Saturday, 31st of July, 2004
Went out to Eckert's Farm in Belleville for some blackberry picking with Haley and Nolan this morning. Today is their first annual "Blackberry festival". One of the activities was a fiddling contest, and while we were there lots of kids got up in front of everyone and played about 3 fiddle tunes each. It was really cool! There were some other interesting things there too, like a guy making twisted ropes using a traditional machine, and home-made root beer. Tasty.
Friday, 30th of July, 2004
They're playing Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban at the St. Louis Science Center Onminmax domed IMAX theatre, and so my brother, Haley, Mairin, Nolan, and I went to go see it tonight. They digitally remastered the movie, so they slapped the wide rectangular image in the middle of the dome - so it wasn't a fully up-and-down wrap-around experience, but it was plenty wrap-around side-to-side. It took a few minutes to get used to having images projected into your periphery, but after that it was cool to see stuff so big. Better than the impressive image, though, is the audio - movie theaters in St. Louis have generally mediocre sound systems, so watching a 2.5 hour film in the nice sound system at the Omnimax was definitely a treat.
Picture - Wow, waxing the car with a polisher is so much more effective - this is the beading action on the door 2 weeks after I waxed it!
Saturday, 24th of July, 2004
We're starting to get a bit of a European flair here in downtown Clayton. There's been a London Taxi driving around - quite stylish. This picture, however, is on the other end of the spectrum, as one company decided to purchase a small 3-wheeled delivery vehicle. Or did someone steal the Parking Control's Interceptor kart and repaint it?
Friday, 23rd of July, 2004
Picture - Unlike the 3-wheeled vehicle, you can fit all the members of a string quartet, their instruments, 4 black metal stands, music, and changes of clothes, all into my car. And that's with the back seat left completely upright.
Tuesday, 20th of July, 2004
Picture - A clip from our church's VBS program tonight.
On Sunday, 10th of December, 2000, I took SelectSmart.com's belief system selector, and I was impressed that it gave me a dead-on 100% score on Mainline to Conservative Protestant. Since then, they've changed the test a little, and I think my beliefs have changed a little maybe, but it's definitely not as accurate anymore. It takes the top 4 to nail down the correct "guess". The results are the following:
- Seventh Day Adventist (100%)
- Eastern Orthodox (99%)
- Roman Catholic (99%)
- Mainline - Conservative Christian Protestant (97%)
I took the Evangelical Denominations quiz 3.5 years ago too, and got General Baptist Churches for #1, and Southern Baptist for #2. Today, I take it, and I get Orthodox Presbyterian Church for #1, Lutheran Church Missouri Synod for #2, and Southern Baptist for #3.
Saturday, 17th of July, 2004
Picture - "Lane Closures Ahead", but that doesn't phase this motorist. With the road construction that has been going on on Hanley road recently, one can understand the recent modifications to this Ford F350 crew cab. The headlights of my mean machine are reflected in the tailgate. This thing makes SUVs look small.
Jibjab - This Land - Best political Flash movie I've ever seen!
Cooking things I've discovered in the last week or so:
- The Chicken Quesadilla TV dinner package does not come with enough seasoning - adding some taco seasoning from the package was enough to make it more interesting.
- Taco seasoning saves the day again. Searching for a snack, the only thing remotely close in the refrigerator are hot dogs. Warm up the hot dogs, add taco seasoning, and put cheese on top of it, and the result is something close to a Chilli Cheese Dog - much better than just a hot dog.
- I was making green beans tonight, and when I tasted one it tasted like, well, green beans, which is boring. So while they were still hot, I drained them, and threw a slice of butter on it, and it tasted three times better after the butter had time to melt through.
- When substituting, sometimes you discover that a combination of substitutes may taste better. Fried chicken tasted much better than I remember it, tonight, and I wonder if that has anything to do with the fact that I didn't have enough vegetable oil to do fried chicken. So I just topped off the pan with some olive oil too.
- I don't follow receipes, for the most part, so it's important to keep watch on the progress of the food. Apparently the oil combination was not deep enough for the fried chicken, still, which left the insides of the chicken breasts not-so-well-cooked. Seeing that the outside is well done and about to become overdone, I took the chicken out, chopped it up according to how well it was done, and put it back in the frying pan for the appropriate amount of time for each piece.
Friday, 16th of July, 2004
Picture - My most impressive parallel parking job yet.
Wednesday, 14th of July, 2004
Picture - "Honey, why doesn't the rear wiper work anymore?" "I don't know, I just replaced it yesterday..."
Picture - The crankshaft pulley I ordered from the Subaru parts department arrived today. As you can see, on Subarus, the harmonic dampener is in the pulley.
Picture - The old pulley had a ton of play in it at idle speed. Something was wrong. After removing it, I discovered it - the notch that keeps it in place has been sheared!
The whole process took under an hour - Subaru designed it so it would be very easy to work on.
Monday, 12th of July, 2004
Went to the NASCAR Speedpark at St. Louis Mills with my brother, Haley, and Mairin today. Only the indoor go-kart track has been completed and is open, but it's still pretty fun. They're electric-powered, which is a different experience - not your usual noisy stuff. The track is small, so you don't even really care that the karts aren't extremely fast, and they did something to make the track surface more slippery than usual so on turn 1 you can't just plow your way through it with full throttle. The consequence, though, is that the karts understeer, so no drift competition here. The electric motors also have much less engine braking characteristics than gasoline engines, and offer no power input when no throttle is applied. That means, when waiting for all the karts to get back into grid, I can let the car slide back and then propel it forward a little, and let it slide back again... in the style of stick shift clutches. Cool. For $5, it was worth the unique experience, and it seems just as fun, if not better, than Swing Around Fun-town in South County. I just can't wait for the outdoor tracks to open.
Saturday, 10th of July, 2004
Subaru WRX? Look again. It's a Kia Rio, and Kia want to sell it, with the body kit and wheels installed, for $14,990 drive-away. That's genius.
Friday, 9th of July, 2004
Ugh... HP retail products don't make life any easier. One of my clients buys an HP "Media Center Photosmart PC", and when I turn it on for the first time it takes about half an hour to finish some system installation before it's ready to use. Then, up comes the desktop and about 25 icons on the screen for some sort of "special offer". Great - a computer preloaded with advertisements. It comes with demo versions of all sorts of junk - not just your usual AOL and MSN - and it even came with the 60-day trial of MS Office, while they buried the full-functioning Microsoft Works into some menu in the Programs called "Productivity".
And can HP make installing a printer any more complicated? The "Photosmart" PC came with about 600MB of printer drivers/software (that's right!), but it didn't have the driver for the HP PSC 2410 Photosmart All-in-One that she bought. This is one of those "plug-and-play" printers that they tell you not to plug into the conmputer until you install the software. So I put in the software, and it tells me a previous version of the Photosmart software is already installed (yeah, it's a brand new computer, and it was pre-installed, but obviously the wrong one) so it spends about 20 minutes removing parts of that 600MB worth of printer software that was pre-installed. Then it finally asks me to plug in the printer, and I plug it in, and it runs for a few more minutes installing stuff before finally completing. Ugh. Well at least all the pile of software seems to be something that is intended to improve user-friendliness, so that when you pop a flash memory card full of pictures into the All-in-One, a screen on the computer pops up asking you if you want to transfer the pictures to the HP Photo Sharing service (which you have to pay for).
Wednesday, 7th of July, 2004
Now that power has been restored to the Subaru dealership, I was able to order some new bulbs to replace the burned-out ones in the HVAC controls. Pretty...
Tuesday, 6th of July, 2004
A storm ripped through St. Louis last night, and 115,000 customers in the area were without power all night and most of the morning - an area that includes much of downtown Clayton, and everything along Delmar from I-170 going east to who knows where. Some areas are estimated to get their power back tomorrow at noon. So with the power out, there isn't much left to do except work on my car. I grabbed the HVAC controls that I pulled from the salvage yard last year and decided to make the swap. But first I have to see if it works, so I install the "new" one without removing the old one. The result is a hilarious looking setup:
Picture - Dual HVAC controls
The power came back on here at noon, but shut down again at around 15:30, and didn't come back until the evening.
Sunday, 4th of July, 2004
Picture - Lots of United Airlines airplanes at the Chicago O'Hare International Airport. I arrived back from my trip to Poland, today. I went with my church, Parkway Baptist Church, on a trip to Warsaw and Krakow, Poland, to perform concerts, conduct a Day Camp for children in their community, and conduct English discussion groups for young people to learn English from a native speaker. We partnered with the First Baptist Church of Warsaw.
Saturday, 3rd of July, 2004
We finished up our day at Krakow today, and rode the train back to Warsaw to fly back to the United States. This morning, though, I discovered a unique Polish pastry that uses rhubarb. It was yummy.
Picture - A street in Krakow.
Picture - Same street, closer view of the Mariacki Church
Picture - Very close view of the Mariacki Church
Picture - Subaru Forester Turbo in the square at Krakow, near Mariacki Church
Picture - A restaurant established in 1364, also where the king invited royalty from all over Europe to gather.
Picture - Another church in Krakow, with statues of the twelve apostles in front.
Picture - A very old stone church.
Picture - Some of the woodworking shops in Krakow were incredible - there are some cool toys here!
Picture - Wooden dachshund toys - the Polish people love dachshunds.
Picture - The castle in Krakow.
Picture - One of the castle towers.
Picture - The palace in the castle. Krakow was the capital of Poland in the 17th century.
Picture - A dome made completely of gold.
Picture - Inside the palace square.
Friday, 2nd of July, 2004
We left Warsaw today and hopped on a train to Krakow. The trains are narrower here than in the U.S. and Taiwan, from what I can see. I also noticed that they use concrete for all their poles holding up power lines. It was definitely very weird looking to me. From Krakow, we took a bus to Auschwitz and Birkenau, to visit the site and museum of where the Nazis exterminated people, including over a million Polish Jews.
Picture - A prewar building, half-destroyed but still usable.
Picture - Construction on the World Trade Center in Warsaw.
Picture - Construction on a french fries tower at Mcdonald's.
Picture - Double electrified fences.
Picture - "Arbeit Macht Frei", or "work makes freedom". I flipped this picture because it was a better photo from this side.
Picture - A look out the window of one of the buildings. The window panes are sand glass, and you can see the artefacts.
Picture - The Nazis accumulated the hair of victims to use.
Picture - There was a room full of it.
Picture - A room full of brushes.
Picture - Accumulation of glasses.
Picture - More...
Picture - Accumulation of prosthetics.
Picture - Room full of shoes.
Picture - Some of the shoes are very pretty - like this wooden one.
Picture - There were almost two dozen buildings that were museums, and each one's hallways were lined with pictures of victims of Auschwitz.
Picture - A "standing cell", where the prisoner would be forced into the cell through the small door and be shut in total darkness. The first two cells have been dismantled so we can see it.
Picture - Double electrified fences, with watch towers, so escape is impossible.
Picture - The incinerators used to burn dead bodies. There was a turntable on a rail that allowed simultaneous burning of many bodies. Nazis forced some of the Jews themselves to push the carts on rails with the dead bodies. Those who did obey were immediately killed, and those who stayed alive and followed orders must have had tons of mental suffering.
Picture - The foundations and chimneys of barracks buildings in Birkenau.
Picture - One of the gates at Birkenau.
Picture - Carvings on the wall at one of the women's barracks.
Picture - More carvings.
Picture - Sleeping bunks.
Picture - Part of the gas chamber building that has been destroyed.
Picture - The remains of the undressing area before victims were forced into the gas chambers.
Picture - The inside of one of the men's barracks.
Picture - The building that now houses the fabric market in Krakow
Thursday, 1st of July, 2004
Last full day in Warsaw. For lunch today, we had strawberry noodles. That's right, sweet, reddish-pinkish, strawberry noodles. It was yummy, but a lot of sweets for one meal.
Picture - A happy day camper with her bracelet.
The royal botanical gardens:
Picture - This is a tree that didn't grow upwards, initially.
Picture - This palace was built so that there was water surrounding it, in the style of Venice.
Picture - Water surrounding the palace, complete with bridges.
Picture - The ampitheatre, also surrounding by water.
Picture - Holes in the palace walls where Nazis tried to put dynamite into it to destroy it.
Picture - The Frederick Chopin memorial
Picture - Chopin's birthplace
Holy Cross Church:
Picture - The alter.
Picture - People praying inside Holy Cross Church.
Picture - The column in the church where Chopin's heart is buried.
Picture - Closer view.
Picture - Chopin's column, and some view of the ceiling.
Picture - Sculpture outside the Holy Cross Church.
Picture - We passed by the President's home again.
Picture - A monument to one of Poland's many great poets.
St. Anna Church:
Picture - Beautiful ceiling.
Picture - The alter. The green globe represents the heavens.
Picture - The organ.
Picture - More of the ceiling.
Picture - Wall details.
Picture - Closer look at the organ.
Picture - A portrayal of the cross and Jesus in the foyer of the church.
Where do we draw the line between symbolism and idolatry? "You shall have no other gods before me. You shall not make your yourself an idol in the form of anything in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the waters below." - Exodus 20:3-4. The purpose of stained-glass windows and paintings on the walls and ceilings of churches was for communication, since most of the population was illiterate, and yet somehow needed a way of being able to see God's word. Music does the same, as well as other forms of art. Symbols also communicate in the same way. However, these symbols become idols when we liken them to be God himself, or even something greater than God. It's when we elevate the human creation (the music, art, or symbol) to something more than what it really is. Idolatry is from the heart. We were created to worship God, the invisible and omnipresent creator of the universe - it is when we offer praises to a symbol, or pray to a symbol, that it is idolatry. Having a symbol or an environment (like a church) to remind you of things when praying to God, is probably not idolatry.
Just about every church I have been to has some sort of symbolism and art in their worship. The cross as a symbol, music, even drama and theater. Any of that can become an idol if one worships, say, the beauty of the music, instead of the beauty of the music that God has created. "Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows." - James 1:17. "So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God." - 1 Corinthians 11:1
A good test, probably, of whether or not something is idolatry or symbolism, is your reliance on it. If a person finds it completely necessary to pray to God at a certain place, or in a certain environment, then they need to ask themselves if they are worshiping the place or environment, or if they are worshiping God, because God is omnipresent, and can be worshipped anywhere and at any time.
Picture - The palace in Old Town Warsaw.
Picture - A couple of our Day Campers perform at the evening concert.
Picture - I played the first movement of Bach's unacommpanied Violin Sonata No. 1.