Once again, it's been a while. I'll try to be fairly to the point:

  • I visited Daniel in SF back in September. We ate well, enjoyed the city, toured Sonoma Valley tasting wine, and had a really good time.
  • The orange bug is officially for sale. I think I have it listed too high. I have had 2 people supposedly interested in it but both have flaked out in one way or another.
  • My cousin, her husband, their 3 boys (5 years old, 2 years old, 7 months old), and my aunt and uncle came to visit from St. Louis. Cousin and hubby took the weekend to enjoy LA while the rest of us watched the boys. Jack (the 5 year old) and I hung out a lot over the weekend and really had a good time. He was sad when they had to leave. I was too. This experience has caused me to re-evaluate my "live on a boat, have a dog" plan for the future.
  • I decided to get my PhD. I would like to teach some day and, to be honest, the prestige has some appeal as well. I talked to the academic advisor at USC and my GPA is not high enough to be admitted. I realized I need a break from academia for a while and focus on my career instead. I decided not to get my PhD (not immediately anyway).
  • I took my midterm a couple weeks ago. I did less than average. In my opinion the grading was unnecessarily harsh. I talked to the professor and he agreed and gave me 20 points back (out of 200). My grade is now above average.
  • Daniel came home last weekend to visit and made a Mexican feast (he likes to show off his new-found talents each time he comes home). This included carnitas, which was amazing but no-one in the family should eat for health reasons. Oh well.
  • Sanctify! has been studying Matthew. It's a great book and we're taking a much different approach than Ephesians or Amos. I like the overview feel but kind of miss dissecting the details since I'm very detail-oriented.

That is all for now.

Quick update

I meant to blog about my motorcycle day-trip my dad and I took a couple weeks ago but it got past me until now. It happened to be the hottest day in SoCal that I can remember but we had a blast. We rode up into the San Gabriel mountains, ate lunch at a biker bar on the Angeles Crest Highway, and on the way back down took a detour. The scenery was amazing, the twisties were fun, the food was really good (I got chili) and we got to ride through a few tunnels - which is always fun. All in all it was about a 150-mile day and very rewarding. Silly me forgot to take the digicam though.

I'm leaving this weekend to visit my brother Daniel in San Francisco. He said it's the beginning of the crush (the season in which wineries pressa da grapes) so we'll probably rent a car and head up that way for a day. I'm pretty excited - San Francisco is one of my favorite places to visit and I always enjoy hanging out with Daniel.

School is going well this semester. I turned in my first homework assignment yesterday, which I completed with little incident or gnashing of teeth. I'm already three weeks in and don't hate the class/the professor/my life, which is a very good sign.

It has begun...

Yesterday afternoon, I had my first class of the semester. This semester I am only taking one class - EE567: Introduction to Communication Systems. This will be class #8/9 towards my Master's degree. My initial thoughts and impressions:

  • This class will be more practically oriented than most of my classes so far. This is good - too much abstraction makes my head swim and "theory" is not my cup of tea.
  • This class will stretch me a bit as it takes a very global view of Communications. I am a detail-oriented person. I think it will be good as I have more and more realized that a "big picture" view is very important.
  • This class is very relevant to what my department at work does. I should become a better and more knowledgeable employee as a result of what I learn.

As I am now back on fellowship status and schedule, I only have to work 24 hours a week. This will give me plenty of time to focus on studying and homework.

I have resolved a couple things in the last few weeks. Firstly, I will no longer use my computer at home during the week (unless I truly have a need). I have found that I spend a lot of time doing mostly useless crap and my time could be better optimized. Besides, I probably get enough eyestrain spending 9 hours a day on the computer at work. The others relate to the above: I plan to use the extra time to exercise (more about that in my health blog) and practice guitar. I also need to step up my commitment level to Bible study. I do prepare, but it is almost always the night before or the day of rather than a continual absorption. I am certainly getting something out of it, but feel I would get more out of it if I actually did some every day.

Planet Earth

I purchased Planet Earth on Blu-Ray and it was delivered yesterday. As such, I watched a couple episodes last night. The show is a nature documentary produced by BBC and filmed almost entirely in High Definition. Over 2000 days of filming went into the final production and much of the footage is of events and animals that have never been captured on film. There is quite a bit of very impressive time-lapse photography as well.

After watching, I was in complete awe and appreciation of God's creation and ingenuity. I highly recommend the series.

Thoughts on Ephesians

Culture of the Ephesians:

  • Ephesus was wealthy and populous. It was a trading hub located near the coast.
  • Ephesians were superstitious and magically oriented. They worshiped many gods (primarily Artemis) and had many spells and incantations that steered their daily lives. Even the Jews probably took part in this to a degree.
  • Ephesus was diverse and tolerant. In addition to the predominant Gentile population, there was a significant minority of Jews. Both groups were amiable to each other.

Opening of Paul's letter to the Ephesians:

  • Paul tells the Ephesians (and us) of the blessing bestowed upon them (and us) by the Father: the predestination to adoption into His family.
  • We have been given an inheritance - the adoption mentioned earlier. We have been guaranteed the eventual acquisition of this inheritance by the Holy Spirit.

Thoughts on predestination:

  • This is a hugely debated topic. Many Christians battle over "Free-will vs. predestination."
  • Many volumes could be (and have been) written on Ephesians 1:3-14 and we will never understand 100%.
  • When examined in comparison to Israel of the Old Testament (Yahweh's Chosen People) perhaps it should be seen as more of a "predestination of the church" rather than "predestination of individuals." Our highly individualistic society makes this line of thought less than intuitive.

Who has your name?

LogoThere are 2 people with my name in the U.S.A.
How many have your name?

Pretty rare. I'd be curious to know what everyone else has - comment me if you check it out!


Over the weekend, I had the opportunity to eat at a couple pretty good restaurants.

Friday night the family and I went to Skooby's in Hermosa Beach. I got a double burger and an Arrogant Bastard ale. It's probably the best burger I've had in California. Being a good Midwestern boy, I grew up on flat grilled burgers. None of this charbroiled rubbish for me! At any rate, Skooby's serves a great burger, homemade fries, and the beer just topped it off.

Saturday evening we got take-out from Hickory Pit BBQ in Torrance (SE corner of Torrance and Western in Hermosa Beach). It was also quite good. I got a rib platter and we split our sides (potato salad, coleslaw, and baked beans). The ribs were a bit sauce-heavy but that's easily remedied with the side of a fork.

5 things about Jesus

  1. He never gives me more than I can handle. This happens in my physical, emotional, and spiritual life - sometimes simultaneously. When I find myself saying "I absolutely can not take any more" I get some sort of relief, even if it is small.
  2. He has blessed my relationships with my family. My mother, father, and brothers are the people to whom I am closest with. I would lay down in the street for any one of them and am confident they would do the same for me and each other. I see so much brokenness and pain in other peoples' relationships with their families and feel extremely fortunate.
  3. His teachings are timeless and valuable. This is most evident to Christians. However, no matter what faith one has, it cannot be denied that if one were to follow the teachings and example of Jesus, they would be seen as a good person and would positively impact those around them.
  4. He has given me a good core group of friends. Those to whom I am close, I am very close to. I can entrust pretty much anything to them without fear of judgment. They are there for me when I am having a tough time and laugh with me when times are good.
  5. The more I commune with him and learn about him, the closer I want to be to him. As my relationship, knowledge and understanding grow, he reveals more of his nature to me. He is the best friend anyone could have - like my family and friends mentioned above but even more so.

Amos 7:1 through 9:15

Boy does this section start out dire. God shows Amos a series of visions, beginning with locust infestation and consumption by fire. Amos pleads for Israel's sake. God relents. But then God says he will turn his face against Israel. They will be taken into exile and their king slaughtered. Amos gets busted by the temple priest for prophesying against the king, and responds with more prophecy - specifically against the temple priest. Then there is more prophecy about the inevitability of God's judgment.

The book ends on a hopeful note. God promises that Israel will reclaim its land and never again be uprooted. There will be abundance of harvest and a general contentment.

Several amazing truths are stated in this section. First of all, God is forgiving and can be lenient. Second, when punishment eventually comes, it may not be pretty. Third, don't tell prophets not to prophesy. Finally, God will eventually raise up and bless those who are faithful to him.

Amos 5:18 through 6:14

Amos starts each sub-section of this section with "Woe..." The first is "Woe to you who desire the day of the LORD!" The day of the LORD is a day of judgment, where there will be plenty of weeping and gnashing of teeth. The Israelites felt that they would be exempt from judgment, but apparently will not. Amos says that Israel's offerings are detested since they are in action only and the Israelites have been worshiping other gods.

The second woe is "Woe to those who are at ease in Zion." Amos tells the Israelites to look to other countries who have already been overthrown and asks whether Israel is mightier or better than than them.

The third and final woe is "Woe to those who lie on beds of ivory." Israel has become fat and lazy and content in their wealth. In doing so they have neglected Yahweh. Amos warns of impending doom - the death of entire households - and concludes with more rhetorical questions and a dire warning that Yahweh will raise up against Israel a nation who will oppress them within their entire border.

This is particularly applicable in today's political atmosphere. The US should be careful how vigorously it exercises its power over weaker nations and examine its motives for various involvements worldwide. In addition, its citizens have become fat and lazy and content in their wealth. Many nations before us were more powerful and/or expansive (Rome, the United Kingdom, Germany, USSR) and they were put in their places.

Amos 3:1 through 5:17

Hear this word...

Amos tells the Israelites of their transgressions and the upcoming results, which are rather dire. He starts out cleverly with some no-brainer questions but then stabs right at the heart of Israel. He then calls for witnesses from neighboring nations and promises the defeat of Israel by an adversary. This will be a thorough defeat - one from which few will escape and none will be unaffected.

Amos then relays the many opportunities that Israel had to straighten up, but didn't. They were given many signs of hard times in the hopes that they would turn their ways around - but they simply didn't get the clues.

Finally, Amos relays how thorough and horrible of the eventual defeat of Israel will be and how corrupt those who live there are.

This section once again teaches a valuable lesson. Although we are God's covenant people and he loves us and we are secure in our salvation, earthly actions are not without consequence. Yahweh is patient and may be generous with warning signs but if we don't realize our wrongdoings, it is certain that there will be consequences.

It was a pleasant weekend

I had an action packed end-of-the-semester weekend. After my final, I hung out with a few friends. We went to dinner, came back to my house to watch a movie, hung out for a while, and then watched another movie. Saturday I went to the farmer's market for breakfast, went to Suburban Plight practice, hung out with Stevo, and played my first show for Suburban Plight in Long Beach. It was a really fun time and I'm looking forward to spending more time playing. This morning was church and this afternoon I cleaned the garage with the family. Dinner at Red Car capped off the evening and the weekend. I must say it has been one of my more enjoyable weekends in quite a while and I'm really looking forward to this summer.

I know I said Amos summaries by the end of the weekend but I'm going to give myself a day extension. Stay tuned...

One down, one to go

Well, the final went a lot better than I expected. Although I didn't think I had learned much, I at least knew my reference materials well enough to use them effectively (the final was open book, open notes). I very nearly completed the entire exam - which is unprecedented. I was writing down work on the last part of the last problem when time was called. I feel much better than I did after the midterm (mostly because I left almost half of the midterm blank). I have one final left on Friday for which I will study tonight and tomorrow...

Another semester is coming to a close...

Well, here I am a mere hour and a half before my first final this semester. I didn't study nearly as much as I should have and don't feel like I learned hardly anything. However, if graduate school has taught me anything it's that I seem to pull through somehow no matter how much I think I absorbed. I feel like I'm at least as well prepared as I was for the midterm and I got a low B on that. One more on Friday and I'm done for the summer.

On another note, I have been auditioning on bass guitar for Suburban Plight, a Torrance band, for the last month or so. We have a show on Saturday night which will be my first time playing in front of a crowd since Sunday morning (hahaha, I play at church) and their first show since November. I am very excited and feel I may finally have found a niche - it really has given me a sense of purpose musically and I always find playing to be a stress-relieving experience.

I gotta get rid of the orange bug. It smells foul - like old VW of course but it's a smell I no longer relish. In addition, it's impossible to haul my half-stack amplifier in there. I'm looking to find a mid-90's Accord wagon. Hondas just work.

I'm a bit behind on Amos blogging. Two more big idea posts are forthcoming. Look for them this weekend at the latest.

San Francisco

Although I haven't had a chance to blog about it yet, I had a great time last weekend in San Francisco. I took my brother Daniel up since he started culinary school at the California Culinary Academy on Monday. The trip itself was a lot of fun. Traffic was good all the way up and back. Hanging out in San Francisco was really cool too. I saw a friend from high school who attends art school up there. I hadn't seen him since graduation nearly seven years ago.

San Francisco the city is much different from Los Angeles. LA is huge and spread out; San Fran is compact and everything is relatively close. The public transit system is simply amazing. You can get to within a couple blocks of anywhere in the city, and usually faster than if you drove. The food was fantastic too. We ate at a German restaurant on Friday night, an Italian restaurant on Saturday night, and a local bakery on Sunday morning. The city seems almost organic or alive, while LA is very industrial automated-feeling.

I plan to visit on a pretty regular basis. This is the first time Daniel has lived away from home so he's adjusting - but I'm sure he will do well. I have never seen him this excited about anything and he has talked about becoming a chef since he was a kid.

Amos 1:3 through 2:16

Sanctify has been studying Amos for the past few weeks on Tuesday nights. It is certainly not a light or lovey-dovey book. It's incredibly awesome. "Minor prophet" my foot. We have studied two chapters so far. Amos clearly establishes who Yahweh is, what he expects of his creation (both covenant people and non-covenant people) and why he is angry (here is a hint: everyone is screwing up). I've posted a Google Doc with more detailed thoughts from each "session" which I will add to as I make progress.

I will put kind of "big idea" posts here. Reading through my thoughts on each verse would probably get tedious for most.

So far, we have studied chapters 1 and 2 in entirety (Amos 1 Amos 2). It opens with Amos establishing that he is a farmer of sorts - he owns flocks and is probably well to do - rather than a professional prophet. He is from the southern kingdom of Judah and prophesies to the northern kingdom of Israel. The first of many hymn fragments comes along (Amos 1:2) establishing Yahweh as powerful and terrifying. Amos then tells of the transgressions of six of Israel's neighbors. Then he chastises Judah. Just when Israel is getting a swell head from how righteous they are, Amos slams them with their wrongdoings. He then promises impending doom.

The "war oracles" each tell of a nation and their wrongdoings. Some of these are pretty heinous. For example, the Ammonites "ripped open pregnant women" to "enlarge their border" (Amos 1:13-15). When Amos gets to Judah and Israel, the crimes suddenly seem less dire. They do stuff like disregard the poor, worship idols, and reject the law of Yahweh. They're not killing anyone or driving entire peoples into slavery. What's the big deal then? Aha! The Israelites are God's covenant people. They are held to a higher standard than the people around them. Then why is God punishing the others? They aren't his covenant people so doesn't that mean they aren't under the law? Aha again! Their crimes are contrary to basic human decency. The key to everyone's transgressions is that they violated the law they knew. Sometimes these nations were instruments of God in punishment of another nation. That doesn't matter - they are still held accountable. God never said "I art fair."

This teaches Christ-followers a valuable lesson. While we may not be "as bad as the next guy," we are held to a higher standard due to our covenant with Yahweh (it's easy to forget that New Testament means New Covenant). In fact, we should go out of our way to make sure the poor are treated fairly, justice is served, and the law of Yahweh is followed by our brothers and sisters.

Stuff and whatnot

To be quite frank, I am really disgruntled about school. Midterms were two weeks ago. I did poorly (48/130) on one, which I expected. Since the class grades were low (I was about the 35th percentile) the professor offered a chance to do the same exam as a take-home in order to regain credit for half the points missed. I said, "Sweet! I can make up for not learning anything so far!" So I proceeded to work like a dog over the next week to get it right. I put a lot of time and effort in and was confident in the work I had done. He posted the grades today (just the numbers, not the tests themselves) and I earned a whopping 5 additional points. Not exactly what I was expecting. More like 30. Now I have to figure out what I did wrong (aside from taking this professor a second semester in a row) and how badly I have screwed myself, i.e. can I dig my way out of the hole I am in.

Since I am doing poorly this semester and kind of hating my academic life, I decided not to take two classes in the fall. Instead, I will take one each in fall and spring, pushing my graduation date back to May of 2008. This seems a perfectly acceptable situation to me. I'd rather take an extra semester and leisurely finish my education over two semesters than rush through and have it be a painful experience for one more.

On the other hand, work has been going very well. I am working on a section of one project that involves translating a computer program from Visual Basic to C++. I predicted the process would take about a month of pretty steady work. Thanks to the clarity and meticulousness of the VB author and my own coding skills, I am nearly done after only two weeks and the initial results indicate that my work will result in a speed of a couple hours rather than a few days. Funny, this stuff is what I am best at, but I never had any formal training or schooling to speak of. I took one semester of programming in Rolla and got a C+. I wish the stuff I was doing at school was this interesting and intuitive.

March post, hopefully not the only one

I really do intend to get more regular at this. Quite a bit is going on in my life. Midterms were this week. I did poorly on one, but have the opportunity to re-do it to regain half the points I missed (as does everyone in the class). I haven't gotten the other one back. I think I did a bit better but I'm not sure how much. No one finished, so I'm not extremely worried - it was supposed to be hard.

My middle brother, Daniel, has decided to go to culinary school. Business just wasn't for him (actually, I think it is - but getting a bachelor's in business and running a business don't necessarily jive for everyone). I have never seen him nearly this excited about school. He decided on the California Culinary Academy in San Francisco. I'm going to take him up in very late March or early April (he starts April 10).

Bible study is good. I've been diligent about doing my homework for both Tuesday nights and Sunday mornings. I'm going to start posting my thoughts on what I read and study so stay tuned...

Saying goodbye, part II

Well, last weekend proved to be a bit rotten. In addition to Herbie's passing, we (Dad, Stephen, and I) went to see a terrible jazz concert. There were three guitarists. The first was excellent, the second was mediocre, and the third was, at best, producing noise. We left before the final set (where all three guitarists played together) and got on the 110 freeway in San Pedro. As we rounded the curve on the on ramp, we saw a wall of brake lights. Someone had wrecked earlier and everyone was stopping. Dad hit the brakes, but it was too late. We slid into the back of a Chevy pickup truck. Turns out chromed steel bumper > Accord body panels.

Yesterday afternoon we got word from the body shop that the Accord is totaled. As you can see, it was pristine before the accident. At 125,000 miles it probably had another 10 years of life in it. I'm not particularly attached to the car emotionally but it seems unfortunate to waste something that could have served us well for a long time.

Saying goodbye

Last weekend, my hamster Herbie died.

He was probably the cutest hamster to ever have lived. He was really good natured too - a little fidgety when being held but never bit anyone or peed on them. Toward the end of his life, he had gained a lot of weight and was having respiratory problems. I knew it was the beginning of the end when he stopped sleeping in the top section of his cage and moved down to the bottom. I will miss him, but I am glad he is no longer in pain. Stephen and I went out on the balcony and he played taps while I burned a candle.

The next morning, I sold the black VW. Forgive me, but I deleted all the pictures I have of it so as to begin the process of removing it from my memory. This was not a bittersweet parting. I am elated to finally be rid of it. All I have to do now is clean up the orange one a little bit and fix a couple little problems and list it. I'm not so eager to sell this one because it's not nearly as much of a pain in the neck. I can take my time finding the right buyer and the right price.

Apparently, regularity is not my middle name

Not doing so well on the old blogging bit am I? The last few posts (including this one) have been over a month apart. It's not that nothing is going on, it's just that it's escaped my mind and I have been quite busy.

Although I generally don't do so, I actually made a couple New Year's resolutions this year. I intentionally left them vague so as not to set myself up for failure. Firstly, I want to read the Bible more. One good way to get to know God is to read his word. Another is to eat more healthy food. More in this case modifies food, rather than healthy. Most of what I eat is very healthy. I simply am not eating enough to properly nourish and build up my body. Finally, I want to exercise on a more regular basis. I think this will help my appetite and help me gain weight.

School started again a couple weeks ago. I am taking two classes this semester. EE564 (Communication Theory) is with the same professor I had last semester and it's about as much fun as being clubbed by a caveman (no offense intended to cavemen who may read my blog). I'm not terribly happy with his teaching style. The notes and homework don't seem to jive and he doesn't reference the text during lecture at all. EE568 (Error-Correcting Codes) is pretty interesting so far and seems to be straightforward. If this semester ends up going well, I will take the summer off and finish in the fall with two classes.

I am still trying to sell the black Bug. Buying it was probably the worst purchase of my life. I have put maybe 15 miles on it in nearly two years and spent heaps of time and money repairing it, rescuing it from the impound lot, and generally dealing with it. I have learned from the experience though and will never buy another derelict car, no matter how much of a "good deal" it is.

I am prospering at work. I have a couple projects I am on that keep me plenty busy in my 24 hours per week. Both are programming, which I do well. I am attempting to expand my horizons in programming and really truly learn object-oriented C++ programming. What I do now is kind of programming in C and making sure it's compatible with a C++ compiler.

YAM (the college group at church) is shifting - I believe for the better. Laura has stepped back as leader and handed over the reins to a diverse group of four of us college students. I think this will strengthen and solidify the group. I taught last week and was MC this week. I enjoy these types of positions and seem to do well at them, but rarely volunteer.