Back in town

Overall, Laura and I had a wonderful time in Toronto and Pittsburgh. I
consciously tried to rest and refrain from thinking about the huge to
do list for 2006. The huge storm last night
caused a two hour delay in our flight from Pittsburgh and a late night
taxi ride home from SFO. I got up this morning ready to go, ran some
errands, and uploaded the rest of my vacation pictures.
The big task today, besides marking the new year, is to put together a
draft of a reader for my class. That's enough to do today!

My wiki and I are on vacation

I'm writing from Toronto to confirm what is obvious: my online activities will be at a minimum while on vacation. I also want to apologize for my wiki's current offline status -- I don't know why it's malfunctioning at this moment and won't be able to resurrect it while on vacation. I'll get it back online when I can.

Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays, and a have a wonderful New Year!

Last day before vacation

"I know I should exercise more" is a continually reoccuring thought. I renewed my membership to the Recreational Sports Facility (RSF)
but have yet to show up. Obviously, just paying money is insufficient
to get me to the gym. I will have to do something in the new year. In
the meantime, while I'm in Toronto and Pittsburgh, I plan to be active,
to walk around as much as I can. Such exercise will be important given
the holiday- and family-sanctioned overeating that is bound to happen.

Lots of wrapping up to do today. Laura and I get on a 7am(!) flight to
Toronto tomorrow morning. At least, we're on a direct Air Canada
flight, which means that food will be served to us and we won't have to
stumble around a third airport.

Getting the right presents (or even any presents at all) lined up for
Christmas is a task we will have to complete in Toronto. I have
considered setting up wireless networks at my parents', sister's, and
mother-in-law's places, but who would those wireless networks really be
for? (Should my family be game, I've printed out 4 steps to set up your home wireless network as a guide.)

Besides, should I be on the computer that much while I'm on holiday?
I've not worked out a way yet to make sure I get a good rest (which
I'll surely need for 2006) while still getting enough pieces in place
for my spring course.

Notelets for 2005.12.15

Digital Photos Even a Miser Can Enjoy - New York Times:

    Twelve manufacturers entered this fifth annual
    camera cook-off. Each submitted the one sub-$300 camera (online price)
    that it felt took the best pictures.

    Several trends emerged. Picture quality continues to improve every
    year, and the megapixel race continues apace; this year, five- and
    six-megapixel cameras are standard. (More megapixels permit bigger
    enlargements and more room to crop, but do not affect photo quality.)

Today, I bought an issue of Stone Soup Magazine as a present for a bright and energetic eight-year old girl. I'm glad for an ad in the New York Review of Books that prompted me into looking at a magazine that I had never heard of before a couple of days ago.

Lloyd responds to my “Reluctantly Turning the Other Cheek”

Lloyd wrote:

At the end of Mimi's post is one response to Raymond Yee's reaction to a reviewer he found shocking and thoughtless: Reluctantly turning the other cheek.

I must say though, Raymond, there is more than a grain of truth in what
the writer said: it is an incontestable fact that millions of people
the world over and through recorded history have been slaughtered for
the sake of, and in the name of, "the one true god". However, from that
monotheistic tradition has ALSO come the very real idea that God is
love, which millions of other people have lived by and in so doing have
made the world a better place through that belief.

Lloyd, you won't hear me disagreeing with your statement that millions
have died at the hands of those proclaiming "the one true god". My
comment had more to do with my own conflicted irritation with the
reflexive yet popular bashing of monotheism at the hands of ostensibly
serious writers.

Busy last week before vacation

It's the last week before the holidays, and not surprisingly, there's a
lot to do! Not only are there major strategic decisions to be made but
also taking care of the business of daily life. (For instance, it felt
good to dig up my latest credit card bills and pay them this morning.
The Getting Things Done system is supposed to keep me on top of tasks
large and small, but I need to intervention of a higher power and
intelligence to get me back on track with GTD.)

Children Learn by Monkey See, Monkey Do. Chimps Don't. - New York Times:

    Mr. Lyons sees his results as evidence that humans
    are hard-wired to learn by imitation, even when that is clearly not the
    best way to learn. If he is right, this represents a big evolutionary
    change from our ape ancestors. Other primates are bad at imitation.
    When they watch another primate doing something, they seem to focus on
    what its goals are and ignore its actions.

Reluctantly turning the other cheek

Since I think of myself as a target reader of Ideas : A History of Thought and Invention, from Fire to Freud, I'm mystified by the author's comments in the NY Times yesterday (What's the Big Idea?):

On the other hand, not all big ideas are good ideas.
In fact, most big ideas are probably terrible ideas. What do you think
is the single worst idea in history?

Without question,
ethical monotheism. The idea of one true god. The idea that our life
and ethical conduct on earth determines how we will go in the next
world. This has been responsible for most of the wars and bigotry in

Surely, the thoughtlessness of the comment is not a reflection of the
quality of the book! The ethical monotheism of the Chrisitian kind
urges me to give the man another chance.

A new book on pastoral authority

I wrote last week
"A question that I've been pondering: is the distinction made between
clergy and laity in the Christian church a caste system?" It is
serendipitous that I read this morning in Christian Century (October 18, 2005, p. 25), the following mini-review by Anthony B. Robinson of Who Are You to Say?: Establishing Pastoral Authority in Matters of Faith:

    A UCC pastor, Rosenberger raises the important
    questions too few are willing to ask: Is there a place for authority in
    the pastoral role and office? What is the nature of appropriate
    authority and what are its grounds and sources? Is Christian community
    really possible absent legitimate authority?

I just put an interlibrary loan request for the book through the campus
library. I certainly believe that there is a place for pastoral
authority, and there there are solid grounds for such authority in the
Bible (and in long Christian tradition). What has bothered are the
perks and privileges that often come with being a clergy. The divide
between clergy and lay staff in a church can be stark at times. I have
to ask myself whether my question is motivated by envy since I'm not
part of the clergy. Moreover, as an elder in the PCUSA, I am a lay
leader myself and have enjoyed a certain status within the church. I
too must wrestle with being leader who professes to have Jesus of
Nazareth as my supreme model.