Tuesday, December 18, 2007

FuchsAuto Zwei

Our VW Fox is dead but apparently VW still makes a Fox. Last night I saw it reviewed on Top Gear. Here is the video. You may find the first couple of minutes of review boring. If so, skip ahead -- it ends with a soccer match you have to see to believe.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

A True Urban Legend!

I've become quite adept at detecting urban legend emails. There are enough of them. Testing them is really simple. Go to snopes and search for a key word or phrase in the email.

Today, my mom sent an email about a large flower flag near Vandenberg Air Force base. It had all the earmarks of an urban legend. It is on snopes. But, surprise, it's true!

Bodger Seeds Ltd in Lompoc, CA made the flag for the flag day celebration, June 14, 2002. The city has the satellite photo shown here and an info page. It's probably not a year-round thing as indicated by this google satellite photo.

So instead of an urban legend I received a nice dose of heart-warming patriotism. And I got to be a web geek and do some satisfying research. Thanks, Mom, for making my day better.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Nerds Beware.

Suddenly, I feel scared. Especially since mathematicians are worth more than physicists.

Nerd Sniping

Monday, December 10, 2007


"Everyone thinks of changing the world, but no one thinks of changing himself." -- Leo Tolstoy

I couldn't pass up this quote. I'm not sure exactly what to blog about. I'll probably be repeating myself.

I could talk about how many of us parents try to change our children (in my case young adults) by talking at them or yelling them rather than by setting a good example and letting them follow. Sometimes they will be smart enough to think "OK, I know dad's being a hypocrite, but what he's saying is true, so I'll follow it." Most of the time they are only smart enough to think "Dad's being a hypocrite again. I'll just ignore him until he goes away."

I could talk about all the Christians who rail against a certain sin only to find out they secretly are addicted to that sin. Do I need to name names? I didn't think so.

It's not just Christians and parents. We're all better at seeing other people's faults than we are our own.

Is wanting to change the world wrong? Of course not, there's a lot that needs changing. Do we need to be perfect before we can affect the world? No way -- just take a quick look at history. Even Biblical heroes had a lot of flaws.

How about this for a plan? If you see something that needs changing, first ask God what he'd like you to change about yourself in this area. You might be surprised how effective it is. Jesus was the God-man who came to save the world. He changed the world, especially the Western European world. Yet, as far as we know, he never left Palestine during his adult life. We could learn a lot from his example.

Sunday, December 09, 2007

Nut Job 3

My brother, Ted, sent me this picture from the New Yorker. Seems I'm not the only one who sees Ahmadinejad's same sex tendencies.

I'm having trouble finding the quote. Was it John Cleese who said something about those who don't get much sex are those most obsessed with it -- either they dwell on it all the time or rail against it? It's not my job to psychoanalyze Ahmadinejad or his cronies. But if they weren't so uptight about sex and practically every other little thing maybe they'd stop blowing themselves up so much.

Friday, December 07, 2007

A Day that Will Live in Infamy

December 7, 1941 is a day that lives in infamy. Why should it now that 66 years have gone by? Aren't we just being bitter?

I don't think it's bitterness. I certainly hold no bitterness toward the Japanese people nor the nation of Japan. Neither do I sense a lot of that around me. I firmly believe we were on the right side in the war and that the Japanese were wrong to attack us. I'm thankful for those who died fighting for our country. But that doesn't mean I need to hate those who attacked us, especially not after all this time.

It also does not mean I believe we were perfect and blameless in the war. There are stories of back room political manipulations. I don't know enough to comment. I do know that we shipped bus loads of people away from their homes to camps. As a Californian I understand the scare. My mother, who grew up in Redondo Beach, personally witnessed us send anti-submarine planes after Japanese submarines right off our coast. The unpublicized fact that Japanese subs were off the California coast would have probably caused even more panic. It was very scary. Still, what we did was wrong. Not wrong like the holocaust (as some like to imply), but still wrong.

I believe December 7 lives in infamy as a reminder. Like holocaust histories or more recently 911, we are reminded that we live in a world that still has a lot of evil in it. I want God's love to prevail. I like to believe the best in people. I pray for the day that the world is so full of his love that we don't need armies because their will be no wars, nor threat of wars. However, that time is not now. As far as I can tell, it's not even close.

December 7 is also a time to remember our soldiers. The soldiers at Pearl Harbor were killed in battle, yes, but not a normal battle. They were at their home port. Supposedly safe. Not in a war zone. We honor those who have fought and those who have died and rightly so. It's not often we think about how just being in uniform makes a person a target. Makes a person need a more constant vigilance. We forget how much our living soldiers who are "safe" at home also sacrifice for us.

December 7, Pearl Harbor Day. A day to remember the evil in the world and pray for God's love, grace and mercy. A day to remember those who have done and still do so much for us.

Thursday, December 06, 2007

Allyson Felix

My family actually knew Allyson Felix. I don't think I ever met her or her family, but I might have. We went to the same large church. My son, Dan, was friends with Wes (her brother) and attended school with him. My wife, Carolina, took the kids to the Felix house at least once or twice. I should mention that Dan and Wes were no older than second graders and Allyson was younger than that. It was a few years ago.

What's encouraging is seeing Allyson get such good press. In the current athletic climate, especially in track and cycling, drug use is almost assumed these days. If some star hasn't tested positive it's just because they haven't been caught yet. I'm happy for her.

I pray for her too. I'm not so naive to believe anyone is above temptation. If she were to test positive I've have trouble believing it. I'd also be crushed and that much more cynical.

Enough of the negative. The main point is that a well-grounded young woman from a good Christian family is doing well. I applaud her and her family. I pray for her happiness and God's blessings.

Monday, December 03, 2007


Because I loved this and haven't blogged quite enough today.


Ken Jennings, who knows a thing or two about research and trivia, posted this blog about Wikipedia. It ends with the following paragraph
Ironically, that kind of reader feedback is the very process that powers Wikipedia. These new tools have their own set of advantages too. Educators: you can’t discuss and encourage those advantages when you’re banning an omnipresent seven-million entry reference work like it was porn. Get those heads out of the sand.
Thanks, Ken, for some good old common sense! You should check out the entire post.


A couple of weeks back a friend asked me about confronting someone. My friend was very concerned because of what her friend was doing. This person had moved away. She was a Christian who wanted to marry a non-Christian. She had alienated a lot of people. My friend was one of a few people who still were talking with her. My friend was trying to love her and help her.

I got a bit uptight. I don't like confronting people and didn't know what to say. Then I realized something. Where in the Bible are we called to confront people?

Well, there's Matthew 18. We are told that if a brother sins against us we should talk to them. The word "confront" is not used. The whole idea of the passage is to reconcile when your brother. Also, it is someone who offends you. Not just someone who is screwing up. We should speak up when someone offends us. It can be a confrontation, but we should try hard to keep it an even keeled discussion. We should remember that our goal is to be reconciled with the person, not win a power struggle with them.

This, however, was not the case with my friend. Her friend is not doing things to offend her. She is just doing stuff that is not good.

There are some examples of confrontation of people doing wrong. Jesus confronted the hypocritical religious leaders of his time. Paul confronted Peter when Peter was being hypocritical in Antioch. Paul also urged confrontation of a church member who was sleeping with his father's wife. Even by very loose Corinthian standards what he was doing was notably perverted. All of these examples are cases of someone or some people publicly hurting the church and the message of God.

By contrast, Galatians 6:1-2 says this:
Brothers, if someone is caught in a sin, you who are spiritual should restore him gently. But watch yourself or you may also be tempted. Carry each other's burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ.
I don't see confrontation here. I see care and love and gentleness. I see carrying someone's burden with them. I see carefulness and even fear in case I screw up the same way. We're all in this together. One day you may fall and need my help. The next day our situations may be reversed. ("We all need somebody to lean on...")

Of course we don't ignore someone who is screwing up. If I see someone getting conned I do what I can to let them know. I talk to them. I find facts and let them know about the con. If they're my friend and they trust me they'll probably listen. My goal is to help them avoid being conned. I don't "confront" them though. Usually arguing and pushing and making ultimatums are not effective at convincing someone. Quite often it's just the opposite -- when someone argues with us we usually dig in our heels and refuse to listen. At least that's how I am.

I'll ask here what I asked my friend. If you strongly believe something, what will it take to change your mind? How often have you actually been persuaded to change your lifestyle or beliefs? Ever? If so, what was effective? Arguing, yelling? Or was it a trusted friend who helped you see what was happening?

Let's be honest. First, as I said above, I don't like confrontation. I avoid it whenever I can. But I will do it. It's kind of a trip -- me being right and telling you what's wrong with you. Almost like I'm God, or at least his special agent. Neato, I'm very spiritual, at least more than you. Admit it, it's easy to be full of pride when we confront someone. If you admit that, you see why confronting is only very rarely the necessary thing to do. Jesus only did it to the leaders leading thousands of people away from God. Likewise Paul. Only when it was very necessary. It's too easy to be full of pride which is most probably a worse problem than whatever you are trying to correct.

My friend had already told her friend what she thought. I told my friend she had done what she could. Now the best thing was to just stay available and listen. To build trust and be there to help her when she needed it. If I had remembered Galatians 6:1-2 well enough I would have told her to share her friend's burdens. After all, if you were in need of correction, isn't that what you'd want?

Auf Wiedersehen geliebtes Fuchsauto

We had a an old 1989 VW Fox.

It failed it's smog test. Actually, it's emissions were OK. The timing and idle were set wrong and a smog device had a broken hose.

The magnanimous state of California will now pay for such cars to be junked. They said they'd give us $1000 to junk our car. It's a program to get smog emitting cars off the road.

The blue book on our Fox was about, oh say, $0. Too good a deal to pass up. We like having a second car, but can definitely use the savings of only having one car. The Fox was getting old and using up repair money.

We applied for the $1000 by mail and got the paperwork. Friday we went to the DMV and turned in our license plates, title and registration (we actually lost our title, but no problem because there is a simple form to sign). Then we drove to the junk place using our special one day permit that allowed us to drive w/o plates. There the car had to pass a rigorous mechanical inspection. It had to run. It had to have a front windshield and at least one front window. A couple of other trivial things to make sure California wasn't paying us to junk a pile of scrap metal. All was good.

I didn't really believe it would happen until I saw the check. "If it's too good to be true it probably is." Well, here is the check we got from the junk place!

The junk place weighed the car and gave us an official weight ticket.

And our car was gone.

I'll actually kind of miss it. I guess I'm getting sentimental in my old age. It was good to us. It had a history. Carolina's sister Rebecca bought it when she was going through a divorce. Her first husband was a jerk and wrecked her credit. We helped her finance it. Now she's married again to a very cool guy and they have two boys and lots of other vehicles. They decided to give us the Fox for free.

It was kind of meant as a car for one of our children to use at school but never really turned out that way. It was a good second car when we had lots of drivers in the house. This really helped.

It was German, well-engineered but somewhat cranky and expensive to maintain. In the end, too expensive. Still, it served us well for many years. Thanks to California we even made a profit on it!

We have a habit of getting older cars and driving them into the ground. This time we actually got some money out of it.

For the record, here are the cars I (we) have owned.
  • 1972 Capri. I bought in 1980 for $1600 a couple years before we were married. Put a new engine in for under $1000. The car was Ok and peppy to drive. The rebuilt engine was cheap and never worked well. We sold it for a few hundred around 1984-85.

  • 1965 Oldsmobile Cutlass. This was a favorite old car of the husband of a co-worker of mine. They heard we could use a car and sold it to us for $100 a little before we sold the Capri. We junked it a few years later, but got $30-40 for it.

  • 1978 Grand Prix. We knew a person at church who helped with ministry. People gave the church cars which the church gave to those in needed. We needed a car as the Olds was dying. The church gave us the Grand Prix. Very shortly the engine went. We replaced it for something approaching $2000. It lasted several years and got us to Oregon in 1991 for our summer at the University of Oregon SIL (stuffed to the gills -- packed things in and around the kids' car seats). It died coming home from Eugene at the end of the summer. Conveniently it started having trouble after coming over the grapevine, but made it all the way home to L.A.

  • 1986 Astro Van. That same summer of 1991 we knew our Grand Prix wasn't going to go much more. Wycliffe helped us find a van while we were in Eugene. Paid $9000 -- a good deal but way more than we were used to. It was a tremendous improvement. Very low mileage and lasted a long time. We did have to replace the transmission soon after we got it (while in Dallas in 1991). Loads of room for the kids. A great traveling car. It finally died in 2004 and we junked it (no money received).

  • 1989 VW Fox. Received as gift around 2000. Sold to junk for $1000!

  • 2004 Scion xB. First new car for us -- paid about $16,000. Best car ever. Lots of room for a compact. Good gas mileage. Good stereo. Keeps value. No problems mechanically. I'd buy another if they still made the same model. It's our current car.
Good-bye, Fox. Thanks for the memories.