Friday, July 30, 2010

The Oracle

I was joking with Anjali that I would bring her someday to visit The Oracle. If you've seen the movie "The Matrix", then you know what I'm talking about. (If you haven't seen the movie, I'm simply referring to a person with 'hidden' knowledge.)

Alas, this Oracle has died. Her name was Helen Velonis. Actually, it's probably best to just call her a prophet (or prophetess) because everyone else calls her that. She had her ministry headquarters in tiny Lyle, MN. It was even closer to Iowa than Albert Lea, where I spent my teen years. I went to her church a few times. Once, I went to find an answer about which college God wanted me to go to. I told her that I had a question for God, though I didn't tell her the question. She told me the answer.

This is the only encounter I can point to and say "I witnessed a miracle that betrays science and statistics". Of course, everyone can point to "the song of a bird", "the birth of a child", "that neighborhood boy surviving childhood" as miracles. Sure, I can attest to that as well. But this seemed more unique, more personal.

Her Church (I think it was an elder) also tried to teach me to speak in tongues. I was not ready for it at all. I've never recovered from the confusion that began there. To this day I shrug my shoulders at the notion, neither denying it, nor affirming that I have such an ability.

I guess, in the end, I look back and see a net positive.

Rest in peace, Helen. Rest well in the arms of the one who saved you.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Excellent Essay

"Life is tough, but it's tougher if you're stupid." - Sgt. Stryker ("Sands of Iwo Jima")

Another First Things essay really brings out some excellent wisdom. Being "stupid" includes not learning the lessons of previous generations. This is as true with diseases as it is with growing up.

I've taken off the Failblog from my blogroll on the right. (Too much crude humor.) First Things is going up as a must read for me.

For the person in your life who has everything...

It's a wonderful box of, well, um ... nothing.

Not much of a mystery as to what's inside - shaking didn't even have to help. It's very eco-friendly. Zero calories. And it's not evil. Maybe it costs a bit more than what you might pay at a big-box retailer, but the 100% guarantee might tip the scales on that decision.

(notice my wonderful picture of the product?)

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Put In Blender - Drink Daily

When I first read this, in my gut I knew that this was something I would need to read over and over.

This is an essay. It tries to point out a problem that many modern thinkers (or wanna-be thinkers) have. Here is the error: using one's thinking to avoid errors to the suppression of the search for (and acknowledgement of) truth.

Am I lonely in part for failing to take a step for fear that it will be in error?

The reposting of the comment by "John" (comment below the essay) seems material:

John says:
Another James quote from "The Will to Believe" that is especially relevant to the article:

"Believe truth! Shun error—these, we see, are two materially different laws; and by choosing between them we may end by coloring differently our whole intellectual life. We may regard the chase for truth as paramount, and the avoidance of error as secondary; or we may, on the other hand, treat the avoidance of error as more imperative, and let truth take its chance. Clifford…exhorts us to the latter course. Believe nothing, he tells us, keep your mind in suspense forever, rather than by closing it on insufficient evidence incur the awful risk of believing lies. You, on the other hand, may think that the risk of being in error is a very small matter when compared with the blessings of real knowledge, and be ready to be duped many times in your investigation rather than postpone indefinitely the chance of guessing true….For my own part, I have also a horror of being duped; but I can believe that worse things than being duped may happen to a man in this world: so Clifford's exhortation has to my ears a thoroughly fantastic sound. It is like a general informing his soldiers that it is better to keep out of battle forever than to risk a single wound. Not so are victories either over enemies or over nature gained. Our errors are surely not such awfully solemn things. In a world where we are so certain to incur them in spite of all our caution, a certain lightness of heart seems healthier than this excessive nervousness on their behalf At any rate, it seems the fittest thing for the empiricist philosopher."

I claim to know little of empiricist philosophies, but I don't want to be an thinker who is a nervous wreck about what I believe.

Friday, July 23, 2010

Shall we fight? (we might get rich)

Peter Schiff, noteworthy economist and investor, has recently written an insightful article which questions a current, nearly axiomatic economic assumption. The assumption is this: that WW2 brought the US, indeed the whole world, out of the recession. So, following this logic, Schiff wonders whether we could create another World War to kick start our economy again.

How can it not be obvious that government spending cannot help, but only hurt us all, in the long run. Government does not create wealth, it merely takes from some and gives to others, keeping the crumbs for its bureaucracy. Printing money by the government does not create wealth, it merely dilutes the value of the dollar that each of us earn or save or spend. It's laws can be helpful, but beyond enforcing basic notions of fair play, the laws hinder the freedoms outlined in the founding documents. The net effect of each of these (certainly all of these together) impoverish us financially and enslave us politically.

Maybe we do need a war.

(This got a lot more serious than I originally intended. Sorry about that.)

Thursday, July 22, 2010

More Requests for Artistic Input

As you know, I've finished up my most recent string-art project.

Well, on to a new one.

The picture that I'm trying to emulate is from the cover of one of the editions of William Golding's "The Lord of the Flies".

So, my string selection seems fairly simple, get the dark lines to outline the boy, then fill in the rest. Well, I'm not sure about the last part. I did get the first part by projecting this picture on to the wall and tracing the pattern on my paper.

The rest would be an awful lot of red/orange string - and I've got lots of all different colors left over from the previous project. Anyway, here's what I've got:

Any ideas what to do with the rest?

More Links

I wandered around the web briefly, but got hooked by an interview conducted for Christianity Today in 2003. The interview was of an education educator, Mary Poplin. Her interview is there to read - and it is interesting (though she doesn't dwell on spoon-bending as much as my curiosity was itching for it).

She took a Sabbatical in 1996 to work with Mother Theresa for a couple months. Her subsequent book (2008) is somewhat a recounting of what she learned and what she is going to do with that learning. It is called "Finding Calcutta: What Mother Theresa taught me about Meaningful Work and Service". Amazon sells the paperback version for about ten bucks. sells it for less. Maybe the library also has it for loan.

What kept my attention to her story was, well, her story. She came from a left-wing, academic, elitist, open-to-anything-except-Christianity life. In so many ways, it was a perfect circle. (My wife talks about "perfect circle people" - and in many ways, not very charitably.) But the perfect circle was broken (as they are prone to be) by her humanity and her need for God. I look forward to reading more about how her 10-year reflections on what she learned in Calcutta.

btw, perfect-circle people come in all shades. It my own tendency to draw my own perfect circles. Thus, I have to fight this as well. It is a sense that the Truth (cap T) can be known through unbending rules. Once you know the rules, you have a firm grip on things. It ain't so as the tables are turned - the last shall be first, and the first shall be worst.

(image ripped from

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Links to thoughtful thoughts

In my surfing, I came across an earnest essay. It was linked from the Anchoress (see the links on the right side). The comments under the essay mentioned a wonderful poem that the same author had penned - on the occasion of his daughter's 2nd birthday. The poem is full of beauty and delightfully simple, yet deep - the way that "goodness" can be. It's worth a glance if you can spare one.

Links can be wonderfully surprising.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Gated Community - 2 perspectives

VeggieTales presents a view of gated communities where the "insiders" freely and willingly segregate (ahh ha! - nice double meaning word) themselves from the "outsiders". The "insiders" have it good and want to secure the borders of that goodness to preserve that goodness.

In other places, gated communities arise from force and coercion. China's big cities are an example. Other examples might include refugee camps or concentration camps like Treblinca. Here, the population is forcibly kept in an area to keep them away from the wider population.

There are different kinds of gates and walls to these communities. Obvious ones are prisons with strong bars. Communities at Siberia (prison again), Elba (think Napoleon), Cuba, or even Qumran used the desert or water as virtual walls.

At my house, we have a chain link fence with a gate supplemented by 4 big walls and 3 lockable doors. There are even a few doors on the inside that have locks on them. They are nice to have when I want to keep others out - miserable when I'm trapped inside.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Critical comments required: Art

My most recent creation - "photo"ed at an angle to avoid glare.

What do you think?
(Click to enlarge)

Disclaimer: it took me about 18 months to finally complete it. I'm glad to be done. But I want to start another one.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Heart on a tether - Lonely Road

One of the reasons that Mark Heard's songs are so dear to me is that they continue to be a wellspring of meditation, challenge, and inspiration. Here's one of the best examples I can think of:

A Broken Man - Mark Heard

1.Sun come up like a yellow bus
Tracking over the oceans of dust
One day's miracle is another day's rut
But day keeps breaking like it always does

I'm not a loner, no sack-cloth and ashes
Just a heart on a tether with a vagabond min
But this will be a broken man
Come shivering out of his wintertime [Chorus]

I'm a broken man, a broken man
Outcast on the outskirts of the promised land
A broken man
A broken man
A broken man

2. I have faltered in my strength
I have wanted to do everything right
I swallow hard while the second hand blinks
Shut the back door to keep out the night

Is it just a game? Is this a maze
To lead me right back where I started from?
This will be a broken man
Come shattered from this marathon [Chorus]

3.Maybe I fear the crush of guilt
I can't take that kind of weight
Maybe I'm afraid when the thunder breaks
Scared of losing the things I love so much

I pretend I ain't scared
I ain't frightened by no third degree
But this will be a broken man
Come begging for your charity [Chorus]

(yes that is a hammered dulcimer that you hear once in a while)

More Happy Feet

What would it have been like walking to the store with one of these people when they were only 3 years old? Each trip an adventure...that took forever. (Notice they don't go very far, but they make a lot of noise.)

Goggle Man

Mark will love me for posting this picture. He will hate this later on - oh, around his wedding day.

He's got his goggles on. And he remembered his sword and shield. He forgot his cape - and, well, most everything else.

Was I like this when I was 3?

Sasquatch Sighting

... this one comes in Mild. Thank goodness for that.

We found this monkey in Zumbrota, MN.

hat tip-Johanna. (now I gotta find myself a hat!)

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Would you trust this man...with your money?

Way back in 2009 - the year after the stock market collapse - the stock markets had a remarkable recovery year. They were up (according to one index, S&P) over 25%. The person pictured on the right is a fund manager. He solicits funds from people who trust him to manage their money. The idea is that he manages the money so well that the investors get a greater return for having hired him as the manager - greater than just an average selection of stocks. Regrettably, his return for the year was -12.29%. So far in 2010, his fund's returns are in the negative teens % (my sources don't agree). The expenses that an investor pays for hiring him are a paltry 1.50%.

Why pay some else to lose money for you when it could be so much more fun to lose it yourself?

His fund's symbol is PRGRX.

He sure does have a winning smile, though.