Saturday, August 28, 2004

Sarunas Jasikevicius

I was just reading up on the bronze medal match that the US men's basketball team will be playing here shortly, only to find out that one of their opponents will be University of Maryland alum Sarunas Jasikevicius! I used to psych him up in Cole Field House with my piccolo as part of the pep band way back in the day when I was in undergrad and still in band! (I'm sure he remembers me and is eternally grateful. ;p )

It was always interesting trying to come up with cheers or nicknames for a guy named "Sarunas Jasikevicius" (pronounced Sah-roo-nus Ya-seh-ke-vih-kus). It usually ended up just being "Go Sarunas!"

But if I do watch the game (it may have already happened - says that _you'll_ see it Saturday night in America, but that's just NBC re-packaging for prime time), I'll have a hard time knowing for whom to cheer. It'd be like watching the Yankees play the Orioles with Mike Mussina pitching for the Yankees. Love Mike (since he was an O for so long, and since I can _definitely_ appreciate God's workmanship there!), hate the Yanks, love the Os. I guess in this case I'll cheer for the Yanks (Americans, that is), and just not be too upset if Sarunas plays well for his team. :)

Little Women

Well, up until yesterday, I'd read the first part of "Little Women" (the part up to where Beth gets well, their dad comes home, and Meg gets engaged). I knew that Beth's death was impending and that that section and those following should be read as a group, if for no other reason than to reduce the number of times I'd cry, so I spent yesterday reading the second part of Little Women in its entirety. As usual, I began crying as Beth and Jo talk at the sea shore (where Beth tells Jo that she knows she's going to die), and pretty much didn't stop until the end.

I've read the book probably close to a dozen times now, but it still makes me bawl, and each time I learn a little more, I think. The girls' mom and dad are two of the wisest people that exist in all of bookdom. There are so many practical lessons taught by loving words and examples throughout the book.

I also finished up the collection of Robert Burns poems yesterday. I just _really_ enjoyed them. I've also got collections of Wordsworth and Keats, so we'll see if I enjoy _poetry_, or if I only happen to like Burns. I remember reading it in middle and high schools, and some of it I liked (I had Wordsworth's "Daffodils" memorized at one point - for an assignment, but it wasn't something I _hated_ doing), but I don't remember feeling especially drawn to any of it, not like I'm enjoying it now.

It makes me wonder if I've always liked these things and been afraid (or reticent) to admit it because it was girly, or if I just didn't realize that I really liked it because I was too busy doing other things.

Thursday, August 26, 2004


Today, my "little" brother heads off to college. He'll be driving about an hour and a half east of Nashville and setting up a new "home" in Cookeville, TN, on the campus of Tennessee Technological University. He's going for a buisiness degree (or something like that). little brother's "all grown up." Of course, I'll be saying the same thing when he graduates, then again when he gets a "real" job, then again when he gets married....and when he has maybe he's not quite "all grown up" just yet. :)

Heh...._I'm_ certainly not. ;p

Silver Bullet

Believers have a silver bullet in their arsenal. There's no adequate response to it. It is, "I just don't feel called to do..." I've used it, sometimes jokingly, sometimes in all seriousness. I don't really have much to say about it other than it exists, we all have it, we all have used it. And maybe we should be a little more careful in the future about _how_ we use it.

Going for Bronze! that doesn't roll off the tongue "quite" like "going for gold," but for the Iraqi soccer team, I still think it's an amazing feat. Tomorrow afternoon here (so it's like 3AM for most of y'all), Iraq will play Italy for the olympic bronze medal. The folks here aren't really expecting a win since Italy is known to be a really tough team, but then Portugal was supposed to be "the team to beat," and Iraq's beaten them, so _I_ still have confidence in them!

I even know some of their names now, although I still call #8 "Cal Ripken," and #11 "Jeffrey Hammonds." :)

What's funny is to see the difference between the name they have written on their jersey and the name that is written on the on-screen text. Transliteration of Arabic text is a very subjective thing. But what I don't get is that Eastern European teams have their names printed in Cyrillic text on their jerseys. Why can't Middle Eastern teams have their names printed in Arabic text?

It's also funny when they write the name on the screen for a goal summary or something because here, everyone goes by their first name. Their "middle" name is their father's name, and their "last" name is their grandfather's name. So the name on the back of their jersey is their "first" name, not their "last" name like we're used to seeing. But that confuses the people who write the stats up on the screen, so they put the "last" name first and the "first" name last....sometimes....

Oh, and just in case I've confused anyone, all of the sports channels that we get are announced in Arabic, but some of them are apparently just getting the uncut NBC feed, so we get the game stats in English.

It's been interesting to watch the coverage here because they don't prepackage it like NBC does for y'all. This afternoon I watched the women's diving competition (I dunno how high, but it was a springboard, not platform....10m maybe?). I didn't just see the American and the top five or six....I saw every dive of all 16 contestants....and I also didn't just see the final round or two....the coverage started from the first round and just kept going. I got a little tired of pikes after a while, so I turned it off, but it was neat to see the Brazilian girl who was 16th out of 16th....but who always smiled and waved at the camera. :)

We also saw the heats of the mens' 5000m (running) yesterday. Both of them. You'd _never_ get to see that in the States because it's "boring" (and I can't really deny that point)...but that also means that you'd never get to see the American guy who ran in the first heat who actually had a beard. He came in next-to-last in his heat, but he finished! And when there's nothing going on, you either watch people warm up, or you just watch the track get re-fitted for the next race (no commercials). It's kinda interesting to see _all_ of it. But, we don't get the announcers telling us who's good and who's got what sob story. And we don't get the backstories of selling sandwiches to pay for someone's trip or overcoming brain cancer in order to qualify. That's kinda nice and kinda sad at the same time. You don't get as emotionally invested when you know nothing about the people, but it makes you just cheer for the American. You don't even know which one that is, but you still cheer for them anyway, which makes it kinda fun. :)

Tuesday, August 24, 2004

"Uncle Jesse"

For those of you who are now worried (given that I have a brother named Jesse), you can stop. The 'Ring of Power' is still firmly in place on my finger, and (at least figuratively so) on the fingers of both Toby and Beth (to the best of my knowledge).

But what I was really going to talk about here is the Netscape entertainment news headline I saw yesterday: "'Uncle Jesse' Files for Divorce." The thoughts that immediately sprung to my mind were:
1) wow, Uncle Jesse (from Dukes of Hazzard) would be really old by now.
2) was he even a big enough star _during_ the Dukes of Hazzard for people to care about his marital status?
3) is he even still alive?
4) How is it possible that people would care about the marital status of this guy ~20 years after his all-too-short-lived TV show ended?
5) Do people even still remember "Uncle Jesse?"

Obviously the headline intrigued me, so I clicked on it...only to realize that they were referring to John Stamos who was the "Uncle Jesse" of Full House fame.

Then it hit me - wow...I just completely missed a pop culture reference, and not out of innocent ignorance (as is the case with much popular music), but simply because my memory stretched back a little further apparently than that of most of Netscape Entertainment News' readers.

JM found my first grey hair when I was 19, and they've only multiplied in the nine years since then...I got my first matching pair of eye wrinkles a few years back, and just recently my crows' feet have added a second toe...but now I'm really old. I watched Full House, just like everyone else who's lived in the past 15 years (who could help it? It was everywhere for a while), but it never even entered my mind that they could be referring to _that_ "Uncle Jesse."

Sunday, August 22, 2004

The Skies Light Up Again!

Last night I discovered that, not only do I know nothing about soccer, but I'd be _great_ at cheering on a rugby match. We had a joint house club meeting last night (we've split our group into two because of its occasional size) to send off two sons going to college and a couple who have been volunteering for a few weeks...but also so that we could gather around the projector and watch the Iraq/Australia soccer match on the "wide screen" (i.e., whiteboard) afterwards. As I sat there between two avid soccer aficionados, they'd yell things which were appropriate to a soccer match, and I'd yell things like "hit 'em again!" and "knock 'em down!" and "trip him!" Not to mention the ever-so-helpful "kick it into the goal!!" and "don't kick it to one of the guys that's not on your team!"

But regardless, my cheering obviously helped to bring Iraq's 1-0 victory over Australia, and as a result, the skies lit up again with red tracers as the people (including a few of ours) fired in celebration into the air. I did not participate in the firing of the weapon(s), but if (when?) they win the gold...well...let's just say that my "never having fired a weapon" streak might come to an end after just over 28 years. :)

I don't know if he's still in contention, but keep your eyes open for an Iraqi boxer too (the one I was talking about the other day). Wouldn't it be great to get _two_ medals this year?! If there's one thing that can bring warring factions within a country together, it's sports. I'll bet even Najaf was quiet last night for a few hours.

It does, however show that, even though this is a hodgepodge of people, religions, and ethnicities that was thrown together by a different occupying force many years ago, there remains a strong sense of nationalism and patriotism. I hope that they can learn to channel this spirit which is shown so clearly by a soccer match into the political process and generate statesmen who will lead this country, not just for their faction's own gain, but for the betterment of _all_ the people.

But in any case, "mabrouk kool iraqieen!" (congrats to all Iraqis!)

Saturday, August 21, 2004

Twitterpated with God

Remember in the movie “Bambi” at the end when Bambi and Thumper met the doe and the girl rabbit? They wondered what was happening to them, so the wise old bird (or someone, I honestly don’t remember the last time I saw the movie) told them that they were “twitterpated.” It’s when a certain someone writes and you literally sing for days, or when they call and you don’t sleep afterwards (and then sing for a few more days). Or when you get to see them and you’re nervous and shy, but each visit is better than the last – you like the other person more, the more you get to know them. You basically get all “gooey inside” whenever you think about them, and you hope that they’re thinking about you even a quarter as much as you think about them. You count the minutes until you see them or talk to them again.

Well, those feelings got me wondering one day if God feels that way about us. Or more correctly, got me to realize that God _does_ feel that way about us. Not only is there a party in heaven when one person comes to know Him, but He gets all gooey inside when He thinks about us and when we talk to Him. That’s pretty darn cool…and humbling…

But that got me thinking too. Shouldn’t _we_ feel that same way about God? Shouldn’t we “sing for days” when He talks to us? Shouldn’t we ache inside when we miss our chances to spend time with Him? And each time we spend time with Him should make us not only know Him and like Him even more, but also should make us desire to know Him more and see Him again. The thought of Him thinking of us should make us breathless, and thinking of Him should make our hearts race.

God loves each of us so much more passionately and perfectly than any other person ever could. What if we returned that love even the smallest amount? What if it were a joy instead of a chore to meet with God each day? What if we each became “twitterpated” with God?

Thursday, August 19, 2004

Memory I remember....I was watching the news and it mentioned that today is the 1-year anniversary of the "first" bombing of the UN headquarters here. (I say "first" because the UN headquarters had been attacked with mortars and/or RPGs at least once a year since it set up in the Canal Hotel in 1996, this was just the first big one after the fall of Saddam's regime and the first one to kill "important" people.)

Last year, almost exactly (it's maybe a year and an hour right now), Karen and I were sitting in one of the weekly "education" meetings at the HACC-B (Humanitarian Activities Coordination Center in Baghdad) when a friend of ours from JEN (Japanese Emergency NGOs - another NGO that frequented that meeting, and with whom we'd become friends) received a phone call from a co-worker. She left to take the call and came back looking rather ashen as she related to us what her co-worker was telling her. He'd been in the internet cafe inside the building, but close to the door when "the roof began caving in." He ran outside and was unhurt, but many other people could not say the same. Karen was especially disturbed by this as she knew several of the people killed, and as she'd been in that same internet cafe for an hour just that morning. I have friends among those who helped with the clean-up, then who continued to guard the building even though it was empty.

Lacie and I flew out the next day. She was returning to Egypt prior to her return to America, and I was being forced to take some R&R time. The plane was full, and many of the people were bandaged. When we arrived in Amman, we were escorted to a special area where they were receiving people for counseling and further medical treatment. We had to talk our way out of being included in on that.

So much has changed since that day. At that time, we were driving around the city with little fear. Granted, we tried not to drive over debris in the roads as that was a well-known tactic for disguising IEDs (improvised explosive devices, i.e., home-made bombs - which is one quirk that I'll probably never quite get past)...but we went pretty much where ever we wanted without (much) trepidation (especially on my part - I still have yet to be afraid here, disconcerted at times, but never afraid, but I'm not just talking about myself in this case). Now that the bombings are far less frequent, the nightly gun battles are a thing of the past, the destroyed buildings are being cleaned up, the stores are almost all open again, schools are running again, the power is back to better than pre-war we're not allowed to go outside of our neighborhood and a few other areas (mainly those which house the stores many of our people like to frequent) without special permission and a large amount of consultation.

It's so sad when we allow the terrorists to win by giving in to their fear tactics. Especially given that we're supposed to be showing that we're different from the others. That, because we put our faith in Him, we have no need to be afraid.

But what can you do?


I don't know the full extent of the debate going on in the States right now of should we or shouldn't we have gone into Iraq, but it sounds like it's pretty strong from what I read on the web. I don't know if any of you are people who need convincing, but let me tell you some of what I've seen and heard and my opinions based on those first-hand observations and second-hand tellings.

To me, whether or not Saddam had WMD on hand here in Iraq and was planning on using them is somewhat irrelevant. Now, the people here are convinced that he had them - they can even point out the mosques where he stored them (in violation of the Geneva Convention, I believe, but at the very least in violation of common decency). There is no doubt in the minds of the local people here that Saddam had WMD or that he was willing and ready to use them. Where they are now is anyone's guess, but that they existed in the recent past is common knowledge locally.

But like I said, I see that as irrelevant. The human rights travesties that Saddam perpetrated alone were enough, imo, to warrant the actions taken by the Coalition in invading, then occupying Iraq. "My" section of town is one that is predominantly Shia'a. That section has been basically cut off from public utilities (water, power, sewer) for the past 12 years (since the Shia'a uprising following the first Gulf War). What WATSAN they had was done as quickly as possible by the cheapest bidder using the lowest grade materials possible (they were given 2 months to replace the sewage system in Sadr City - which houses ~2 million of Baghdad's ~6 million people). Previously, there had been the chemical attacks against the Kurds in the north and the Shia'a in the south (resulting the mass graves that are still being unearthed). He had drained the marshland in the south simply to spite the Shia'a whose several-thousand-year-old culture was based on the marshes. This not only destroyed their culture and means of survival, but it has also affected the climate both in Iraq and in other countries like Kuwait. Medicines weren't included in the embargo against Iraq, but it was still next-to-impossible for many (especially those outside of Baghdad) to get them because Saddam would purposely store them in warehouses in Baghdad until they'd expired, then he'd have to burn them. I've heard countless stories of imprisionment, exhorbitant punishments - I've even seen videos of Saddam celebrating after he put explosives in a man's breast pocket, then watched as they were ignited.

Honestly, the only difference I see between Saddam and Hitler is that the world allowed Hitler to commit acts of genocide within his own population and didn't act to stop him until he began invading other countries, while the Coalition stepped in while Saddam was still "content" with just killing and harming his own people. But what if Hitler had been stopped when he was "content" to purge just Germany of the Jews? What if the world had stepped in before he began invading other countries? What if we (or someone) had said that it wasn't ok for him to murder his own nation's people and had stopped him at that point? What if we'd heard rumors that he was in the process of researching the a-bomb and acted based on that intelligence? It seems to me that it is only even possible to say that there was no reason for this war because we nipped Saddam in the bud BEFORE he'd had a chance to do anything to people outside of his own country.

The lives lost here haven't been in vain. We should have come because Saddam was (is) a horrible man who was commiting heinous acts on people. He needed to be stopped, whether he had WMD or not.

That mistakes have been made along the way is obviously true and it's very easy to see in hindsight what could and should have been done differently...but from my first-hand experience here and from the stories told me by local Iraqi people, if anything, we waited too long to act.

This, of course, opens the debate about whether or not we should become the "world's policeman" and if we have the right to impose our moral values on others...and I guess I'm gonna punt on that (for now) at least, except to say that some things are just wrong and should be stopped, regardless of who's doing them to whom and where.


One of my mom's favorite sayings is, "of all the things I've lost, I miss my mind the most." That seems to apply to me today. After my language lesson this morning, I was sitting, watching the Olympic coverage while eating lunch and I thought of something great to blog. I even thought through some of exactly what I was gonna say. But now, I can't even remember the general subject matter.

It might have had to do with the Iraqi boxer they interviewed (after he creamed some North Korean guy). He had to have been some version of a lightweight because he was tiny. He was sized so that normally I'd say that even _I_ could "take" him...but then again, he's also an Olympic boxer, so "maybe" he'd win. But still...he was like a little baby boxer. Anyway...he beat the socks off of a North Korean, and was being interviewed (in Arabic since this was the Kuwaiti sports channel) and I understood some of it! :) He was very happy and another word for very happy (one was the classical word and one was the local dialect word...not sure what the different connotations would be). Then he said something else about Iraq. Then he said that he hopes to win a medal for Iraq. (Iraqi word for medal? Medalia :) I'm learning a lot of the language from the sports coverage. It's kinda fun sometimes.

Iraq's soccer team played their third match last night. It didn't matter for Iraq because they'd won their previous two and had already gotten sufficient points to advance to the next round, but apparently it mattered to Morroco (their opponent). There were rumors that Iraq would put in its "B" team for the game, but I don't know the players to be able to tell you if that was the case. I was pretty disappointed though that Iraq lost the game. They got the first goal sometime in the second half, then Morroco scored soon after, then were given a penalty kick (or something - what I know about the rules of soccer could maybe fill a thimble. I know that you run back and forth chasing a ball that I always trip over, trying to kick it will accuracy (something else I was never able to do) into the net, other than that, I'm pretty well lost) and scored on that too. While I appreciate putting the second-string players in for a game that doesn't matter (so that they can say they played in the Olympics, etc.), I wish they'd played their best instead of letting the game go. In any case though, the Morrocan players didn't exactly look happy after the game either, so maybe they didn't score enough to advance which means that it was a wasted game all around.

Monday, August 16, 2004

Happy Anniversary!

Btw, the 16th was my parents' 35th wedding anniversary.

I've often thought about just exactly how "functional" my family is. We get frustrated with each other at times, but I don't know of any times (other than a few "drama queen" moments in my teenage years (and some of Beth's in her toddler years)) when we've even left a room in anger, muchless spent time with anyone "not speaking" to anyone else or "fighting." We're all far from perfect, but our family is one of the best I've ever known.

I've often thought about the ~Biblically-based proverb/adage/saying/axiom that "He'll never put more on you than you can handle." The Biblical text is referring specifically to temptation, but this is often generalized to cover other aspects of life. That made me wonder if God put my family and I together into this "perfect" group because we weren't strong enough to handle a "less perfect" situation. It also seemed to be a problem when I was first working with the youth at my church - many were from broken homes, or were in otherwise poor family circumstances. I couldn't relate at all.

But after a time, I guess I came to realize that the youth didn't necessarily need someone to relate to their problems or understand where they're coming from emotionally. They just needed someone to love them, and that my family had taught me very well how to do.

My family also gave me a strong foundation in Biblical living. They probably currently regret a little how well they taught me to follow His will for my life. ;p I dunno if He put us together as a family because we couldn't have handled life otherwise. Maybe He put me in that family because my "somewhat" strong personality would have led to my ruin in a less loving environment.

All I know is that they're the family that He gave to me and I'm eternally grateful for it. Thanks, Mommy and Daddy for supporting us in all the crazy things we've all done. Thanks for teaching us about the truly important things in life - God, family, country, and Star Wars/Trek. ;p But most of all, thanks for loving God, each other, and each of us so much!

Here's to another 35 years!

Your Wandering Daughter

Patsy Cline: "Crazy..."

This isn't something completely out of the blue as it's been building for some weeks now, but today, I woke up feeling rather antsy. It was like I was going to crawl out of my skin if I didn't go for a good run or do something else very athletic. I did my typical morning reading...then I did my normal exercises in the hopes that those would calm me down, but they didn't. Then I read "Little Women" some and when that didn't work, did 30 minutes on the exercise bike. That took it out of me for a few minutes, but not long I started running laps in the downstairs of my house. That didn't last very long as it _really_ spooked the cat (which was kinda fun ;p )...........but I thought it would be enough. Then I went up to my room to change into "real" clothes....and got a little too close to the footlocker where my baseball mitt and balls and volleyball were stored. So out they came. I tried throwing the baseball in the air a few times, but I realized that what I really wanted to do was throw _hard_, not just play catch with myself. So I pumped up my volleyball and went downstairs. The only place with a relatively high ceiling was under the stairs by the washing machine. It wasn't really enough room, but I was able to hit against the wall a few times. That kinda freaked the cat out too, but instead of hissing and running, he was enthralled....just scared of it. But he'd go chasing the ball anytime it'd get away from me. That was kinda funny.

After that, I finally got dressed....then played piano for a while (hoping _that_ would soothe me didn't)....then came into the office. I'm still pretty keyed up.

It's like "culture shock" finally really hit - 15 months into being overseas and 7 months before I go home....I feel like I'm going to explode if I don't get to play a game of volleyball. A _GOOD_ game (no jungle ball here!). I literally have a difficult time sitting still.

Please be thinking about me right now. I have no idea how to deal with this and it's a really big problem. About the only thing that seems to help is to do some type of physical exertion, but that only works for about half an hour, then it's back (and I can't exactly spend all day, every day in my house running laps). It's like the dam with which I pent up all of my athletic energy has burst and right now I'm awash in the desire to be able to run or play like I'd be able to in America, but which I can't do here.

And in the meantime, I'm going a little nuts....

Olympic Volleyball

I was a bit disappointed yesterday when I turned on the Olympics and found volleyball being shown. That sentence might strike many of you as a bit odd as volleyball is my favorite sport to play in the world and I play every chance I get (which has been never since I've been here :( ). But here's the explanation. It was some South American country (I want to say Argentina, but that doesn't sound right) against France (France got trounced). What struck me at first was that they were playing to 25, not 21, like "normal" regulation play. Then it hit me - they weren't using regular scoring either - the were using the dreaded "rally scoring."

In regular volleyball, you can only get a point if you served that particular volley. In rally scoring, a point is awarded after each volley, regardless of the team that served. It makes the game go faster, but takes away so much of the tension with side outs, etc.

So, boo to the IOC for using rally scoring in Olympic (indoor) Volleyball. I haven't seen an outdoor match yet, so maybe they're playing "right" there....but I doubt it.

Mourning our Loss

Yesterday, my father informed me of the passing of "my" first car - Charlie. He was a good car and had served our family well for many years. This 1979, blue, four-door Chevy Chevette was a gift to my family from the Woodfords back around 1988 or so. He travelled with us in 1990 when we moved to Nashville, and became the main car that my dad drove around in. When Jesse rolled our other blue Chevette ('78, 2-door), Charlie became his to drive. I think Charlie stayed with the family when Jesse went to college because we drove him up to Maryland that year during spring break (and he threw a rod on the way back). Daddy got the engine fixed/replaced/something, and Charlie became "mine." That's when he got his name. The three friends that I'd bring to school in the mornings and I would see who could name the singer the quickest on WAMB "The Music of Your Life" (mostly 40s and 50s crooners). That was pretty much the only station we listened to because he only had an AM radio, and the knob didn't work very well, so once you found a station, you pretty much were stuck with it. I got pretty good at knowing the difference between Frank Sinatra, Tony Bennet, Perry Como, and Andy Williams. I was never as good at the girl singers.

When I went to college, Charlie reverted to Jesse. At some point, one of his rear panels was replaced with a brown one, but he motored on...until a few days ago. He'd been burning oil pretty badly and the level hadn't been checked, so Charlie breathed his last.

Goodbye, Charlie. You were a good car. I hope you go to car heaven where there's oil aplenty and lots of people who like AM radio. We'll miss you.

Marching in Step

Oh my goodness....this is take V (at least) for this post. Four times, blogspot lost it, and once it disappeared as I was trying to "select all" so that I could copy it just in case blogspot was going to lose it again. Sigh....well, it's gotten a little better each time, so maybe that's the purpose behind this. Still frustrating though!

Anyway, Saturday night in house "club," we were studying the fruits of the Spirit (love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control) and a few verses beyond when I was struck by the NIV wording of Gal. 5:25:

Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit.

Coming from a marching band background (four years in high school, and two in college), this phrasing was especially poignant to me and made me realize how similar marching in a band is to the walk of a believer. Let me explain my metaphor. When you are a new marcher, it's often very difficult to stay in step with those around you. The most common method of doing so at that stage in your development is to look to the feet of those around you (and hopefully they're more experienced than you) and follow their lead. After a while though, you discover that you're relying less and less on other people's feet, and more and more on your newly-acquired "natural" instincts and on the music.

The walk of a believer is very similar to this. At the beginning, you look mostly to the lives of others around you to see how you should walk, but as you mature in your faith and understanding, you begin to rely less on their examples and more on your own knowledge and on the leading of the Spirit (which corresponds in this illustration to the music).

In a band, you've always got your particular section around you (the flutes in my case, but it corresponds to the small body of believers with whom you most closely associate - your Sunday School class, your cell group, a prayer group, etc.), and the other sections come and go as the show progresses. Sometimes you're close to the drum line (who provide a strong beat for you to follow), but sometimes they're far away. Sometimes the only feet nearby are those of that one baritone player who can't keep time to save his life and who, even after years of being in band and, you know, just living, has yet to learn his left from his right. He doesn't even play most of the time, he just holds his instrument and tries to look like he's playing his part. Sometimes the "A" side is out of step with the "B" side. Sometimes you have 24 counts to go from the 40 to the 5 while sustaining a note on your piccolo (wait...that really happened... ;p ).

But in any case, when you first begin, it's difficult to keep in step with those around you, and to stay in your proper formation, but as you mature in your faith and understanding, it gets easier.

Imo, the most interesting aspect of this illustration is that the individual marchers never get to see the "big picture" until after the show is over. They might know that at a given point they're supposed to be in a straight line or a curve, but it's only the judges in the press box and the directors who get to really see the whole show as it's meant to be seen.

You could even say that the judges (who judge your performance) and the senior director (who sits in the pressbox during rehearsals) are like the Father. The assistant director is like the Son because He came down to the "field" with the marchers to show them the way, but ends up in the press box with the senior director. The music, which is pervasive in all aspects of the marcher's walk, is like the Spirit since He's there with you, guiding you, even when the directors seem far away.*

All you preachers out there are welcome to use this as a sermon illustration sometime, just let me know because I'll think it's funny. :)

* Some might argue that the drum majors should represent the Spirit in this illustration, but if you've ever marched in a band, you know that no one ever really watches the drum major. ;p

Saturday, August 14, 2004


After seeing someone's comment (yay! my very first comment!!), I looked a little more closely at the "fine print" of my new web storage facility. Apparently there's not just a limit to how much I can upload to the site, there's also a limit to how much can be _downloaded_ from the site (in each 24-hour period) if you really want to hear/download the song and it didn't work, just try again a few hours (or days) later. I'm not sure if this is only for people who want to actually _download_ the song or if it's true for people listening to it too.

I may rethink using this particular site (or bite the bullet and actually _pay_ for it) because of this particular limitation.

Thursday, August 12, 2004


And btw, it's Perseids time! The Perseids is a yearly meteor "shower." The "shooting stars" are old parts of the comet Swift-Tuttle (I think) whose orbit around the Sun crosses that of the Earth. So, every year around the 11th of August, the Earth passes through the debris trail left by the comet. When the pieces (most dust-sized) enter the Earth's atmosphere (basically because, as they sit there, minding their own business, the Earth rams into them), they burn up, officially becoming meteors, but better known as "falling stars." A very, very few actually make it to the ground becoming meteorites, but this is exceedingly rare.

This group of meteors is called the "Perseids" because they appear to originate from the constellation Perseus. They'll travel in all directions from that ~point, but that's approximately where they'll seem to start from.

Anyway, you've missed the "peak" (although my sources say that it's been cloudy in TN at least, so you couldn't see them anyway), but there are still plenty that will be visible over the next few nights. Actually, the best time to see them is in the morning before the Sun rises since that's the time that the Earth is actually plowing into them the most for your part of the world, but you'll be able to catch some in the evenings too, after dark (unless it's a _really_ spectacular one!).

The best thing to do is get out from the cities, into an area with little light pollution and a good view of the sky (i.e., away from trees and tall buildings or anything else that would block your view), lie on your back, and look up! Don't use telescopes or binoculars as those severely limit your view. Don't try to focus on any one area of the sky, just sorta let your eyes wander over the infinite. It helps to have at least one buddy who will lie next to you and discuss with you the profound issues of life.

Just lie back and enjoy!

Go Figure

Go figure - it works...for me anyway...when I clicked the link, it downloaded the file to my "Temporary Internet Files." When it was finished doing that, it automatically opened the application I have to play .wav files, and it played.

Alternately (for PC users), you can right-click and "save target file as," saving it to your computer someplace. Just keep in mind that it's a 2.4 Mb file, so download and/or listen at your own risk.

Stewart: "Look what I can do!"

Ok...I'm not really sure what this is going to do, but I've managed to record and upload the song mentioned previously. It's called "I Wait," and I'm not sure what it'll do when you click on the link. I'll have to post this and test it out.

HTML, like network administration, is one of those things that I've tried to avoid learning so that I would never be called upon to "make web pages." Which makes it difficult for me when I'm making a web page.

Wednesday, August 11, 2004


I just signed up for some free space on the web, so this is mostly just to test out that I can, indeed, link to files from here. So (in sha'allh) here's a picture of me and the fam (sans brothers) at Hadrian's Wall in the north of England.

Also, Hotmail's upgrading or something funky, so just about daily I've been getting "delay notices" from them (saying that my outgoing messages were delayed in being sent to the recipient), and my incoming email seems to have dropped off noticably as well. So, I'm hoping that in a few days I'm gonna end up downloading the five hundred messages that people have lovingly sent me over the past few weeks that have just been sitting in the ether, waiting to actually be sent to me by Hotmail's servers.

But also, if you haven't heard from me in a while and expected to, it could be for several reasons:

  1. I'm a punk who never replies to email (probability 90%)
  2. Your original email got deleted by Hotmail when they started sending _everything_ to my junk email folder and I didn't realize it (probability 8%)
  3. Hotmail is sitting on your email and I haven't gotten it yet (probability <2%)
  4. I'm mad at you and am not ever going to speak to you again (probability <<<1%)

(Just kidding on #4 - I don't think anyone falls into that category at this time.)

So, please be patient while Microsoft (the bane of my existence) "deals" with the situation.

Sunday, August 08, 2004


Today my language tutor and I got into an interesting discussion. It began with her mentioning that she'd asked my boss' wife (the other person she tutors) whether or not Jesus drank wine. Drinking alcohol is strictly prohibited by Islamic law, but Jesus is one of their most highly-regarded prophets. I never really found out how that made her feel, but that discussion led us into one where she was talking about Jesus and the other person Muslims think will return one day - the 12th Imam - Imam Mehdi. What was interesting was that she kept calling Jesus "Messiah." I asked her if she knew what the name "Messiah" meant and she just said it was another name for Jesus (like a nickname), similar to the many variations of Mohammed (Ahmed, Hammed, Mahmoud, etc.). What was most interesting about that was that she believes that both Jesus Messiah and Imam Mehdi will come back one day to bring peace to the Earth - but she would never call Imam Mehdi "Messiah." Now, I'm no ancient Hebrew/Greek scholar, but my understanding is that "Messiah" means "savior" or "one who will save" so for that to be a name of Jesus, even in Islam - and _not_ be a name of Imam Mehdi who is expected to do the same thing - is somewhat telling.

One other thing that was rather interesting was that she said that until very recently, she wasn't even really aware of a difference between Christianity and Islam. Her Christian friends would come to the mosque with her, and she would go to the church with them. They were the same, they just prayed in different buildings. But something recently has awoken her awareness of the differences and now she's really curious to see what they are.

Anyway, our conversation ended with her asking for a book outlining, I guess the best way to describe it is as the practices of Christianity. I have friends who are very much into "contextualized" work, so they may be able to help me some. Their premise is that one does not have to become the Western idea of a "Christian" in order to be "saved." In fact, Jesus never said the "A, B, Cs" of "conversion" (accept that you're a sinner, believe Jesus died in your place, confess Jesus as Lord)...all He ever said was "follow me." So if you accept being "Muslim" as a culture instead of as a religion (similar to the difference between being Jewish in heritage while not actually being a practicing Jew) could continue to stay within their culture while following Jesus' teachings instead of Mohammed's. Anyway...they could help some, but another friend also just mentioned that either reading Paul's letters or even simply reading through the Sermon on the Mount (Matt. 5-7) would be the absolute best thing - basically, hearing it straight from the horse's mouth.

But I'm very excited about this. Please be thinking about Mahasin and our future conversations. Also, hope with me that the proper resources will be found to help her in her study, and that I'll wait for the right words from Him instead of just talking from my own knowledge or understanding.

One interesting by-product of this conversation was the fact that she'd already read the New Testament through. As far as I know, she's only been reading through it as "language study" with my boss' wife for a week or two...but she's already read it through completely. How sad is it that it takes many of us months or even years to read through the NT - and many Christians never actually _have_ read the whole thing - but a Muslim girl has read through it in a matter of days and is asking for more.

Anyway, her having read through _my_ Scriptures made me really want to be able that I'd read through hers. So, the Qur'an that I purchased many years ago is now going to be my "devotional" book for the next few months probably. I'll read about one surah (chapter) a day, depending on the length, so it'll take several months, but I'm gonna do it. I'll probably wait to re-read "The Purpose-Driven Life" until after I've finished with this, but will be doing some other studies in addition to this. I want to devote some time to reading this, but I don't want to take away from my other studies.

Anyway, I'll let you know what I think as I come across interesting things.

Melanie Hamilton Wilkes - the Literary Embodiment of Love

Yesterday I read the "Love" chapter of I Corinthians again (I Cor. 13) and saw it in a slightly different light than I'd seen it before. I could have quoted the "love is..."es to you when I was in elementary school, but I don't think I ever really paid much attention to them before.

Yesterday I noticed something about them though - most of them have to do with trust and/or endurance. They basically say that, if you truly love someone, you will trust that they would never play you falsely (...never jealous, ...suffers through a wrong, ...bears all things, ...believes all things, ...hopes all things, ...endures all things). It's almost like through Paul, He's saying "the ones you love _will_ hurt you...but if you truly love them, you must look past those hurts to the point that you don't even see their possibility."

This brought to my mind the only person I know who really epitomizes this kind of love - Melanie Hamilton Wilkes from the book Gone With the Wind. The people and things that she loves - Ashley, Scarlett, Rhett, the Cause, etc. - may do terrible things to her or to other people, but she always sees in them good motives and refuses to believe the bad things. When Ashley and Scarlett were "caught" in their first passionless embrace, she never believed that either of them could have been doing wrong because she loved both of them so much. Eventually, because she had such faith in them, and since the rest of the community loved her so much, many people came to believe that perhaps Scarlett and Ashley _had_ been blameless in the matter.

This seems like a very innocent look on life. You'd think that people who truly loved others in this manner would constantly be put upon and taken advantage of. Maybe they would. But what would the world be like if everyone lived this way? If everyone believed the best in people and never even thought of needing to forgive because you never even registered the offense?

I guess this comes down to our feeling of "rights." We feel that people who hurt us "owe" us an apology. We feel that we are "deserving" of fair treatment. But as believers, we're supposed to have recognized that we "deserve" nothing and have a "right" to nothing.

But that sense of "right" is hard to get past, isn't it? And it's _much_ easier to love someone perfectly when you're a character in a book than when you're a real, flesh and blood person.

I don't really have any epiphanies on how to live a life loving others perfectly...just the idea that maybe we should try.


Ok, some of you know that I'm a _HUGE_ Farscape fan. One of the things I retrieved from my parents during the trip to England was Farscape - The Complete Second Season which I've been watching recently. Well, being a little bored this afternoon, I decided to take a look at the Farscape website. In looking around, the mechandise page sent me to where I was _very_ happy to see that Farscape - The Complete Third Season is being released here shortly! I very quickly pre-ordered it (my family will send it to me along with Alias Season 3 when it comes out in September!). My websurfing also brought to my attention something which pleased me utterly - the SciFi Channel, after having callously ended the series with little notice and even less character and plot resolution, has decided to do a Farscape miniseries!! It comes out in October!! Yay!

See, this is the problem with updating you more frequently. In ~weekly emails, I was _far_ more focused on "important" things and less on just day to day living. I guess this'll give you a better idea of how we actually spend much of our time - we watch movies and TV shows. I now have in my possession the complete first season of Dark Angel, Seasons 1 & 2 of Alias, and Seasons 1 & 2 of Farscape. Also in the collections of co-workers are the first season of 24, the second season of The Shield, and the first season of Malcom in the Middle...not to mention various other shows that someone send video tapes of (LOTS of Law&Order). Alias is the company favorite, but I've suckered people into Dark Angel watching from time to time.

Why do we watch so many movies and so much television? Well, it's because we're confined, for the most part, to our neighborhood in the evenings and on our "weekend" (which is just Friday). Also, we have MBC's "Channel 2" (which I also watched in Kuwait - maybe I mentioned it to those of you who have been with me since the beginning). This is a station that shows movies and television shows from America, but with Arabic sub-titles. Oprah is a very big favorite of all of the Iraqi women. We watch that a lot, but it's one of very few options not in Arabic, so we resort to movies and DVDs of TV shows quite frequently (in addition to other activities).

We also buy many VCDs in the local markets. These are illegal copies of movies, often taken from someone's camcorder that they carried into a theater (copyright actually means "right to copy," right?). The advantage is that, within a day or two of a movie coming out in the States, we can watch it here too! We even have a projector that we can hook up to a computer so that we can see movies on a "big screen" (usually the wall or a white board). The problem with these is that you never know the quality of the copy prior to purchase, so sometimes you pay all of $4 for a movie that gets blurry sometimes or doesn't have good sound quality. But sometimes you get pretty good quality, especially on older movies where they just copied straight from the licensed DVD.

Since being here, I've also learned how to download movies, tv show episodes, and applications from the web. It's good to "work" overseas! ;p

Anyway, I'm excited about Farscape! I'd ask someone to record the miniseries for me, except that I want to watch all of Season 4 first and who knows when the complete season will come out.

Wednesday, August 04, 2004

Book Reviews

A few days ago, I promised you book reviews of "The Purpose-Driven Life" by Rick Warren and "A Faith That Breathes" by Michael Ross. Well, I'll not only give you my impressions of those two, but also of "Signs" by Michael W. Smith (which I fnished this morning).

I'm not a big fan of anything that smacks of "fad." For instance, I never touched anything that had the Prayer of Jabez on it. And if there is a current "fad" in religious circles (other than CPM or p-walking), it's "purpose-driven." You can buy Purpose-Driven The Wall Calendar, The Journal, and even The Childrens' Book! So, needless to say, I was a little reticent to read this book, and even moreso to use it in my daily devotional time. But I did. One reason was to continue learning with my home church who went through "40 Days of Purpose" together last fall, but also, I was pretty curious. Was it mindless "God loves you" drivel that sadly is found too often on our christian bookstore shelves? Or was is actually a meaningful and useful theological work?

Well, while I continue to chafe at the "fad" aspect of it, I have to tell you that it was a thought-provoking, Biblically-based work. There was a little more self-promotion than I like (buy my journal to write your thoughts about this in - your own paper isn't good enough - you need mine!), but other than that, it was useful to me in many ways. It also wasn't ground-breaking. I don't think I had any great epiphanies of faith as a result of reading this book...but it was very useful. And that's about all I can say about it right now. It made me think...but I'm not sure that I can make any judgements on it yet. I was surprised with how much I enjoyed it and got from it. So I'm gonna read it again when I finish with my current books and see how much more I glean the second time. All in all though, this was a surprisingly good read and I would recommend it, even though I might not recommend the P-D Journal or Wall Calendar. (And for those few of you who, like me, just thought of proportional-derivative're a geek too!)

"A Faith That Breathes" is definitely geared toward the teen crowd, but it was similarly good. It had a devotional by Michael Ross, followed by a related story or interview with a Contemporary Christian Music artist or band. Tommy, I recommend it as a small group study for the youth.

"Signs" was enjoyable for a different reason. It was written by Michael W. Smith - my favorite musician. It's also mostly geared towards teens, but it's really meant for people who know his unless you have the words to his songs handy (or have them memorized like me), you might not get everything that's said, but it's still really good.

All in all, I was pleasantly surprised with all three of these books. "Faith" and "Signs," I wouldn't do again, mostly because they were really meant for a younger crowd, but I'm gonna do PD again.

Those aren't really terribly insightful book reviews, looking back on them...but oh well.

Alan Keyes!!!

Ok, I'm not a big fan of folks like Mrs. Clinton who move to a state simply to run for office there...but at the same time, if I lived in Illinois and had the opportunity to vote for Alan Keyes as my US Senator, even though he's from Maryland and could continue to officially live there until as late as election day according to Illinois state law, I'd have a hard time _not_ voting for him! The man who never had a serious chance in MD (we're stuck with Babs and Paul until they die for no apparent reason) could maybe find a place where he could be heard and where he could get needed experience in the federal government prior to another run for the presidency, say in 2008 or 2012!!

Nothing at all against Ms. Barthwell, but I've been a Keyes fan for a long time and would like to see him get some more recognition on the national stage.

Anyway...back to your regularly scheduled programming...

Cultural Note

I've mentioned "Oom" so-and-so several times in my posts and my emails and just realized that it might be good to explain what I'm saying. In this culture, you name your child when he/she is born and they go by that name until they have their first child. At that point they become "Mother of" (Oom) or "Father of" (Abu) their oldest child. In Muslim homes, the parents typically go by the name of their oldest son (if there _is_ a son), and in Christian homes, they go by the name of their oldest child (regardless of sex). So, if you were one of my parents, you would be called either Abu Jesse or Oom Jesse, depending on if you were my dad or my mom. So, my neighbor, Oom Dhoha, is Dhoha's mom. They're Muslim, but they only had daughters, so she and her husband stayed Oom and Abu Dhoha.

So that's your cultural lesson for the day. :)

Tuesday, August 03, 2004

Whiney Baby

Sorry about the whininess earlier. I was "slightly" disappointed that I didn't get to watch the launch live via the web...but after being hit over the head a few more times with the sledgehammer that is "it's not all about you," I'm doing a little bit better. You'd think that after leaving my old life almost a year and a half ago, I'd have given it all up by now...but obviously you'd be wrong. Instead of celebrating a flawless launch, I'm mad because I didn't get to see it as it was happening. I'm also a little mad because Bruce, my roommate's cat, got into the cabinet and chewed through half a package of pepperoni that my mom mailed over to me. Fortunately, he left the bacon bits alone, or we'd be having words.

Anyway, congrats to the MESSENGER Team for their hard work! I'm glad I got to be one of you, even for just a short time. I wish I were there with you celebrating, but apparently there is a reason for me to be here instead. Have a round of Shirley Temples on me (just remember, ginger ale, not Sprite) and save me a seat for STEREO and/or New Horizons! :)

Fly, baby, fly...

Well, NASA TV will never ever get my vote for anything. They didn't show the launch. Well, they _did_, but on some other transponder that isn't broadcast to the web. I didn't get to see it.

But as of the last Virtual Launch Control Center update, it launched at 2:15:56.537 a.m. EDT, with the three air-lit strap-on solid rockets being jettisoned 3 minutes later, first stage separation happening two minutes after that, followed by the 2nd stage cut off at 2:24. They're entering a coasting phase before the third stage is ignited.

I'm sure there'll be a news story and press release later on about its status. But I think I'm going to go home and cry for a while now.

Monday, August 02, 2004

Still Employed

Well, if you were worried, you can stop now. After almost three hours - but miraculously, no tears - I still have a job. And possibly even a better relationship with my bosses. And a _definite_ plan for going back out to "my" part of town over the next few months. So now the "hope" is that this plan will actually happen, specifically the logistics of getting a driver to actually drive us out there.


Well, I guess there's an up-side to MESSENGER not launching today. I was so keyed up that my workout was really easy, and I did more than normal - even 10 full minutes on the exercise bike! :)

But if any of you, my faithful readers, are awake right now and happen to be checking this, be thinking of me over the next hour or so. I'm undergoing my "mid-term" evaluation (it's almost 5 months late). It should be fun! Or, you know, not at all...


Oh well, the launch was scrubbed for today due to clouds from Tropical Storm Alex. The launch coverage on NASA Direct will start up again tomorrow at 12AM (midnight) EDT (that's 8AM for me), with the 12-second launch window opening at 2:15:56AM EDT. So basically, same bat-time, same bat-channel, just 24 hours later. Be hoping for good weather tomorrow because I don't know how many more times I can go through this! Too much adrenaline...and I'm 7000 mi. away! Keep in mind all of my friends who are in FL and at APL right now, that they'll get good rest tonight and be ready for another launch attempt tomorrow!

Launch Coverage

I'm watching the live coverage of the MESSENGER launch right now. You can be watching too either on the NASA TV channel (available to some cable and satellite owners) or online at: It's not terribly exciting right now because they're just running through the final checks, but it's about to get really exciting really soon, assuming that Tropical Storm Alex doesn't interfere. Be looking for my former boss, Clay - he's somewhere in the control room. So far I haven't been able to recognize the back of his head. They _have_ interviewed a couple of people I knew though.

So "hope" that Alex's clouds are "transparent" and that everything else goes off without a hitch!