Saturday, October 29, 2011

Compendium of Links #16

This week I had a bunch of evening events to cover that were not meetings. Go figure! Well, one of them was a meeting, but it was on the same evening as two other non-meeting-events, so I still count that evening as a weird one.

Nathan Busenitz (whoever he is) talks about the “I Can Do All Things” verse that everyone quotes (and that I wrote on my college graduation cap). Contrary to how most people take it, it’s about contentment. And I would certainly not change my decision to write it on my grad cap even after reading this:

Out of context, Philippians 4:13 is used as a blank-check promise for whatever is desired. But in context, it is a verse is about contentment. It’s not about your dreams coming true or your goals being met. Rather it’s about being joyful, satisfied, and steadfast even when life is hard and your circumstances seem impossible. [all emphasis original]

The BBC reports that an independent study (funded by interests whose goal is to discredit assertions that man’s actions are causing the earth to warm) has confirmed that the earth is warming. More research to come on ocean temperatures “in order to construct a truly global dataset.” (HT: Gene Veith)

Jon Acuff over at StuffChristiansLike (yes it’s a parody blog takeoff of another parody blog) made this observation staring at a WalMart magazine rack:

The promises that the front cover of men’s magazines make were eerily similar to the promises that the back cover of Christian books make. So I thought it might be fun to play a little guessing game and see if you can figure out which is which.

Play the guessing game over at his blog.

I had never heard of a bamboo bike before last Sunday night, but apparently they’re cheaper to make than aluminum ones. They might provide more affordable transportation to poor Africans, too. So I googled “bamboo bike” and came up with a website for The Bamboo Bike Project, but it hasn’t been updated in what looks like quite a while.

And this week’s video is purely for its audio:

I’ve been stuck on an America (band) kick for the last week and a half. “Tin Man” and “Sandman” are another couple I enjoy.

Life on my own #15: Crock-pot chicken

You know what living by myself means? I can make supper at whatever time I feel like. A very bachelor(ette)-esque thing to say, I know, but when I’m trying to work around a crazy journalistic schedule it’s something I’m highly grateful for!

Another great supper-related perk is that I can make whatever I want. Even if it’s an experimental dish….

A few days ago I decided to try out my new(-to-me) crock pot (or slow cooker, for the brand-conscious among us). In order to do this, I opened up my fancy-schmancy new (really, new, this time) crock pot recipe book. It’s chock-full of taste-tested recipes and one of them caught my eye: Chicken with Applesauce.

Reason 1: It’s chicken.

Reason 2: It’s applesauce.

Reason 3: It has very few other ingredients.

Reason 4: It’s chicken. (This cannot be stressed enough.)

Therefore, I spent most of my lunch break that day preparing the recipe—browning the chicken, slicing it up into smaller pieces, and dumping together the applesauce, barbecue sauce, and… well there were other things that went into it, but obviously they weren’t that important. And I turned the crock pot on and left, confident that a delicious rice-topper would await me upon my return from work in the evening.

I told the sports editor I was planning to eat chicken with applesauce and he said I could keep it. Well, I  thought it sounded like a nice combination. *shrug*

Once I got home from work (or rather, from the bulk of the workday), I checked it—the chicken smelled wonderful and just a little stuff had stuck to the sides of the crock pot (easily removed in cleaning, no doubt).

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The appearance was a little odd—but in my experience, anything made to go on top of rice is like that; and besides, I’m used to eating weird-looking things. (It comes with having traveled to foreign countries.) At any rate, after inspecting the chicken I embarked upon the second experimental food adventure of the day: making rice.

You must realize, my poor mother has never learned the secret to making rice on the stove without it all sticking to the bottom of the pan. She always makes it in the microwave, setting it at whatever partial percentage the microwave cookbook prescribes and letting the rice puff up that way.

Me, I have a microwave that has two settings: on, and off. Not exactly conducive to cooking rice.

So I looked at the back of the rice bag and figured I would just try it on the stove to see what happened. If worse came to worse, I’d still have at least some rice to eat, I figured, and soaking a pan in water for a few hours does wonders for sticky food. (I know this by experience. Eggs and potatoes stick really bad and so do some cheese dishes. Oh, and burned hamburger and burned pancakes and… well just about anything burned.)

Water, butter and rice were dumped into a small saucepan and cooked exactly according to the directions on the rice bag, and what do you know?

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Nothing stuck. In fact, the rice was pretty tasty and only a teensy bit soggy (well maybe not soggy, but a little over-moist would be more accurate). I haven’t yet solved this mystery. But it was convenient not to have to soak the saucepan.

And the resulting 7 p.m. meal was quite satisfactory!

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Sunday, October 23, 2011

Keats on sharing nature

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O Solitude! if I must with thee dwell,
Let it not be among the jumbled heap
Of murky buildings; climb with me the steep--
Nature’s observatory—whence the dell,
Its flowery slopes, its river’s crystal swell,
May seem a span; let me thy vigils keep
’Mongst boughs pavilioned, where the deer’s swift leap
Startles the wild bee from the foxglove bell.
But though I’ll gladly trace these scenes with thee,
Yet the sweet converse of an innocent mind,
Whose words are images of thoughts refined,
Is my soul’s pleasure; and it sure must be
Almost the highest bliss of humankind
When to thy haunts two kindred spirits flee.

—John Keats’ first published poem

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Compendium of Links #15

This week, I spent a lot of time on vacation… in Boston. You’ve read about it already, I’m sure, but I had to prevace this installment of the Compendia with that note because it explains why I’ve spent very, very little time browsing the Internet. Now for your feature presentation….

An acquaintance from college is nearly finished with the Mystery Can Game. Read that linked post for the introduction, then follow his progress from his homepage.

Kate Bolick, writing for The Atlantic (only one of my favorite magazines), thinks American society is moving beyond the ideal of traditional marriage. While I may not agree with her conclusion, the sociological observations she makes are intriguing. (Maybe off, too, but fun to read nevertheless.) In particular, I enjoyed the connections she made between the feminist ideology, the post-Boomer focus on emotional fulfillment, and the dearth of marriageable young males.

We’re just crybabies in the Westexactly what I was telling my friends last weekend! Think about it—if you own a car you are one of the richest seven percent of people in the world. Please don’t tell me how unfortunate you are because capitalism has ruined your life.

The irony? The financial districts of Beijing, Mumbai and Nairobi, last time I checked, aren’t teeming with people yearning for the downfall of capitalism. Indeed, an attempt to launch Occupy Mumbai this week fizzled and died. That’s because, to most Indians, capitalism means investment and the possibility of a better job.

No video for y’all this week, but I’m sure you have your own videos you can send me….. Smile

The autumn woods

About six miles from my apartment, there’s a nature preserve, nearly all wooded.

At night it could be freaky, but I find it fascinating. I said as much at a night hike that the local parks district held late last month.

Just imagine—at night, the spiders are spinning, the crickets are chirping and the slugs… well, the slugs are doing whatever they do, I suppose. Sitting there and eating mushrooms. No joke, we found a bunch of slugs chowing down on some odd fungal growths on a log. Big critters too—the mushrooms must have been good for them.

But the spiders—at night you shine your flashlight to the right and to the left as you slowly traverse the paths, and suddenly a thread of silk catches the light. Keep your beam shining upon it and you begin to see the entire web, in whatever shape the spider has found to fit the niche where it has made its home. Some of the webs are smaller than others. Most surprisingly, nearly all the spiders are themselves tiny, some of them too small to see more than three feet away.

Some of the spiders don’t really spin webs at all—what they make are more like nets, more or less, sometimes pulling leaves together to make a miniature hideaway. Those spiders’ nets remind me of the clumps of hair and dust that I’m forever sweeping from my floors.

My favorite spider is a kind of orb-weaver, one that reminds me of a Roman soldier every time I see it. Don’t ask me why—I haven’t a clue. But this spider has a rather pyramidal, sort of spiny abdomen, and it’s always right there on its web, standing like a sentry. I imagine that if it really were a sentry, it would use its abdomen like a bludgeon.

There are more normal-looking spiders, too—brownish ones and nearly albino ones, mostly. And like I said, almost all of them are tiny, small enough that you feel as if you would frighten them rather than the other way around. They’re hardly the size of an ant.

Besides the spiders, there was a lot of fungus growing in the woods. Mushrooms of various types—including one that felt to me like a marshmallow—littered the ground and nearly covered the dead wood we found occasionally. And there was that one bunch of slugs eating away at the insides of some mushrooms. That was weird.

Shelf fungus grew too, mostly on the dead wood. Have you ever picked a mushroom and smelled it? A wild mushroom, that is, not the kind you get at the grocery store. The scent of a wild mushroom somehow feels jarring in the midst of a nighttime stroll through the forest.

Of course, when I went, the scent of rain mingled with the mushroom I held to my nose.

The sound of birds, crickets and squirrels completed the enchantment of the nature preserve. It didn’t matter much that one could still hear the highway not far from the wood; to have it almost drowned out by the tsking, chirping, and clicking sounds made by the nocturnal animals was… glorious.

That’s the only word I can find that properly describes the experience. It is here that I find the most vivid illustration of the glory emanating from God himself.

And it’s back to work

The only bad thing about vacations is that they end!

After my wonderful trip to visit my college roomie, now going to grad school in Boston, I had one day to recover—thanks to long experience telling me I wouldn’t be either rested or prepared to go back to work immediately. I spent Wednesday sleeping, doing laundry, and generally taking it easy in order to be refreshed for the short workweek ahead. (Yes, very short.)

Then came Thursday. It came early, too, beginning with a 7:30 a.m. meeting I had to cover. Such is the life of a reporter; my time, though flexible, is partly ruled by the meeting schedules of various governmental bodies. I barely dragged myself out of bed, still groggy from losing sleep over the entire extended weekend, and got to the morning meeting of the county park district.

Doesn’t sound too enthralling, right? Actually it’s better than it sounds. It’s a good thing for the park district that their meetings are down-to-earth but not meandering! I look forward to covering these people, since they’re no-nonsense with the business agenda but they still crack jokes as they see fit. Plus, these are the types of people that I get along with—nerdy and outdoorsy. (They get excited over owl tagging and random salamanders found in Target foodstuff crates. Not exaggerating here.)

It might help that they like me at the moment—I ventured onto their 32-mile bikeway a few weeks ago and wrote about it for the paper.

A little coffee and the humor at this meeting put me in a good mood for the rest of the morning, until I could go home for an extended lunch break (read: naptime). Then this afternoon, among other things, I had the chance to ride in a crane—a very, very large crane, at which the eye level from the driver’s seat was about forty feet up in the air. Beware, those who are afraid of heights.

I definitely had no idea this morning that I’d be riding in a crane this afternoon. But that’s the fun of reporting. No two days are alike. I wouldn’t want them to be, either.

Can you tell I love my job?

Life on my own #14: Photography in Boston

One of the many perks of being young and carefree: I can go pretty much… anywhere.

That is, anywhere I can afford. But to be honest, most people have concerns other than financial that keep them in one place for most of their time. Me, all I have to worry about is if I have extra bucks in the budget and extra vacation time to use.

I had some of both—and a very dear friend living about twelve hours away—so I took along a college chum and we drove to Boston from Ohio, stopping at my chum’s house on the way there (and back) for sleep. We had a glorious time visiting my college roommate. And to top off the wonderful vacation, my roomie took me to see the sights…

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Quincy Market at Faneuil Hall.

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Harbor.... :)

Fun with black-and-white photography at Copp's Burying Ground.

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And por supuesto, there are many more photographs, but that was a brief selection from our early wanderings. Besides sightseeing, we held a crazy hair and make-up party in order to record video of ourselves doing very silly things—all that in honor of another dear friend who is currently teaching English overseas at an international school. (The gist of the six-minute video was, “we miss you!”)

That videotaping was probably my favorite old-friends moment of the trip. But there were many other fun times—like the random photo shoot we held near the harbor, in an attempt to capture the perfect image for my chum’s senior recital posters.

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It’s now her Facebook profile picture as well.

Thank heaven this wasn’t going to be my only foreseeable chance to visit Boston—there were so many other things we wanted to see and do, and only about forty-eight hours in which we crammed what we could. Even so we managed to hit the high points of the Freedom Trail, a few scenic stops, Harvard and the Boston Public Library.

Had you asked me a few years ago what I thought of road trips, I would have denied that I would ever venture on one—I hated driving. And I still don’t handle very long periods of it too well (though I did manage about five hours last Friday night!). But you know what? Some things are worth a little sacrifice of comfort!

Trips to Boston included.

Saturday, October 08, 2011

Missions in the context of worship

“Missions exists because worship doesn’t.” –John Piper

This week is missions conference at my newly adopted church. The featured missionary in yesterday’s morning service started by saying that the reason for missions couldn’t be as superficial as “Jesus said so in the Great Commission.”

(And at a Christian and Missionary Alliance church as missions/Commission-focused as mine have been, that’s a weighty declaration.)

Sure, he said, it was a command Jesus gave, but that couldn’t be the only basis for such a large-scale project. This missionary to Kosovo had wondered about the real reason for missions, the reason behind the mandate, even as early as his first months in college.

But—what was the answer? It begins with this: Jesus calls us to be missionaries, each in his own way, for one purpose: To bring more people into the knowledge of God, to make them his worshippers.

The purpose of all of life, reiterated the missionary, was to worship God, to give him glory in everything we do. Worship, then, is paramount; it’s the only thing that can truly fulfill us. (Shades of a Shorter Catechism there.) But for so many people around the world—as our acclimated Kosovar said, about two billion people—that everlasting, complete fulfillment in worship is elusive, not even possible without the aid of someone to teach them about it. They cannot worship. Therefore, the temporary work we call missions was established—temporary in that at some point it will cease to matter at all, once the entire world knows the Gospel and the end of the age comes. Its only aim is to bring more people into the band of worshippers.

It is a means to an end and that end is approaching. When the end arrives, the means will no longer be needed.

We don’t become missionaries for the sake of missions itself, or even for the sake of the Great Commission.… We become missionaries because there are whole nations in which the worship of God is never, ever practiced. Missions exists because worship doesn’t.


I can’t describe how deeply that concept imprinted itself onto my soul. I suppose it’s one of those things that one knows but does not realize until it’s pointed out by someone wiser—that relation of missions to worship (and the supremacy of worship in just about everything, the other thing I’ve been learning over the last few years).

It may also have been because I’ve already been meditating on certain aspects of the nature of worship for the last week or two. (And when I say meditating, I mean I couldn’t get it out of my head every spare moment. That counts, right?) It amazed me how thoroughly the morning’s message dovetailed with the main subject of my devotions lately. Maybe it shouldn’t surprise me, but it did, and it gave me a reason for praise.

At any rate. After quoting Piper’s pithy statement, the missionary followed it with a longer quote from him, a much more succinct explanation of that phrase than I could hope to write. I wish I knew what the quote was from. I do know that Piper wrote a book about missions called “Let the Nations be Glad!” that I have wanted to read. Mom lent me her copy this week; I’ll read it and report the gist of it.

Life on my own #13: Lost keys

A common misconception among the general public is that losing your keys is a subtle sign of dementia.

It has to be the other way around—at least in my experience, it’s the lost keys that cause the dementia!

Back at my parents’ house, there’s a message board hanging in the foyer of the house. Its importance lies not in the irrelevant shopping receipts and smudges attached to it, but in the four hooks at the bottom edge, from which all the house and car keys hang. Those hooks have prevented many a headache.

At my little apartment, I have no such message board and certainly no such hooks. I really shouldn’t need them, should I? Young as I am, with no one else in the house to “move my cheese,” my keys are always right where I left them.

In theory, that’s a perfect solution to the problem of lost keys. In practice, that’s as relevant as a pink buffalo. (Come on, when was a pink buffalo ever relevant to anything?)

Many mornings, I’ve awakened rubbing my eyes and racking my brain for where I left the keys the night before. On the dining room table? That’s a negative, but only after moving all the mass mailings, books and other miscellany that litters the table. Maybe they’re on the dresser… hidden among the jewelry, pocket litter and coins that obscure the wooden surface.

This is a small apartment. Finding my keys shouldn’t be this hard. They aren’t on the couch… are they? (Aha! There we are!)

And so I trot happily to work, keys in pocket or in purse where they stay nearly all day. At work I’m more organized and never lose my keys. I just leave them sitting on my desk as I walk out the door, that’s all. Once I had to return three times to my desk to get everything, including that pesky set of keys.

As if that weren’t enough, the changing weather complicates the situation even further.

Have you ever counted how many pockets are on your person when it’s cold outside? Me, I usually have six or eight. Two or four pants pockets; a couple more pockets in my blazer; and another pair in my coat. To compound the issue, I usually have an extra coat at work in case the weather turns colder mid-day. Who can tell which coat I wore last?

That’s six or eight more places to lose my keys!

And it’s embarrassing when you’ve lost your keys on your own self. Can you hear that jingle? They must be in this pocket… no, wait, maybe this one…

Once I sat in my car for at least half a minute picking through my four pockets and my purse, looking for that darn set of keys. After a nature hike, no less. I checked the ignition—not there. I even thought heard them jingling as I shifted in the seat. But they weren’t in any of my pockets. What, did I lose them in the woods? I can’t possibly find them after an hour of hiking! What am I going to do??

…Oh, right. Under my coat, I’m wearing a hoodie. With two more pockets. The proper procedure in this instance is to smack one’s forehead, exclaim “that’s where they are!” and drive off with all haste.

Note to self: Don’t go on nature hikes unless it’s eighty degrees out. It’s not worth the mental health risk.

Compendium of Links #14 (Question edition)

This week I realized that half the random links I view are actually e-mailed to me by my editor. Who knows where she finds these things, but they’re oddities for sure. Like the first one…

What would you do for five bucks? Would you do a video while speed drawing any funny character with a personalized message in the speech bubble? Would you send me five origami dresses? Would you crochet a small octopus? I am not making any of these up…

But the real question is: Would you cheat on a test? An infographic from Wired Academic says most young people would. (Via @PaulGlader)

Another good question: Does information really want to be free? Well, you could call it getting a free ride—and it just might ruin the very information (and music, or video, or whatever) it seeks to transmit. Or so says Robert Levine in The (U.K.) Observer, and he makes a good case for it:

Technology executives aren't exactly shedding tears for companies such as EMI, saying they just can't compete online. But much of the competition EMI are up against isn't the kind to encourage, because it won't lead to better products. The Pirate Bay never tried to release better music than EMI – it just distributed the same music in a way that didn't provide any compensation for its creators. Similarly, the Huffington Post doesn't compete with other newspapers for stories – it just summarises news other papers have already reported. Legally or not, the companies essentially outsource their costs. In economic terms, they're getting a "free ride".

Know a victim of sexual assault? Here’s what to say and what not to say.

My last question, I promise: Are you a textrovert? That is, an introvert who suddenly becomes extroverted—but only when venturing online, like on Facebook or chat rooms or whatever next-generation website is the fad. I’m not so sure I am, or at least, I’m not anymore as much as I used to be… I don’t think.

I promise, this video is not about questions. But it’s absolutely hilarious—a sort-of deleted scene from one of my favorite TV shows (which I am watching entirely via.

This is my kind of humor. Get it or die.

Saturday, October 01, 2011

Compendium of Links #13: Church stuff

Ah, yes. This old series with which I’ve had trouble because one, I don’t spend nearly the time browsing the internet that I used to, and two, what browsing I do accomplish is mainly job-related—thus I am reading about the local park district, city council, drug-related studies, anything but the sort of links I used to fill this segment with.

But I had a few saved up in my open tabs (Firefox is wonderful for tabs). Most of them were gleaned from Tim Challies’ A La Carte posts, to be fair, but a few of them came from elsewhere.

Now to investigate how much it might cost to get internet at my apartment….

On music and worship in the church:

Contemporary Music: The Cultural Medium and the Christian Message, an article in Christianity Today by one D. H. Williams who visited a Protestant megachurch:

In a recent Chronicle of Higher Education commentary, Timothy Beal observed that "a hallmark of American evangelicalism, at least since the 1940s, has been its ready willingness to adapt its theological content to new media technologies and popular trends in the entertainment industry. Implicit in that openness is an evangelical counterdeclaration to Marshall McLuhan's: The medium is not the message; the message, or the Word, transcends whatever media are used to convey it. But in the long run, is the constant evangelical adaptation of the Word unwittingly proving McLuhan right? I think so. That is partly why we find so little coherence within and among the various groups and movements and productions that pass as evangelical." At some point, style of presentation affects the substance of Christian identity and teaching, often by blunting its sharper edges. It is probably no accident that many contemporary churches offer a diet heavy in biblical images and metaphors, leaving actual biblical theology in short supply.

Singing to Build Up, from the 9Marks blog. I don’t remember how I ran across this link, but it was probably from Tim Challies:

Every Christian has a certain set of hymns and songs that deeply resonate with them---the melody, the words, an experience they had when they first heard it---and our natural tendency is to give those favorites everything we've got . . . but then sort of check out when the next song is one we don't particularly like.  But here's the thing:  When you sing in a congregation, you're not just singing for yourself; you're singing for every other member of the congregation, for their edification and building up in Christ, too.  In I Corinthians 14:26, Paul tells us that when we come together, everything we do--including our singing--is done for each other.  Singing hymns is not just an opportunity for each of us, as individuals, to worship God in our own way.  It's an opportunity for the church, as a whole, to worship God together.

On keeping young adults in church:

Why youth stay in church when they grow up, from the Gospel Coalition. My old church recently had a discussion night after a movie of some sort discussing the rate at which youngsters stop attending church once they get into college. This article takes the opposite tack, asking what the characteristics are of the few who actually stick around. His third point, that the parents preached the Gospel to their kids, is one I think many churches overlook. But it all starts at home, people!!

Connecting single and married people in community, from Carolyn McCulley’s “Solo Femininity” blog. It suggests a way for the attached and the unattached to mix more. It’s elaborate and could be taken as either patronizing or a disguised “meet market,” but I’m sure it’d be a lot more fun to go to this type of event than to stand awkwardly after the morning service trying to talk to random strangers.

Just for the fun of it all:

Ignore the video, just listen to the song. It’s just plain fun!

Since when was Shakira blonde??