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Friday, August 29, 2008

Lil'E wrote a rock song last night

American Idol Happy Meal toySo there I was last night, home alone with the kids, playing with my five-year old daughter while my 18-month old son wreaked havoc about the living room. Her chosen game, as usual, involved some sort of humanoid construction of plastic and cloth - in this case, they were the American Idol dolls from Happy Meal toys that came out in the recent past. You raise the arm holding a mike to their face and music plays. Rock on!

Also natural to this playtime, Lil'E decided we had to put on a show (by we I of course mean the toys whose persona's we had assumed). We had to put on a rock show and sing rock songs. Being the naïve parent, I knew no rock songs; but the world-wise kindergartener knows all. She bust out with an original offering that went something like this:

I am singing my rock song
And I've got my rock hair
And I'm wearing my rock clothes
Apparently, if one says the word "rock" enough times in a song then it is by definition a rock song. And it doesn't hurt to yell the words when you sing.

Read more . . .
Don't you love kids? Their ideas so simple, so straightforward, set out so that everyone can understand and join in - after all, the more the merrier when it comes to playtime, right? Maybe I should get her to set down these lyrics for Shaun so he can get back on the charts? (To be fair, he's already got the hair and clothes.)

Here's where I switch subjects on you, in a way. I can look at Lil'E's great effort at making a rock song and recognize it as simplistic, childish even, for insisting that it is the use of the word "rock" that makes it a "rock song". Can you guess where I'm going with this? Yep, I'm thinking about "Christian music".

I was recently reminded how, to many people, a song cannot be called "Christian" unless it uses (frequently) the name of God or Jesus. That's right, they're using the same definition as is my five-year old girl for how to classify a song. Funny how in one case it can seem like an inane, senseless definition but in the other it is deadly serious. Which is which in the last sentence? Which application is inane and which accurate? Both are in the eye of the beholder, so should both be taken seriously?

For Lil'E, when I started singing a song and didn't say the word "rock" within ten seconds I got buzzed and corrected. The same standard applies for the person who believes that only in through explicitly evoking the name of God can you be talking about God. Do a web search and I'm sure you can find a host of people who talk about Christian artists like MercyMe and Michael W. Smith (or fill in the blank) being of the devil because they don't say "Jesus" enough (or a host of other reasons). As if intoning a word or phrase distinguishes between carnal and holy. I think Jesus actually said something about that, along the lines of calling on His name does not guarantee salvation. But we still insist on the trappings, the formula, as though it will lead to salvation in and of itself.

Of course, there are nice examples in the bible that would fail the "does he say Jesus enough" test. Take the classic Psalm 1, beautiful and well known, often quoted, and only gets around to mentioning the Lord at the very end. Were that a modern worship song it would find criticism for only putting in God's name as an afterthought; but as it is a Psalm (capital "P") it is accepted. Or, of course, there's the whole book of Song of Songs with nary a mention of God in it - but it is considered canonical. We could even talk about Paul and Philippians 4:13 - "I can do everything through him who gives me strength." You may be thinking you remember it as "through Christ who gives me strength" but this is the KJV, and the early manuscripts do not have Paul saying "Christ" but "him". His intent is unmistakable, nevertheless, and we know that it is Jehovah who gives us that strength, be it through His word, the Spirit, Christ, or even through His body on earth. Paul did not narrow his definition, likely for a reason, but we do to seek comfort in formula.

Anyway, I'm not too sure why I got off on this topic. Maybe Lil'E's song got me to thinking about simplistic definitions and the vitriolic websites I've seen passing judgment (in flashing, multi-colored, 128-pt font) on others for things such as this. The song Lil'E sang was nice, though - I really liked it.

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Thursday, August 28, 2008

Vigilantes on the prowl

They stalk the highways and byways of America. They do not respect age or location or position. No fence is a deterrent, no wall to high. The weapons they carry are well-used and ever-ready.

Only one thing is sacred to these people - the English language. And woe be to he who dares misuse it on a public sign.

Have you heard about these two? They call themselves the Typo Eradication Advancement League (TEAL for short), but most people just call them the typo vigilantes. Their mission, since earlier this year, is to go around the country and correct - with or without permission - the errata found on signage everywhere. Below is a sample of them at "work". Be it the missing apostrophe, misspelled word, over-used comma, or poor grammar, they will find a way to correct it with tape, white-out, and magic marker.
sign with misspellingcorrecting the sign

I first read about these guys earlier this year when I was in Boston (the hometown of one of the two). They've been featured on NPR and the subject of several interviews. Their latest interviewer was, unfortunately for them, a judge. Apparently, people didn't take too kindly to their correction of mistakes on a hand-drawn sign at the Grand Canyon. It seems there their handiwork has landed them a fine, parole, and a one-year ban from all national parks or correction of any public signs. Alas, it seems the government frowns upon correction of its mistakes, especially in historic settings.

What do you think of these guys and their mission? Are they, as the Chicago Tribune called them, "a pair of Kerouacs armed with Sharpies and erasers and righteous indignation"? Or are they yahoos with too much time on their hands? More important, what would you do if you found them correcting your sign?

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Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Just something to think about

I took this picture the last time I went to the Houston Museum of Natural Science with Lil'E and Lil'er E. It is in the butterfly exhibit. In case you can't read from the picture below, it lets you know that

  • Chocolate can contain up to 35 insect parts per 1.5-oz bar and
  • Tomato paste can contain up to 20 fly eggs or 2 maggots in a 4-oz can.
These are according to allowances set out by the FDA. Enjoy your lunch!

(Please, no hate mail from women who are now conflicted about eating their chocolate. Thank you.)

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Monday, August 25, 2008

Knowledge exploring is oh so lyrical when you think thoughts that are empirical!

Lil'E at her first day of kindergartenYep, from this day forward our little girl with be exploring knowledge and swimming off to "the dropoff" five days a week. Lil'E is officially a kindergarten kid.

(Pause while Mr. and Mrs. E wipe their teary eyes)

I'm still trying to figure out how this happened. It seems like just the other day I was changing her diapers and teaching her to say "mama" and "dada" and "route 44 diet coke". Now she can already spell them and some other words, plus draw like a big kid and ignore her parents like a teenager. Where has the time gone?

We went to the school on Friday to meet her teacher. While Lil'E put away her school supplies Lil'er E nearly disassembled her nicely put-together room (she was glad to see him leaving, I think). She seems nice - at least she doesn't look like an evil teacher, right?
Lil'E and her kindergarten teacher
Can't say that we're not a little nervous. We've heard many good things about the school and the school district, but with so many people now opting to homeschool or private school their kids you can't help but question if you're doing the right thing. One thing that seems certain (at least right now) is that homeschooling is not an option - Lil'E simply won't let us teach her anything, but she listens well to "teacher". We'll just have to see what life brings and continue the great debate (I'm almost afraid to ask for advice), but I'm fairly confident that the school will be terrific and she'll do great.

So, off we go on the next great adventure of parenting.

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Friday, August 22, 2008

Rambling through Monterey: The rest of the story . . .

When we last saw Euphrony at the mega-rheology conference in Monterey, Mrs. E had just joined him in blissful weather. And he really intended to post this sooner. But didn't. And he doesn't think anybody has really noticed, either.

Day 7: Euphrony goes through conference talks, while Mrs. E sleeps till 11 and has a 2-hour massage, facial, manicure, and pedicure. (We cry for her pain.) That evening is the conference banquet. Normally, this is when the man honored with this year's Bingham Medal is roasted by colleagues, former students, and friends. Thankfully, we were given grace and this year he was simply handed a medal (along with a brief poem or two about him, rheology, and thermodynamics). Mrs. E - accustomed to running with the theater crowd - was naturally ashamed and felt awkward in a room filled with so many total nerds and geeks. She survived, we dined, and we went to bed.

Day 8: Last day of the conference, and it's only a half day. We end with a luncheon (which Mrs. E attends) and then it is pure vacation time. For Euphrony, it has been a long, exhausting week. Not only has he absorbed enormous amounts of information, but he has engaged in countless hours of small talk, bantering, socializing, networking, hobnobbing, and other forms of prattle - which comes to more words from Euphrony's mouth in one week than he normally utters in half a year. All in situations where Euphrony feels somewhat less than totally comfortable, to boot. (Euphrony has never been a very extroverted person.) For the afternoon, Mrs. E and Euphrony walk along the Fisherman's Wharf, take a glass-bottomed boat ride (the only thing viewed through the glass bottom was - wait for it - kelp), and eat clam chowder out of a sourdough bread bowl. We did see some dolphins and sea lions while we took the boat ride, through.

Day 9: Euphrony, always the early riser, is up at a decent hour. Mrs. E, however, is unable to rise from slumber before 11:00 (again!). We head up to Cannery Row, where they love to talk about their famous one-time resident, John Steinbeck, who only lived there a year because the people had little love of strangers. We go through the Monterey Bay Aquarium together (check out the picture of the line to get into the aquarium), including taking a behind-the-scenes 50-minute tour (same price for this as for the glass-bottom boat ride, and infinitely more worthwhile). After spending around five hours at the aquarium, we head out and grab some dinner at Bubba Gump Shrimp Co.. By the time we're done with dinner, it's getting dark and as we stroll back along the beach walkway, Euphrony snaps a few pics of the city lights. We also walk by a street musician who has a collection of every type of bagpipe you could imagine, among other things, and played quiet well.

Day 10: To stick with tradition, Euphrony is up early and Mrs. E sleeps till nearly 11:00. We then get moving, go down to the wharf, and catch some lunch before getting on a whale-watching boat. At lunch we got to watch a harbor seal basking in the sun just below us off the wharf. There were only a couple of humpback whales seen on this trip, but a few days before they had seen three blue whales - so we just were not lucky. That night we pack and spend a little time watching the Olympics.

Day 11: The voyage home. Poor Mrs. E. We had to catch a shuttle to the airport at 8:15, so her streak of sleeping till 11:00 was unceremoniously interrupted. We finally make it home around 6:00 that night, and Lil'E tells me she never wants me to go on another business trip again. Lil'er E only has eyes for momma. It's good to be home.

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Thursday, August 21, 2008

Remember Justin? (please pray)

Do you remember when I talked about Justin last month? He is the four-month old son of some good friends of ours, born with Downs Syndrome, and has a few problems with his heart. His surgery got delayed from when I last posted (there were other children with more imminent surgical needs) but he is in the OR this morning. The surgery should last 5-6 hours (into the afternoon) as they repair a few holes, build a new valve, and remove a couple of shunts that should not be there after birth.

Please pray for Justin, and for his parents - Randy and Danielle - today in surgery and in the coming days as Justin recovers. You can keep up on Danielle's blog. In fact, if you don't mind, pop over and leave a note telling them you're praying for Justin. Thanks.

UPDATE: Poor guys, they got bumped again. Things were running late this morning, and then another child ended up needing immediate surgery. As Danielle said, it was really God's providence: if Justin had been in the OR, there would have been no open room for the other child and the consequences could have been bad. They are now set for September 8th. Please keep praying.

Monday, August 18, 2008

Music Monday: The "Stranded on an Island" question

For this edition of Music Monday, I am posing the classic music question:

If you were stranded on a deserted island and could only have three albums, what three would you take.
Okay, so the question is a bit ludicrous from the outset - I mean, how many people plan on getting stranded and would then chose to only take a couple of records with them (as opposed to, say, a satellite phone and survival gear). But accept that and just tell me what music would be what you could not do without. Or, would you make an "Island Mix" CD? Do tell, please.

(My answers will be in the comments, so click on through to find out.)

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Continued rambling about last week (or, another peek in my journal)

When we last heard from Euphrony he was battling his way through short courses on rheology and suffering through the 70°F weather of Monterey, California. We pick up as the conference actually begins . . .

Day 4: The conference begins full-pace today. Over the next five days I will attend something like 60 talks, out of a possible 250, and examine another 200 or so posters. But, undaunted, I am enthused as the sessions begin. Except for the fact that all the morning talks on the first day do not appeal to me - but it picks up in the afternoon. At night, the "social program" continues as the conference attendees and their accompanying families go to the Monterey Bay Aquarium. This special event is held after hours, so we are the only people there - much less crowded that way. It is a surreal experience - watching people dine on prime rib, sipping fine California wines, and strolling around observing the beautiful jellyfish, otters, penguins, sharks, tuna, and other features of the aquarium. Part of the time, though, I spend on the phone with Mrs. E - helping her prepare for the impending strike of Tropical Storm Edouard (which, thankfully, was a minimal impact).

Day 5: My day. My presentation is this afternoon, and I am presenting a poster at the poster session this evening, as well. Really, I'm a pretty relaxed speaker - confident about what I talk about, unfazed by goof ball questions, and keeping the talk within the alloted time - so I'm not worried. Some good talks today - interesting and informative. The morning keynote speaker is one of the best talks I've ever heard, with a great balance of science, innovative work, and real-world application. I stay in at lunch to go over my talk, then park in the room for my session. The talk went well, and many people told me they found it interesting and well done. And, they told me how good a job I did about being circumspect about issues that would give problems for intellectual property or corporate secrets (a big difference between me and most of them, who are in academia). The poster session is well-fueled with wine and beer, but the food is impossible to get at - who thought of only having one line to serve 1000 people? Silly. So, it's 9:00 before I eat. I chat with my old adviser for more than an hour; great to catch up with him. I don't see him much since he went to Cornell.

Day 6: Ahhh, no more pressure. My active part is done, now I can relax and just absorb knowledge. Mrs. E is flying in this afternoon, and the conference is half-day sessions and half-day excursions. The morning talks are so-so, but the afternoon is great. I take a bus tour down the Big Sur coastline. We get some great views, stop at a couple of places before spending 90 minutes at Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park. The scenery is amazing, as is viewing the damage from this summer's fires. (Note, one of the places we stopped for coastal views was a restaurant across from a hotel and spa. Three days after we were there, a kitchen fire burned the hotel to the ground - even after it had survived the forest fires.)
When I return I find Mrs. E sleeping in the room. That evening there is a beach party (more of the social program). Alas, we did not stay long enough for the karaoke - Mrs. E had sprained her ankle a few days before (toys on the stairs) and walking on the sand was just not good. We instead went back to the room and watched P.S. I Love You. Query: Why does Hilary Swank spend the first 5 minutes wearing just a bra? Answer: To keep the guys involved in a chick-flick. Further query: Why do we later see Jeffrey Dean Morgan's fully nude butt? Answer: Payback for the ladies whose dates just got to see Hilary Swank spend the first 5 minutes wearing just a bra.

Stay tuned. More to follow . . .

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Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Ramblings of a rheologicaly inclined mind

So, for those of you who haven't noticed, I've been a little out of pocket the last two weeks. Well, I've spent a good deal of that time having my mind scrambled and then trying to recover. I'll attempt to share a few of the random thoughts from my personal journal from the previous fortnight. And, yes, I just used the word "fortnight" in a sentence of modern context.

Day 1: Flying to San Jose, California, then catching a shuttle to Monterey. Got bumped from my normal seat and placed in the back, between two people. They tell me it was just because; I think it's because I got bumped to 1st class on my last flight to Tulsa. Karma, right - 1st class on a 90-minute flight and squished on a 4-hour flight. At least my row-mates were well-suited to crunch together. Nice lady sat on my left, and on my right was a man my dad would call an IBM (itty-bitty Mexican, very un-PC, I know). bed in Portola Hotel, Monterey, CASidebar: The San Jose airport still rolls up stairs to the side of the plane and you walk down the tarmac to get between the plane and terminal. Interesting. At least the weather is a relief from Houston in August. I'm wondering about that long pillow the hotel puts on my bed - no good for sleeping, I'm thinking.

Day 2: Begin the first of two one-day short coursed I will take before the conference. This one is on the rheology of suspensions and colloids. Good teachers - well informed and respected on the subject. Had lunch with a guy who works for my companies biggest competitor (and is also going to be the session chair introducing my paper). Ate at Fisherman's Wharf - fish and chips sitting on the harbor, watching seals play and getting a sunburn. Finish reading The Strange Case of Dr. Jeckyll and Mr. Hyde over dinner.

Day 3: It's my anniversary, and I'm 1600 miles from my wife. Bummed. Short course #2 starts - surfactant rheology. Learn a few new things in this one, and get some really good ideas for work I need to do regarding my current research. Each of these two short courses is essentially a one-semester college course packed into a day. I'm tired. There is an evening reception to officially kick off the conference - it's packed. Normally, only ~300 people attend the annual Society of Rheology conference; this year is different, an International Congress on rheology held every 4 years. More than 1000 rheologists and students in attendance, plus many family members. Were a disaster to strike Monterey this week, the world would quite nearly lose all practitioners of this arcane discipline. Sobering thought. More sobering thought: how long would it take for the world to start missing us? To that question: I've had people ask me (seeing the above logo for the conference) if rheology is the study of butterflies. No, that would be a lepidopterist, not a rheologist. Time to go to bed before my head explodes from short course knowledge, even before the conference begins, or anyone else chooses to deflate my ego more.

Sunday, August 03, 2008

Music Monday: Deas Vail

Have you ever been perusing your music collection and run across a song or album title that you can't place for the life of you? But then you listen to the music and you wonder how you ever forgot about it. Well, that happened to me this last week, and I've had this groups music in my head ever since - without regrets.

Let me introduce you to Deas Vail. That is, unless you've already heard of them. But somehow I'm not sure you have heard of this indie group. I stumbled on some free downloads a year or so ago, and I really liked what I heard. Here is a sample of their sound.

Deas Vail - "Anything You Say" from All The Houses Look The Same

Here are a few impressions about their first album, All The Houses Look The Same:

  • They have a good rock sound, and make great use of syncopation to vary that sound.
  • However, some of the music patterns / riffs are found in several songs (i.e. repetitive).
  • The lead singer lilts in and out of falsetto voice, giving the group a signature for their style.
  • However, some people just plain don't like a man singing falsetto, so you either take it of you leave it. And, perhaps, this gets a bit overused, as well.
  • A few of the stand-out songs on the album include "Anything You Say" (above), "A Lover's Charm", "These Little Boats", and "Rewind".
So, you've had a chance to listen to the above song. What do you think of Deas Vail? Have you ever hear their music before? Based on this one song, would you buy more? I'm just curious, is all.

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Friday, August 01, 2008


When we make a flight reservation, we are allowed to choose the seat we would like. This choice, however, is only a "request". I think most of us realize this, but you never really think of it that way, do you?

Today, as I was checking in to fly to Monterey, California (sunny, and 30 degrees colder than Houston) I was reminded that "requests" are not always honored. For reasons they cannot disclose, my lovely bulkhead window seat (no one in front of me to lay back and sleep in my lap) has been changed to a seat in the middle of the row. A little notification, and a reason, would have been nice. I'm so disillusioned.

Here's to hoping that I don't get stuck between a contestant for The Biggest Loser and some guy who spent the morning slopping the hogs before dashing to the airport without a shower.

Did you ever stop to think . . .

Did you ever stop to think about the fact that the worship of Yahweh predates any codified forms of worship of Him?

Let it sink in.

question markGood. Now that you've thought about it for a second, you're probably saying "Well, yeah, cause Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob were all worshiping God before Mosaic Law was put down in writing." And to that I would say that's true; but there's more. Given a little more thought you would probably come up with Melchizedek, the king of Salem talked about in Genesis 14 and Hebrews 7, who was called a priest of God and to whom Abraham presented a tithe as tribute to God. So, Melchizedek was obviously also a worshiper of Yahweh before a written religion existed. You might also think about Job: if you didn't know, Job (by scholars best estimates) was a contemporary of the patriarchs. This means he, too, worshiped God without a written prescription to follow. And, it also means that he did a good enough job of worshiping and loving God that He chose to allow Job to be tried by Satan while He was off forming the nation of Israel through the patriarchs.

So, what on the face of God's green earth is Euphrony getting at?

Good question. I was thinking about this this week, and my thoughts turned to wondering this: what did worship of Yahweh look like before a canonical set of scriptures existed, over which we could argue the meaning, ad nauseam? (I'm not trying to say that scripture is bad - far from it, I cherish the words God has passed on to us. It's just that I'm trying really hard to not make my religion worship of that scripture rather than worship of God. So I think about questions like how Job or Abraham or Adam or Enos worshiped Yahweh.)

Me, I cannot help but think that the worship of someone like Job was characterized by compassion, love and generosity, conversation with God, care for mankind, and humility (like the denial of the importance of my own plans in favor of whatever God brings to my life). Sure, I bet there were "traditions" even then, but somehow I like to believe that it was less fractious than it is these days.

I was also thinking that this is what we have been talking about for the last 40 days, with the 40 Day Fast. And it is what we try to talk about all the time on Inspired to Action. Setting aside myself to save the life - temporal and eternal - of God's children in need of Him. It's been a great 40 days, and I hope that everyone reading this on my goofy blog has also been following along, at least some, with the great things that the 78+ people have had to talk about - talking about the work of God, the worship of God, and the needs of His children here on earth.

What do you think? Have you ever considered these questions? What do you think worship was like pre-Bible? What have been your impressions of the 40 Day Fast - have you been inspired to do something?