Friday, May 30, 2003


Friday In Texas

I flew into Houston yesterday for my sister Natalie's high school graduation. She picked me up, and since I got in late so we had a late dinner at TGI Friday's in The Woodlands. I was really hungry because they didn't serve any food on America West Airlines, save for those honey roasted peanuts. Oh well.

At dinner, I drank a V-8 juice and we exchanged gifts. I gave her an Italian phrasebook and she gave me a set of little espresso cups that reminded her of Italy (hmm, notice a pattern). They're sleek and black and I'm ready to use them! Now I just need an espresso machine. Or I'll bust out that little espresso thing Tim gave me a few years ago when he lived in Turin, home of everyone's favorite shroud.

Today (being Friday, by the way) we played with the newest addition to the household on Arcturus. That's the street where my mom, sister, and other humans and animals live -- kinda like a commune. It's a kitty named "Sky" (hmm, a new unisex name?). It attacks anything that moves and many things that don't.

You know, I was thinking about how territorial and isolated cats are in the wild. I mean, can you imagine anyone herding cats?

I didn't herd cats today, but I did take the house bitch, Thumper, for a walk. She responded well and wasn't too unruly. Summer must be tough for a German shepherd.

I saw today's Friday Five on Jenny's blog. So I guess I'll answer them. Then I'll go over to my dad's place to have a bonfire.

1. What do you most want to be remembered for?

I want to be remembered by people I know, as someone who loved them and to whom they could turn.

2. What quotation best fits your outlook on life?

  • Ideally, "The time has come: God's kingdom is approaching; open your hearts and
    believe the good news." -- Jesus of Nazareth (c. AD 27 ).
  • Day to day, it's more like, "The unexamined life is not worth living." -- Socrates (5th century BC).
  • Sometimes, "Eat, drink, and be merry, for tomorrow, we die!"
  • Others here.

    3. What single achievement are you most proud of in the past year?

    Taking my sister to Italy as a graduation gift last summer.

    4. What about the past ten years?

    I guess it would be living in the wild during the summer of `98.

    5. If you were asked to give a child a single piece of advice to guide them through life, what would you say?

    Seek God and depend on Him. Follow your passions. Take care of your brothers and sisters.

    Good night, New York!

  • Wednesday, May 28, 2003

    Being a Grownup

    "In regard to evil be infants, but in your thinking be adults." -- St. Paul

    What makes you a grownup? Is it about "being responsible"? Is it having a stable job? Being out of school? Not having raging keggers where you throw records down the hall? What?

    When I ask myself this question, I'd like to think that I'm a grownup. However, I'm not legally responsible for anyone but myself. I'm still in school. But I haven't drunkenly thrown records for years. Of course, I've been to night clubs in San Juan, but I also hang out in places like Bethesda, Maryland and talk about math with gray haired men. But those are just things I do.

    Isn't being a grownup more about attitude? More about the heart?

    I think being grownup means you stop playing the "me first" game and respond to the call of love. You start assuming responsibility for the common good of those around you, especially friends and family. If you marry and have a family of your own, you then have an immediate responsibility for them.

    Michael Barone has this to say about coming of age in American society:

    From the age of 6 to 18, our kids live mostly in what I call Soft America--the part of our society where there is little competition and accountability. In contrast, most Americans in the 12 years between ages 18 and 30 live mostly in Hard America--the part of American life subject to competition and accountability; the military trains under live fire. Soft America seeks to instill self-esteem. Hard America plays for keeps.

    I see the journey to adulthood in more spiritual terms. Think of what St. Paul says in chapter 5 of his letter to the Galations. "I say, live by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the sinful nature. For the sinful nature desires what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit what is contrary to the sinful nature. They are in conflict with each other, so that you do not do what you want."

    Let's call the time when we are ruled by the sinful nature, "childhood". We'll know childhood by its fruits, its actions. "The acts of the sinful nature are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like." Sounds like the standard fare at American universities. And some never grow out of it--think of all the sexual and financial scandals, the worship of the body, the racial and religious hatred, the drug and alcohol abuse. "I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God." Yeah, well, at least they'll be having fun. Right? And isn't that what it's all about?

    If you answer that in the affirmative, you are not a grownup. And I hope you are not placed in a position of public trust until you are one.

    And there is of course hope that you can become one. We needn't stay ruled by the sinful nature forever. Jesus sent the Holy Spirit to guide us to all truth. And the Spirit transforms our base nature into something extraordinary, like a withered tree that suddenly springs to life, bursting with fruit. "[T]he fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control." These are the characteristics of a mature person.
    "Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the sinful nature with its passions and desires." The mature person still has passions and desires, just not those of the sinful nature.

    As Paul says elsewhere, "When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put childish ways behind me. . . . Brothers, stop thinking like children." When it's time to grow up, we put the former ways behind us and don't look back. There is much more ahead. So let the journey begin.

    Sunday, May 25, 2003


    Harimtu Shamhat and Enkidu

    An ancient story of a wild man civilized by a wise woman.

    Priest-king Gilgamesh holding a lion cubThere is an ancient story, The Epic of Gilgamesh, which dates from 5000 to 4000 years ago during the Sumerian period in Mesopotamia. In early Sumerian history, priests were also the kings of the city-states. Gilgamesh was one of the most heroic priest-kings of this time. He was the priest-king of Uruk which was located on the Euphrates River approximately fifty miles northwest of Ur (map).

    When the stories open, Gilgamesh is a tyrant, so the divine assembly creates Enkidu to be his companion. The assembly hopes that Enkidu will take Gilgamesh on daring adventures and keep him from using his energies to oppress the people of Uruk. At first Enkidu has little interest in Gilgamesh and prefers to run with wild animals. To make him more interested in human friendship, the divine assembly dispatches a wise woman (Akkadian: harimtu shamhat) who teaches Enkidu how to be human.

    The hunter and the wise woman took up positions,

    For two days they waited by the watering hole.

    Finally, the wild beasts came to drink,

    The animals came to splash in the water.

    Enkidu, like a creature from the hills, came with them,

    Grazing with the gazelles,

    Watering with the wild beasts,

    Splashing in the water with the animals.

    The wise woman saw this creature primeval,

    This savage from deep within the treeless plains.

    The wise woman bared her breasts,

    Enkidu took hold of her body.

    She was not bashful,

    She welcomed his passion.

    She spread her clothes on the ground,

    Enkidu had intercourse with her on them.

    She treated this savage like a man.

    Enkidu made love with her.

    For six days and seven nights Enkidu took her,

    Every day and every night he had intercourse with the woman.

    Having satisfied himself with the woman,

    Enkidu turned to rejoin the animals.

    Seeing him, the gazelles ran off,

    The beasts of the steppe shied away from him.

    Enkidu felt weak, his body grew taut,

    His knees locked when the beasts began to run.

    Enkidu became weak, unable to run as before,

    But his mind was filled with a new wisdom. . . .

    Finally, the woman said: "Now you are wise, Enkidu,

    Now you have become like us.

    Why do you run with the wild animals?

    Why do you run through the plains?

    Let me lead you to Uruk, the city of great markets,

    Come with me to the sanctuary of Anu . . . where Gilgamesh rules . . ."

    She took some of her own clothes and dressed Enkidu,

    Then she dressed herself.

    The wise woman took his hand and led him like a child.

    They walked to the corral, where the herders gathered to stare.

    Enkidu knew only how to nurse . . .

    To suckle the milk of wild animals.

    When they placed beer and bread before him,

    He turned away, he sniffed, he stared.

    Enkidu did not know how to eat bread.

    No one had taught him how to drink beer.

    Then the woman said: "Eat the bread, Enkidu, it is the staff of life.

    Drink the beer, it is the gift of the land."

    Enkidu ate bread until he was full.

    He drank beer from seven jars.

    He became cheerful and playful.

    His heart rejoiced and his face glowed.

    He bathed and oiled his body,

    He combed his hair.

    Enkidu became a man.

    For more information, see the British museum website on Mesopotamia. By the way, 'Mesopotamia' meaning 'the land between the rivers', is the Greek rendering of the Hebrew Aram-naharayim, 'Aram of the (two) rivers', the area of the upper and middle Euphrates and Tigris. The word came to mean the whole Tigris-Euphrates district.

    Tuesday, May 20, 2003


    Houston, Texas

    mind purge on the fine city of Houston

    I have family all over texas; Waco, Dallas, San Antonia. My
    immediate family lives near Houston. Well, quite a bit outside Houston,
    about 50 miles to the north (I live outside Houston too, about 1500 miles or so). There's a lake there, Lake Conroe, and a lot
    of people who work in Texas live out there in the extended subburbs
    nearby -- places with names like Willis, Conroe, Grangerland, The Woodlands, and my favorite, Cut n' Shoot. Of course, President W's home in Crawford is
    pretty close too. (My dad was nearly Chief of Police there!)

    Most of the people my family and I know in the area don't go to Houston much,
    unless they work there. They live near the fourth most populous city in
    the US, but you wouldn't know it. I guess the drive is considered too far.
    Besides, many people move out there to get away from the big city life, with all of our city slicker ways.

    I go back to visit my family at least once a year. I'll be going to see my sister graduate in two weeks. Despite being so
    close, I haven't been to Houston much, except for when John Lin and Ryan Cox came last December. I've been to the NASA center
    there, and some places nearby. I know there're a lot of seafood places,
    since Houston is close to the Gulf of Mexico. I've heard Houston has all
    the cultural amenities you'd expect from a big city. My sister's been to
    some musicals and church conferences there and seems to like the city.
    She also enjoys going to the Gulf coast. Rumor has it that her fiance proposed to her on the beach in Galveston.

    Rumor also has it you can't surf Galveston -- the waves are too feeble.

    I wish I could say more, but that's about the store of my knowledge. I considered going to Rice University (in Houston) as an undergrad, but then the superfreaks wait-listed me. The cowards! Of course, if I end up working at the NASA center there, I'm sure I'd
    explore and learn more. But then, I think I'm steering more toward academia for now.

    Okay, now get back to work.

    Do stuff.

    Yes, that means you.

    Friday, May 16, 2003


    New Year 2000

    A remembrance from January 2000

    No crazy New Years' incidents happened here. Some friends and I quietly
    celebrated the New Year with good conversation and fresh fruit. There was
    a minor melee in Pasadena, with a fire in the street and people throwing
    bottles, but my crew went around it. There were tons of people filling
    the streets (around the Rose Parade route). We took pictures of the cops
    in riot gear going in to take the revellers down. I suppose people wanted
    their money's worth regarding this end of the world deal.

    The next day, I played "This is the dawning of the Age of Aquarius" and we
    danced around the Great Fire throwing in all our memories from the past
    profligate era, to purify ourselves for the New Age, whose birth pangs are
    even now being felt.

    Okay, so we just went to IHOP the next day (how cosmic, huh?), no Great
    Fires. But my oat bran pancakes seemed to have great religious
    significance, a symbol of the cycles of creation, degradation and
    regeneration. All high in fiber.


    I understand the morbid hope for chaos. I hoped something would happen to
    forestall the coming year with all its academic demands. As a kid, before
    a dreaded day would come (like having to hand in a term paper or give a
    speech in class), I would hope for some disaster to disturb the status
    quo. This was my immature attempt to gain perspective on things. My
    stupid assignments seemed like nothing compared to DISASTER! All the more
    now. But I don't hope for disasters like I used to. I just accept them
    as they come, as crises have seemed ever more frequent lately and God's
    given me the strength to live through them.

    Regarding crises, a useful question I began asking myself a year ago was "What would shatter your
    faith?" If the answer is anything more than "nothing," watch
    just might get tested. Correction, you WILL be tested. I was.

    I'm going to face a tribunal of professors in my department in two weeks.
    I'm a first year grad student, if you remember, in a dept. with the scary
    name of "Control and Dynamical Systems" whose meaning and ultimate goal
    still elude me and most world governments. I've been so lame the past
    week, I haven't studied at all. It's called a "qualifying exam," to see
    if you're worthy to go on with the PhD candidacy and start your thesis.
    I have to be well versed in the art of applying mathematics and I just
    haven't been motivated since Christmas break. I've got to study and need

    If I don't pass, I'll have to march on into obscurity and open a cafe in
    the middle of the Mojave desert, near Joshua Tree. The place will be a
    community center for the psychos, UFO seekers, conspiracy theorists, and
    other assorted desert people afflicted with the "desert madness." It
    seems like a fine Plan B, doesn't it? I'd hope to expand it into an
    artist colony so other struggling artists like myself can be inspired by
    the desert's barren serenity. Hey, it worked for Jesus (remember those 40
    days in the desert...).

    Wednesday, May 14, 2003


    A Memoir About Gangs

    I just saw the movie Colors, starring Sean Penn and Robert Duvall. It's been on my list of movies-to-see for a while.

    When the movie came out, my dad was a sergeant in the Long Beach Police Dept. and head of the Gang Detail Unit. I heard about Crips and Bloods all the time. I remember my dad bringing home a drawing some cop made of a big, bad ass looking cop choking a scrawny gangbanger, with the tagline "Get a Grip on a Crip".

    I had to deal with gangs too. There were some Latino gangs in my area of Anaheim. Even though we were just in junior high , you could feel the gang presence. I remember having to worry about what colors I wore to school. And getting harassed. And getting really pissed off. By the way, I found this statistic on the web:

    From 1985 to 1992, the number of gangs in Anaheim increased by 338 percent while the number of gang members rose 347 percent. Anaheim reported more than 100 gang-related shootings from April through October 1990.

    I hated getting picked on during P.E. `cause I was a white boy. What pissed me off more was that my junior high school administration didn't do anything about it. I guess they thought they could ignore it and let punching bags like me just take it. So at first, I did what I thought I could to combat it. I wrote.

    I wrote an editorial for the school newspaper about intimidation taking place among students on campus. I was trying to spur on action. All I got was a talking to by the principal saying he was trying his best. Naw. He was a wuss. I forgive him for being a wuss, but he was still a wuss.

    So I went to Plan B. I got in a few fights. I could be pushed only so far. One time I tangled up with some punk during drama class. We were practicing for some skit outside. I don't even know what happened. Maybe he said something that just pushed me over the edge. So we were down in the grass, with a bunch of pansy on-lookers just standing there, trying to stay out of our way. I think we got up after fighting a while. And he didn't mess with me again.

    I was super glad when junior high was over. I think seventh grade was worse than eighth. In eighth grade, I tried to play the 'popular kid' thing: student body council, newspaper, working the student store, going to school dances. And a lot of hazing and goofing off. With the occasional fight on the side.

    By the time I got to high school, the flakes that were marginal gangbangin' hangers-on dropped out of school to be full-time thugs. It's not right to wish `em ill, but I did. I really did. I was glad they were gone. Glad the Asshole Fairy had taken them away. (That's the Angelic Being that conveniently takes assholes out of your life.)

    So I watched Colors tonight, and though my life in the Anaheim barrio wasn't anything like that, it still got to me. I hope the gang problem is on the decline. It's such a waste of people's lives, fighting for colors, fighting for the `hood. And all that bullshit.

    I hope they all find their way. Those guys that I hated. I don't hate them anymore. I don't know them. But one day, I might meet them. And it's all about reconciliation, right? It's all about peace in the end. And recognizing your brothers. And love, man.

    There's something very amazing about grace. Hindsight grace may not be much, but it's a start.

    Monday, May 12, 2003

    Important Events in Human History

    Important Events in Human History

    See the latest version here

    Friday Five

    1. Would you consider yourself an organized person? Why or why not?

    Yes. Because I usually know where important things are and I (usually) remember my schedule.

    2. Do you keep some type of planner, organizer, calendar, etc. with you, and do you use it regularly?

    Not really. At work, I have a little wall calendar and I write stuff on it sometimes. Mostly I just try to remember things.

    3. Would you say that your desk is organized right now?

    Yes, `cause there's just some binders and pens on it.

    4. Do you alphabetize CDs, books, and DVDs, or does it not matter?

    I don't alphabetize, but I do have books and CDs organized loosely by category (e.g., Pet Shop Boys, Erasure, Depeche Mode are in Brit synth pop). That makes more sense to me and is easier. You just have to throw the book, CD, or whatever in the right category bin and screw alphabetizing it.

    5. What's the hardest thing you've ever had to organize?

    One time as a teenager I organized the messy garage at my house. I came across all kinds of "priceless" junk that my parents threw in the garage. I put stuff into categories in boxes, and made the garage a little neater.

    Friday, May 09, 2003


    The Possibly Proper Death Litany

    I have brought to you a prayer from the far future, written by science fiction author Roger Zelazny. He posited a very distant future in which people were still concerned that they be on good relations with whatever might exist, but they had gotten ever more careful about deciding what that might -- or might not -- be.

    It is an interesting commentary on our own pluralistic times, when all beliefs are equally valid, equally true, equally false, equally uncertain.

    "Insofar as I may be heard by anything, which may or may not care what I say, I ask, if it matters, that you be forgiven for anything you may have done or failed to do which requires forgiveness. Conversely, if not forgiveness but something else may be required to ensure any possible benefit for which you may be eligible after the destruction of your body, I ask that this, whatever it may be, be granted or withheld, as the case may be, in such a manner as to ensure your receiving said benefit. I ask this in my capacity as your
    elected intermediary between yourself and that which may not be
    yourself, but which may have an interest in the matter of your receiving as much as it is possible for you to receive of this
    benefit, and which may in some way be influenced by this ceremony. Amen."

    Creatures of Light and Darkness
    , Avon, 1986)

    Monday, May 05, 2003


    Here's a belated response to the Friday Five.

    1. Name one song you hate to admit you like.

    • "Oops, I did it again..." by Britney Spears
    But it's John Lin's CD, not mine!

    2. Name two songs that always make you cry.

    Sometimes, not always.

    • "Nights in White Satin" by The Moody Blues
    • "Bridge Over Troubled Water" by Simon and Garfunkel

    3. Name three songs that turn you on.

    I don't really get turned on by music, but I'll give this answer a try.

    • "Elevation" by U2
    • "Butterfly" by Crazy Town
    • "Your Blue Room" by U2

    4. Name four songs that always make you feel good.

    • "One" by U2
    • "Volare" by The Gypsy Kings
    • "Summertime" by Sublime
    • "Uptown Girl" by Me First and the Gimme Gimmes

    5. Name five songs you couldn't ever do without.

    • "Fields of Gold" by Sting
    • "A Day in the Life" by The Beatles
    • "Sunday Bloody Sunday" by U2
    • "New Year's Day" by U2
    • "Under the Bridge" by Red Hot Chili Peppers

    Saturday, May 03, 2003


    A Rant And Such Concerning the 'Non-Interference Imperative'

    I get annoyed by what I've seen as a kind of "moral imperative" amongst those who believe in the equivalence of all beliefs, those who hold to the relativism of all truth.

    The imperative seems to boil down to the following: It is wrong to attempt to persuade anyone of anything. Nevermind that those who iterate this imperative cannot, even in principle, speak of wrongdoing. And nevermind that they themselves do not follow it. Nevermind that this imperative is incoherent if one gives it a moment's thought. And finally, nevermind that such an imperative is ultimately not followed nor desired by any sane person.

    I call it an imperative for lack of a better term. It may be more of a sentiment. It may not be anything but a sub-cognitive belch. In any case, it is time to put it to rest once and for all, and claim victory for free thought as we shout, "It's dead, whatever it was."

    The insecurity which drives this non-interference imperative seems to be rooted in a fear of the strong oppressing the weak through the imposition of values, traditions, and institutions. The strong in this case are those with confidence in their beliefs, enough confidence to attempt to persuade others of what they believe. We can call them Proselytizers. The weak are those who fall prey to the more confident ones. I'm not sure who these people presumably are. Perhaps those without a significant education. We'll affectionately call them the Teeming Masses.

    [begin quasi-sarcastic cut]

    The Proselytizers who are truly to be feared are those evil, sneaky evangelists who prey upon those Teeming Masses who can't think for themselves. Oh yes, I'm talking about those dogmatic fanatics with razor sharp teeth and who hunt down and corner unsuspecting victims, brainwashing their prey into believing in outdated ideas like reality, truth, God, right and wrong, either/or, this or that, [place your favorite exclusive claim here]. Oh, the horror of it all!

    Now let's face it. Those who promulgate the above non-interference imperative are arrogant, dare we say condescending. Having been schooled by, or taken up residence in academia and/or Hollywood, they believe themselves to be superior to the great majority. They are the beings capable of truly independent thought, as opposed to what Alexander Hamilton called "the masses are asses" in his day (which was a mere echo of a famous Yiddish folk saying, "der oylem iz a goylem". The golem is that brutish being incapable of independent thought, and keyed to the will of its master.)

    It seems consistent to say that in the view of the independent, open-minded, Elite, the Proselytizers are simply re-programming the zombie masses. Thus, can we really even call it proselytizing? I mean, the zombies are liable to get re-programmed by the next forceful salesman that comes along selling them a toaster they don't need (and should much less even know about in the first place!).

    In fact, it may simply be that the Elite are just jealous that the Proselytizers are more successful in their ability to induce conversion to a belief or cause. And so their sneaky strategy became one of promulgating a Commandment-to-end-all-Commandments and deny the inalienable right of the Proselytizers to practice their insidious craft of openly making claims about reality.

    The Elite must do this to protect their own. For when one of the few, thoughtful Elites changes his mind about something, especially if that something carries the label religion, that, my friend, is a true crime against humanity.

    To be consistent with the non-interference imperatice, individuals, especially the Elite, should never have to read or hear any claim, or be persuaded of anything, by anyone at anytime, especially if such a claim comes in a tone of moral clarity (another thought-crime, I might add!).

    In sum, we should all come to conclusions behind closed doors in isolation from any evidence, reading, if anything, descriptive narratives devoid of exclusive proclamations.

    [end quasi-sarcastic cut]

    Okay, enough with the sarcasm, Shane.

    My point being that to make up one's mind by experiencing the
    world means to deal with the claims and feelings of others one encounters.

    To communicate is to, in some sense, manipulate the mind of another, taking away 'airtime' from their own thoughts, and giving some new, and perhaps unanticipated data which must be processed and digested. To make a claim of any kind is to attempt persuasion. Otherwise, one offers one's thoughts up only for admiration.