October 26, 2006

Community Work Day

Credo Cafe held a community work day for the inside of the cafe and the laneway just outside on tuesday. I knew this coming down into the ciy, and so I kept praying "please don't make me clean the toilets, please don't make me clean the toilets." Sure enough, they didn't ... a prayer answered.

As soon as I arrived, I was recruited by Luke to help paint the laneway. It had gotten grubby, and was laced with cobwebs, grunge, and graffiti. A good day of work, I must say. I don't usually like painting, but with Chris, Tim, Woodsey, and Nathan working alongside me, I can't say I've ever had more fun.

However, I don't have any work clothing, save the old tshirt I was wearing. In order to keep my shorts from getting paint all over them, I tied an old tablecloth around my waist. Let me tell you - I was sexy in that thing.

Pictures can be found

October 24, 2006

MP3 Update

So go figure, I'm getting indecisive. I read articles daily in the google technology news about one player or another, and I'm about ready to cry (in a theologically non-suspect way; don't worry, I know it's not the end of the world). I discovered a new player that I hadn't considered, via my sister: the Sansa e260, by Sandisk. It's a good player in ways the iPod nano isn't, from a removeable battery that lasts just as long, to a built-in FM receiver with digital recording capabilities.

In the interim, I've been using my Dell Axim as an mp3 player, something it does quite well in addition to the tons of other useful functions (calendar/planner, contacts, wiFi, and of course, games). Truly I tell you, it's one of the coolest gizmos I have, I think; Apple would do well to try them, they're wonderful. Oh, and for all you mac users out there who switched because of the reputation for macs to be "virus free",
think again, I've got news for you. I think I'd use it as an mp3 player permanently, but it's a bit bulky and not the sort of thing that fits well into any pocket other than my jacket, something I wear rather infrequently.

Yet the iPod nano still haunts me, even as I look over the newbie's wonderful features and highly attractive price (read "less expensive by $50 USD"). I like its slim elegance, the simple user interface, and the vast range of useful accessories, despite their slightly elevated prices. It doesn't have cool things like an FM receiver or digital recording capabilities, and it's rumored that it doesn't support MP3 files that well, but I've yet to hear any truely horrible things about the nano (the iPod proper seems to have contracted virus that affect only PCs, which seems a bit nefarious).

Anyway, any suggestions you all might have would be helpful. I can't decide if the expansion slot, FM receiver, and removeable battery on the Sandisk make it worth investing in a new-to-the-market and potentially un-hip product.

October 20, 2006

Maybe, or Maybe Not

"The School of Journalism and Politics called and wants to award you an honorary Doctorate. Or have you arrested for stealing the answers to their senior-year finals exam." ~Joan of Argghh! on IMAO

this article sums up why I don't trust journalists or politicians. Enjoy.

via Mike ...

October 18, 2006

To Be A Missionary

I've been thinking lately about what it takes to be a missionary. There are so many connotations of the word floating around in the grand scheme of things that I think I may need to ditch the word entirely if I'm to successfully communicate my meaning. Unfortunately, I can't think of a better word, although "spiritual tour guide" comes fairly close (ala Rob Bell). It is my humble opinion that we (we = all people claiming to follow the risen Christ, Jesus of Nazareth, usually called "Christians") have all been called to be missionaries. To be a missionary is to be someone attempting to "make disciples of all nations." I think it's fairly obvious where this comes from: Jesus told us. So what is a disciple?

Disciples are seekers. It's important to know the difference between a seeker and a believer:
seekers are people who are seeking truth - nothing more. I think the church has of late bastardized this particular term to mean something it doesn't. A seeker is not necessarily a non-believer; in fact, every follower of Jesus is to be a disciple, and therefore a seeker. A seeker does not give up seeking truth simply because they've committed their life to Christ. In fact, you might say that since they've committed to Christ, they've found the path to follow, and now have to walk it, seeking what may come.

I think many Christians often get an idea that once a person believes in Jesus, their mental life ends and their life in general grinds to a halt. They don't have to know anything new, we don't have to learn, we don't have to seek. But it's not true! Jesus is a beginning - truth is not an end, it's a journey. If Jesus is
the way, the truth, and the life, then we are to start, not end with Jesus. Jesus, in this case is (among other things) the start of a new path.

This, I think, changes the idea of missions entirely. While it's true that missions encompasses humanitarian work (alleviating poverty, building relationships, seeking Justice), it also means that we are to inspire people to seek truth. I think this is starting to include both Christians and non-Christians alike; so many Christians believe that once they've accepted Christ, the journey ends and they have to sit around waiting to get to heaven. They sit back in the pews at church doing nothing, blindly following leadership and going about their everyday lives as if nothing has changed.

And yet the vast majority of people - Christian and non-Christian alike - have stopped seeking. They no longer care to question their beliefs just in case they could be wrong ... they must be right. If a faith is so weak that questioning it could break it, then what's the point?

Yet faith is usually strengthened by testing, by conflict. Look no farther than the muslims in the middle east; because of the war, their beliefs are suddenly under threat, and far from giving up, they've grown. Perhaps we could learn something from them. I'm not saying we should get all militant and start bombing innocent civilians (no comments about whether or not this is happening, I know), but I am saying that perhaps it's time to start getting out of our church-fortresses and start challenging the things we think we know.

The time has come to realize
And see the plan you've been designed for
So face the fear of all unknown
And see the heart inside
So open up your eyes ...

October 13, 2006


So I need some advice. I'm in the market for a new MP3 player. My year-and-a-half-old Rio (1.5gigs) isn't really cutting it anymore. Its display, while once a handy feature, has started causing trouble, mostly at night due to the failure of its backlight: I can no longer see the screen in the dark. This is distressing, mostly because literally half of the time I usually spend listening to my music is at night, on the way home from orchestra.

I had a new player all lined up for my wishlist for Christmas (can't yet afford it), but then I ran into a snag: a whole bunch of new players came out that look ... well, tempting is about the right word for it. The first player was, obviously, the iPod Nano, recently redesigned for longer battery life and a better screen. I loved the idea of it - bright full-color screen, the large (4gig) capacity, the ability to use it to view pictures AND listen to music ... it seemed to have it all.

Then microsoft came out with their new Zune MP3 player, complete with built-in wi-fi, and it got me thinking: what is it I really want? I ran across this Sony product today, called a "mylo" (My Life Online). It includes all the usual mp3 features, but also has built-in wi-fi, a QWERTY keyboard for the instant-messaging and email features, and picture capabilities. And it just looks so shiny! The downside is that it's a bit more expensive than any other players, and I'd have to buy a memory stick if I wanted any serious data storage for the video capabilities.

Then I started searching the SONY website, and a funny thing happened: I discovered two more mp3 players for consideration, both new on the market. This one is a smallish-size player, yet contains a three-line stylish color screen and noise-cancellation technology. With 1 gig and 2 gig models and a built-in radio, it seems a good buy, costing about the same as an ipod of the same size. And it claims a 50-hour battery life, something the iPod is sorely lacking, despite the latest power upgrades.

The other model I discovered was this 8 gig beauty, full color screen, and has a comparable battery life (if not better) than the iPod. The kicker is, I could buy this thing for the same price as a 4gig iPod Nano.

And so I ask your help: give me your top choice (or another player, if you have a favorite), and pros and cons if you can think of any.

And no, "just because it's apple" is not a valid pro (or con).

October 12, 2006

Chocolate by the Bald Man

I find it part of my duty as someone overseas to inform my brethren at home of the various cultural oddities and tidbits to be found in the metropolitan area. Also they might visit me if I can make it sound nice enough. Today's fun fact is probably my favorite place in the entire city, and I'm quite sure that it's Liz's as well: Max Brenner's Chocolate by the Bald Man. Yes, it's a long name, but that's only because it's worth the time to say. Chocolate by the Bald Man has two shops in the downtown area, with many more throughout the various suburbs, especially in the East. It is a chocolaterie: a cafe devoted entirely to chocolate in its various forms.

As you walk in the entrance of the shop in Melbourne Central, you are immediately confronted with two large covered vats of pure, liquid, chocolaty goodness. The larger of the two is milk chocolate, the smaller is white chocolate. Around these two cream-colored vats are wicker baskets of coffee ingredients, spices, and nuts. To the left, a shop of dark wooden shelves full of various chocolate-related products, from hug mugs to suckao cups to chocolate powder. In front of you is a waist-high counter, upon which sits a register and several clear pods containing examples of the desserts. The menu sits on the wall behind, its contents in a dark brown font that beckons you to order as much as you can eat.

You catch the eye of the waitress, a short teenage girl dressed in solid black, her apron smeared with chocolate sauce, hair pulled back, her brow glazed from the effort of serving the many customers around the cafe. She hands you a set of menus, then points you towards a table in the corner, a low-set dark wood number surrounded by four rectangular stools, their black cushions inviting. You sit down and peruse the menu.

Ah, but the choices! There are so many, how will you ever decide what to have? There are coffee drinks with chocolate, blended chocolate drinks, hot chocolate in many varieties. Then there are the desserts; chocolate cheesecake, cinnamon buns drizzled in chocolate, waffles with strawberries and chocolate, chocolate fondue ... you notice that they even sell a simple cup of liquid chocolate - called a suckao - for those who want no compromises.

As it is a slightly cooler night, and your dinner settled long ago, you eventually you decide on a hug mug of steaming hot milk chocolate (with a hint of caramel and vanilla) and a waffle with strawberries drizzled in milk chocolate. The hug mug is warm, a cream-colored tear-drop shaped cup perfect for clutching between two cold hands. The waffle is succulent, delectable and satisfying, the strawberries plump, the chocolate sweet, complimenting the dough of the waffle perfectly.

Are you drooling yet? I am ...

October 10, 2006

Like a Child

I was at Credo today and a lady with a rather loud child balanced precariously off her hip told me that she found my accent "beautiful." I found it rather amusing; I've never thought of my pseudo-Canadian accent (I don't say "oot" or "eh", but it's close enough, especially after six months in oz) as beautiful, interesting, or even mildly sexy. Mostly I think it's harsh, slightly edgy, and a bit blase. My "r's" are a bit grinding compared to the soft Metro-Australian accent (compared to the Country-Australian accent, which is more familiar to most Americans from Steve Irwin or Paul Hogan), and I over-emphasize the vowel-consonant pairs. I'm even startled now every time an American commercial comes on TV. But if somebody likes it, I'm certainly not going to complain. I guess I'm different than the usual accents you hear around here, which makes me exotic and cool. I'm ok with that.

I was doing some reading after we finished the main bulk of lunch preparation early (no broccoli to cut up today), and I kept getting distracted by the little kid. She kept letting out these short, high-pitched screams. It's hard to read in such an environment, especially when the screams keep echoing off the concrete walls around the cafe. But as my attention was drawn to her, I couldn't help but notice the way she kept grabbing for things. Her mother (who has gained my admiration) obviously had far more patience for her than I ever would, because she kept correcting her with a gentle "no" and pulling her hand away from the desired item (items ranged from books to a giant bag of cheese to a lit candle). The kid would glare at her, and then try for something else.

All the while I'm laughing (inside, I was far too tired to exert the noise outside) at the kid's futile efforts. I couldn't fathom why the kid kept lunging for stuff that mom, someone far bigger and stronger and faster and smarter than the kid, had obviously forbidden. The kid would barely get her hands on the burning candle and the mom would be right there scooping the her away.

And then it was one of those "oh" sort of moments.

How many times does the all-powerful, all-seeing, all-knowing, all-wise God have to pull me away from burning candles and giant cups full of lime cordial (sometimes called "dishwasher fluid" by those that drink it; we call it "bug juice" in every YMCA camp in America) and sharp knives? How often does he have to lay the smack down on me for grabbing at giant bags of cheese that don't belong to me, or keep me from putting my grubby little hands in somebody else's [uncooked] meal?


I learned recently that Melbourne's poverty isn't really material poverty like so many developing countries. [side note: why do we call them 'developing' when there's an obvious hangup on the whole "developing" part?] A person can find free food and free shelter and free clothing nearly all over the city. I'm told that it's possible to live a rather comfortable life on the welfare of others - all you have to do is look for it (not to be cruel, but this sort of makes it your own fault if you are hungry and sleeping in a dumpster in this city). No, the poverty here is relational, social.

I noticed this on my first visit with Urban Seed. I went on a "prayer walk" with a number of FORGE people at the first intensive, a walk that took me around several blocks of busy city streets near mid-afternoon. The city was bustling with people and trams and cars and traffic of every kind, and yet nobody was looking at each other. The only glimpses you'd get of peoples' eyes were the few times they'd look in your direction to make sure you didn't hit them. Then they'd continue their brisk pace down the sidewalk and continue listening to their ipod while adjusting their massive '80s sunglasses to further cover their eyes. [sidenote: why does high fashion have to make women look more like bugs?]

I was on the train last night on the way home from orchestra and a funny thing happened. I was traveling with Anna, a redheaded violist who lives close to the city in Richmond, and this group of four twenty-somethings sitting a couple of rows up started talking to us. I suppose it was easy to start a conversation, given the odd-looking cases we had slung over our shoulders (violas and french horns aren't exactly popular instruments around here), but they quickly moved the conversation into what everybody's drivers' license looked like. They laughed at the "fake" looking licenses from QLD, oohed and ahed at the Victorian license card. We never got around to my New York card, for which I am grateful (I'm still 16 in the picture).

It made my night. They were friendly, jovial, and quite content to just be themselves to whoever was around. Credo cafe is a start to the solution of poverty in the city, and I wonder if this isn't the next step - import some extroverts (perhaps a few Queenslanders?) to talk with people on the trains. If everybody had somebody to talk to, would we feel so lonely?

October 5, 2006

The Final Frontier

I've always been a bit of a dreamer. When I was a kid, Jules Verne was one of my best friends - I must've read "Journey to the Center of the Earth" and "20,000 Leagues Under the Sea" about a dozen times each, followed closely by every Star Trek novel I could get my hands on. I found a trilogy by John Christopher called "When the Tripods Came" and read them cover to cover about ten times. When I was in sixth grade, I wrote to NASA hoping to start making connections for my inevitable trip on the space shuttle. I even got a response back, with a signed picture of the Atlantis shuttle crew and a bunch of NASA memorabilia. After years of staring at it, I finally pulled my mom's copy of "Contact" (Carl Sagan was a genius) off of the shelf and finished it in three days. I was sixteen. I think it's still in my book collection, waiting to be read again, and Jodie Foster's cinematic version of the book is in my DVD collection. I've read nearly every novel Michael Crichton ever wrote, but my favorites were Jurassic Park, Sphere, and Timeline. I even tried writing my own scifi series once, and gave up when my Grandmother discovered it and thought it was cute. I wasn't going for cute - the future was serious business. But I was ten, and I took stuff like that pretty personally.

My favorite movies are the Matrix trilogy, and I watch Stargate SG-1 on a regular basis. I am a dreamer of things that could be.

All of that, but I don't think I ever truly believed that I'd one day make it into space. Somewhere deep down I knew that it was all for the people who didn't get sick on roller coasters, the people who were in good shape, the people who could fly fighter planes at mach 3 and still smile and banter and joke when climbing out of the cockpit. I can't even read in a car, for fear of losing my lunch, and my lunch is very important to me.

But now it seems that my dreams have been rekindled. I made two discoveries as of late. First was Anousheh Ansari, the first female space tourist that managed to book a highly publicized flight aboard a Russian rocket to the International Space Station for a few days. Granted, it cost her $33 million USD to get there, but she did it, and from what
she says, it was incredible.

The second discovery was my discovery of
Virgin Galactic. It seems that the airplane company that specializes in cheaper fares (and ‘pleather’ seats, a mild step forward in comfort for airline travel) has begun a new branch to allow passengers to experience suborbital travel for a modest $200,000 USD. To put it in perspective, that means that space travel will cost less than 1% of what it cost Anousheh. Based out of New Mexico, Virgin Galactic is going to use a space plane launched from a mothership to reach orbit.

At this rate, (assuming Virgin manages to do what it says it will and continues to bring the ticket price down), space travel is going to start being a possibility for even those of us middle-class nerds that dreamt of floating in zero-G during those years when normal kids were playing soccer and goofing off with their friends.

It makes me start to wonder when we're going to meet aliens. Will that come before or after we invent a sentient AI? Will ftl drives (faster than light) be standard on any Mercedes in two hundred years? How about rejuvinative surgery? Wormholes? How likely are we to see fruit from all the things that science tells us are theoretically possible?

For the last few years, I've been disappointed by the lack of progress in these areas. It seems to me that exploration for exploration's sake was abandoned for things that would only turn a profit, as if unraveling the great mysteries that God built into the universe was no longer as interesting as the latest celebrity scandal. I was wrong though - NASA was just waiting for the funding for their new fleet of spacecraft. The contract has already been given out, and the dates set: we're heading to the moon, and then Mars starting in 2010. The ISS is going to get bigger, even as the shuttle fleet is retired from service. We are pushing the boundaries once again, and I'm once again excited by the possibilities.

Personally, I want to step on the moon. Or mars. Either would be great.

October 4, 2006

Index Card Art

Someone recently pointed out this website to me and I find it to be most amusing. While it is a bit on the intellectual side, you can find everything on here, from the very cute to the very political to the very silly. I think it best to read during breakfast, perhaps after you've read the news for the day (sometimes the two coincide). Some examples:

try it.

October 3, 2006

Cruz Did It Again

Quite a few churches and church leaders could learn a lot from Cruz's latest post. I think that as far as posts go, it's got it all - cultural references, relevance, practical application, and a goofy looking guy in sepia tones.