You are currently browsing the monthly archive for April 2010.

I have had a great week.  Even when the weather was rainy and cold, I got to watch my New York Mets win seven straight games. A team expected to lose more games than they win is now in first place.  The “my” applies to a winning team, “they” to a losing one.  Of course there are only 140 games still to go.

I had every intention to getting up early, which for me means 10:00 am (I get to bed most nights at 4 am) and working on my weekly Bible study.  However I woke up to a beautiful, sunny day, temps in the 70’s.  I was seduced by the siren call of the sea and spent the day at the beach.

Instead of doing a lot of research on the Bible I will ask a simple question.  What is faith?  If an alien from space came to visit earth and asked you what is faith, what would be your answer?

Faith does have many different meanings.  There is the faith we place in the tools, and technology, we use everyday.  We have faith the car will start.  That when we push a button world of the Internet will open to us.  When we step into a giant hunk of metal we trust it to fly us safely to our destination.  Although I must admit to keeping my fingers crossed at take-offs and landings.

When most people speak of faith they are referring to spiritual, emotional, faith.  People of religious faith believe there is a spirit inside them that will guide them in life, as they learn to understand it, which was placed there by God.  They seek understanding with God by praying, and mediating.

I see the source of my faith as being from my brain.  It gives me the ability understand the world I live in, and work out solutions to problems.  My brain doesn’t always work so well, so I also have periods of doubt.  It has however been many years, decades, since I felt the depression of losing faith.

We receive our first explanation of faith from our parents.  We trust our parents and believe what they tell us is true.  At some point we learn that they can be wrong.  We will start to have doubts.  We will also face challenges that will test our faith.  Unless we are lucky we will have periods of doubt, and then renewed faith, most of our lives.  If we are very unlucky we never find faith again.  I can’t think of a sadder existence that life without faith, and the hope it brings.

The journey to the source of our faith is mostly a personal one.  It starts with a hopeful step.  As it helps us overcome challenges, our faith in it grows. It hopefully becomes a confident faith by the time we reach the end our travels.

What is faith? It’s hope, trust, and confidence. It leads us to great joy.

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I love this slidshow from the Christian Science Monitor of the worlds smallest animals.  Chihuahua in a cup anyone?

Link to slideshow:

http://www.csmonitor.com/CSM-Photo-Galleries/Lists/World-s-smallest-animals 

Off of Mary Chapin Carpenters new album “Age of Miracles”, I Was A Bird, with Alison Krauss:

A very funny video from Skepchick Rebecca Watson, that is based unfortunately on an actual news story.

http://www.astreetjournalist.com/2010/04/21/women-to-blame-for-earthquakes-says-iran-cleric/

“A senior Iranian cleric says women who wear revealing clothing and behave promiscuously are to blame for earthquakes.”

We have lived in a world dominated by rules written by men for all our history.  It seems to me that, more often then not, it’s when we listen to women working for change, that our world gets better.

I don’t believe that women are more, or less, capable than men.  It’s the fact that leaders, who are almost always men, once they attain power, become focused on keeping it, they will tend to resist change.  Women will more likely want to change the status quo, or have new, fresher ideas, about how to solve problems that will improve society.

Our world needs to change, and giving women an equal opportunity to become leaders is one thing that will help change it for the better.

Do you believe that society would be significantly better if women had an equal opportunity for leadership roles?

Do you believe that in America women now have a resonable opportunity at leadership roles in any, or all, of the following fields: Politics – Business – Science – Religion

Here are two women who are working to make the world a better place.

1) Kavita Ramdas, from India, talks about radical women embracing tradition.

2) A video, from the Guardian, of Nawal El Saadaw, Egypt’s leading radical feminist, talking about religion, fundamentalism and female circumcision.  I don’t agree with all her opinions, which are shaped by the world she lives in.   I agree with her fight to change the fundamentalist religions that encourge, require, practices like female circumcision, and abuse of women.

One of the smartest brains on our planet says it isn’t so smart to be trying to try make contact with life forms that are on other distant planets. 

http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2010/apr/26/stephen-hawking-issues-warning-on-aliens

Quoting theoretical physicist Stephen Hawking:

 “If aliens visit us, the outcome would be much as when Columbus landed in America, which didn’t turn out well for the Native Americans.”

“Such advanced aliens would perhaps become nomads, looking to conquer and colonise whatever planets they can reach. To my mathematical brain, the numbers alone make thinking about aliens perfectly rational. The real challenge is to work out what aliens might actually be like.”

YouTube – Michio Kaku On Aliens On Physics

Do you think it is more likely, or less likely, that life exist on another planet? Life at least as intelligent as ours?

If space aliens did visit earth do you think they are more likely to be friendly, or hostile?

Do you think it is more likely, or less likely, that life exist on another planet? Life at least as intelligent as ours?

If space aliens did visit earth do you think they are more likely to be friendly, or hostile?

I would be shocked if there wasn’t life on one of the millions, trillions, of earth like exoplants we are discovering everyday.  I would not be surprised if microbes from outside our solar system have survived in asteroids, and made it to earth already.  There are microbes here on earth that may have that capability.

If one of these life forms was able to build a craft, and find earth, my guess us they would be far more advanced then us, both in science and in being more civilized.  I doubt they could be less civilized.  🙂

Who would space aliens be like?

Alf – one of my favorite TV space aliens, mostly because he had a fondness for cats, for food, not as a pet.  🙂

Or:

Would they act like ET:

or a Purple People Eater:

I read in a few different places that Psalm 25 was a song of trust.  We can’t have faith without trust. 

This is a cry for help, but one that seems to me is filled with hope, not hopelessness.

Graham Kendrick – To You My Lord

In the first two lines the psalmist, David, lifts his soul, prays, to the Lord, the one he trust.  We all need help, and there are times when no matter how hard we try, life just isn’t working out.  Who then can the Christ Follower turn to? The answer is to God, always God.

In the third verse David says, “No on whose hope is in you will ever be put to shame.”  That seems to me to be a confident statement of faith in the Lord.

In verses 5 and 21 we see David’s hope, trust, in God:

5 guide me in your truth and teach me,
       for you are God my Savior,
       and my hope is in you all day long.

 21 May integrity and uprightness protect me,
       because my hope is in you.

In verses 8,10 and 15 David praises God and once again states his faith in him:

 8 Good and upright is the LORD;
       therefore he instructs sinners in his ways.

 10 All the ways of the LORD are loving and faithful
       for those who keep the demands of his covenant.

 15 My eyes are ever on the LORD,
       for only he will release my feet from the snare.

It is in verses 16 – 19 that David shows the degree of his anguish with the circumstances he finds himself in.  “for I am Lonely and afflicted”  His enemies “have increased and how fiercely they hate me!”

In verse 20 he again places his hope in God. “Guard my life and rescue me.” “for I take refugee in you.”

Throughout this prayer David shows he is placing his hope, trust and faith in God.  The Lord is the refugee for the Christ Follower, when the world offers none.

Psalm 25 (New International Version)

 1 To you, O LORD, I lift up my soul;

 2 in you I trust, O my God.
       Do not let me be put to shame,
       nor let my enemies triumph over me.

 3 No one whose hope is in you
       will ever be put to shame,
       but they will be put to shame
       who are treacherous without excuse.

 4 Show me your ways, O LORD,
       teach me your paths;

 5 guide me in your truth and teach me,
       for you are God my Savior,
       and my hope is in you all day long.

 6 Remember, O LORD, your great mercy and love,
       for they are from of old.

 7 Remember not the sins of my youth
       and my rebellious ways;
       according to your love remember me,
       for you are good, O LORD.

 8 Good and upright is the LORD;
       therefore he instructs sinners in his ways.

 9 He guides the humble in what is right
       and teaches them his way.

 10 All the ways of the LORD are loving and faithful
       for those who keep the demands of his covenant.

 11 For the sake of your name, O LORD,
       forgive my iniquity, though it is great.

 12 Who, then, is the man that fears the LORD ?
       He will instruct him in the way chosen for him.

 13 He will spend his days in prosperity,
       and his descendants will inherit the land.

 14 The LORD confides in those who fear him;
       he makes his covenant known to them.

 15 My eyes are ever on the LORD,
       for only he will release my feet from the snare.

 16 Turn to me and be gracious to me,
       for I am lonely and afflicted.

 17 The troubles of my heart have multiplied;
       free me from my anguish.

 18 Look upon my affliction and my distress
       and take away all my sins.

 19 See how my enemies have increased
       and how fiercely they hate me!

 20 Guard my life and rescue me;
       let me not be put to shame,
       for I take refuge in you.

 21 May integrity and uprightness protect me,
       because my hope is in you.

 22 Redeem Israel, O God,
       from all their troubles!

I want to make my next Bible study post about one of the psalms.  I haven’t been able to decide which to pick so I will post it tomorrow, for you to go over on the weekend.  In the meantime I’ll entertain you with a few videos. One funny, one stunning, one haunting and one full of passion.

1) The Irish comic Dave Allen tells the very funny story of his first day in Catholic School, when he was 4.

My favorite line is – “The Nun asked if I was going to be a good boy.  Looked past her and saw some guy nailed to a cross.  Bloody right I am going to be a good boy.”

2) This is an amazing video of the solar flares coming off the sun, taken by NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory.

3) A beautiful melody played by Toumani Diabate, with the West African instrument, the Kora – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kora_(instrument)

4) A song off of Jennifer Knapp’s new album “Letting Go”.

Thunder cloud running
To a different place now
Rainbow chasing him

Unknown Native American

We humans can’t “destroy” the Earth, no matter how hard we may try.   How we use its resources cause changes, some organisms adopt, others don’t and become extinct.  The issue is that we don’t create an environment where we become one of the extinct.  We can make the world either better for our survival, or worse.  It is most likely future generations that will pay the biggest price for our mistakes.

Dead Zones

Underwater video frame of the sea floor in the Western Baltic covered with dead or dying crabs, fish and clams killed by oxygen depletion

Dead zones are low-oxygen areas in the world’s oceans, the observed incidences of which have been increasing since oceanographers began noticing them in the 1970s. These occur near inhabited coastlines, where aquatic life is most concentrated. They can be as small as a quarter-mile, the largest covered 27,000 square miles.  Between 2003 and 2008 the number of dead zones tripled, from 146 to 405.  That number is still growing.

There are several conditions that can create a “dead zone”.  Man made pollution flowing into lakes and ocean is certainly one of them.

The good news is that dead zones are reversible.  The Black Sea dead zone, previously the largest dead zone in the world, largely disappeared between 1991 and 2001 after fertilizers became too costly to use following the collapse of the Soviet Union. Fishing has again become a major economic activity in the region.

From 1985 to 2000, the North Sea dead zone had nitrogen reduced by 37% when policy efforts by countries on the Rine River reduced sewage and industrial emissions of nitrogen into the water. Other cleanups have taken place along the Hudson River in NY and California’s San Francisco Bay.

Ecology isn’t some “earth-mother” “hippy” slogan, it’s survival, our great- grandchildren’s.

earth-day2

 

1) Picture of the Day 

Biker Hindu Holy Man

The bizarre photo of a Hindu holy man covered in ash poses for photographs during the Royal Bath at the Kumbh Mela festival in Haridwar, India.  Any suggestions for a good name for a Hindu Holy Man biker gang? 

2) Redefining longevity: the new centenarian spirit 

Elisa Hoffman - 102, with her great-grand children

Garnett Beckman, now 102, stopped hiking the Grand Canyon when she was 91.  Now she volunteers at a seniors center, “to help out the old folks.”  She also teaches bridge on Saturdays. 

Elas Hoffman, also 102, is planning to take a trip to South America this year, maybe Russia next year. 

Sam Katzof, only 100, a chemist trained at Johns Hopkins, and who worked at NASA, has continued working on a chemical reaction experiment, which he now thinks he has found the solution to. 

No one in my family has made it past 85, however I see no reason I couldn’t live to be 100, in reasonable health, body and soul.  I figure if I can make it through today, there is no reason I couldn’t make it to through tomorrow, or another 33 years of tomorrows.  What do you think are the chances you will be able to celebrate 100? 

From an article in the Christian Science Monitor, by Chris Landers: 

http://www.csmonitor.com/USA/Society/2010/0417/Redefining-longevity-the-new-centenarian-spirit 

“If progress in reducing mortality continues at the same pace as it has over the past two centuries, which is a matter of debate, then in countries with high life expectancies most children born since the year 2000 will celebrate their 100th birthday – in the twenty-second century,” wrote James W. Vaupel, a Duke University (N.C.) demographer in a March 25 Nature magazine review of current studies. “Longer lifespans will alter the way individuals want to allocate time during their lives and will require radical revision of employment, retirement, health, education and other policies.” 

Indeed, observes Meg Guroff, an editor at AARP The Magazine, “We’re already seeing those implications in people much younger. We have many more readers who are 50 years old … going back to school, adopting children, starting a second or third or fourth career.” 

As census workers fan out to take stock of the nation this year, they expect to find continued explosive growth in the centenarian population. Between 1990 and 2000, Americans 100 or older increased by 35 percent – from 37,306 to 50,454. The US Census projects that this group will increase more than 50 percent in this year’s count, to 79,000. And a recent study in the North American Actuarial Journal projected 60 percent growth each decade of the coming century. The United Nations expects similar trends worldwide, estimating that by 2050, 1 in every 5,000 people will be over 100 years old, with China, the United States, Japan, and India having the largest populations of centenarians. 

Today’s 100-year-old has lived through two World Wars, the Depression, and every president since Teddy Roosevelt. What surprises some researchers is that 30 percent of them have done so with their health and wits intact. Something as simple (or complicated) as attitude can make the difference in living to 100 or beyond, and perhaps tip the scales toward a happy, productive second century.

It was another great week here at Casa Dyer.  Walks on the beach, in the park and lunch with retired ex-coworkers on Saturday.

It was also a very interesting week on the Internet.  Here were a few stops on my Net wanderings:

Picture of the Week:

Baby Meerkats

Who could not love a picture of baby Meerkats, three weeks old, enjoying the sunshine at Chester Zoo in England. 

I know dogs, cats and horses are America’s favorite animals.  Besides these three, what is you favorite?

Words:

From the Agnes comic strip, a slightly strange schoolgirl, on how to be successful. 

“I will be very successful at being successful.  There are only a few hurdles, a shortage of good genes, horrible finances and no talent.  Nothing that a few miracles, and boatloads of dumb luck can’t overcome.”

Kinda sounds like what my plans for life were, at least the boatloads of dumb luck part  🙂

Music:

Alison Krauss and Union Station – “Baby, Now That I’ve Found You”.

What song have you heard in the last month that you really enjoyed?

Science:

http://www.ns.umich.edu/htdocs/releases/story.php?id=7633

“A cat can recognize a face faster and more efficiently than a supercomputer.

That’s one reason a feline brain is the model for a biologically-inspired computer project involving the University of Michigan.

U-M computer engineer Wei Lu has taken a step toward developing this revolutionary type of machine that could be capable of learning and recognizing, as well as making more complex decisions and performing more tasks simultaneously than conventional computers can.

Lu previously built a “memristor,” a device that replaces a traditional transistor and acts like a biological synapse, remembering past voltages it was subjected to. Now, he has demonstrated that this memristor can connect conventional circuits and support a process that is the basis for memory and learning in biological systems.”

“Today’s most sophisticated supercomputer can accomplish certain tasks with the brain functionality of a cat, but it’s a massive machine with more than 140,000 central processing units and a dedicated power supply. And it still performs 83 times slower than a cat’s brain, Lu wrote in his paper.

In a mammal’s brain, neurons are connected to each other by synapses, which act as reconfigurable switches that can form pathways linking thousands of neurons. Most importantly, synapses remember these pathways based on the strength and timing of electrical signals generated by the neurons.

In a conventional computer, logic and memory functions are located at different parts of the circuit and each computing unit is only connected to a handful of neighbors in the circuit. As a result, conventional computers execute code in a linear fashion, line by line, Lu said. They are excellent at performing relatively simple tasks with limited variables.

But a brain can perform many operations simultaneously, or in parallel. That’s how we can recognize a face in an instant, but even a supercomputer would take much, much longer and consume much more energy in doing so.”

“The next step is to build a larger system, Lu said. His goal is achieve the sophistication of a supercomputer in a machine the size of a two-liter beverage container. That could be several years away.

Lu said an electronic analog of a cat brain would be able to think intelligently at the cat level. For example, if the task were to find the shortest route from the front door to the sofa in a house full of furniture, and the computer knows only the shape of the sofa, a conventional machine could accomplish this. But if you moved the sofa, it wouldn’t realize the adjustment and find a new path. That’s what engineers hope the cat brain computer would be capable of. The project’s major funder, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, isn’t interested in sofas. But this illustrates the type of learning the machine is being designed for.

Today I am picking my topic straight from the headlines, the Christian music headlines.  Is being gay a sin?  How should a Christian react when a friend, or someone they respect, announces they are gay?

I’ll back a bit and start with the fact that for years I would ignore any music with the “Christian” label.  Then a friend, blog buddy Tam, recommended I listen to Jennifer Knapp.  Knapp’s last album, “The Way I Am” was nominated for a Grammy.  I was thrilled by the passion with which she sang, and now Christian songs are among my favorites.

Knapp took a hiatus from performing, spending the last several years in Australian.  She began writing songs again and announced the release of a new album, scheduled for May.  Many of her Christian fans were thrilled.  Then in an interview with Christian Today she came out as being gay.

My guess is that she will lose some fans from her Christian fan base, but will likely pick up some new ones.  How much this news will affect album sales we will have to wait and see.

http://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/music/interviews/2010/jenniferknapp-apr10.html

Question – If someone who you love, or respected, said they were gay how would you react?

I looked up Bible verses that dealt with homosexuality and found the following, that to me state pretty clearly that gay love is a sin:

1 Corinthians 6:9-11 (New International Version):

9Do you not know that the wicked will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: Neither the sexually immoral nor idolaters nor adulterers nor male prostitutes nor homosexual offenders 10nor thieves nor the greedy nor drunkards nor slanderers nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. 11And that is what some of you were. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.

Leviticus 18:22 (NIV):

 22 ” ‘Do not lie with a man as one lies with a woman; that is detestable.

I also know there are some Christian churches that accept gay people.  The Diocese of New Hampshire, an Episcopal Church, ordained an openly gay, non-celibate, Bishop, V. Gene Robinson, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gene_Robinson.

Should someone who is gay be accepted by the Church?  Would it make a difference if they admitted there were sexually attracted to a member of their same-sex, but remained celibate?

I am not Christian or gay.  I have both Christian and gay friends.  My perception is that the first rule(?) is that Jesus teaches us to love everyone.  If we did not love sinners, we would have no one to love, since we are all sinners.  I would expect that a devout Christian would be sad when a friend says they are gay.  They would pray for their friend, and hope that someday their friend will realize their error.

My understanding is that for a devout Christian being gay, or from the standpoint of some Christians, thinking you are gay, being sexually attracted to someone of your own sex, is a temptation, like any other.  Giving in to that temptation, gay sex, is the sin.

This is may favorite performance by a contemporary Christian singer:

Jennifer – Whole Again

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