Cherry blossoms, and life, are fleeting

Feb28

"It may just be because I get homesick, but I have concluded Washington's cherry blossoms are just plain overrated." ~ Newt Gingrich

MulanThis pic is just from a decorative (fruitless?) cherry tree in the parking lot near my building at work.  Still, very pretty right now.  I've been to Washington DC when the trees are blooming, it is very pretty if the day is sunny – but often, being springtime, it is drizzling.

I particularly like the cherry blossoms in the movie Mulan, which features cherry blossoms because of the significance they have in Oriental culture, representing the fleeting nature of life, due to their beauty and short life.

When I see them now, I think of the fleeting nature of my life, and how I need to go for it – and no, I am not having a mid life crisis ;).

Petals like snow

Feb27a

“The apple blossom exists to create fruit; when that comes, the petal falls.” ~ Kabir

Feb27b The beautiful petals of the almonds are only here for a couple weeks – already after one week or so, they are falling like snow on the ground.

It is a little sad, but as the the quote from the Indian philosopher reminds us, the beauty of petals gives way to to the substance of the fruit. 

And while the petals provide beauty, the fruit provides sustenance.  We should think about that as the petal of our own youth fades.  Are we providing the sustenance of our own wisdom and love to others, or just trying to recapture the beauty of our youth?

The strip

Feb26a

Knowing trees, I understand the meaning of patience. Knowing grass, I can appreciate persistence.  ~ Hal Borland

Feb26cOne of the interesting patterns in the fields is the yellow, pesticide treated grass v. the natural grass. In the orchards, there is a clear spray line between them, and that's what you see here.  

I've included a head-level picture here also so you can see the lines better, but I liked the ground-level picture more.

 

Bloom county

Feb25b

“If your heart is a volcano, how shall you expect flowers to bloom?” ~ Kahlil Gibran

The almond blooms, which you've seen from afar the last two days, are quite pretty up close.  Enjoy.  Oh, and enjoy one of my favorite Bloom County strips below.

Liberal_hunting
 

 

The fields are white, but not quite unto harvest

Feb24c

“Do you not say, ‘There are still four months and then comes the harvest’? Behold, I say to you, lift up your eyes and look at the fields, for they are already white for harvest!” ~ Jesus Christ (John 4:35)

This is just 1/4 of the horizon on my way to work – the almond trees are in bloom.

But I want to discuss the passage quoted above – it bears on all of us who claim to follow Christ.  If you study this passage in context, he is saying this – do not say that there is still time to do God’s work – the work is ready now!  There are people who need your love, truth, and attention now!

He was talking about doing the will of God for his own life, and he explained to his disciples that they should understand that they should not wait till some future date to pursue that will for themselves.

The term “white for harvest” refers to the color of grains like wheat, which turn from green to a very pale brown when they are ripe for picking.

The white fields above, however, are not ripe, but rather, are blossoms heralding the start of spring (yes, the end of February is spring here in California).

Questions: What do you think God’s will is for your life?  How do you determine that?  Are you pursuing it?  What needs to change in your life in order for you to do that?

Check out my five part podcast series on Finding Your Calling.

Fields of many colors

Feb23
This is one of the many orchards I pass every morning.  You can see that the petals of the blossoms are already falling.  This week or so of blossoms will pass quickly.  Still have overcast, so am lacking the nice natural sunlight.  However, I did use a high pass filter on a layer with 50% opacity and an S-curve on the RGB to enhance the colors on this.  I also did a slight sharpen.

With all that photo manipulation in mind, I bet you wonder what the original looked like.  Below is the original, followed by a bunch of fun filters applied to the same image.  Here they are.  You can click on the big image above, then click on the right half of it to see the other versions.

02 03 01 04 09 10 11 12
 

It’s almond blossom season

Feb22a

“I am not bound for any public place, but for ground of my own where I have planted vines and orchard trees, and in the heat of the day climbed up into the healing shadow of the woods.” ~ Wendell Berry

This time of year is probably the most beautiful in the Central Valley – many of the fruit and nut trees are blooming, esp. the almonds.  This field is a mile from my home, and just one of many I will share this week on the blog.

Feb22  I enhanced this photo a little, you can see the original to the right here.  If you click on either photo, you will get the bigger version, and you can go back and forth between them by clicking on the right or lefthand side of the photo for back/next.

No deep thoughts today.
 

Even more fun

Feb21

Engineers like to solve problems. If there are no problems handily available, they will create their own problems.  ~ Scott Adams  

Feb21b My Uncle Bob was here this weekend (in photo enjoying my cat), and he seemed to enjoy lending a hand putting together a new track configuration for my boy.  

His contribution to our track making is the triangle intersection, shown above.  I would never have thought of that.  

It was nice to see family, and we all realize that we don't do it enough.  Hope to visit him soon, and have some videos and pics ready to start documenting our family history.

In fact, I've already started our genealogy on geni.com, and I am about to use the services of scanmyphotos.com, a unique and affordable scanning service that sends you a box and will scan in as many pics as you can fit.  

They have a buy two get one free deal.  Anyone want to go in with me? I can save you $50 on yours, I want two.  Thanks!

 

Trains are fun

Feb20a

“When I was a kid, I went to the store and asked the guy, Do you have any toy train schedules?” ~ Comedian Stephen Wright

The best toy my boy has ever gotten was a Thomas the Train set.  He can spend hours playing by himself, singing the Thomas theme song, and trying to crash his trains to see which one ‘wins’ by not falling off the tracks.  

I have really enjoyed trying to make more and more complex track designs, and since the tracks get put away or torn down every few days, I get lots of chances to improve.  Purchasing a pack of “Y” tracks a few weeks back really made for a lot more options, but I keep wanting more!  Higher bridges, more interchanges!  It’s way fun.

I was never into trains as a kid, primarily because it was very complicated, and technical.  It involved wiring, transformers, and building mountains and stuff.  Way too much for a bookish kid.  But these?  No problem – just batteries and snap together tracks.  Endless fun.

Slow down

Feb19a

“Political correctness is simply a speed bump in the traffic of truth, free thought and speech.” ~ Anonymous

Speed bumps are one of the banes our existence.  But they are absolutely necessary.  Some people, like myself, don't slow down that much over them, preferring to get it over with in one bigger jolt than to slow down for two lesser bumps.

My quote today, however, compares 'political correctness' to speed bumps on the road of free thought and speech.  I think this is a good comparison for two reasons.

The Good: Speed bumps force us to be less careless about others in the pursuit of our goals.  They alert us to the fact that others have the right to life, liberty, and property just as we do.  We share the earth.  Speed bumps don't prevent us from getting to our goals, they just make us a little more considerate.

The Bad: Sometimes, speed bumps are too large, and can do more damage than good.  Sometimes they are not labeled and take us by surprise, failing to tell us to slow down until it is too late.  And sometimes, they are put where they are just not needed, but someone felt the need for control.

Here are a few useful definitions of 'political correctness' to think about.  Let's ask ourselves – are we exercising concern and respect for others in attaining our goals?  On the other hand, are we stifling free speech because we have become staunch moralists for our pet causes, which we deem are 'more important and sensitive' than others?

Political Correctness:

  1. Suppressing the expression of certain attitudes and the use of certain terms in the belief that they are too offensive or controversial.
  2. A trend that wants to make everything fair, equal and just to all by suppressing thought, speech and practice in order to achieve that goal.
  3. The concept that one has to shape their statements (if not their opinions) according to a certain political dogma
  4. Avoidance of expressions or actions that can be perceived to exclude or marginalize or insult people who are socially disadvantaged or discriminated against

My Ordination

I am about to hit one of the first really big milestones of my new career as an author and pastor, that of being ordained, or as I like to say, ‘Revved.’ 

The double meaning of the term ‘rev’ is that it not only means ‘Reverend,’ but in the software industry (my current career), it means to “revision” something, or to promote it “up” a revision or version – so let’s just say I’m going to from Pastor 0.9 to Pastor 1.0.

WHAT’S WITH THE GIFT WIDGET?

I have enough books to read for now, but I would really love to have the Logos Bible Software package, which has all sorts of study and cross reference material.  I’ve created the Paypal donation widget above for those who would like to give.  I tried to make it anonymous so I couldn’t see how much each person gave, but that was not possible.  However, I promise to avoid looking at the actual donation data.  Any gift is deeply appreciated, and you don’t have to give at all if you don’t want, you can still come to the celebration.

COME PARTICIPATE IN MY PROMOTION!

For those attending my ordination, here’s the details.  It will be part of the Harvest Community Church 20th Anniversary Celebration.  Please attend if you would like to, there will be a catered lunch (free food!), and a reception at my home afterward for my friends and family. 

Date:        Sunday, April 18, 2010

Time:       11:00 AM – 1:00 PM

Location:  Crows Landing Portuguese Hall, 4th and G Street, Crows Landing, CA


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Kids in a tree

Feb18a

You can learn many things from children.  How much patience you have, for instance.  ~Franklin P. Jones

Here are my kids with two of their cousins, in a tree, obviously.

But what intrigues me about this picture is the way the bright light coming through the trees made vertical streaks on the picture.  Any of you real photographers know what's going on here, and how to prevent it? 
 

Las Palmas and Clone Brushes

Feb17a

Photoshop is useful in many ways but must NEVER be used for the altering of photographs. My assistants and my agency do whatever Photoshop work for me that may be required as it is too complicated for my brain. – Elliott Erwitt, Documentary Photographer

Feb17b One of the most unusual and pretty roads in my area is Las Palmas (the Palms) Blvd.  It's 3 miles of palm trees.  It's quite nice, but has a good bit of traffic.  This photo I took actually had a car in front of me, and so I decided to try to remove it using Paint Shop Pro (a Photoshop competitor).

It was a real challenge.  I was able to remove the car, but there are vestiges of it, like part of it's shadow, as well as the glare on the road from the now missing car.  I was also unable to remove the glare from the inside of my windshield.

If you click on the large image above, you will get a popup, and if you click on the right half of the image you can see the original at full size, and you can click on the left side of the second image to go back.  Go back and forth to see the differences between the original and the modified version.  Enjoy.

Palmas Also, here is a bit of the satellite view from Google maps – the palms are pretty close together!

Intelligent cause, or random chance?

Feb16

“Biology is the study of complicated things that give the appearance of having been designed for a purpose.” ~ Atheist Richard Dawkins in The Blind Watchmaker

Look at this picture.  Are those curvy lines in the clouds a natural phenomenon, or created by an intelligence?  How could you know?

This question is what drives the Intelligent Design movement, which as a former biochemist, is of interest to me.  As a former evolutionary believer, I was amazed to come to find that there are a lot of disagreements about evolution within the scientific community, and more problems with the data and theory than I had ever imagined. 

The ID movement asks, does the specific complexity behind life require information?  Information that must come from an intelligence?  Much of what we know about information theory indicates that such complexity does NOT arise by chance.  Especially when you consider the complexity of the DNA molecule, and all of the secondary processes that exist to copy it, repair it, safely recombine it, and pass it on to progeny.  The more you look, the more mind boggling it becomes.

Contat Remember the movie Contact?  In that movie, they were listening for anything that might indicate intelligent life ‘out there.’  They received a string of prime numbers, and assumed that such a thing was way too complex and specific to happen by accident.

And yet we look at the immeasurably more complex DNA molecules, true blueprints, and think they happened by chance?  

I didn’t see any planes, but I assume that they are what caused the obvious trails in the clouds.  That is the best explanation for such a specific and unlikely pattern in the sky.  But I might be wrong.

When you look at the design, complexity, and beauty of nature, do you see an intelligent mind behind it, or the results of chance? 

What’s in a name?

Feb15

“Did you have a good world when you died?  Enough to base a movie on?”
~ Jim Morrison

This past weekend, I went to a birthday party in Kennedy Park in Hayward, California. It’s quite a nice little place, with a miniature train that you can ride around the perimiter of the park, a huge play structure area, a large field, multiple tree-covered picnic table groupings (with grills) suitable for big parties, pony rides, a petting zoo, and a carousel. 

Seeing the name “Hayward” and “Kennedy” made me ask myself a funny question: “Will anything be named after you when you are gone?”

When I researched the history of Hayward, I found out that few of the places and buildings are named for some famous person who accomplished something extraordinary, but rather, most are named after some rich land owner or industrialist.  Most of them are unknown to us, and because their only real contribution was their own wealth, their histories are not really inspiring or ennobling.

When I was younger and much more ambitious than I am now, I dreamed of having a building named after me on a college campus – specifically, a library – I wanted them to create The Sinclair Library of Arts and Sciences – no kidding!

Why do many of us have such “delusions of grandeur”?  I think there are many reasons, a mixture of noble and ignoble.  Primarily, I think we want our lives to have counted for something – who doesn’t, unless they have given up hope of a meaningful life?

Love and work are the cornerstones of our humanness. ~ Sigmund Freud

I think the Freud quote above really summarizes it well – we need meaningful work and love.  But what is meaningful? I have explored this in a little depth in the articles mentioned below, but here’s a couple quick quotes from those articles:

The meaning of life is well defined through objective, self-evident principles and practices that lead to meaning. Life’s activities are not just meaningful because I decide to assign meaning to them. ~ from Objective and Subjective Meaning

Purpose can be defined as “the application of one’s self, with its talents, to a noble task.” This begs the question, what are the available noble tasks here on earth? And what makes a task noble? I submit that we must pursue an ethic that promotes life and happiness for all living beings. ~ from What is the Purpose of Life?

Making a name for yourself isn’t really meaningful in itself.  What I’ve learned is that, whether or not you are ever famous, if you have devoted yourself to becoming excellent and good (skillful and ethical), you have largely succeeded.  I say “largely” because I think one more feature is needed for a truly successful life – obedience to God beyond the generic ‘good’ that you can do.

But I’ll leave that to a future post.  In the meantime, you can meditate on the title of one of my upcoming books – “Passion, Compassion, and the Voice of God.”

I lov you Papa no madr wat

Feb14 

To a father growing old nothing is dearer than a daughter.  ~ Euripides

Today, my daughter gave me a Valentine’s gift, and asked me if I would be her Valentine.  How sweet it is to have daughters.  “Of course,” I told her, picking her up and hugging her.  “I will always be your Valentine”

Being a parent is the hardest and most rewarding thing I have ever done.  Once I had children, I realized that the other things I cared about were not that important – work, ministry, my projects, nothing.  In fact, I feel as though if I had missed being a parent, I would have missed the most important thing, in fact, THE thing that life is about.  Hard to express unless you’ve had children.

Even completely fulfilling my potential now takes a back seat – love makes me want to be sure to help THEM fulfill their potential – not that I don’t need to take care of my own body and soul, nor do I allow them to monopolize all my time.  Only that when these priorities compete, I often sacrifice my time for them.  

Love makes sacrifice less painful – the more you love, the less such sacrifices seem to be difficult at all.

That strange corner

Feb13

“Strange is our situation here upon Earth.” ~ Albert Einstein

I pass this corner every morning – you may remember it from the Water Tower photo.   This little windmill is easy to miss in light of the big water tower, but it stands out in nice relief when the negative of the photo is viewed.  I added the sunburst in PaintShopPro for cool effect.

I see these little windmills all over the place, and suspect that they serve some agricultural purpose – generating a little power for something – perhaps that thing on the ground next to it is the recipient of energy it collects.  Not sure why they wouldn’t use solar instead.

There are electrical and mechanical objects all around us, both in the country and the city.  Take some time to look for odd cameras on poles, power boxes and other control boxes in the middle of nowhere – it’s interesting to think that someone is using them for some purpose, and we just drive by and have no idea what these things are.

The fog is lifting

Feb12

Everything is just better in California – the wine,
the food, fruits and vegetables, the comforts of living. Even the
instrumentalists are generous and curious. Everything is wonderful.
  ~ Beth Anderson, American Composer

This has been a long and dreary winter here in Northern California.  Not cold, but cloudy.  Thankfully, the Tule Fog is leaving us, and pretty soon, like March 1st, it will pretty much be spring.

Feb12a You may remember the Tule Fog I blogged about previously – this is that same intersection on a nicer day, at at the same time of day – about 8:15 AM.

The winters here are very mild, and more like spring in other part of the country – rainy, varying between 15 and 60 degrees each day, and every green.  The rest of the year here is essentially summer – it gets warmer and dryer, the grass on the hills turns "blond," and we have day after day of clear sunny skies.  Ahhh. 

Pastoral Scenes 3

Feb11

“Cultivators of the earth are the most valuable citizens. They are the most vigorous, the most independant, the most virtuous, and they are tied to their country and wedded to it’s liberty and interests by the most lasting bands.” ~ Thomas Jefferson

This is a common sight in our area – newly planted orchards of nut and fruit trees.  Pleasingly linear.

Pastoral Scenes 2

Feb10

“Only he can understand what a farm is, what a country is, who shall have sacrificed part of himself to his farm or country, fought to save it, struggled to make it beautiful. Only then will the love of farm or country fill his heart.” ~  Antoine de Saint-Exupery

Just another pastoral scene out here in Central Valley. 

My first job was as a farmhand in New Jersey, shoveling manure on a dairy farm.  It was the hardest job I’ve ever had.  It taught me that I was not made for hard manual labor.