Thursday, August 28, 2008

My Home State, Where Whales Explode

Tomorrow, I'm headed for Oregon to visit Mom and my sister. Somehow, that ties in to the following video, which dates from 1970. It's news coverage of the famous exploding whale incident, and if you can watch this without laughing, please ask your relatives to bury you, because you're already dead . . . and possibly as stinky as this whale:

This was big news (pun intended). Previously unbeknownst to me, Wikipedia has its own Exploding Whale page, there's a web site called, and a Google search for exploding whale oregon yields 28,000 results.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008


Our need to live in an ordered world, a world whose origin, destiny and rules we can understand, is not a temporary, historically relative whim; it is an enduring part of our constitution as human beings, and the entire history of religion – an eternal aspect of our culture – is there to demonstrate this. In claiming that this need arises from a feeling of weakness, Nietzsche was in perfect agreement with Christian tradition, and probably with religious tradition as a whole. The crucial conviction we find in religious experience, a conviction that recurs repeatedly in various sacred books, may be summed up in one word: alibi – ‘elsewhere’.

Throughout its history, religion has told us that we are ‘elsewhere’. This implies that we are in exile, and that we have a home where we belong. To be elsewhere is our permanent condition on earth.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Eat Food. Not Too Much. Mostly Plants.

I don't normally read books about food, nutrition, or diets. After 50+ years of life, I feel like I've heard it all. Caffeine is good/bad for you. Margarine is better/worse than butter. Saccharine will/won't give you cancer. The Atkins diet will/won't make you thin, but at some/no cost to your heart. The grapefruit diet does/doesn't burn fat. And on it goes, endlessly. You could add to the list.

My basic approach to food over the last few years, as I've seen my metabolism slowing down, is to control portions and eat no more calories than what I expend, to go easy on saturated fats, and otherwise to eat a bit of everything but not too much of anything. That's been working reasonably well for me, though any doofus would know that adding regular exercise to all the above wouldn't be a bad idea.

My skepticism at dietary advice met an unexpected friend in Michael Pollan and his book, In Defense of Food. I first encountered Pollan in a lengthy interview on XM Radio's Bob Edwards Show. (You can download a podcast of an shortened version of the interview here.)

Pollan is a professor of journalism at UC Berkeley and shares my skeptical approach to much of life. In his book, he asks why a country so obsessed with nutrition and health food can simultaneously be the fattest nation on earth. What are we missing? His common-sensical analysis is eye-opening, and his writing is consistently engaging.

I had intended at one time to post excerpts from each chapter of his book on this blog, but there's just too much. I would have ended up retyping most of the book. His basic conclusion about nutrition is the title of this blog post, but there's a wealth of data and research (much of it historical rather than nutritional, surprisingly enough) that leads to this simple seven-word summary.

As a result of reading this book, I've changed some aspects of my diet to favor whole foods (fruits, vegetables) and items which only have ingredients whose names I can pronounce and which can be created somewhere other than in the chemistry lab. I'm still not a purist, but I've made a few changes. (Oh, and I drink wine a lot more often, but that may have more to do with Trader Joe's coming to town and making oceans of plonk abundantly available.)

You could buy the book - and there are certainly worse ways to drop $13 - but if you read this lengthy essay by Pollan that appeared on the NY Times website in January 2007, you'll get the gist. You can also read the first 26 pages of the book on Google Books here.

Monday, August 18, 2008

Office Slaves

Recently at work, I've been developing a new product and having a lot of fun at it. This kind of work plays to my strengths and interests and gives me a feeling of satisfaction. If the product comes to fruition, millions of people will see it every day. (Yes, I'm being coy on purpose.)

But last week, I was effectively redirected to work on a different project. Project 1 will have to go into limbo for at least two months while I work on Project 2. My role in this new project is important - some might say essential - and if this project succeeds, you'll read about it in the newspapers. Or news web sites. Whatever.

The problem is that this second project does not really play to my strengths. I can do the job, and I believe I can do it well enough, but as of now I don't expect to find it enjoyable at all or anywhere near as satisfying as Project 1.

I spent most of last week feeling rather depressed about this change of job assignment, and my inability to change the situation to my liking. I felt a bit like a slave. But wouldn't you know it? God, always apropos, seems to have orchestrated my Scripture memory program so that these circumstances would coincide with my memory verse that came up for last week. This is what I aspire to live out, difficult though I'm finding it to be:

Serve wholeheartedly, as if you were serving the Lord, not men, because you know that the Lord will reward everyone for whatever good he does, whether he is slave or free. (Ephesians 6.7,8)

(P.S. My verse for this week is about the second coming of Christ. I hope your bags are packed.)

Sunday, August 17, 2008

"At What Point is a Baby Entitled to Human Rights?"

If you didn't see the discussion Rick Warren had at Saddleback church last night with Barack Obama and John McCain, this 3-minute excerpt video does a good job of showing one significant difference between the two candidates. Helpful hints: Notice Obama's nonanswer to the question, "Have you ever voted to limit . . . " [the accurate answer would have been "No"], and notice McCain's answer to the question that is the title of this post.

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Ahmadinejad felicitates Ivory Coast president on National Day

That delicious headline comes to us courtesy of the Islamic Republic News Agency. The first paragraph of the story reads as follows [sic]:

[Iranian] President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad felicitated President Laurent Gbagbo and the people of Ivory Cost's on the anniversary of Ivory Coast's National Day in a message on Wednesday.

That sounds rather illicit, doesn't it?

As repressive as Iran is, I'm surprised felicitation is still legal, especially between presidents.

Monday, August 4, 2008

Hide the Beer, the Pastor's Here!

The following article is stolen in its entirety from If you don't subscribe to their free monthly newsletter, you really should.

WATERVILLE, Maine — After stepping down from the pastorate last month after fifty years in ministry, Albert Finley did something no one expected: he had his first beer.

"I was curious what it actually tasted like, after all these years of preaching against it," he says. The results? "What a marvelous drink," he says. "It tastes much better than it smells." The Sierra Nevada Pale Ale he chose delivered "surprisingly complex and satisfying tastes." "I actually said ‘Praise God’ right in the middle of it," he says.

But people in his former congregation are not happy. "He’s tarnishing the reputation of himself and this church," says one woman. "I always pointed to the pastor and told my kids, ‘See? There’s a man who has chosen not to drink.’ This puts a big question mark after everything he has preached."

Another says Finley reminds her of Noah, "a righteous man who ended up a worthless drunk," she says.

But Finley says he no longer has to be an example. He is also upset that he has held misconceptions about beer for so long. "My dad always told me you could get drunk off of one sip, and I preached that for decades," he says. "I thought that’s why people on beer commercials were having such fun. But that’s completely untrue. I’ve had one, even two beers with no effect."

Finley says he relishes the flavor of hops and barley, and favors darker stouts and the more robust ales to the pale lagers.

He always thought post-ministry life would be "sort of puttering around the house, praying for the world and so forth." But beer has changed his mind. "I subscribe to a beer of the month club, so every week I have a new bottle in my fridge to try. Sometimes that’s my main reason for waking up," he says.

He has been emboldened to make other lifestyle changes as well. "This weekend I might just see a movie in an actual theater," he says. "I understand it’s quite an experience."

The title of this blog comes from the classic Daniel Amos/Swirling Eddies song by the same name. Lyrics here and video here.