Dec 31


WordPress for Dummies, by Lisa Sabin-Wilson ???
Now that I’m doing my own webpages, with a lot of help from son-in-law Andrew, I’ve decided that I need to grasp some of the nuances of WordPress. Interestingly, many webpages are made by WordPress, as it possesses the best easy blog maker using SQL and php protocols. This book is a good introduction to WordPress. Its weakness is that it is both too easy and too hard. Most of the time in the book is spent taking you through all the things you can click on in WordPress which you could generally figure out for yourself. The rest of the book are technical aspects that are not well introduced, and thus not useable. An instance of the is the teaching of modification of css formats, which is nice to know, though one is not going to be messing with css until they’ve mastered the css language. All in all the book is a good but limited introduction to WordPress.

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Dec 31


The two Iowa girls made it home, letting us have Christmas together complete as a family. The above photo shows Jonathan, Sarah, Rachel and Diane. It was wonderful having all four children together. The only distress was an extra visitor (Schmutzie die Wutzie)-actually, she’s a cat, something we didn’t really expect, and Katze has not been very happy about her new feline roommate. The girls have gone back home, but they left the cat. That’s ok. We still love the Iowa kids.
 
Meanwhile, my practice has slowed down so that I have had time free to get packing. Not having made many 5 week trips out of the country, it is a little difficult to determine exactly what to bring. So, minor indecisiveness prevails while I decide on my favorite things to bring. As I write this, I notice that the temperature in Düsseldorf is -8°C, meaning that is absolutely freezing. No way I’m going to ride a bicycle and come home with frostbite. I’ll stick to walking and public transportation in Germany, for now.
 
Getting travel issues straightened out with my other trips to Bangladesh have been made much easier through the agency of Samaritan’s Purse. They will essentially be the organization that sends me off. They also have done this before, and so they have been superb at helping neophytes like Betsy and me organize the trips.
 
Snow. Yes, this year is experiencing global cooling. Next year, it may return to global warming. But, we had a moderate amount of snow, that sits in patches by the side of the road. It snowed just before Christmas, giving us a wonderful Weiße Weihnacht. Here are a few photos…

 

 

 
Of course, Christmas was celebrated as usual…
 

 
I was able to do a home visit to one of my patients who is now in his last days, on whom I performed a major cancer operation. I had learned that he had an absolutely incredible story of escape with his family from Eastern Germany during the cold war. We then discovered that he was my student teacher in German class in high school. I was so excited about that, that I decided to help him write his autobiography. Using my typographical skills, we slowly got his story together, which included scanned photos from many aspects of his life. I would encourage you to read the story, which can be found in Die Veröffentlichen as Meine Geschichte (My Story). Helmut has a strong love for the Lord, which takes some of the sorrow out of the soon-passing of a dear patient but also dear friend.
 
Exercise continues. After the accident on the trainer, I have my bicycle repaired, and am pushing the training each day. I finally figured out how to use the Garmin 705 in training mode, as I was having a problem with it making a wireless connection with the rear sensor that would tell me speed, distance, and cadence. Together with a heart monitor, I am totally in the know on my rides that go nowhere. The Garmin is actually a slave-driver

since it forces me to maintain a steady speed and cadence, and usually shows me that my cadence is too slow. Cadence is your pedaling speed, and you like to keep it between 70-90, but I usually go 60-70. Well, I have the winter to work on that.
 
While pedaling away, I’ve managed to work my way through Heidegger,  Wittgenstein, the Frankfurt School including Habermas, Quine, Hayek, Popper, Kuhn, the Structuralists Saussure and Levi-Strauss. There are only a few lectures left to go, covering to deconstructionists, Rohrty, MacEntyre, and Nozick. So, what has this availed me? The designers of this series have left out various schools of thought, such as the existentialists, for reasons that elude me. Truth has taken a hard hit, and nobody, save for perhaps MacEntyre, even believes in a notion of truth. Many of the lectures, including those about Habermas, Quine, Popper, Kuhn, & Rawls deal only with the nature of social interactions and language in forming a constructive society. Democracy has rightfully taken a serious hit, as these philosophers abandon the polar opposites of both socialism (esp. Hayek), and democracy in its raw form. In addition, Wittgenstein essentially destroyed the possibility of language (based on commonly accepted philosophical pre-suppositions), yet the structuralists and late 20th century philosophers don’t wish to abandon the possibility of communication, as least until they’ve spoken their mind. Popper and Kuhn, while seemingly restoring a philosophy of science, have essentially destroyed the possibility of science demonstrating ultimate truth, since the paradigms of research determine the interpretation of outcomes. Yet, we still do science since there is utility in it. Bottom line—it seems to me like the pragmatists have won; philosophers have despaired of philosophizing, and are no longer asking questions of ontology, morality, or epistemology, but simply ascertaining how to produce a functional society at peace with itself. In essence, they have become nothing but political scientists and sociologists. Francis Schaeffer again proves right, when he spoke of personal peace and prosperity being the summum bonum of the late twentieth century, rather than truth or morality. Enough philosophizing.
 
Many continue to ask about my plans for the Sabbatical. Here is a rough outline…
02JAN-07FEB Deutschland, esp. Düsseldorf, where I will be spending four weeks in language school. Betsy didn’t want to go. I think she suspects Germans to all be closet Nazis or jack-booted Prussian militarists, myself included. During that time, I’ll be spending time with Onkel Herbert, visiting a childhood friend and her husband (Heinz und Debbie Fuchs) in the Stuttgart area, hopefully getting up to Bremen and Hamburg, and then going with Herbert to Würzberg to visit Katya (Herbert’s, and soon to be, my friend) and eventually on to Praha (Prague).
 
February – cross-country skiing, and maybe some downhill skiing. I’ll be spending a lot of time organizing for Bangladesh.
 
02-07 March – Phoenix, to go to the Society of Surgical Oncology meetings. Betsy I plan on spending time with Dr. Peter T. and also delighting ourselves in one of the most fascinating characters of the twentieth-21st centuries, Peter Megyesi, who is Betsy’s brother. Peter and his wife Linda live in Scottsdale, and are always enjoyable to visit, with never a dull moment. I’m not sure how Linda puts up with Petie, but they seem to remain madly in love.
 
15MAR-15MAY Bangladesh. I’m ready. Betsy’s psyching up. Pray for us!
 
Summer – will be spent in the Pacific Northwest. One does not leave the PNW in summer, as it is paradise here. Plans are to hike the 93 mile (150 km) Wonderland trail around Rainier with Jonny (again), do the entire loop of Crater Lake on bicycle with Luc A and father while camping out with Aaron H., doing the Seattle to Portland (STP) on bicycle in one day, only 203 miles (327 km) of fairly flat terrain. I also am considering a touring ride across the state of Washington with the Cascade Bicycle Club.
 
September-December – to Africa. Too far away to think seriously about, except to pencil in the days that we will be away.
 
While in Düsseldorf, I will try to make a blog page every week with the events of the week. I will NOT be announcing the publication of the page, in part to not burden you with unnecessary junk mail. Please stay in touch and drop comments as appropriate.
 

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Dec 29

Die Fledermaus by Johann Strauss, conducted by Placido Domingo, Royal Opera Covent Garden ????
Die Fledermaus is a fun opera that we watch most New Year’s eves, celebrating this New Years’  Eve just a bit early. This production is well done, and Hermann Prey and Kiri Te Kanawa are absolutely marvelous. Of particular note, Te Kanawa spoke mostly English but some German, Prey spoke mostly German but some English, and the other spoken parts were a mix, with some French, Italian, and Russian, as well as Hungarian thrown in. The conductor (Domingo) even was able to add some vocal to the opera. You could tell that the singers were enjoying the production, and it  works well for New Year’s Eve.
 

 

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Dec 23


The Shack, by Wm. Paul Young ??
23DEC09  I was given this book by a dear friend, who encouraged me to read it and then discuss the book with him. It apparently has been significant in his life. The book is essentially mostly conversations between Mack, and a large black lady, a small Oriental lady, and a blue-collar working man, representing “god”. Mack has a traumatic childhood, followed by the awkward loss of his youngest child, and expresses anger at ‘god’ for his life. ‘God’ then encounters Mack at the shack where Mack’s child Missy was murdered, and Mack engages in a lengthy psychobabble exchange about ‘god’s’ love for everybody, and how  ‘god’ is fond of us.
The book fails in many ways. 1) It attempts at gender-neutrality of God in a way that God never ever described of himself, 2) it is oblivious to the true character of God, his wrath, his morality, his offense at sin, 3) it diminishes mans’ sinfulness, not even speaking of sin, 4) it diminishes God’s authority, making it an interchange between God and man, with a massive Arminian theological flavor 5) it completely misunderstands the nature of Gods’ judgment, assuming that it would represent an angry god or judgmental god. 6) it assumes that relations are the highest good in life, rather than holiness, 7) it expresses distaste for anything institutional or orderly as diminishing Gods’ true expression. In all, the book is a complete failure. The fact that it has achieved such great popularity is quite concerning to me, as many who read it will see God in a new light, a light which is not the God of Scripture at all. There is almost no talk about Scripture in this book, as relationship doesn’t require a book. It relishes in antinomianism, assuming that Paul’s  injunctions about the law suggest that we live by no law at all. Historical movements against “dead” theologizing have usually swung far too far toward completely trashing theology,, but this trend is unfortunately still quite popular if not growing among Christians. It is incomprehensible and saddening how thoroughly the possibility of a theology of God has been abandoned by the new “conservative” Christian. If there is any virtue in this book, it is that it essentially fights a straw-man. It creates a quasi-Christian in Mack who has many false thoughts about God, and anger with God. The weakness of the book is the inability to offer true insights into the nature and character of either man or God. One might ask if the ‘god’ of the Shack is a kinder-gentler ‘god’. In this book, he (she) is, but when looked at with a discerning eye, Young’s ‘god’ ends up as confused as we are. It is only the God of Scripture, described well by the Reformers, that gives us a God that is truly worth loving and giving one’s life to.


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Dec 21


Dreamweaver CS3 On Demand ??
I needed to quickly learn Dreamweaver, since iWeb has become a severe disappointment to me. I decided to simply write my own webpage, and thus have control over everything. This book was no help. The book has its strengths. It is beautifully illustrated, and shows in very clear steps how to make certain functions happen. What it doesn’t tell you, is how to use those functions to write a webpage. I presume that the authors assume that you know how to compose a webpage, and are simply switching from another program to Dreamweaver. For a beginner, this book is essentially worthless.

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Dec 13


Mad Max Road Warrior Series, starring Mel Gibson ???
The story of a post-apocalyptic venture in Australia, where motorcycle gangs and mad road rage dudes seek to dominate the diminishing supplies of gasoline available. These movies are best seen in a series, and are mostly bizarre episodes of war being engaged from ever more bizarre designs of road, rail, and air vehicles. Mel stars as a cop whose family was murdered by a motorcycle gang, and goes on to ever greater glory in each movie, conquering the bad guys. I’ve seen much better films of a post-apocalyptic nature, and these don’t really do it for me. Thus, three stars.

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Dec 11


Please note well… I am NOT writing about the book Going Rouge!!!!!

Going Rogue, by Sarah Palin ???
This book was read by me, since Betsy and I had lunch with the ghost-writer, Lynn Vincent. The ghost writing is excellent, with good flow and easy readability. This is one of the first times I have ever read a contemporary biography, especially of a political official, since politicians tend to make me nauseated, even when I agree with them (Ron Paul is a rare exception). I actually just finished reading Paul’s latest book on End the Fed, and the difference in the way Sarah Palin and Ron Paul think are quite apparent. Sarah remains a “soccer mom”, unsophisticated, the sort of person who would mouth off on public talk radio, full of great ideas. She did make a reasonably good governor, but national politics, with a larger heterogeneity of thought and opinion tended to overwhelm her. This book helped me to both agree with Sarah while at the same time seeing that she would make a terrible president. The book is best read in skimming mode, since too many details are included, attempting to paint Sarah as an ordinary US citizen, concerned enough to fight to become VP or president of the USA. It also shows a person that doesn’t have the ability to think deeply enough to best serve as the leader of the most powerful nation in the world. This book is not recommended unless you are just deeply interested in Sarah Palin.


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Dec 11


The Gods Must be Crazy I and II ????
It was fitting to watch these films on return from Africa. The first is the story of an African bushman, seeking to get rid of a coke bottle that his tribe thinks is bringing trouble to the tribe, a renegade revolutionary and his group of bandits, a scientist studying animals of the Kalahari, and a school teacher. Their lives all collide in a most interesting fashion in this film, reflecting the conflict of cultures occurring in Africa.
The Gods Must be Crazy II is a continuation of the same theme, this time also with multiple stories threading together, one with the bushman trying to find his children, another with elephant tusk poachers, another with a New York female lawyer accidentally stuck in the brush, etc. The story similarly resolves itself.
There is supposedly a GMBC III  which reportedly is not worth watching. These two films are entertaining but not in the top 100 of best films of all time.

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Dec 11


The Marriage of Figaro, Mozart, Hamburg Opera, (Cult Opera) ????
11DEC09 – This opera is a wonderful classic, performed in traditional style in the 1970’s by the Hamburg Opera company. The recording is not perfect in technique, yet the performance is very compelling, and well done. This is a version of Figaro worth having in any musical repertoire. The singing was actually performed in German, rather than Italian, the way Mozart originally scripted the opera. This doesn’t seem to distract from the performance. Tom Krause and Edith Mathis are the two true stars in this film, both with superb acting and voices to make the opera a true success.

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Dec 09


Conspiracy Theory, starring Mel Gibson and Julia Roberts ????
This is a film that suggests a plethora of secret activities occurring by various governmental agencies, none aware of what the next is doing. Mel Gibson plays a taxi driver caught up in such an event, involved in psychiatric mind bending by a government official seeking to terminate various lives by various accidents occurring to them. Gibson then encounters Julia as a lawyer-investigator for the police force, caught in trying to figure out Gibson’s “psychosis” or delusionary patterns from that of actual reality. The movie is fast paced, and doesn’t end as expected. A film that is highly recommended.

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