Archive for the ‘Books’ Category

h1

Morally Hazardous Technology

September 3, 2016

1897 Van Cleve Ad

Voices were raised in protest. Bicycles were proclaimed morally hazardous. Until now, children and youth were unable to stray very far from home on foot. Now, one magazine warned, fifteen minutes could put them miles away. Because of bicycles, it was said, young people were not spending the time they should with books, and—more seriously—that suburban and country tours on bicycles were “not infrequently accompanied by seductions.”

The Wright Brothers, David McCullough

xkcd_1601_isolation

Humans don’t change, do they?

h1

Imponderably Improbable

March 5, 2013

This weekend’s This American Life program was entitled, “No Coincidence, No Story,” and featured a huge selection of fascinating short stories.

Life is full of coincidences, but I’ve never experienced one that seems more improbable than this:

In 1995, I was visiting the Rondon family in the Dominican Republic, and spent some time looking through their library. A book that caught my eye was, La Ira del Tirano, a book by Miguel Guerrero, about the assassination attempt Trujillo (a truly “wonderful” dictator) made against the then-president of Venezuela, Rómulo Ernesto Betancourt Bello, who had the nerve to support democracy in Latin America.

The Rondon children explained that Guerrero was a friend of the family, and I borrowed the book to read to improve my relatively meager Spanish skills. (It would take me years to get through, but it was, eventually, helpful.)

Later that day, I was passing about a quarter hour of free time when the kids were watching television together, the only time in a full week in which the television was on. They had tuned to the Nickelodeon channel, and a filler program was running, showing on-the-spot interviews conducted with random visitors to Universal Studios, Florida.

In those few minutes of time, among the thousands of visitors to Universal Studios that day, at the only moments we were actually watching television, who was selected for an interview but the book’s author, Miguel Guerrero himself!

Imponderably improbable.

h1

Sympathetic Lines of a Father to a Daughter in Bed with Mumps

April 2, 2012

Periodically, I do a search for this poem we memorized in high school. Today, at last, I found a slightly flawed version of it online, and was able to use that to get a corrected version via Google Books. The poem was published in Baxter’s Explore the Book, in a lesson on Ecclesiastes, although there is no author attribution, it is, indeed, delightfully sarcastically entitled …

Sympathetic Lines of a Father to a Daughter in Bed with Mumps

Thus generations come and go,
From youth to age they wiser grow;
Yet as they pass they all relate
They learn their lessons just too late.
Our junior wisecracks dodge the truth
That dense old parents once were youth,
That present youth must older grow,
Oft haunted by, “I told you so,”
And all their youthful bombast rue
When they as parents suffer too!

When they as parents suffer too,
As with strange certainty they do,
They marvel at the self-sure ways
The next relay of youth displays.
They hear the same old arguments
Arrayed in fresh accoutrements—
The times are different, so are we,
Just let us have our way, and see.
For artful Nature oft repays
Her rebels in ironic ways.

Thus generations, as they go,
Perpetuate the tale of woe.
They will not learn from yesterday,
But choose to learn the harder way—
Experience shall be teacher, please;
And well he teaches—but what fees!
What fees he charges those he schools
Before he makes wise men of fools!
How oft his scholars have confessed,
“Ah yes, poor Dad and Mum knew best!”

Each generation soon is past,
So sure at first, so sad at last.
As ranks of youth successive rise,
Each thinks, “We are supremely wise.”
They each a lot more knowledge know,
And yet a bit less wisdom show.
O sanguine youth, God’s word revere—
Honor your parents while they’re here;
And you will find in later days
What handsome dividends it pays!

h1

LARP or Party Game: How to Play “Zombies”

April 25, 2010

There’s something fascinating about zombies, and a current cultural meme seems to have made them even more popular than the silly idea that the world will end in 2012. (One of the most popular video games around now is the second installment of Left 4 Dead, called Left 4 Dead 2, which is a teamwork-based game pitting humans against hordes of “infected.”) I’ll remind readers that I was a fan before the current massive popularly, generally ever since reading Max Brooks’ brilliantly-written survival-guide parody The Zombie Survival Guide: Complete Protection from the Living Dead, and his captivating World War Z: An Oral History of the Zombie War novel.

Zombies seem to be everywhere. There’s even a Wait Wait Don’t Tell Me parody centering on a zombie apocalypse.

LARPing—live action role playing—is detailed in Little Brother, which can be downloaded for free at Corey Doctorow’s site, or, of course, purchased in hardcover.

Somewhere between reading Little Brother and being inundated with zombies, it occurred to me that a zombie hunt LARP would make a great party game for David and his friends on his 11th birthday. Here’s what we did:

  • One person is elected to be the starting zombie.
  • The zombie “infects” others by giving them a gentle Indian sunburn.” (I didn’t want the kids biting each other.)
  • Once infected, a human has wait 30 seconds and then become an active zombie, hunting any human he can find.
  • The only way to stop a zombie is to shoot the zombie in the head with a Nerf gun. Such a shot removes the zombie from the remainder of the round.
  • Zombies move slowly and relentlessly, generally while moaning loudly.
  • The round ends when all human have been infected, or when all zombies have been killed.

Overall, this went very well. Next time, I’ll include a couple of minor improvements:

  • The kids kept barricading themselves in bathrooms. This sort of interior door will absolutely not stop a zombie, but will slow one down for a moment or two. I think to account for this, I’ll have the zombies go back to a central location, and get a paper sign that, when slid under the door, requires those within to open the door.
  • I need to figure out a way to allow for simulation of decapitation by sword. I think a Nerf or toy sword to the neck should work. Water-based magic markers would be fine, too.

There were a couple of really great moments. One was when my sweet daughter Naomi came up to me and gave me the “Indian sunburn.” This was perfectly reflective of the psychological difficulty of fighting zombies who were formerly loved ones. I should have shot her on sight!

Lego_Left_4_Dead_by_XenoPrime

Lego Left 4 Dead: Coming Soon (image thanks to XenoPrime).

(Sadly, you probably won’t see this anytime soon, but you never know. I remember when Lego wouldn’t manufacture Lego weapons for their minifigs.)

h1

LEGO Pop-up Kinkaku-ji レゴで飛び出る金閣寺(鹿苑寺)

October 20, 2009

(Thanks to Christine J-B for the link.)

h1

Thoughts on Leading a Small Group Bible Study

August 12, 2009

Our unnamed west Manchester Thursday evening small group study (a ministry of Heritage Baptist Church) will be starting up again tomorrow, after several weeks in hiatus, and we’ll be studying Francis Chan’s Crazy Love: Overwhelmed by a Relentless God. Below is a brief YouTube introduction with the author.

I suppose if we were to call ourselves anything, it might be “RNA,” or, “Recovering Neofundamentalists Anonymous,” as we try to get out of the “Christian bubble” that many of us (especially me) have spent decades in, and seek to better follow the Savior.

One of our favorite studies in this regard has been Dan Kimball’s They Like Jesus but Not the Church: Insights from Emerging Generations, which I highly recommend.

We meet at the Gagnon’s house, which is actually in the exact geographic center of our congregation, or was the last time Erik DiVietro plotted it out.

Running a small group Bible study for the past year has been fascinating. Pastor Erik helped train me in running one, which was a challenge, because (by his own admission), he tends to take over all discussions. Nichelle will tell you I have the same tendency, so for me one of the most challenging things as a leader is to just shut up, and allow silences while people ponder the discussion questions, and give them time to come up with answers or further discussion.

Other challenges come up from time to time. One of my more recent decisions was to outlaw political conversation. Not only was this distracting (although we’re quite informal), to be honest I ultimately came to the conclusion that I was too often getting ticked off by the ridiculous nonfactual, counterfactual, and noncontextual statements that seem to flood the political arena, regardless of one’s political preferences. Let’s just say some of our attendees learn far enough right, politically to make me look like a liberal by comparison. (I suppose I should blame all the NPR I listen to.)

Always, I am thrilled by the insights and discussions we’ve had, and find the small group format to be a particularly rewarding way to study the issues and doctrine presented in God’s Word.

h1

The Christian and Government: One Biblical Perspective

July 22, 2009

Once I spoke in the West and a Christian told me, “I’ve been praying for years that the Communist government in China will collapse, so Christians can live in freedom.” This is not what we pray! We never pray against our government or call down curses on them. Instead, we have learned that God is in control of both our own lives and the government we live under. Isaiah prophesied about Jesus, “The government will be on his shoulders.” Isaiah 9:6.

God has used China’s government for his own purposes, moulding and shaping his children as he sees fit. Instead of focusing our prayers against any political system, we pray that regardless of what happens to us, we will be pleasing to God.

Don’t pray for the persecution to stop! We shouldn’t pray for a lighter load to carry, but a stronger back to endure! Then the world will see that God is with us, empowering us to live in a way that reflects his love and power.

This is true freedom!

The Heavenly Man
From The Heavenly Man: The Remarkable True Story of Chinese Christian Brother Yun

h1

Amazing Worldwide (Web) Updates

September 23, 2008

In a typical day, I come across many fascinating things that aren’t exactly well known. This is a list of things which interest me, and probably does not reflect interest in the general population. Of course, thinking about that alone is of interest to me, so … (Ah, recursion!)

Cyborgs Are Real
Way cool neuroscience.

Gizmodo Goes to Lego
Far more here than I could summarize, including a video tour of the Lego factory.

Star Wars is Nearer than You Think
Actually, Star Wars weapons fire charges of ionized Tibanna gas, but you’ll get the idea.

Microsoft 3D Modeler
And you thought everything from Microsoft was evil.

The Large Hadron Collider Rap
Almost as good as “White and Nerdy.”

ShapeWays 3D modeling
These aren’t quite replicators, but affordable 3D “printing” is now at our disposal.

Marketing and Stop Signs
What happens when the marketing department designs a stop sign? (Software and graphics design often go this way.)

The Life of the Chinese Gold Farmer
Gamers will understand the reference. Others may learn something.

Keeper of the Star Wars Canon
Imagine having to hold the continuity of a universe together single-handedly. (Well, it helps to have some database skills.)

The Mythbusters Weren’t Allowed to Bust This.
What “the man” doesn’t want you to know about RFID.

I have Joined the Dharma Initiative.

I Have Decided to Become President

What do you think of, “Grow up, you babies!” as a campaign slogan?

h1

Powered Suits, Now Even Closer

April 18, 2008

From the BBC, comes “US army develops robotic suits” a news report guaranteed to make all Heinlein fans and Wilcox children drool.

And if you never have, you should go read Starship Troopers (but skip the movie).

h1

2008 as Seen from 1968

March 26, 2008

“The single most important item in 2008 households is the computer.”

In 2008, Mechanix Illustrated prognosticated on what life would be like 40 years later. Some of the predications are eerily accurate, some may be seen in another 40 years, and as for others, we can only hope. Take a look!

(While I’m working on 3 other relatively detailed posts, I figured I’d provide something to chew on to prove I’m still alive. For the record, I was born in 1968.)