest between when God allows me to be tested are actually my failing to notice and/or pass the testing.

Fall's Politics

I have not been in a mood to discuss politics much lately. I'll do so here soon, in regards to the Oregon state and Lane county election measures (for which people might tell me additional important information).

Meanwhile, here is a brief selection of notable links about recent political events: the Pope's talk, North Korea, the 9/11 report cartoon version, U.S. border security, economic news, and support for Israel (warning: the last link has sound).

I apologize for the uncommented mix of fact and opinion. Hopefully these links contain worthy things to think about even if none are the final word on the represented issues. In some cases they are even entertaining.

Tao of Yeshua: Chapter 24

On tiptoe one stands unsteadily.
Straddle-legged one cannot go forward.
He who shows himself does not shine.
He who affirms himself is not acknowledged.
He who boasts is not given credit.
He who is flaunts his success is not invited to lead.
The Way calls these: "Leftover food and wasted action."
They are loathed by all. Therefore, a person of the Way does not behave like this.

How much of what we do is unnecessary striving?
Do what Yeshua values and he will make you whole.

Chocolate Cake and Gwyn's Frosting

Fall has really arrived in Eugene. Our big oak tree has lost half its leaves during the past two days. A fire again warms the house. Time to make brownies! Except that when I considered various brownie recipes and blended them into something that seemed optimal I wound up making a very nice chocolate cake.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease one or two 9 x 9 pans, depending upon if you want the cake to have two layers or not.

In a mixer, start (and keep it going) mixing:
  • 4 eggs
  • 1 cups white sugar
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 2 tsp vanilla
While the mixer is going, sift together into a bowl and set aside:
  • 1 cup gluten-free four mix
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp salt
Then, while the mixer is still going, melt into a medium saucepan:
  • 1 stick (4 oz.) butter (we used a little of this stick to grease the pans earlier)
and when the butter melts add:
  • 1/4 cup nonfat milk
  • 1/4 cup evaporated milk (1/2 can)
  • 6 to 8 oz Dutch-processed cocoa (8 oz is one bag of Euphoria Chocolate brand)
Wait until the mixer has been going at least 10 minutes, if it has not been that long already. Then combine into the mixer:
  • the sifted-together dry ingredients
  • the chocolatey mixture
  • up to 2 cups of either chocolate chips and/or chopped and roasted nuts
Mix just enough so the ingredients are evenly combined.

Transfer batter to the greased pan and bake for about 45 minutes. When done baking the top will be firmly springy and a toothpick will come out clean.

There is no better frosting (or is this spreadable fudge? ) than that made by my mother-in-law, Gwyn.

Melt in a microwave and stir until blended:

  • 4 Tbs. butter
  • 4 blocks (oz.) baking chocolate
In a seperate bowl stir together and beat with an electric mixer until smooth.
  • 1/3 cup hot milk
  • 3 cups sifted powdered sugar
Combine the butter-chocolate mixutre and milk-sugar mixute, then stir in:
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1/8 tsp salt

Beat until smooth and thickened: about 5 minutes. Use as frosting before it gets cool and too solid.

This makes enough to cover two 9 x 9 pans. (It's nice to use within one pan as both top and middle layers.)

Friday, October 13, 2006

Lego Star Wars

My wife and I have not bought a new cooperative computer game to play together in a long time. But today I splurged and bought a new one to try. (It was on sale.)

By the way, if you have not seen Revenge of the Brick, here it is (warning: link has sound).

UPDATE: A recent Windows XP update causes a conflict with the game installer. LucasArts had published a fix, but it does not work on all systems. A better fix is here.

UPDATE: The game does not support LAN multiplayer. "Cooperative mode" is when two players share the same computer and play cooperatively. Fortunately, my wife and I have a USB keyboard that make this more comfortable. (The game is a keyboard game, not a keyboard-and-mouse game. The camera position is adjusted automatically by the game as your character moves north/south/east/west, which may drive crazy people used to how a typical FPS functions with the mouse.)

UPDATE: Actually, the game is really a joystick/gamepad game. I remembered I had this in the garage, and it works much better than a keyboard (or keyboard-and-mouse).

Grocery Shopping and Hardware Shopping

In Eugene there is a local but very major hardware store named Jerry's. (There are actually two Jerry's stores now, one in the next town over.)

What makes Jerry's special is their outstanding customer service. (They are also as affordable as big chain hardware stores, but that alone is nothing unique.) Unlike other hardware stores, I can go there with a goal in mind confident that before I'll leave people who know what they are doing will have helped me turn my goal into an optimal plan and also helped me find the supplies I need.

It occurred to me that with the rising popularity of television shows and magazine articles about cooking, a similar revolution is set to occur in grocery stores. I know an increasing number of people that are trying to cook or bake something special at home now and then.

I do not know of anyone who goes to a grocery store expecting to ask a store employee for help by saying, "I'm having friends over for a dessert party tomorrow, and want to make something fancy and special but not too difficult. And one of the guests is on heart medication and cannot have sulfites, including corn syrup and brown sugar. What do you recommend?"

At Jerry's I can do the equivalent with a home repair or improvement project. So I wonder when grocery shopping (at least at certain stores) will potentially be similar?

Thursday, October 12, 2006

Tao of Yeshua: Chapter 23

It is natural to speak and act briefly.
A whirlwind does not blow all morning, nor does a rainstorm last all day. Who is it that makes these? Heaven and Earth. If even Heaven and Earth do not make outbursts last long, should people?
Therefore follow the Way in action. Open yourself to the Way to become one with it. Open yourself to virtue to become one with it. Open yourself to loss to become one with it.
Open yourself to the Way and rejoice in obtaining the Way. Open yourself to virtue and rejoice in obtaining virtue. Open yourself to loss and rejoice in obtaining loss.
Without trusting in this you are not trustworthy.

Seek Yeshua, virtue, and loss of selfishness.
If you have other priorities you are trying too much
and will have exhaustion and failure.

My Newest Invention

There should be cell phones that open and close like properly weighted butterfly knives.

UPDATE: And, when closed, it should be able to be used as a harmonica.

Apple Crisp and My Three Mistakes

My wife recently found a great apple crisp topping on a blog named Eggbeater. (It's actually a topping for any fruit crisp. But currently we have a lot of apples from the tree in our back yard.)

This week I was supposed to help make apple crisp for a Sukkot party last night. My role was supposedly simple. My wife prepared a mixture of cranberries, walnut pieces, and cinnamon to add to the apples in the main part of the crisp. She had prepared the topping the night before: it was waiting in the freezer on its jelly roll pan (and on a silpat) for me to crumble.

(Note: the topping recipe uses 3 cups of flour. To be gluten-free we use 1 cup each of quinoa, amaranth, and millet flours.)

My job was to prepare a lot of apples, put together the crisp, and bake it. We have an apple peeler/corer so the apple preparation goes quickly, even for our backyard apples which often have a bad spot or two that need removing (removing blemishes is quick once the apple has become one big spiral).

But three things went wrong...

First, I never caught on that the crisp topping was enough for four crisps. I used it all! My goodness that was a tasty dessert last night. But it had quite a bit more butter and sugar per serving than anything my wife and I normally bake.

Second, we are going to a final Sukkot and Simchat Torah camping party this weekend, and wanted to make more crisp. So I needed to bake more topping tonight.

Third, when I got home I locked myself out of the house. I had arrived by bicycle, and after parking in the garage went back outside to get the mail. By habit I closed and latched the garage door behind me. Oops. I got quite a bit of yard work done. Then I finally broke into the house as it was about to get dark: last night I had gotten in trouble for not leaving a light on for the lovebirds and I was not about to get scolded two nights in a row! I learn from my mistakes, yep...

(Breaking into the house was a bit tricky. But we have a ladder out in the back yard for apple picking, and I know our house. The trick I figured out will not work a second time, so I better find a good place for hiding a spare key.)

So now it's quarter past seven and I am still only at the stage of milling more grain. We happened to be out of milled quinoa and amaranth, so I need to refill our usual supply as well as make an additional cup of those for the topping recipe.

While typing this the mixer has cooled off. Quinoa's turn now...

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Book Review: His Name is One

A pastor friend of mine asked me to review a book: His Name is One, supposedly about the meanings of the Tenach's various names for God.

The first chapter of the book is an example of good scholarship. A word root is studied by finding the words that are based on it, seeing how all these words are used in context, and then looking for patterns in denoation and connotation. This is easy to do with any good Bible software. That chapter also does a nice job explaining what Hebrew word roots are and how words are built off them.

The rest of the book is terrible. Sound scholarship is abandoned for a theory mocked by Hebrew scholars which hypothesizes that Hebrew word roots are actually pictogram sentences. This theory does not work, however. For an easy example (if you have the book) follow what the letter Dalet supposedly means according to the author. It means whatever he wants at the moment! Meanings only slightly related to the supposed pictogram-meaning are pulled out of the air, in a manner just as slippery as the meaning given to Tarot cards by a fortune teller.

Not surprisingly, the book is published by the creator of the pictogram-sentence-theory, Jeff Brenner, who has primarily popularized his theory through his website. I assume Brenner genuinely believes his theory. It is a shame pastors are being falsely told it is acceptable scholarship.

Tao of Yeshua: Chapter 22

What is bent becomes whole.
What is crooked becomes straight.
What is empty becomes filled.
What is worn becomes renewed.
He who has little will gain.
He who has much will be confused.
Therefore the Saint clings to the One and becomes a pattern for all things.
He does not show himself; therefore he shines.
He does not affirm himself; therefore he is acknowledged.
He does not boast; therefore he is given credit.
He does not flaunt his success; therefore he is invited to lead.
Indeed, because he does not compete with anyone, so no one can compete with him.
The old saying: "What is bent becomes whole" is not empty talk. Believe in what is truly whole and become like it.

Causing things to develop is Adonai's role.
Trust him to do it! Even for your own life!
He is complete, and will make you complete.

Sunday, October 08, 2006

Silly Quote

Something I found reading the comics this morning:
"We don’t just borrow words; on occasion, English has pursued other languages down alleyways to beat them unconscious and rifle their pockets for new vocabulary." - James D. Nicoll

Saturday, October 07, 2006

Tao of Yeshua: Chapter 21

Only the Way can act with pure virtue.
The Way taking a form is an idea mysterious and beyond comprehension.
Yet, despite being beyond comprehension and mysterious: there is its form!
Yet, despite being mysterious and beyond comprehension: it has become a thing!
This truth is confusing like darkness, yet gives life. This life is genuine, but requires belief.
From antiquity until now the Way has had the same name: Creator of all things.
This mysterious truth teaches about the Creator of all things.

How awe-inspiring that Yeshua took a form!
The Creator of the universe became a thing!
This is a strange truth that gives life if you believe,
and you can get to know Yeshua!

College, Algebra, Walmart, and the Middle Class

A recent article (warning: link to subscription site) by Anthony Carnevale in the Chronicle of Higher Education discussed how the American middle-middle class is disappearing. In other words, the American middle class is being split into two new classes.
...the middle class is sispersing into two equal and opposing streams: upwardly mobile college-educated haves and downwardly mobile non-college-educated have-nots.
Carnevale cites plenty of statistics to support this claim.

Between 1990 and 2004 average wages for people with college degrees have increased by more than $10,000 (in 2004 dollars), and the gap between average wages for people with only a high school education and people with a college degree has grown to $22,000 (or even $45,000 if the comparison is made to people with graduate degrees).

Moreover, the 2004 census showed that 95% of people with college degrees have employer-provided health-care coverage, compared to 77% of high-school graduates and 67% of high-school dropouts. (Jane Galt recently wrote about how providing health-care coverage is often a form of giving a raise, underappreciated by the employee.)

Finally, in 1967 50% of families headed by high-school dropouts and 70% of families headed by high-school graduates (without a college degree) were in the middle class. In 2004 those numbers dropped to 30% and 50%. Meanwhile, families headed by a college graduate rose from 22% to 36% of people in the top thirty percent of family incomes.

(As an aside: these statistics show why this graph is misleading. Inflation-adjusted middle class incomes have been declining because the constituency of the middle class is changing, and because middle-class workers are increasingly being given raises in the form of health-care coverage. Overall the economy has been doing well.)

Carnevale's article merely observes that according to the census statistics the middle class is bifurcating, and a college degree is the dominant factor for predicting which part someone is in. He does not explain why.

I'll post three related hypothesis, based purely on personal observations.
  1. As middle-class jobs increasingly are sales or service (rather than manufacturing), employers value a college degree since it shows the person is to some extent a team player. At the very least, they have proved they can do what "bosses" want for a few years. They are also probably used to group projects, knowing when to ask for help, and communicating in ways other people understand even if that communication style is not the most natural for themselves.
  2. Along with more teamwork, middle-class jobs are requiring more abstract thinking, so employers now have reason to value algebra experience as much as arithmetic skill. Percentages, ratios, and measurement conversions may be the most advanced math people use in daily life. But the ability to isolate x in the equation xy = xz + yz shows a level of abstract thinking not demonstrated by 5x = 3x + 15, which is considered relevant to many middle-class on-the-job decisions. (Thus the optional portfolios for my classes.)
  3. The rise of the "Big 3" retailers (Costco, Walmart/Sam's Club, and Target) has changed the niche of small retail stores. No longer able to compete with selling to the poor or lower-middle class, smaller stores have had to adjust by targeting the upper-middle class. Those that have succeeded have improved their own incomes (for example, small coffee shops are enjoying how Starbucks has somehow made it quite natural to pay more than $2 for a cup of coffee). Those that failed to adapt went out of business, pushing their workers down from middle-middle class to lower-middle class.

Thursday, October 05, 2006

Tao of Yeshua: Chapter 20

Abolish study of etiquette and customs and you will be free from care.
How vast is such study! What is the difference between "yes" and "yes please"? What is the difference between propriety and impropriety? Which things that others respect are actually worthy of respect?
What nonsense this is!
I am alone when all men are joyful in celebration, as with a holiday sacrifice or ascending the Spring Terrace. I am passive, like an infant which has yet to smile. I am weary, like an adult with no home.
When all men appear to have plenty, only I am left out. What a fool I appear to be!
When others appear intelligent and bright, I appear stupid and dim.
When others appear discerning and sharp, I appear confused and dull.
I rest like the sea although I appear to move aimlessly like the wind.
Let all men follow etiquette and custom. I alone appear ignorant and stubborn.
Yet what makes me most different from others is that I am sustained by the Creator.

Pleasing people is difficult.
So many rules make up polite and respectful behavior!
In comparison, Yeshua gives us few rules.
Seek his favor, not that of people.
This will create times when you do not fit in,
but you will not mind.
You will appear disturbed and lost,
but really your foundation is peaceful and secure.

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Interesting Statistics

Heh. Brazil consumes 11% of the world's coffee.

One-third of a generation's Smoots find a career in measurement.

America's nuclear reactors, producing 20% of the nation's energy, are being upgraded.

American news agencies have only nine embedded reporters in Iraq.

A number of dictators employ(ed) doubles.

Tuesday, October 03, 2006


Fall is approaching. The trees are starting to turn colors: not all of them, but enough that waiting at the bus stop is not boring. Each morning there is about a 50% chance I need to light a fire in the fireplace.

So far this year's squirrel count is up to 15. As the weather cools off we are catching fewer squirrels: normally nothing any day, but when something enters the live trap it is more often an opossum or raccoon.

Tao of Yeshua: Chapter 19

Abolish legalism and minimize doctrine: the people will benefit a hundredfold.
Abolish charity and minimize justice: the people will return to caring for family members.
Abolish shrewdness and minimize wealth: thieves and robbers will disappear.
These three are merely words and not sufficient. There is something that includes them all.
Display the potential of undyed silk and the wholeness of uncarved wood: abolish selfishness and minimize desires.

Cultural virtues can be snares.
A religion with too much detail in rules and beliefs becomes dead.
A government with too many programs replaces family and neighborhood.
A society with too many material values creates crime.
Instead of focusing on so many things stay ready to be used by Adonai.
Then you will see great life, relationships, wholeness, and happiness.

A Biblical Business Model

A few years ago I spend some time asking "Christian businessmen" how their business models were determined by their faith.

In most cases there was no connection. These people were "Christian businessmen" in the same unrelated way they might also be guitarists or baseball card collectors who happen to run businesses.

But I did get a few interesting replies (mostly from one couple) All have application to running a congregation.
  • Make time and place to restfully enjoy being in alignment with God's plans. From an eternal perspective our primary job description is "worshipper". God values and rewards this. God never said he values or rewards maximizing efficiency.
  • When pushed, do not always pushing back. Sometimes submit and forgive.
  • Have rooms with purposes used by workers with a generic role. (When possible avoid having generic rooms used by workers with special, organized, or bureaucratic roles.)
  • Make sure a room (or person) is for prophecy, and another for intercession. The former helps the leadership listen in prayer to adjust the business's mission (goals) as needed. The latter listens and agrees in prayer to help the business's vision (strategies) be realized and adjusted.
  • Do not separate prayer and news, or prayer and announcements.
  • Ask for reports of joys and challenges.
  • The primary role of "elders" is teaching. So the best person at a role should not be in charge of doing that job. Let the second-best person at the role do the job so the person who is best at it has time to train others.
  • You are faithfully stewarding money if you (a) earn more than you spend, (b) avoid waste and know the difference between needs and wants, and (c) use money in a way that honors the person who gave it to you (whether a person or God). Aside from these principles avoid worrying about money; if you say it is all God's money then let him worry about it.
Who knows of others to add to this list?

Proverbs 14:4, Messes, and Pruning

A long time ago I wrote about how I find many Proverbs uninspiring.

But I recently read Proverbs 14:4 and love it.
Where there are no oxen the stall is clean,
But a multitude of production is in the strength of the ox.
Sometimes the only way to proceed is to let things get messy. With spiritual progress, that's often true.

After all, it's the productive vine-branches that get pruned. The last time God tried to prune you, did you take it as a compliment? Did you consider what change in habits or thoughts or mindsets should be a consequence of accepting the pruning? Were you grateful?

Laundry and Stains

These may be handy:
  • A guide to laundry care symbols
  • A guide to stain removal
Um, yes, I did do three loads of laundry yesterday. Why do you ask?

Benadryl and Allegra

For my allergy medicine when I have mild symptoms, I recently switched from loratadine (generic Claratin) to Bendaryl. I started allergy shots. The Benadryl is about the same price, helps my nose the same, and does more to reduce itchiness from the allergy shots.

I recently read that I was fortunate to not be using Allegra. I'm a big juice drinker, and Allegra is only absorbed 20% when taken with apple, orange, or grapefruit juice. (The report, from the Berkeley Wellness Letter, said no other common medications have this incompatibility with juice.)

TANGENT: The Wellness Letter also warned that a sleeping pill, Ambien, can cause sleepwalking in some people. So, how long until college students are slipping each other something that causes sleepwalking?

Monday, October 02, 2006

College Math in Redesign

So, how is the LCC math department participating in the college's redesign efforts?

First, classes are being modularized. One class is already modularized (Math 95) and is as "Flexible Sequence Algebra". The ten weeks of the term are divided into five sections. Students must pass each section to pass the class. The class is taught by five instructors (or more) with instructors starting the term with a different section. Thus one instructor teaches the sections in the normal order, A-B-C-D-E. Another instructor goes B-C-D-E-A. And so forth, allowing students who failed one module to sign up the following term for only the module they need, pay only for one credit instead of five, and be done in two weeks (which allows them to move along to Math 111 without being held back a term).

Other classes will be modularized but the details are tricky. Should all modularized classes have five sections, or as many sections as the class currently has credits, or as many sections as sensibly fits the material? What is the best way to pay instructors and charge students when some of the class is not planning on staying more than a few weeks? Will it always work that the next math class can postpone needing mastery of every topic in the previous class for a few weeks?

Second, new class schedules are being tried out. This term many math classes are being offered three days a week for 80 minutes instead of four days a week for 50 minutes. So far this is receiving predictably mixed reviews. A idea combining new scheduling attempts and modularization is to offer some "catch up modules" as a long weekend workshop, the way a CPR class is often taught all day long at a high school or college.

Third, the use of computers in math classes is being explored. Individual instructors already experiment with class projects that use computers. The department as a whole is now starting to plan "hybrid" variants of certain classes, and perhaps even 100% distance learning variants. Hybrid classes are easier, both because of the nature of math teaching and because the administration has put together sensible guidelines and policies about them (warning: links are to PDF and PowerPoint).

Tao of Yeshua: Chapter 18

Abolish legalism and minimize doctrine: the people will benefit a hundredfold.
Abolish charity and minimize justice: the people will return to caring for family members.
Abolish shrewdness and minimize wealth: thieves and robbers will disappear.
These three are merely words and not sufficient. There is something that includes them all.
Display the potential of undyed silk and the wholeness of uncarved wood: abolish selfishness and minimize desires.

Cultural virtues can be snares.
A religion with too much detail in rules and beliefs becomes dead.
A government with too many programs replaces family and neighborhood.
A society with too many material values creates crime.
Instead of focusing on so many things stay ready to be used by Adonai.
Then you will see great life, relationships, wholeness, and happiness.

Sunday, October 01, 2006

Happy High Holy Days!

Happy High Holy Days! L'shanah tovah tikatev(i) v'taihatem(i)!

("For a good year may you be inscribed as sealed." The alternate (i) endings are the grammatical form used when addressing women.)

This afternoon I am going canoing, before leading Erev Yom Kippur services.

Tomorrow I may or may not have time for more blogging. I have the day off from work, but will be babysitting two kids so some congregants who have not had the opportunity I have recently had to spend a day uninterrupted with God can have that opportunity.


Yesterday afternoon I ran a lot of errands. (Blogging is not the only thing I've been too busy to do for several weeks.)

Feeling snacky I stopped by a McDonald's for the first time in many months, if not years. That place sure has changed. (I know it is not as monolithic as we think.)

I ate a chicken snack wrap. For $1.29 it did what it advertised. I was a bit saddened to later learn it was not as healthy as I expected: the ranch sauce?.

Mostly I was surprised by the menu. There were six chicken choices, four burger choices, four salad choices, and a bunch of desserts. I don't think anyone would have predicted, when I was a teenager, that in a few years American McDonald's would have more chicken than burger options.

Parodies of Motivational Posters

Hm. I could waste a lot of time with this tool. (Thanks, Shamus.)

Fortunately, today is pretty busy. Too bad, since I know of some funny or cute or strange pictures.

Hm. "Propoganda: Tired of being a sheep? Be a parrot!" Or "Nerd Cred: My mech can beat up your mech."

Okay. Enough for now.

Hooray for Wierd Al!

Weird Al has a new video: White and Nerdy.

(Two different friends shared links with me. The YouTube version has a bunch of comments about the visual references. I had never heard of 43-Man Squamish before. But then, I'm only 30% White and Nerdy.)

UPDATE: An interview with Weird Al about his new album.


Help! One of my math colleagues beamed me a version of Sudoku for my PDA.

Faculty Inservice, Fall 2006: Redesign

As I mentioned earlier, the LCC the faculty start Fall term a week and a half before the students. Besides preparing for our classes, there are many meetings called "inservices". Some are to learn new skills, such as the Starboard training I mentioned before. Others are to discuss pedagogy.

This year's inservices were dominated by discussion about the future of community colleges in the U.S. The Secretary of Education has just completed a big report on this topic (warning: last link is a PDF).

Community Colleges are terribly effective economically. (A while ago I linked to this article that sings their praises.) One estimate cited at an inservice was that the education of LCC graduates increase the county's total wage income annually by four times the amount of LCC's annual cost. (Such estimates are admittedly subjective, and in part depend upon how much Oregon's natural beauty would attract other workers if Lane county natives were too unskilled. But at the very least LCC pays for itself, and helps locals acquire good jobs locally. It is difficult to find someone in Lane county that disagrees with either point.)

The problem is not that LCC is worth its cost to fund; the problem is that LCC has very little accountability and can clearly be run more efficiently.

For example, a history of badly planned computer system upgrades has produced a current mess where the computers for the Budgeting department and the Human Resources department cannot talk to each other. Since about 80% of LCC's costs are payroll this circumstance makes it nearly impossible for the Budgeting department to do its work.

(There are plenty of other examples of structures and systems that are broken. That one is simply the easiest to understand without any background explanation.)

Since a number of "big structure" items need to change, the administration's motto for this year is Instructional Redesign.

In practice, the challenge is twofold.
  • LCC needs to redesign its workings, especially its bureaucracy, quite broadly to make it as efficient as the Secretary of Education's report requires. Otherwise redesign will in the future be forced upon the college from outside.
  • At the same time, the administration wants to avoid firing anyone. This is less of a constraint that might first appear, for I have seen that employees at LCC are unusually willing to be transferred to other departments and/or do slightly different work when the college needs to better use its human capitol.
So the administration desires a process of redesign that identifies new, productive roles for people as often as it identifies wastefully unproductive roles. The solution is to focus on instruction, which can almost always be done better with a few new roles. Thus the new motto is "Instructional Redesign", not "Fundamental Redesign".

This is not how a competitive business would go about redesign. Efficiency will increase, but will not become nearly as optimized as through a redesign model constrained only by acknowledging the company's physical infrastructure.

But if done well this plan will improve LCC enough to satisfy everyone: the Secretary of Education's report whose criteria will be met, the LCC employees who retain jobs at the college they love, and the Lane county community which realizes LCC is a net gain by any measure even as things currently stand.

Chen Style Tai Chi

This term at LCC I am taking two P.E. classes. One is Tai Chi, taught by a friend of mine.

In the past he taught Yang style Tai Chi. This term, for the sake of variety, he is teaching the 18-move short form of Chen style, as well as its self-defense applications and a few types of Pushing Hands.

I am not sure how much skill I will acquire, but as with other exercise hobbies that is not the point.

UPDATE: Links adjusted in 2014.