Tuesday, December 31, 2002

I am a cheapskate...a determined cheapskate. Today after work I was planning on using a coupon that I had which offered a free car wash with a gasoline purchase. The only catch was that I had to purchase a minimum of 8 gallons in order to get the free wash. As I was driving home I could see by the gas gauge that I was going to have a tough time putting 8 gallons in the tank. I figured if the automatic shut off occurred after 6 gallons I could get another 2 gallons in the tank. So I waited and watched only to see the pump shut off at 5.02 gallons. I figured there was no way, but I gave it a shot anyway...and I did it!! Three gallons after the auto-shut off!

I got my coupon redeemed inside drove around to the car wash and punched in my coupon code to find that I was going to be able to get an $8 Super Wash!! The car looks great -- my cheapskate perseverance paid off.

Today is the last day of this chiastic year, 2002, and no one reading this will be alive to see the next one in 2112. So celebrate chiastically, whatever that means.

Monday, December 30, 2002

Required reading: Corrigenda.

Sunday, December 29, 2002

As is my tradition, I made a different wassail again this Christmas season. This year's wassail recipe is the same as the one that was served by Sir Watkin Wynne to the faculty of Jesus College, Oxford University in 1732. It was better than I expected. I would, however, make a couple small changes next time -- I'd use less sherry, maybe two-thirds or one-half cup instead of a full cup, and I'd probably only ground a quarter of a nutmeg instead of a half. Here's the recipe:

Place a pound of sugar (I used 3:1 ratio of white to brown sugar) in a large bowl and pour on a bottle of hot ale (A good hand crafted brown ale -- I used New Castle Brown Ale). Stir well.

Grate about 1/2 of a nutmeg into this.

Add 1 cup of sherry and five more bottles of ale.

Let stand for several hours, then top off with several lemon slices (roasted apple slices are perhaps more traditional -- I used both) and two slices of toasted bread (the bread is traditionally white -- I used french bread with the crust trimmed off).

There are dozens more recipes here. As well as everything you could possibly ever want to know about wassail here. If you try it, please let me know what you thought of it.

Tuesday, December 24, 2002

Lo, God, our God has come!
To us a Child is born,
To us a Son is given;
Bless, bless the blessed morn!
O happy, lowly, lofty birth,
Now God, our God, has come to earth!

Rejoice, our God has come!
In love and lowliness;
The Son of God has come
The sons of men to bless.
God with us now descend to dwell,
God in our flesh, Immanuel.

Praise ye the word made flesh!
True God, true man is He.
Praise ye the Christ of God!
To Him all glory be.
Praise ye the Lamb that once was slain,
Praise ye the king that comes to reign.
... Horatius Bonar (1808-1889)

Merry Christmas

This seems very appropriate to post just a few minutes before Christmas. Russ posted a spirited defense of the Christian origin of Christmas that he was reblogging from Touchstone Magazine's blog, Mere Comments (posted on Tuesday, December 17th). The author, William Tighe, a professor of history at Muhlenberg College in Allentown, PA, says that the idea that Christmas is pagan in origin is laughable and ridiculous, and moreover was likely first propagated by a couple of hyper-Calvinists...go figure.

Here's the defense of a Christian Christmas:

I am speaking about all those people, pagans and “fundamentalists” alike who agree that “Christmas isn’t Christian”. It is all based on the idea, first invented in the late 17th Century, that the celebration of Christ’s nativity on December 25th, was an attempt to “Christianize” a pagan festival.

This “tale” has been all-but-completely exploded by Early Church historians and liturgical scholars over the past 40 years. It now seems likely that the Roman Emperor Aurelian (d. 275) invented and established the “Feast of the Unconquered Sun” on December 25th to provide a government-sponsored pagan festival on a day of significance to Christians in Rome. It is true that the first evidence we have for a liturgical celebration of Christ’s birth comes from ca. 338 AD, but the Latin Christian writer Tertullian gave December 25th as the date for Christ’s birth writing around 220 AD, a half-century before the Emperor Aurelian established his new pagan festival on December 25th, and that fact alone ought to give the “Christmas is pagan” crowd pause.

The best book on the subject is The Origins of the Liturgical Year, by Thomas J. Talley, an Episcopalian clergyman and retired professor at General Theological Seminary in New York. (The book is still in print and available from The Liturgical Press.) Talley’s argument is essentially this: that in the Second Century there is evidence that Christian thinkers in both the Greek East and Latin West of the Roman Empire wanted to establish the date on which Christ died, but they went about it in different ways.
Greek Christians wanted to “translate” into their own solar calendar the date 14 Nisan in the Jewish lunar calendar, on which date Christ died (on the Eve of Passover) according to John’s gospel. They simply chose the date 14 Artemision of the Greek calendar, both Nisan and Artemision being the months in their respective calendars in which the Spring equinox falls. When the Greek calendar was superseded by the Roman calendar around AD 300, 14 Artemision became 6 April.

Latin Christian thinkers wanted, rather, to establish the historical date on which Christ died, and came up with March 25, 29 AD. This is surely wrong; it can, in fact, have happened only in 30 or 33 AD, but that is what they thought. Next one has to consider a common Jewish belief at the time that all the great prophets died or were killed on the same day as that of their birth or conception, Talley continues. If Christ was conceived on the same calendar date as his supposed death, then one adds 9 months to 6 April and gets 6 January, which is Epiphany, or 9 months to 25 March, and gets 25 December, which is Christmas.

And in fact, in the Greek East, down till around 385 AD when they adopted it from the West, the Eastern Christians did not celebrate Christmas at all, only Epiphany, as Christ’s manifestation in the world — at his birth in Bethlehem, to the Three Magi, and at his Baptism in the Jordan, all in one feast. (The Armenian Church never has adopted Christmas, and still celebrates “ancient Epiphany” alone on January 7th.) St. John Chrysostom in a sermon preached in his native Antioch around 390 AD speaks of the “recent adoption” of the December 25th feast. And in the Latin West, December 25th alone was celebrated for many centuries, and when the West did adopt the January 6th Epiphany from the East it never made much of it.

The point of all this is that the idea that Christmas (December 25th) as a Christian festival was an adoption of a “pagan” festival is almost certainly false. It had a certain degree plausibility at one time, but is now completely indefensible. Ironically, the idea was invented in the late 17th Century by a couple of hyper-calvinistic scholars who wished to “prove” that Catholicism was really a pagan religion with a superficial Christian veneer, and in their notions about the origins of Christmas they thought that they had struck gold.

Friday, December 20, 2002

Pretty cool Sports Illustrated (SI) cover this week -- Brett Favre & former Purdue Boilermaker, Chike Okeafor. BTW, in attempting to find an image of the cover and link to it, I found that SI has a very cool SI cover search engine, with images of every SI magazine cover dating back to the very first issue on August 16, 1954. Most covers? Michael Jordan with 51!!

As I was walking down the street one day, a man came up to me and asked me what the time was that was
on my watch. And I said, "Does anybody really know what time it is? I don't. Does anybody really care? If so I can't imagine why. We've all got time enough to cry.

Why is that there are five bazillion churches named after new testament figures such as St. Peter, St. Paul, St. Mark, St. Barnabas yet relatively few churches named after Old Testament saints? How many churches are you aware of that are named St. Abraham, St. Moses, St. Elijah, St. David, St. Mephibosheth, St. Shamgar, St. Ehud? Wouldn't you think that such towering figures as Moses and Abraham would have numerous churches named after them? I wonder if this doesn't betray our lack of belief that the saints who lived before Christ are part of the church.

On a related note, how do Roman Catholic churches choose what they will be named? Does an archbishop assign a name, is there a lottery of saints names? One reason I'm curious is that there is a now defunct RC Church near where I work downtown named St. Liborius. The church was founded by German Catholics and St. Liborius was adopted by a town in Germany, though he was originally from France and almost nothing else is known about his life as far as I can tell (he is the patron saint of gall stones). Why would you name a church after someone that you knew nothing about? How does that patron saint thing work anyway?

Lott resigns as Majority Leader. Good move.

Thursday, December 19, 2002

It doesn't surprise me when ideology drives policies and programs even when the ideologies that drive those policies and programs are shown to be detrimental to the cause. Nevertheless, this informational FAX from the Catholic Family and Human Rights Institute is the kind of thing that really drives me nuts. The FAX lays out the data on the incredible success of AIDS prevention and containment in Uganda due to an emphasis on sexual abstinence ouside of marriage and monogamous fidelity within marriage.

A couple of examples:

According to a US Agency for International Development (USAID) study of Uganda, “HIV prevalence peaked at around 15 percent in 1991, and had fallen to 5 percent as of 2001.This dramatic decline in prevalence is unique worldwide…” USAID believes “The most important determinant of the reduction in HIV incidence in Uganda appears to be a decrease in multiple sexual partnerships and networks."

In comparison to other African nations, “Ugandan males in 1995 were less likely to have ever had sex…, more likely to be married and keep sex within the marriage, and less likely to have multiple partners.” USAID concludes that “the effect of HIV prevention in Uganda (particularly partner reduction) during the past decade appears to have had a similar impact as a potential medical vaccine of 80 percent efficacy….A comprehensive behavior change-based strategy…may be the most effective prevention approach.”

So in the face of the rampant spread of AIDS throughout other African nations and the incredible success in Uganda, AIDS activists are eager to embrace effective Ugandan strategies which have emphasized abstinence before marriage & monogamy in it, right? WRONG!!

Why, you ask. Simple...condoms don't have a place (or at least not a significant enough place) in the Ugandan strategy. Obeisance must be rendered to the almighty condom -- even if means more people will be infected and die. This is the kind of thing that calls forth righteous indignation.

Reblogged from Rudy

I got a lesson in trash talkin' today as I played basketball with the men in our long-term recovery program. After winning a basketball game at the other end of the court he said (with authority, and with his index finger wagging):

If I say a duck can pull a truck, hook 'em up.

Wednesday, December 18, 2002

I need a haircut.

This excerpt from Letter XVI of Screwtape's letters to his junior demon Wormwood is a real beauty:

Surely you know that if a man can't be cured of churchgoing, the next best thing is to send him all over the neighbourhood looking for the church that "suits" him until he becomes a connoisseur of churches.

The reasons are obvious. In the first place the parochial organisation should always be attacked, because, being a unity of place and not of likings, it brings people of different classes and psychology together in the kind of unity the Enemy desires. The congregational principle, on the other hand, makes each church into a kind of club, and finally, if all goes well, into a coterie or faction.

It's been awhile since I've read C. S. Lewis' Screwtape Letters, but saw the above excerpt at Jon Amos' blog (Dec. 17th post). Lewis here nails one of the big problems with churches that are not primarily and narrowly local -- that the congregation then assembles more on the basis of common interests, socioeconomic status, race, educational level, etc. This only further contributes to the alienated feeling that many of us have. We don't belong anywhere or to anyone.

By the way, I've added Jon Amos, Betsy Ballard, Daniel Ballard, and Bobber -- aka Raw Data to my blog roll.

Tuesday, December 17, 2002

A colorful word on prayer from a great father in the faith, Martin Luther:

Oh, if I could only pray the way this dog watches the meat! All his thoughts are concentrated on the piece of meat. Otherwise he has no thought, wish, or hope (LW 54:38).

According to these guys, I live in the most dangerous city in the U.S.

Friday, December 13, 2002

OK, below I blogged about Theology on Tap -- a Roman Catholic attempt to bring theological discourse to local pubs. Now, I see, that a former protestant minister (CRC) is taking it a step further, hoping to open up a bar called Graces in downtown Grand Rapids.

link via Razormouth

Here's a short little article demonstrating one of the things that makes the Green Bay Packers unique -- owned by shareholders in the community, intimately involved with the community, and receiving fierce loyalty from the community. Just one more reason I enjoy being a Packers fan, and always will be. (Sadly, I think it inevitable that some legal advisor will someday urge/order the Packer players to discontinue the bike tradition because of the liability involved.)

Thursday, December 12, 2002

I think I've blogged about this before, but as I was on the road this past weekend, I heard a piece on NPR's Weekend Edition about Theology on Tap (this link to an audiofile). Theology on Tap was started in Chicago by the local Roman Catholic diocese about 20 years ago, and has now spread to many, many more. I think it's a great idea and will likely give some thought to imitating it someday when I plant a church.

Below I linked to an article by a brilliant world-class New Testament scholar which appeared in an evangelical Methodist magazine, now I give you a quote from one of Rock and Roll's bad boys which appeared in a major British Newspaper. I ran across this one Steve Beard's Thunderstruck website. Apparently Alice Cooper said the following in an interview with the London Sunday Times:

Drinking beer is easy. Trashing your hotel room is easy. But being a Christian, that's a tough call. That's rebellion.

Here's a little Christmas message from N. T. Wright -- The Most Dangerous Baby.

Today as I was holding my translucent half gallon of egg nog, I thought of a really cruel trick. At a Christmas party complete with everything that is associated with the holiday atmosphere, bring out a tray full of glasses of egg nog, but fill one with butter milk, which is of course, about the same color as egg nog, and then watch someone get a big shock. Sounds like something Jason or Duane (together with a stapled chicken) would do.

I'm no technology wiz, by any means, but Converge Now Broadband Wireless Internet looks like a great idea, and quite affordable. Their residential plan is $29.95/mo, ten bucks more than what I'm currently paying for plain old (slow and wired) dial-up from Earthlink. At that price level they offer connection speeds of 256 kbps, wirelessly -- not too shabby! Of course there is a service agreement/installation cost of $250 up front and I can't tell from looking at their limited info (they should have an FAQ page) on their website if that $250 would have to be paid each year as part of a service agreement or not (I doubt it, since it seems like most of the expense would be associated with installation/set-up in the currently wired home).

Wednesday, December 11, 2002

Hey Duane, right now I'm drinking DIET Mountain Dew Code Red...wish you were here. I'd share, really.

World magazine's Gene Veith advocates battling gnostic disembodiedness by purchasing Christmas presents:

Yes, but shouldn't we celebrate Christmas more in our hearts, rather than in the shopping malls? And shouldn't this holiday be reserved for Christians? And surely it has gotten way too materialistic.

There is truth in these complaints, living as we do in a sinful and still-fallen world. And yet, Christianity is above all an embodied religion. It is not just a mystical inner state. Christianity has a way of breaking out of the church to influence cultures. And it is very oriented to what is material.

What Christmas celebrates is the Incarnation of God, the Second Person of the Trinity, who became a human being. The Word becomes flesh. The spiritual becomes material.

The Christian life too is not all about private meditation or spiritual exercises, but about living, concretely, where God has placed us. Our vocations are concrete, down-to-earth, and "material": our particular family, the workplace, the local church, the nation.

The buying and selling that characterizes Christmastime embodies the economic exchange by which God regulates vocation. And choosing a gift for someone—and paying its price—is just a shadow of what God has done and continues to do for each of us.

I'm all for battling a disembodied Christian faith, and I hope you are to. Not only do I take this seriously, but I want to encourage you to do your part as well. Therefore, I'm providing the opportunity for you to affirm your commitment to the embodiedness of the gospel and to do so by purchasing a gift...for me.

Tuesday, December 10, 2002

For the first time EVER my Palm IIIe (if you click on link, you'll have to scroll down a ways) somehow reset itself and lost all of my data. I'm not sweatin' it however, I'll just go sync it up in the morning at work, where I synched everything right before I walked out the door. I have dropped and broken a Palm before (same exact model), but I was able to do sync all of the data with the push of a button when I replaced it with a new one. Ain't technology great? When you back up your data, that is.

Here's an article that I'm reblogging from Razormouth that talks about a potential solution to men struggling with online porn. It's called NetAccountability. Rather than blocking sites with some sort of filter, the software keeps a record of every website visited and then compiles a report which can then be viewed by someone else (wife, accountability partner). The service is $3.95/month and apparently offers group rates to make it even more affordable, though I think $3.95/mo ($47.40/yr) is quite reasonable, and a relatively small price to pay considering the potential damage that can result from a porn addiction. With the overwhelming number of men who actively look at porn and struggle with online porn I'm glad that such a "solution" is now available. It seems to me that there are several advantages over a filter/blocker:

1) Legitimate sites and searches (e.g. breast cancer) wouldn't be blocked because of an overzealous filter

2) Someone's looking over your shoulder, which allows for counsel & rebuke, if necessary

3) Since a ridiculous number of new porn sites hit the web every day, this seems that it would be more effective. Filters often can't keep up with all of the sites that should be on their "off limits" list. The accountability report would allow the accountability partner to go snoop any site that, either looked suspicious or was visited with great frequency.

4) Beyond the issue of porn, a report of online activity would bring web-surfing habits (read time-wasting addictions) under the scrutiny of an accountability partner. For instance, is it really being a good steward of one's time and talent to spend hours and hours each week reading up on every possible angle on one's favorite college football or basketball team? (OK, I'm guilty!)

5) It's very affordable. Someone else tried this a couple of years ago, but was charging $150/year or something...which I thought was really a shame.

I would hope that this software would also monitor chat-room type activity, and even have an option for e-mail, to prevent "internet mistress" situations. Imagine having every current officer and staff member in your church, as well as every candidate for office sign up for this as a "requirement" for serving in office. The church could even foot the bill (with a group rate) and I think it would be money well spent -- preventative medicine.

Monday, December 09, 2002

I love egg nog. Probably couldn't drink it all year long, but for one month a year I guzzle the stuff.

And another thing...there are two ways to put the toilet paper roll on the roller:

#1 TP rolling down over the top like a waterfall, or
#2 TP rolling up from under the bottom of the roll, like I don't know what.

To me, #1 is the right way to do it (and for some reason I see this as distinctively masculine), and the only way that I will let toilet paper on the roller in our house. Yes, I do switch it if it's been put on the wrong way.

There are two schools of thought when it comes to carrying things (groceries, luggage) in from the car or van. One method is to travel lightly with, say, a bag in each hand and make as many trips as necessary. I, on the other hand, have always been an advocate of the strap 10-12 plastic grocery bags to each hand and carry all 381 lbs of groceries in at once -- one trip from the trunk to the front door. I can't see making all those trips, when you can suffer for just a minute or two, yet get it all done quick as a flash.

On Saturday night, I saw It's a Wonderful Life for the umpteenth time, but I realized something this time, that I hadn't noticed in previous viewings. During the famous scene where George Bailey runs down the street yelling "Merry Christmas!" to all of the buildings in Bedford Falls, I realized that Adam Sandler borrowed his crazy screaming voice from Jimmy Stewart.

If you watch It's a Wonderful Life sometime during the holidays this season, close your eyes during that scene and see if I'm not right. That could easily be Adam Sandler running down the street screaming "Merry Christmas!" to all of those buildings.

Wednesday, December 04, 2002

Well, my life as a sports fan was going too well -- the Packers clinched the NFC North on Sunday, the Purdue football team won 3 of their last 4 to earn an invite to the Sun Bowl, and the Purdue Men's basketball team was undefeated following a win over Rick Pitino's Louisville Cardinals on Saturday. So last night, to bring me back down to earth, #16 Xavier defended their home court by beating the Boilers 74-59. This means that the Purdue Men's Basketball team hasn't won a true road game (the Louisville game was at neutral Conseco Field House in Indy) since last year's season opener, over a year ago!

Roberto Rivera article alert -- this one on the wooing effect of the sheer audacity of biblical faith over against the blandness of a faith shaped to accommodate the cultured despisers.

Tuesday, December 03, 2002

Tom Yager at Infoworld.com writes:

Surely the brightest spot in this dull economy is Apple Computer. After years of pumping out great-looking niche machines, Apple took the chance that the general market would go for a Unix box if it was done properly.

Apple picked the worst possible time to take the biggest risk imaginable. Mac OS X and Mac OS X Server are unqualified hits on everything from $999 notebooks through entry servers. Developers are climbing onto the platform in droves, as well they should. I can't say it emphatically enough: Apple is a serious player in the broad IT market now. As did the other success stories of this recession, Apple got there by turning to its customers instead of putting the squeeze on them when times got tough.

Go Apple!

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