Monday, September 22, 2014

Correlation is not Causation

Therefore, mozzarella cheese makes you smarter!

Next time you hear about some correlation of, well, anything! from which is drawn a conclusion about causation - - - - make sure you have fresh batteries in your skept-o-meter!

Sunday, June 08, 2014


On a single day last week year (forgot to publish this), St. Nicholas' feast day in fact, we were awed by getting close looks at some originals...

We had a little homeschool viewing of a handful of items from Marquette University's J.R.R. Tolkien collection. Then we headed over to the Milwaukee Art museum and were pleasantly surprised by their temporary exhibit of paintings on loan from Kenwood House. That includes Gainsborough's, Rembrants, and more. In fact, so much of the day running to my tastes that I can't find the right words.

They wouldn't let us photograph either of them so these web results will have to suffice while I describe the experiences.
Chapter 1 - An Unexpected Party. <-- We saw this!!! Typwritten by J himself. Did you know Thorin Oakenshield was originally called Gandalf?
Chapter 5 - Riddles in the Dark <-- We saw this too! This one in his own handwritting. His writing, with a fountain pen, was oddly elegant and hard to read at the same time. Actually, looking around you could see his frame of mind... when he was being precise he would slow down and the script was beautiful. And when the muse was pelting his mind he would scrawl.

We also saw the original of the map that would eventually appear in the Hobbit.
And then we saw the Gainsboroughs, Sir Thomas Lawrences and Sir Joshua Reynolds ... and more!

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Energy in Gasoline, Batteries, Ultracapacitors and more

Energy is important. When energy becomes "free" imagination takes over about what is possible... 

  • Fresh water from salt water? - no problem!                   Water
  • Continuous food growing season? - no problem!           Food
  • Heat in winter and cool in summer? - no problem!         Shelter
  • Recycling junk into new shelters, roads, anything? - possible!              Green
  • Reducing toxic waste (or any waste) into benign elements? - possible! Green
  • Making diamonds out of coal? - possible!  
  • Alchemy - making gold from lead? - possible!   
                    (you might be surprised at how many non-luxury uses diamonds and gold have!)
Heck we could even MAKE gasoline and then recycle it if we choose to.

But it isn't free. yet.

And even when it is free we probably need a way to store it (if we get it from the sun... we will want to use it at night too... and so forth)

Even now we need a good way to store it so we can use it in our cars, so we can use it in our gadgets and to make better use of the sources we have when we can distribute over peak and non-peak hours of the day. As a matter of fact energy storage is really at the root of the same dream. Isn't it just energy that's STORED in batteries, gasoline, Uranium etc.? How we extract it, how we replace it for later use ... well THAT'S where the differences get bigger.

So I got to wondering how much energy is actually stored in our common energy sources. Thanks to Wiki I got some numbers and graphed them to make it easier to picture. 
I found a few things kind of interesting... 
- Uranium is amazing!! No wonder we go to such great, huge, expensive lengths to "burn" it.
- Gasoline is pretty amazing too. 50x the power of the best of those state of the art Lithium batteries in your laptop.
- But a hydrogen powered car would be 3x better than that! And would be exceedingly environmentally friendly - outputting fresh water instead of smoke and smog. Sweet.
- I was disappointed by the SuperCapacitor - not really earning it's "super" designation in this chart. It's all the rage in the electronics magazines and it certainly has it's unique virtues (easy/fast energy in, easy/fast energy out) but at 1/10th the density of an old lead acid battery it seems doomed to be used as a supplementary or targeted source of energy.
- And for that matter Lead Acid is pretty respectable for an old technology.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Weather Is Humbling

Sandy is the storm out on the east coast. Around 700 miles away it is causing havoc in Hoboken. But that's about 700 miles away. Here in Milwaukee we are seeing amazing waves in Lake Michigan caused by the very, very long arms of Sandy. If I try, with all my might, to blow out a match at my feet - I can't do it. Lifting and tossing thousands of gallons of water in each wave - across a 1400 mile radius!?!?! In-con-cievable.

If this is what the physical world is like... what is in store for us when what is hidden is revealed!

 You can see the edge of Sandy in the sky here ... I think.

 And just in case you thought I was exaggerating... this IS unusual for Milwaukee.

Not the Tardis

Alas, I don't think that the Dr. is hanging around here right now. Even when it's bigger on the inside than on the outside you have to be able to squeeze through a door. It is, however, a police call box. It is the right color. And it even has the nice light on top.


Friday, October 05, 2012


I am driving back and forth to work through a BOUQUET! I think these are tree sized flowers. And who arranged them?

Seriously, Wisconsin in the fall has it's beautiful stretches. But this year is extra intense. Was it the early warm spell in spring or the long dry spell in summer or something else? Who cares?

Either way I am once again astounded by the superabundance of this creation.

Friday, January 20, 2012


Award nominated video.

But please... don't watch only half!! As it goes between Mr. Darcy and Elizabeth

"I could wish, Miss Bennet, that you were not to sketch my character at the present moment, as there is reason to fear that the performance would reflect no credit on either [you or me]."

And watching only half the video will leave you with very confused ideas that will reflect no credit on either you or me.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Artistic Streak

We gave Bernie an art set for her birthday.

Alicia read to all the kids for a while that morning.

Bernie glanced across the room and did this with the new art set!!!!

Bernie didn't even know she was glancing across the room at a painting done by her great-grandfather. It was fun to tell her that.

So it seems she's got art in the genes. Which is not to say that it only comes from her paternal great grandfather... her mother has a strong art streak too.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Hot Springs in Taiwan

Just a note for travellers. Hot springs are a wonderful gift from mother nature. However, in order to soak in them we (i.e. people) sometimes need to tweak them - - - we want water that is not too deep, too hot, too narrow etc.

When I went to Taiwan's Taroko gorge there was a hot spring next to a river called Wenshan Hot Springs. The Taiwanese brilliantly made 3 pools for the water.

The hot water was captured in the first pool at full temperature. The pool was big enough for at least a dozen people and outfitted with a ledge to sit on so you could be immersed just up to your neck. Then a portion of the water flowed into another, bigger pool. It could hold about 40 people comfortably. The pool was shallow enough that you could sit in any part of it and be comfortably immersed. The brilliant part is that they mixed this water with some of the cold river water so that the temperature was "just right".

The third pool was again mixed for a more tepid temperature which appealed to people who preferred that. All three pools were situated on the river's edge - overlooking the torrent and some of the most amazing canyons and tropical vegitation I have ever seen and the blue skies and sun of Taiwan (OK the picture proves I didn't see blue skies and sun that day). They were sheltered just a bit by the cliff that had been cut by the river but basically open to the world. A delightful experience.

The hot springs on the north side of the island are a different experience. My friend Andrew tipped us off that the public ones tend to have some contamination (bodily fluids) and that the clean ones are almost all indoors. They are private affairs. Virtually all of them are piped into hot-tubs in confined, individual hotel-sized rooms for privacy. Even the one we saw that was open to the outside was a pool on a hotel rooftop. As such they are also done sans-stiches, aka clothing-non-grata, aka (ironically) au natural.

Thanks Andrew for saving us from ourselves!

I am wondering in retrospect whether the Taroko springs were also contaminated. If so I'd like to put in a retroactive "ick".

Update: Apparently the Wenshan hot springs are now closed. Their position under the cliff allowed for a rockslide that left at least one bather dead and others injured.

Why do low-wattage LED lamps need such big heatsinks?

When you think about it doesn't it seem strange that a 10W LED light bulb needs a heavy heatsink with fancy fins when a 100W incandescent doesn't?

Here's what I have found.

A 100W incandescent light is too hot to touch - about 90-130C (200-270F). But that is using the surface of that glass bulb as the heatsink. The filament that actually gives the light is 2000-2500C (3600-4500F)!!! The gasses inside of the bulb actually don't carry heat to the surface of the glass at all. That's an advantage in this bulb since the heat is key for getting the light.

LEDs are semiconductors. Like most semiconductors (like all the ones that drive your cell phone, PC, iPod, etc.) in order to survive at all they need to keep their temperature (Tj) below 150C (300F). In order to have a decent lifetime and keep other parameters within control it needs to be closer to 85C (185F - a good temperature to brew coffee at). That's thousands of degrees cooler than the filament!!

The the actual light producing part, the LED junction, is tiny (less than 10 square mm). Since it is small it doesn't have enough surface area to get rid of the 10W* and still maintain this temperature. So it needs to have more surface area - which is the heatsink. The heatsink is made out of Aluminum since the metal carries the heat to its own surface pretty efficiently. Without the heatsink the LED would get too hot for a semiconductor (not too hot if it was a filament).

*10W is actually not used only by the LED. There are some other electronics inside an LED bulb that convert AC down to the low DC voltage that the LED needs. These parts are not perfectly efficient so they use some of the 10W themselves - which is as much as to say they generate heat too.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Disney Princess Movie

I can't believe I am writing a post with that title! OK Here goes:

We recently saw the movie Tangled for the second time (yes second) with my daughter and friends for her birthday. Alicia pointed out to a few friends that this movie has probably the most profound scene ever found in a Disney princess movie. She's right.

spoiler alert - don't read any further unless:
1) You have already seen the movie or
2) You don't expect to ever see the movie unless you need a good reason - I will give you that reason.

There are some key points that set this movie apart above most other princess movies from Disney. The hero is a he. Both the hero and heroine are smart (she is naive but smart).

The clincher is the climactic scene. While it is normal for a hero to save the heroine's life it is usually done, in this genre, with little doubt as to the success of the act and with only half-believable mortal danger.

Just as she is willing to sell her freedom for his life (truly heroic) Tangled departs.
     He dies.
The redemptive deed is sudden and surprising. And he knows he will die. Seems a bit christian.

Tangled departs further. He sacrifices his life not for her physical life but for her freedom - life lived fully. A genuine masterstroke that earns this story a claim at being a real fairy tale. I hesitate to offend the sensitive by saying what they have already perceived; but this is seriously Christ-like.

The Academy has nominated it for 1 award - for original song. They overlook the profound masterwork in the story itself. I believe this movie will and deserves to become a long time favorite. (Note: Alicia can vouch that I am NOT in love with the music - I put up with it for the story).

Oh, and the horse Maximus? That's a bit of the best of Disney classic... he is 100% horse, 100% dog and 100% character. A great combination that can only be found in animation.

Saturday, February 05, 2011

Art Resource

I love art. And I found a new site that looks like it serves up art really well.

1) High quality views that can be magnified (I can see brushstrokes; I can see details that are invisible when I look at the lowest zoom level, etc) [Can you tell what painting this detail is from??]

2) Viewing notes (use that >>i to get to them - - - and do READ MORE if it's there). The viewing notes actually tell you about the picture's content - not just the normal: Size, artist, date and museum.

3) Various ways to go from picture to picture

4) Museum tours (akin to streetview) (Actually, this is one thing that I would like to see improved... it would make sense if you just click on a picture to view the picture page but this streetview is still kind of 'dumb' that way).

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Worlds Largest Maple Leaf

As we were out walking this afternoon I mentioned that a 9 year old from Canada had recently found a maple leaf that he had certified as the LARGEST MAPLE LEAF IN THE WORLD!

A few moments later Bernie casually picked up a leaf from a leafpile laying out in the street for pickup. Since I hadn't heard how big the world record was I offered her no encouragement as she proceeded to carefully carry it all the way back home.

This is that leaf (and Bernie) (more technical pictures at the bottom)

This is the letter that Bernie (10) is submitting to the Guinness Book folks:
Dear Sirs,

I found a large maple leaf that appears to beat the record size that we read about in the news.

My maple leaf (photos available)
Width = 16 - 5/16 inches
Height = 14 - 1/2 inches
 (note: Stem does not extend below leaf so stem size seems not important)

Current record holder: "The width is 13 and 5/8 (inches) and then the length is 15 and 5/8 with the stem" [we weren't able to confirm this at the Guinness site but we found it here:]


Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Wind in the Willows ... or Windsheild

What is that? A bird? A plane? A zeppelin?

It's a toad hitching a ride on my windshield.

I don't know how he got there. I don't know where he went after. I only know that he seemed to be enjoying the "wild ride" in the slow traffic for about 5 miles.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Another Great Idea in an Old Movie

You Can't Take it With You

We love this old 1938 Jimmy Stewart movie around this house. So you should see it!

If you see it you may be intrigued by this optimistic scene:

I remember in college another guy and I had an idea [....] We wanted to find out what made the grass grow green. Now that sounds silly and everything, but it’s the biggest research problem in the world today and I’ll tell you why. Because…there’s a tiny little engine in the green of this grass and the green of the trees that has the mysterious gift of being able to take energy from the rays of the sun and store it up. You see that’s how the heat and power and coal and oil and wood is stored up. Well, we thought if we could find the secret of all those millions of little engines in this green stuff, we could make big ones. And then we could take all the power we could ever need right from the sun’s rays. (Thanks for transcribing it!)
Now that sounds pretty fresh in light of all the solar cell hubbub that's all the rage. In fact someone is going right for the green:

A North Carolina State University-led team has created 'artificial leaves – water-gel-based solar devices which can act like solar cells to generate electricity.
The devices show it's possible to make solar cells that more closely mimic nature, and could also be less expensive and more environmentally friendly than current silicon-based solar cells. (Read more here: )
 The world is a wonderful place.

And you should watch that movie - that's only ONE of the good ideas in it! (Hint - most of them aren't about science topics - they are about a life well lived).

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Cheap Hard Drive Recovery - Success

A friend recently asked if I knew how to recover his pictures from his crashed (Macintosh) hard drive. The "genius" store geeks had tried to read it by booting from another drive and just looking at this one. That didn't work. My friend wasn't ready to pony up for a level-2 recovery attempt - $750 whether or not the procedure was successful!!

Now, I have been pretty tuned into hard drives for years because of my profession. I have seen hard drives crash. I have used both manufacturer's and open source tools to read and interpret SMART data on drives. I have opened and examined hard drives that have suffered from shock, vibration, thermal torture and customer abuse. I have watched hard drives spin topless. I have painted them with Omegalaq and used thermocouples as thin as a hair to check internal temperatures. In addition I have read articles about the various degrees of data recovery possible (from freeware on up to thousand$). I thought I could offer some assistance.

Knowing that the drive didn't even work inside his laptop with an external boot I figured I would try to find a similar drive on ebay and swap in the disks. Yes there's a risk of contamination but I just wanted 1 pass to grab those files - just a few minutes of operation was all I asked. There was one in Australia with a datecode a few days away. But before I spend the $70 (plus who-knows-how-much shipping) I did just a little extra homework.

I found a guy talking about getting those few extra minutes by putting the drive in the freezer overnight and then using it. My young, geek cube-neighbor at work said he had heard about this but always worried about the condensation killing it too fast. He also said that Apple formats its drives in such a way that I would probably need a Linux OS to properly see it.

Since this was a SATA drive I was in luck. I have access to a little USB connected pod that can accommodate a SATA drive. So I put the whole thing in the freezer for a couple days and just ran the cables out to the host laptop (i.e. my work laptop with an Ubuntu install on it). After getting some advice about how to navigate around the command line (not my specialty - yet necessary due to the permissions issues on the Mac drive) we were able to run the drive for hours and recover all the pictures!

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

St. Francis of Assisi was really John!

So who doesn't love and admire St. Francis of Assisi? (Rhetorical question! Everyone who knows him loves him). I learned in a sermon this morning that St. Francis of Assisi actually shares my name. So I get to add to my extensive list of patron saints:

John the Baptist, preacher, ascetic, and reported baptizer of Jesus Christ
John the Evangelist, speculated author of the Fourth Gospel, traditionally identified with the John the Apostle
John of Patmos, author of the Book of Revelation, traditionally identified with John the Apostle and Evangelist
St. Francis of Assisi (baptized: Giovanni di Pietro Bernardone)
John the Wonderworking Unmercenary (d. ca. 304), Egyptian or Mesopotamian healer
John Chrysostom (347-407), Antiochene Archbishop of Constantinople
John Cassian (ca. 360-435), probably Scythia-Minor priest and abbot
John of Egypt (d. 394), Egyptian hermit
Pope John I (d. 526), Italian pope
John Climacus (ca. 525-606), Syrian or Byzantine monk and abbot
John the Merciful (d. ca. 620), Cyprian Patriarch of Alexandria
John of Damascus (ca. 676-749), Syrian monk and priest, also known as John Damascene
John of Beverley (d. 721), Angle bishop
John of Pavia (d. 813), Bishop of Pavia
John of Rila (876-ca. 946), Bulgarian priest and hermit
John of Matha (1154-1213), French priest; founder of the Trinitarian Order
John of Meda (d. 1159), Italian priest
John of Nepomuk (ca. 1345-1393), Bohemian vicar general of Jan of Jenštejn
Giovanni da Capistrano (1386-1456), Italian friar; summoner of European troops for the 1456 siege of Belgrade
John Fisher (ca. 1469-1535), English cardinal and martyr
John Houghton (martyr) (ca. 1486-1535), English abbot and martyr (one of the Forty Martyrs of England and Wales)
John Stone (martyr) (d. 1538/1539), English friar and martyr (one of the Forty Martyrs of England and Wales)
John of God (1495-1550), Portuguese friar; founder of the Brothers Hospitallers of St. John of God
John of Avila (1500-1569), Spanish Jewish converso priest, missionary and mystic
John Payne (martyr) (1532-1582), English priest and martyr (one of the Forty Martyrs of England and Wales)
John Leonardi (1541-1609), Italian priest; founder of the Clerks Regular of the Mother of God of Lucca
John of the Cross (1542-1591), Spanish Jewish converso friar, priest and mystic; joint founder of the Discalced Carmelites
John Boste (ca. 1544-1594), English priest and martyr (one of the Forty Martyrs of England and Wales)
John Rigby (martyr) (ca. 1570-1600), English martyr (one of the Forty Martyrs of England and Wales)
John Roberts (martyr) (1575/1576-1610), Welsh priest, Prior of St. Gregory's (one of the Forty Martyrs of England and Wales)
John Sarkander (1576-1620), Polish priest and martyr
John Ogilvie (saint) (1579-1615), Scottish priest and martyr
John Jones (martyr) (d. 1598), Welsh priest and martyr (one of the Forty Martyrs of England and Wales)
John Southworth (martyr) (1592-1654), English priest and martyr (one of the Forty Martyrs of England and Wales)
Jean de Brébeuf (1593-1649), French missionary and martyr (one of the North American Martyrs)
John Kemble (martyr) (1599-1679), English priest and martyr (one of the Forty Martyrs of England and Wales)
John Wall (priest) (1620-1679), English priest and martyr (one of the Forty Martyrs of England and Wales)
John Plessington (ca. 1637-1679), English priest and martyr (one of the Forty Martyrs of England and Wales)
Jean-Baptiste de la Salle (1651-1719), French priest; founder of the Institute of the Brothers of the Christian Schools
John Joseph of the Cross (1654-1739), Ischian friar, priest and Vicar Provincial of the Alcantarine Reform in Italy
John Lloyd (d. 1679), Welsh priest and martyr (one of the Forty Martyrs of England and Wales)
John Dat (ca. 1765-1798), Vietnamese priest and martyr
Jean Vianney (1786-1859), French priest
John Hoan Trinh Doan (ca. 1789/1798-1861), Vietnamese priest and martyr
John Thanh Van Dinh (1796-1840), Vietnamese martyr
John Baptist Con (1805-1840), Vietnamese martyr
John Neumann (1811-1860), Bohemian missionary, Bishop of Philadelphia, founder of the first American Catholic diocesan school system
John Baptist Y (ca. 1800-1839), one of the Korean Martyrs
John Bosco (1815-1888), Italian priest and educator; founder of the Salesians of Don Bosco and the Salesian Cooperators
John of Kronstadt (1829-1908), Russian archpriest and synod member

                                                 ... orate pro nobis!

Monday, January 11, 2010

Maybe Einstein was Right

One would think it's not going too far out on a ledge to suggest that Einstein may have been right. But when he said (and it seems to be a paraphrase) "God does not play dice with the universe." He was talking about quantum mechanics. And the quantum guys probably grimaced and thought to themselves: "Yeah, I'd like to believe the old guy but it seems he's wrong on this one." Maybe the two "sides" are finally coming together as we better understand the unity of the truth. Here's a geeky article that is exciting in that it seems to suggest that there's a more understandable order (indeed a 'harmony") to that quantum mechanical world that we are just now starting to discover.

(The highlights are mine)

"...For these interactions we found a series (scale) of resonant notes: The first two notes show a perfect relationship with each other. Their frequencies (pitch) are in the ratio of 1.618…, which is the golden ratio famous from art and architecture." Radu Coldea is convinced that this is no coincidence. "It reflects a beautiful property of the quantum system - a hidden symmetry. Actually quite a special one called E8 by mathematicians, and this is its first observation in a material", he explains.
The observed resonant states in cobalt niobate are a dramatic laboratory illustration of the way in which mathematical theories developed for particle physics may find application in nanoscale science and ultimately in future technology. Prof. Tennant remarks on the perfect harmony found in quantum uncertainty instead of disorder. "Such discoveries are leading physicists to speculate that the quantum, atomic scale world may have its own underlying order. Similar surprises may await researchers in other materials in the quantum critical state."

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Taiwan Blog #2 - Taiwan's Size

I did this little study to satisfy my own curiosity about the size of Taiwan. I compare Taiwan to Lake Michigan - something I have a little more familiarity with.
I should not have been surprised when some visitors from Taiwan were very interested in it because they wanted to know about the size of Lake Michigan. - they were surprised that they couldn't see across it --- to them it looked like the ocean. With the same picture they were able to visualize Lake Michigan compared to something THEY were more familiar with.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Proud Dad

Here is my little math guy at work... He explained to ME "Here's 1. And two 1's is 2. And two 2's is 4. ..."

I wrote the powers on the top of the board. But only some of them. I let him tell me what I should put above the 32.

Now for the "penmanship".

Monday, May 11, 2009

You Can't Please Everyone

I had to pass this one along because it made me laugh. You've heard that you can't please everyone. Well someone demonstrates this by rounding up the 1-star reviews on Amazon for classic movies and books. (Actually, they are not all classics.)
Samples of ACTUAL reviews:

This is the worst book I have ever read!!! I started it with an interest toward the Holocaust. Anne Frank never talked about anything even relating to this major historical event in her short life.

Re: The Odyssey

This book sucks. I dont care if Homer was blind or not this book is like 900 pages too long. I could tell this story in about 10 pages. Homer taking all long to say stupid stuff. Teens if you are reading this all I have to say is CLIFF NOTES CLIFF NOTES you will pass the test, unless you are in AP classes. The teachers expect kids to read cliff notes trust me my moms a teacher. P.S this book SUCKS.

Re: The Sound of Music

This movie should be called the Sound of Mucus. The only redeeming quality is that the family has to run from nazis.


This movie was made in the sixties, we live in the 21st century, GET OVER IT!

Warning: I would like for this site to do only that - keep it focused. However,
it seems they have to use it to push political stuff as well. Too bad.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Christmas Adam

Today is Christmas Eve.

But the kids' excitement builds and builds and builds. So waiting until the day before Christmas is too hard. Even the day before the day before Christmas should have a celebratable moniker. What comes before Eve? -- Adam!

That's how we invented Christmas Adam.

I hope you have a Merry Christmas!

Monday, October 27, 2008


I have had to change my mind. When I was younger there was nothing better than reason in an argument. But now I know that there is simply nothing stricter than reason in an argument.

I owe this insight to many things including grace and experience. But I wouldn't have noticed it so easily without my friend pointing it out like so:

"Reason is always a kind of brute force; those who appeal to the head rather than the heart, however pallid and polite, are necessarily men of violence. We speak of 'touching' a man's heart, but we can do nothing to his head but hit it." G.K.Chesterton

This is rather shockingly said - in my experience many touching moments in my life have been due to the beauty of the truth at the end of a line of reasoning. Yet it was too subtle at first to see that reason can be used as a billy club also.

I have been more sensitive this last year to this notion as I have been guiding an engineering project along. When there is a conflict between our expectations and the provided results I have been attempting to stay more human by appealing to the heart first. I have tried to leave the harsh reason of demonstration as a later or last resort.


Something to remember when deciding to impose or raise taxes.

"A citizen can hardly distinguish between a tax and a fine, except that the fine is generally much lighter." G.K. Chesterton.

G. can say things much better than I! And still true a continent and a century away. Fines are 10's or 100's of dollars. Taxes are usually thousands.

I am sure he had some good insight into "spreading the wealth around a bit". Fantastic when done voluntarily; NOT SO when required by the Leviathan - under the threat of law, i.e. loss of freedom.

Friday, June 27, 2008

Spicy Food

My friend from Taiwan just told me about a neat little way the chinese (ethnic chinese - not just the PRC comrades) have of describing how spicy they want their food.

Note: This is for people who WANT spicy food. None of these is equivalent to "mild".

They use 3 words in 3 different arrangements:
La (spicy)
Bu (not)
Pa (worry/ fear)

In levels of increasing heat then...
1) Bu pa la = not worried if it's spicy
2) La bu pa = spicy does not worry me
3) Pa bu la = I am worried that it might not be spicy.

Isn't that fun?

Friday, June 06, 2008

Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness

Many, many people (though still not enough) are loathe to deprive any person of life. There are good reasons - not the least of which is the irreversibility of so doing. But that alone is not something we always fear. We have no problem parting with our money for food though the transaction (as soon as we have eaten) is clearly not reversible. There is more to a LIFE than that! This is so eloquently expressed by Tolkien via the sage and humble wizard Gandalf:

Many that live deserve death. Some that die deserve life. Can you give it to them, Frodo? Do not be too eager to deal out death in judgment. Even the very wise cannot see all ends.

Wiser than all the wise, God himself is the giver of life. God Himself seems to aver cutting off the lives of even very evil people. (ref. "only the good die young".) Since we do not know his ways, and since we should surely respect his ordinance, it is right to be suitably fearful of making such a verdict on any fellow man.

Now let's turn to liberty. Surely it is similar to life itself. With it one is able to work good or evil. Our nation's founding fathers were not the first to agree that it is granted by God. Then they carefully noted that it is inalienable. But is it?

Once again God seems to allow plenty of people to use liberty to the most self-centered of ends. Some just frittering away their efforts and some as bad as Iago - even Lucifer became Satan using his own free will.

But these considerations are pretty heavy archetypes. What about work? - you know - a job.

I trade about 40 hours a week of my liberty to my employer - making my choices based on the good of the company. Don't I?

A supreme sinking feeling comes over me. If I am really doing this am I not also ceding my very life to him in 40 hour chunks? ... for money??


The bromide "If you love what you do you will never work a day in your life" hides the substantial answer to the heavy challenge above. I will not make choices "for the company" that are NOT choices that I would consider wicked, evil or in any way bad. And further, in working at the company, as part of a corporation (notably the same root as corpus - used to describe the Church - the body of Christ) I can, and hopefully do, improve the lot of mankind, perfect nature and do what gives glory to God.

It is true that there is sweat of the brow involved. And true that some decisions while not evil are clearly not motivated directly by my personal advancement. But in these, I believe, lie the "small things" of humility that we are supposed to grow in if we are to be ready for the kingdom of heaven. And, as God is good, there are usually commensurate small rewards to draw us on - pecuniary of course, satisfaction also and importantly growth in many facets of being a person. a.m.d.g.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Good Friday

I cannot remember the exact words.
I cannot remember which visionary heard it.
I cannot even remember when I heard it.

But cannot forget the most moving thing I heard about Jesus' suffering and death - that he would have suffered it all if there were just one person who needed it. All that suffering, all that love for one small wretched sinner! Even, gulp, for me!!!

Thursday, February 28, 2008

Taipei Trips

At the request of my beloved wife I will post a few things about Taiwan. First post is about food. Besides - that's the first thing people usually ask about.

A lot of what I eat in Taipei is good. Though it took a while to develop the taste for it. (About 2 years to be precise!)

Dragon Fruit is wonderful (taste and texture) AND exciting to look at.

I have found that I love shrimp in almost any dish.
But NOT raw shrimp!!!! They have tricky shrimp that are orange when they are raw (not the common blue-when-raw - orange-when-cooked shrimp). The flavor might actually be good but I was overwhelmed by the gooiness of the texture and the notable features in this photo - black eyeballs and green-brain-goo. Yikes I need some Taiwan Beer just thinking about it!!

They have a killer dish that has tempura shrimp with pinapple-and-mayonaise sauce. Yum. They insist on putting colored sprinkles on it - gotta be cutsie.

You can always find something good in the "lunchboxes".

Oolong tea is wonderful - the best tea! - if made right - light, slightly sweet aftertaste, yum! It is very bitter when made wrong - and no amount of sugar can help fix it.
Zak, the best oolong tea maker I have encountered is trying to instruct me in the art.

The stinky tofu is not something I want to have every day. But if you are ever challenged to eat it there are two things you should know: 1) It smells a lot worse than it tastes. and 2) you really DON'T want to know how it is made.

I really do like sushi. But have learned that you should eat it toward the beginning of a meal rather than when you are already mostly full. Thankfully, the nauseating results were never seen by the world... but only just.

I tried Sea Urchin eggs/roe just this last visit. They came around the resturaunt on a little conveyor - which was fun. They looked great! They didn't taste good. Maybe this is why:

- ouch!

Raw lobster is good but I wish they wouldn't be so instistant on demonstrating the "freshness" by putting the still moving head on the table.

And I was relieved to find out that they don't serve actual people despite what the sign may say!

And yes I ate this fish eyeball:

but none of this meat:

or these cute little guys: