Sapphire Sky

June 30, 2010

Why are Christians bloggers jerks? – recent CNN post

Filed under: Blogroll — bigbluelab @ 10:35 am

Yesterday, I went to CNN.com to get my news to balance out the fairness after reading FoxNews.com. I came across a commentary posted by a Christian blogger who was given a spot on CNN.com. I found it interesting that CNN would actually give a space to Christian commentary.

The article’s writer gave his opinions as to why Christians are jerks online. If Christians are to love thy neighbor, why oh why then do they act like jerks online?   You could probably replace “jerks” with self-righteous and still have the same point made.

I suppose his points were valid. He explains how Christians hide behind an online identity, making it easier to be more blunt, especially since you may not know the readers. He also explains that for many it becomes an idol in nit-picking the little things that annoy us as Christians.

So why can we be jerks online? Here are some of my thoughts in no particular order:

  1. Young in our Christian life – You’ve heard the saying, once a ____ always a _____ (fill in the blank with anything). Although, that may not necessarily be true, there are some habits that are harder to get rid of than others. I’d like to think that as a Christian, I am repenting of all my sins and bad habits, but in reality some are still lingering. Luckily I have people in my life to remind me of them.
  2. Not all christians are Christians – Many people in and not in church will claim they are Christian, yet know nothing of the Gospel, much less Grace. They may find themselves compelled to show the errors of others’ ways. So it’s not fair really to stereotype Christians and lump all christians together.
  3. One bad seed can damage a whole crop – All have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God. This “all” includes Christians. There will be those who are prominent and well known Christians who will stick their foot in their mouth on occasion. How about giving them some grace too.
  4. Excited to share with others – As Christians we desire for everyone to realize God’s glory and are excited to share it with others. Blogging or chatting online gives an easy platform to share opinions. It allows us to be bolder and braver than what we would normally share face-to-face. But nonetheless, we want to share what we’ve come to learn about ourselves in hopes others don’t make the same mistakes.
  5. Truth hurts – What one persons sees as “jerky” may in actuality be the truth. Pointing out a flaw in an individual or a society is rarely ever politically correct.
  6. It’s not a Christian thing – So why are Christians singled out? Any time I have ever commented on a non-Christian blog or YouTube, I immediately get barraged with hateful emails and replies with so much vulgarity it would make George Carlin cringe. It is a challenge to maintain a nice attitude on a blog site when someone attacks you in such a way.

What are some of your thoughts?

June 25, 2010

We lost on Jeopardy …

Filed under: culture, technology — Anthony Biller @ 8:14 pm

Most the world did not have a World Cup team to cheer for.  Major countries and several significant ones failed to even qualify, e.g. China, India, Russia.  While we’re competing fiercely with each other, this Century may bring about a fundamental change in how and with whom/what we compete.  I believe that by 2050, we’ll be discussing whether the robots (or manufactured people) will soon beat the world’s best soccer team in a match, if it hasn’t already happened by then.  According to the NY Times, it looks like we’re already losing to the not-quite-AI machines in TV game shows, or soon will be.  A virtual Vanna White may be turning placards for HAL soon enough.

 ‘Toured the Burj in this U.A.E. city. They say it’s the tallest tower in the world; looked over the ledge and lost my lunch.’ 

 This is the quintessential sort of clue you hear on the TV game show “Jeopardy!” It’s witty (the clue’s category is “Postcards From the Edge”), demands a large store of trivia and requires contestants to make confident, split-second decisions. This particular clue appeared in a mock version of the game in December, held in Hawthorne, N.Y. at one of I.B.M.’s research labs. Two contestants — Dorothy Gilmartin, a health teacher with her hair tied back in a ponytail, and Alison Kolani, a copy editor — furrowed their brows in concentration. Who would be the first to answer? 

Neither, as it turned out. Both were beaten to the buzzer by the third combatant: Watson, a supercomputer. 

For more see: What Is I.B.M.’s Watson?  

Unicorn, the other white meat

Filed under: humor — Anthony Biller @ 11:36 am

Pâté is passé. Unicorn – the new white meat. Excellent source of sparkles!

 Pork Board Admits It Knows Unicorns Don’t Exist, But Claims It Doesn’t Matter.

June 24, 2010

Hear All Creation

Filed under: entertainment, video — Anthony Biller @ 1:15 pm

World Cup firsts …

Filed under: sports — Anthony Biller @ 12:02 am

What an exhausting win against Algeria … just when it seemed that no matter what – Dempsey’s best efforts, consistently anti-US errant refs, balls bouncing off cross bars –  the USA wasn’t going to score and the game was all but over … Landon Donovan to the rescue.  Phew.

2pm Saturday – USA v Ghana.  Will be a difficult fight.  Repeat or revenge? Ghana knocked USA out of the last World Cup.  If we advance, particularly if we were to make it to the quarter finals, it would be a huge step forward for soccer in the USA.  It’s a long shot, but worth dreaming.  If we advance and the NFL strikes in 2011, professional soccer just might catch on here.

While Donovan to the rescue might not be anything new or unusual, this has already been a tournament of firsts for USA.  Michael Bradley’s game tying goal against Slovenia was the first by a player to score a World Cup goal for a team coached by his father.  Today was the first time USA scored in the third round of World Cup group, and accordingly the first time we’ve won a third round in group.  USA’s finishing first in their group is a first since the first World Cup in 1930, which was played by only 13 nations, with no Germany, Italy or British teams, and no teams from Africa. 

In related news, the French team returns home ignominiously. From the Finals in 2006 to winless group play.  It makes me wonder whether  Zinedine Zidane paid French coach Raymond Domenech to possibly eclipse Zidane as the biggest French arse in World Cup history.  The French team was a world-class catastrophe with Domenech being at the center of the team’s meltdown and also utterly lacking class in France’s closing loss to the host nation.  Good riddance.

It was also an incredible day at Wimbledon … and it’s not done yet!  Ironman tennis?

June 22, 2010

Forever

Filed under: encouragement, praise, theology — Steve Knaus @ 12:24 am

“No matter how great your pain is right now, it is not forever.”

I heard this quote from my pastor recently. The lesson is about our Eternal State with God himself. Forever.

We are reminded in Scripture to to focus on the forever.  The problems that we encounter here and today are nothing compared to the Forever.

So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, while we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are temporal, but the things that are unseen are eternal. – 2 Corinthians 4:16-18

I am reminded again and again how little I know about life.  I cannot even manage my own problems this week, let alone my entire life.  And my life is much more fortunate than many.

How little I know.

How little we all know about life.

We look at life as if it is about to crush us down.  We look at what we see, hear, and touch, and define this as our life.

We measure ourselves by our accomplishments and our pains that we encounter.

How little we know.

God has not made us for this 70-year span here on earth.  We are meant to be with him.  Forever.

What will life be like when finally see God?  How little will we care about our day-to-days pains from here on earth?

We will have stepped out of the shadows and will finally get to experience the REAL life.

Forever!

And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.” – Revelation 21:3-4

No longer will there be anything accursed, but the throne of God and of the Lamb will be in it, and his servants will worship him. – Revelation 22:3


June 20, 2010

Happy Father’s Day

Filed under: love, marriage and family — Anthony Biller @ 10:13 pm

Praise God for the blessing of fathers and fatherhood.

Looking back, I always thought John Wayne movies were interesting, but didn’t really understand why so many people were so impressed by the John Wayne character.  Years later, likely at some point when I was in the Army infantry, I realized my father was a whole lot like John Wayne– he was (and is) true grit, day in and day out.  If he was the talkative big word type, he would have taught us to say “perseverance.”  I thank God for my father and the fundamentally “male” things he always sought to instill in me and my siblings.

If I only had a dime for every time he said as a matter of course, “No Whiners” and “Quit Whining”, which worked as an answer to many questions and situations, particularly questions where there was no answer.  There were myriad subsets of the “no whining” theme as well.  Some were fairly creative.  An “I’m hungry” spoken between meals would almost automatically elicit, “Go knock your chin against the table and you won’t feel so hungry any more.”  If it didn’t involve arterial blood or bone protruding from the skin, the answer was typically “Quit your belly-aching.” 

When I went out for freshman football, I asked my dad for help in practicing tackling.  He grew up in Germany playing another type of football.  We went in the backyard where we figured the best practice would be for him to charge at me head on with the football, kinda like a goal line stand, but without helmet or pads.  I learned three things: why football players wear pads, particularly helmets; what it’s like to lose a head on collision, and how fleeting consciousness can be. 

Soon thereafter my dad was hired as my highschool’s first varsity soccer coach.  I eventually switched from football to soccer.  Growing up through grade school, like most other kids, I thought my dad was a giant. Smelly at times, but still, a strong giant and hands made of iron.  By my senior year in high school, I had by then several years of being taller than him — nearly 8 inches taller, though I’m not sure I weighed much more.  Toward the end of my senior year of soccer, when Dad entered the fray of a varsity scrimmage playing for a shorthanded opposing side, I thought I could bump or check him off the ball.  I knew my height would give me leverage and I made some boisterous claim as I rushed in to bounce Dad off the ball.  I did have leverage, for a moment, and quickly learned two things: a hip check does nothing to impede an elbow upwardly swinging at a high rate of speed, and despite the coolness of the then ever-present Michael Jordan tongue wag, having your tongue between your teeth and hanging out of your mouth was a bad idea in contact sports when someone else’s elbow shuts your mouth.  He kept the soccer ball and I lost whatever propensity I might have developed for trash talking.

I remember my Dad working 55 hours a week in a tool and die shop my entire time growing up, with two weeks vacation each year.  I had no idea what that meant until I tried it for one summer.  That summer of labor guaranteed that I would graduate from college.  I also learned from observation the true grit necessary to be a blue-collar worker for decades.

He’s not afraid to let you know that blood flows thicker than water and that family always comes first. I only saw him fight once.  When I was a trouble making teenager with a drivers license, one of my friends in the back seat apparently looked cross-eyed at another car.  The car followed me home and a very large, belligerent man jumped out and began shoving us around, apparently looking for a fight.  If he didn’t outweigh me and my two friends collectively, it was close.  He was big and fortunately loud.  Within seconds, my Dad was outside.  He explained that I was his son and politely asked the man to leave.  Unfortunately for himself, the big man declined the invitation and instead become more belligerent as he advanced upon my much shorter father.  That lasted less than a minute before his attitude drastically changed and he retreated to his car to hastily depart, apparently unappreciative for the flavor of my father’s knuckles at high rates of speed. 

My Dad was 5′ 9″.  He claims that he’s now 5′ 8″, but I think that’s a bit of a stretch.  He’s lost over an inch.  And that happened fairly quickly.  In his 50s, he was practicing motocross with my youngest brother.  He overshot a jump at too high a speed on his KX500.  Actually he overshot the landing — and came down on the back side of a hill instead of on the top.  His back wheel floated out too far in front so he landed on the back of the motorcyle with the 225 pound bike on top of himself.  I wasn’t there.  As I recall it, my little brother didn’t have his driver’s license yet and Dad didn’t want him to worry, so he eventually got back on his feet.  Drove his bike back to his truck.  Loaded it and my brother’s bike and drove a good distance home.  The next day, when the excruciating pain hadn’t subsided, he went to the doctor to find out he shattered a vertebrae.  He’s shorter now.  True grit.

I remember being the tallest kid in my class but being a fairly rotten basketball player.  I remember playing basketball with my Dad, who was also a much shorter fairly rotten basketball player.  I took a shot that was so far off the mark, I had to tell you it was a shot and not an arm spasm that inadvertently shot the ball into space.  I also remember how, after Dad finished laughing and I continued to glower, he used that time to laugh and teach me the importance in life of not taking yourself too seriously and being able to laugh at yourself.  Of course, I had a lot of source material, still do, and it was a valuable lesson I never forgot.

There are so many things I remember about my Dad teaching me about life.  Hardly none of it was scripted or didactic lessons, instead, they were lessons, mostly spontaneous, derived from living life and spending time together.  The best communication he showed was the time he took to be with and around us.  Dad was always there when we needed him and still is. 

True grit.  True lessons.  True love.

Thanks Dad.

Praise God for fathers who invest themselves in the lives of their children.

June 18, 2010

Zeta Beta Toddler

Filed under: humor, marriage and family — Anthony Biller @ 5:31 pm

At 3am, our 3-year-old was walking down the hallway yelling for an ice pop.  Luckily for him, mom was the one to get up first (… no surprise there).  When she convinced him he couldn’t have one, he stated he wanted oatmeal for breakfast and went back to bed.  Which leads to Why Having A Toddler is Like Being at a Frat Party, which comparison is as surprisingly spot-on as it is funny, to include the ever-increasing number of contributions at the end of the blog …

Dude, what’s up with Sarah?

Filed under: politics, economy, etc. — Anthony Biller @ 4:31 pm

Looks like she and the late William F. Buckley, Jr. share something in common: Sarah Palin wants cops to leave weed smokers alone

June 17, 2010

Trash talking Slovenia?

Filed under: sports, video — Anthony Biller @ 10:11 pm

Scenic Slovenia

Slovenia?!  That tiny blip on the northeastern corner of the Adriatic.  Scenic certainly, but the nation of 2 million wouldn’t make our top-25 list of States (wouldn’t likely make top 35).  For that matter, they don’t make the top 25 ranking for FIFA either.  With that said, this tiny little country clocked in at 26 in FIFA rankings; and with bodies flying everywhere, number 26 Sweden just beat number 2 Spain. Further, the trash talk might be as much or more FIFA marketing through creative interpreting.  If Slovenia wins, they’re into Round 2 and we’re almost certainly not absent an English collapse.  Go Algeria!

 

Kim Jong Il

North Korea versus Brazil had a surreal feeling to me.  These Korean men playing their hearts out for a brutal, personality-cult dictatorship.  On the other side, the smooth Brazilians, persistent and smooth and unstoppable like a river.  The Brazilian’s first goal was magical … did that really go in?  How?  The debate will endure whether Maicon intended that goal, unless he tells, which I hope he doesn’t.

June 15, 2010

World Cup first few days …

Filed under: sports, video — Anthony Biller @ 1:11 pm

Okay, as a colleague pointed out, perhaps that was Robert Green’s way of apologizing to the US  for the whole BP troubles we’re experiencing.  In negating what would have been the first goal of the World Cup, the refs in the first match taught many (to include the announcers) that offsides is based on two players in front, regardless of where the goalie is.  South Africa played inspired and their goal should be part of the permanent World Cup highlight reel.   The Italians apparently forgot their coffee and were decidely uninspiring in the pouring rain against tiny Paraguay, who tied the reigning Cup champs.  Germany practised the soccer Blitzkrieg in demolishing Australia.  The most noticeable thing about the Netherlands remains their vibrant orange notwithstanding their high ranking.  No one from North Korea has defected from their soccer delegation and with their loved ones held hostage, it’s unlikely any will.  Brazil plays today. 

June 14, 2010

Moody’s Downgrades Greek Debt to Junk

Filed under: entertainment, politics, economy, etc., video — Anthony Biller @ 2:26 pm

Sell

June 11, 2010

Where are all the babies going?

Filed under: books, culture, politics, economy, etc. — Anthony Biller @ 5:19 pm

 Everything’s made in China?  Apparently, not enough babies.  At the risk of sounding politically incorrect, it may be more accurate to say that China is very efficient at copying.  It appears they’re also copying some of the manifestations of the modern market economies, namely, plummeting birth rates.

USA Today recently reported on the declining birth rates in Asia.  A society needs a birth rate of 2.1 to sustain its population levels.  Of course, Communist China’s “one child” per family policy and brutal repression of its people don’t help the region’s demographic prognosis. 

 This pattern of reproductive decline to dangerously low levels is common to most developed economies. It’s also dangerous for the indigenous cultures.  The failure to populate leaves the native population vulnerable to being populated by other groups, such as through mass immigration or by war.  The problem is that most advanced economies have also adopted increasingly burdensome social welfare mandates that require a large base population to sustain a smaller number of infirm and elderly.  Kind of like how families in not-so-long-ago agrarian economies had to have a enough children to tend the farm and care for the parents as they aged.

As shown below, most of Europe, Japan, and the former Soviet Union are each in a demographic death spiral.  As also shown, the Islamic countries are “red-hot.”  Interestingly, the Muslim fertility rates in Western Europe maintain the same high levels.  Between those rates and Europe’s massive immigration of labor to sustain their social welfare states, the Muslim world should be poised to “take” Europe and much of Asia, accomplishing by birth and patience what Muslims have been largely unable to do through centuries of war. 

While nose diving demographics is common throughout the developed world, the USA is one of the few advanced economies whose fertility rate does not forecast civilizational suicide.  That and other cultural issues led Canadian Mark Steyn to write America Alone, whose thesis is essentially that the West is in a losing, long-term struggle against Islam and that the US is the last best hope for western liberalism.  Another commentator, Joel Kotkin, is coming out with a book,  The Next Hundred Million: America in 2050, that is quite bullish on our nation’s future.  Real.tv interview here.

 A student at Stanford, Michael Shanks, has posted an excellent analysis with the Stanford Humanities Lab online on the aging populations in advanced economies.  His section on fertility rates and population aging looks at the data and its implications more closely.  The map below shows life expectancy by country.  Not surprisingly, the advanced economies lead the world in average life expectancy.

This information further underscores that the 21st Century will be quite interesting and challenging.  The advanced economies and most the West, will feature declining and aging native population bases and correspondingly strong pressures for greater immigration.  The demographics also suggest further cultural clashes between the advanced liberal democracies and Islamic nations, unless Islam rids itself of radical and violent elements and pursues moderation.  Between changing demographics, technology shrinking the globe, artificial intelligence and robotics, and genetic engineering, it will be a century unlike anything we’ve seen yet.

June 10, 2010

German Homeschool Project

Filed under: video — Anthony Biller @ 5:30 pm

Want to see what happens when little boys that like to play with Legos and Tonka toys grow up?  Watch this.

June 9, 2010

Kid Tris

Filed under: sports — Anthony Biller @ 6:11 pm

One of the problems with triathalons is how much weight you drop.  The sport ruins wardrobes.  They no longer fit!  The multisport routine if popularized would be an effective measure in combatting the growing pandemic of childhood obesity.  More on kid tris: Accessibility drives popularity of kids triathlons

Physics Rocks

Filed under: entertainment, video — Anthony Biller @ 6:06 pm

June 8, 2010

Are You Smarter Than a Fifth Grader?

Filed under: Uncategorized — bigbluelab @ 2:02 pm

Interesting article in today’s WSJ regarding who understands (or doesn’t understand) the policies facing our country. Conservatives? Liberals? Who do you think?
http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052748703561604575282190930932412.html

June 7, 2010

God, The Artist

Filed under: Poem — Anthony Biller @ 7:22 pm

God, when you thought of a pine tree,
How did you think of a star?
How did you dream of a damson West
Crossed by an inky bar?
How did you think of a clear brown pool
Where flocks of shadows are?

God, when you thought of a cobweb,
How did you think of dew?
How did you know a spider’s house
Had shingles, bright and new?
How did you know we human folk
Would love them as we do?

God, when you patterned a bird song,
Flung on a silver string,
How did you know the ecstasy
That crystal call would bring?
How did you think of a bubbling throat
And a darling speckled wing?

God, when you chiseled a raindrop,
How did you think of a stem
Bearing a  lovely satin leaf
To hold the tiny gem?
How did you know a million drops
Would deck a morning’s hem?

Why did you make the moonlit night
With the honeysuckle vines?
How did you know Madeira bloom
Distilled ecstatic wines?
How did you weave the velvet dusk
Where tangled perfumes are?
God, when you thought of a pine tree,
How did you think of a star?

by Angela Morgan

June 6, 2010

Fever Blister in the Sun

Filed under: sports — Anthony Biller @ 9:02 pm

This weekend opened triathlon season for the rest of our family that cares to do tris.  The kids had a blast on Saturday competing in a KIT (Kids in Training) triathlon — a great organization that teaches kids how to do triathlons and has fun in the process.  Our six-year-old completed his first and was ear-to-ear grins every time he passed by.  It was pretty hot though.  Afterward we ate at Brigs and discovered for the first time their strawberry shortcake …  there was nothing short about it.  A delicious mountain … and our 3-year-old had ordered it for dessert.  It was bigger than he was.  He needed some help, a lot of help …  Delicious.  We’ll be going back for some similar “carb loading” in the future I’m sure. 

Help is also what I needed today in completing my first tri of the season with fellow blogger Steve.  Aside from being redirected by a kayaking referee to a buoy on the swim course about a hundred yards away that I had apparently missed, the most notable part of the race was the scorching heat.  I felt more like a snail on the run than a human, let alone a triathlete.  I had a snail’s pace during the run and left a moisture path behind most the way …  After the race, we immediately departed for the mandatory post-race cheeseburger.  When we returned to the car an hour later (big cheeseburgers), the car thermometer read 103 degrees. 

 

  Perfect for baking eggs and triathletes on the pavement …

June 4, 2010

Ocean

Filed under: culture, Poem — Anthony Biller @ 10:36 pm

To nuke the BP hole shut or not to nuke it, that may be the question.  What a mess, and forecasting models predict the Gulf Stream could bring the black mess to the Carolina shores just in time for summer …

How quickly we go from chanting “drill baby drill” to “cap baby cap.”  This recent spill in the Gulf of Mexico has suddenly given much more weight in my mind to the environmentalist concerns regarding drilling in environmentally sensitive areas.  It’s easy to view eco-objections with a cynical eye, suspecting the latest sky-is-falling claim is the latest subterfuge to handicap market capitalism in favor of socialism and centralized planning or something even less coherent.  That’s easy to believe since so often that’s exactly what’s going on – the inconvenient truth is that the environmental claims are too often simply wrong or divorced of context.  Nonetheless, creation is from God and entrusted to us.  Environmentalism should not be a disputed issue amongst Christians — it’s required of us to manage and care for what God has entrusted to humanity.  We owe it to our Creator as well as to future generations to preserve and protect the environment in reasonable and sustainable ways.

The threatening pollution of our local shores, reminds me of the only poetry contest my wife and I entered together … of course B.C. (Before Children).  We didn’t win any prize but enjoyed working on it together …

Ocean calling

Lift your head, come and see,
God’s fingerprints reflected in me.
Both of us are filled with life –
a delicate, magnificent gift.

Come to the shore, stand with me,
where miracles are plain to see.
Gulls, surf and sand crab frolic
together, in one of life’s dances.

Gentle waves’ music
wash away
time and burdens.
Come friend,
my shores are open
and share with me
in the beauty of life.

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