Tuesday, January 27, 2009

All I Didn’t Want for Christmas Was My Two Back Teeth…

That’s not quite how the song goes…

The reason is that I got two upper wisdom teeth removed yesterday. In December one of them began to crumble away and so with a quick appointment to the dentist, I scheduled a time to get that one and the other one removed. And that happened to be yesterday. Fortunately there was no pain associated with the tooth during the intervening time.

I was rather tense during the whole extraction process. First came four injections of local anesthesia. Then the dentist used all sorts of different tools to cut and grab, twist, pull, and break. Both teeth seemed somewhat stubborn in coming out, but they both came out, and other than the stress of watching and feeling it being done, there was no pain involved.

Twenty-four hours later, the extraction sites seemed to have stopped bleeding, so that is good news. It means I shouldn’t need antibiotics.

This last Sabbath was Religious Liberty emphasis Sabbath. This year, rather than crafting my own sermon or adapting the supplied one, I used the supplied one on video.

Our kitchen hot water pot appliance broke last week. It was many years old, and the seal on the air bladder finally tore. It didn’t look repairable and trying to get a replacement for something that old was probably not very productive, not to mention time-consuming. I looked in Amazon.com and saw a number of water pots. I ordered one of the smaller (i.e., less expensive) ones and was happy to get it shipped free.

It arrived much more quickly than I had expected. It has more buttons and settings than the old one. Actually, the old one didn’t have any buttons… just a big thing to push on the top of the lid. The new one is electronically controlled, different temperature settings, and uses an electric pump to dispense the water. What I like best is the ability to reboil the water to bring it up to boiling temperature. I couldn’t use the water from our old one for coffee because the temp was too low.

The weather here has been wacky. Last week there were a couple spring-like and almost summer-like days. Then it got quite cold again. Yesterday and today things warmed up so that we had both rain and snow, and even a little bit of sun.

The AeroGarden is doing pretty well. I harvested a bit of dill tonight and sprinkled some on the soup that we had. I also had to trim the chives a bit because they were getting too tall in relation to the other plants.

Also over the weekend I received a replacement SIM card for my BlackBerry. I didn’t get around to activating and installing it today. But now I did and the BlackBerry is working again.

Yesterday I filed for this year’s Permanent Fund Dividend. There’s incentive to file early and online – the PFD is received earlier.

That’s the excitement going on around our place.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Sermon: Daniel, Darius, Lions, and Prayer

(Click HERE for MP3 sermon audio.)

This past Sabbath’s sermon discusses Daniel 6 in the context of prayer.

The first few minutes of the sermon is not present, as I forgot to turn on the recorder.

A respite from winter

And what a respite that was. It was almost summer-y.  Temperatures approached 60 degrees, the skies were clear, and the sunshine was warm. We rarely get those kinds of days, even during actual summertime. It was like that from about Saturday through yesterday.

The temps have dropped today though, and clouds have rolled in. The forecast says winter will be back.

It was funny to have such warm weather and see roads covered in ice. On Sunday I bicycled up (with studded tires) up to the grocery store to restock, after our week away, our refrigerator and pantry. It was the warmth, lack of exercise the last several weeks, or a combination, but I was winded and light-headed after I got there. It took a few minutes to recover before I was ready to start shopping. One of the staff from the hospital saw me there and wondered if I was okay…

Yesterday, once more, I bicycled to the other grocery store to pick up a few items I had forgotten the previous day. This time I was fine. It’s almost as if my body suddenly realized it needed to readjust to physical activity.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Tropical Storm

Or it sure seemed like it. One of the weather stations in Anchorage reported a high of 49F today. The wind gusts were strong, blowing trees around and down. By this evening most of the main roads were pretty much clear of all ice and down to bare, wet pavement. Side streets and parking lots were another matter though. They were still very slick with water over ice.

We went out one more time this evening. Elise wanted to get some fabric for her little project. We also needed to get another container to put stuff in for our flight back. Within the state of Alaska, we can still check in 3 pieces of luggage per person without incurring additional fees. We got a small plastic tote and a luggage strap.

Tomorrow morning we are headed home. I’m more than ready to end living out of suitcases.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Freezing Rain

We didn’t think we’d actually make it to the Conference office this morning. Overnight the temperatures rose and the snow turned into rain. But in the morning, it was still cold enough so that the rain turned into ice upon hitting the ground. We scraped the ice off of the van and attempted to make our way to the office. The traction on the van is horrible and the windshield wiper doesn’t work. We made our way onto the roads and discovered how slick things were. I tried the freeway, but above 30 mph the windshield turned opaque from the rain, so I immediately went onto the next exit. That’s where even more troubles hit.

There were numerous power outages around the city and we were right in the middle of one. Traffic control was not working, so in the busy morning rush there were 4-way stops all over the place. Combine that with slick roads and cars having difficulties getting started, it made for very slow progress. If that wasn’t bad enough, the offices are located among some hills. That means the roads there are up and down. At some intersections, the slowdowns were caused by vehicles unable to get up the hill, stuck in the middle of the intersection, and sliding off the road. There were many moments when we thought we would be one of those stuck and unable to continue. But with very slow driving, and easy throttle, and lots of help from the van’s traction control, we inched our way through the intersections, uphill starts, etc. and finally, to our great relief, made it to the offices without any incident.

A couple evenings back we went to Office Depot to purchase some office supplies. Just about a week before our trip to Anchorage, I received a “please come back to Office Depot” mailing with a $25 off of $25 coupon. That was very convenient timing and so I got to use that coupon.

Last night we stopped at Fred Meyer for a few things including a fleece sweatshirt for me. I thought I packed one, but could not find it when I arrived. I suppose there’s a possibility it was swiped from the luggage, but it’s more likely that I had pulled it out at home and forgot to put it back in.

Tonight, a room freed up at the Conference office so we drove out to the Korean church (driving another van with studded tires – much better traction – and working wipers) to transfer our belongings. We stopped at Costco and purchased a few more things including a couple Blu-Ray videos and Sonicare electric toothbrush.

Monday, January 12, 2009

In Anchorage

This past Friday Elise and I flew up north to Anchorage. Our flight was delayed a couple of hours because the snow was coming down thick and heavy in Petersburg. It was held in Ketchikan as well as Wrangell for the weather to clear up a bit in our city. But we finally took off, and as we were taking off, it looked like the snow had changed over to rain. (Today – Monday – the forecast for Petersburg was “torrential rain.”)

The flight up was uneventful and we arrived in Anchorage, a couple hours late. We were picked up and Elise went to the Shpherdess retreat in Palmer while I went to one of the Conference officer’s house for a quick bite to eat and travel up to Palmer for a seminar.

We didn’t make it though, because (from the looks of it) not too long before us, about 20 minutes from Palmer, there was a big accident. Officials closed the entire highway for investigation. We sat there and waited for about 40 minutes before deciding to take the off-ramp right in front of us and turn around. We returned to Anchorage. I loaded up my luggage into the Conference van and drove it to the guest rooms at the Korean SDA Church which will be home for a week.

In the morning, I discovered that the SIM card on my BlackBerry was once again disabled. The phone in the room didn’t seem to work, so I ended up using Skype to call support to see if there was anything that could be done. It looks like Anchorage AT&T cell service and my phone do not get along. (It probably needs a new SIM card.) Once it was determined that nothing could be done, I quickly had a bit of breakfast and started off to Palmer to attend church there.

Both Friday and Saturday were very, very cold – bitter cold… So cold that people who live up here were complaining and looking for warmer weather. I didn’t realize how cold –20 to –25F could be. The drive to Palmer takes about an hour. The inside of the van was finally starting to feel a little bit above freezing cold by the time I parked it at the Palmer church.

It was a change to be in a church of a couple hundred, and where I had no responsibilities. Overall it was nice to just sit and relax. The potluck afterwards was nice also.

The van I’m driving has very poor traction. It does have traction control and it comes on rather frequently. I have to make starts gingerly and leave a mile (okay, maybe not quite that much) of stopping distance… A few times I missed a turn or something and hit the brakes and… it wouldn’t stop. It kept going and going… Not exactly a pleasant experience.

Later Saturday evening I headed to a nearby mall to the ACS mobile phone store to purchase a new phone. I was hoping for something fairly cheap, but they didn’t have any of the cheapest (refurbished) phones in stock. I ended up paying out a total of $140 for a prepaid phone + service. The transaction took a while because I wanted to get a Petersburg local number. And then I found out that an old prepaid number we had about a year ago was available. The salesperson tried to sell that number but couldn’t get it to work. She sold me the next higher number, and then discovered she was able to change it to the old number. So I got my old number back!

While getting the transaction done, we chatted – or shall I say, she asked about what I was doing in Anchorage and in Petersburg. I told her I was here for some church meetings and that I pastored a church back home. She asked about some of the differences between Seventh-day Adventists and other Christians. Since she asked, I mentioned that we worship on Saturday rather than Sunday, and I also talked about how our view of death and what happens afterwards is different. It turns out she is a Catholic. Would I have approached things differently if I had known that to begin with? I don’t know. I don’t think I said things in a particularly offensive, judgmental, or “we’re right and everyone else is wrong” kind of tone, and she didn’t appear to be turned off. That all got me to thinking that maybe the SIM card dying turned out good, at least in a way. However, I am not going to be bringing the BlackBerry to Anchorage again, or at least not with the SIM card installed. I don’t need any more SIM cards destroyed and $140 “divine encounters!”

On Sunday Elise returned from her retreat. After picking her up we went to Wal-Mart (not in any way my favorite store, but not much choice here) and picked up a few items of clothing, a small automatic coffee maker, cups, stirrers, hot chocolate mix, and 4 gallons of drinking water. The reason? Because the tap water is awful! And I wanted something to make hot water. We searched the shelves of Wal-Mart for a hotpot or something that could boil water, but couldn’t find anything other than a coffee maker. So that’s what we have. I have no idea what we’re going to do with it when we go home. Leave it or take it back with us?

Sunday evening there was a banquet for the pastors and administrators. It was hosted by the Samoan church and held at the Anchorage Junior Academy. The youth of the Samoan church provided the evening entertainment. It consisted of cultural rituals, ceremonies, and dances. The final event consisted of many of us being “dragged” out to participate in the dance. So now you can say that Adventists in Alaska dance!

The food was quite good. Some of it resembled Chinese, others resembled something closer to Indonesian. For the records, Samoans are NOT vegetarians. Many of the dishes featured or contained chicken and there was one good curried baked salmon dish.

The pastors’ meetings started in earnest today. Our guest speakers are the Central California Conference President and his wife. The topic is prayer. Coming into the meeting I had some questions, reservations, and trepidations about what exactly would be presented. Seminars on prayer can go in so many different ways, and I didn’t now how it was going to go. Going through the meetings today, however, I am feeling a lot better about it.

The temperatures have warmed up and one of the weather station says we hit 31F today. It’s now just cold. But no longer the kind of cold that makes you want to stay inside.

So this is how things have been going the last few days.

Sunday, January 04, 2009

Sermon: Do Not Lead Us Into Temptation

(Click HERE for MP3 sermon audio.)

The seventh and final in a series on the Lord’s Prayer, this sermon discusses Matthew 6:13, “And do not lead us into temptation, but deliver us from evil.”

Friday, January 02, 2009

New Year’s and Snow

Our New Year’s was quiet. Elise worked New Year’s Eve. The rest of us went to a party hosted by the drama/speech class instructor. Amidst the food and games, each of the class members gave a speech they had worked on. Some were serious, a few humorous, and others light-hearted. Shelley gave a speech on the employment of stealth in order to accomplish good or evil. For food, we brought some chocolate chip cookies and a little bit of mochi in a soy-sauce/sugar glaze. Most people who tried it though that it was interesting, but good.

Yesterday evening I grabbed some pre-packaged seasonings and mixes that had come from parents and relatives and put together a Japanese-themed supper of omelet, chirashi-sushi, miso soup, and oshiruko with mochi.

Last night was the coldest night we’ve had so far this winter. The temperatures were down into the lower single digits. It’s come up to about 10 degrees now. It was clear last night, but heavy clouds and fog have rolled in and we’re in the middle of a snow storm.

I haven’t been out much the last few weeks. Part of it has to do with the cold. I went out a couple days ago to the Post Office on the bicycle. It was okay for the most part, but it was cold. The loose snow in some parts made for a bit of sliding and dexterous riding. But I think I’d rather have this than the wet, mushy slush. I’m sure that we’ll have that kind of surface soon enough after this cold weather passes.

The little sprouts in my new AeroGarden have been coming up. The thyme, purple basil, Italian basil, chives, and dill are up. The parsley and mint still have to show their faces.

I’ve been practicing flying the R/C helicopter about, and have gotten fairly good at controlling it. It’s still a challenge though.

That’s more or less life in these parts. Elise and I will be in Anchorage starting in about a week, and staying for a week. There are some church meetings, and the Conference decided they wanted us there so they purchased our flights. We get to go from cold to colder.