Monday, October 30, 2006

journey through the center of the earth

Our son is now in southeast Baghdad. I was just thinking that he is halfway around the world. Wait a minute. Since he is eight hours ahead, that would mean he is a third of the way around the world. Or does it? All this raises three interrelated questions.

Question #1: Where is halfway around the world? Since I am in the northern and western hemispheres of the earth, it must be somewhere in the southern and eastern hemispheres. To be more precise, if my current latitude and longitude is 44o35’42”N and 75o09’53”W, and if I were to journey through the exact center of the earth, then I would resurface at 44o35’42"S and 104o50’07”E (i.e., 180o - current longitude).

I would not want to do this. The shortest route, through the center of the earth, would be about 7,900 miles. However, the molten magma would make the Lake of Fire seem like a vacation resort by comparison.

Suppose I flew there as the crow flies? It would be about 12,450 miles to other side of the earth. Although the journey would be less unpleasant, I would still not enjoy the destination. It is in the southern Indian Ocean, about 900 miles southwest of the most southwest corner of Australia. It is in the part of the world called the Roaring Forties, a very cold place with very boisterous winds and very rough seas. I have seen videos of sailing ships traversing this area. It did not look like fun.

Question #2: How far around the world is my son? My son is about 5,380 miles away, only about two-ninths or 22% of the way around the world.

Being less than a quarter of the way around the world makes him seem a lot closer, doesn’t it? Two-ninths of the way around the world sounds even better.

Question #3: Why did I bother with this? Well, this sort of post happens when I bring my laptop to class while students are taking a test. Although not quite as bad as watching paint dry, watching students taking a test is still pretty boring. Random thoughts happen and I had time on my hands to explore them.

Be blessed!
RB

Saturday, October 28, 2006

the father of invention

I knew that I would have to go into work today. I missed a day and a half this week; things are past due; I have no choice.

I knew this when I woke up this morning. I went downstairs and saw that everything was laid out perfectly on the counter for my breakfast. Scanning from right to left, I saw sitting near each other the packets of instant oatmeal, the fresh-brewed coffee in the coffee pot, and the teapot with steaming hot water. I poured a cup of coffee. I pulled a bowl out of the cupboard. I opened the last packet of my favorite type of instant oatmeal, Quaker Maple & Brown Sugar Oatmeal Crunch, and emptied the contents into the bowl. This has an extra “cluster packet” of crunchy things to put on top. I don’t know what they are but they taste great. This morning I went ahead and added the crunchies on top of the oatmeal mix instead of waiting until after the hot water.

If I had to spend a whole Saturday in the office, I wanted to treat myself to the best. Today, there would be no Food Club instant oatmeal for me!

Next I grabbed the pot and poured just the right amount over the mix so as to obtain the optimal consistency for my oatmeal. My favorite part of the breakfast creation process comes next. I stand and watch the dull, off-white mix expand and metamorphose into a lovely, light caramel color as the brown sugar melts and is absorbed into the oatmeal. Soon after, the fragrance of the unique blend of flavors begins to rise and I slowly breathe it in. Finally, I take the creation into the dining room to sit and eat, enjoying not only the taste, but experiencing the comfort and warmth it brings forth after being consumed.

To properly and completely enjoy Quaker Maple & Brown Sugar Oatmeal Crunch, one must involve all the senses.

However, this morning was different. After I poured just the right amount over the oatmeal mix, I noticed the metamorphic process not only had happened quite suddenly, but that the lovely light caramel color was decidedly darker.

To my horror, it slowly dawned upon me that something was amiss. My quick-as-thunder mind came to the realization that it was quite possible I had not picked up the teapot, but had instead grabbed the pot of coffee. After a minute or so of staring in disbelief at my bowl of very dark brown oatmeal, the full extent of this tragedy began to intrude upon my consciousness. This was more than a loss of instant oatmeal. I had already added the cluster packet. I had lost my tasty crunchies to the coffee!

What to do? I could put it down the garbage disposal. However, I could not bring myself to throw out Quaker Maple & Brown Sugar Oatmeal Crunch, especially if it included the beloved cluster packet. So what the heck, I decided to eat it. I had lost any desire for breakfast anyway. I might as well just fill my stomach and go to the office. You know, buck up and get on with life, that sort of thing.

Actually, it was not bad. I had invented coffee-favored oatmeal. After all, there is coffee-flavored ice-cream and coffee-flavored candy, why not oatmeal?

Yes, I am the inventor of coffee-flavored instant oatmeal. Feel free to try it, but remember to always give credit to whom credit is due. (That be me.) The next time I make it I think I will use the Food Club plain or brown sugar oatmeal mix. It is a waste of the good stuff to mix it with coffee, but coffee could really add value to the cheap stuff.

Yes, there is a lesson to be learned from this story:

Necessity is the mother of invention. Stupidity may well be the father.

Be blessed!
RB

Friday, October 27, 2006

correction

There is a 1-61 CAV. It was activated in 2004 as part of the 506th RCT in the 101st Airborne's 4th Brigade. However, the army never activated a 2-61 CAV. Both the 1-61 and 3-61 CAV's are recon/scout units for their brigades. I know this doesn't matter but it does indicate that the numbering and "history" is rather arbitrary.

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

it’s the army. it doesn’t have to make sense.

Our 2LT’s unit's full name: 2nd Infantry Division (2ID), 2nd Brigade Combat Team (2BCT), 61st Cavalry Regiment, 3rd Squadron, Alpha (A) Troop.

So he is in the 3-61st of the 2-2. I think it is just called the 3-61st CAV

In the cavalry, soldiers are called troopers. Also, they use the term squadron rather than battalion, and troop rather than company.

This can be confusing even for someone familiar with army terms. What I found confusing for a long time was that I looked for a logic when there is no logic to the regiment or battalion/squadron numbers. Did you know that there are no 1st, 2nd, or 4th squadrons in the 61st Cav? Only the 3rd. (Is this in case they are captured, maybe the enemy will think there are at least two more squadrons around?)

The 61st is a new regiment formed just last December but they took the number from a deactivated WWII regiment. Even more bizarre, the WWII regiment was called the 601st but for some reason they took out the zero last year when reactivated. Stranger still, the 601st were called "Tank Destroyers." The new 61st is a scout regiment and has nothing more powerful than a 50-caliber machine gun mounted on a humvee. If they see a bad-guy tank, they have to nicely ask someone else to destroy it. If the bad-guy tank sees them then they are, to use a military term, screwed. But then if they are recon scouts who have done their jobs right, then the bad guys are not supposed to see them. This does provide a real incentive to do one’s job well.

As near as I can figure out, all the 601st and 61st have in common is that the officers and troopers are in armor branch of the army and not the infantry branch.

For the past fifty-plus years the 2ID has been headquartered in Korea. It still is. However, now only the 1st Brigade (1BCT) is there. For years, the 3rd Brigade (3BCT) and the 4th Brigade (4BCT) have been posted at Ft. Lewis, Washington when not deployed. Although, our 2LT did not join the 2nd Brigade (2BCT) until January of this year, the 2BCT left Korea two years ago to be deployed to Iraq, then was posted at Ft. Carson, Colorado last year, but they are now on their way to Iraq this year.

Confused?

As our 2LT has told me many, many times, "It's the army. It doesn't have to make sense."

Our 2LT is a platoon leader. Cav platoons, particularly scout platoons, are smaller than other platoons in the army. There are just 20 in his platoon and they patrol in four humvees, each mounted with a 50-caliber machine gun.

Well, at least he is in A-Troop and not F-Troop.

To see a page of coats of arms, crests, and links for the 3-61st CAV and the 2-2, please go to my 3-61st page.

Be blessed!
RB

P.S. If you look closely at the coat of arms for the 61st CAV, you'll see a panther with the remains of a crushed tank in its mouth. This is to recognize the unit's historical roots as tank destroyers in WWII.


Tuesday, October 24, 2006

a call from kuwait

I just received a call from a certain army 2LT who is in Kuwait. He has been stuck in the middle of the desert for two weeks, at a very large base with nothing much to do. He's supposed to be in Iraq in the next couple of days, at large base just east of Baghdad. This base is a former Iraqi War/Staff College, sometimes called the West Point of Iraq. I find that a bit funny given how eager he was to escape West Point on the Hudson . What is also strange is that I can use Google Earth and get very detailed aerial photos of this place.

Friday, October 20, 2006

back to financial matters

Dave Ramsay has a free on-line newsletter that is kind of fun. You can sign up on his site (see the middle of page, under "Real Content and Real-Life Stories").

You can also get a free online credit report once a year from one or more of three credit rating companies (Equifax, TransUnion, Experian). Since it is SLU's midsemester break and I was zero-tasking, I got all of mine. I liked Experian best for its detail. It gave the payment history by month for the past two years for each account. It also had a list of when companies had requested my credit history. (That was a bit disconcerting.)

For $7.95 I could have found out my credit score. However, that was about $7.89 more than it was worth to me.

Be blessed!
RB

P.S. Yesterday's column by Walter Mossberg in The Wall Street Journal (page B1) was about the new Internet Explorer (IE 7). Although most of the article was about about how IE was just catching up (or rather closing the gap a little) with the much better Firefox browser, he did state for those using IE that the update was a big and worthwhile improvement.

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

blogs and newsfeeds

I have been following a lot of blogs. It started out with blogs of certain people, mostly in church. Then it went to other people in church, then their kids, and then even other youth in church. It doesn't seem to matter if the blogger is young or old, but occassionally I get provoked, challenged, or uplifted by what folks write. I am still mulling over things people wrote last July and August!

I just counted the blogs I watch. I have over forty xanga sites to which I subscribe. I also have over two dozen non-xanga blogs (e.g., blogger, livejournal, etc.) I like to keep up with.

I really do not have time to check 70-plus blogs on a regular basis. I can't imagine anyone else would either. Only a handful actually have new content added on any given day.

I get a daily email update from xanga with all the new posts from subscribed sites. Typically there are a half dozen or so new xanga posts. The last couple of days have had closer to ten or eleven, but often there are only a few.

The other, non-xanga blogs have newsfeeds. All I have to do is open my browser, click a button or two and it checks for updates. Usually there are only three to five updates on any given day. That also includes newsfeeds from photo pages of family and friends on flicker and webshots in addition to blogs. (BTW, xanga sites also have newsfeeds.)

So instead of checking about 80 photo and blog sites, I only need to check the ten or so that actually have anything new.

I am very grateful for technology!

Internet Explorer 7 is now available to download. It has a newsfeed function built into it so that it is easy to get a newsfeed for a site and to check your personal collection of newsfeeds for updates.

I prefer Mozilla Firefox as a browser since it is much more customizable than IE. I use an add-on program, Sage, to handle my newsfeeds.

You might want to try newsfeeds. It is much easier than going to Louisa's site and clicking on all her links!

Be blessed!
RB

Monday, October 16, 2006

for that great dodger in the sky

For those of you who bleed Dodger blue, and for the rest of you who should, I have added a Los Angeles Dodgers links page to my personal website. There are a lot of links to articles and videos. Included is a great ESPN clip with former Dodger skipper Tommy Lasorda explaining to a distraught Red Sox fan what the post season is all about. There is also a very interesting section about the famous Bobby Thomson home run and how it may not have been such a miracle.

Be blessed!
RB

Sunday, October 15, 2006

my satanic worship

This morning as worship was just beginning, during the first moments of the very first song, I sensed, “What else have you been worshiping besides Me?” Whoa, what does this mean? I had been down this week, discouraged by my sins and their consequences not only for me, but also for those I love. I despaired of my lack of effectiveness, my lack of ability, my lack of talent, and my overall pathetic lack of progress in the so-called sanctification process. Oh yeah, the absence of any significant positive fruit in my life also bummed me out.

Have you ever felt like this? Have you ever over indulged in regret and despaired of sin?

Please stay with me here. This may not be easy to get across, so you really will have to pay attention.

I realized that I had been worshiping my sin, my failures, and my abundant lackings. In my despair, I had been bowing down before the works of sin. I had been worshiping what Satan had placed before me. They were very real things, but my despair over these things was really the equivalent of falling on my knees and bowing down to them.

In fact, I had been partaking in a form of satanic worship.

The Lord is a jealous God and does not want me worshiping anything or anyone else. He does not want me to worship Him on Sunday when I spent Friday and Saturday, and may well spend Monday, reciting my satanic verses of praise for the works of another. The Lord does not want to share my worship. He will not settle for some of it.

It is only by His grace that I can come boldly before His throne. Yet I was denying His grace, the grace in which I live, by exalting, and thereby worshipping, sin and a dead man. Grace has covered my sin; grace has made me dead to sin. That I am a child of God in right standing before God is a fact, a completed work, and a permanent condition: a result only, and completely, due to grace.

What I thought was regret, my despair transformed into idolatry. What I thought was contrition, became in despair my satanic worship.

It makes no sense to worship the God of grace while exalting what grace has already destroyed.

If you ever have trouble worshipping the great I AM, just sing a few lines of Amazing Grace. Worship gets very easy after that.

Be blessed!
RB

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

waiting

I Will Wait is a wonderful worship song by Jason Upton. It is one of my favorites. Last time I heard it, actually Sunday morning, I had to stop and think about what it means to wait for Jesus or to wait for God.

Before I go on, I must note that the rest of this has nothing to do with the song.

We can wait upon; we can wait for; we can wait with. What difference does the preposition make? What are the different connotations of each usage? When you say you are waiting for someone, there are a number of possible connotations. What I picture is that the person being waited for is not yet there. Most often the implication is that you are waiting for the person to show up. Waiting upon someone could mean the same as to wait for or it could mean waiting for something to happen or waiting for someone to do something. When you are waiting with someone, it definitely implies that you are not waiting alone.

For me, there is a big difference between waiting for Jesus and waiting with Jesus. You see, I am seated in heaven with Christ Jesus (Ephesians 2:6). My body is the temple of the Holy Spirit. God lives within me. God’s presence is always with me. I should never be waiting for God to show up since he is already with me.

We sometimes hear or read about entering God’s presence. If you are a believer, then you live and breathe, you exist, in God’s presence. God’s presence in the believer is not an emotion. It is not a sense or feeling. It is a fact. It is not a sometime thing. It is a permanent condition. Whether you know it or not, does not change the reality.

Doesn’t the Bible tell us to wait for God? Not in the NT, at least not after Acts 1:4. I checked. After the Holy Spirit came, each NT instance of waiting refers to the Second Coming.

Why am I being so picky about a word? Why make a big deal about using for or with? Because I do not always remember that God is with me. I do not always recognize or sense God’s presence even though the Word promises that He is always with me. In fact, it is all too easy for me to be blind to the reality of God’s presence. If so, then if I view myself as waiting for God in a particular circumstance, then I may start thinking of God as being far off, that I am alone.

Now if you are among the less than one percent of Christians that have no trouble always realizing and remembering that God will never leave you nor forsake you, who never ever feel alone, then never mind. The word usage does not matter.

As for me, it is a whole lot easier, a whole lot more comforting, and a whole lot more faith-building, to remember that I am waiting with Jesus than to think of waiting for him to show up.

If you are a young mother, tired, frustrated, and worn out caring for a number of children, might you have a better attitude, might you have more faith, might it be a bit easier to make it through the day, if you constantly realized that Jesus is right there with you? That He is experiencing exactly what you are experiencing? That you are not sticking it out, waiting for God to show up, but that He is right there waiting with you?

It is not only an emotionally good thing, it is the absolute truth of the situation.

Be blessed!
RB

Saturday, October 7, 2006

why be taken seriously?

I’m on a mailing list for a newsletter sent out by a family doing m-work in SW China. Their burden is outreach to the Hui people (Chinese Muslims). The latest newsletter noted that they had met a number of Hui who had traveled to England, Europe, and North America for university education. These Muslim friends returning to China say they never had a Christian talk to them about Jesus.

That would be me. Muslims take spiritual matters very seriously, probably are interested in spiritual matters, and therefore are in a sense open to at least discussing our different beliefs. Last June when visiting a Hui village in Yunnan Province, I had a scholar/teacher basically ask me for my testimony. After overcoming my initial shock, I was able to share. He then shared how he came to follow Islam which led to all in our group sharing. I’ve seldom seen or been part of such an open, two-way conversation before.

Therefore, to him who knows to do good, and does not do it, to him it s sin.
~ James 4:17

Why are we so afraid that we will offend? The thing is, they know we’re holding out on them by not sharing. In my case, don’t you think it a bit weird that to get me to share I had to be inside a mosque and be put on the spot by a mosque official?

Wednesday, October 4, 2006

pics from early september

One of our sons is leaving this month on a government-sponsored, all-expense-paid trip to Iraq. He was able to visit us early last month and we had a bit of a family reunion over Labor Day weekend. That is, all the the kids were home. This was the first time we've all been together since last Thanksgiving and probably will not occur again for more than a year. I finally got around to posting a bunch of pictures here.

Be blessed!
RB

P.S. One person is included in 25 of 29 pictures. Can you guess who that photogenic person might be?

Tuesday, October 3, 2006

video: the church you know

a funny video on tithing and giving.

Monday, October 2, 2006

at six months

Grandpa gave a test in his Friday classes so he was able to have a long weekend and take a quick trip to visit Rich, Stephanie, and Lois at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary. Miss Lois (a.k.a., Warrior Princess Sweet Pea) was six months old on Friday and who, despite being born in Boston and being a lifelong resident of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, is not a communist.

Grandpa tried to be helpful by offering to change her diaper Friday morning. He has had four kids and ought to know how. However, he forgot that Miss Lois was now into solid food. He quickly discovered the content was much larger, much messier, and much, much more odoriferous than expected. Having opened the diaper, he was past the point of no return, and he committed to the task at hand. In fact, it got all over his hand, the changing table, and what have you. Fortunately it was bath time, so what he didn'’t get off her, the bath did.

Late that afternoon Miss Lois and her grandpa went for a long walk and discovered a playground with swings. So Lois went on her first real, outdoor-playground swing ride. Grandpa held her in the swing as high as his shoulders and let her go. She squealed and laughed, thoroughly enjoying it. Since he is 6'’4" this must be some sort of playground-swing altitude record for a six-month old. They can have a lot of fun if mom and dad are not around to object.

Friday evening grandpa was very relaxed, quite content with not a care in the world, even mildly euphoric. For him, hanging out with babies is better than drugs. (I am being quite serious.)

It was a gorgeous day on Saturday. Everyone went to nearby Singing Beach at Manchester-on-the-Sea, where the sand makes a sound (singing?) if you shuffle your feet as you walk.

Pictures of Miss Lois and her guest from last weekend are posted here .

Be blessed!
RB