Saturday, August 29, 2009

An "Expresso" machine for the rest of life

The local fitness center has added the world's coolest fitness machine. It's called an Expresso Bicycle, and it's a stationary bike that powers a video game.

The screen in front of the bicycle places you in a race or tour, with other, fictional riders, and you pedal, shift, and steer to run the course. When you're going uphill onscreen, the pedaling becomes more difficult, and you have to shift accordingly.

I'm interested in this merger between real-life activity (i.e., pedaling) and virtual rewards (having the pixels on the screen show you winning a race), and I wonder if this concept could be applied elsewhere.

Maybe with my job, I could play a game in which I read and run analysis and periodically it shows me publishing a virtual book or article.

Or maybe at home, I show attention to my children and then a game shows my children growing up to be healthy and happy.

Or maybe I could do chores around the house and the get on-line kudos.

Maybe this is a new way of reducing social strain--society gives you goals, and then on-line games give you the means to meet this goals, at least virtually.

If nothing else, that Expresso machine really does give a good work out.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Even Rock Stars Grow Up

I was in the doctor's office this morning, and I was reading Rolling Stone Magazine. They had an article about Gregg Allman, of the Allman Brothers Band, of 1970s fame. In it, he reflected upon his life, and he stated that after six failed marriages, he was starting to wonder if he was the problem.

At first I rolled my eyes, but then I realized that while only on my first (and hopefully last) last marriage, I still have other stupid stuff reoccur in my life. Sometimes, however, I realize that I'm the problem in some way, and that's usually a helpful realization.

So, if even rock stars grow up, there's hope for the rest of us.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

What religious freedom looks like in Egypt

Here's an article about a Muslim man in Egypt who converted to Christianity.

Why did he convert? "In Islam, if you steal your hands are cut off, but in Christianity you can be forgiven," he says. This compassion is what attracted me."

How have people reacted to it? "Gohary's life has been threatened, his dogs have been killed, and it's been suggested that he's insane or possessed by spirits."

Hm-m-m, maybe the passive belittling here in the States isn't so bad...

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Portraying Christians negatively in literature

I don't read a lot of fiction because whenever I do I can't help but to wonder if it's all made up. (I do read sci-fi, though, I can believe in space aliens). However, my wife, Cathy, keeps up on fiction. On a fairly regular basis, she observes how negatively Christian characters are portrayed. It seems, judging from what she says, that if an author introduces someone with strong Christian beliefs, it's a good bet that they'll rape, murder, or otherwise harm people.

Recently on a trip to Montreal, I happened across this article in the newspaper that discusses this trend in literature of demonizing Christians. Here's an excerpt:

"I have read seven novels from young men and women in the past two years that have had what I consider modern, representative “religious” characters. In all but one of these books, the characters were agents of the most self-righteous kinds of oppression. In fact, in some texts, the words Catholic or religious have become synonymous with all things that good and ordinary people fight against....

The derision toward anyone who believes is swift and non-negotiable among many writers today, or at least in their writing. It is as if a doctrine has been set in motion in which not to demean religion is sacrilegious."

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Superman joke

Okay, I'm back from a two-week vacation, and here's a funny joke that was in the paper yesterday:


Two men are drinking in a bar at the top of the Empire State Building when one turns to the other and says, "You know, last week I discovered that if you jump from the top of this building, by the time you fall to the 10th floor, the winds around the building are so intense that they carry you around the building and back into the window. Watch, I'll prove it."

He gets up from the bar, jumps over the balcony, and when he passes the 10th floor, the high wind whips him around the building and back into the 10th floor window, where he takes the elevator back up to the bar.

"Wow, that really works," the second man says. "I think I'll try it."

He jumps over the balcony, plunges downward, and passes the 10th floor, continues falling and hits the sidewalk with a splat.

Back upstairs, the bartender turns to the other drinker and says, "You know, you can be a real jerk when you're drunk, Superman."

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Watch out, the scientist is a Christian!

Here's an op-ed piece in the NY Times about Obama's recent appointment for the Director of the National Institute of Health. It acknowledges that Obama's nominee, Francis Collins, is an outstanding scientist, but... gasp, he's an Evangelical Christian!

As a result, the author writes, "it is important that we understand Dr. Collins and his faith as they relate to scientific inquiry." He goes on to conclude that "one can only hope that these convictions will not affect his judgment at the institutes of health."

I'm guessing that Collins understands science far better than the author, but somehow his faith makes him suspect.

God forbid that God isn't forbidden at NIH....

Thanks David!

Monday, August 10, 2009

More on the myth of Christian violence

An enduring myth about Christianity is all the violence and death that it has supposedly caused.

I posted on these a couple of years ago.

Here's another take from Andy Unedited:

"160 Million

I was with a group of friends recently when another common myth of western civilization was trotted out as if it were gospel. "We all know religion has caused more violence and death than anything else."

"Well, actually, that's not true," I ventured.

Heads turned. Mouths gaped. The planet itself seemed to wobble on its axis. "What facts do you have to support that?" said the historian in the group, eyebrow arched...

To read the rest.

Saturday, August 08, 2009

Kid steals car to avoid going to church

A constant issue in Christian families is when to make kids go to church when they just don't feel like it. Well, here's a guideline... if the kids steals the car to get out of church, maybe it's a good idea for them to just skip church that week.

Here's a video of a seven-year-old boy in Utah who stole his Dad's car to avoid going to church. Watch the end of the video when he gets out of the car and runs away.

Thursday, August 06, 2009

Church buildings & business

Here's an interesting article and slideshow about modern church architecture. It relates recently built church buildings to corporations--both emphasizing suburban campuses that make young people spend their time and energy there.

The church that I belong to recently considered building, and the plans it came up with were a sprawling campus--didn't realize this is a national trend.

Thanks David.

Tuesday, August 04, 2009

Two tracks of Anglicanism

From a New York Times article last week: "Rowan Williams, the archbishop of Canterbury, said profound differences among the world’s 77 million Anglicans over gay clergy and same-sex unions could divide their church into a “two-track model” yielding “two styles of being Anglican.”

It's hard to see how one denomination could sustain two separate models of faith without splitting, but if they do, it could become interesting. Why stop at two? There's plenty of moral issues on which people disagree. Eventually you could go to Anglican Church and be presented with a smorgasbord of options.

Visitor: "Let's see, I would like to sleep with my girlfriend, but not another guy. I don' t like giving to poor, but I'll give to the church. I'd also prefer not to experience any spiritual gifts."

Usher: "Thank you for visiting us. You'll be sitting in row 7 with other people like you."

Saturday, August 01, 2009

Irises (pic)

There's an interesting & sad story behind this picture. A local farmer had his barn burned down by an arsonist--destroying all his farming equipment. He wasn't properly insured so he went out of business. Now the field has gone wild and the irises and other plants have spread, not being kept down by cattle.