Posted by: topher274 | July 13, 2010

A New Little Project

Hello :) I’ve been learning more and more about history lately, particularly the history of the modern era.

As with many kinds of learning, it is important to have a broad framework for a subject – so that when you learn something new, you can fit it easily into the framework. That being said, I want to familiarize myself with every decade from 1800-1809 up to the present 2000-2009. Doubtless, I would also start 2010-2019, but as I’m sure many of my readers will know: it’s hard to know what is important when we’re so close to these events.

I suppose this will be a very subjective list of what I think is interesting or important to keep in mind, but that is the way of study guides such as these.

When I finish, I’ll post it here, and you can grab it if you want and/or help me add to it to make it better.

Additionally, if you have any events that you think should be included, please let me know! (I’m thinking of you, Mr. Bildebrandt) This should be fun. I’ll let you know what I come up with! :)

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Posted by: topher274 | July 6, 2010

iTunes U

Many of my readers will know that I am a man of gregarious disposition, and one of my favorite things is meeting new people, particularly when a long conversation follows.

This past weekend, out in western New York, I had the wonderfully good fortune to get invited to a small-town 4th of July parade and picnic by some old college friends. A combination of relaxing by the pond, roasting marshmallows, and other good time-y activities, I was introduced to a couple, some friends of the family, Aaron and Mary.

I think it’s been a while since I’ve met so pleasant, smart, engaged, clear thinking and so well spoken individuals (I’ve been watching too much news). We had a great discussion of various theological, biblical and scientific issues until we were finally conquered by the mosquitoes and the late hour.

It was toward the end of the evening that I mentioned iTunes U in passing to Mary. She had never heard of it. Perhaps you’ve never heard of it either. I know I am severely out of touch, but I suppose I thought just about everyone knew about this incredible quantum leap in higher education, called iTunes U. But if folks as wonderful as Mary and Aaron haven’t heard about it, I think that is more than enough reason to rant and rave a little here :)

iTunes U is a collection the audio and/or video recordings of lectures from the courses of hundreds of colleges and universities around the country and the world. All for free.

Let me say that again and let it sink in. All for free. 600 universities. 250,000 lectures and videos and more besides. All for free. I don’t know about you, but I payed $127,000 for four years of undergraduate education. These universities are charging nothing for a thousand years of undergraduate education.

Now which universities and colleges might these be? Obscure and strange ones like Appalachian State university, Bristol Community college, and Glamorgan? Yes. But also Harvard, Oxford, Cambridge, Yale and many more of the best schools in the world have dozens of courses on iTunes U. Hear me, not just dozens of lectures, dozens of whole courses. Oxford not your cup of tea? There are tons of specialty schools for whatever you like. Would you like to learn Biblical Greek? Concordia Seminary has a 161 video series. Multi-variable Calculus? Take your pick of MIT, UC Berkley, or North Carolina State University.

I do not claim to understand the implication of so much high quality teaching and information all available for free. I indeed have barely scratched the surface. Right now, I’m listening to Geography 20: Globalization by Dr. Robert Acker. I was an Intercultural Studies major in college, but this Berkley course is taught much more from an economics point of view. It is wonderful.

Well, I hope that my frantic writing has come across as true to my flabbergasted state. I suppose I just love learning so much and there is so much out there that I want to know and learn about – this is just too fantastic.

P.S. if you can’t figure out how to access it all, open iTunes, and on the left, click “iTunes Store”. Toward the top of the screen, there will be a dark grey bar, click “iTunes U” on the right. It will show you all the featured lectures and courses, but I recommend clicking on “Universities & Colleges” in the upper right to see the full catalog of schools.

Posted by: topher274 | June 19, 2010

Christian Humanism

I remember the first time I heard the word. It was in 2002, freshman year, first semester, Western Civ with Dr. Howard.

My high school had 3 years of American history, but no world history at all. This Western Civ class was all brand new to me, from Eusebius to Rousseau. As the centuries of western thought trolled on over the course of the semester, we came to Erasmus (whose name I still get confused with Eusebius to this day :) Dr. Howard said that the was a Christian Humanist.

Now what is a Christian Humanist? I grew up to associate negativity with the word ‘humanist’, as a godless and heathen thing to be. It was a practice at the time to train up young people as aspiring “apologists” and acquaint us with various non-Christian philosophies and how they’re wrong. At least something like that. It worked okay on us ;)

By humanism, I think they were referring to Secular Humanism (SeHu) – but more of that anon. Humanism, and SeHu in particular, is the belief that there is intrinsic goodness in humankind. That as we look at the great language, literature, art and science of the world, it seems that there is a beauty and goodness intrinsic in what it means to be human. Humanism takes a very positive view of human nature. All the badness that people do is because of the concatenation of external circumstances. One by one, slowly but surely, they will all be done away with.

I think the best and greatest example of the Humanist dream is Star Trek. Right now, I’m watching through the entire series of Star Trek: The Next Generation. These humans, set a mere three centuries in the future, live a life where all their needs are met, and all are motivated mainly to better themselves, to create and contribute to society, and to explore the cosmos. Indeed, technological innovation is an important kind of beautiful art that further illustrates the glory of the human race.

SeHu is a brand of Humanism that specifically rejects the supernatural, God, religion and the rest. In fact, many secular humanists I’ve heard identify religion as the main external circumstance that promotes badness in humanity. It seems that this was just the next, logical progression from Enlightenment Deism. SeHu still holds close to it’s heart the horrifying destruction of the Thirty Years’ war and other religious conflicts over the years. It sees them all as proof positive that belief in God cheapens human life, encouraging ‘believers’ to kill and/or die for their beliefs. “Is religion inherently violent?” is a question they still ask. This is what we were taught to stand against in youth group and Sunday school – and, as Christians, rightly so.

I am a Christian Humanist. I believe in the goodness and glory of humanity, our art, literature, music, science – the whole nine yards. But I also deeply embrace God, the supernatural, the Bible, and Christian theology. The sinfulness of humanity is real and devastating, and there are many things that cause violence and badness (or evil) in the world.

We are mired in sin and evil but our depravity is not a Total Depravity. True we can do nothing on our own to save ourselves, but both the redeemed and un-redeemed among us continue to create, to invent, and compose. This is God’s design – his image continuing to express itself in us. There are wonderfully positive trends in humanity as we express God’s image, and terribly negative trends when we accept sin and step away from our humanity. But our human identity really is something special. God created us for love, for relationship, for beauty, for glory, and with the spark of creativity in the most robust sense.

The reflex of our suburban Christian sub-culture is to only accept the kind of art, books, movies that are tamely palatable (see here). But I say let us not run from who we are, but let us create, sing, dance, innovate, and carry on to truly express the image of God in us.

I will continue by posting some pictures illustrating what such Christian Humanism brings to mind. Though I could put in great renaissance art, these are all modern examples. If you have anything showing the glory of humanity, leave it in the comments!

This is an autotune science video from SymphonyOfScience.com, which has a couple videos of this type. Severely Secular Humanists, we Christian humanists can appropriate the truth of it. Just beware of Richard Dawkins :) (actually, that’s not a joke)

The Great Leonopteryx from Avatar

The iPhone 4

A sculpture of Tetris blocks falling into an alleyway.

Posted by: topher274 | June 18, 2010

I’m Interested

Well hello everyone :) I have been giving more thought to the sorts of things I should talk about here. Looking back at the many conversations of my life I’ve noticed this trend: I love explaining things. I love telling people about things that really interest me. I suppose I enjoy introducing my friends to the things that excite me.

Anyone who know me will attest that I have diverse and multitudinous interests. Indeed many hapless friends of mine have been caught by my long-winded explanations of esoteric whatnot. Though I’m sure that I’ve been patronized many of these times, often enough the product is mutual wonder and happiness. Mission accomplished.

I’ve never really sat down and thought about all my interests – more like just take them as they come. But I would like to blog about them. So while at work today, I made a little note on my iPhone labeled “My Interests” and just wrote down the things that came to mind. This is in no way an exhaustive list, and perhaps in my next post I’ll put them in a more organized order. I really do think I could write at least one blog post about each and every one of these topics.

If one of these interests you, please let me know!

Tech industry
Social media
Anthropology
Linguistics
Religion
Philosophy
Theology
Neuroscience
Elementary Particle physics
Cosmology
Cosmogony
Biology
Mathematics
Musicals
Music
Arts
Impressionism
Abstract art
Storytelling media
Video games
Role-playing games
Sierra adventure games
Memetics
Phonetics
Phonology
Grammar
Space exploration
Terraforming
Science fiction
Antimatter
Nuclear fusion
News
History
East Asia
Islam
Christianity
Languages
Arabic
Mandarin
Hindi/Urdu
Italian
Sicilian
French
German
Korean
Japanese
Graduate and Post-Graduate Education
Luganda
Swahili
Computers
Electronics
Podcasts
Used book stores
Food
Commensality
The Sea
Geography
Google Earth
Panoramio
Pizza
Chinese food
Korean food
Eating with chopsticks
Sea shanties
Africa
Asia
Politics
Rhetoric
Philology
Jigsaw puzzles
Countries
Jeff Jarvis
Leo Laporte
Disliking conspiracy theories
Chemistry
Exobiology
Tandy 1000 games
Hobbit
Kroz
Audiobooks
Open courseware
Knowing the difference between Mary Tudor and Mary Stewart
Piano chords
P. J. Pretorius
Starbucks
Biblical theology
Biblical history
Development work
Cartography
Gaelic
Coptic
Pipe smoking
Sushi
Dumplings
Liturgy
Eucharist
Anglicanism
North American Anglicanism
Daily Office
Church history
East African revival
The Supernatural world
Country music
Dance music
The progression of Western thought
Mashups
Greek
Hebrew
Superconductors
Dark matter
Dark energy
Big bang
iPhone
Hydronomy
Jesus of Nazareth
Neologisms
Postmodernity
Quantum physics
Harry Potter
The Periodic Table of the Elements
Trans-Actinide elements
Fullerenes
Sitar
Tomography
Directing
Cinematography
Typeface
Language scripts
Wikipedia
Omniglot
The Sun
Cellular biology
Golgi apparatus
Whiskey
Steampunk
Anime
Art nuveau
4 dimensional spacetime
Gross national happiness
Cockney rhyme
4th spacial dimension
NPR
Metrical poetry
The Large Hadron Collider
Foreign affairs
Latin
Modernity
Sub-Saharan Africa
Posted by: topher274 | June 15, 2010

Hiatus might be a bit of an understatement.

As the time-stamps tell me, my last post on this blog was over a year ago, right after I came back from Seoul, South Korea. Indeed, I was a little relieved (surprised?) to see that this blog was still here. How delightful.

So what, you may ask, am I doing here? Hasn’t this last year proven – for the second time – that I am just not meant to be a blogger? Perhaps. But of late there have been a few good nascent and variegated developments that could stand to be developed.

I find this little blog to be my little corner of these vast interwebs. My ever so small platform to say ever so small things to this little readership is indeed important. It is important both now and in the future.

In my current job, I have many long hours a day to listen to so much that the internet has to offer. I listen to audio-books, to lectures, to podcasts and, occasionally, even to music! I find that I am gaining, knowledge yes, but also ideas and new ways of looking at the world that bear discussion and sorting out in a public space.

So many developments in media, politics, religion, entertainment, technology, science, linguistics, scholarship, education, international relationships and tons of other topics keep bubbling to the surface. It is important, at least to me, to talk about these things, coveting your feedback.

I feel a little sheepish bringing back this blog back from the dead (so to speak), but let’s have another crack at it. I haven’t been keeping up on the blogs of y’all either – but I am going to take that up as well. I think that the blogosphere can become a kind of updated enlightenment salon. Let’s see where this goes.

All I’m looking for at the moment is to see who is paying attention to see that I’ve taken up my blog again. Comment to let me know if you’ve read this, along with the address of your own blog and I’ll add it to my own data-stream. If you have some kind of defunct blog – consider taking it back up again. What could it hurt?

– The Good Doctor

Posted by: topher274 | March 12, 2009

Science and Religion part 1

wired_science_religion

By the way, I did end up coming back to the US from South Korea, but I don’t want to talk about it here. I want to keep this blog fairly introspection-free. It just not that kind of blog.

But this post, I’d like to talk about science and religion, those strange bedfellows. I love science and I love religion. Both are exciting, both are controversial and both exibit the sort of innovation that makes any discipline exciting to be a part of. However science and religion can’t seem to get it together. I’d like to talk about that.

The hard thing about science and religion, as far as I can see, is that they are two different systems which have two different systems of rules, different capabilities and different standards for judging the soundness of claims. On their own, science and religion both make wonderful systems that work fairly well, but they keep trying to get into each other’s buisness. It is my contention that science and religion need to stick to their own disciplines and they need to stop making claims outside of their own purview.

Let’s start with definitions. Now these are my own definitions and I would be more than happy to negotiate them with anyone who would like to continue the dialogue:

In this post, I’ll use the term “the world” to mean the physical universe. Common to science and religion and our everyday experience, are little pieces of information called ‘facts’. A fact is an observed state about something in the world, usually the state of a physical body. Facts by themselves are usually quite unimpressive. They can be enigmatic at times, but much more important are how we understand the facts we observe.

Science seeks to understand the world, particularly its physical properties and natural ‘laws’. Science asks questions like, ‘if a ball is dropped from an airplane, how fast will it going when it hits the ground?’ or ‘what cells made out of?’ or, more daring, questions, ‘Why is the universe made of matter instead of anti-matter?’.  Though experimentation is very important to science, it’s not the real crux of the discipline. The real magic of science is the ‘theory’. A Scientific theory is the explanation, or framework into which we try to make the facts fit. For the same body of facts, there may be more than one theory, so science needs a way of discerning the merits of theories to tell if one is better than the other. More on this discernment later.

Religion also seeks to understand the world, but is less concerned with the ‘laws’ concerning physical bodies, but has a larger emphasis on spiritual phenomena and on certain questions of metaphysics. A topic within the broad category of philosophy, the word ‘religion’ has the connotation of its social nature. The theories of religion are called doctrines, and they have about the same weight as a theory does in science, with a few important differences. My perspective on religion being largely a Christian one, for this particular religion seems to be most at odds with science, so it seems.

Science and religion both work reasonably well. Of course, we have seen each go horribly wrong, but most of the time each of them get along pretty well by themselves. At least, as well as might be expected, considering that there are actual people practicing science and religion.

Well I think I’ve gone on long enough. This is clearly going to be a multi-post topic, so I won’t drag you on and on in one post. I’ll probably even start writing the post immediately. There you have it!

Posted by: topher274 | January 15, 2009

Update

 think

Well, as many of you may know (particularly those who knew me in College, not to mention my parents most of all):

When I am far away, and things aren’t going very well, my communication generally drops off. I suppose I figure that, if I have bad news to tell, bad news that very well may blow over soon, then I might as well wait until it does to resume communication.

So do I have bad news to tell? I wish it were that simple, good news and bad news.  Hmmm… My camera broke – I guess that is some clear-cut bad news: something that I’ve been quasi-dreading to tell the ah, blogosphere. And the South Korean Won (the money) is well over 1300 to the dollar: my 1,000,000 won sent home yesterday got me just over $700, that’s not great news either. But I feel as though I’ve got bigger fish to fry.

To join the ranks of a long list of webloggers, going all the way back to the livejournal days (which some are still in, Zach), I think it’s time to bear my soul to the blog. Oh yes, my soul.

I am thinking about not staying, that is, I am thinking about breaking my contract early, and going home. Home to Connecticut and home to Kansas City. Now why would I do such a thing? Why wouldn’t I do such a thing.  Here’s what I’m thinking:

I am not altogether unhappy here. Actually, there are many things that are quite nice, that I am very pleased with. The kids that I teach, particularly the kindergarteners are incredible! I enjoy many of my co-workers and my director is a wonderful man, Mr. Choi (pronounced ‘Chay’) by name. The other foreign teachers, a couple from California have been a blast to get to know. Not to mention that I am currently making more money than any other time in my life.

On the other hand, however, my life is quite difficult. Not only is this job demanding in terms of time and energy, it is very difficult, that is, difficult for me to teach such young children. I have come to love them very much, but I seem to suck at teaching them English. My feedback (from upset/angry parents, through my co-teachers, to me): the children [of some classes] have considerable difficulty understanding me, I go too fast and don’t explain. OR I go too slow and don’t cover all the material I need to.

Now, any thinking person would say – Chris! Just make the appropriate changes and fix the problem! I know. But I am on about the third round of hearing these comments, i.e. (I hear the comments, I make changes, I hear the comments again)3x. It’s very disconcerting. I have always said that, for me, the younger kids are, the harder they are to teach. And there’s only one category harder to teach than elementary school for me: elementary school whose first language is not english. It is also so very difficult to teach a subject (language) about which I have so much passion, but at a level that is too far below what I love about it. It’s like teaching Calculus to kindergarteners – one can only teach a small fraction of what, to me, the subject is really all about.

I can’t help but think back to my life in Kansas City. Sure, it wasn’t all rosy. Sure I couldn’t even make ends meet. But I was so happy. I was (slowly) on my way to the things I cared about. I was teaching at the Daniel Academy – an awesome gig. I was getting closer to joing the Greek faculty at FSM. Gosh, even the summer before I left, when I tutored Jordan Noto in Greek for 9 hours a week for 3 months: one of the fondest memories of my life. The International House of Prayer is a wonderful place for many reasons I won’t bother to ennumerate here, but I just feel like that had to be said.

But more than all this situational stuff, I had in Kansas City, for the first time in a long while, good, healthy friendships. A whole network of friends and accountability and comrades who really understood me and were with me in their hearts. They still are. (A shout out to all those who are with me in your heart!) And here, there are a very few people, two or three of whom maybe do anything close to understanding me. And they are over an hour away.

Those who know me well (and those who have just met me) know that I am a hopeless extrovert, that being with people is what gives me energy and being alone is what drains me. Well, outside of work, excluding every second weekend or so, I see nary a proximate soul with whom to converse, argue against or be with. Probably greater than 60% of my conversations are with my beloved ones over the internet, many of whom have a consonant message: We miss you. When are you coming home? That hurts. They don’t hurt, no, my life hurts.

So, I suppose I’m looking to see if there are any reasons I should go or stay. The good Lord seems to be silent to my queries of what I should do, though it should be noted that my relationship with him has gone somewhat akimbo (bent, I know it’s a stretched metaphor) since I’ve been here. I honestly don’t quite know what to do. I’m just bein’ honest.

I’m sure I’ll continue to talk about this in the posts to come. Uhmmm… Stay.. Tuned?

Posted by: topher274 | November 15, 2008

Debrief, briefly

Back again after another nice and long week at school. Things have been pretty good in the ol’ Seoul and it seems time for an update. (I think I will post-pone the second half of my commute pictures, they’re kind of boring – at least I’m bored with them)

Perhaps the biggest new development is that tonight a Californian couple are coming to stay in my apartment. They are the newest teachers at Brighton, replacing the wonderful Canadian couple who leaves this coming week. This new couple might be staying with me as long as a week, or as short as three days. I pretty well have no idea what to expect, so I am just abuzz with excitement.

By the way, for all those Canada lovers out there reading my blog, Both Sean and Sara, the Canadians grew up in Ancaster, just outside of Hamilton, ON.

At any rate. I’ve been getting some nice logicstics things out of the way: I have my alien resident card, I cajoled my director into advancing my pay a little bit so that I could better take care of these incoming teachers. It seems to be working out well.

Fortunately for all of you out there who would like to see my apartment, It’s about to get a thorough cleaning in preparation for their arrival at 11pm tonight. So I’ll clean and take some pictures before then.

Okay! Sorry if the logistical stuff is mostly boring, but hey – boring is mostly life :)

Posted by: topher274 | November 5, 2008

Quick Note: Recital

This past weekend was my sister Elizabeth’s senior recital. Awesomely, it was videotaped by my aunt and uploaded to the marvelous World Wide Web by my cousin. Please take a listen, she’s so great! I love you Liz!

Liz’s Incredible Recital!

Posted by: topher274 | November 5, 2008

Part of Your World

Well, I have been meaning to continue on this journey by showing you pictures of my apartment here in Seoul, but to be perfectly honest – I haven’t seemed to find the time to clean it up enough to be presentable enough for company.

So instead, I will take you to work with me. I actually have a bit of a long commute – about 45 minutes every morning. It’s so long, I’m going to actually break it into two posts. I wasn’t planning on doing this initially, but as it turns out, my camera battery died right before I got on the subway. So the following is part one: the first half of my commute. Behold the glories of Kkachisan!

cimg0101

Right outside my door, on the fourth floor. Down the flights of stairs,

cimg0103To the front door. Then out into the wider world of the far east.

cimg0104Ooo… A blue truck – This truly is a land of enchantment and mystery! Say, this shot reminds me an awful lot of Myst. Remember Myst everybody?

cimg0106Take a left (i. e. hang a louie) outside of the garage/overhang and peer around the side of the next building to the narrow streets beyond.

cimg0107First block. Mostly brick buildings, some have fun gates like on the left. Dad, you could totally take a 55 passenger bus on these ridiculously narrow streets.

cimg0108Next block. This is the little corner store where I get my water and milk. It is owned and operated by a crazy and cool Korean woman named Patty. She had a joking relationship (technical anthropological term) with Ryan H., the teacher I’m replacing. A fun little shop.

cimg0110Alright, now we’re getting somewhere! The first of three turns. Get ready to turn right! Are you ready? Set… Go!

cimg0111Another nice gate :) The “san” of Kkachisan means ‘mountain’ (cognate of the Mandarin Chinese ‘shan’ [ ] ). The point is, I live near the top of big hill. Going down…

cimg0113Nice. This is the Asia I signed up for. I have just started to skip pictures. The whole album may very well be up on facebook, but this will be the more story-ied version. On another note, there is a certian refreshing freedom with power lines, eh?

cimg0117In the thick of things. These are taken, true to my story, in the morning on my way to work, a little before 9:00 am. The left-facing swastikas on the right are Buddhist, um.. places. If you were wondering. Alright, coming up on the second turn, a left.

cimg0132Left taken. This is the longest stretch of the route to the subway station. I very well may come to know what some or most of these signs mean in the future, but for now, I’m completely lost in translation.

cimg0141Ah, the well worn path. These streets are complete stimulation overload, as might imagine – especially at night. Okay, were coming the the biggest intersection in this little neighborhood. We’re going straight through, but we need to look both ways before we cross the street…

cimg0147

First look left. It seems pretty clear after this taxi passes…

cimg0146

Now look right. If you don’t faint from the advertising, you’re all set :)

cimg0152Last corner. We’re taking a left – just through the market then on to the station.

cimg0159A charming open air market. I didn’t take any pictures inside because not too many places are open at this time of day. I may show you around Kkachisan Market some other time, if I don’t feel too awkward/embarresed/intrusive taking pictures of everybody and everthing.

cimg0165And we reached the station! Um.. wait – oh, we need to look left:

cimg0166There it is! Now if that doesn’t look like something out of Myst or Sci-Fi or the Future I don’t know what does!

cimg0168And here we go, down, down, down into the heart – the very belly of the city. I have a few more pictures, but I think I’ll save them for the next post. I really do live in a very cool place, if a little hard to get to. Imagine trying to give directions to get someone to my house. Or worse yet, imagine following directions to my house!

Well that’s all from me tonight. Love y’all and I’ll repost soon.

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