What I'm Reading
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Sunday, February 27. 2005
So this weekend I was at the Live The Difference Conference at Colwood Pentecostal Church. I made a somewhat spontaneous decision to go. I had no idea who was going, what it was really about, or what kind of talks they were offering; however, it was a worthwhile conference to go to. It was nice dropping everything and just going to it. For a few brief days, all the deadlines of my hectic schedule faded into the background, and didn't matter.
In either case, the general theme of a lot of the talks was essentially, how does Christianity remain relevent in this day and age. So, a lot of ideas involve rethinking how we do church from the ground up. This is loosely known as the Emerging Church. It is a movement to make Christianity accessible to people living in the post-modern world.
It is refreshing to reevaluate how we have done things traditionally in the Christian world. One of the preachers talked about cookie-cutter fluffy model Christian answers to hard questions doesn't cut it any more in the post-modern age. When someone comes to ask for advice, and you merely say, oh, just pray about it, THAT DOESN'T HELP.
Another point was that we need to change our exclusive language into an inclusive language. What do I mean by that? Well, usually communities of professionals, people, etc tend to develop a specialized language that only have meaning to that community. For example, computer geeks have a their own sub language like: "My P4 wintel box is mad 1337." These langauges are gibberish to outsiders. The same can be said about Christianity. The language has to change because more and more people are growing up without any background about the Bible that was traditionally taught in Sunday school. So, when preachers talk, they have to give more background information when they talk. For example, you can't make a subtle reference to a parable of Jesus and expect everyone to know what you're talking about.
A very interesting topic was about how the church can learn from the business world. We can look at the ways their businesses are run and how they're organized. Something that corporations spend a lot of money on is ethos which is defined as "the distinctive spirit of a culture" or "the invisible emotional force." The best example of a company that is driven by ethos is Starbucks. They deliberately choose the decor, the music, the lighting, etc. Using this, they have been able to build a community, a culture, a status symbol, all around a simple cup of coffee. They have built a very inviting environment where people want to come and gather. That sounds like attributes that a church would like to have.
The speaker challenged us to consider what a new person feels when they first enter your church. Does it feel inviting? Do I get wierd glares from people? Do I feel accepted? What are the sites and sounds people will see when they come in? After this session, the people from my church were able to brainstorm a few concrete ideas about applying ethos to our ministry, The Oasis.
Another tool that the church has under-utilized is multimedia. This generation is a very media orientated generation. A quick look at the statistics confirm this. DVD sales were worth $10 billion dollars in America last year, while video game sales were worth $6 billion dollars. Some progress has been made. There's not so much, "that music's pretty good for a Christian band," any more as the quality of the music is on par with mainstream music. Other things however have lagged dramatically behind. The websites for churches are usually pretty low end. This is not so good because in this generation, a lot of people do their research about a service on the Internet. Another thing that is lacking is the use of audio/visual tools in a service. Today's church service for example, there was a pretty brutal powerpoint presentation that blatantly abused audio visual. It was REALLY difficult to watch.
However, where there are weaknesses, there are oppurtunities. They emphasised to the young people of the conference to not ditch church because it sucks. Rather, become agents of change. Help shift the internal church culture to be more accommodating to today. A really good quote I heard about this was, "Just as you've heard you can't complain about government if you didn't vote. So too, you cannot complain about church if you're not helping build it." That is quite insightful as it is very easy to complain as a spectator.
I for one am excited about the prospects of effecting change in my church. Multimedia and technology is one of those things that I am passionately interested in, and it can help change the way our church does business. In my young adults group, The Oasis, we are starting to mobilize in this front. These are exciting times. Thankfully I am old enough now, and have the knowledge and skills to contribute professionally to this area. I was always frustrated growing up that I didn't have what it took, nor the motivation to contribute in this area of the church. Quite honestly, some of the youth ministries that I was a part of before, I didn't believe they were going to succeed, so I didn't bother investing in it. This time, it feels different though. Everyone in the youth group seems to have matured a lot over the years, and we are moving from a season of spiritual winter, to a season of reaping. People seem to actually care about this ministry, and they're taking up leadership positions in it, and lending their time and money to the effort.
More on the conference later...
Friday, February 25. 2005
Google, how good you have been to me. They came out with one of the best search engines currently available, and pretty much everyone uses it. The term google is so widely usedthat it is even part of the English language. Webster's dictionary defines googling as "to search for information about a specific person through the Google search engine."
Great, they got a nice easy to use search engine, how could they possibly top that? Then, they came out with Google News which aggregated hundreds of news stories from all around the world to one site. This is good because it gives you many perspectives on the same story.
Then there was GMail which is Google's free e-mail service. It blew away its competition by offering 1 GIGABYTE of space for e-mail. Their unique approach is that they encourage you to keep all your e-mail, and use their search engine to search and find your e-mail messages. Google was able to generate some hype by making GMail an invitation only service initially. Some people were trading GMail invites as currency almost. Want a free GMail account? Send me a message, to get your free account. Please attach your name and your current e-mail address. I have 50 GMail invites to give away. * A skill-based question may be asked before you collect your prize .
Okay.... three smash hits, Google can't POSSIBLY top that! I was pleasantly proven wrong with Google Maps. It sports some pretty sweet features. You enter in an address in plain text, and it can lookup that location for you. Need driving directions, no problems, put in a second address and you've got the directions, and an estimated time of arrival.
Those features are pretty standard for maps, but here's the ones that really jumped out. Today I was confirming directions to Colwood Pentecostal Church, and decided to use Google Maps. So, I merely type in their address, and Google displays their location, and figures out that it is Colwood Pentecostal, and gives me a link to their website. That is pretty neat that Google derived the name of the building I was going to, and its website from a mere street address that I put in.
Other awesome features is the ability to move around the map without having to reload the webpage. You can zoom in, zoom out, move any direction around the map, and the website doesn't have to reload at all. (Normally on most websites, when you click on a link or something, the whole website has to reload.) This ability was usually restricted to Flash applications or Java applets, but most sites don't use those because they require plug-ins, so you have to have something installed on your computer to get Flash or Java to work. Not Google Maps though, you don't have to install anything to get it to work.
The ability to change content on your screen without reloading the webpage is amazing. If you were to tell me that this was possible two or three years ago, I probably would have said you're crazy and you don't know what you're talking about. Google has definitely pushed the envelope in this. As a web developer, I look at this web application and thought, I must strive to be able to do this. They've set the bar pretty high.
If anyone is geeky enough to want to know about the technical details of Google Maps, there's a pretty good write-up about it here.
Tuesday, February 22. 2005
Today I was at my weekly lunch meeting with Eton. Usually we talk a little bit about the wierd political ideas that float around in university. Anyways, we were talking about our political orientations, and he wasn't sure exactly how right wing he was.
So, I promised Eton a link to a survey that can gauge your political orientation. The political survey can be found here. It consists of 75 questions, and it took me about 20 minutes to complete. I felt this was a better version than the commonly used survey found at politicalcompass.org. This survey is way less ambigious in its questions, and seems to give more consistent results. At politicalcompass.org, my results would waiver quite a bit depending on how I read the question.
I think this survey is interesting for people my age as a lot of young people aren't even registered to vote, and have no idea what their political orientations are. Most will vote the way their parents do, rather than supporting a party that shares their beliefs, values, and ideas. So, perhaps this is a step to make people more aware of politics which would be a good thing.
I finished the survey tonight, and my results are the following:
Axis 1: left/right: +3.6295
Axis 2: idealism/pragmatism: -3.7806
The numbers range from -16 to +16. So for example, on axis 1, if I were -16, that would make me a communist, and if it were +16, it would make me a nazi.
An explanation of axis 1, left/right:
"This axis is quite like the familiar left/right political division. It mixes economic issues -- varying from laisser faire to interventionist perspective -- and social or 'moral' issues such as recommending the death penalty to punish criminals. We choose to give 'the right' positive values on this axis." (Laisser faire is a philosophy of noninterference.)
To give this axis some perspective, the NDP would be considered a left-wing party, while the Conservatives would be considered a right-wing party.
An explanation of axis 2, idealism/pragmatism:
"This axis is much less important than the first. It represents a combination of philosophies you could call 'pragmatism', 'utilitarianism' and so forth, mixing social, religious and economic issues. We have chosen to give an atheist, utilitarian perspective positive values on this axis."
I kind of interpretted this as, negative numbers == more theistic, positive numbers == more atheistic.
To interpret the results, it shows that I'm slightly leaning towards the right, and slightly leaning towards idealism. This is somewhat suprising as other political tests I've taken put me down as a centrist. How is that possible you ask? Easy, I don't trust big corporations (usually supported by the right), and I don't trust unions (usually supported by the left).
Anyways, try out the survey and please post your results in the comments.
Monday, February 21. 2005
After church yesterday, I went to the museum with some of my friends from church. Apparently these friends go to the museum quite often.... I'm guessing because they're very cultured.
Anyways, one of the neat displays that I looked at was on the 1990s. It contained a lot of items from that time period.
It included the following:
I think other things they could have included are: Napster, Y2K, Tickle Me Elmo, Laser pointers, Magic The Gathering cards, Hip Hop Albums, and maybe things related to the Internet. It was the 90s where the Internet started becoming available to the masses.
That actually reminds me of a funny story. I think it was 1995, and I was one of the few people who had an e-mail account. I had this super long e-mail address from FidoNet (precursor to the Internet). It looked something like this: email@example.com. Easy to remember huh? So anyways, I was in high school, and I was using telnet to get at my e-mail from the school's computer lab. This girl comes by and sees me reading messages in this black and white console window, and she asks, what the heck is that? I reply, oh... this is e-mail, it's a way of communicating with people over a network. She replied, uhhh......okay, that's pretty useless, no one but you nerds are going to use it. Hmmm.... ironically, e-mail accounts are fairly ubiquitous now. Most people have a few e-mail accounts. I think I must have a dozen different e-mail accounts at least.
Anyways, it was fun travelling back in time.
This led me thinking though.... what are some things that embodies the 2000's. I can't think of too many things that are distinctly significant to this decade. That's pretty sad considering it's already 2005, and this decade hasn't developed a distinct flavour yet in my opinion (other than political things like terrorism).
Some of the things I thought of include: the infamous implosion of the dot com era, the proliferation of reality shows, the popularity of poker, the health craze that people are in, the rise of terrorism, and collaborative technologies such as blogs and wikis.
Other than that, I couldn't think of any toys that that are of this decade. Music wise, it seems like a lot of the bands from the late 90s have successfully migrated to the new decade. I can't think of any music styles that define this decade. Even fashion... not very distinctive. Although, this could be that I'm somewhat culturally detached being in acadamia for most of this decade so far. On the other hand, anything seems to go in fashion these days. Culturally we seem much more diverse in acceptable fashions, and we don't stress conformity. Maybe I'm also older and more mature, and realize I don't have to follow all these stupid trends like in high school? I'm also probably not aware of what kind of toys that kids play with these days either.
Can anyone think of anything to add to my list of 2000's inventions, culture, and fads? Anyone have some good memories of the 1990s culture they'd like to post?
Sunday, February 20. 2005
This morning I was at church yet again. Before the service, I was running around getting the sound and computer system up and running, and getting the band equipped. Amongst this chaos, one of the board members gave me a sealed letter. I was too busy to read it that second... but I'm sure it was an excommunication letter or something . If I'm going down, I'm taking you with me! j/k.
So later in the afternoon, I opened the letter. To my suprise, it was a letter saying someone had nominated me for the office of the Deacon. (Background information: Every year the church holds elections for the office of the Deacon. Generally, deacons meet to discuss church matters, and are the caretakers of the church.) I have a few people that I suspect may have done this, but I'll never find out since nominations are supposed to be secret. Anyways, I'm flattered, but I don't think I'm ready for such responsibilities. I think I'm still a tad immature to be wielding such powers.
The letter also included expectations the church has for a Deacon, and a really funny line came up. "Expectations of a Deacon: Have a supportive spouse (where applicable)." I'm desperately lacking in this prerequisite. One step at a time people!
Another thing that I think the nominator overlooked was that I am not even eligible to run as a deacon. The church constitution says that if a family member is serving as a deacon, other members of his/her family cannot serve as a deacon at the same time. My dad is currently a deacon, so that would automatically disqualify my running.
In the recent year, there has been suggestions that younger people should be voted into the Board. Conceptually this does sound like a good idea to inject some young blood into leadership, and if that person has a calling, then great. However, I do caution people jumping on the bandwagon of voting young people into such a position just because they're young. This isn't some magic cure-all that will solve all our problems. There are also those who provide a skewed representation of people my age. So, proceed with caution.
Anyways, this is a small glimpse into church organization.
Thursday, February 17. 2005
When you've been in the sound/stage technician business for a long time, you accumulate a lot of interesting stories. Some stories you look back on, and you cry. Some you look back on, and you laugh. Some.... well, a part of you dies. The following story takes place during my high school years. Members of my soundcrew should remember this story quite well.
The senior girls' basketball team had won the provincial championship. The school was putting on a special assembly in the gym, so the soundcrew was deployed to make this happen. We mobilized fairly quickly, and I was talking to the coach to see what he wanted set-up. He told us we needed video set-up because a parent was going to show video footage of the championship game. In addition, the parent was bringing in a video projector for the assembly.
Fine, this was a fairly easy setup. We got our command centre up and running, and got the sound and video systems up. The parent arrives shortly after and brings out his video and projector. I run a power supply to his video projector, and we begin getting him set-up. We do a test run of the video with our sound system's audio, and everything was working great, the video was showing up. Everything is done about 20 minutes before the assembly starts.
The parent then powers down his projector.
CHaN: Ummm.... you might want to keep your projector on.
CHaN: So you can play the video right away when it is time to show it.
Parent: The projector turns on right away, so there's no need.
CHaN: Uhhh.... I'm pretty sure that when you power off your projector, it takes 10 minutes to warm up again.
Parent: Look here son, I'm the head of a school board, and I use this projector all the time. I think I know how this thing $10,000 video projector works.
CHaN: .... fine.
Grumble grumble, I don't bother arguing any further. Your fancy $10,000 toy doesn't impress me.
Anyways, we go over the different hand signals and cues. When I signal the parent, he's supposed to turns on the projector and hit play on his camcorder. Meanwhile we take care of the audio from the camcorder.
The assembly starts, and they're introducing the basketball champions and what not. Then, the tricky part of the show starts, the video presentation. I signal my light guy, and the lights go off. I signal the parent, and he hits play on his camcorder, and turns on the projector. The room is filled with the sound of the championship game. The screen meanwhile is filled with a "10 minutes till warmup complete" blue screen of death.
Aaahhh.... sweet lady irony.
The parent starts frantically hitting random buttons to try to get the video working. Immediately he turns to me and starts going, what did you do to the video?!?! Absolutely nothing, like I said before, when you turn off a projector, it takes time for it to warm up again. He tries a few more things, and he's starting to panick as the audience is turning around to see what's going on. He then starts swearing and what not, and the coach comes over and tells him to settle down.
I cut the audio, and the lights come back on. The coach announces that they're expecting technical difficulties, and they won't be able to show the amazing video footage.
After the show, the parent says, "I don't know what happened, it always usually works. I'm going to bring this projector in to get it looked at." I raise a skeptical eyebrow up, and say nothing. *COUGH* Human error *COUGH*.
Don't mess with technicians. . I think we know what we're doing.
Wednesday, February 16. 2005
Since a lot of chatter and discussion has arisen from my article, "If There Was Such Thing As Chicken Sushi", this seems like a good time to talk about the greatest of all Japanese restaurants.
Being an avid watcher of the Food Network, I usually watch a show called Chef At Large. It's an interesting show because the host travels across Canada to take a look at the culturally diverse cuisines that can be found across our great nation. The most interesting episode I saw was entitled Sushi which featured a restaurant called Tojo's, which is located in Vancouver. It is hailed as one of the best Japanese restaurants in North America. Chef At Large provided a lot of interesting information about this restaurant.
The owner of the restaurant, Hidekazu Tojo, is the master sushi chef. He has a very interesting background. He came to Vancouver in the 1970s because he felt that a multicultural city would appreciate his cuisine. His initial goal was to help sushi newbies learn to appreciate Japanese cuisine by slowly easing them into it. This is because a lot of people don't like the idea of eating raw fish. He introduced a wide array of cooked dishes for the locals to enjoy.
His most famous contributions are probably the California Roll and the BC Roll. The California roll was inspired by the fact that people in Vancouver didn't like the idea of eating seaweed (which is what rolls are wrapped in). So, like a parent trying to coax a child to eat something they don't like, he turned the roll inside-out. The seaweed was wrapped with sushi rice, so customers didn't see or realize they were eating seaweed. The California Roll is born, and is a huge success.
The BC Roll has an interesting story as well. BBQ eel was a delicacy in Japan, and he wanted to introduce that in his menu. Tojo had a hard time finding eel in the fish markets in Vancouver, and people didn't like the idea of it. He noticed that salmon was in abundance here on the West Coast, so he experimented with the ingredient. He found that BBQ salmon skin tasted just like BBQ eel. So, he incorporated BBQ salmon skins into a roll, and the BC Roll was born. Both rolls are widely available here in the west coast, and if I remember correctly, the recipes have reached Japan.
I applaud Hidekazu Tojo for inventing these two wonderful rolls in this wonderful country called Canada. (Queue anthem, eyes start to tear ).
Quality Fish Obsession
In the episode, Tojo took the host of the show down to the commercial fish market. He was looking for fish that were in season. Apparently Tojo buys about $1 million worth of fish every year for the restaurant. The fresh fish that he purchases are quickly put into a deep freeze which preserves freshness of the fish. The most interesting fish he came across was a rare blue-fin tuna that was from Spain; the fish sold for $50,000! That must be one fine fish. So apparently he comes to the market to find fish that is in season, buys a whole bunch of them, puts it into deep freeze, and stores it away in a warehouse. The advantage of having a restaurant in Vancouver is that a lot of caught fish arrive in Vancouver first; so Tojo gets first pick of the fish before they're shipped out to Japan.
They then went to the restaurant where he was showing off his apprentices. In order to become one of his apprentices, you have to pass a knife test. Tojo gives you a large dicon radish (which is shaped like a tall cylinder), and you have to peel the thing with a super sharp knife. The trick is, you have peel the radish so you get a paper thin strip of it. (Hard to explain, but imagine a roll of aluminum foil, and you keep pulling until the whole roll is gone, and you have a continuous sheet of alumnium foil that is paper thin. Well, that's what you have to do with the radish.) Let's just say the host failed miserably at this task.
Many students come from Japan to study under him because they can learn the art of sushi much faster. One of the students that was interviewed said that in Japan, he could be a sushi apprentice for 7 years, and spend the whole time learning how to pour tea properly. In that 7 years, you would never touch any piece of raw fish. He explained that in North America, the master sushi chefs are less steeped in cultural tradition, so apprentices can learn and practice their art much faster.
Even The Sake Is Special
Another interesting thing about Tojo's is their sake (Japanese rice wine) collection. The host got to sit down with Tojo's sake dealer. The first thing that the host noticed was that the sake was served cold; sake is traditionally served warm. The dealer explained that the traditional brewing techniques for sake were very poor. Therefore, most places that served sake would serve it up hot, in order to hide imperfections in the sake. Nowadays, there are high quality sakes, and there's no need to heat them.
They take sake very seriously, so they offer a selection of sakes that are brewed in Japan, and are exclusively available to Tojo's. You can't find them anywhere else.
The Legendary Omakase
Lastly, they covered what the restaurant is famous for, Omakase, which literally means "Chef, I'm in your hands." Omakase is where you tell the chef how much money you're spending, what you like and dislike, and the chef chooses the menu for you. You can choose to spend $50, $75, $100, $100+ on Omakase, and it looked like it was an 8 course meal. For this particular episode, Tojo was making foods that he wanted to submit to a sushi contest, so he got his customers to try them out. The most famous dish he prepared for his guests was sablefish broiled in a light broth. He also served some sushi rolls that were wrapped in cucumber. Very interesting presentation.
The roll above isn't what was served on the TV episode, but it does illustrate the use of the paper-thin cucumber. (That's probably why his apprentices have to pass the knife test.)
Wait.... why did you actually write this article Chan? I'm hoping to open up a new front in PLuM VS Boss' Japanese restaurant dispute. They'll probably debate what Japanese restaurant is the best in Vancouver now.
It also serves as a shaky excuse to get my boss to write about her Tojo's experience. At work, Tojo's has achieved mythical status as I keep ranting and raving about this amazing restaurant. Last weekend my boss and her husband was in Vancouver and they actually went to Tojo's and had the Omakase! So I want them to do a guest blog article about the Omakase as my description above probably doesn't do it justice. If you need another excuse to blog.... ummmmm..... you two can blog about it together as a special Valentine's blog article, it'd be cute.... or something.
No pressure ... muhahaah.
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