Thursday, August 29, 2013

Amazed by Technology - part 1

Among the many books I plan to write is one titled Technology Drives Everything. I may stick (Almost) between Drives and Everything, for I'm sure some matters of the heart still move regardless of how technology does.

Technology rose up this week, yesterday and today, in a good way. I must digress first and set the scene. As I've written before I am an occasional student of the life and writing of Thomas Carlyle, English author, philosopher, and prophet. I can't for sure remember how I was drawing into his circle, but probably from books in my possession passed down from Uncle David Sexton to my mom to my dad and now to me. A couple of them were by Carlyle, and for a while I picked up some more from used book sources.

Every now and then I leave the writing route I should be on and follow Carlyle down various forest paths, finding a work, reading a few paragraphs, downloading it (if available to do so), finding a reference, downloading that. Sidelines Syndrome always compels me, however, to do more than read Carlyle or about Carlyle, and so I must write about him. The engineer in me wants things to be organized; hence I'm working on a bibliography of Carlyle's writings based on the date of composition rather than the date of publication. For me the composition is more critical than the publication date, though the latter is of interest as well.

In this pursuit I first came across some website that had various Carlyle compositions listed. I blended these into one typed document. Slowly I learned of more, and added them. I discovered some older bibliographies that were available for download from Google books, downloaded them, and continued to expand the blended bibliography. I learned that everyone seemed to be most interested in the chronology of publication, not of composition.

But let me stop a moment. I downloaded those bibliographies, and had them immediately available. What an incredible convenience, and boon to research. Using my current research subject as an example of the old way, on 3 November 1825, Carlyle wrote to William Tait, a London publisher, and told him about books he needed for his project for Tait to translate German novelists into English. After discussing the German writers and which of their works he wished to translate, Carlyle got down to the need of having copies.
If I had these books ready by me, I should reckon the undertaking half completed. Perhaps it may not be so difficult to obtain at least a perusal of them. Most, nay all of them, are marketable works, and I could read, without injuring , them. By your commercial connexions I trust you may be able to procure me the greater part of them: I shall expect your tidings on the subject soon....

He referred to an earlier letter, to a different colleague, who he wanted to procure books in Germany and ship them to him.

One work about Carlyle that I saw references on at several places is Sartor Called Resartus, by G.B. Tennyson. Published in 1966, it is still under copyright protection and hence not available for viewing on the Internet. Checking my usual places for purchasing books, I found it could be had for about $20 plus shipping, a little more than I wanted to pay at the moment. Inter-library loan costs $2.00 per book, whether they can get it or not. But would such a book as this, not exactly mainstream for scholars and readers, even be available through ILL?

I was looking somewhere for this book on line when I noticed a button for checking the book out in WorldCat. I keep forgetting that this service is out there. It's a joint catalog of many, many libraries. I don't know if it's limited to the libraries of academia, or if it includes public libraries. Through this I learned that the University of Arkansas library in Fayetteville, 25 miles down the road, had a copy. Except I have no relationship and no privileges there, and the cost of a 50 mile round trip was about equal to purchasing the book.

Expanding my search I found it in other places where I might go sometime or where I have friend, including the Stephen F. Austin University library in Nacogdoches Texas. A writing colleague in nearby Lufkin graduated from there. But I soon found it was as far for her to drive as it would be for me to go to Fayetteville.

Then I thought of my alma mater, the University of Rhode Island in Kingston. In the WorldCat I searched for libraries close to my old area code. URI popped up as having the book. Given that URI is 1,400 or so miles away, I thought of my friend Gary who works there. Taking a chance, I e-mailed him Tuesday morning to see if he had library privileges and if he would undertake getting me copies of certain pages from the book. Three e-mails later and the book was checked-out, the pages scanned, and an e-mail brought them to me in Bentonville Arkansas. Reading those pages caused me to realize I could use some others, and those were in my inbox the next morning.

What an incredible convenience this is! The very thing that Carlyle wrote several letters on, obtaining resources for his writing, I was able to work through in a matter of four hours. Yes, it took correspondence with a couple of friends to make it happen. That part was the same as for Carlyle. But the communications went two ways in minutes, and the needed work was procured in a few hours, whereas for Carlyle it took months for exchanging correspondence, finding books to borrow to avoid expensive purchases, waiting for those books to be shipped, etc.

Technology is an incredible thing. I'm glad to be living in this era.

Sunday, August 25, 2013

The Tabernacle

For a long time I've been interested in the Jewish tabernacle described in Exodus, and mentioned elsewhere in the Old Testament. Possibly I like it in part because Exodus includes a construction specification for it, plus and operation and maintenance manual for its use and care, both things that are part of my civil engineering career.

For whatever reason, the reading in Exodus about the tabernacle can be boring and difficult to get through. I need to be in the right frame of mind to read it for comprehension. I had one of those times earlier this year, and enjoyed it immensely.

In the current sermon series our pastor is going through, "The Big Picture", today was week two, and covered the Hebrews' time in Egypt and the exodus therefrom. For the Life Group lesson, we were given material related to the tabernacle. It wasn't really part of the pastor's sermon, but was certainly related. My co-teacher taught our adult Life Group, his first week back teaching in two months after having knee surgery and an injury before that. So I decided not to do much preparation for it, reading through the material only once.

The lesson was good, and the material adequate. It discussed the impact that having the tabernacle had on the fledgling Israelite nation. It was set up in the center of the camp, with the tribes arrayed around it in a specific order. The activities at the tabernacle were ordained by God. The set-up, tear-down, and transport were ordained by God. To the Israelite the very presence of God resided in the Most Holy Place. When God's presence left, they knew it was time to break camp and move on.

I have much more study to do on the tabernacle. I'd like to get a scholarly book on it, but only after I exhaust the resources I have in my personal library. I'd like to draw more parallels between it and things in the Christian's life that deal with the presence of God, and symbols of His presence.

So it's been a good day: restful, uplifting, motivating. Now, if only God would give me more hours in the day.

Sunday, August 18, 2013

In The Beginning

Today our pastor began a new sermon series. Called "The Big Picture," it's a twelve week look at the Bible. Predictably we began today with Genesis. The "decorations" in the church, and on the bulletin, for this series are twelve icons, looking just like computer icons, depicting in simple pictures the topic for each week.

Such basic stuff might seem to be either a blessing or a curse when it comes to putting together sermons and Life Group lessons. On the one hand there's a lot of material to work with. The more material, the easier to put the sermon and lesson together. On the other hand it's stories that are very familiar to those who have been in church for a while. How can you come up with something that doesn't seem too simple?

Our pastor solved that dilemma with his sermon. Beginning with the creation and working his way through the patriarchs as far as Joseph, he gave us the basics of the Genesis story without it seeming too basic. Even having heard it many times before, I was able to keep my attention on what he was saying, and take a few notes of interest.

In Life Group, I concentrated the lesson on the importance of the creation story, how scientific discoveries have all confirmed what Genesis says, how at times when they seemed to disagree it was because man insisted on clinging to some beliefs that really weren't biblical. This was a good discussion, with everyone in class participating.

I'm not quite sure of my co-teacher's schedule. He had knee surgery in early July and I've taught every lesson for close to two months. I think I'll have the next three weeks off, and will enjoy just having to be prepared in case he gets called into surgery (as he did today). He texted me during church to say he had just finished a gastric torsion surgery and he wouldn't be there. He didn't say what kind of animal he performed it on. Whatever it was, I'm sure it was happy enough for the relief it got. I'll be glad for the teaching relief.

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Happy VJ Day

Happy VJ Day everyone! The memory of this has faded, it being 68 years in the past now.

I'm on a short absence from the blog due to having to get my mother-in-law's income taxes in. I filed an extension in April, and of course then waited till the last minute. I came close to finishing them last night. Have to finish them tonight and mail them tomorrow.

Hopefully I'll be back to a more reasonable schedule this weekend.

Sunday, August 11, 2013

5 Billion People

Today at church we had missionary speakers, the Troutmans. Former missionaries to Mozambique who have been in the States for a number of years, they are just about to return to the field, to Angola this time, another Portuguese speaking nation. They made an excellent presentation of the missions need in Africa and in those two countries especially.

It turns out that I should have known this couple. Their most recent assignment was as Hispanic pastors at my son-in-law's church in Oklahoma City. I was talking with the man after church and he finally said, "You don't recognize me, do you?" It was true, I didn't. Of course, he would normally have been preparing for Hispanic church when I visit in the main ROC church. I'm sure my wife knew them.

Rev. Troutman gave one statistic that was sobering. It is estimated that of the 7 billion people in the world, probably 5 billion have never had contact with the Christian message. That's astounding. I would have thought the reach of the message would have been much broader than that. From this statistic he eloquently, along with his wife, expressed the need to continue our missionary work.

In life group afterwards we talked about how the United States can best contribute to the effort to complete missions work. We noted that fully half the Christian missionaries in the world come from non-Western countries. Europe, the USA, and Canada sent a number of missionaries disproportionate to their population, but clearly no where near as dominantly as we did even twenty or thirty years ago.

The two things America has going for it is wealth and training. If you want to reach an Angolan with the gospel, who is better to do it: an American or another Angolan? We would expect the Angolan to have better results than an American. But with our vast resources and knowledge, an American should be able to provide discipleship, pastoral training, Bible translation, etc. as a valuable part of the effort to expand Christianity.

It was a good service and a good Life Group. A nice start to the week. Onward into the several quests I have going.

Thursday, August 8, 2013

Pouring Rain

Last night I was very tired. I had walked over three miles that day, with my noon and evening walks combined. I came to the computer in The Dungeon yesterday evening, intending to write a blog post here, but couldn't get my mind to focus so ended up reading blogs and playing mindless computer games.

Back upstairs I couldn't concentrate any better. About 11:15 p.m. I called it quits. As I did so, however, I heard thunder. Checking radar I found a small thunderstorm just developing around us. Some storms were further west and north, but not close enough to be concerned about. I believe I was asleep as soon as my head hit the pillow.

In the night I woke up, and saw that the light was on next to Lynda's side of the bed, though she was asleep. This light is connected to one of those devices that allows you to tap the light to turn it on and off. I could hear thunder over the noise of the box fan we had going, and heard rain on the skylight in the bathroom. I turned the light off and immediately went back to sleep.

At 5 a.m. that repeated. And at 6 a.m. the alarm woke me. This is the third day in a row that I haven't woken before the alarm went off. I suppose that's an indication of tiredness.

The drive to work included many slow downs for water on the road. It was too dark and too dangerous to be looking at most of the creeks off to the sides. By the time I reached Bentonville streets it was lighter. The rain was heavier, but I could see the various drainage ditches and man-made features, and could see how the water was. When I passed over Tributary 2 to Little Osage Creek, the creek was out of its banks downstream, but not even close to being over the road. This is a creek I have done much study on for its flooding. It was behaving exactly as my models predicted.

The storms are slowly moving out. It looks like we will be over with the rain by 9:00 a.m. and have sunshine by 10. The day's activities beckon me. Somehow I have to concentrate on a paper I'm supposed to deliver in Nashville February 2014, and finish writing it. I've been working on it off and on for over a week, with only minimal progress. I have most of the elements in the paper, but can't seem to pull them together to make my case on how erosion control fines should be assessed. I can finish it today if I can just get some concentration.

We have actually been in a fairly rainy period, unusual for our summers. Or maybe that's just because we've had several consecutive dry summers, so this seems unusual. For about the last week, every morning we have had rain. Not a lot of rain on any given day. The sky will be cloudy; at some point some rain falls, enough to make everything wet and to make people pull out umbrellas; then the clouds depart in the early afternoon and we have 85-95 degrees and humidity the rest of the day. As I say, this is unusual.

Somehow I have to get to a point in my life where all the activities I must do come as the rain has this summer, not as the overnight storm. A little time spent here, a little time spent there, lots of balance, nothing falling behind, nothing reaching the point of being critical. Let's see if I can begin that today.

Sunday, August 4, 2013

Rain on Sunday

I woke up this morning to find a light rain falling. It was clearly enough to use the windshield wipers but not enough to use a rain jacket. A quick check of radar showed the storm mostly north of us, and not moving south. It might not even be raining in Bentonville, ten miles south of us. The forecast called for the rain to stay mostly to the north. It would most likely be moved on out by the time church was over.

I put the finishing touches on preparation for Life Group lesson. I actually spent more time preparing for this lesson than I normally do, at least of late. The scripture was 2nd Corinthians 5:11-21, which is a very dense writing by Paul, taking some digging to understand. Our pastor is on vacation, and our Hispanic pastor was to speak. After church would be an enchilada dinner, a fund raiser by our Hispanic church.

So I arrived at church early (Lynda stayed home with a headache), had a couple of good conversations, and prepared for the service. It was a good service, though two of the worship choruses were mostly new to me and the other isn't one of my favorite. But there's no law that says the music must always be to my taste. The first part of the service was a little shorter than normal, and Pastor Beck got up to speak.

Surprise, surprise. He spoke from Ephesians chapter 4, not 2nd Corinthians chapter 5. I listened intently to the preacher, expecting him to bring it back to the scripture I had studied, but he didn't. So I had a dilemma: In the second hour, teach the lesson I had studied or teach something from the pastor's sermon.

Then, the pastor ended his sermon somewhat early. We were out twenty minutes or more earlier than normal. By this time I had decided to stick with my prepared lesson. I felt it would be difficult to shift gears at that point. Starting class early, we had the chance to also end early, after a full lesson, and be first in the enchilada line. Except, of course, the other two classes meeting at that hour had the same opportunity.

Class went well. After a good time of prayer and sharing, I dug into the lesson and the class responded. It was a free-wheeling discussion of the ministry of reconciliation as described by Paul and how to apply it to our lives. We got into getting beyond spiritual milk into weightier issues (which we were doing), with the entire process of how a God uses us in the conversion to Christ (preparation, sowing, watering, tending, and ultimately harvesting), and with what this means for our day to day living. We even dealt with racial and ethnic reconciliation. It was definitely the right lesson to teach.

And, we were first in the enchilada line. It was a great turn out for great food. I took some home to Lynda plus two extra dinners to have this week.

With it still raining after church, and even somewhat now, I didn't walk this afternoon. I put a few finishing touches on my financial spreadsheet, then filed most of the related papers. I have a little filing to go, but not much. I say that knowing some papers are eluding me. I'll find them when I straighten up the mess in The Dungeon, and will have more to file. But it feels good to be at this point.

Tonight I'll eat light, maybe walk a shorter route if the rain has really stopped, read and discard one magazine, read in a writing craft book, and look at stocks. I'll drop in bed around 11:30 p.m., probably not tired, but ready to say this glorious Sunday has ended, that it was good to have been in the house of the Lord, and good to have a relaxing day in His presence. For, even though I mention getting some things done, it has truly been relaxing.