Saturday, December 25, 2010

They Still Keep Watch

Yes, the shepherds still keep watch over their flocks in Bethlehem. 
Even today. . .  well at least last February.  I took this photo from the tour bus as we entered Bethlehem last February.

May the story of Christ and his birth bring joy to your soul today and all of 2011.  Merry Christmas from the Rev and Sunbob.

And it is our prayer this Christmas season that for even the briefest moments.  .  . You may find PEACE.

Monday, December 13, 2010

The Children's Christmas Pageant at Walnut Hills

Yesterday was the big day.  The day of the Christmas pageant at Walnut Hills.  Erin Crawford from the Des Moines Register did a wonderful job of bringing you the story.  I will let her tell the tale.

The snow has finally found Des Moines.  Now it really feels like winter.  The Rev and I hope this Advent season you be able to some  .   .   .


Friday, December 03, 2010

We had a great Christmas Staff Party

Okay, I have to admit it.  I love to entertain.  I love to have people over and cook dinner for them.  We had the Rev's staff over tonight and I served dinner for 15 people.  It was great.

I must admit the dinner wasn't too extravagant but I would like to think it was substantial.  I did a roasted pork loin that I had cured over night with a Chinese 5 Spice rub.  I also did a beef rib roast.  This was a good cut of Amana boneless prime rib roast so I didn't do anything more than brown it and roast it correctly.  It is amazing how good, good beef can taste if you don't over due the preparation.

Then I did roasted sweet potatoes with a pecan and whiskey sauce compliments of the Foodnetwork.  This was a total success.  We did this for Thanksgiving and it was such a success I had to do it again.  I even did a double batch so I could take it into the store tomorrow for the potluck.  I will say one thing about the recipe.  It says to lightly roast the pecans at one point and both times I have prepared it I have totally destroyed the pecans.  Just skip the toasting and go right into making the sauce and it turns out great.

I love putting out appetizers before a meal.  It is one of my favorite things to do.  This time I had an olive selection that included pickled mushrooms.  This is the third time I have done that and the third time that I was the only one eating it.  I think I need to learn to leave that out of my offering.  I also put in the humus with flat bread and again that was a hit.  I have this reputation with the Rev's staff for making this great humus.  It is very simple.  I buy the classic Mediterranean style humus.  Then I drizzle on a little extra virgin olive oil and sprinkle it with some paprika.  This is how I had it when we were in Jerusalem and I really like it that way.  Several people tonight complimented me on the humus.  I served three kinds of cheese with crackers.  The Widmer cheddar was the real hit.  I had a good Gorgonzola which was okay and a Crescenza-Stracchino that wasn't as popular.  I thought it was amazing but the guests didn't choose it as much.  I guess that shows that this group prefers the cheeses they are familiar with.

The wine that was a real hit with me was the Vouvray 2008 from Monmousseau.  This was a blanc de blanc that the guy at the wine shop was very excited about and I would agree with him.  It was a very affordable wine (about $10 per bottle) and very pleasing.  My guests enjoyed it. I also had Chardonnay, a Pinot Noir and a Cabernet Savignon.  All pleasing wines but he Vouvray was the hit.

I must say it was a great night.  All of the guests had a great meal and a great time.  The Rev and I agree that we needed to bring them all over some night for games and do it again.  Maybe not the whole meal but another night together.  We had a great time.

The Rev and I had a great night with friends.  I hope this holiday season you are able to say the same.


Sunday, November 14, 2010

New Orleans Lower 9th Ward Coming Back

The Rev and I were in New Orleans this week for a wedding.  While we were there we visited the 9th Ward.  This is the part of New Orleans that was virtually wiped out by Katrina in 2005.  I've written a lot about the flooding in Cedar Rapids so you know I wanted to see how they were coming along in New Orleans.  After Katrina, the Rev went on two mission trips to the area to help out and actually had scheduled a third trip when Cedar Rapids got hit.  The lessons learned in the south went a long way in making things a little easier in our area so we were very interested in seeing how far New Orleans had come in five years.

I'm glad to say that we saw much to feel good about.  One of the coolest things we learned about is a program called Make It Right.  Brad Pitt has been instrumental in getting this initiative up and running.    It is fascinating the work they are accomplishing and how they are going about it.  Go to their site and check it out.  They can tell their story far better than I can.

Don't get me wrong, there is still a lot of work to do but you can see that this area is going to return.  One concern is bringing back the local businesses.  The neighborhood cafes and gas stations.  There are no stores on the corners to buy groceries or get a sandwich.  The residents are coming back but the shops are lagging.  This will be the next step.  Let's pray that the shopkeepers will be able to afford to rebuild as well so that the residents in the lower 9th ward don't have to drive across town just to pick up a bottle of milk.  You need all of that for the community to return.


Tuesday, November 09, 2010

Linux Mint 9

I have been playing with my desktop computer and I think I have now learned just enough to be dangerous.  Which means, of course, I’m going to talk about it.  I have made the leap and taken this box to the world of Linux.

I have been playing with Linux for a couple of years but always in a dual-boot set-up.  This an old box so it still had Windows XP on it.   I never made the transition to Vista but I did keep it up to date with all of the security patches and even had Service Pack 3 installed.  As we get down to the end of the life span of XP, I had several options.

- Do I spend $150 and go to Windows 7?  That would entail a clean reformat of my hard drive and a full installation of the operating system.  I have done this before so that didn’t really scare me.  But the idea didn’t excite me, either.  My netbook has Windows 7 and I am very pleased with how it runs, so I am not really a Win7 hater.  So I downloaded the little program from Microsoft that would check my computer and tell me if I could upgrade to Win7.  It said I could upgrade but I didn’t have enough machine to really take advantage of everything Win7 had to offer.  So, basically I could shell out a C-note but I would still be limited in what I could do.

- Do I get a new computer?  I would love a new, more powerful computer.  Like I said, this one is getting old.  And what guy doesn’t like a new toy?  But, I don’t really have 6 or 7 hundred dollars just laying around.  Somehow I don’t think the Rev would go for that.

Or.  .  . do I look for something entirely different?  As I said at the top, I have been playing with Linux for a couple of years but never really got serious about it until this summer.  So I figured it was time to give it a serious trial.  I had installed Ubuntu 8.04 Hardy Heron in a dual boot set-up and was pleased with that.  It seemed to work okay on my computer and had enough programs to do what I wanted to do most of the time.  So I started to use it as my main platform.  Instead of just playing with it, I put it to work.  And what I found was that it worked just fine.  About the only time I really needed to boot into Windows was when I needed to use Quicken to pay some bills.  Quicken just doesn’t run in Linux and even using Wine didn’t work very well.  But all I really used Quicken for anymore was Quicken Billpay.  I have used Checkfree since the early days when it was a stand alone start-up, before Intuit bought it.  I really like the convenience of online bill payment.  But when we moved to Des Moines we switched banks and they offered free online billpay.  No more $10 per month for Checkfree.  I signed up for that service pretty quickly.

That, I discovered, was the last road block keeping me from dumping Windows.  So now I started to look seriously for a Linux flavor that I liked.  I first upgraded to Ubuntu 10.04 Maverick Meerkat.  That is a great program.  Everything just worked.  It has OpenOffice to replace Microsoft Office.  I could use Firefox and Chrome for browsers just like I did in Windows.  I even found that I liked Presentation better than Powerpoint for creating my slide show from our vacation.

Now I was hooked on Linux.  So I started looking around at others.  Puppylinux is a wonderful little program you can run off a disk on even the most basic computers.  I downloaded Fedora 13 and tried that from a live cd as well.  Very nice.

But I kept reading about these guys that were taking the latest Ubuntu version and tweaking and polishing it up.  They call it Linux Mint.  It was supposed to be the best distro for a newbie like me who had grown up on Windows and really wasn’t into programing.  So I downloaded the image and burned a disk to try it.  It had all of the power and strength of Ubuntu in a really slick, user-friendly package.  It was like being used to driving a Toyota and being handed the keys to a Lexus.  Everything seemed familiar and much like what I had become used to only it was nicer and smoother and full of pizazz.  I know - that isn’t tech speak, but I don’t claim to be a techie.  I’m just an old furniture guy trying to get another year or two out of his computer.

So two weeks ago I did it.  I reformatted my hard drive.  I wiped off all remnants of Windows from my machine and I installed Linux Mint 9 “Isadora” on this old box of mine and I haven’t looked back once.  I have been playing with setting this up exactly how I want it.  And you want to know the best part? There are literally thousands of programs to do everything I want to do and they are all free.  And they are easy to install.  The hardest part is choosing.

So you will see a new gadget on the right side of this page.  It is a link to Linux Mint.  If you are interested in trying something new, check it out.  I don’t think you will be disappointed.


Saturday, October 30, 2010

Sometimes the light at the end of the tunnel is NOT the promised land

"Sometimes it's just New Jersey."

I didn't get a chance to watch the Rally To Restore Sanity today.  I had to work.  But I found this clip from the rally.

John Stewart's Great Speech

It took a comedian to give a great presidential speech.


and Peace.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Grandpa Sunbob

It was 2:30 on Friday morning when the phone rang.
"You have a grandson."   My daughter was proudly stating four of the most exciting words that a father can hear.  I have a grandson, a new and healthy baby boy.
"I'm so glad you are awake."
Of course I was awake.  I couldn't sleep knowing that my daughter was having her baby.

She had called about 4:30 the previous afternoon to tell me her water had broken and Nick was taking her to the hospital.  I was at work.  When my boss heard the news he pointed to the door and simply said "GO".  I started to explain that I didn't want to leave the store short-handed but he would none of it.
"You will be no good to us here and your daughter will need her father.  Go."

So off I went.  The Rev was already on the road as she had a meeting in Iowa City that evening.  As it turned out, I was only 20 minutes behind her on the highway.  When I got to Cedar Rapids, my daughter and I agreed that it wasn't necessary for me to go to the hospital. She was in good hands and I would just make her nervous and get in the way.  She would call when she needed me.  So there I was, unsuccessfully trying to get some rest.  Waiting for news, when the great phone call came.

The Rev and I agreed to let them all get some rest so we actually waited until about 8 that morning before we went in to see our new little member of the Sunbob clan.

Maxwell David is his name.  Seven pounds three ounces of beautiful little boy.  He appears to healthy and my daughter came through without any complications as well.  All is good.

So now I have a grandson.  After raising daughters, I will get to do some boy things now.  I hope he enjoys fishing because I'm already making plans.

Wow, now I get to learn to be a grandfather.  I hope the Lord will guide me to be a good one.

And wouldn't it be great if, some time in his life, Max will be able to find .  .  .

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Chilean mine rescue - Amazing

I'm sitting here watching the rescue of the miners in Chile.  What a great scene.  An amazing story.  Seventy days trapped underground and they are now coming out alive and well.

You have to give Chile credit for how they have handled this tragedy.  I don't think many people had a dry eye when that first miner hugged his son.  And then we had Super Mario come up on the second trip and I think he hugged everyone in sight.

Now we are waiting for the third miner to pop out of that hole.  Here he comes - his wife is waiting.  There is the "Fenix 2".  Easy Carmen - let him get out of the capsule.  And look at that smile.  .  .  .  . Now she can hug him.

This is such a great story on so many levels.  A story tremendous faith and determination.  It was the determination of this Chilean president that these miners would be rescued.  He is succeeding.  And for me the real story is the faith of these miners.  It was 17 days before anyone outside of that mine knew they were alive.  Repeatedly, the families and the miners have spoken of their faith in God.  They are all saying that it has been their faith that has kept them going.

Let's all pray for the continued success of this rescue.  As of right now, they have 30 more to go.  This will take most of 2 days to finish.  A lot can happen in 2 days.

In a world where everyone seems to be at war - it is good to have an example of

Thursday, September 23, 2010

365 Days of Poetry: Over the Hill and Through the Dale

365 Days of Poetry: Over the Hill and Through the Dale

Yep. Sunbob is getting old. I turned the big six oh today. I'll let Christy have this space today.


Thursday, September 16, 2010

Wednesday On The Hill

“My name is Hanna”.  The bespectacled little lady with the huge smile had just returned from shuttling in a pan of freshly barbecued hamburgers and was bringing back the pan for me to fill again.  “Thank you Hanna, I really appreciate your help.” - “No problem”, she said over her shoulder as she ran back into the church to rejoin her friends.

It was the first night of Wednesday On The Hill.  This is the Rev’s plan to reclaim Wednesday night as church night in our congregation.  She asked me to fix dinner for everyone for the kick-off.  Last Sunday she invited everyone to join together for dinner before they ran off to choir practice, youth group, committee meetings or just on to live their lives.  She told them all that I would be fixing the meal - “and he’s a good cook” she proclaimed.  Thanks my love - no pressure there now is there?

“So how many am I cooking for?” I asked the Rev.  “I don’t know, it’s the first time”, was the honest estimate.  So we decided that we would prepare for 100 and hope for the best.  Burgers and Brats on the grill was to headline the menu.  I found a recipe for a pasta salad on the web that looked good so that became our side dish.  The Rev added fresh veggies and rice crispy bars to the presentation. A quick run to the store for Kettle Baked chips (3 flavors, of course) and assorted cookies and we had a menu.

I started early Wednesday morning and decided that this was a pretty pedestrian menu so I toasted all of the hamburger and brat buns.  I had to have something that was “special”.  Then it was off to the church about 2:30pm to get ready to go by 5:15 - the scheduled start time.
I was told the church had a grill that I could use to prepare the burgers and brats. Hmmm, a gas grill - I’m a Weber kettle/charcoal guy myself.  Oh well, let’s give it a go.  I lifted the lid and discovered, of course, that it had not been cleaned since it was used last June.  I had suspected that might be the case so I had brought my grill brush.  No problem - I had that grill ready to go before too long.  I opened the valve on the gas tank and hit the ignition button.  Thank you Lord, it fired the first time.  Okay let’s throw on some burgers and see what this thing will do.  Five minutes a side is the usual time on my grill so I checked them in five and found that the left side of the grill was hot and working just fine (though a little slow) but the right side had barely cooked the surface.  I eventually developed a system of starting on the right and working the burgers to the left - then I used the very right side as a “warmer” to hold the finished burgers as I progressed.  I cooked all afternoon.
By 4:30 people started to arrive. They would stick their heads out and say “It smells great - I could smell it all the way out in the parking lot”.  It was about this time that I met Hanna.  I finished up about 5:10 - 80 burgers and 36 brats.  I hoped it would be enough.  The Rev was going to have her meal after-all.

We figure we served about 75 people, young and old, last night.  All of the brats disappeared but we did have some burgers left-over.  The pasta salad was a hit although we had made about twice as much as needed.  Six bags of chips was the right amount and two trays of rice crispy bars were gone.  Several of the ladies commented on the toasted buns - they liked the touch.

By 6:00 everyone was off to their meetings, practices and groups.  One young man offered to help with the clean up so he and I packed up the left overs, cleaned the dishes and wiped down the tables.  By 8:00 I was home in my recliner and totally exhausted.

Yes, I was wiped out but it felt great.  I had never cooked for that many before and we had pulled it off.  This is something that I can do.  And I enjoyed it.  The sound of people talking and eating together was great.  This was community - this was fellowship.  It may be just a few hours on a Wednesday night, a brief break in the routine of life, but this is church.  This is good.

May you also find a break in your routine this week - and as always I pray that you find . . . Peace.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Block by Block awarded $1.35 million grant

OMG - I just found this announcement.  Remember Block-by-Block?  This is the program in Cedar Rapids that is helping rebuild the flooded communities "block by block".  Well, they have received a $1.35 million grant from the state of Iowa to support their efforts.  Here is the story on the Iowa UMC Conference site.

If case you have not followed this site - this program is very dear to me.  I have written before of their efforts.  It also holds a special place in the heart of The Rev as she helped in getting it started.  Courtney, Clint and all of the staff and hundreds of volunteers have done marvelous work in rebuilding after the flood.  I see on their website that they are up to 21 blocks now.  Here is a link to a Google map of the blocks.

Two years ago this was just a dream.  But this shows what can happen when people work together.  Two groups came together to form this effort.  Matthew 25 was a small neighborhood outreach mission of the United Methodist Church.  They were directly effected by the flood and had to rebuild their location.  Four Oaks is a large, well known family services agency.  The two heads checked their egos at the door, sat down and hammered out a program - and it works.

If you want to know more about Block-by-Block here is a link to their website.  Check out the list of donors and funding sources - this is truly a combined public and private effort that deserves everyones support.


Friday, September 10, 2010

Iowan to receive the Medal of Honor

The White House Friday announced that Staff Sgt. Salvatore Giunta, 25, of Hiawatha, Iowa, will be awarded the nation's highest medal for valor for his actions in Afghanistan, and he will come to the White House to receive the medal himself.

This is the lead from the CNN report on Salvatore Giunta.  I wish I could say I knew this young man but, even though he went to school at Kennedy HS - one block from my home in Cedar Rapids, it was after my girls graduated.  All of Eastern Iowa - heck, all of Iowa - should be proud.

We can argue all night about whether or not we should even be at war in that part of the world but I am thankful that most Americans recognize the sacrifice our sons and daughters are making for this country.  I came of age during our little escapades in Viet Nam and the attitudes were different then.  The war was unpopular and unfortunately so were the poor men that had to fight it.  I think that is one lesson that my generation learned.  Now when our troops return home, they are treated with the respect they deserve instead of being shunned and ridiculed.  I never had to serve but my brother was in the Navy during Viet Nam.  I was in school and then working on campus at ISU during those days.  I worked with some of the returning vets back then - it was not one of our shining moments.

So let's be proud of this young man, and all of the other men and women who have gone off to fight this war.  I wish they didn't have to do this and I pray we will end this soon - but these people have earned our respect and our thanks.


Wednesday, September 01, 2010

The Wilderness Experience

If you have Google Chrome as your browser you have got to check this out.

And if you don't have Google Chrome - WHY NOT??????
Now you have a good excuse to try it.


Thursday, August 12, 2010

Ames Flood

Yesterday was a tough day in Ames.  It just hasn't stopped raining in central Iowa and the water has to go somewhere.  Here is a picture from the Des Moines Register showing a part of the ISU campus near Squaw Creek.  That is the football stadium in the center of the picture and at the top is Hilton Collesium, home for the indoor sports events as well as concerts and conventions.

Unfortunately one young lady was swept up in the flood waters and drowned.  The city was closed yesterday when two major highways into the city were topped by the flood waters.  It is reported that the water supply has been contaminated so that is gone as well.

Memories of Cedar Rapids two years ago has me depressed today.  I know all too well how many of these people feel. 

My prayers are with them all.  And in those prayers is the hope they will find. . .


Friday, August 06, 2010

We had a raccoon in the yard

Well, we have moved to West Des Moines.  The Rev is settled into her pulpit and I am back on the sales floor,this time at Slumberland.  I think we are going to like Des Moines.  It is a beautiful city with a lot happening.  We are still learning our way around, of course, but what we have seen so far is very nice.

But not everything has been pleasant.  Our home is nice but no one told us about our nocturnal visitor.  We discovered after a couple of nights that we had a local raccoon that had decided our back patio was a great location for his personal latrine.  I stayed up one night to see if I could scare it away but I missed him.  I can tell you though that he came between 3 AM and 3:30.

I wasn't looking forward to this battle but as it turned out, it was a simple solution.  I went to Home Depot and found a product called "Critter Ridder".  I just spread the granules around the patio and I haven't seen the raccoon since.  I can't believe it was that easy but it worked.

Guess I have to recommend Critter Ridder.  It worked very well for me.


Sunday, July 04, 2010

Peace to This House

It is official - we have arrived.  The Rev had her first service at our new church.  We are now officially off and running.

In all, things went well.  The Rev preached on the lectionary passages from Luke that described Jesus sending out the 70 disciples to share God's peace.  It fit well with her message introducing herself to this new congregation.

We have been working hard these past few weeks getting moved to Des Moines and getting ready for this day and this new chapter in our lives.  We have moved into the parsonage and Rev is in her new office.  It is good.  Now the real work begins.

Luke tells us that Jesus' message from the 70 was "The Kingdom of God has come near you".  May Jesus' message be felt in your lives as well as ours.

Peace to this house.

Freedom Day

I have blatantly stolen this post from one of my favorite blogs - 365 Days of Poetry.  


SUNDAY, JULY 4, 2010

Tending the Seeds

setting the trowel down
dirt still under my nails
I revel in my work
neat lines of green beginnings
new life sprouting up
with a future and purpose

so that it makes me wonder

setting the quill down
ink still under their nails
did they revel in their conviction?
neat lines of traitorous text
new life declared
with a future and purpose
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Sunday, June 20, 2010

Father's Day 2010

What a day.  Father's day.  This was a day to remember for me.

It started early this morning at the church.  This was the day that the Rev would say good-bye to our congregation as we prepare to move on to the next chapter in our life.  I watched from my seat in the pew as she gave her sermon - "Amen" - a lump started to form in my throat as she said good-bye to those wonderful people who have loved us and supported us for the last five years.

My eyes started to fill when a church elder came up to present her with the gifts from the congregation.  They rose as one and gave the Rev a standing ovation - they are sending her out with pride to serve a new congregation.

And I totally lost it as I watched the choir sneak out of the loft and gather behind her as she prayed.  With  mischievous grins they readied themselves for the special anthem they had secretly rehearsed just for this day.  "Amen"

That would have been enough.

But it was Father's day.  My daughters took me out to dinner at The Olive Garden.  My new son-in-law greeted me with a copy of the new Tom Petty CD.  Then a beautiful card and leaf etching from one of my daughters graced the table.  The other daughter remembered I had lost my favorite Leatherman tool in the flood.  A new and better version now has taken it's place in my pocket.  We had an excellent meal and I enjoyed the company of my family for the afternoon.

That would have been enough.

But then I open my browser and there in my blog reader inbox is a link to a poem.

Yes, it was a very good day.


Saturday, June 19, 2010

My Last Day

Today was my last day as the Sales Manager at Smulekoff's. The Rev is being sent to a new church in Urbandale, IA and I am going with her.

I have been at Smulees for four years now as a manager. We have gone through a lot, especially the past two years. I've talked quite a bit about that in this site. Let me just say that it wasn't easy turning off my computer and shutting the door to my office the last time.

Smulekoff's has been good to me. I hope they can say the same about me. I'm very proud of the staff that allowed me to lead them. They have worked hard to recover from a disaster that has killed all too many businesses in our community. But they are doing it. I have to admit, I wasn't very good at saying good bye. All I could really say was thank you.

Now the Rev and I are setting out to write the next chapter in our lives. I am excited about the move and the opportunities that will come from this. A new city, a new congregation and new friends await. I wonder what will be written on these pages over the coming years. We will just have to find out.

But for now, as always. . .

I bid you Peace.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

KGAN CBS 2 :: Top Stories

KGAN CBS 2 :: Top Stories

Yes, It has been 2 years, today since "the flood". And yes, it is still on our minds. I was interviewed today for the local news. You can see the story from the link at the top.

I had a good time doing the story. It isn't easy going through the memories but it's good once in awhile to talk about it. It's necessary for all of us - not just our staff but all in the community - to think about it and talk about it still.

The psychologists that study these events tell us that this will be the toughest time. It has been long enough that you think you should be over it but you aren't. I mentioned this idea to my staff before we opened today. I told them that they might encounter customers that were off balance and grumpy and they may not even know why. It was only a couple of hours later that one my sales people reported that I was right on with my observation.

But life goes on in Cedar Rapids. We are improving and growing each day. There is more activity downtown and progress is being made. We know it will be a five to ten year recovery, I just wish it was 5 or 10 years down the road.


Wednesday, June 09, 2010

Yes, there was life before computers

My daughters like to tease me because I can remember life before the personal computer. When I started college in 1968, one of the important tools of a budding science student was a slide rule. Those of you who don't remember a day when there wasn't, at least, a pocket calculator, may not realize that there was once a time when people actually made complex mathematical computations on a piece of paper and we used something called a pencil.

Well, memories of those old days came flooding back tonight when I was cleaning out my library. I got onto the shelf that held some of my old textbooks and I found a book that was vital to any student who had to go beyond the basic add, subtract, multiply and divide to solve a mathematical problem.

I found my old copy of a book called "Standard Mathematical Tables". This was an amazing collection of computations that were already done for you. Square roots, sines, tangents - and far more complex calculations that this old biologist didn't have to master.

Of course, today anyone can do these calculations in a spreadsheet in a fraction of the time. It is amazing what we can do now with computers and the internet.

I'm going to resist the temptation to wax nostalgic about the "old days" because, quite frankly, I wouldn't want to go back to those days of computing and calculating by hand. My job would be so much more difficult than it already is. I can imagine what it would be like trying to get sales reports out to my staff each Monday. I am very thankful for that box on my desk that creates those reports for me. But it was fun to page through that old book and remember a time when a slide rule was a high tech device.

One thing that hasn't changed over all those years - my wish for you.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Scientists have created the first synthetic cell.

Craig Venter and his associates have succeeded in artificially creating a new DNA sequence, implanting the DNA into a bacterium and then booting that sequence so that the bacterium is replicating. They, in essence, have created a new life form from scratch. The first synthetic cell.

The video is of his announcement. I will let him do the explaining because I don't have anywhere near the knowledge base to fully understand how they did it. I will say, though, that this is amazing stuff.

This is already upsetting some people. I have read some that are claiming that these scientists have created life and are playing God. Dr. Venter has been very clear to point out that they are NOT making the claim that they have created life from scratch. What they have done is created a new life form (a new species) from an already existing life form. I think we all understand by now that the specific DNA code sequence in each life form is what makes us a unique individual. What these scientists have done is create a unique DNA sequence from bottles of chemicals and implanted that DNA sequence into a bacterium cell that has had it's original DNA removed. What is amazing is that the cell then replicated itself - it multiplied.

The implications here are enormous. One can only imagine what will follow from this. Think of it this way - who could have imagined what has followed when the first computer was created. I think we will find this to be an even greater event in the history of mankind.

Initial applications are looking into creating new vaccines and creating cells that could capture CO2 from the atmosphere that could then be refined into fuel. That will just be a beginning. I think this will be a breakthrough on the par of the discovery of electricity or the creation of the written word.

I hope we do not succumb to the 21st Century version of the people who tried Galileo for heresy and actually burned Giordano Bruno at the stake for believing that the Earth orbited around the Sun. These people exist, they are already writing and making their accusations. This breakthrough is not a refutation of God. I would prefer to argue that this breakthrough was accomplished by people created by God and inspired by God.

Many will be fearful of this new technology. But I prefer to remember that God does not give me more than I can handle - but He often times has a higher opinion of me than I have of myself.


Friday, May 07, 2010

Dell Inspiron Mini 1012 Review

This will be my first attempt at a product review. I want to say up front, I make no claim to be a computer expert so this will not be a technical review of this new computer. My intent is to share my experience for other plain old people like myself.

I have been playing with this mini for about a month now and I really like it. I think I have succeeded in setting it up the way I want it.

Just a brief description of the hardware. This one has the Atom N450 processor, with 1 GB of RAM. It has a 160 GB HDD, a 6 cell battery and the operating system is Windows 7 Starter.

First of all, I am impressed with Windows 7. Just turn it on and walk through the start up and you are off and running. Windows 7 immediately found my wifi connection, logged on and was updating before I even realized what it was doing. It couldn’t have been simpler. This also came with some extra trial software that I didn’t want - more about that later.

The key board is almost full size and just fine for my use. I’m not a high-speed touch typist so I’m not terribly picky. I find the keyboard has a nice feel to it. The keys have a solid feel though some may find them to be a bit stiff.

I’m very impressed with the battery life. The 6 cell battery along with the N450 processor give this little guy a good 8 hours of battery life for my uses. I just plug it in at night and it is good for the day.

Since I use this little guy mainly for web use, I have done some set up to make it work for me. That is where the work comes in. My use for this mini is to have it in my lap in the evenings so I can check the news sites and do my general, recreational surfing. And in this case, I am using it to write this blog post.

Here is how I have set this up:
First I removed the McAfee anti-virus program that was pre-loaded. I have been using AVG on my computers for several years now and have been very pleased with that program on my desk-tops. I use it here and find it works just as well.

Since this is not going to be a business computer, I had no need for MS Office. That 60 day trial may be nice, but I don’t need the programs and definitely don’t want the expense after the 60 days are up. Especially since it didn’t include Outlook.

I replaced it with OpenOffice. That gives me the programs that I want without the expense. I also chose not to install the database program since I have never used it on my other computers. Right now I am also playing with a word processing program called AbiWord that I think is ideal for a mini like this. It is a small program but has all of the features that I want for basic text creation. I’m writing this in AbiWord right now. And I just found how to add a hyperlink, so it hasn’t failed me yet.

Now comes the real meat of the set-up. I want to go online, what browser should I use? I started with IE but wasn’t impressed. It isn’t all that fast with this processor and only 1 gig of RAM. Also, it takes up so much screen space with it’s task bars and headers. I soon discovered that the 10.1“ screen on this little mini is a limitation that has to be considered. With IE, I found that I didn’t get to see much of the web page that I was most interested in seeing.

I had seen some others suggest that Google Chrome is the way to go so I tried it out. I have to agree - Chrome is the choice for a browser when you have a mini like this. The minimalist screen and the smaller footprint makes it the better choice. Chrome has become my browser of choice. Then all I had to do was hide the taskbar on the bottom and I was set.

Oh, that reminds me - since I dumped Office, IE and most of the pre-installed garbage I had no use for that funky taskbar that was at the top. First I tried just hiding it but it would jump out and get in the way when I was trying to go to the buttons at the top. Then I tried moving to the left or right but it still just got in the way when I didn’t want it around, So finally, I just dumped it. There is the option of turning it off or deleting it. I chose to turn it off on the off chance that some day I might want it back. I am not impressed with that little feature.

Well, all in all, I am very pleased with my Mini 1012. It surfs well and I can write the occasional text document without any problem. I’ve used it to play mp3 files and it works well for that as well. I doubt it would be a good gaming station but I’m not a gamer and it isn’t built for that. In all, I would definitely recommend this to the general user interested in a small, portable net computer.

Hope you liked my first attempt at a product review. I don’t imagine I will be doing a lot of this kind of thing but who knows?


Saturday, May 01, 2010

My First Bat of the Spring

I had a visitor tonight. As I was getting ready to go to bed I caught some movement out of the corner of my eye. Something had just flown by me. I checked it out and I had a bat in the house.

Nothing to get terribly excited about. We have, over the years, had these guests maybe five or six times. So I knew what to do. I just went to the closet and got an old towel. Then I had to find were it had gone. I finally found it clinging to to the wall above the closet door in the back bedroom. It had gone for the dark room I suspect.

Well, I just snapped the towel at it to knock it to the floor. Then I threw the towel over it. The little guy wasn't very happy with me as I wrapped it loosely in the towel to pick it up. He was clicking away very furiously. But I was able to take him to the door before he escaped the towel and off he flew into the night.

Each summer we have a pretty good number of the little fellows flying around our backyard. Sometimes it is fun to watch them go to work on the insects at night. I never have figured out how they get into our house but I've read it doesn't take much of an opening.
Oh well, no harm - no foul. I want them in my neighborhood, just not in my house.

Good night all and Peace be with you.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

The Language of God

There is so much dissension and confusion in our world today.  It seems like you can't pick up the newspaper, watch the evening news on TV, or check out the news feed on your computer without seeing that some group is fighting with another group.  The political scene is down right depressing.  It seems nobody wants to work with the other side to make things better - they just want to fight.

The same seems to be true in the Christian community.  It seems Christians are clashing over the smallest of differences and we miss how much we see alike.    I found this ad from the United Church of Christ that reminds us that God is still speaking.

I hope that we can listen.


Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Some Flooded Homes are Coming Down

Spring has arrived to middle America and the work crews are out in full force. The road crews are fixing the streets, new homes are being started, and it is now time to bring down those homes that will not survive the flood. It has taken almost 2 years of negotiations and I'm not sure that they are really done with all of that - but some of the houses in Time Check are going away.

I went out today to see the action. For some this is a relief. It marks the end of that episode in life and frees the person to move on and start anew. For others, this is very sad as they watch their home for decades laid to rest. For all it will bring closure to an ugly time.

Yes, it has been almost 2 years but there is still a great deal of work. Our church still has work mission teams coming. In fact, we have had teams for almost a month now and the schedule is full through mid-summer. There is still a great deal of work to do. Block-by-Block is back in full swing and Habitat for Humanity has scheduled a blitz build for June. Of course, our church is by no means the only one involved in the effort - probably not even one of the largest. I just speak of my church because that is what I know.

With so much happening in the world - earthquakes in Haiti, Chile, Mexico - a volcano in Iceland, and all of the other natural disasters that occurred, it is hard to keep a focus on our recovery. But this will be a long term project, 5 to 10 years is what we were told 2 summers ago. I can see they were correct.

Well, I'm off to fix dinner - the Rev will be joining me tonight.


Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Emanicpation Act - 1819

One of my favorite blogs is the Times Archive blog. Rose Wild goes through the archives of The Times (this is London, folks) and finds interesting, sometimes topical news reports from the past. Today the topic is - the emancipation act of 1819. This act of Parliament emancipated the Catholics. Here is what the Times had to say:

" The people of England - the intelligent, the reflecting, the mind-gifted majority of the people of England - have, through their representatives in Parliament, passed the great Bill for Catholic emancipation."

So began The Times's leading article on April 1, 1829. The historic vote had gone through Parliament on the Bill's third reading, with a majority of 320 to 142.

The Times went on to describe the dissenters in Parliament and in the general population.

"The out-of-doors resistance to this masterpiece of state policy may be resolved into two descriptions of men - whatever was least conversant with the living world, among the clergy; and of the laity, whatever was most ignorant, low, and brutal."

This seems to be so odd for us because we in the US think of emancipation as a slavery issue.We see that word - emancipation - and think of our own Civil War and the social struggles that we continue to battle today. Unfortunately this emancipation did not come in time to circumvent the strife this land still battles with between Catholic and Protestant believers.

Is it just the nature of the human existence that we must feel superior to those who do not look like us, or think like us, or believe like us? We see this on so many levels. In politics, our newspapers are full of the battles going on right now between those who sit on the left side of the aisle and those on the right - those who are trying to do something and those whose only response is "No". In our churches, we hear of division about so many issues. Those who like the traditional service and those who want a service more relevant to today's world. Those who struggle with beliefs that aren't exactly like their own.

All over the globe we have one local group trying to overcome their neighbor. I started to list some examples but there are so many and in every corner. In the Middle East, Africa, the Balkans, South and Central America, Asia, Indonesia - it doesn't matter where you look. Sure, you might say that Europe and North America are exempt today because there is not open "warfare" going on but anyone living in these regions knows that the battles are just suppressed - under the surface.

Enough of this rant. I don't know the answers, I just wish it didn't have to be this way.

Spring has arrived to the heartland. I'm going out today to enjoy the sun and warmth. And to all, I bid you

Saturday, April 10, 2010

This is for you Coca-Cola fans

Okay, I don't do this very often - posting a link like this. But this was just way too cool not to share.

Does this remind anyone of Candid Camera?

Sunday, March 28, 2010

IDF to seal off West Bank for the duration of Passover - Haaretz - Israel News

Israel has closed the border between east and west Jerusalem for Passover.
IDF to seal off West Bank for the duration of Passover - Haaretz - Israel News

This effectively prohibits Christians from going into the old city for Easter. That's right folks. About 50,000 of the Christians living in the Holy Land are Palestinians and they live in the West Bank. And if you have family that lives in west Jerusalem, sorry - you can't be with them. It doesn't matter that you were born and raised in west Jerusalem, and your church is there - you can't go.

This a very confusing and complex part of the world. I don't claim to have a solution - I can't even claim to understand the problems. I just wish the holiest city in the Judeo-Christian world was open to all Jews and Christians during our most holy days.

As always, but especially this week. . .
I pray for Peace.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

The Rev in Jerusalem

There were two moments on our trip to the Holy Land that were very emotional for me. I've already spoken of how I was moved we stood in the waters of the Jordan River and remembered our baptism. The other time was when it was the Rev's turn to do the devotional. I got to hear the Rev preach in Jerusalem.

I had the role of reading the scripture but that also meant I was up front and couldn't back away to get a picture of the event. Well, Brian just sent me one of his shots. This is the one shot that I didn't get that I wanted of that trip. Thank you Brian.

We were at the site of the pool in Bethesda where Jesus healed the lame beggar. The theme of water and frustration and yet, the healing that could come out of that situation was not lost on the Rev. She told a story of a woman in our town whose home was destroyed by the flood waters. This lady had received money from FEMA to rebuild her home and had hired a contractor to do the work. Unfortunately that contractor quit coming after only a couple of days and she was very desperate when some youth from our church came to her door. They were canvassing in the flooded neighborhoods, looking for people who needed help. This lady couldn't believe that a group from a church she had never attended - that didn't know her at all - would be interested in assisting her. She was skeptical at first but agreed to let them assist her.

The Rev tells the story better than I but, to make this story short, we rebuilt her home and for the first time in her life, this lady allowed God into her heart. She was welcomed into our congregation and was baptized last fall.

Healing comes in many ways. I am reminded by these stories that it is my task as a Christian to share God's love whenever and wherever I can. Then stand back and leave the outcome to Him.

God's peace to you all.

Friday, March 12, 2010

A Great Night at TCR

The Rev and I joined up with our daughter and took in the Theater Cedar Rapids production of "The Producers" last night. It was great. We all agreed it was a wonderful night.

The Rev has been taking me to plays at TCR since we came to town so many years ago and we have always enjoyed the productions. I have always been amazed by the quality of the performances given that these are local people and we are a small town in the heartland.

This night was special because this is the first production in the refurbished theater. The Iowa Theater has been the home of TCR for many years now but it was destroyed during the flood. Unlike our local government, TCR decided to rebuild and return to the downtown. They did a beautiful job of rebuilding. The theater is gorgeous. They revamped the lobby area - keeping the original feel but modernizing it and making it more patron friendly. The seating in the theater appears to be smaller but there isn't a bad seat in the house, at least not on the main floor where we sat. Thanks TCR for coming back downtown.


Tuesday, March 02, 2010

The Sea of Galilee

The sea of Galilee, the lake so important in Jesus' life. This is where he found the first of his disciples. This where he took the boat out into the water - away from shore - so he could preach to the crowd. This is where the story says he fed the multitudes with just a few fish and a few loaves of bread.

In all of our travels this was one site that we knew was real. This is the lake of the biblical stories. It hasn't moved - it hasn't even changed all that much. Though the boats are a little more modern, fishermen still go out each night and return in the morning with their catch.

We ate lunch at a fishing Kibbutz on the shores of this lake. The traditional fish of the lake is called St. Peter's fish. We know it in here as Tilapia. I grew up on a lake in Minnesota, and grew up eating fish. I wasn't going to pass on the opportunity to eat fresh fish from the Sea of Galilee. I didn't take a picture of my lunch but this picture gives you a very good idea what I was served. Several people at my table where put off by the whole fish presentation but I was familiar with this. This is how we ate Sunfish and Crappies when I was a kid. The fish was prepared in the traditional (I believe kosher, but I may be wrong on that) manner. Simply scaled, gutted and gilled. Grilled over the fire with only some seasoning. It was delicious.

I hope all of you will be able to enjoy lunch today.

And my grace at the table will include a prayer for

Sunday, February 28, 2010

Via Dolorosa

We walked the "way of the cross" when we were in Jerusalem. We took the path that is identified with the journey of Christ to the cross. But it wasn't what I expected. It wasn't the respectful preservation of the past. It wasn't a beautiful walk through history.

It was the market place.

It was a run of a gauntlet of aggressive shopkeepers wanting to sell you their wares. This was quite disconcerting during the experience. It wasn't until afterwards as some of us were talking that the thought arose that this was probably a more accurate portrayal of Christ's experience then our naive expectation. I had not thought of it before, but most likely, Jesus was marched through the center of town to his execution. The environment He walked through was probably the ancient version of the market we endured.

Well, I'm off now to return to my pew in the comfortable environs of my own church. I know today, I will remember to pray for

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Walking in the footsteps

The Rev and I are hardly world travelers but we have had a couple of opportunities to travel in ancient lands. One of the things that intrigues me the most about this is the chance to walk were others have gone before. When we were in Ephesus a couple of years ago, I was moved by walking up the road that had felt the feet of Paul and the chariot wheels of Anthony & Cleopatra so many years before.

On this trip, I had hoped that I would be able to walk in the footsteps of those names I had grown up reading about in church. It isn't easy in the Holy Land to find such places. This turf has been fought over, conquered, re- conquered, liberated, and occupied for so many centuries that finding a spot from the biblical times is not easy. We did find a couple of places that are thought to be from those days.

The first is a section of paving stones that is thought to be from a main street in Jerusalem from the Roman period. It is entirely possible that Jesus and/or some of the disciples trod on these very stones.

The other place we found is a set of stairs going up to where the palace of Caiaphas is thought to have been. It is thought that these were the steps Jesus used when he was arrested.

The Holy Land is an interesting place to visit as a tourist or pilgrim. I am used to visiting historic places and seeing the preserved site or reconstructed ruins. That is sort of the way we do things in America. When we find a site of historical importance, we fence it off and try to preserve it in it's original condition or at least a recreation of that state. Of course, our sites are not as ancient and have not been revered for as many years. In this area, in earlier times, the way of marking a cite was to build a church on it. It took some getting used to - the experience of going to a place and being told, this is the church that commemorates the site of such and such event.

I understand the need. This land has been fought over for centuries. Many of these churches have been built, destroyed, re-built and destroyed again and again.

I was reminded time and again how hard it is for us as a people to find. . .


Friday, February 19, 2010

Back in the USA

Well, we made it back home. Actually the trip home went off without a hitch. All three flights on time, the bags were in CR and the landings smooth. Couldn't ask for anything better. Of course it was a full 24 hours from the time we entered the airport in Tel Aviv to the time we left the airport in Cedar Rapids but hey, that's life.

I have about 400 pictures to go through and some video so it will be awhile before I get media out.

The Rev and I had a great time. We have so many stories to tell. . .
- Rev preaching at the pool of Bethesda
- Praying at the Western Wall
- Sunbob eating fish from the Sea of Galilee
- an Ash Wednesday service in an ancient chapel in the Church of the Holy Sepulchre. (never again will I be able to receive the ashes without remembering that experience.)
- Entering the Garden Tomb (yes, it is still empty). Then taking communion at the site.
- Remembering our baptism in (yes in) the Jordan River.

I went to Jerusalem expecting to see "sites". What I didn't expect was getting to meet some of the people. I have a whole new perspective on the Palestine/Israel conflict.

More to come as I debrief.


Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Visiting the pools at Bethesda

More exploration today. It is Ash Wednesday and that played into one of my highlights for the day. We took the imposition of the ashes from the bishop in an ancient chapel within the Church of the Holy Sepulchre. I will never experience another Ash Wednesday service without remembering this experience.

The highlight for me for today, though, was visiting the pools at Bethesda. That its because it was the Rev's turn for the devotional. How do I explain what it felt like to hear her preach in Jerusalem? It was great for me to watch her do her thing.
From a land that struggles so hard with the concept,
I wish you PEACE.