Saturday, June 28, 2008

I'm still around...

I got back nearly a week ago from a fantastic time at Philmont, and found myself immersed in work, trying to recover from a sleep deficit, and trying to get ready to get my son off to his summer camp with our local troop. I just couldn't quite force myself to sit down at the computer in the evening.

The result was that blogging took a back seat. June is going to end up a very light month for blogging especially since tomorrow is parent's day at Bartle Scout Reservation, and Susan and I are going out for the day. I will be staying for the next three days helping out with the nature merit badges and perhaps some handicrafts.

Then I will return to Columbia, work one day, and then take a three day Fourth of July weekend during which we'll go and fetch the boy from camp.

So why didn't I just take July 3rd off as well? I am still asking myself that question.

I'll try and do better in July

Sunday, June 15, 2008

From New Mexico

I am taking advantage of what will probably be my last opportunity to get on the internet for the next 8 days. The Hancocks are staying at the Super 8 in Raton, New Mexico and will leave in a little while for Philmont Scout Ranch (aka Boy Scout heaven).

We left Columbia during thunderstorms, but by the time we reached the Kansas Turnpike, it was looking quite nice outside.

A special pleasure was stopping by one of Susan's college friends in a small town south of US 54 heading west from Wichita. MB is the host of the "Rambling Down the Road" blog and it took me a while, but I finally figured out who she was from the various clues in her blog. She was a senior when I came to SC as a fledgling instructor in Biology and she needed a botany course to graduate. She also lived in the same dorm as my future spouse who was a freshman that year. 30 years may seem like a long time, but aside from my nearly black beard turning nearly solid gray, the three of us were remarkably close to the way we looked in the late 1970s. It's really great to make connections over the years, and blogging has done its share in helping bring people back together.

After we left MB and her daughter we took advantage of the daylight and got as far as Minneola, where we stayed the night in a rather quiet motel. The next day we got off about 8:00am and ate breakfast a couple towns west, and proceeded on to Raton where we had reservations.

Today we'll take the hour drive to Philmont and drop Liam off for his week-long advanced leadership course. Susan and I will have nothing to do but visit antique and craft shops in Cimarron until our official arrival at 1:00pm. The two of us are attending courses at the Philmont Training Center and will be plenty occupied on our own.

Still, all-in-all, a week at the Philmont Training Center is a great family vacation, and this is the third time Liam and I have been out. Susan has been out twice, but after the first time we went in 2002 it has she who asked "when are we coming back"?

The temperature is expected to be in the high 80s with lows in in high 40s and low 50s. The altitude is over 6000' and the humidity is low. We are already feeling the need to drink massive quantities of water, and most of it is sweated away.

Anyway, unless by some magic Philmont has installed wireless, I'll be back blogging next weekend.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

CNN: Four killed by tornado at camp were Boy Scouts

(CNN) -- "Boy Scouts dived under picnic tables and were buried under a collapsed chimney when a deadly tornado hit their camp in western Iowa, survivors said Thursday morning.

The tornado at the Little Sioux Scout Ranch killed three 13-year-old Scouts and a 14-year-old staff member who also was a Scout, said Lloyd Roitstein, president of the Boy Scouts of Mid-America Council. Forty-eight Scouts and staff members were injured. ..."

The camp had 93 older boys taking an advanced junior leader training course alonf with 25 staff members.

The CNN article quoted leaders at the camp who described how the boys immediately began rescue and first aid on their fellow scouts who were injured. In this time of tragedy, it is good to hear that many boys were able to put their training to effective use.

Please pray for the families of the victims and the survivors in this time of struggle.

Interactive Assessment: The Hermeneutics Quiz |

Interactive Assessment: The Hermeneutics Quiz |

I saw this linked on Quotidian Grace's blog, and she had first seen it on Presbyweb.

This web site is part of the Christianity Today offerings, and provides a 20 question quiz that will assess your way of interpreting Scripture. For an internet quiz, this seemed to be well above the average, although by the 10th question I saw a pattern in how the answers were arranged (i.e. from conservative to progressive). The scores range from 20-100.

I scored 55, which is on the conservative side of moderate (which is pretty much where I see myself). There were two questions that may have skewed me a little toward the progressive side. I am opposed to the death penalty and I feel that God calls women to serve in all aspects of leadership.

This causes me to reflect a bit, and it also suggests to me that traditional labels may not be all that useful in defining Christians.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Most detailed image of the Crab Nebula

Most detailed image of the Crab Nebula:
"This new Hubble image - One among the largest ever produced with the Earth-orbiting observatory - shows gives the most detailed view so far of the entire Crab Nebula ever made. The Crab is arguably the single most interesting object, as well as one of the most studied, in all of astronomy. The image is the largest image ever taken with Hubble?s WFPC2 workhorse camera."

Credit: NASA, ESA and Allison Loll/Jeff Hester (Arizona State University). Acknowledgement: Davide De Martin (ESA/Hubble)
Not to trivialize such an awe-inspiring view of one of the wonders of the universe, but doesn't this look just a little like a cross-section of a loofah sponge?

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Hubble’s sweeping view of the Coma Galaxy Cluster

Hubble’s sweeping view of the Coma Galaxy Cluster:
"Hubble’s Advanced Camera for Surveys has observed a large portion of the Coma Cluster, stretching across several million light-years. The entire cluster is more than 20 million light-years in diameter, is nearly spherical in shape and contains thousands of galaxies.

Also known as Abell 1656, the Coma Cluster is over 300 million light-years away. The cluster, named after its parent constellation Coma Berenices, is near the Milky Way’s north pole. This places the Coma Cluster in an area that is not obscured by dust and gas from the plane of the Milky Way, and so is easily visible to observers here on Earth."
If I try to wrap my mind around the scale of this cluster, my head might explode.

10-Jun-2008: The NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope captures the magnificent starry population of the Coma Cluster of Galaxies, one of the densest known galaxy collections in the Universe.
To see the full image, click it and you will be taken to the appropriate page on where you can choose "image 1". The "publication JPEG" image isn't too large, but if you have a good broadband connection, try the "Large JPEG". It's a big one, so be patient.

Wednesday, June 04, 2008

The Betrayal of Judas -

The Betrayal of Judas - :
"... As soon as the show ended, she went to her computer and downloaded the English translation from the National Geographic Web site. Almost immediately she began to have concerns. From her reading, even in translation, it seemed obvious that Judas was not turning in Jesus as a friendly gesture, but rather sacrificing him to a demon god named Saklas. This alone would suggest, strongly, that Judas was not acting with Jesus' best interests in mind — which would undercut the thesis of the National Geographic team. She turned to her husband, Wade, and said: "Oh no. Something is really wrong."

She started the next day on her own translation of the Coptic transcription, also posted on the National Geographic Web site. That's when she came across what she considered a major, almost unbelievable error. It had to do with the translation of the word 'daimon,' which Jesus uses to address Judas. The National Geographic team translates this as 'spirit,' an unusual choice and inconsistent with translations of other early Christian texts, where it is usually rendered as 'demon.' In this passage, however, Jesus' calling Judas a demon would completely alter the meaning. 'O 13th spirit, why do you try so hard?' becomes 'O 13th demon, why do you try so hard?' A gentle inquiry turns into a vicious rebuke. ..."
This is a lengthy and fascinating piece written by Thomas Bartlett on the work done by April DeConick on the Coptic manuscript released over two years ago by National Geographic. She noted not only the mistranslation described in the quotation, but at least two others that stated that Judas "would ascend to the holy generation" and that Judas would be "set apart for the holy generation". In the first of the "holy generation" passages, deConick claimed that a negative in the text was overlooked, thus rendering the meaning as "would not ascend to the holy generation". Apparently National Geographic agreed because the passage was corrected in a second edition of the Gospel of Judas. The second passage was translated by DeConick as "set apart from the holy generation", which National Geographic acknowledged in a footnote as being a valid translation. These three passages are key to whether Judas is viewed as a hero or a traitor.

According to the article, the preponderance of scholarly opinion is that DeConick's translation is accurate. To be sure there is controversy over DeConick's revelations, revolving mostly on the fact that they were not delivered in private or published in a scholarly journal, but rather appeared in an OpEd piece in the New York Times.

U.S. Military Forced to Abort Burma Aid Mission -

U.S. Military Forced to Abort Burma Aid Mission -
"BANGKOK, June 4 -- Cyclone survivors in Burma's devastated Irrawaddy Delta could require food aid for as long as a year, U.N. officials said Wednesday, even as the U.S. military aborted a mission to use helicopters and small boats to deliver aid because Burma's government ignored repeated offers of assistance.

The United States had planned to use the helicopters and small boats aboard the USS Essex to deliver much-needed aid to cyclone survivors, but Burma's ruling military junta rebuffed repeated offers to help with the disaster relief effort, despite the severity of the damage to the region's rice production.

International aid agencies are still struggling to increase their food delivery capacity in the delta, a complex network of rivers and islands, many of which are only accessible by small boats. Doctors Without Borders (Médicins San Frontièrs), the aid agency, said the flow of supplies into the stricken region is still inadequate, and survivors in many remote villages have yet to receive any outside assistance.
A large number of victims are located in areas inaccessible by road. Those helicopters would have been a boon to the relief efforts. Unfortunately the government of Myanmar has refused not only US military helicopters, but those of its surrounding neighbors.

It isn't anti-American attitudes here; the Myanmar government has been highly suspicious of outsiders for years, and they show no signs of easing their xenophobia.

Are we seeing a slow genocide in progress? Or is this a simple case of neglect and incompetence? Either way, what little aid is getting into Myanmar is inadequate. How long will it be before the nations who have been waiting offshore simply start flying the helicopters and getting the aid into the areas which need it the most? What about the UN? They reserve the right to act when a government can't or won't do what is required. What is holding them back?