Sunday, November 30, 2008

Music Monday: Andrew Osenga "Swing Wide the Glimmering Gates"

Andrew Osenga is maybe not a widely know artist, but he is one of the best out there. Aside from spending a lot of time with some other Andy's and having a good sense of humor, he's a fine lyricist and compelling musician. Andy is probably best know for his work with Caedmon's Call and, before that, The Normals.

Here is my favorite song from Andy O - "Swing Wide the Glimmering Gates" from his EP Letters to the Editor, Vol. 1.


I love the passion in the sentiment of this song

Swing wide the glimmering gates
Leave your pride and pain
Swing wide the glimmering gates
And be innocent again
Oh, to be innocent again; that's a place where I live and breath, forgetting the past and looking towards what is ahead.

By the way, if you like Andy's music, and this song in particular, you can get it for free. Go to his Free Page and you can download Letters to the Editor, Vol. 1 and several other songs for free - more than worth your time. Also, he has a follow-up EP, Letters to the Editor, Vol. 2, that you can download for free here. Don't miss out on some good stuff from a quality artist - take it from me, and go get it from Andy.

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Thursday, November 27, 2008

Watch out, Tom!

Happy Thanksgiving, from the Euphrony's!

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Things to do while in the dentist chair

Euphrony had his semi-annual dental check up and cleaning yesterday. As I sat with my mouth open and mind wandering for 40 minutes I had plenty of time to come up with ideas of how to fill the time. Below are a few suggestions for time in the hot seat:

  1. Stare into the big, bright light directly in front of your face (with a follow-up visit to your optometrist).
  2. Tap your toes to the best mellow hits of the 70's, 80's, 90's, and today!
  3. Contemplate one's navel (but not the lint).
  4. Count ceiling tiles (my dentist has large tiles, so only four were visible, along with two fluorescent light banks and one air vent).
  5. Think of things to do in a dentist chair and mentally write a blog post about it.
  6. Sleep (requires some talent to keep mouth agape and not snore in the process).
  7. Go through a mid-life crisis (nice because it gets compressed into a short time frame, and you're already in pain from the dentist picking at your gums).
Any other suggestions?

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Monday, November 24, 2008

Music Monday: Albertine

I know that Kat has talked extensively about Brooke Fraser. But I think it bears repeating. Here is the title song off her most recent album - "Albertine". She met Albertine when she visited Rwanda for the first time in 2005. Like you hear in Sara Groves' "I Saw What Saw", what Brooke saw changed her life.



Christianity Today just released their year end list of the best albums of 2008, with Albertine topping the list. And it is a well-deserved placement, as the whole album is great. It hit the street in New Zealand, her home, in 2006 and has been hugely popular there, as well. In fact, it won the highest selling music award in New Zealand in 2007 and was the airplay record of the year.

As a curiosity, why do you think it is that her music is mainstream in New Zealand, but a niche in the U.S.? Seriously, why do we put her, and so many others, in a cubbyhole here in the U.S.? You can't say that her music just doesn't sound that Christian so it can blend in better - not with lyrics like "faith without works is dead" and "When the sky rolls up and mountains fall on their knees / When time and space are through / I’ll be found in you" in two of her most popular songs. They just don't make sense outside a Christian worldview. So, why shuffle her off to the side here but not elsewhere? What do you think?

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Use Form 1706b (I think)

M.C. Escher TreppenhausYou think bureaucracy in the U.S. is bad? Well, it gets much worse.

I was talking to a couple of guys at work this morning - one of whom is Chinese and in his fifties. We were complaining about the crazy way bureaucracy works at the job, especially with human resources (that's got to be one of the worst misnomers ever). He then started telling us about working in China in the early 1980's, where the HR department is actually two departments of the communist party. Everything in your life went through your job "HR" people.

Everything.

He told us he had to submit an application to get married. It took a couple of months to get approved; and they told him that he could get married, but not live together until the next calendar year.

But that was better than for his parents, he continued. In the 50s and 60s the "HR" people kindly suggested who you should marry. In fact, they would often offer you a promotion if the marriage did not seem one you would want. Of course, turning down this proposal would result in your being laid off - but hey, you had a choice!

Things are pretty cynical around here right now, with work bureaucracy getting downright ridiculous. This made me feel a modicum of gratitude for being where I'm at instead of someplace worse.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Worship and poetry

Here is the song "Make us One", sung by Cindy Morgan and co-written by her and Michael W. Smith. Beautiful on so many levels. The lyrics are pure poetry. The sound of Cindy singing this is amazing.

Children below, fresh from the foe,
Hands 'neath the moonlight, Lord please make us one.
We hear the tide roll through the night,
Come lead the weary, Lord pleas make us one.

Children rejoice, come to the voice,
Song of the angels healing the broken ones.
Seasons of rain, battles unwon
Lead to the fountain, wash and make us one.

All hearts rejoice with mighty voice,
Make us a rainbow, Lord please make us one.
Light in the sky, Breath of our life,
Unite the rainbow, Lord please make us one.

Make us a rainbow, Lord please make us one.

If you want a suggestion, check out her new album, Beautiful Bird. Also, she has a free download at the moment, a new song called "Innocent", which you can download by going here and registering for her site.


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Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Mr. Shifty Eyes

We got some Christmas pictures taken of the kids last Friday. (One must start early in one is to have any shot at getting Christmas cards out on time.) Here is one of Lil'E and Lil'er E. Aren't they cute!

Little Euphrony and Littler Euphrony
But wait. What is that look Lil'er E is giving us? Ah, yes, that is his trademark look - Mr. Shifty Eyes. Let's take a closer look at that, shall we?
Mr. Shifty Eyes
Oh, Mrs. E and I know this look well. It is quiet commonly followed by a mischievous grin and a mad dash headlong into trouble.

Never trust Mr. Shifty Eyes. No matter how cute you think he is. Trust me.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Justice and Texas

Inspired to Action buttonI've put up a new post on Inspired to Action, talking about the idea of proximate justice.You may ask "what is proximate justice?" Good question! Go over to I2A and find out. I want to hear some people's thoughts on this topic.

On a semi-related note, today the Texas Attorney General's office has released their 2008 report on human trafficking in Texas. You can read the report for yourself: "The Texas Response to Human Trafficking". I've done a quick skim of it; it has some 21 recommendations for changes to current laws and actions to be taken. A bit hard to get through for the average person. But, at the end in Appendix B, there are summaries of fifteen recent news stories from Texas on people held in forced labor or sexual slavery.

justiceThe U.S. Department of State estimates that between 14,500 and 17,500 are trafficked into the U.S. from Asia, Central and South America, and Eastern Europe, and many more are trafficked domestically within the United States each year. About one in five people trafficked have been in Texas. (That's at least 3000 every year right here at home.) This is in my back yard - what can I do to change this? The first thing is to talk about it, open my eyes and others, and make people want to see it change. The Underground Railroad (and need for it) is not resigned to historical footnote; it's an active road today.


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Music Monday: Heart-wrenching music

You may not realize it, but tomorrow, November 18th, is the 30th anniversary of the Jonestown massacre. In total, there were 909 people dead - more than a third of them children. Today, to most people, Jonestown and Jim Jones have been reduced to little more than an aphorism, a cliche warning us not to "drink the Kool-Aid".

I was only five when this terrible thing came to pass, but I remember how the news filled the airwaves and shocked everyone. The memory of this has always brought me sorrow. As with so many other events, this is ingrained on my memory and makes me consider my actions, my choices, and their consequences carefully.

So today, as I remember what happened three decades ago, I think of songs that rend my heart. As long as there is evil in the world, as long as there are men whose passion for themselves is greater than their love for God, we will sing songs of morning and sorrow. Here are two of my favorite songs, songs that tear me apart and fill me with sorrow (in a good way).

Shaun Groves' "Sad Song"



Nickel Creek's "The Lighthouse Tale"


What are some of your favorite sad songs?

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Friday, November 14, 2008

News Flash: Euphrony updates blogroll, stock market dives 338 points

Maybe it means the end of the world, but it needed to be done. I've updated my blogroll (that thing on the right hand sidebar where your blog is linked to from my blog). I did a little arranging while I was at it. There are a couple of blogs that I don't want to take off my list, but since they collectively blog about once a month I felt they should be separated into a "slow lane" of the information highway.

What, you don't see your blog listed over there? Well, let me know about it and I'll put it before the management and see what can be done. But if further losses in the stock markets ensue, don't blame me!

While I'm at it, you can enjoy this child's homework (not one of mine!) that needed some adult proofing before turning it in.

(I'm told this mother works at Home Depot – she is selling a shovel. The teacher thought she was a pole dancer.)

101 reasons to learn a lesson

This past Wednesday, at work, I received 101 lessons as to why people should learn a lesson. Specifically, I received 100 lessons from people who did not learn the lesson from the first person's mistake.

On Wednesday morning, my work e-mail received what would seem to have been a spam e-mail. It was one that we had been recently warned about, appearing to originate from someone within the company and asking to have access granted to various security systems. Having been both forewarned and armed with the knowledge that I had no business granting such access, I deleted the e-mail.

The the first lesson came. In the form of a reply to the original e-mail by a person questioning why they were sent the e-mail. Of course, this person hit "reply all", thus sending it to everyone. Isn't it annoying when someone blindly uses "reply all" like that?

Ah, but then the real fun started rolling in. Over the next four or five hours I continued to receive e-mails from people protesting their inability to perform such a task and the likelihood that they were sent the original e-mail by mistake. All of them hit "reply all". I also got e-mails from people who were begging people to stop using "reply all", who also (naturally) had hit "reply all". The best of these was sent in a eye-catching blue, 100 point font - to everyone. In total, 101 "reply all's" were sent out. To everyone.

Oh, and when I say it was sent to everyone, I mean to everyone. Every single employee of this great company for which I work. All 38,000 (give or take) employees. All of it internal e-mail. I could practically smell our e-mail server melting from here. Other e-mails took significantly longer to get through the system. If it weren't so comedic and absurd, it would be downright frustrating.

Anyway, I survived without becoming e-mail cannon fodder. Either people finally wised up (unlikely) or the IT group put a block on everything related to this e-mail chain (more likely).

So, what's the record for the number of "reply all" junk e-mails for you?

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

. . . and the sky was on fire . . .

So I've been out of town the last couple of days. I flew home last night - barely. I boarded the plane on time, and then a minute after I sat down I noticed that no one else was getting no the plane. Sure enough the flight attendant came on and told us we all had to get off the plane because the Houston airport had been closed by heavy rainstorms. So close! Finally, after a 90 minute delay, we reboarded and took off. As we were heading out, the flight attendant told us we were taking a somewhat different route to avoid the storm system. Below is an illustration of the normal and new flightplans:


Normal Route

"New" Route
Yes, the flight took twice as long as normal.

And did I mention that the plane smelled like poo? And I don't mean the cuddly bear with a honey pot! It seems the air-o-potty had a few issues.

But, for the last hour or so of the flight, I was treated to the most phenomenal light show I've ever witnessed. And I've seen July 4th at DisneyWorld!

As we skirted the edge of the storm system I got to watch - rather close - the lightning discharges. Not just the ones you see on the ground, from sky to earth, but also all of the cloud to cloud strikes. I wish I had had my camera. It also reminded me of how small we are. All the effort we take to fly, and one of these random flashes could take us out of the sky. All of our clamoring for energy and electricity to power an unending appetite, and here is casually thrown around enough power to run the whole of earth's greedy demands. Humbling.

I'm glad to be home. I'm glad to have had a chance to see what I saw. (And no, the picture below is not my plane. This is from a plane leaving Japan. Read about it here.)

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Someone listened to me! (I'm shocked)

In May I complained about the idiotic following of good guidelines for giving a presentation. The past two days I have spent with the same university group as they gave their fall update on projects (which my and other companies kindly pay for). Apparently somebody read my blog and got the point because only the professors and one or two new students followed the format so rigidly that it was comedic.

What a relief.

It made the nine hour day bearable. Even when half of the presentations involved finite element analysis. Now if I could only get them to move into reality and stop using such ridiculously idealized test systems. Maybe that's asking to much, though.

Sunday, November 09, 2008

Music Monday: a-cappella goodness

Over the years I've seen a few of the productions of Spike Lee. Overall, I've not really liked them very much, with one notable exception. A few years back (okay, 18 years back), he put together a TV special - Do it a-cappella - the soundtrack of which I've played to death. Here are a couple of samples for you.

The first is from one of my favorite a-cappella groups - Take 6. They have a great blend of tight harmonies and a jazz sound that is just terrific. This video shows them singing two songs, "Get Away Jordan" and "Something Within Me". Listen for the high note at the end of "Get Away Jordan" - they take it a third higher in the concert than on the album version of the song.



The next highlight is from the group Rockapella. You might know them better as the group that sang the theme song for the PBS game show Where in the World is Carmen Sandiego?. (Okay, a moment of honesty - who watched Where in the World is Carmen Sandiego?) Thankfully, they have since cut their hair from the mullets worn in this clip. They're singing "Zombie Jamboree", but it takes about two minutes into the video to get past Spike Lee and get to the music.

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Four days with Inspector Clouseau

Thursday marks four days of my sitting through lectures by none other than Chief Inspector Jacques Clouseau. Okay, it isn't really Peter Sellers' famous character, but close enough. A little older, portly, and with graying hair - but the exaggerated accent is there.

You'd think that would be fun, wouldn't you? Yes, he did talk about how there is very little resistance keeping a man and woman apart in the shower. And yes, he has repeatedly referred to some surfactants as looking like "cookratches" (cockroaches). But, how many ternary phase diagrams of surfactant/oil/water combinations can you look at in a four day period before the onset of insanity? Here, look at this one and tell me how long it would take you?

The worst part of it is that we brought this guy up from Venezuela to teach this He did the same thing 20 months ago. He is covering the exact same material. We were all hoping for a little more advanced teaching this time. The one thing he took out for this round - rheology of surfactant systems. Total bummer! Ah, well, such is life. I'll make it through this last day and then I'll be able to get back to some real work. Maybe. In the near future. I hope.

Sara Groves and Charlie Peacock on International Justice Mission

I have posted over on Inspired to Action the interview I did last week with Sara Groves and Charlie Peacock. Read it here.

Here's a little teaser, from Sara, on dealing with the hugeness of these problems:

. . . when she landed on the ground the very first thing she saw in South Africa was a little girl who had just been abused, had just been raped, and she was crying. Not because she had just been abused but because she’d been paid a dime by her abuser and some older boys had taken her dime. So this little girl, her perspective, her whole world – that she had been violated in that way – wasn’t even really . . . the point of her pain was that she had lost the dime. And I asked my aunt how do you not cry every single day?

Go read the interview and find out more about International Justice Mission. Once you do, tell me what you think about their work - what impacts you most, or what questions are you left with. I may be able to get some more answers from my contacts at IJM.

Monday, November 03, 2008

Dispense true justice . . .

Thus has the LORD of hosts said, "Dispense true justice and practice kindness and compassion each to his brother; and do not oppress the widow or the orphan, the stranger or the poor; and do not devise evil in your hearts against one another.
Zechariah 7:9-10
This passage has really been on my heart for some time, now. This pronouncement from Jehovah comes as He accuses His people of having hearts like flint - because they had ignored these very words.

Today, on Inspired to Action, I am leading thoughts, discussion, fasting, and prayer about a group I believe in greatly: International Justice Mission.

We've all heard that scripture tells us "'Vengeance is mine, I will repay' says the Lord." I've been thinking about this, as well. It is obvious that God wants us to practice justice - revenge is not justice, it is selfishness excused as justice. God takes that away from us; but is God a vengeful God? I think, with this pronouncement, that God is taking this away, and letting us know that He will dispense the justice that we try to seek in revenge.

What IJM does is, in no way, the actions of vigilantes.These are men of peace, working in peace to bring justice. That is one reason I believe so much in their work - that they do not have revenge in their hearts speaks highly for them.

Please, go over to I2A and find out a little about IJM and what they do. Consider if you can help them in their work. And, above all, pray for their work.

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