Thursday, December 28, 2006

Lists

In the past I've commented on my love for lists...I've even made a list of the top reasons I love lists, but I've never really written an entry dedicated to them. My love for them have grown over the past year in large part because they are the only thing that keeps me being productive on a day to day basis. I typically only have large goals with deadlines that are in the distant future, and no one really checks up on me on even a weekly basis. This won't be a problem but I'm actually quite lazy unless I feel pressure...I respond well to pressure but don't respond at all without some pressure. So I have relied on my good buddy the list to help me out and keep me accountable each day. So each day I make a list of jobs that I want to get done on that day and then feel I need to get everything done that day. Thanks to my competitive nature I will not stop (regardless of how late it is when I start) until I finish my list for the day. I even put on my list for today to write a blog entry...honestly I won't have written it if it wasn't on my list.

Since I only listed my top 5 reasons I love lists as a comment I will repost it here as an official entry....

1) Affords me the opportunity to use numbers while writing
2) I like organization...even though I don't do much of it
3) Can convey information quickly to others
4) They simply rock
5) Allows me the chance to just put my thoughts without connecting the thoughts.

Friday, December 15, 2006

An Objection to Christianity

I think there is a very fair question that any non-Christian can ask a Christian, and while I believe there is an answer to it I don't think it's an easy question. The question is: How can the god revealed in the Old Testament be the same god revealed in the New Testament? In the Old Testament God was going to war all the time, killing people left and right, nearly destroying all of existence, and requiring His people to follow very strict orders. Then we hit the New Testament and God is loving and compassionate telling us to turn the other cheek.

A couple years ago I received an email from a friend of mine asking me for my opinion on this because she had a friend that had sent her an email with his objections. Since I don't know who he is I'll just post his objection anonymously...

I have started to read the Bible, not to convert but just to know more about Christianity. How can you (you and every other Christian) reconcile the God of the Old Testament with the teachings of Christ? I am reading about God ordering massacres, financial rewards, condoning slavery, and describing himself as a "jealous God". Oh, and probably the worst for anyone on the Right, God ordered a tax on the people! Blasphemy!

My response I broke into two parts: (1) how can the God of the Old and New Testaments be the same God and (2) how could a just God do such "awful" things in the Old Testament (basically dealing with each specific objection he listed). Since my answer was pretty long I'm just going to briefly handle the first question and if anyone wants to read the entire response they can click here to read it.

The first question’s short answer is that God is both a just God and a loving God, and that the Old Testament focuses on His just side while the New Testament focuses on His loving side. This shifts the first question to whether it is possible to be both perfectly just and perfectly loving simultaneously. Now if there is a god either he is unjust and loving, just and unloving, or just and loving. The first two options are possible, but not worth spending time pondering. If god was unjust then good and bad would have no value because god would just do whatever he desires regardless of anyone’s actions, and if he is unloving than why should we expect anything good from him. So I’ll assume that it is intuitive that if a god exists he must be just and loving (otherwise god exists but nothing we can do on earth has any effect on him…which I find odd to think that an all-powerful being would create something and then be completely detached from it).

In order to illustrate how it is possible to be loving and just I’ll use an analogy. Let’s say that someone has committed a crime and the judge is about to sentence him. The judge would be just by handing down the harshest punishment possible (that is what the law requires), and the father of the criminal could show his love for his son by paying the fine to keep the son out of jail. Now if the judge was also the father than he would be both just and loving in this situation. This is exactly what Christ did when he died on the cross for our sins. God’s justice requires that sin be punished, but his love compels Him to redeem us from our sin. On earth we like to differentiate between sins and rank them based on which ones are the “worst”, but that is not what either the Old or New Testament says. It states quite clearly that any sin requires the punishment of death.

For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord. – Romans 6:23 (NIV)

As for the Old Testament crack open Leviticus and you’re lucky if you can’t find the words “surely be put to death.” Note that death is not just death on earth, but a separation from God, eternal death. This is why Christ had to die on the cross to pay the price so that that we could be reconciled to Him. Otherwise we could not receive God’s love without God being unjust had He not paid the price Himself. This at least shows that it is possible to be perfectly just and loving, and how God accomplished this for us.

This answer obviously leads to the more difficult question of whether God's actions in the Old Testament are just (ignoring the irony around the fact that His creation is trying to judge God's actions). My response handles that question by focusing on the specific objections: God's vengeance and jealousy, slavery issues, financial responsibility, and God's politics (well actually just addressing the stereotype that Christianity = Republican). Give it a read if you're bored or actually interested.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Another Living Fossil

I just got word from my friend Tommie that yet another living fossil has been found…this time they call it Jurassic Shrimp. I said in a previous post that if they ever found a dinosaur they would just call it a living fossil and while this isn't 100 million years old it is on the same order of magnitude as the dinosaur. Oh yeah these guys went extinct “50 million” years ago. Perhaps they went extinct and then re-evolved to produce itself once again…man is that lucky.

Jurassic 'shrimp', Neoglyphea neocaledonica, believed extinct for 50 million years, found in Australia's Coral Sea (Image: B Richer de Forges)

Monday, December 11, 2006

Quick Rant

I’ve got to do it…I know we are all just sucking it up and accepting the fact, but someone needs to point out the facts. Michigan was flat out robbed of their national championship shot. I understand that their destiny was in their hands with the Ohio St. game, but supposedly there is a bowl game that is advertised as the national championship game. If that is in fact the championship game than the number one and two teams from the regular season should be in that game. So lets suppose that this spot is between Florida and Michigan (I’m sure if Florida would have lost to Arkansas I would have to say it was between Louisville and Michigan). I’m going to make a quick comparison of the two teams.

(1) They both have only one lost and both were on the road (EVEN)
(2) Florida played 4 two 25 teams while Michigan only played 3 (Florida)
(3)
Of those games Michigan average opponent ranking was 6.3 and Florida’s was 10.5 (Michigan)
(4) Michigan lost to the number one team in the country that is undefeated while Florida lost to Auburn which finish 9th in the country with loses to Arkansas (#12) and unranked Georgia (Michigan)
(5) Florida lost by 10 points while Michigan lost by only 3 points in a game that went right down to the wire (Michigan)
(6) Common opponent – Vanderbilt…okay while Michigan scored more points on them and gave up fewer I’m going to call this one even because both teams did crush them (EVEN)

So basically Florida’s only claim to the spot is that they played one more ranked team than Michigan. The bottom line is that Michigan deserves to play in the national championship, but the BCS would rather avoid the controversy that would occur if Michigan did beat Ohio State. See if they let Florida go then even if Florida pulls off the win they can say that both teams had one loss, but Florida won the head to head match up. My argument that Michigan would still be the rightful winner of the championship if they split with Ohio State is that Michigan would have won on the neutral field in the bigger game. This of coarse would not set well with the rest of the country, but the way people feel about the outcome should not be the deciding factor.

Alright I’ll let it go now…I’ve got it off my chest so I feel better. Now I’m going to say some nice things about the Buckeyes so all you diehard Michigan fans may want to stop reading now.

I hope that Ohio State goes out and completely crushes Florida, and that Michigan completely crushes USC. That way everyone will be thinking while watching two wasted bowl games that they could have seen the two best teams in the country play each other again if only they could have stomached the idea of a rematch. I was in Florida for the first game and the bar I was at was packed with people watching the game and I didn’t see anyone wanting it to end.

Sunday, December 03, 2006

Picture Post

I know I’ve become a rather poor blogger, but frankly I just don’t have much ambition to do much of anything. I don’t even read other blogs (yeah I’m so lazy right now that I don’t even want to do my procrastination activities). Even though I’m not willing to put much effort into anything I shall still post something by making use of two great things…(1) lists…no need to think about how to connect thoughts or statements, just put whatever you want and (2) pictures…no need to form your thoughts into any kind of rational form because a picture paints a thousand words. So with no further ado…here are some pictures I would like to share.


(1) Schmocktoberfestive (Schmocktoberfest IV)!



The winner of the pumpkin carving contest...if you couldn't tell the party took place during the MLB World Series...even though the Tigers lost I'm still proud of them



I don't have a good picture of the best costume winners (however I will give congrats to Mike and Karen on their costume) so I'll show this penguin


(2) Trip to Tampa Bay
Here I'll share a quick story....I went to Tampa Bay for a conference just before Thanksgiving. It was suppose to be a nice "break" from the work I had been doing, but due to some interesting timing I actually had to take an exam while at the conference. The professor that is teaching my class was also going so while I was down there he just gave me the exam and I took it in the hotel room. Also while the pictures show a nice looking city it actually is completely empty...it took me over an hour to find a candy bar, which I had to purchase from a vending machine in a parking structure.


St. Pete Times Forum...home of the 2004 Stanley Cup winners. This is the view from the balcony in my hotel room.



This is another view from my balcony but looking out at the rest of the city...so you can tell I had a really nice view while taking my advanced acoustics exam


(3) You Discussed Me!

Ok this one isn't so much of an event but something that brings me a little bit of joy each time I have to go to the lab. While preparing for the experiment in Memphis Ciara and I would have some play time in the lab (above you see her trying to stump me at a game of hangman), and one day she said the phrase "you discussed me." Seriously say it out loud...it cracks me up. Thankfully no one will earse the hangman or the "you discussed me" from the blackboard so it still gives me a laugh when I go down there.

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Conrats Rey and Tom

I have several things that I want to post, but for now I'll just send out my congrats to my sister Rey and Tom who got engaged over Thanksgiving. I thought something was odd during the Thanksgiving dinner when my dad asked Tom to say grace...then Tom said a nice prayer and then had everyone say two things that they are thankful for. We went around the table and Tom went last. He said he was thankful for our family welcoming him into our family and then for my sister. It was at this point that it dawned on me that he was going to propose...my instinct was to say "oh you're going to propose." Fortunately I didn't blow the moment by opening my mouth. It was very nice, and Tom welcome to the family.

Tom and my sister Renee'

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Politics of Science

I spent the day sitting at a 10 hour long meeting in which I received plenty of criticism (well it wasn’t directed at me personally, but I take full responsibility for the data I collected and that was being “attacked”). First off I’ll admit that it was hard on my pride to have my mistakes criticized in an open forum for 10 hours…especially since I’ve been doing this on a daily basis for most of the past week since these problems first surfaced. Apart from my personal annoyance with this aspect, I also lost some interest in research as a career path. I love doing research, but I’m pretty sure that I love it for reasons separate from the majority.

This meeting was just like the last one I attended in which the lions share of the talk was criticizing the experiments (mind you the previous meeting the experiment hadn’t even started yet). This seems odd to me because the “objective” of the program was to produce computer simulations that could predict our results, which in the end one was in the ballpark while the other was out in left field. Now I fully admit that I have many errors that still need to be sorted out (that was a given when I have weeks to process a years worth of data), but the trends of the data are not going to be totally different no matter how long I stare at the data files. The general approach was to assume that if the experimental data didn’t match the simulations the experiment must be wrong, but it was already given that the code neglected certain physical phenomena that we showed was present…my question at the end of the day is why did their data match so many conditions.

I then went back to the hotel to get some sleep before starting day 2 of these meetings (the 2nd day should be much easier than the 1st). I fell asleep contemplating the above points when I was awaken by my phone (I actually thought it was my alarm since I use my phone as an alarm clock when on the road and started getting ready for the day only to realize it was 10pm not 6:30am). At this point I was too awake to go back to sleep and decided to do a little reading. I began reading “Christianity and Literature”, a paper C.S. Lewis wrote in Theology. What he wrote about literature, I think, illustrates the cause of some of my frustrations with research.

“The Christian will take literature a little less seriously than the cultured Pagan…The unbeliever is always apt to make a kind of religion of his aesthetic experiences…The real frivolity, the solemn vacuity, is all with those who make literature a self-existent thing to be valued for its own sake.”

Lewis then at the end of his paper contrasts the unbelievers created “religion” associated with his craft to that of a believer portrayed in Paradiso.

“…Pope Gregory, arrived in Heaven, discovered that his theory of the hierarchies, on which presumably he had taken pains, was quite wrong. We are told how the redeemed soul behaved; it was the funniest thing he’d ever heard.”

The connection between these excerpts and my story may not be obvious, but trust me there is a point. In my view I only pursue research because I’m interested solely in better understanding God’s creation. So my attitude about the meeting is hey lets be honest with the situation, everyone did some really impressive work, but the bottom line is “blah blah blah” (I’ll spare you any specifics here). To everyone else they are even better aware of the bottom line than I am, but it is more important to them that it is shown just how good their work really was. Their main interest being that while this technology was feasible it is important to show the sponsors that they really are good at what they do and hopefully get more money from them for a different project. Now I’ll admit that they have every right and probably even an obligation to do this, but for me this whole “game” is a waste of time and effort. I’ve known this for awhile, but today was one of those days that the fact that stupid politics will have to be dealt with in order to get funding to do research. Thus I’m left with the dilemma of whether my love for research out weights my hatred towards politics.

....also I'll share a short quote from Lewis that I felt like sharing because why not (man I should have made this into a list so I this totally unrelated quote won't stand out).

Walter Hooper (friend of Lewis) told Lewis about an epitaph on someone's tombstone that read "Here lies an atheist, all dressed up but with nowhere to go." To which Lewis replied: "I bet he wishes that were so."

Thursday, October 26, 2006

Schedule

My schedule is all out of whack…or maybe a better way of saying it is that I don’t have a schedule. There is no structure to my week, and there is a major advantage to working late a night (no one else is awake so I can be tasks to do stupid side jobs). As a result I usually start off getting up around 8:30am on Monday (I have class at 9:30am), then each day I’ll work later and later. Two nights ago I worked till 4am, last night I worked till 5:30am, and tonight I might even hit 6am. The only real problem with this is that I have class at 9:30am on Friday. So each week by the time Friday hits I’m completely exhausted, which is a real problem when like last week I had a midterm exam.

As a result I’ve been contemplating developing a new “schedule.” The idea would be to change from a 24 hour day to a 25 hour and 40 minute day. That way every two weeks I would start over on my schedule, and the real plus is that I would pick up a day of work every two weeks. I really think this would be easy able to implement because in a two week period I have less than 10 hours of scheduled appointments (class and meetings).

Thursday, October 12, 2006

Evolutionary Timeline

Previously I wrote an entry on the evolution debate in which I simply purposed that we leave the evolution topic alone with school kids. I also said that I won’t criticize evolutionary theory directly because there wasn't anyone to argue their side…well I guess I’m going to make a criticism now. However this will only be a response to an article written by the California Academy of Sciences so they initiated it. I picked this article because it has been brought to my attention a few times this week. After my buddy Tommie sent it to me I had two separate conversations with Sherry about it and I heard Bob Dutko discuss it on his talk show. For those interested click here to read the article...it's pretty short.

In the article they discuss the discovery of a T-rex thigh bone in Montana. The bone was so large that they had to break it in half to transport. When they broke it open they found soft tissue that included blood vessels, bone cells, and possibly blood cells. They than claim that this tissue is 70 million years old…alright with such a claim they must have some plausible explanation of how soft tissue could have lasted so long without either fossilizing or decaying. Well it basically avoids this point completely until at the very end of the article when it asks the question, will we be able to clone a T-rex? Their response… “Probably not – most scientists believe that DNA cannot survive for 70 million years. Then again, before this discovery, most scientists believed that soft tissue could not survive for 70 million years either.”

Evolutionist claim that it is the Christian’s that lack objectivity because of their beliefs, but they make this discover and never even consider the possibility that dinosaurs didn’t live 70 million years ago. The problem is that if an evolutionist considers this possibility than then it doesn’t allow enough time for evolution to “get lucky” and produce complexity. I could certainly go off on how mind blowing it is to believe that a theory that requires order to be produce from disorder (contrary to all scientific observations) can be considered scientific fact beyond any doubt. Heck not even order but actual information…order implies that simple repeated patterns form, but evolution has to produce DNA which is actual information. Let me illustrate the difference with an example...a simple pattern would be "INININ", but information is a nonuniform pattern that conveys a thought such as the word INFORMATION...no repeated pattern but ordered symbols to convey a thought. Those that study DNA basically describe it as a library of information written in a 4 letter chemical alphabet and it takes between 1200 and 2000 “letters” to build a single protein.

Honestly there is even plenty of other evidence to support dinosaurs and humans being on earth at the same time…this of coarse would leave no room for even an evolutionist to claim that dinosaurs lived so long ago (well maybe I give them too much credit because when they found a prehistoric creature several years ago they called it a "living fossil"). If dinosaurs and humans are separated in time by millions of years than how is it possible that in every culture around the world there are stories about dragons. Why would primitive cultures that never saw a large reptilian creature walk on earth all have stories about them and paint similar pictures of them that resemble dinosaurs…well I guess once again luck must have played a role. There are also stories of them recorded from only about 4000 years ago found in the Bible (Job 40:15 – 41:34). Obviously at this time the term dinosaur did not exist (it was invented in the 1800s), but in the book two very large beasts (the behemoth and the leviathan) are described in great detail. Some have claimed that the behemoth was simply a hippopotamus, but it says the tail sways like a cedar tree…well unless some really fast evolution has taken place on them in the last few thousand years a hippopotamus tail looks much more like a wet noodle than a cedar tree.

Well if you couldn’t tell this topic causes some frustration for me…why don’t we just look at the evidence and draw logical conclusions based on it. Then we test those conclusions over and over to confirm or disprove the hypothesis…you know science. Some time in the future I hope to write an entry on my feelings about science in general, but for now I’ll just stop at this.

Thursday, September 28, 2006

A Tribute to Farmers

I have the utmost respect for farmers…yes dad it is true. Honestly they are the true jack of all trades…only a farmer will take a piece of equipment that costs more than their yearly salary, completely disassemble it, modify it, reassemble it, and then claim that they don’t really know what they are doing. My current favorite country music song I think does a great job of capturing part of the life of a farmer so I figured I would post an entry explaining the lyrics. The song is “Amarillo Sky” by Jason Aldean, and I hope that this will give everyone a little more appreciation for the farmers of America.

Verse 1:
He gets up before the dawn
Packs a lunch and a thermos full of coffee
It's another day in the dusty haze
Those burnin' rays are wearing down his body


I’m so thankful to have been raised on a farm because hard work isn’t something you avoid…it is simply something you do. No one will ever yell at a farmer for being to work late, but farmers are typically working earlier than anyone else. I remember when I was 6 years old our whole family would get up at the crack of dawn so we could hoe in the fields before the sun got too hot. That work ethic has paid off in everything I’ve done, and will always give me an edge. I actually was talking to my father a couple months ago and was telling him how I have to work 12 to 17 hours per day, and his response was “that’s good…isn’t it.” That is such a refreshing response compared to the typical “man that must really sucks.” I really should just be thankful that I have a job and that each day there is something that I can do that is productive.

And diesel's worth the price of gold
And it's the cheapest grain he's ever sold
But he's still holding on


These are my favorite couple lines…it really portrays the reality that every farmer has to face. Everyone in the United States knows the price of gas just keeps climbing just like all costs. So for a farmer the price of diesel to run the equipment climbs as well as other costs, but the price of grain doesn’t move much and can actually drop. In fact the cost of a bushel of corn in 1980 was about $3, and today in Pigeon a bushel of corn sells at about $2.

Chorus:
He just takes the tractor another round
And pulls the plow across the ground
And sends up another prayer
He says Lord I never complain I never ask why
But please don't let my dreams run dry
Underneath, Underneath this Amarillo sky


First of all if anyone doesn’t know a round is driving from one end of the field to the other and back…farmers do this many, many times. In fact my dad often decides if the day is over by whether or not he can get another round in before sunset. The rest of the chorus brings up something that ever farmer must have…faith. As my father says, “there is no such thing as an atheist farmer.” You take everything you have to purchase these dead little seeds, put them in the soil, and pray that God brings life to that dead seed and multiplies it. Farmers work hard but are always aware of the fact that their success or failure is really out of their hands (don’t get me wrong…there is a lot of knowledge required to be a good farmer).

Verse 2:
That hail storm back in '83
Sure did take a toll on his family
But he stayed strong and carried on
Just like his dad and grandad did before him
On his knees every night he prays
Please let my crops and children grow
Cause that's all he's ever known

To most people a hail storm is a bad thing and they worry about a couple dings in their car, but to a farmer it can completely destroy their livelihood. If the crops have sprouted then a heavy hailstorm will just destroy them, and that is basically the form that all their money is currently invested in. This is obviously a problem that we are completely unable to avoid…as a fluid mechanic I can assure everyone that at least as long as I’m alive we won’t even be able to predict the weather accurately more than 5 days in advance let alone develop methods to avoid severe weather (at least on a large scale). The only thing anyone can do to avoid this is prayer.

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Looking the Part

Over the past few months I’ve been the manager for a seven figure project funded by the U.S. government. The facility that I was using cost us approximately $10,000/day and nothing happen with the tunnel unless I gave the call. Therefore if we divide that by the number of hours I’m allowed to use the tunnel per day (~15 hours), we get that my time there was worth about $670/hour. So why am I throwing these numbers at you…obviously to impress everyone right…no actually this is one of those occasions that I get to share some irony (my favorite form of humor).

The obvious source of irony would be to compare my worth per hour with my pay…I’ll spare my dignity and not share what the second number is (lets just say that it only takes a few hours to equal my monthly salary). However there is a better one that made me crack up quite often. Lets say you are aware of those numbers and then go to meet the guy that is running all of this…you would probably expect to meet someone that was pretty decently dressed. Perhaps not a tie but at least nice clean shirt and khakis would be worn. When I compare that image with the one of me it just simply makes me laugh out loud. I looked so bad that one of the professors asked for my waist size so that he could buy me a new pair of shorts. Let me share with you my typical attire.

You might think that these clothes simply need a wash and besides that they aren’t too bad. Well lets take a closer look.

I’ll start with the shorts. First thing you should notice is the red stains…this would be rhodamine 6G. You might say, “Brian what is rhodamine 6G,” well it is a toxic dye that I was constantly covered head to toe in during the test. This dye stained basically every piece of clothing I wore in Memphis and washing has a minimal effect on it (side note that I also managed to stain a large portion of the facility…I don’t think they appreciated it). Secondly you should note that the right pant leg is ripped nearly in half. The rip was slowly growing from about the half way point in the test until the last day when they finally ripped all the way down. To get through the last day of work I took electrical tape (I couldn’t find duct tape) and taped my pant leg together…I got some sweet looks when I went to Home Depot to pick up a few things. I even had this one guy see me walk in then went and got his buddy and came looking for me to show him…they tried to be sneaky about it, but it was really obvious when they were spending more time looking at my shorts then at the hammers they were supposedly buying.

Now to the shoes…these things looked almost this bad after the first two weeks I was in Memphis. So really it is impressive how well they held up. Sadly this picture doesn’t fully show the damaged that has been inflicted on these shoes. Even still you get a good look at the nice big rip that runs along the side of the shoe, the rubber in the front that once went nearly to the top of the shoe but now stops on the bottom, and like everything I have it is covered in red dye. I’ve had many suggests for what to do with these shoes once the test was over. My favorite two are either cover them with gasoline and burn them or get them bronzed and leave them in our office as a memorial to Hiplate.

The real kicker is that not only did I look like this when I worked at the facility, but I didn’t change when we went out to eat. As you can imagine I would often draw a few looks when I walked into a nice restaurant (I even had a real nice double take once from a guy…you know he glances over then quickly wipes his head back to take a second look). There was only one restaurant that I actually didn’t feel comfortable eating at…I’m fine with going into a place that has candle light at each table and slightly dimmed lights, but the one that had red roses at each table was too much. We all agreed that perhaps this place was a little too nice for us and we went to a different restaurant.

Sunday, September 24, 2006

I'm Back

So after 3 months hard work my experiment has finally come to an end. Thus everyone can look forward to regular updates once again on my blog. I'm probably not in the right state of mind to right much of anything, but I'll share a short story from my drive back to Ann Arbor.

I decided to take all the data and personally drive it from Memphis to Ann Arbor because I don't trust anyone else touching it (the 3 months of work now would be completely wasted if the data was lost). I originally planned on driving one set with me while shipping a backup separately, but since I wasn't sure exactly which drives had what data I opted just to drive everything myself. I was a little nervous about this because if I got in an accident or something everything would be lost, but hey I'm a good driver. When I went to leave Memphis I heard there were tornados to the north so I decided to cut east over to Nashville then head north. My hope was that the storm would die down somewhat and I would just get some rain. I was over 200 miles into the drive without a single drop of rain when I got to Elizebethtown, Kentucky. Instantly the weather went from calm to severe. I knew it was bad when I saw the rain moving horizontally and lightning hitting so close that it practically blinded me. Luckily I was right at an exit and was able to pull off the highway and right into a gas station where I parked around a corner from where the storm was coming from. All I could think was that this is unbelievable, I've never been in such severe weather in my life yet the one time I'm carrying irreplaceable cargo it finds me. After sitting there for about 20 minutes I decided to go inside the building and try finding out the status of the storms. When I went inside the gas station had just lost part of its roof from the storm, but the damage wasn't too major. They said for that spot the worst of the storm had passed by, but there was a good chance of a flash flood now that would last for the next 3 days. I decided to try to push on because I didn't want to get stuck in some town for 3 days. It was relatively calm for about another 40 miles, but than I got hit by another severe storm (I heard the gusts were between 70 and 100 miles/hour). At this point I conceded defeat (I was really trying to get back so I could go to the Michigan football game with a bunch of buddies from out of town). I checked the Weather Channel in the morning and found out that there were a total of 36 tornados that hit along the path I was driving, and even though the one I drove into at Elizebethtown wasn't a tornado the Weather Channel talked about how bad that storm was. I then finished up the drive in the morning/afternoon on Saturday. I didn't make the game, but it is still pretty sweet to be back in Michigan.

Saturday, September 02, 2006

Random Stuff

Since my last update nothing totally awesome has happened, but there have been some random things that are mildly interesting. Therefore I shall make a list of them (I love lists…personally I think more things should be put into list format).
1) I actually went to the Rendezvous (you know the place I mentioned previously that has the best ribs in the world). Last time they were delivered, but this time we went to the restaurant. For a place that has fed presidents, the prince of Monaco, prime ministers, and numerous celebrities, it wasn’t in a very nice part of Memphis. In fact it actually is in kind of a rough part of the town. We went at night and getting to the place requires you to walk down a dark alley…can’t say I felt all that safe getting there since Memphis is currently vying for murder capitol of the US. However it was certainly worth the danger…they are the best ribs. Earlier this week I drove past the place and began salivating.
2) While making a one day trip to Memphis Thursday I found myself in the middle of American Idol tryouts. I was wondering why the place I was staying at was so busy and then while a couple of people were talking about the tryouts. Turns out that the new hotel I was trying out was just down the street from them and nearly everyone staying at it was trying out. They said I should tryout, but I decided I would go ahead and keep my dignity.
3) I’m starting to think I travel too much…I’ve befriended the lady that drives the bus from the Memphis airport to the car rental place. I know all about her prison ministry, plans for moving to the country, and her work schedule so we know if I’ll be flying in about the time she works. I’ve also recently obtained executive status with National Car Rental…I’m not sure exactly what that entails besides I’ve rented way too many cars recently.
4) There are plenty of things to complain about when in comes to Memphis, but I’ve got to share with you a positive thing about it. It has a beautiful view along the Mississippi River…I’ve attempted to get some pictures of it in the past, but due to my camera’s battery dieing I couldn’t. Then when I went back on Thursday I finally managed to get a few pictures of the riverside. I would like to share a couple with you.


Top - Mississippi River, bridge to Arkansas, and the pyramid
Bottom- The riverside park and the city

5) Best for last…I’m currently getting a short break. While I have trips to Memphis both this upcoming week and the past week, I’ve been spending most of my time in Ann Arbor. I still have work to do but at least it isn’t in Memphis. I was even able to attend the first Michigan football game today…Go Blue!

Saturday, August 19, 2006

Beale Street

Tonight after work Sherry and I decided to head down to Beale Street for a drink and a bite to eat. Now this was my first real (I’ve gone running through Beale St.), and I was curious to see what a Friday night there was like. I really wanted to check out BB King’s Blues CafĂ© and Sherry agreed to check it out. We go in and sure enough it was a pretty sweet place. It really reminded me of this small bar in Kalamazoo called Wonderful’s. That bar is actually in the basement of a bowling alley, has no sign out front, and the ceiling is so low that some musicians that come to play have to sit because they’ll hit their head. Now obviously BB King’s place is nicer, but it still served your beer in jars, food was simple and good (just as if it was homemade), and had sweet live rhythm and blues music playing. I suppose the only difference is that everything is twice expensive, but if it wasn’t for that I would love to have that place be a regular bar for me (actually for BB King’s bar on Beale St. the prices weren’t that bad).

Anyway, what really made the night interesting was when I see this guy walk in and right away I knew it was Justin Timberlake. I actually thought it was kind of cool how quietly he came in and went to the back of the bar without anyone even noticing. I told Sherry that he had just walked in, but she didn’t see him and after I told her he was out of view. About five minutes later I see him walking back into the bar, but this time has a camera following him with a spotlight on him. Well there goes the whole impressed with coming in unnoticed. This time tons of people in the bar are pushing towards him trying to see him, and Justin now has a few bodyguards close by. Perhaps there was some point that I’m unaware of for his two entrances, but man it seems like he wanted to make sure that everyone knew he was there. I then got to see him do some dancing as well as sing a song, which I would have to say he did a pretty good job with (even though his voice really isn’t best suited for soul music).

I’ll admit that it was pretty neat to being just hanging out in a bar and have a celebrity walk in. This may surprise some people, but up in Pigeon that kind of thing just doesn’t happen everyday. Actually that wasn’t my only great experience of the day. It would be a crime to leave out that I finally got a taste of the best barbeque in Memphis…Rendezvous Ribs. Seriously those ribs were awesome, and I’m not even a big rib lover. We got them because a VIP from DARPA came for a visit so Steve and him went out to lunch there, and then ribs were brought back for Sherry and me. I had heard this placed talked up for awhile, but it still exceeded my expectations. I now see why President Bush took the Prime Minister of Japan to eat there after visiting Graceland.

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Brokenhearted

Proverbs 18:14:
A man's spirit sustains him in sickness, but a crushed spirit who can bear?

Psalm 34:18:
The LORD is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.

Romans 5
(3) Not only so, but we also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; (4) perseverance, character; and character, hope. (5)And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us.


In the midst of trials we must hold tight to the truth...it is truly our only hope.

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

I Miss My Life

I just completed my day of work, which started at 5:30am and finished at 10:30pm. I managed to work 17 hours today on only 2 hours of sleep…I couldn’t fall asleep the night before because it is about impossible to get my brain to stop thinking about the only thing that consumes my every waking moment. The really sad thing is that it honestly didn’t feel all that much different than any other day of work down here in Memphis…basically I think I’m just constantly exhausted and overworked so what is the difference how extreme the exhaustion becomes.

Me after a day at the LCC - note the red marks from when I almost got stabbed in the eye with a screwdriver...good times

The worst thing about all of this is that in spite of all my hard work and best efforts the results are not looking all that good. It seems like every time we manage to get a problem solved three more appear. I’m not a quitter but sometimes it certainly sounds good. I’ll be the first to say that problems in life make the successes so much sweeter, but right now I feel that there won’t be any successes to be made sweet. Perhaps I’m just over reacting due to the lack of progress and the deep desire to be back to my own life. When I’m in Memphis I never carry my normal set of keys (they only have my apartment, car, and office keys so no need for them in Memphis), but today I needed my jump drive that is on the set so I carried them. Just having my keys made me feel a little better because it felt like I was at work but in Michigan.

I know even when I’m in Ann Arbor I work long hours and don’t get to be at my apartment or visit friends very much, but the little bit makes all the difference. I’m a simple man that just likes to be able to sit and hang with some friends every once in awhile. Heck even just the possibility that someone could call me up and want to hangout is very comforting. However while in Memphis I’m either at the LCC, my hotel room, or a restaurant with no possibility of a friend stopping by or a quick visit to one of them. (I do have Sherry down here and it helps but there really isn't much time for anything but work). I really thought that I could just grit my teeth and get through this like pulling a Band-Aid off, but the test just drags on and is slowly breaking my will.

I’m sure I’ll feel better after a good night sleep…we’ll see.

Sunday, August 06, 2006

Nothing But a Towel

I haven’t written in awhile due to a severe lack of time as well as interesting topics. I’m literally getting up in the morning, going to work, work all day, eat food, and sleep. I really don’t have any desire to write about anything related to work since it is all I can think about…it is so bad that when I get to sleep I just dream about what I need to do for the next day.

In spite of this I feel the need to give my readers something of good to read. Well I guess I’ll share the only story that comes to mind when I think of this test and want to laugh. The one night Sherry and I were talking in my room when I heard a knock at the door. I opened it to find a fellow worker in nothing but a towel. He asked me if I could go to the front desk and get his key because he had locked himself out. I told him that they probably won’t give me his key since they know who I am. He then asked if he could just come into my room, but at that point he spotted Sherry and didn’t know where would be more comfortable. So I went and got one of my t-shirts, gave it to him, and told him to put it on. I said people will just think you were at the swimming pool and it won’t be a big deal. He went down there, got his key, and then returned my t-shirt. At this point I just had to find out what happened.

He started to explain how he was in his room getting ready for bed while listening to some music, but then stopped the story. The pause made it almost seem like he felt the rest of the story was self explanatory, and of coarse I’m just racking my brain trying to come up with a scenario where listening to music results in you being locked out of your room with only a towel. After my dumbfounded look made it clear that I was in need of more information he went on to explain that he was concerned that the music was too loud so he decided he should go outside to check if it could be heard outside. I’ve got to give it to the kid that he is much more considerate than I would be…man that was the funniest moment of this trip.

Friday, July 28, 2006

Change and Love

As most of my posts this one has been inspired by the book I’m currently reading. It is G.K. Chesterton’s Orthodoxy (the entire book is free online if anyone wants to read it). This was written around 1908 as a rebuttal to some critics of Chesterton for not sharing his personal beliefs while criticizing their beliefs. I selected it because it is often quoted in other books I’ve read…the jury is still out as to whether I’m going to like this book or not, but it has some potential.

In the current chapter I'm reading Chesterton wrote about patriotism or love of country. As he said “Men did not love Rome because she was great. She was great because they had loved her.” The idea is that at some point in the past a group had loved the area and that love mode the land grow and develop into a beautiful city that is world renowned to this day. This point was contrasted with a second type of love in which someone loves a region for some present attribute. This second type will actually harm the country because it can’t improve because the love will leave if things were to change. For example if I love Pigeon for its stoplight (it is a nice stoplight) then I would resist the possibility of adding a second one even if it is the result of a growing local economy because it would no longer have the quality that I love. However if I love Pigeon because of the land and the people then any growth and success that comes its way will make me happy because I love Pigeon and want her to improve. I thought this was kind of interesting and while I drove from Memphis to Ann Arbor (I’m back in Ann Arbor trying to quickly fix a major problem with my experiment then return to Memphis) I pondered the idea.

The more I thought about it I found it somewhat odd that he made this observation without mentioning the more obvious (in my opinion) situation that really brings out this point. That is love between a husband and wife (or boyfriend and girlfriend)…it could be generalized with all loves, but I don’t think the case is as strong. If you love a woman for some specific quality of her it will never be sufficient because she desires that you love her for the overall person…her heart, beauty, and spirit. The problem with “falling in love” with her for some specific quality is that it doesn’t allow for any progression in the relationship and will fail once change is faced. Lets give an example…if a guy says he loves a girl because she is hot no healthy relationship can result. His love will fade with time and will only stay because of a created dependence for the relationship over the years…if he doesn’t eventually find a new “love” the result will be a loveless relationship. On her side she will know that he loves how “hot” she is and will either give up on the relationship if she feels that her beauty was fading or will make desperate attempts to maintain her past beauty instead of embracing her new beauty. Now let’s contrast that with someone that falls in love with the woman rather than her appearance, as time passes the love remains because while there are changes they don’t become a different person.

This makes me think of a horrible question that has been asked me by a past girlfriend…what is it about me that makes you love me? I was young and immature so I didn’t know that as soon as the question was asked I was screwed. How could I answer it? In my youth I started rattling off all the good qualities that make her great, but no matter how long the list was the response at the end was always…is that all? The reality is that as long as I made a list of qualities I was really saying that my love was conditional…not on her just being herself.

Sunday, July 16, 2006

Smoking

There is plenty of bad publicity for smoking now a days with the whole cancer, death, addiction, etc, but today I got thinking about the positives to smoking (ok so if you are easily influenced by stupid comments from random people you may want to stop reading).

Today I was driving on the highway when all of a sudden the thought popped into my head that I wished I was a smoker. Now I thought it was kind of funny since I hate smoking, have only tried half a cigarette in my life, and in reality I would never ever actually become a smoker. I quickly decided that this is one of those thoughts that working 12-14 hours a day in Memphis brings on. I believe there are two things that made me think it would be a good idea to be a smoker: (1) you can take breaks all the time…if you are a smoker at work you can just step outside and hangout for a few minutes whenever you want, but a non-smoker can only go to the bathroom or get a drink of water…neither are ideal hangouts and shouldn’t take all that long. (2) When your life becomes stressful you have something to do that "calms" you…alright I know this one is bad because we should be going to God in those moments and an addiction only gives temporary relief not healing, but from a purely earthly mentality it has its benefits. I’m going to stick with the non-smoker position, but I thought I should share the less talked about benefits of smoking.

Now with this random thought it has afforded me the opportunity to share with everyone my all time favorite smoking story. I was in high school and my friend Eric and I were hanging out at my house when we decided to take off for somewhere (I don’t know where). I saw that my dad’s pickup truck was in the drive way so I decided to take his truck instead of my car. We go and hop into the truck and immediately notice that it stinks of cigarette smoke. The smell was so bad that whoever was smoking in there had to of been smoking with the windows rolled up. I came home that night and ask my dad what was up with his pickup (no one in my family smokes so I figured someone else must have been with my dad or borrowed the pickup). Now if my dad could lie he certainly would have taken this opportunity to try and pull one over on us, but he is honest and fessed up to smoking with his buddy in the pickup. Apparently he and his friend were out golfing when they found a pack of cigarettes. The two of them got the bright idea of taking this pack and smoking them…obviously in my dad’s pickup. So like a couple of teenagers they took this random pack of cigarettes to their car and smoked one. So after my dad told us the story and we gave him a hard time about it he added the cherry on top of this story…they were smoking Virginia Slims. To this day I'll ask my dad if he needs a smoke, and he usually says they aren’t his kind (at least if they aren’t Virginia Slims).

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Southern Talk

I had mentioned in previous post that I hoped to share the cool southern phrases that I learn while down in Memphis. Well I’m starting to realize that I can’t just wait till the end to share all of them because I will forget…seriously my mind becomes so numb down here. It is only week 2 and I’m having a hard time focusing and it is about impossible to think of anything besides my project. So I will share short stories as they come up down here.

This evening the crew and I went out to eat at Amerigos (an awesome Italian restaurant). I always love eating there because everyone is in suit and tie besides us that show up in extremely dirty jeans and t-shirts. Well this place is rather fancy with the whole dimmed lights, dressed up waiters, etc, and the waiter comes over to our table and says “How are ya’ll doing tonight?” Now I think ya’ll is a fine word to use, but it certainly seems out of place in a fine dining kind of place. This made me laugh as it reminded me of another southern conversation I had.

During the my last test in Memphis, Eric and I had both been in Memphis for a couple of months by the time the eperiment was finishing up. We had a penthouse room at a local hotel that had an upstairs room and a downstairs one. Eric came walking down the stairs, pointed at a box, and said “are you fixing to use that box?” I responded with “I reckon.” We both caught it at the same time and realized that neither of us was joking…it kind of freaked us out. We looked at each other and both agreed that we had been in Memphis way too long.

Saturday, July 08, 2006

A Weird Night

Last night I hung out with Sherry and we watched a couple of movies and tried the Simpson’s Trivia (I made the leader board, but I don’t think I’ll stay on the leader board…I’m "Pigeon"). I stayed up kind of late and then went to bed. The entire night I was having stupid dreams about work. I think one I was assembling a manifold for our static pressure measurements and another one I was installing the inflatable seal on the test model. The weird part was that throughout all the dreams there was a constant beeping noise. After a few of these dreams I finally decided that I had to find out where it was coming from (still within my dream), and I looked at the piece of hose I was holding and it beeped again. I was so surprised but somehow content to know that the beeping was coming from the hose. So I continued with my dream, but it kept beeping and really started to annoy me. I became aware that I was dreaming and told myself that I can control this because it is my dream, but to my surprise I couldn’t control it. So I decided I had to wake up to figure this out.

I awoke, looked at the clock that read 6am, and waited for the beep…sure enough something in my apartment was beeping. I try to ignore it…sleepy logic is quite humorous. But it was too annoying so I get up to find it. I decide it must be the fire alarm and head out into the kitchen to check it and as soon as I walk out there the beep comes from my behind me. I then start getting really annoyed looking all over the place for this beep until I remember I have a CO detector in my apartment. I find it and take the batteries out and try to go back to sleep.

As I lay there I know keep thinking that it was going off because there was CO in my apartment…even though there is no reason it should be. I finally decided that I would just convince myself that I’m fine because I’m lying next to an open window with a fan blowing on me from outside. Unfortunately I was not satisfied with that…after a half hour of laying there I got up, plugged in the alarm, confirmed that it was a low battery warning, and then went back to bed. I slept like a baby until around noon…sweet, sweet rest.

Thursday, July 06, 2006

Pigeon

For the Fourth of July I made a visit up north to my hometown of Pigeon. It is a small farming community in the Thumb of Michigan. My house is located just north of town…in fact my backyard is what separates the town from our house.

My backyard and the off to the left Pigeon Co-op
Our house has been in our family for 99 years (it’ll be 100 years on April 20th, 2007…my 26th birthday). I’ve always felt a special attachment to the house…perhaps because we both became Elbings on the same day.

My home...isn't she beautiful

So let me share my favorite story related to this house. When my grandma lived in this house she had told the family that every 10 years a ball of light would engulf the house, condense to a small ball in front of the upstairs window (the one in the middle of the picture), come into the house, go down the stairs, and turn off her television. My grandma passed away and our family moved into the house. One night, about 2 years after moving into the house, I was walking to my bedroom in the dark (I rarely turn hallway lights on in the house…even to this day). All of a sudden the entire house was surrounded in light…I could see bright light from every window. I knew something was weird because the light was different then when a car passes by the house. I was staring straight out the middle upstairs window when I saw the light condense down to a ball just outside of the window. Suddenly it shot through the window and hit me in the stomach. At this point I know anyone who doesn’t know me will think I'm crazy, but when I looked where the light had hit me I could see through my stomach. This obviously totally freaked me out, and I proceeded to run into my sister’s room and shake her. I continued to shake her until my mom made it upstairs to pull me off. To this day I don’t know what happened, but it certainly is the freakiest thing. The following day we asked the neighbors if they noticed anything unusual about our house the previous night, and they said that our house was all lit up.

Saturday, July 01, 2006

Naval Security

I just got back to Michigan last night from my first week in Memphis. Everything is going quite well…there was a small explosion that I caused but no damage was done (to people or equipment). One of the most intriguing aspects of working on a “secure” naval research facility is how the rules change constantly. Some times they are really strict about having foreign nationals carefully watched (this time since Laetitia is French we can't go past the front gate until another car comes to lead us in) and other times it seems like they don’t care (the previous test we once had to go back to let the guards know we had a foreign national with us). So for this post I decided to post my top 5 naval security moments from the Navy’s Large Cavitation Channel (LCC).

1) During the first test I was involved in (Fall 2004 – Hiplate Phase III) the truck full of equipment was being unloaded when some how a dog got into the facility. All the security guards began to chase the dog to catch it…the dog won.

2) During the previous experiment (Winter 2006 – Hiplate Phase IV) the military police ran security for a week while the normal guards went away for some training. The military police follow the letter of the law, so when they searched our car in the morning they had each individual open up their bags. Well the first morning Eric was really annoyed by it and told the guard to open it up themselves, but they aren’t allowed to touch our bags. So after a few minutes Eric finally caved in and started pulling out all of his clothes from the bag while the guard kept saying "you don’t have to take out everything." But Eric just kept going and saying “here look at my underwear” or “make sure you search the entire bag I might have hidden something in here.” I don’t know if this sounds as funny as it actually was…I was cracking up the whole time.

3) Early during the Winter 2006 test Eric and I were working inside when one of the security guards came in to let Eric know that a package had arrived for him. We were waiting for the arrival of our test model (10 ft by 45 ft large piece of stainless steal), so Eric asked if the package happened to be 50 ft long, obviously joking. The guard responded that he didn’t know since he didn’t take a good look at the package…Eric and I laughed thinking he simply hadn't listened to what Eric said. He heads out to the guard shack and asks the guard where his package was, and they responded with “oh it’s coming around the corner right now.” Eric looks and sure enough it was a 50 ft flatbed semi with our test model on it. I’m really kind of curious what they wanted Eric to do with it…carry it in on his back?

4) Once again during the Winter 2006 test we came driving up to the front gate, and the security guard let us in. We pulled up and were told to pull off to the side to get our car searched like normal. Right then another car pulled up and the guard got all confused. After a couple seconds of thinking he leans over to us and says “man there is another car so I’m just going to have to let you slide this morning.” So since there were actually two cars we didn’t have to get searched…we finally figured out how to beat their security system.

5) This past week (Summer 2006 – Hiplate Phase V) I was driving around Memphis taking care of some odds and ends that needed to be done. I was going to drive back to the facility, but I needed to know if a package I was waiting for had arrived so I called the security guards to ask if any packages for me had been delivered that day. After a long discussion with a security guard I still didn’t know if any packages had been delivered, but they did take down a description of the package (a brown box with my name on it) so they could keep their eyes out for it. Frustrated I headed back to the facility hoping that it really was there so I won’t have to go back out to buy it. I pull up to the front gate and ask the guard if any packages were delivered today (there is only one gate with one guard that watches it), and he responds with “I don’t know if any packages were delivered today but he did see packages a few days earlier.” I really didn’t know what to make of this response so I just smiled and nodded.

While many people find the guards extremely annoying, I find them rather funny. It is always an adventure with them, and for the most part they really are nice guys. I just thought I would share with my readers some of their finer moments on the job.

Sunday, June 25, 2006

Trip to Memphis

This afternoon I arrived in Memphis after two days on the road. The first day was pretty uneventful with the exception of a slight shift in my load. I was driving through Kentucky on a rather bumpy and rough road when suddenly my load shifted weight. Anyone that has had this happened they know that it isn’t too much fun, but it happened right at an exit so I just pulled off and resecured the load. The rest of the day was boring…the coolest thing is that I got to spend the night in Elizabethtown, Kentucky. This was only interesting because a movie was based in this town and Sherry recently wrote an entry about it and reminisced about Memphis.

Then today a couple weird things happened…both of which were rather odd. The first really, really creeped me out. I stopped at a rest area to stretch my legs and go to the bathroom. I walk in to the bathroom and there is a guy that is acting a little odd at the urinal. I ignore him and walk up to go to the bathroom and the guy leans over the divider and looks straight down. I turned to him and asked what in the world did he think he was doing. He simply turned around and walked out…and this guy was a normal looking 60 year old guy. I walked out and looked to see where he went (I was wondering if he was some pervert hanging around so I could try to do something) and I saw him getting into his car with his wife. Seriously that freaked me out…it was definitely not a mistake.

Then I drive on for a few hundred miles and I see these three unmarked police SUVs sitting in the median area of the highway. I drove past and one of them takes off. It follows me for a few miles, but since I wasn’t speeding I really didn’t care. Then he pulled into the opposite lane and drove just behind my truck for a couple miles (this resulted him numerous cars getting piled up behind since I was only going about 60mph). Next he slowly pulls up so he is even with the cab of my truck…I look over at him and as soon as I do this he slams on his brakes and pulls off the road. It was really kind of crazy because he literally just bailed right into the grass median then wiped around to start driving the opposite direction. I have no idea what this was all about but it was interesting.

One other interesting thing is that now I’m back in the south I’m starting to remember all the interesting phrases that you get to hear. I’m sure I’ll make an entry about it at some point, but for a little taste in only two days I’ve heard “if you come across a turtle on a fence post you know he didn’t get there on his own” three times.

Friday, June 23, 2006

Packing for Memphis

Well it is now 9:30pm the night before I leave for Memphis, and I still need to load up plenty of junk for our experiment as well as pack my personal stuff (not to mention do my laundry...probably won't happen). Even though I should be working nonstop I just need a break. Since this is suppose to be my way of procrastinating, I decided I would write a farewell entry...well I hope to keep on posting but I don't think I'll be able to maintain the same pace.

First off I want to thank my crew that really made this project happen...they really need to be thanked because none of them were suppose to be working for me. They are Sherry, Eric, Laetitia (came from France to help for a few months), and Ciara (well she was hired specifically for this project but the work was only a temporary position). I still need their help, but it never hurts to give credit where credit is due.

Laetitia and Sherry in the office

Sherry and Ciara in the office (I think this was Ciara's "interview" for the job)
My plans consist of leaving for Memphis tomorrow around noon and then taking my time getting down there. So with the exception of a few weeks I will be living out of a hotel in Memphis until the middle of September...this isn't going to be fun. The bright side is that if this goes well I will get my PhD rather quickly. Okay so I'll stop rambling and get back to work...sorry for the lame entry, but I can't think and didn't want to work.
Welp see you later...

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Nostalgia

Currently I’m on one of my stints where I listen to Denison Witmer (introduced to me by Kaci Jo) constantly. This most likely was brought on by the book I’m currently reading, Journey of Desire by John Eldredge. The correlation her is that Denison writes a lot of songs about memories from his past relationships and at the beginning of the Journey of Desire John writes about echoes from our past. He writes “sometimes these moments go unrecognized as they unfold, but their secret comes to us years later in our longing to relive them.” Denison has one song, You and Me, that really captures for me those moments when out of the blue you are reminded of one of those past moments.

You would not believe how this came up
Two apartments ago in downtown
A picture of you sleeping in my chair
I sang songs to you because I cared...

…There’s a little section of my town
That reminds me of the place you live
Cherry blossoms blow out of the trees
I get lost but I now that I’ve seen
Denison WitmerYou and Me

For me this happens every once in awhile, but I’m always surprised by the object or place or smell that will trigger it. For example a couple of weeks ago I was reading in my apartment when a light breeze came in through the window…the smell reminded me of my old girlfriend’s house. Suddenly I’m sitting on her couch watching Rocky and playing footsie. What I find fascinating is that in those brief moments two distinctly different emotions hit me…joy and sorrow. The first gut reaction is joy because that was a happy memory filled with joy and love, but then the sorrow sets in because I know how that story ends. Then after the momentary flood of emotion I tend to be left with a pleasant feeling because I really do look back on those times glad they happened.

An interesting side topic is how the memory can replace the actual person or event. C.S. Lewis wrote in A Grief Observed about his fear that the memory of his recently deceased wife would replace the actual person. He states that once he caught himself saying “H. [his wife] wouldn’t have liked that.” Even if he was her husband he has no right to state what she would have done in that situation then lord it over her other loved ones. While this is slightly off topic I do feel it relates because it seems to me that those types of memories over time change from a real life event into some type of illusion (for lack of a better term).

Now shifting my focus back to that instance of sorrow that comes out of the blue on the heals of joy. The real irony about that situation is if we look at the complete opposite situation, someone reminiscing about a past trial. For me I think back to my first two weeks in Memphis working at the LCC. In those two weeks I worked on average 16 hours a day, got caught on fire, didn’t have time to purchase a meal the first week so I ate a bag of chips for lunch and a bag for dinner, and had no guarantee of future pay from this work. Even though I hated almost every minute of those two weeks, now I recall those stories with a smile on my face and almost wish that others could go through the experience. So this brings up the question of why do we look back on some joyful moments with sorrow and some painful times with joy?

I think the answer to both of these questions is hope. When thinking about the bad times you recall them with the knowledge that you made it through and are a better person for it. This fills one with hope that when other trials of comparable magnitude rise up against them they will be able to overcome the trial based on past experience. On the other hand as I’ve said the sorrow that one feels when remembering a past love is the result of the knowledge of how the story ends. You recall that joy knowing that it doesn’t have a happy ending and that that moment will never be experienced again…there is no hope in that. When I began writing this entry I had no intention of writing about hope, but I suppose I should have seen it coming. As a Christian I know that hope is the central theme of our lifes…we live in a fallen world but have a hope founded in the resurrection of Christ for a happy ending to this story. “…we also rejoice in our sufferings because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not disappoint us because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit…” (Romans 5:3-5)

Sunday, June 18, 2006

Father's Day and Renee's Birthday

I actually went and wrote a different entry last night, but I decided that it could wait. In fact it has to wait because today is a very special day. It is Father’s Day as well as my sister Renee’s birthday. This happens every few years that the two days fall on each other, and it is so fitting because Renee' is the oldest child and therefore her birthday marks the beginning of fatherhood for my dad. So I suppose this would be a good time to introduce my readers to the family...

Teresa (her eyes are always closed in pics), dad (Ron), and mom (Ann)


The Siblings - Teresa (eyes kind of open), me, and Renee'

Happy Father's Day Dad

Happy Birthday Renee'

Friday, June 16, 2006

Trip to DC

I just got back from a short trip to our nation’s capital for a meeting about the research project I’ve been working on. It was DARPA’s (Defense Advance Research Projects Agency) Friction Drag Reduction Program primary investigator’s meeting. Basically all the groups that are involved in the program (Michigan, Stanford, General Dynamics, and DARPA/Government team) got together to discuss the status of the program and plans for our upcoming experiment. Now I know that everyone is hoping that I’ll give an extremely detailed account of this 10 hour meeting, but I’m sorry I’m just too tired to write all that.

As a general rule I don’t talk much about what I do with respect to work…and for the most part I think everyone is happy with that. However I will somewhat break my rule and share briefly what it is that I do (I wanted to write a blog and as a result of only talking about the project for over 24 hours now I really don’t have anything else to share…don’t worry I’m only giving a brief/non-technical summary). My PhD research is focused on the reducing of drag on ships by adding polymer solution or bubbles into the water. The core dataset that I will need for my PhD will come from this upcoming test at the US Navy’s LCC in Memphis (we use this water tunnel because it is the largest of its kind in the world). This particular test is extremely long (starts in one week and ends in September) and as always very difficult (physically and mentally). I really don’t know what to say about the research without getting into the technical stuff, but basically we squirt out some snot-like substance that allows a ship to move with less power.

As the project manager I have quite a bit of responsibility and that leads to plenty of annoying things that I wish I didn’t have to deal with. However there are little things that I try to be cool about but in reality I’m kind of proud of. Sometimes (in the rare moments when I’m not feeling overwhelmed) I think about how cool it is to be trusted with the responsibility of executing a large scale experiment. At the end of the meeting the main man at DARPA turned to me and said “good luck Brian…it is all in your hands now.” I think this statement really best summarizes my situation. The final part underlines the feeling of trust that I believe the group has give me. Then the good luck part says essentially you have a lot of difficult work ahead of you in order to accomplish the goals laid before you. I figure the bad side of it is going to be there regardless so I better enjoy the upside while it last because once the test is over all power will vanish…as my advisor said “the end of a PhD is the most vulnerable time for a grad student because their usefulness to the advisor is peaking but they need the advisor to give them their degree.”

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Men and Women

I was going to write a post about my weekend visiting with my friend Sara and catching The Big Ticket (a Christian music festival...it was a lot of fun), but I had promised Sherry awhile ago that I would write a post about men and women. Since I’ll be leaving for Memphis in less than two weeks I decided to get this one out of the way (once I leave for Memphis updates will become more rare).

I began thinking about this a few weeks ago when Sherry said something to the effect of “men and women are equal…well I know you don’t think that.” Now I think she was trying to just give me a hard time, but when she said it I felt I had to fight such a claim. I then went to get some lunch and realized that yeah I do think men and women aren’t equal. However not equal doesn’t mean that one is greater than the other but simply that they are not the same. It is the equivalent of saying that A is not equal to 1…all this means is that they are different. I think this is pretty obvious and don’t think anyone that would read this would disagree, but I think where there can be some disagreement is as to what extent they are different. I could take this on from many angles, but I’m only going to focus on friendship (specifically how the presence of a woman can affect a group of friends).

I’ve selected friendship because about the same time that I began thinking about this I was reading “The Four Loves” by C.S. Lewis and he had an interesting chapter on friendship. Now I agree with most of what Lewis writes, but man what he put in there really sounded sexist (I’m going to assume that this opinion is a result of my ignorance because such a sentiment doesn’t show up elsewhere in his writings). Anyway, basically he raised the problem of having men and women being friends…how the simple fact of having a woman in a group of men can take away from the group. While I don’t think that is at the general rule, I do believe that can be the case. The church I attend forms the best example of how this can be. There are plenty of groups that form within the church that are coed, but some just have to be only men or women. I know that both my bible study and discipleship groups would be less effective if there was a single woman in the group. These groups require the separation of sexes for a number of reasons, but the one that is most universal is that men and women interact differently. The simple fact is that if I’m hanging out with 5 guys we will interact much differently then if there are 4 guys and a girl. Men tend to be much more blunt when they are trying to say things and women tend to be much more expressive. When the group is coed both sides tend to compromise, but when I’m with the guys few words are spoken and each one means exactly what was stated. I’ve also have been able to be in the presence of a group of girls (the closest I’ve come to a purely women group was my neighbors that would let me eat food while they watched Sex in the City…the rule was I could eat but not talk), and there was so much being said that I never had a clue what topic was being discussed even though they all seemed quite fine with the interaction. These two differences don’t mean much but when interaction between sexes takes place without the compromise problems tend to arise. I see this problem lived out in the lab when I’m working with Sherry and I’m getting frustrated with something…in those moments I tend to talk more like I would to a guy (very bluntly), which typically results in me offending her. Fortunately we communicate well and usually don’t have any major problems…she even has recognized when I’m thinking that if she were a guy this won’t be a problem.

The biggest point to make is that the above problem really isn’t all that big of a deal if you admit that each side is simply different, but what becomes a real problem is when we try to say that they are the same. Anyone that runs into this problem and believes that men and women are essentially the same will be extra frustrated because they can’t understand why the opposite sex simply doesn’t act in a similar fashion to them. I also want to point out that I wasn’t trying to say that men and women can’t be friends. I have plenty of genuine friendships with women. However my friendships with women are distinctly different from my male friendships.

Thursday, June 08, 2006

Heaven

As a Christian I think this should be an easy topic to discuss, but it is actually the one that I have the most difficult time with. Recently my friend Sherry asked me what heaven would be like (or at least what I thought it would be like). I basically avoided the question as best I could. Also after giving my slice of life I was suppose to lead a Bible study on heaven since the sermon that followed was about it…I was so nervous and really didn't want to have to lead that one (I’ll take on the topic of hell before heaven). The problem is almost every passage that talks about heaven in detail is in Revelations…only a brave man tries to explain that book with confidence. However, Sherry being the persistent inquirer kept asking me questions, and as a result I’ve been able to learn more about my own faith…this is why I love apologetics. I would like to share two of these realizations about heaven.

First it became clear why there aren’t many descriptions about what heaven will be like (at least in any detail). The only thing that a detailed picture of heaven could do would be to keep people out of it. I expect it to be more wonderful than my wildest dreams, but that isn’t and can’t be the reason for my desire to go there. God has revealed Himself to us in scripture and tells us that in heaven we will be with Him. That fact alone should make me want to be there more than anything…if it doesn’t than that shows that my heart doesn’t desire to be with God. Had He given a detailed description of heaven in the Bible there would be some people that would spend their lives dreaming about the joy that awaits them in heaven, but never caring about God…to those it would be so much more likely for God to say “I never knew you. Away from me…” (Matthew 7:21-23) in the end.

Another interesting question that arose was about loved ones being with us…the basic question would be something along the lines of “how could I be happy knowing that my loved ones were in hell?” That was a question that I never had a good answer for. Sherry and I were talking about it, and when I finally made an attempt to describe my vision of heaven somewhat of an answer came to light. Part of my difficultly with this question is that my family is Christian so there is some comfort there that a new believer won’t have…basically I feel like a hypocrite to try and convince them that this question isn’t a problem. However in reality my vision of heaven has never included my family…I haven’t found anywhere in scripture where it is promised that we will know who our earthly family was when we are there (I not saying I rule out the possibility but that I don’t see where this is a given). For this reason I feel more comfortable with the question because since my heavenly view is just God and myself there can’t be any hypocrisy. If anyone struggles with this possibility then they are choosing someone else over God. If you choose anything over God (even your family…”Anyone who loves his father or mother more than me is not worthy of me…” Matthew 10:37-39) you aren’t choosing to be with God. This puts them in the same situation as above because they would now be looking at heaven as a way to continue the relationships that they actually care about, but God has prepared heaven as a place for us to be with Him.

I think I did a poor job explaining what I recently came to terms with, but the simple fact (one that I’ve always known but better understand now) is that God has to be our focus and the one we love above all others. He is not one that can be used to get what we want (whether it be more time with our family after we die or the fulfillment of our earthly desires), but He loves us and heaven awaits for those that love Him above all.

Sunday, June 04, 2006

My First Bar Fight

Well last night I was able to have "a first"…for the first time in my life I was kicked out of a bar. Well to be completely honest after being told that I was kicked out they did come back to me and say that if I wanted to stay I could…heck no I won’t let them take away this first in my life. Alright maybe it isn’t really being kicked out if they give you the option to stay, but at least I can say I was in my first ever bar fight.

I haven’t been in all that many fights in my lifetime, but certainly more than none. It has been about 3 years since I was in my last fight (see Blood and Pepper). Then last night I got into a little something with a guy at the bar. I don’t know if I would call it a “fight” since there wasn’t a single punch thrown, but it was enough to get “kicked out” of the bar. The whole thing was so stupid…basically the guy was wearing a super old shirt that had a piece of it ready to fall of the back. So this girl that I was with got the urge to try and pull it off…the guy turns around and starts talking to her. I really didn’t think it would be a big, but as it turns out this guy’s Michigan Club Soccer shirt was his most precious possession. Although after a few minutes of talking the guy gets up to leave, walks over to me, leans over, and says “these three girls you are with are a bunch of c#*ts.” To which I grabbed him by the shirt and planned to share with him what my feelings about him were and what I would do to him if he wanted to keep talking. However to my surprise he possessed more of a backbone then I thought and went and grabbed me by my shirt. It was clear he didn’t want to fight because all he was trying to do was pull me to the side so I couldn’t square up to him. Fortunately Jillian had my back immediately and began hitting over the head and digging her fingernails into his side. Then after a second I was able to get my balance and got to his side (where I had a clean shot at him, but I’m a lover not a fighter so I didn’t do anything). About this time the bouncer showed up and the guy was immediately out of there. I told the bouncer what had happened and he said I had to get kicked out, but while I was waiting to pay my tab he came back and told me the manager said I could stay if I wanted to. The funny thing about it is that I believe the guy’s Michigan Club Soccer shirt was ripped…I believe someone said that afterwards.

I guess now I should be asking myself if my response was very Christian like…I think the obvious answer is that it wasn’t, but I’m not so sure. Being a Christian doesn’t mean that you have to be spineless. As John Eldredge said in either “Wild at Heart” or “Waking the Dead” modern day Christianity has pruned the claws off of the Lion of Judah. Now I don’t want to over analyze this situation, so I’m just going to say that I will avoid a fight at all cost to my own pride, but I will be happy to fight for any friend. In this case if he had said something disparaging to say about myself I know I won’t have done anything, but to say something about the girls really gave me no choice.