Friday, June 27, 2008

Things I Miss

My girls and I drove down into Palo Duro Canyon this week. Despite the ravages of the long drought in this area, and some apparent neglect to camping and picnic areas, I was reminded of how special a place Palo Duro has been to me. I have taken countless camping trips and other excursions to Palo Duro over the years, but it had been probably 8 years since I last visited.

As I reminisced about palo Duro, memories of some other "missed things" came to mind:

*Pick-up football games on Sunday afternoons at the LCU intramural field
*Jose's . . . a long-sinced closed Mexican food restaurant in Lubbock
*Gilligan's Island
*8-Track tape players . . . yes, I'm serious
*#40-Bill Bates
*My parents' old blue Ford LTD2
*Moria . . . the "original" computer gamers will know
*Late night talks/debates with Chetlen, Vernon, Tim & Jeff
*The Green Lawn Youth Center
*Size 40 jeans!
*Guy Goen's BBQ (perhaps one of the reasons I lost the size 40 jeans)
*Strat-O-Matic Baseball
*Dr. Pepper (I haven't had one in 10 years!)
*A daily view of Hesperus Peak
*Hot Dog (my favorite pet growing up . . . a Dachshund)
*The JOY Bus
*Singing in the old chapel at Camp Blue Haven
*Sardines in the Green Lawn building
*Coach Bruce Dean's 7th grade Bible class
*Quartz Mountain Christian Camp
*Double-board Monoply with Risk in the middle
*York College's Soul Concern
*Washing pots and pans at Camp Blue Haven
*The desk I had at Hollis
*Rosa's (okay, I was there on Wednesday, but that was 2 days ago!)

Friday, June 20, 2008

A Threat to Families

It's a story from Canada, but if other developments are an indication, it may only be a matter of time before we face similar challenges in the United States. In my humble opinion, this story illustrates the great need to elect presidents and governors who are dedicated to nominating judges who will uphold traditional Judeo-Christian beliefs and standards, and especially the sanctity of marriage and the family, and not activist judges intent on unraveling all that is traditional.

This story was posted on the Fox News website:

A Canadian court has overturned a father's punishment for his daughter after she refused to stay off the Internet, his attorney said Wednesday.

The girl, 12, took her father to Quebec Superior Court after he refused to allow her to go on a school trip for chatting on Web sites and then posting "inappropriate" pictures of herself online using a friend's computer, AFP reported.

The punishment was for the girl's "own protection," according to the father's attorney, Kim Beaudoin, who is appealing the ruling.

"She's a child," Beaudoin told AFP. "At her age, children test their limits and it's up to their parent to set boundaries. I started an appeal of the decision today to reestablish parentalauthority, and to ensure that this case doesn't set a precedent."

Otherwise, she continued, "Parents are going to be walking on egg shells from now on."

According to court documents, the girl's Internet usage was the latest in a rash of disciplinary problems. But Justice Suzanne Tessier, who was presiding over the case, found the punishment too severe.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Powering My SUV w/ the Aid of Bacteria?!

I found the following article fascinating, and all the more since fuel has broken the $4-a-gallon mark.

The article is by Chris Ayres, and appeared on the The Times of London website.

“Ten years ago I could never have imagined I’d be doing this,” says Greg Pal, 33, a former software executive, as he squints into the late afternoon Californian sun. “I mean, this is essentially agriculture, right? But the people I talk to – especially the ones coming out of business school – this is the one hot area everyone wants to get into.”

He means bugs. To be more precise: the genetic alteration of bugs – very, very small ones – so that when they feed on agricultural waste such as woodchips or wheat straw, they do something extraordinary. They excrete crude oil.

Unbelievably, this is not science fiction. Mr Pal holds up a small beaker of bug excretion that could, theoretically, be poured into the tank of the giant Lexus SUV next to us. Not that Mr Pal is willing to risk it just yet. He gives it a month before the first vehicle is filled up on what he calls “renewable petroleum”. After that, he grins, “it’s a brave new world”.

Mr Pal is a senior director of LS9, one of several companies in or near Silicon Valley that have spurned traditional high-tech activities such as software and networking and embarked instead on an extraordinary race to make $140-a-barrel oil (£70) from Saudi Arabia obsolete. “All of us here – everyone in this company and in this industry, are aware of the urgency,” Mr Pal says.

What is most remarkable about what they are doing is that instead of trying to reengineer the global economy – as is required, for example, for the use of hydrogen fuel – they are trying to make a product that is interchangeable with oil. The company claims that this “Oil 2.0” will not only be renewable but also carbon negative – meaning that the carbon it emits will be less than that sucked from the atmosphere by the raw materials from which it is made.

LS9 has already convinced one oil industry veteran of its plan: Bob Walsh, 50, who now serves as the firm’s president after a 26-year career at Shell, most recently running European supply operations in London. “How many times in your life do you get the opportunity to grow a multi-billion-dollar company?” he asks. It is a bold statement from a man who works in a glorified cubicle in a San Francisco industrial estate for a company that describes itself as being “prerevenue”.

Inside LS9’s cluttered laboratory – funded by $20 million of start-up capital from investors including Vinod Khosla, the Indian-American entrepreneur who co-founded Sun Micro-systems – Mr Pal explains that LS9’s bugs are single-cell organisms, each a fraction of a billionth the size of an ant. They start out as industrial yeast or nonpathogenic strains of E. coli, but LS9 modifies them by custom-de-signing their DNA. “Five to seven years ago, that process would have taken months and cost hundreds of thousands of dollars,” he says. “Now it can take weeks and cost maybe $20,000.”

Because crude oil (which can be refined into other products, such as petroleum or jet fuel) is only a few molecular stages removed from the fatty acids normally excreted by yeast or E. coli during fermentation, it does not take much fiddling to get the desired result.

For fermentation to take place you need raw material, or feedstock, as it is known in the biofuels industry. Anything will do as long as it can be broken down into sugars, with the byproduct ideally burnt to produce electricity to run the plant.

The company is not interested in using corn as feedstock, given the much-publicised problems created by using food crops for fuel, such as the tortilla inflation that recently caused food riots in Mexico City. Instead, different types of agricultural waste will be used according to whatever makes sense for the local climate and economy: wheat straw in California, for example, or woodchips in the South.

Using genetically modified bugs for fermentation is essentially the same as using natural bacteria to produce ethanol, although the energy-intensive final process of distillation is virtually eliminated because the bugs excrete a substance that is almost pump-ready.

The closest that LS9 has come to mass production is a 1,000-litre fermenting machine, which looks like a large stainless-steel jar, next to a wardrobe-sized computer connected by a tangle of cables and tubes. It has not yet been plugged in. The machine produces the equivalent of one barrel a week and takes up 40 sq ft of floor space.

However, to substitute America’s weekly oil consumption of 143 million barrels, you would need a facility that covered about 205 square miles, an area roughly the size of Chicago.

That is the main problem: although LS9 can produce its bug fuel in laboratory beakers, it has no idea whether it will be able produce the same results on a nationwide or even global scale.
“Our plan is to have a demonstration-scale plant operational by 2010 and, in parallel, we’ll be working on the design and construction of a commercial-scale facility to open in 2011,” says Mr Pal, adding that if LS9 used Brazilian sugar cane as its feedstock, its fuel would probably cost about $50 a barrel.

Are Americans ready to be putting genetically modified bug excretion in their cars? “It’s not the same as with food,” Mr Pal says. “We’re putting these bacteria in a very isolated container: their entire universe is in that tank. When we’re done with them, they’re destroyed.”

Besides, he says, there is greater good being served. “I have two children, and climate change is something that they are going to face. The energy crisis is something that they are going to face. We have a collective responsibility to do this.”

Thursday, June 12, 2008

In the Aftermath of Tragedy

Undoubtedly like most others, I have been heartsick this week over the tragic news of the vicious murders of the two young girls in Oklahoma. The story has to be one of the most troubling and saddening and infuriating stories to be reported in the past several years. Two young girls, walking down a road, probably laughing and simply enjoying one another's company, gunned down by some sick, perverted, evil killer. The story has hit me especially hard since I am the father of three precious little girls.

We live in a fallen world. This is certainly plain to see when we witness and hear of these great tragedies, these acts of unspeakable evil. My initial response is to want to reach out to these grieving families and offer what love and support I can give. My next response, and one that closely follows the first, is to want to rush out and find the evil perpetrator(s) and . . . well . . . have you heard the old Charlie Daniels song? I don't remember the title, but it speaks of the rage toward those who could do such evil, violent acts and the vengeance that many of us would like to enact.

My third reaction is to fall on my knees, and pray. To pray to God asking for his hands of healing to be placed upon the grieving, but also on our land. For Him to change the hearts of those who curse him and others and who have little or no regard for life. For Him to take away these great tragedies and keep us safe. But, then I realize that this world is what we (humanity) have made of it. It is not the world God intended; that image was marred in the Fall, when the man and his wife disregarded God's word and sought their own way. And, I am challenged with the thought that for the world to change requires my willingness and your willingness to be ambassadors for Christ in this fallen, broken world, this land estranged from God . . . to be Christ in this world . . . and, in so doing, to affect, little by little, change, to transform the world about us.

This great tragedy should challenge all men and women of faith to be more proactive in affecting the world about us, to reach out to the hurting, to speak to the lost, to do what we can to affect the hearts of evil men.

I am mindful of the story of an old man trying to rescue a scorpion from a twig floating in a stream. The man was a man of faith, a caring and generous man, a Godly man. He reached down to lift the scorpion to dry ground, but the scorpion stung the man, and so the man let go, leaving the scorpion on the twig. Again, the man reached down, only to be stung again. And, again. And, again. And, again.

A passerby witnessed what was happening, and asked said, "Fool! Don't you know that scorpion will continue to sting you? Why waste your efforts on one who only seeks to harm you? It is in his nature to sting."

The old man responded, "And as a redeemed child of God, it is in my nature to save. Why should I change my nature, or worse yet, deny it . . . even in the face of such harm and rejection?" And, the man continued his efforts to save the scorpion.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Honda Commercial

You've probably seen the Honda Pilot commercial with the nude balloonists. If not, follow the link. Hilarious.

Monday, June 9, 2008

Griffey Hits #600

Congratulations to Ken Griffey, Jr. He joins the 600 HR club. Overlooking Bonds and Sosa, Griffey is the fourth legitimate batter to hit at least 600 career home runs, joining Hank Aaron, Babe Ruth, and Willie Mays - what a crew! My admiration for Junior has grown over the past few years because of the great integrity he brings to the game.

Corpus Christi - Beautiful City!

I have made my first visit to Corpus Christi, Texas. I am impressed. What a beautiful city. I arrived early enough this afternoon to take a tour of the U. S. S. Lexington, the longest serving carrier in U. S. Navy history (comissioned from 1942 to 1991). It has been transformed into a floating museum. As a proud Navy brat (my dad spent a career in the Navy), I love Naval history and especially the ships. I've been through a battleship and a couple of subs, but this was my first visit onboard a carrier. Wow! I you come to Corpus, you must visit the Lexington.

Friday, June 6, 2008

An Important Day

The list of most significant days in human history must include June 6, 1944. I certainly cannot think of a single day in the past century that rivals the importance of D-Day. That day, more than any other, changed the course of World War II and was the beginning of the end of the evil Nazi regime. It is unfortunate that more Americans are not cognizant of June 6 and the anniversary it represents. Let us never forget the thousands who paid the ultimate sacrifice on that day.

An Evening at Minute Maid Park

Cardinals 1, Astros 6 . . . but a great evening anyway!

I have been a fan of the St. Louis Cardinals baseball team since I was 12 years old and cheered them as they beat the Milwaukee Brewers in the World Series. The "Wizard of Oz" made me a fan of the Cardinals, and my love affair with them has only strengthened in the 26 years since.

Tonight, I accomplished another of my life's goals . . . watch the St. Louis Cardinals in person. I am in Houston and the Astros opened a home series tonight against the Cardinals. I had great seats . . . 21 rows behind home plate. Unfortunately, the Cardinals got beat and didn't play very well. Even Albert Pujols, the greatest baseball player in the nation, had an off day . . . he went 0 for 4, the first time he has done that against the Astros. But, it was a thrill to see him play in person and to see Tony La Russa. Plus, the Astros have been a favorite over the years (my #4 team after the Dodgers, Rockies, and tied with the Diamond Backs). I especially like Lance Berkman and Hunter Pence.

This was my first visit to Minute Maid Park. Impressive! I like it better than The Ballpark in Arlington and Coors Field (I've attended games at both of these). I now have watched games at the Astrodome and Minute Maid, and old Arlington Stadium and The Ballpark. My visit to the Astrodome came when I was a sophomore in high school . . . we sat in the upper deck, a long ways from the field. I remember an old Vida Blue pitched for the San Francisco Giants against the Astros. The Astros won.

Ten summers ago, I watched Ken Griffey Jr. play against the Rangers in Arlington. He was then in his prime, and at the time the greatest player in the game. Today, I watched Albert Pujols, the greatest in the game, today (sorry, A-Rod).
(In the interest of full disclosure, I borrowed the photo of Minute Maid Park from the Internet. I only had my camera phone at the the game, and it takes lousy photos. I took one of Albert Pujols and Tony La Russa talking at batting practice, but it did not come out very well.)

Thursday, June 5, 2008

Much of Life Is . . . Waiting!

Waiting . . . I'm not very good at it. Usually, I'm downright awful at it. Patience is certainly a virtue . . . that I find very difficult to master.

How much of your life is spent waiting? You stand in a line to order a Big Mac. You wait for the light to turn to green. Your phone call is placed on hold. You are waiting for your IRS economic stimulus check. When is that child coming home? When will the boss notice my hard work? Will the Cubs finally win it all this season? You get the point. Much of our lives are spent waiting.

I sit here, today, awaiting a very important phone call. I've been waiting since about 8 a.m.! The wait has been nerve wracking. I try to apply myself to other tasks, but the anxiousness gets the best of me.

You've been there, I'm sure. You can relate.

But, waiting can be as instructive as it is frustrating. Waiting can help us refine our thoughts, to clear our resolve, to give us time to come up the answers that have been eluding us, to allow for an opportunity for solutions to make themselves known and for resources to be realized. Waiting can build our faith in God, deepen our trust in Him to see us through, to deliver us to a place of peace and wellness.

Waiting can help me realize that rashness is rarely well-grounded.

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Shark Attack!

I took these photos last week, on Memorial Day, as my girls and I visited the Downtown Aquarium in Albuquerque, New Mexico. For a total of $16, not counting the cost of T-shirts, the four of us saw sharks, sting rays, jellyfish, horseshoe crabs, and lots of other fish and marine life. It was fun.

Monday, June 2, 2008

A Palace for NFL Royalty!

This is the view from my hotel room in Arlington, Texas (sorry for the glare on the window!). I am across the street from the New Texas Stadium that is under construction. To say that it is big would be a serious understatement. Its huge! And expensive. I just paid my share of the construction charge when I checked in the motel this evening -- gotta love those taxes! Just wait until you see the ticket prices!