Saturday, May 31, 2008

Sunny - day 8 of 9 - more muskeg

Today might be the last day before rain begins again. A stretch like this of dry and almost all sunny days is a very rare occurrence here. After lunch we went out into the muskeg behind our house.

What creature is this in the muskeg? Amy - Mobile communicator

The other images are at the gallery below. The Gorilla Pod I purchased last month came in handy a few times. Two days ago I took along my industrial-strength tripod. This afternoon, I opted to go lighter with just the Gorilla Pod. It was useful for basically setting the camera on the ground without actually having to set it directly on the ground. The Gorilla Pod was able to keep the camera just off of the wet moss and ground.

Click on image to open gallery.

Click to open gallery

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Jesus: Love, Compassion, and Justice

This week's (Lesson 9) lesson study subject is The Tenderness of His Love.

I think most Christians are quite aware of Jesus' love. There's a rather famous song, Jesus Loves Me, about the topic. I'm sure many non-Christians are also quite aware of it. So why do we need to discuss something that we should all be in agreement over?

The lesson text begins by proposing that the kind of love Jesus demonstrated is compassion. The memory text, Matthew 9:36, the lesson suggests demonstrates Jesus' kind of love.

What is compassion? When the word is taken apart and the roots examined, it turns into com- and -passion -- "with" and "suffer." We can, therefore, reasonably conclude that to shown compassion is to "suffer with" another party who is suffering. Is this the kind of love Jesus demonstrated? Did He suffer with the people around Him?

This brings up the age-old and difficult question that people have asked of God: What good is it for God to suffer with humans, if He doesn't do anything about it? In other words, is it enough for Jesus to simply suffer with us -- to feel the pain, disappointment, sorrow, hurts, rejections, etc. that we experience? If that is all God did for us, to just say, "I feel your pain," I don't think I'd want to have much to do with Him. Love that simply joins us in our suffering isn't enough.

If God is love, then it has to go beyond just compassion. It must act to right the wrongs that causes suffering. But as we look around us, we just don't see God intervening in most suffering that happens. Is God weak then? Or is there something else going on?

I don't have space nor the time to try to figure all this out during this post. What I observe in the studies this week is that compassion, as part of Jesus' foundational nature, is what moved Jesus into action:

  • For the woman caught in adultery: He acted to save the woman while upholding the demands of the law. Kenneth E. Bailey in his recent book, Jesus Through Middle Eastern Eyes (ch. 17), proposes that the story of the woman caught in adultery can be seen as an allegory of the atonement. Bailey suggests that in the story, Jesus takes upon Himself the "wrath" that was directed against the woman.
  • In the incident with the children coming to Him, Jesus acts to remove the obstacles (the disciples) that are in the way between them and Himself.
  • In the story of Martha becoming annoyed with her sister Mary for stepping out of the accepted roles and norms of women, Jesus again acts to encourage the closeness that He desires with those who seek Him.
  • As the lesson suggests, God, through Jesus, came to love His enemies. I don't think God ever looked upon people as enemies, but we certainly thought and behaved as enemies of God. Because of His compassionate nature, He could not help but be moved to act to restore us to Him.
  • Throughout history and into the present time, God continues to act to bring people to the awareness that we need Him. Like Israel, however, each person is free to accept or reject the offer of salvation secured for us by Jesus at the cross. The cross and the resurrection is the promise that love and justice will someday prevail.

I can only begin to understand the depths of God's love and compassion. However faintly I can comprehend it, I think that it is precisely because of His tender love and compassion that He allows the world to continue on, so that as many people as possible will choose to accept His mercy and grace. One could argue that with population growth exploding, won't God have to wait forever? I have some thoughts and theories, but that would be going way off topic for this week.

In summary, compassion and justice are an integral part of God's love. Compassion is what causes God to act in order to save and to administer justice. My ideas of love and justice usually don't have much tenderness associated with them. That may be why I have such a difficult time understanding God's tender love for the people of this world. May I learn God's compassion and begin to make it a part of my being.

Sun - Day 6 out of 7 - into the muskeg

Yesterday didn't see any sun. Neither did it rain. So although the consecutive count of sunny days has been broken, I think I'll continue to count the sunny days until there is actual rain.

Today was a mixture of sun and clouds. It felt somewhat hot and muggy compared to this past week.

While out running errands yesterday, I noticed that the muskeg flowers were blooming. This afternoon I stepped out the back door, walked across our yard, and into the vacant lots behind our property. (Same route I took for snowshoeing this past winter.) There I spent some 2 to 2-1/2 hours wandering about the muskeg and taking photos of some of the flora and one fauna, a dragonfly.

As noted on the gallery page heading, I haven't spent any time with these images other than to sort them and convert them to JPEGs. There are a number of them where I took multiple frames with different exposures and I need to combine them. But that will all happen as time permits. With the weekend approaching, I get quite busy.

(Click on contact sheet image to open gallery page.)

Click to open gallery

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Book Review: The Cross of Christ

The Cross of Christ: God's Work for Us by George R. Knight

Jesus' death on the cross is a (or the) central tenet of Christianity. Yet I think for many of us, myself included, it is one of the more confusing and complicated teachings to grasp. I've been wrestling with various theories about how the atonement works and how it deals with the problem of sin and God's judgment upon it. I readily admit that I am one of the multitudes of Christians uncomfortable with the sacrificial, substitutionary images of the atonement. George Knight recognizes this trend in Christian thought, and this book is his attempt to show why the substitutionary aspect of Christ's atonement must be the center around which all of Christianity forms.

I don't think I'm quite ready to fully embrace all that Dr. Knight writes, but what he has put into words seems to put more sense into the concept of the substitutionary atonement than some other things I've read in the past. What also seemed to help is Dr. Knight's differentiation between sin and sinners, and his recasting of God's "wrath" as God's "judgment" on sin. Even prior to reading The Cross of Christ, I could not simply dismiss the substitutionary aspects, because they do exist and seem fairly plain in the Bible. This book helped me become a little more comfortable with it.

I found it interesting that in the last couple of chapters, as Dr. Knight wraps up the different lines of thought, his summary of the practical applications of the atonement are very similar to ones I've also formed. It comes down to essentially two questions asked by God of every person. 1) Will you be happy living forever with Me in an environment of 100% selfless service, acting love to everyone else? 2) Will you trust Me and depend on Me for 100% of your needs? The atonement through Christ demonstrates God's justice and mercy, and also gives God the right to save everyone who answers affirmatively to these two questions. Conversely, those who respond negatively remain under the judgment (or wrath) already handed down against sin because through their responses, they choose to remain under the object judged. Dr. Knight's conclusion is that God's final act of mercy is to remove the misery of sin from even those who reject Him but placing them into an eternal sleep of the final death.

This isn't the easiest book to digest. However, it is written in a readable and engaging style. I think it's the concept that is just plain difficult to fully grasp (and as Dr. Knight mentions right up front, it's probably something that no one will ever do). I expect I'll be going back to it from time to time to try to better understand the atonement.

Overall I believe this book is good in getting a global perspective on the theme of the atonement. I'm also looking forward to the upcoming companion volume, Sin and Salvation.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Hot - Day 5

What more is there to say? No photos today. I actually tried to get a few things done. Rain is very helpful in keeping me focused on actually accomplishing things, rather than say go out for four hours on a bicycle.

Today I mowed the lawn, sweltered inside the house while working on some reading and writing, went out for a couple of errands, tried out a new creamy tomato pasta sauce, and helped Shelley make some lemon sherbet.

Clouds started coming in later afternoon. All weather forecasts say there is an even chance of showers tonight and into tomorrow, and a little bit of cooling. As for whether or not the skies will remain cloudy the rest of the week, the forecasts have differing opinions.

Many people about town have been seeing looking a little darker and/or red in their noses, faces, and arms. So the next time you want to get a little tan, you might look north... Hawaii better watch out!

The benefits of RAW image capture

There were a few images that I got yesterday that, on first look seemed to have completely blown highlights. But after using Capture One and dialing down the exposure, I saw that sufficient details were recoverable. Here are a couple of examples (click to see full resolution crops):

a-0 As shot

a-1 -1 stop

a-2 -2 stops

-- Above combined and worked in Photoshop

Full photo


b-0 As shot

b-1 -1 stop

b-2 -2 stops

-- Above combined and worked in Photoshop

Full photo


There are several disadvantages to RAW capture. The first is that it takes up more space than JPEGs. The second is that it takes more time (sometimes much more) on the computer for post-processing to make the images look like what I saw with my eyes. The third is that with action shots where I might be shooting continuously, RAW not only quickly fills up the memory card, because of its size it takes longer to write to the card; consequently it more quickly reaches the point where the camera buffer is full and continuous shots start to lag.

For landscapes and nature, I find RAW capture useful in preserving a wider dynamic range. If you have a camera that supports RAW capture and haven't really used it, you might consider it for some applications.

Monday, May 26, 2008

Sunny, Day 4 - Up to Frederick Point

(Updated entry. New text in this color.)

Today was another sunny, warm day in Petersburg. I went out for a mountain bike ride up to Frederick Point and around the loop back to town. I was out this way once before, last year, when it was quite miserable for a long bicycle ride -- drizzle, rain, and cold. It was completely different today. Today was also the first time I went up this road with cameras. It was quite scenic, with visibility all the way out to the distant mountains.

While riding along, probably in the second hour, I startled a couple of black bears. They might have been cubs. I took a quick 360-degree glance to see if there were any big bears in the road, on the hill, or in the nearby brush. And then I quickly decided to take leave of the area without waiting for a possible mama bear to come by. If I was with a group, perhaps I might have stuck around, but being all alone and out of cell phone range, I figured the wisest course of action was to make noise and go down the road. Fortunately I did not encounter any more bears or other predatory animals.

However, I ended up being out about an hour longer than I had planned. I didn't realize that the "Y"-intersection with the road that returns to Mitkof Highway was much farther out than I imagined. I thought the turn-off came at around 10-12 miles out. I kept going on, figuring the intersection would be just around the next corner, or just down the next hill. Frederick Road is a constant up and down with no respite. It's all dirt and gravel. When I finally did get to the intersection, it was 17 miles. And then it was another 4 miles after that back to the highway. When I finally reached the highway and saw that I was at Falls Creek rather than Twin Creek (where I thought I would come out), my morale was pretty much shot. It was 9 miles back to town instead of 6.

My muscles started to cramp and seize up, my right knee (the one that always has trouble) began to hurt. Once on the road I tried to call Elise, but coverage was still spotty. Not only that, but she was still asleep from working last night. I tried multiple times, and on about the fourth try, at around 5.5 miles back to town, I finally got a hold of her. Our girls needed picking up at about 4 miles, so I had her come out to pick all of us up. We met at about 2 miles out. I chose to continue on into town, or until my legs completely gave out. They did -- just about at the road going to our church. I was about to cramp in a terribly agonizing way. I worked myself into a position where there was least pressure and strain, and then I took the electrolyte capsules that I should have taken earlier. A few minutes later Elise came by, loaded the bicycle (Shelley helped) and me into the pickup, and got back home. I was just 1.5 miles from finishing the loop. How disappointing. I should have started taking the electrolyte capsules at about the second hour.

My arms are sunburned! I didn't think that could happen in Petersburg. But it did.

If you want to follow the route, click HERE to open a Google Maps to the starting point of my ride. (Wrangell Ave is where our house is located. From there I took N Nordic to Sandy Beach Road, and then to Frederick Sound Drive. The return to Mitkof Highway was on Three Lakes Loop Road.)

The first 1.5 hours was quite pleasant, and I got a few nice scenic images along the way. Click on contact sheet image to open gallery page.

Click HERE to open gallery

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Altered images

It's been quite some time since I've spent time experimenting with alternate visualizations of some of my photographs. I took some time this evening to have some fun coming up with alternate interpretations of what the camera saw. Our eyes and minds are constantly interpreting reality and subconsciously altering it to conform to what we want to see.

What you see below are a little of what my eyes and mind "saw" today.

Abstract reflection

Emerald Forest

Tree of Light

Through Turquoise Waters

Idyllic Meadow

Sermon: The Holy Spirit in John

(Click HERE for MP3 sermon audio.)

Today's sermon does a grand tour of the Gospel according John, working through passages that contribute to the theme of the Holy Spirit and to the theme of "replacement."

The first part of the recorded audio (about 1 minute 20 seconds) was a video slideshow showing three different images of a marching band, followed by Mickey Mouse, followed by a quote from our Shelley (when she was about 2 years old), "Is that the Holy Spirit?" referring to Mickey Mouse. The next few minutes tries to explain the context of the quote before I really get into the sermon.

I'm pretty sure I'm done with Disney-related sermon illustrations and introductions for quite some time now that there's been three in a row.

Sun, day 3

And it was HOT today. We drove out to Blind Slough picnic area. On the way back, the temperature gauge on our pickup indicated 78 to79 degrees. As we made our way back north, the temperature dropped to the lower to mid 70s. The airport weather station read 68 degrees.

Shelley, with the help of a few other girls, drew up enough courage to jump off the bridge and into the icy waters below. Amy waded out to her armpits, but then scampered back to shore.

(Click on image to open new page to gallery.)

Click to open gallery page

Saturday, May 24, 2008

Two sunny, warm days in a row

That's two. And we're counting. Though I myself might prefer somewhat cloudier conditions. I was in shorts this afternoon, during our afternoon picnic at Eagle's Roost Park. The one-week forecast doesn't have much clouds or rain in it. How high can we count?

Salmonberry blossoms Immature bald eagle
Dandelions Another study of dandelions 
Bear Claw Mountain

Friday, May 23, 2008

Start of Memorial Weekend

And in Petersburg that means the start of the annual Salmon Derby. This morning at 7 am. the contestants signed-in and then raced off to their respective fishing locations. We saw a number of boats speed by shortly after 7 am.

You couldn't ask for a better day to kick things off. Absolutely clear, no clouds in the sky, sunny, warm, and not even a whole lot of wind.

This afternoon I took down my road bike for a spin down the south side of the island. Along the way I stopped a few times to take some photos. The absolute clearness of the sky is actually quite a bit of a problem for photos. Because I had just a limited amount of space to carry a camera, I debated whether to take my years-old compact digital, or take my DSLR with a fixed 35mm lens. This lens is very small, yet I find it to have pretty good image quality. I opted for the latter, simply because the image quality would be better and I'd have more flexibility in the PC during processing. The camera fit nicely into my small Camelbak compartment, so I was happy about that.

I had hoped to stop a few more times to capture a few more waterfalls along the way, but I started to feel ill and made a beeline back.

Anyway, here are a few of the sights from today.

South Narrows  South Narrows
Twin Creek into Narrows  White Marsh Marigold
Stream Violet  Alaska Violet
A Waterfall along Mitkof Hwy

Amy's Birthday

Yesterday was Amy's birthday. Her party will actually occur next week. However, we still got together for a small party.

Prior to that, during the afternoon, she and several others went to Papke's Landing where there is a nursery and a florist. They said that the flowers and plants there was simply amazing and beautiful -- the kind that makes you want to purchase everything there. They got a few things, including Amy, and she got a small handheld garden rake as a birthday gift. She also got a few wildflowers as a gift.

Here's the cake that we had in the evening.

_MG_1475  _MG_1476  _MG_1477

Jesus: His Walk vs. Ours

The following are my comments on this week's lesson, Lesson 8: The Intensity of His Walk.

In my mind, this week's lesson tries to make two somewhat contradictory points. The first is that we, Jesus' disciples, ought to imitate His walk as described in the gospel accounts. The other point is that the gospel accounts are only the very end of His life: there is very little we know about how He lived between His birth and about thirty years of age.

The questions raised by this week's lesson are similar to last week's: how much of Jesus' life is something that we are to take and imitate as examples applicable directly to how we live life in the 21st century? And for me, as I write this, I also have to add the qualifier, "In the United States."

The big question for me regarding this lesson is: Does God expect and demand at all times the same level of "intensity" in my devotion to Him? Luke includes an interesting sentence (Luke 9:51) that seems to tell me that Jesus himself entered into a new level of intensity as he began his journey towards Jerusalem:

"When the days drew near for him to be taken up, he set his face to go to Jerusalem." (ESV, emphasis mine)

Is it even possible to retain the same level of intensity in one's life? A rubber band eventually becomes useless if it's kept at high tension for a long time. In fact it can eventually break. Could a Christian's efforts to imitate Jesus, to have an "intense walk" with God like Jesus did, lead to a breakdown? Could it turn into such a legalistic (defined as "trying to achieve something through one's own strength") effort that it leads a person away from God? For that matter, what does it mean to have "an intense walk" with God? In fact, what does it mean to "walk with God?"

The lesson text can give the impression that an "intense walk with God" somehow has to eliminate the enjoyable things -- fun, joy, friendships, joking, playing, hobbies, recreation -- from life (see Thursday's text). Now there may be times when there are certain summits to be reached that do call some of us to set aside some things in order to achieve the goals we believe God has called us to reach. But is that supposed to characterize the entire Christian walk, all the time, for every Christian? Again, I go back to the fact that the gospel records are primarily about the last 3-1/2 years of Jesus' life, and the majority of the accounts are the very last part of even those 3-1/2 years.

I also take issue with some of the text in Monday's lesson where it reads,

"He had to live completely above the sinful sphere... He had to remain immaculate. We might compare it to going through 33 years... and never making a single mistake."

I don't know about you, but on the surface the above could be inferred to mean that Jesus never made any mistake. And even further, it could be inferred that all mistakes are sin. I don't buy that and I don't go there. I don't believe that the effects of sin (some mistakes) are necessarily sin (c.f., Jesus' take on this in John 9 in the story of the man blind from birth).

I believe that Jesus could make mistakes and yet be without sin. If Jesus was unable to make mistakes while learning carpentry, in school, while learning about the physical world, how could He relate to how we learn? (How did Adam and Eve learn about the world? Did God teach them every specific detail and they carried it out precisely? Or did God provide general guidelines and then allowed them to learn through trial and error within the boundaries? Hmm...) Does this idea make Jesus any less divine, or does it allow us to identify better with Him?

For me, the main point of this week's study is that it is vitally important to balance Jesus' divinity with His humanity. If I overemphasize His divinity and try to use that portrait as my pattern, I could become disillusioned and discouraged. On the other hand, if I overemphasize His humanity, I might become self-sufficient and self-reliant. I believe there is a critical balance that must be maintained in how I see Jesus.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Logitech VX Nano Wireless Notebook Mouse

I've had this mouse for almost a month now and I have to say it is one great mouse.

It was about a year ago that the right mouse button died on a wired Microsoft notebook mouse. It's amazing how much use that right mouse button gets. Fortunately on notebook PCs, usually there's another way to perform right mouse button clicks. It was still quite inconvenient, however. I wasn't about to pay a king's ransom in Petersburg for a replacement mouse.

The day after we arrived in Oregon, I made a beeline to BestBuy to look at the wireless mice available. I looked at the different ones, but choosing the Logitech VX Nano was a no-brainer. The feature that was key to my decision was the USB receiver. It plugs in and only extends out maybe 1/4 inch. There is no need to unplug it when moving it about. There's no fear of bumping it and damaging it. If there is ever a need to unplug it, there is convenient storage for it inside the battery compartment.

The next feature that clinched the deal was the on/off switch located on the bottom of the mouse. Why has it taken so long for a wireless mouse to evolve to have this convenient feature, I wonder?

The feel of it is very good in my hands. I don't have huge hands, so a smaller, notebook-oriented size works much better. I have one of the original Microsoft wireless mice somewhere in storage. It was a good mouse, but I always thought it was a little too big for my hands.

I haven't personally seen great advantages of some of the other touted features such as the laser technology, or the hyper-fast scrolling. The forward/back buttons are somewhat more convenient in navigating web sites than using the browser forward/back buttons (or right mouse click and selecting the popup menu item). The carrying case is nice especially during transport inside a notebook bag to prevent more than necessary scratches on the mouse body. The unit also comes with a wired USB receiver for those that also want to use this with a desktop PC. (I suppose one could try to mouse in both notebook and desktop PCs at the same time... I just thought of it...)

You might be getting the impression that I really like this mouse, and you would be right. It's one I'd highly recommend to anyone looking for a new notebook (or even a desktop) mouse.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Warm weather and first mowing of 2008

It was another sunny-with-clouds day. It rained overnight but was dry all day today. The grass in our yard was starting to look a little tall, so I got out the mower and worked on lopping off the grass. At the same time I shaved off some of the skunk cabbage popping up in the middle of the grass. Our yard looks much less yellow than it did earlier.

I would have liked to mow wearing short sleeves and shorts, but from last year's experience with bugs, I made sure I was well covered up. Afterwards, after a shower, I was in a t-shirt and shorts. After all, inside the house the temperature was well into the upper 60's and outside it was in the upper 50's.

I bicycled out to the Post Office to pick up the mail. More often than not, it seems (though it may be just my imagination), there is a package waiting when I bicycle there vs. driving. Anyway, I left the package notice in the box for tomorrow and just got the regular mail. It was a wonderfully pleasant ride in the sun.

All the weather forecasts (so far) agree that this weekend we will be having sunny, very warm days in the mid to upper 60's. I think it might be time to break out the swim gear and head out to Blind Slough for a dip in the chilly waters there.

Monday, May 19, 2008

Thoughts on a few cook's tools

I've had a chance to use a number of cook's tools I picked up during our time in the Lower 48. I also received a freebie zester/grater for subscribing to Cook's Illustrated.

Here's a rundown of my new tools --

The griddle is a joy to use. I can finally cook more than a couple of pancakes at a time. I've also used it to cook O'Brien potatoes from eight potatoes. Elise was worried that the slightly raised surface might not work with our smooth (glass and halogen) cooktop, but I haven't noticed any problems. The sides are sufficiently tall to keep most of the food contained, even with quite a bit of stirring and frying.

I didn't realize how pitifully poor typical graters are until I used the Microplane ones. I also discovered how sharp they are on one of my finger knuckles. The fine, zesting blades make quick work of zesting citrus fruits and finely grating ginger. With a typical fine grater, I often had to put in some hard work to grate a sufficient quantity of ginger. With the zester, the frozen ginger I grated just seemed to melt away. While shredding some potatoes this morning on the box grater, I accidentally caught the back of a finger. A small nick, but I was amazed at how clean the cut was. I still have some hard Parmesan that I want to try on it to see how well it works on this item that I've struggled in the past with grating using a typical grater. I think I'm ready to toss out all the inferior graters that I have sitting about the kitchen. (Though I probably should keep one around for the kids -- so they don't end up with bloody hands..)

I might have mentioned this some time ago, but in my months-long search for a salad spinner in town, I could not find one. Thus I purchased and brought one back with me. The first use of it was not for salad, but for shredded potatoes. The secret to good hash brown potatoes is to wash and dry the shredded potatoes. This washes away the starch that ordinarily turns the potatoes gummy and sticky during frying. The drying part can be a bit of a pain because ideally you place small amounts into a dry towel and wring it dry. What you end up is with a wet towel (or towels, plural) with bits of potatoes stuck in it. I thought that perhaps the salad spinner could get the potatoes sufficiently dry. I spun it twice, cooked it, and the end results was quite acceptable. It was much quicker, easier, and cleaner than using towels.

Finally, the vegetable choppers. It does seem to simplify and shorten food preparation times. It was particularly handy for dicing potatoes. I sliced the potatoes into quarter inch thickness and then placed each slice on the chopper, slammed the chopper lid down, and ended up with nicely diced potatoes in what seemed like a fraction of the time it would have taken with just a knife. The onion I tried didn't seem to go as well, though that may have been because it was a partial one that was sitting in the refrigerator for a couple of days. The mushroom slices were so-so. Upon examination, it looked like the mushrooms were a tad too large for the opening. Maybe if they were smaller it would have sliced better. The overall verdict is still out on the choppers. So far it works well on some things, and not quite so well on others. Maybe I need more practice.

Overall I'm quite pleased with all of my recent kitchen acquisitions.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Sunny day spent indoors

Today was a bright, warm, sunny day. I spent nearly all of it inside. I didn't have a whole lot of choice in the matter, you see.

With Elise working last night and tonight, that meant she was trying to sleep all day. We have/had a number of visiting family in town -- Elise's grandmother, dad, and our nephew. The responsibility of putting together most of the meals falls on me.

Additionally, today was the High School Baccalaureate. Each church was asked to bring some cookies. Since our church is so small, making cookies also becomes our responsibility. And again, with Elise sleeping, that means I'm the one to bake the cookies. (I suppose I could have just purchased some...)

Before going up to sleep, Elise did go out to purchase supplies for the punch for the Baccalaureate. So at least that task I didn't personally have to handle.

Anyway, from breakfast to supper, I was pretty much in the kitchen all day. The only time I stepped out of the house between those times was to go get the punch bowls from the church and purchase some ice.

Thus while in the kitchen and about the house, I could see the wonderfully warm and dry day outside, wishing I was out on the bicycle or out on the trails with a camera. It was quite grating and aggravating not being able to go out.

If that wasn't enough, trying to handle three kids running around the house added to the already stressful day. The activity level triples or quadruples (and not always in a good sort of way) when our nephew is here. If I could just go away to somewhere nice and peaceful, where everyone would just leave me alone, and where everyone would simply mind their own business, I might have taken the first flight out.

In addition to the refreshments already mentioned, I was also responsible for the invocation and the piano accompaniment for the hymns. The accompaniment went fine. Where things really took a detour was just prior to the invocation. I was informed that I was also to welcome everyone since I was the first one to speak. I began to welcome everyone when I suddenly realized that I should probably wait for the senior class to enter the auditorium. Ooops! Well, what could I do? I went ahead and gave instructions for those already in the auditorium to turn off their cell phones, and then returned to playing one more piece for the prelude portion. The senior class entered, and I resumed the welcome and gave the invocation. All I could do was to take things in stride and just go with the flow. It wasn't so bad once I was resigned to accepting the goof.

About a third of the punch supplies were used up, so the church now has a rather large quantity of leftover supplies -- 12 liters each of ginger ale and tonic water, and 7 white grape juice concentrates. That will last us a long time, I think.

It seems that with visitors coming into town immediately after we came back from our trip and the Little Norway weekend, the kids are still in somewhat of a vacation mode. There is school work to be done, but they aren't getting done very quickly. It seems there is a lot of procrastination, or simply forgetting that we are no longer on vacation. When they're reminded of it, they aren't happy about it, and it seems that it all ends up in arguments and tears. While out-of-town visitors can be nice and interesting, the disruptions that usually result to our routines is less than desired, especially when it results in very important things remaining undone.

Torturous install of Windows XP SP3

The install went smoothly on a couple of the other PCs I have, so on this latest one I figured the update should be a piece of cake. How wrong I was. It took three torturous attempts and it was successful on the fourth install.

KB949377 is your friend if you encounter an "Access denied" message during the SP3 install.

Why am I still using Windows XP? I generally follow a policy of keeping the OS that ships with the systems. I don't like performing major OS upgrades because it seems that more often than not, there are too many compatibility issues that pop up after such upgrades.

I first let Windows Update try to install SP3. When the error popped up during this first attempt, I thought maybe something oddball was going on, so I restarted the PC and tried again. Same error. Now it seems there is something consistently wrong, so thus began my search for a solution. That took me to the above KB article. I downloaded the 300+ MB full SP3 package (1.5 hours on my slow cable Internet) and then attempted the install (following the instructions in the KB). Again, failure. So I proceeded to the next steps in the KB article and reset a whole bunch of security permissions in the Registry and in the file system.

The problem with all this is the time that it takes. The SP3 install takes quite a long time and the failure occurs towards the end. The permission reset also takes a long time. With this done though, on the fourth install the SP did install. I was afraid that after all the mucking about, the OS might have ended up in a funny state and the PC would no longer work. Fortunately, it restarted. But Windows Live OneCare Family Safety stopped working.

Argh! Uninstall, restart, reinstall and now things look like they are working. For some reason though, on both restarts since SP3 install, Messenger keeps going through an install process. It looks like something is still a bit goofy.

I dislike computers. This is another reason why I am no longer writing software. There are just too many oddball failures whose causes take forever to track down, and are sometimes never resolved.

Saturday, May 17, 2008

Sermon: When You Wish Upon a Star

(Click HERE for MP3 sermon audio.)

Today's sermon looks at John 17. The sermon peeks into God's heart to see what kinds of things he wishes and desires for his children.

When You Wish Upon a Star comes from Disney's Pinocchio. In the sermon I mistakenly say that the song was written in 1957. (I'm not sure how that year stuck in my head and got associated with the song...) It was actually written in 1940.

At the end of the sermon, the new lyrics I sing to the above tune are as follows.

When God's Son came to the world,
Show His Father's glory did.
Through His love and sacrifice,
He gives us life.

If your heart is for God's love,
No request is too extreme.
When you ask in Jesus' name,
You will receive.

God is love,
With him He wants us be --
That is His heart's desire --
For all eternity.

When God's Son prayed for us all,
He prayed that we all be one.
Just as He and Father is,
We too may be.

Friday, May 16, 2008

Little Norway parade

I have a cold and therefore not feeling well. With various visitors, church and family, in and out this week, I've been distracted from my usual routines. All these little things have added up to a rather miserable, grumpy day. And so here I sit, nearly 11 p.m., posting photos and this blog post when I should be working on tomorrow's sermon and possibly the bulletin. However, all these distractions and the rather grumpy mood makes it difficult to concentrate. It looks like the church service tomorrow will be similar to last Sabbath: semi-impromptu and hoping nothing goes terribly awry.

Today was the first full day of the Little Norway celebrations. The main event today was the parade followed by the herring toss. Both of our girls were part of the Leikarring dancers winding their way through Main Street. The weather forecast originally said 100% chance of rain today. It did rain during the early part of the morning, but by afternoon it was just overcast. The rain stayed away and the sun even tried for a brief moment to break through.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Jesus: What Kind of Company Would He Keep?

I'm back from our little trip to the Lower 48. Even so, with visitors this week, I haven't had as much time as I'd like to study this week's Sabbath School lesson.

This week the lesson (Lesson 7) title is "The Puzzle of His Conduct." As it the case with most of the lesson this quarter, we could spend considerable time discussing just one day's subtopic: Neglecting parents; displaying anger; destroying personal property; neglecting the persecuted; hanging out with undesirables.

Are Jesus' actions as recorded in the gospel accounts examples or patterns? Is there a difference between these two ways of thinking about His actions? I often hear Christians describe Jesus as our example; that we should follow his actions whenever we are confronted with a decision; i.e., What Would Jesus Do (WWJD)?

I have a problem with the basis of WWJD. I can find contradictory examples: e.g., on one hand Jesus seemed to dismiss his parents and family, yet on the other, he had deep respect for his mother. In a related note, we can find contradictory examples throughout the Bible.

In my mind, an example only works if everything about the situation in question is identical to the example: peoples, cultures, historical setting, education, technology, etc. However, we live in a very different time from 1st century Judea and Galilee. I find it more appropriate to look upon Jesus' actions as patterns to be adapted to circumstances as they come up in our lives. Jesus' actions were patterns that attempted to tangibly show God's love and care for His creation. Thus rather than enumerating specific details of our current situation and trying to find the closest match in Jesus' actions, I believe it would be better to work with the Holy Spirit to determine the most appropriate course of action that fits the current situation which best shows the love of God.

I think that Jesus' actions are examples in this one way: They paint a range of responses to the human condition that are all appropriate. I think that they can be seen as snapshots to help us realize that there is no formulaic method of determining how we respond to others. They are not examples that we are to necessarily imitate, but rather, examples to get us thinking about how we are to respond using our own personalities, interests, skills, and abilities.

The remainder of this discussion focuses on Thursday's study: Hanging out with undesirables.

If Jesus were to walk among us today, most of us would like to think that He'd hang out with us: Christians at the very least, and we'd like to think He'd spend most of his time hanging out with good church people. Many of us might also think that Jesus would be a good ____________ (fill in denominational affiliation).

If the gospel records are any indication, we might be the people Jesus spends the least time with. We might also be the ones most irritated with Jesus.

If Jesus were in the world today, I have a sense that He would be going to the druggies and inviting them to "follow Me." And then in the next block He'd be talking to the pusher and giving him an invitation, too. Going down the street He'd find both the prostitute and the pimp and saying to them, "Follow Me, and I'll teach you how you can bring others to know true love and satisfaction." And I'd bet that He'd be visiting all the residences of registered sex-offenders and inviting them to join Him in getting to know the greatest Lover. In fact both victims and abusers of all types would be following Him together. I suspect that Jesus somehow would find a way to make it work. (After all He had a tax collector and a Zealot in the group that he had.)

These would be the kinds of people Jesus would bring with Him to church for the weekly meetings. Would the church welcome Him? I think most would say to Him something like, "Jesus, we don't want any trouble. Some of your followers, well, they aren't safe. We have women and children, and I'm sure you understand what we mean. (We have insurance policies and church policies to consider...) If you leave them a block away and come by yourself, we'd love to have you join us."

No, as I thought about it this week, I really think that most of today's churches wouldn't be comfortable with Jesus, and Jesus wouldn't feel welcome in them.

Jesus welcomed into his circle anyone who wanted to find God. He entrusted his mission with them. No resumes, no interviews, no background checks. No batteries of personality and skills assessments. Most of us would probably advise him that this is no way to run an organization. We'd advise Jesus to be more prudent, safe, predictable. We'd point him to Harvard Business School studies on how to start, manage, and grow effective businesses.

But Jesus didn't come to start or run an organization, did He?

Maybe that's where the church first went astray... By becoming an organization.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Digital Photo Frame

During our last day in Oregon we dropped by a BestBuy to pick up a few electronics items. Among them was a digital photo frame, the Kodak EasyShare M1020. It was on sale, $50 off, so I picked this one up rather than the less expensive M820. The difference between the two was just $10.

When I saw the demo units I was a little worried that the picture quality of the M1020 wasn't that good. It turns out that the demo movie being played on the frame was a lower resolution than what the frame can display. Once I loaded my own photos onto the frame, I could see that the quality was just fine. Among the frames available at BestBuy, the Kodak frames seemed to have the best picture quality as well as best available viewing angles. I also like the touch-sensitive border controls on the new M-series of Kodak frames. I've tried some of the others with buttons and such on the backs of the frames, but they just don't seem to work as well.

The one thing missing from the M-series is WiFi. However, I know of someone who has a WiFi frame and at least on that frame, connection is sporadic and troublesome. So WiFi probably isn't a really big loss.

It comes with software, but I haven't installed it onto the PC so I really have no clue what it offers.

The frame is a 3:2 display ratio rather than 4:3. What this means is that photos from digital SLRs display in their entirety without cropping or black borders. On the other hand, photos from digital point-and-shoots won't fit perfectly in the display. Since my primary camera is a digital SLR, the 3:2 display ratio was one of the big reasons for purchasing this frame.

So far I'm quite pleased with this digital photo frame.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Arrival of Spring in Petersburg

Flora is starting to bloom in the muskeg, announcing the arrival of spring. Our lawn is starting to pop up skunk cabbages -- a not-so-welcome sign of spring.

This weekend will be the 50th Little Norway festival. The city seems quite a bit more busy than when we left for our vacation three weeks ago. There are definitely more visitors in town, and the early summer cannery workers are also arriving.

Our whole family caught some sort of a cold. That's not too surprising, I suppose, because we had just recently flown back.


Monday, May 12, 2008

Our Multifunction Device died today

We have an ancient dinosaur of an MFD -- an HP OfficeJet G85. Shelley was printing something on it and the carriage decided to jam and stay stuck that way. It clicks and rattles and it keeps telling me to unjam it. I opened it up but couldn't find any jam, nor does the cover open up sufficiently to try to figure out more closely what is wrong with it. So, "To heck with it," I said and moved it off the stand and on to the floor where it will remain for the time being as a big send-only FAX machine.

In the menagerie of office electronics that we moved up I have three more printers ranging from another inkjet printer of the same vintage, a newer photo printer, and a color laser that I was using at the church until I moved the computer that I had there back into the house. I took the oldest one, an HP DeskJet 970Cse, and used that as a replacement. I took an Epson scanner that I hadn't used much since moving up here and hooked it up as well. In the end we have mostly everything that the MFD did. We are missing the FAX functions. I guess my laptop, which has a fax/modem, will be used to receive faxes if the occasion ever arises.

We'll see how long this new arrangement hold up. The process of copying documents is now a bit more convoluted because it requires going through the computer. If things don't work well, at least MFD prices have come down considerably since the G85 days. I even found a relatively inexpensive one that connects directly to the network so that it doesn't need a PC at all.

Saturday, May 10, 2008

Piano Recital Spring 2008

Just two days after returning from our trip south, Shelley had a piano recital. She had her music with her during our trip, but had very little chance to practice. I think she may have played just one time during the 2-1/2 weeks. Even so, the performance went quite well. Her proficiency is progressing quite well as you can see and hear in the accompanying video.

Click the image to download the video (Windows Media Video, 5.4 MB).

Click to download video

Sermon: A Mother of Faith

(Click HERE for MP3 sermon audio.)

Today's sermon comes from 2 Kings 4:8-37.

This is the story of the Shunammite woman and Elisha. The sermon explores allusions and parallels to other Bible stories, and I propose that similar themes in other stories in the Bible and even in "secular" fairy tales give evidence to the existence of an ultimate reality where fairy tales do come true and people live happily ever after.

Thursday, May 08, 2008

Back home

Click for gallery

After what seemed like a very long day, we are back home in Petersburg. I immediately went out to pick up the accumulated mail and some very necessary groceries. Upon returning I spent quite some time sorting through the mail. In the process I realized I have some auto-pay bills that were set up for the now defunct charge account, so I'll need to change those accounts over before I get hit with late charges.

Our Litter Robot (for the cats) is once again not working correctly. Again the electrical connection came loose. This time I plan to fix it better and for that I need a little connector. Elise went to town to run some errands so she is planning to pick up what I need.

Our cats have been people-deprived for so long that they are being very loud, clingy, and rather obnoxious. Stripey just now tried to climb up to my shoulders -- not a good thing for a 17-18 lb. cat to try to do to people.

I had a few houseplants, and it seems they did not fare so well. I'm not sure if it was the lowered temperatures or perhaps overwatering. Whatever the case, I don't know how if a couple of them will survive.

There were some odd sensations driving a large pickup after driving a car for 2-1/2 weeks. It's also difficult to not accelerate to 35-45 mph but keep things around 25-30 mph. But it is so much nicer not having to deal with busy traffic.

Overall, although it was nice to visit the Lower 48, it is good to be home. It's a different sort of place where while waiting for the luggage to be unloaded, you can have lengthy conversations with people you know who just happen to be there. I figure it will take a few days to unwind from the trip.

The vacation from the vacation will have to wait a while since we will be getting visitors in town almost immediately and through the next three weeks or so.

An early flight

We awoke at 3 am this morning to catch our 6 am flight. No one should be up and about at this time of night. But we were and loaded up the luggage, drove to the airport, dropped off the luggage and the ladies at the terminal, returned the car, took the shuttle back to the terminal, checked in, went through security, then waited at the gate for an hour. We had pastries from the Starbucks across the hall while we waited.

We finally boarded, flew to Seattle, rushed to our next flight, boarded, and we are now sitting on the plane in Ketchikan.

Sent from my BlackBerry® wireless handheld

Wednesday, May 07, 2008

Stuff, driving, and waste

There are a few reasons I'll be happy to return to Petersburg.

First, I'm tired of driving, wasting hours and dollars going from one place to another. It seems that to go anywhere is half an hour or more. Multiply that by number of trips per week and that turns into a considerable amount of lost productivity. Add to that ten (or more) dollars a day in fuel costs and it turns into a real waste.

Next, all the places to spend money, whether the stuff is necessary or not. When there is so much available and often for so little, it's hard to resist making the purchase - "just in case." Stuff then accumulates and collects, turning into yet more waste.

Then there is the general stress and busy-ness level that I'd soon rather not deal with. Whether it's a traffic jam, trying to find a parking spot, not going fast enough for someone behind me, the crowds, etc. I don't think it's very healthy.

Finally, all this driving and eating without exercise I think is causing me to put on a bit of weight. I need to return to where I regularly walk and bicycle for business and errands.

Sent from my BlackBerry® wireless handheld

Tuesday, May 06, 2008

Few more days in the Lower 48

Our stay in the Lower 48 is quickly drawing to a close. I think that for the most part though, we are more than eager to return. Not only are we getting tired of living out of suitcases, but the busy-ness, the crowds, the traffic, and the heat (it was 74F in Sherwood, Ore. yesterday) is getting to us.

We've continued to shop for additional items to take back with us. On Sunday we returned to the mall to get Amy's new glasses repaired after they were squashed in the car door. (There is still a crack in the frame that we might put a drop of Gorilla-Glue into.) I purchased a double-burner griddle at Williams-Sonoma. I found a large griddle to be quite useful during our stays at the WorldMark resorts. We then browsed at the Beaverton Powell's. I didn't purchase anything but made notes of some books that I found interesting that I might order from at some future time.

We stopped by our property to drop some things off and visited with family there. Elise and Shelley wanted to go to Jo-Ann's for some fabric and craft materials so we spent some time there. I went over to Joe's and found some socks. (I have several shoes and boots that don't work with cotton socks -- they just slip down. 100% synthetic materials seem to work well.) Afterwards we had dinner at the Swagat Indian restaurant in Beaverton.

Yesterday we went to the local Adventist Book Center in Gladstone where I picked up a number of volumes that I wanted. Now I have a foot or two of books that are on my reading list. From there we made our way to Sherwood. We stopped at Tualatin and grabbed a few bites to eat at a Taco Bell (my first time in Taco Bell in probably 36 months). We stopped at Target for more items, and then arrived at the ice rink.

We met friends there who had a day off from school yesterday. Shelley was annoyed with the beginner skates that she was trying. She tried to make the best of it, but as soon as the pro-shop opened, we were in there looking at better skates. The least expensive boots and blades that would work for her was $299. We weren't too enthusiastic about spending that much for something that would only get used a few times a year. So she went back out. Meanwhile Elise was in the Christian bookstore next to the pro-shop and in her conversations with the owner, discovered that she had just placed a pair of skates on consignment. So returning to the pro-shop Shelley tried out these skates and found that they worked quite well. And better yet, the price was $150 for ones that would have been $399 new. And so we purchased them. We plan to return to the rink on Wednesday for a final skate.

After the rink we went over to a mini-golf place where the kids played a round, and afterwards had some ice cream.

We still have a few more places to go to purchase additional supplies to take us through the next 18 months or so.

Meanwhile, over the next few days I have to prepare a sermon while being in the middle of all this busy-ness.

Saturday, May 03, 2008

In Tualatin today

We went to the Tualatin church this morning, reconnecting with a number of people we know. It was good to see them again. We ended up leading the songs during the worship time. It's been a while since I've led the singing. Anyway, we had a good time.

The girls (including Elise) went to the zoo in the afternoon. I stayed behind and thought about a nap, but ended up in conversations until the evening.

Friday, May 02, 2008

Back in Oregon

We drove all day and safely reached the Portland area tonight. On the way up we stopped to meet some college friends who now reside just south of the Oregon border.

The drive was uneventful but long. Elise read a large section from the kids' history text, much to their dismay. But it did pass the time.

There was some wonderful scenery in the evening and I tried to find a place to stop to take some photos, but couldn't find a convenient place to park. Oh well...

The people we are staying with don't have high-speed Internet so that means postings here will be reduced until I return home.

Sent from my BlackBerry® wireless handheld

Thursday, May 01, 2008

A few more images from Clear Lake

The weather was much more calm and warmer today. With the sun beating down, I felt quite hot walking a bit along the shoreline. (Click on image above to open gallery page.)

Credit card fraud

It looks like someone, somewhere in our travels swiped the card information because a couple of unrecognized charges appeared on our account. The first one appeared about a week ago, but because pending charges often show names that are different from the final merchant names, I thought maybe it was something that I forgot about. But when I saw another charge this morning from an online site that I know I didn't make, it was time to call the card customer service. They were nice and quick about terminating the account number and reversing the charges, though Elise is now without a credit card.

I don't know how and where someone got our account. It could have been sometime when we handed our card to a wait staff at a restaurant. Or someone has really good visual memory.

Whatever the case, the incident reinforces the necessity of checking financial accounts frequently -- if not daily, then every few days -- to make sure nothing is amiss. It also shows the value of credit cards vs. debit because with credit cards, the account holder isn't responsible for any of the charges and isn't out the money.