Wednesday, January 30, 2008

The New Faces of Christianity

The New Faces of Christianity by Philip Jenkins, 2006, Oxford University Press

I got this book for Christmas this past year. I wanted it because I really know nothing about the growth of Christianity in Africa and Asia, and I wanted to know more. While this book is not a history of Christianity's growth in the twentieth century, it is a survey of what African and Asian Christians generally believe, and how that differs with what is known as "Western Christianity," which is Christianity as defined by the mainline U.S. and European denominations.

The author does a very good job of laying out the ways in which the Bible, and especially the Old Testament, resonates with African and Asian Christians. Because they live in a less-advanced society, Old and New Testament stories that seem anachronistic to an American like me can have direct relevance to someone who spends their life in subsistence farming, lacking adequate government services and health care. For most Africans, their daily life doesn't differ much at all from New Testament times, so it seems more relevant to them. We in the West, with ~1500 years of Christian culturation, have also lost the newness and the shock that can come from the gospels, as what Jesus had to say is in many ways quite radical; we're just so used to it that we can't see it.

It isn't all good, though. The author also talks about some of the ways that Christian teachings have been mixed with native Confucian or pagan beliefs, and how the scriptures are sometimes highly mangled to try to make them fit pre-conceived notions. Nothing that we haven't seen before, of course, but a good counterpoint to the general feeling that African and Asian Christianity is truer to the actual written words of the Bible. Overall, this was a fine read, and both encouraging and thought-provoking in its protrayal of the growth of Christianity in other parts of the world.

Monday, January 28, 2008

Super Bowl LXII is this Sunday? Whatever

So I find myself in the interesting position of caring hardly at all about who wins in the Super Bowl on Sunday. I don't care about the New England Patriots, and I don't care about the New York Giants. I will lean slightly towards the Patriots, but only because my friend Eric Winter in D.C. likes them, and I like him, so there is the whole 'guilty by association' thing going there. Anyway, I liked what this guy said about the game, which sums up my feelings nicely. As a proud resident of Middle America (i.e., the "flyover zone"), all of the piss and vinegar that Boston and New York partisans throw at each other just seems foreign to me. And not a good kind of foreign, like watching legions of drunk fans sing songs off key and way too loud at Arsenal games; a bad kind of foreign, like a North Korean film festival.

Granted, it would be great to see a Boston team lose, just to rub their smug noses in it. For a view on what leads to this kind of loathing, click here, but only if you can handle lots of profanity, because the writer seems somewhat unbalanced in a tourettes' syndrome kind of way. It's all true, though.

Friday, January 25, 2008

Mission Accomplished

My parents, and their dog, came over to my place yesterday afternoon. My mother left after about one minute to go shopping, while my father helped me remove the broken garbage disposal from beneath my kitchen sink, and install the new one I had picked up on the way home. It took about 2.5 hours in total, but now I have a working garbage disposal again, which is nice. Hopefully my father didn't hurt his back too much with all of the bending and contorting we were both doing to perform the work.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008


It turns out that I jinxed myself. Right after my dad helped me find the right part to fix my toilet, he asked me what else I needed to do around my house, and I answered that there was nothing that needed doing, since everything was pretty much wrapped up, except putting another coat of stain on the deck railing in the spring once the weather turned warmer.

Only two days later, my garbage disposal broke. And this wasn't just a "it won't run" problem, I mean part of the blade actually broke off and jammed underneath the rest of the mechanism.

Above is a photo of the broken part. It isn't a great picture (since my digital camera is dying), but you can tell how corroded it looks. And that should be laying flat on the table, rather than being all bent and cock-eyed. So, yeah, I need to get a new disposal. And wouldn't you know it, the old one is hard-wired into the house, so this could end up being a major undertaking, since not only do we have to take off the old one and put in a new one, but we can't just plug it into a socket. Instead we have to decide if we should re-wire the new one into the house, or if we shoudl install an electrical outlet under the sink, so we can just plug in any other replacements we might need down the road. It sure would be nice if things would just work right, wouldn't it?

Friday, January 18, 2008

Nothing is Happening

So, like, nothing is going on right now. I have nothing to do at work, so I am spending my time reviewing material for the Certified Internal Auditor exam. Nothing is really going on at home, either. Well, OK, last weekend I had to go buy the correct flapper to fix my toilet, but once that was figured out it became a non-event.

So, since nothing is going on, I have time to reflect on the more prosaic things in life. Like lolcats.

moar funny pictures

Wednesday, January 09, 2008

St. Louis Blues Update

I went to the game against Carolina on Saturday night, and it was one of those good and bad games. The good parts consist of the fact that the Blues won (making my tickets 6 and 1 this season), and the fact that it seems that every weekend game is now a sellout, which is great for the franchise, as they can probably break even this year or even make a little money, as long as they keep selling tickets. The bad news is that the Blues still didn't score on the power play, and only won through stellar play by the goalie, Manny Legace.

They played great last night, though. They beat Columbus 6 to 1, and Tkachuk even scored a power play goal, so maybe that is finally going in the right direction. We can hope, anyway.

Monday, January 07, 2008

I May Have to Believe in Global Warming Now

Today it was 72 degrees. 72. In January. Craziness. I'm sure within 48 hours it will be 13 or something stupid like that, but 72? In January? That's just not right.

The Dragon Scroll

The Dragon Scroll by I. J. Parker, 2005, Penguin Books

This is the first book in a series of mystery novels set in 11th century Japan, starring Sugawara Akitada, a young inspector out to make a name for himself. The plot starts in a seemingly simple way, with Akitada heading out to a provincial town to investigate some missing tax shipments which never made it to the capital. Of course, in fine tradition, Akitada's presence merely set events in motion, such that all sorts of mishaps and fiendish deeds occur arround him, which may or may not be related to the missing tax shipments (though you know everything will come together in the end).

If my facts are correct, this is the author's first novel. And it shows. There are no real flaws with the book, but it just doesn't have the narrative flow that more accomplished works have. I don't doubt that the author has gotten better over time, though; I got this book because I had heard very good things about The Hell Screen, which is another book further on in this series. But one should start at the beginning, of course. In fact, the writings gets better as the book goes along, though this may have more to do with the fact that the plot threads started coming together about halfway through the story. The characters themselves are pretty good, though some of the characters outside of the main trinity of Akitada, Seimei, and Tora did not get fleshed out very much, and it wasn't always possible to really understand their motivations. But in the end those are minor marks against it, as this book was an enjoyable read, and I will most likely seek out more books in the series.

Saturday, January 05, 2008

Weekend Update

It has surely been an interesting last few days. On the political front, the result in the Democratic caucus was quite unexpected (not that Obama won, but that Clinton only got third), though I figured Huckabee would win in Iowa considering the surge of momentum he had been riding in December. New Hampshire will be critical for him, though. If he tanks there, which is likely, things could get dicey. Interesting times, indeed.

On the home front, the toilet in one of my bathrooms can't actually hold water in the tank; it constantly leaks out. I figured it was the plug that was the problem, since it was literally falling apart, so I bought a new one and put it in, but that hasn't solved the problem. So, I guess it is the seal on the gasket between the gasket and the plug that is bad, and now I get to go back to the hardware store and get a new gasket. Joy! At least I can handle plumbing repairs myself, as opposed to electrical work, which I have no idea how to do. Ah! The joys of home ownership!

Tuesday, January 01, 2008

And So It Begins

We're only two days past the end of the St. Louis Rams' season, and already the first mention of the Rams possibly returning to Los Angeles has been made. You know, because they suck so bad and they face the prospect of thousands of ticket holders dropping them like a bad habit next season. Interesting...