Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Celebrate Epoch Day 15000 | Epoch Day 15000

Celebrate Epoch Day 15000 | Epoch Day 15000:
"Its time once again to celebrate the turning of the Unix system time. Usually we just celebrate the turning of some aesthetically pleasing number of seconds (like 1234567890), but far less often are we privileged to celebrate the number of epoch days turning a significant number. Epoch days being the number of days since January 1st, 1970. This clock will turn 15000 days on January 26th, 2011 at midnight GMT or January 25th at 7pm EST. ..."
This is definitely a geeky thing to blog about, but it is interesting to me.

Unix Time or the Unix Epoch is defined by a 32 bit number that counts the number of seconds since midnight January 1, 1970 (GMT), incrementing by 60ths of a second.

On January 19, 2038, this system will fail due to a 32-bit overflow.

This blog entry posts at the dawn of the 15,000th day since the Unix Epoch began.

CNS STORY: Pope: Evangelization without solidarity for oppressed is unacceptable

CNS STORY: Pope: Evangelization without solidarity for oppressed is unacceptable:
"VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- It is 'unacceptable' to evangelize without addressing the urgent problems of poverty, injustice and oppression, Pope Benedict XVI said. ..."
This should not have to be said to those who have read the Old Testament prophesies of the coming Messiah as well as the words of Jesus in the synagogue at Capernaum.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Cell Carriers Explore Ways to Limit Distracted Driving - NYTimes.com

Cell Carriers Explore Ways to Limit Distracted Driving - NYTimes.com:
"Cellular carriers, having spent years trying to blanket the nation with phone service, are now working on ways to stop people from getting calls and texts when they are behind the wheel.

The technology is aimed at curbing dangerous distractions by temporarily interrupting service, short-circuiting the temptation for people to respond to the chime of their phones. ..."
This "feature" comes at a price. The off switch is free. So is turning off the ringer.

This would have the effect of limiting all cell phone use in moving vehicles -- passengers as well as drivers. It would likely render hands-free systems moot.

I am not a particular fan of the "nanny state", but I am a fan of obeying traffic safety laws. If it against the law, then enforce it!

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Survey reveals diversity of beliefs among evangelicals | Christian News on Christian Today

Survey reveals diversity of beliefs among evangelicals | Christian News on Christian Today:
"Contrary to the commonly held assumption that evangelicals hold largely uniform beliefs, a new survey has revealed some interesting areas of disagreement and even uncertainty. ..."

There are some surprises here, most notably in some of the social issues. Things are not always as the new media have led us to believe.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Wikipedia celebrates 10 years, but will it survive another decade? - CNN.com

Wikipedia celebrates 10 years, but will it survive another decade? - CNN.com:
"Wikipedia is just the latest in a long line of encyclopedias. In fact, encyclopedias have been around in some form or another for 2,000 years. The oldest, Naturalis Historia, written by Pliny the Elder, is still in existence.

How do I know this? I looked it up on Wikipedia, of course. Is it true? Possibly. ..."

I'd say Wikipedia is far more accurate than not, but I would be suspicious of any descriptions of social phenomena or public figures -- especially if politics is involved.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Haiti Still Struggling After 2010 Earthquake

Yesterday was the first anniversary of the devastating earthquake that killed more than 200,000 people and left millions displaced. Presbyterian Disaster Assistance has a page with resources on the ongoing situation in Haiti.

Sunday, January 09, 2011

Amazing Grace

Amazing Grace and its composition has been the subject of many books and even a movie of the same title. The Wikipedia article lists the six verses here with the seventh verse having been added from a 1790 source that had been passed along by African-American. It appeared in Uncle Tom's Cabin by Harriet Beecher Stowe and has to this day been, perhaps, the best known verse of this well-known hymn. But it wasn't written by John Newton, as were the first six verses...

Amazing grace! How sweet the sound
That saved a wretch like me!
I once was lost, but now am found;
Was blind, but now I see.

’Twas grace that taught my heart to fear,
And grace my fears relieved;
How precious did that grace appear
The hour I first believed!

Through many dangers, toils and snares,
I have already come;
’Tis grace hath brought me safe thus far,
And grace will lead me home.

The Lord has promised good to me,
His Word my hope secures;
He will my shield and portion be,
As long as life endures.

Yea, when this flesh and heart shall fail,
And mortal life shall cease,
I shall possess, within the veil,
A life of joy and peace.

The earth shall soon dissolve like snow,
The sun forbear to shine;
But God, who called me here below,
Will be forever mine.

When we’ve been there ten thousand years,
Bright shining as the sun,
We’ve no less days to sing God’s praise
Than when we’d first begun.
The tune is in Common Meter and no one seems to know which of the many C.M. tunes might have been used at the time Newton wrote this in 1779. The tune which has been most often associated with Amazing Grace is New Britain, composed in the 1830's. It appeared with William Walker's Southern Harmony in 1835.

The image is a page from the 1847 edition of The Southern Harmony showing the melody in the tenor line and the shape notes typical of this period in American hymnbooks. It was obtained from Wikipedia and is in the public domain.

Friday, January 07, 2011

FoxNews.com - Magnetic North Pole Shifts, Forces Runway Closures at Florida Airport

FoxNews.com - Magnetic North Pole Shifts, Forces Runway Closures at Florida Airport:
"The planet's northern magnetic pole is drifting slowly but steadily towards Russia -- and it's throwing off planes in Florida. ..."
This is something that has been known for some time -- that the magnetic poles migrate, and even totally reverse polarity. It generally is seen as somewhat akin to watching glaciers move. I have topographical maps of the same region separated by 30 or more years, and the magnetic declination has changed significantly, but it rarely causes an impact except Boy Scouts who have to adjust their compasses in order to chart an accurate route.

What I am curious about is why, in the age of GPS satellites, is air travel still needing to use magnetic north for navigation?

Thursday, January 06, 2011

Long Road From ‘Come By Here’ to ‘Kumbaya’ — On Religion - NYTimes.com

Long Road From ‘Come By Here’ to ‘Kumbaya’ — On Religion - NYTimes.com:

"... With that wax cylinder, the oldest known recording of a spiritual titled for its recurring plea, Mr. Gordon set into motion a strange and revealing process of cultural appropriation, popularization and desecration. “Come By Here,” a song deeply rooted in black Christianity’s vision of a God who intercedes to deliver both solace and justice, by the 1960s became the pallid pop-folk sing-along 'Kumbaya.' And 'Kumbaya,' in turn, has lately been transformed into snarky shorthand for ridiculing a certain kind of idealism, a quest for common ground. ..."

This is actually a month or so old, but gives an interesting history of the well-known spiritual Kumbaya. It was first recorded in 1926 on a wax cylinder and featured a man from the coastal area of Georgia singing a song with the familiar words "Come by here".

It's particularly interesting to me that no one has found an indigenous African word that sounds like "kumbaya", but that the phrase "come by here" in the Gullah dialect of the Georgia coast might sound like "kumbaya".

Wednesday, January 05, 2011

Review -- Voyage of the Dawn Treader

This film would be far more enjoyable for someone who has never read C.S. Lewis' Narnian novels, but was enjoyable nonetheless. Technically, the film was well-done and the effects were enhanced by its 3D presentation. It is thus far the shortest of the three films released to date, coming in at under two hours, and it might have benefited by an extra 30 minutes to allow for more plot exposition. But no one asked me my opinion when they were filming it...

There are differences with the book, mostly having to do with merging two or more scenes from the book into one scene in the film. The scene involving the arrangement of the seven swords was an invention, but did not do that much damage to the overall message (unless you are a purist).

This episode is the last in which the Pevensie children play major roles, but the addition of Will Poulter as Eustace Scrubb was a brilliant move. Poulter played Eustace jut as I imagined him to be as I read the book. If the Silver Chair and The Last Battle are filmed, his will be a performance to look forward to.

For me, the final scene in the book where Aslan speaks to Edmund and Lucy, explaining to them how they will encounter Aslan in their own world, is the key to the entire book. I am pleased that this film preserved that scene nearly word for word.

Is this film worth seeing? All-in-all, I would say yes. Hopefully it will inspire a new generation of readers to delve into The Chronicles of Narnia, and experience the joy of Lewis' allegorical presentation of the Christian message.

Monday, January 03, 2011

What Does Connectional Mean?

One of the contributing factors to my recent hiatus in blogging is the frustration I have felt with my denomination's apparent departure from the Reformed Faith. Too often we are asked to accept the will of the denomination as it is expressed by the higher governing bodies because we are a connectional church.

I tend to agree with Beau Weston's concept of "Principled Centrism". To simplify Beau's thesis, there is the good, the bad, and the "good enough". For me, the problem arises when the "bad" starts to dominate the politics of the denomination. Being "connectional" becomes more difficult. But what are our connections?

The first and defining connection of this and every Reformed denomination is our connection to God as expresed in the "Solas" of the Reformation -- By the Scriptures Alone, By Faith Alone, By Grace Alone, Through Christ Alone, and to God Alone be Glory. I won't get into which issues I am frustrated with, but suffice it to say there are more than one. And the first of the listed Solas is seemingly the one most ignored when the General Assembly deliberates.

We are a diverse body, but not all levels in the denominational hierarchy are equally representative. One only need to look at The Presbyterian Panel surveys to see how disconnected the various groups within the church are. The surveys typical separate members, elders, pastoral clergy, and specialized clergy, with the first three tending to cluster together. The specialized clergy seem to be quite different from the other three groups, tending more toward the liberal end of things. It is not hard to see why members in the local congregations see a disconnect between where they are and where the denomination's highest level is.

So why am I still a Presbyterian? Well one pragmatic fact is that the PC(USA) recognizes that God calls men and women to serve as deacons, elders, and ministers -- which is not always shared by other Presbyterian bodies. I am loath to consider a denomination that denies my wife's calling as an elder. But the clincher for me is in what make a church the Church. It is where two or three (or more) are gathered in Jesus Christ's name. The Church is not defined by the structure of the denomination. What makes a church the Church is found in the worship, fellowship, nurture, education, and proclamation of the Gospel by local congregations. This is not so say we are congregationalists, but what defines us a Christians happen locally. What defines us as Presbyterians happens in Sessions, Presbyteries, Synods, and General Assembly, and the two are not necessarily equivalent. As long as my corner of the Presbyterian Church remains faithful, I can remain where I am.

Sunday, January 02, 2011

Twitter / @CivilWarwp/Tweeting the Civil War

Twitter / @CivilWarwp/Tweeting the Civil War:

The Washington Post is tweeting the Civil War, using the words of contemporary observers. It looks like you can get tweets by following the discussion or simply navigate to the linked page to read these short messages.

Saturday, January 01, 2011

A New Year and a Look Back

It has been a little over a year since my last real blog posting, and I thought I would summarize the last year in my (and my family's) life. Sort of a New Years Letter, if you will.

Liam achieved the first degree black belt in Tae Kwon Do, which is no mean accomplishment. But he didn't stop there. He also earned his Eagle rank in Boy Scouts with time to spare before he turned 18. He even completed two additional merit badges during his last week as a youth member of the BSA. Now that he is 18, he is an adult leader in the troop and finishing his senior year in high school. He has been active in FFA and has joined the wrestling team. His plans for the coming year vacillate between college, the military, or a job. It is hard to realize that he is now a man, but he has begun well.

Siusan continues to grow research corn for the USDA in Columbia, and will be making her winter nursery trip in January, this time to Puerto Rico. A potential destination was Mexico, but that fell through for a variety of reasons. She continues her volunteer work with the Tree Keepers and the Wild Ones (a native plant society). She has given programs for the Cub Scouts and guided several Boy Scouts in various science-related merit badges.

I have continued to work with th Research Support Computing group at the University of Missouri and have had the pleasure of working with good colleagues. They actually pay me for doing what I enjoy. The travel budget was one of the first things to be slashed locally, but I really don't miss it too much. We haven't gotten a raise in several years. but we have jobs. I remain active with the Boy Scouts, although my outdoor involvement has been inhibited by health factors

We all had a shock last month when my father died on December 11th. He was 81, but still making plans for travel to see his scattered children. He sang a solo in church on the previous Sunday, was at choir practice Wednesday, picked up his AAA Triptik that week and was preparing to drive with his granddaughter to the East Coast to visit my brother and his family, as well as visiting another brother on their way back. The entire Hancock family, including grandchildren descended on Houston and met up with my mother's sister's family and together we celebrated my dad's life. This was particularly rough me, as it was on all of us, partly because Dad was the last of his generation of Hancocks. Houston has been, for the past several year, a central point that we could all go to. Now that that is no longer the case. We are all going to try and keep in touch.

I stayed behind for a few days and help my siblings with the sorting of of Dad's effects. I was initially named executor in Dad's will (as well as being a contingent executor in Mom's will). All four of us siblings met with a lawyer to begin the process of carrying out the will and I ended up declining the serve as executor, and we all settled on my sister, who actually lives in Houston, and who has willingly taken over the task of not only executing Dad's will, but my mother's as well. Both Mom and Dad had things organized, and the paper trail, while not indexed, seems to be complete and in one place.

Dad was entitled to a flag for his coffin, and the funeral director said that the National Cemetery in Houston would probably send two soldiers to serve as an honor guard. As we arrived at the cemetery for the interment, the director informed us that a full honor guard had been sent to serve as pall bearers and to provide the customary military honors. We were told this was unusual, but apparently some entries on his discharge papers caught their eye, not the least of which was that he was awarded the Legion of Merit toward the end of his active service. Three volleys were fired by four riflemen, and Taps was played. Military honors at a funeral are always a moving experience, but to see it in this situation was extremely emotional.

As we went through his papers we found a folder with his award citations dating back to 1953 in Korea, when I was not even walking. His first Army Commendation Medal citation told us more in one short paragraph about Dad's service in Korea than he ever told us.

On a personal note, I have been dealing with health issues for the past 5 years. Initially it was a persistent infection in my left foot. Several hospitalizations, surgeries, and three courses of IV antibiotics failed to clear up the infection (which was in the bone, not the soft tissue). I ended up losing the little toe off my left foot, and the infection cleared up and has not returned. During all this time my hemoglobin dropped to a point where I was getting epogen injections as well as IV iron infusions. My kidney function dropped to the point where I had to begin dialysis in early December. The good news is that I feel MUCH better now. I am no longer always cold, and people who know me have noted that I am a lot more peppy than before. I still have anemia, but alt least I can function better. I hope to be able to resume an outdoor lifestyle in 2011

I do not intend to turn this into a medical blog, but I just wanted to let people know some of what has been affecting my life over the last year and a half.

My resolution for this New Year is to resume regular blogging.