Monday, March 30, 2015

Great Food-WHY?

My wife is an excellent cook.  There is NO doubt about that.  And I do understand pride in performance, including cooking.  So, consider this entire post to be ONLY addressing purchased food, not home-cooking.

Most would agree, the US population is getting fatter and fatter, only lagging behind Mexico in obesity.  So why do we advertise that this or that food "tastes better than...", something else.

If we are overweight and trying to lose weight, why do we want the most delicious food?

Perhaps some would argue that if they are going to consume 1000 Kcals, they want to enjoy it as much as possible.  But if that ice cream is truly delicious, won't we be tempted to eat 1200 Kcals instead?

Perhaps some company or some restaurant could begin to advertise, "Buy our ice cream, it's pretty good, but you won't want to eat too much of it!"

Delicious food is delicious, but it looks like all of America would be better off with less-tasty food.

Friday, March 27, 2015

End of Year Report for 2014

I have just been working on my annual report for 2014.  It is a tiring endeavor.  I have to copy things from my CV and move them to the report form on the WWW.

This should be at least a little gratifying.  I had a good year and got a lot done.  I am happy with my productivity. I should get a pretty good rating, and should qualify for whatever pay raise we may be getting.  All that should be gratifying. 

It is not.

It seems more of a pain than a reward.  I have little expectation that anyone will carefully read, or reward, my work.  I could do little, and I doubt it would make much difference. 

Why knock yourself out when no one really appreciates it?

Because I know what I do.  My students may not necessarily appreciate it now, but some will come to appreciate it one of these years. I know that I am doing a good job.  I feel very blessed to do work that I enjoy and find rewarding.  I work "as unto the L^rd" and not as unto man.

As I have said before, my goal is to hear,  "Well done thou good and faithful... SERVANT!"

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

The Problem of the "Vast Majority"

I heard a speaker last night that mentioned "the vast majority" so often that I remarked to a friend, " I have a new cliche."

"What's that?"

On encountering a rare occurrence, you simply say, "That's as rare as an un-vast majority."

As I have written before, there are a lot of little nuances of the English language.  I mentioned before that the word "unique" cannot use a modifier, despite that "most unique" does NOT qualify to be "as rare as an un-vast majority."

For some reason, "vast majority" sounds much better to speakers than "most".  For some reason, majorities don't convey anything but 51% or more, so "vast" suggests something above... 75% maybe??

Well, the speaker was otherwise pretty good, so I guess I really have little about which to complain.  Someone once pointed out that,

"A speech is a solemn responsibility. The man who makes a bad thirty-minute speech to two hundred people waste only a half hour of his own time.But he wastes one hundred hours of the audience's time - more than four days - which should be a hanging offense."
~ Jenkin Lloyd Jones

When I think about all the people who have to listen to me speak, I guess I shouldn't worry so much about anyone else's English, the vast majority of the time.

Monday, March 23, 2015

As quiet as new Snow

Today (2-17) we started the University at 11 AM.  My 0800 Stats class was cancelled!  I know there are a LOT of sad students out there today!

I got up and tried to figure how bad the roads might be.  Finally I concluded, that the best approach would be to simply set out.  Lo and behold there was... NOTHING!  The roads between home and teh Uni were as clean and dry as they coudl be, the only difference was, I was almsot all alone.

When I got to campus a bit after 7 AM, I had a NUMBER of great PARKING site from which to choose.  Go figure.  How nice to have the campus to myself.

When I climbed the stairs, I had to trun oon the corridor lights. 

The campus, and my building were.. wait for it... deliciously quiet!  I loved it.  I NEVER see the campus this quiet on a weekday during the academic year UNLESS, there's a weather issue.  Except, bonus of bonuses, there wasn't even a weather issue today!

So, my friend, I got lots and lots of work done.  I am almost back above water for a few minutes, but not quite there yet.  With Brenda out of town and the campus so quiet, I worked about 12  hours with lunch at my desk. My right foot is a bit on the gimp, so I didn't even run.  Too much work, but nice to be almost caught up again.  Tomorrow is a bunch of meetings, so not much can I do, but maybe I can get some things done.

But, for the moment, I think back to the quietness and savor it again.  As I have written before, there isn't much quietness in the world today.  We have to enjoy it when it comes.

Ahh, the joys of quiet.  Thanks be to G^d!

Friday, March 20, 2015

We are full of...little tiny clocks

I feel very Blessed to be able to study the human body. In mid-February I was at a conference where an expert on biological clocks spoke.  I knew that humans have internal clocks, and that even when deprived of light-dark cues, our bodies still have circadian rhythms.

This expert expanded on that notion to tell us that EVERY cell in our body has a biological clock.  WOW! That's a lot of time-keeping going on!

When research investigators use gene manipulation to "knock-out" those cell clocks, the lifespan of the mice is reduced considerably and negative mutations appear in the ears and other parts.

So what?

Sooooo, our bodies are EVEN MORE complex than I thought when I wrote about our corporal complexity many, many blog posts ago.

Did all this complexity arise by chance, as the product of mutations, most of which are acknowledged to be bad, not good?

Sorry, I just don't have sufficient faith to believe all this complexity evolved.  Oh me of little faith!

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Hey it's a Convention- well more of a Conference

I stated writing this while at the meeting of the SE chapter of the American College of Medicine.  This is an annual meeting, located somewhere in the southeastern USA.  It is a great meeting, with lots of good scientists.  Yes, that's right, it's a nerd-fest.

We took a group of graduate and undergraduate students.  I was very proud of our number and quality of students. They participated fully, and most importantly seemed to enjoy it.  We traveled down in two vans and several students drove their own cars.

The lectures were interesting, though not all very well delivered.  Several of the key sessions were in a very large meeting hall, and some of the slides had unreadable figures and text.  But that is forgivable when the information is interesting.

We learned about the little tiny clocks in every cell of our bodies.  We learned about the impact of exercise on MALE hormones, and about measuring physical activity.

BUT, my favorite part, as I wrote a few weeks back, was seeing old friends.  I missed the 2012 meeting while we were in Sweden, the 2013 meeting in Botswana, and last years meeting was cancelled at the last minute due to ice and snow.  So, it had been quite a while since I had seen a lot of folks.

I missed the picture of all of our UA attendees, and should have collected as many UA alumni as I could, but I failed at both.  Maybe next year.

But it is nice to see old friends, and learn new things.

Maybe this is a weak, weak warmup for heaven?

Thursday, March 12, 2015

Long Term Care Plans

I am at the age (but not Brenda) where I am thinking about Long term health care, and similar issues. I have done some investigating and discovered:
  1. These can be very expensive.
  2. Those that are affordable don't offer much in the way of benefits.

I could give you some specifics, but take my word for it, insurance is about MAKING money, not losing it. You probably already knew lots about insurance.

I have NOW thought of a couple of alternatives.  My favorite, and the one most likely to work well is to time things correctly.  If I discover on a Thursday that I will be needing to move into an expensive nursing home, on Friday I need to schedule an UNarmed Wallstreet stock market robbery in broad daylight, preferably at the height of business. I will likely use my walker to threaten the traders and take them hostage. Their will be a well-televised standoff where I threaten to ram my walker through the vault door, unless I am given a helicopter and free passage to some island in the Caribbean.

I will then likely fall asleep and be arrested.  I will speedily plead guilty ad hope to be sent to a white-collar prison where...
  • Medical care is free,
  • Food is free,
  • Cable is free,
  • and I am somewhat of a legend among my fellow white-collar inmates, and I will tell the story of my arrest over and over and over.

Nah, I don't think I could bring myself to do this, but it's not a bad plan, eh?

Special note to my less ethical friends: DO NOT do this! It is unethical, immoral and illegal.

On the other hand, the way things are going, I might one day get the same deal just for sharing the Gospel. So, the decline of America does have a bright side, doesn't it?

Special note to my less clever friends: This is satire. I do NOT intend to go to jail for breaking any laws- except maybe  if proclaiming the Gospel really does become  illegal.

Thanks for your attention.

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

An Interesting Challenge

An intelligent young friend posed an interesting question, and you probably know by now that I love a good question.

Here it is,

"What evidence would be sufficient to cause you to disbelieve (or believe) in G^d?"

He said that he liked it because it makes people squirm.

So, think about your own answer, but here's mine.

The evidence that causes me to believe, and the lack of which would cause me to disbelieve, turns out to be a question of balance.  Here are some issues that must balance:
  1.  G^d must be somewhat comprehensible, or else we cannot believe, but if he is too clearly comprehensible, He sounds /feels/looks too much like a human creation. So if G^d were totally incomprehensible, or too simplistic, I am gone.
  2. Likewise with the creation- if it is too simple- if science were truly "figuring it all out" then G^d is too simplistic.  On the other hand, if there were NO discoveries, if there were no recognizable pattern anywhere, then the disorder would be too disconcerting for my belief. so, some major trustworthy scientific discovery showing the cosmos and all of nature to be either too simplistic or too random, then my belief is gone.
  3.  A G^d who is so distant that He disdains mankind is of little use, but a G^d who is too human, too weak, or too simplistic sounds more like a human creation than the Creator and L^rd of all.
  4. God must not be so Sovereign that everything is predetermined, yet he cannot yield all sovereignty or He ceases to be G^d.  By the same token, if mankind did NOT have some exercise of volition, then there is no point, and it matters NOT whether I believe or not, it is out of my hands.  
Note that if ANY of these fail, I disbelieve. That is, if NEW information comes to light, my belief indeed hinges on the nature of the new information.  Thus, my beliefs are falsifiable, given sufficient evidence, and falsifiability was the true driving force behind the original question.  If our belief in G^d is NOT falsifiable, it will never be acceptable to those with a positivist philosophical mindset.
I could go on, but I trust that you get the picture.  If you think about the Norse gods, or the Greek gods, they were so human-like that they were clearly of human origin.

Of course this same exercise could be taken from the general to the particular, from "religion" to Christianity.  Christianity is my belief of choice for the very same reasons.  It is too complex to have been made up.  No one would dream up G^d coming to earth to die.  But, it is simple enough that even a child can understand and believe/disbelieve.

Mathematician Blaise Pascal offered a claim which has come to be known as Pascal’s Wager, “I should be much more afraid of being mistaken and then finding out that Christianity is true than of being mistaken in believing it to be true.”  Ultimately, and I think by design, the decision will always be a decision based on weighing the evidence and placing ones FAITH in one thing or the other.  Simply put, there is NOT an option that avoids making a faith commitment, no matter how repugnant that concept might be.

 My observations would give a resounding YES!  But that's an issue for another day.

What's your answer to the first question?

Sunday, March 8, 2015

G^d's "Planning"

Mike P did a marvelous job teaching Acts chapter 8 today.  In this chapter the Jerusalem Christians are dispersed to "Judea and Samaria", and Philip shares with the Ethiopian, perhaps the first non-Jewish Christian, who presumably takes the Gospel to Africa.

The thing that struck me most clearly was how G^d orchestrated the spread of Christianity to the Samaritans and then to the whole world.

A brief review of Jewish history may be of help. Originally Israel was a single unified country which then split into northern and southern kingdoms. Babylon invaded the north and took those Jews away into captivity. The Babylonian strategy was to NOT leave an emptied land empty but to populate it with immigrants to help them maintain control.  The imported people became the Samaritans who wound up practicing a syncretic form of Judaism, that is a mix of Judaism with their own paganism (think of the woman at the well in John 4).

There was no shortage of hostility between Jews and Samaritans, so the spread of Christianity into Samaria was a BIG change.  And likewise, the interesting encounter between Philip and the Ethiopian eunuch resulted in the witness of the Christ to the "ends of the earth".  I had not known before today, but at one time Ethiopia had invaded and controlled all of NE Africa and extended into modern Israel.

Think about this in view of Acts 1:8, " ...but you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be My witnesses both in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and even to the remotest part of the earth.”

The spread of the Gospel into Samaria was likely a big shock to the Jewish Christians, which became more shocking with the spread to Ethiopia.

So think about the BIG picture.  G^d orchestrates the spread of the Gospel throughout the world thousands of years before it was going to be commanded and happen.  Go figure.

Don't forget, G^d is NOT bound by time as we are.

You can't make this stuff up!!!

Thursday, March 5, 2015

Morning Quietness

I get up early on mornings when I go deer hunting.  The deer season in AL is so long, and our Christmas break is so long, that I got in the habit of getting up early ,even though deer season ended last Saturday (31 Jan).  It's kinda nice to get to campus early.  The parking is much better now.  The quietness of the campus is the best part.  There is little traffic.

No one comes into the office on the second floor until about 0800, and I got here a bit before 0700.  No phone rings, new emails are rare.  I can get a lot done before 0800.

I have written about the quiet of the deer stand before.  Quiet is good.

Scripture tells us, "Be still and know that I am G^d...".  (Ps 46:10)

I think that verse is MORE IMPORTANT than ever.  There sin't much stillness, much quiet, left in the world.  We have smartphones and ear-buds, and computers, and lots of other stuff.

"Be still and know that I am G^d....".

Get up early if you have to...

Monday, March 2, 2015

Killing Stephen vs Killing Time

In Acts 6-7 we read the unhappy story of the martyrdom of Stephen.  This is a sad story and I am betting there are a lot of people who read the story come up with exactly the wrong conclusion.

It would be easy to read this story and conclude that Christians ought NOT to make too big a deal of Jesus the Christ, in order to avoid the consequent stoning.  That is NOT the heart of the story, as my friend Mike P pointed out this AM in Sunday School.

In Stephen’s story, right at the end, we read that Saul witnessed this event, and then a few chapters later has an encounter of his own with the Christ.  There is some evidence (Galatians) that Saul was impacted by Stephen’s death.

Anyone who understands anything about the early church knows that Paul plays a huge role. This Paul who wrote the major part of the New Testament, and set the example in so many ways, was influenced by Stephen, who waited on a few tables, before giving a great historical sermon that ended in his death.  Short ministry, not much to show for it...

Maybe not!  Stephen impacted Paul who likely has impacted YOU!

So how about you?  Think your little witness doesn’t amount to much?  Keep at it anyway.  It has NOTHING to do with our own assessment or perspective. G^d is Sovereign, and He can use anything for His purposes.  Wouldn’t you like to impact the future of Christianity?  Listen to G^d, obey, and keep on listening and obeying, and one day your witness may impact the whole world!