Friday, February 27, 2009

Coffee Reduces Chances of Stroke

A new study by UCLA. Dr. David Liebeskind "evaluated the association between coffee drinking and stroke by looking at data from the Third National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, taken in 1988-94. [He] found that the more coffee the adults drank, the less likely they were to have a stroke or a mini-stroke. Those who drank six or more cups a day, he found, had a stroke prevalence of 2.9 percent, whereas those who drank just one or two cups daily had a stroke prevalence of 5 percent."

"...stroke risk was 20 percent lower in those drinking four or more cups a day and 12 percent lower in those who had coffee five to seven times a week."

They did a study on tea too. Read it all here.

Gail Trimble the genius

Some people are just born with it. I can't deny that.

She almost single-handedly won the University Challenge.
"There was something other-worldly about Gail Trimble. She did not look like a superwoman, but behind the glasses and the nervous smile lurked a general knowledge machine that was to take University Challenge by storm." (Times Online)

"The team, captained by 26-year-old Gail Trimble, beat Manchester University by 275 points to 190 in the BBC television quiz chaired by Jeremy Paxman. Much of the college's success has been down to Ms Trimble, who scored two-thirds of her team's 1,200 points before the final." (BBC News)

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

B-Day: Birth or Banal?

There is only one birthday for everyone. That is the day they were born. There is no life-long ‘birthdays’ to be celebrated because there is simply none.

Nonetheless people celebrate birthdays. Parties are thrown, dinners are organized, chalets are booked, and BBQ are conducted to rejoice over such celebration. As if such day worth rejoicing over.

But is it not the case that the clock of death starts ticking on the day we were born?

That means the day of our birth is also the day that generates an anticipation of our demise. And each so-called birthdays mark the nearness of the anticipation. Each year when the day comes, we are being reminded that our life span is shortened by 365 days. We are 365 days nearer to our death, an event that is as certain as my birth.

Now, is this worth celebrating?

Some say that birthday is special and celebratory to individuals because it is the day you came into the world. This view has a lofty assumption. It assumes that one’s coming into this world is pleasant.

One simple observation though: If it is such a pleasant place to be in, we do not need development, improvement, repentance, confession, weapons, and prison. All the talks about advancing the human race, be it economic, social, politic, and education, betray the deeply damned state we are in.

If the world is so pleasant, who needs a savior, or a spouse, or even a dog?

Birthday celebration is the most vivid embodiment of our reticence. Instead of preparing to face our own death, we delude ourselves with ‘birthdays’. And we do this every year with the ritualistic song “Happy Birthday to you”. How more banal can we be?

My ‘birthday’ is next week. It is more than a reminder that I am 365 days nearer to my death. More than anything else, the day alerts me to the perennial question, “How should I now live?”

Friday, February 20, 2009

When apologetic screwed up...

Claude Mariottini commented on Norman Geisler and Thomas Howe's attempt to defend the view that Deuteronomy is written by Moses.

Although throughout the post Mariottini does not directly charge the apologists, but the conclusion implies something interesting:
"... any attempt at defending the Bible should deal with the text in its entirety and deal with the problems of the text with integrity."
The apologists have no integrity in handling the text. Is that a surprise? Nope. There are fanatics on both end of belief. The militant atheist on one end and the die-hard apologist on the other end sometimes share more similarity than both sides realize.

Lesson for apologists: Be honest.

People are generally happier with good experiences than good materials

Buying life experiences rather than material possessions leads to greater happiness for both the consumer and those around them, researchers announced today at the annual meeting of the Society for Personality and Social Psychology.
(Livescience report)
Ryan Howell, assistant professor of psychology at San Francisco State University, commented, "Purchased experiences provide memory capital... We don't tend to get bored of happy memories like we do with a material object." (Italics added)

This answers a question that I've asked myself a while back.

About 2 or 3 years ago, a close friend remarked to me that we should spend on material things that are tangible, like getting a Sony's Play-Station, clothing, accessories and etc. That would be money well-spent. The problem is that I don't share his sentiment. So am I missing something?

I'm born to feel happy being around and spending time (and money) with friends. Hence I really enjoy cosmopolitan activities like clubbing, coffee sessions, and watching movies (be it cinema or DVD).

I enjoy other activities like taking adventurous holidays by going to deserted islands with minimum planning and budget. Such way of traveling gives me a sense of lostness and insecurity. Hence comes along the sense of excitement.
"... never refuse an invitation, never resist the unfamiliar, never fail to be polite and never outstay the welcome. Just keep your mind open and suck in the experience. And if it hurts, you know what? It's probably worth it." (Richard in The Beach)
But if you get the impression that I'm some typical urbanized metrosexual gen-Y existential pop-bred male who doesn't enjoy civilized and the so-called 'high' social indulgences like the academia and political-social concerns, then I apologize for the misrepresentation. For one, I'm as happy attending lectures by distinguished personnel, reading academic books and journals, and standing up against social tyrants.

Reading the report above not only helps me to understand more about 'happiness', but also justifies my sentiments. That's why I don't possess many materials (books don't belong to this category). I am Richard,
" at least I know it's not some place you can look for, 'cause it's not where you go. It's how you feel for a moment in your life when you're a part of something, and if you find that moment... it lasts forever..."
and one of them:
While Jesus was blessing them, he left them and was taken up into heaven. Then they worshiped him and returned to Jerusalem with great joy. (Luke 24.51-52)
Memory capital.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

2008 Favorite Songs (Part 1) - Beep

Beep by Pussycat Dolls depicts a dialog between a typical sexually charged guy and a reserved and determined lady. And the song’s title ‘Beep’ resounds the censored tone which radio and television stations use to run over any obscene words that are aired. Usually they are in a ‘tuutt~’ sound.

The beep is used heavily on the choruses, and thus igniting the audience’s curiosity to find the censored words. I think this is a creative way for songs to interact with audiences, making it more than just a sounding. It is an invitation into the underlying context behind the song. That means it is only those who are familiar with the contexts of the song able to figure out what are the censored words.

The song starts with the lady humming a repetitive strings of ‘huh huh huh…’ in a disgusted and tiring tone. It sounds that her tiredness came from all the unwanted, uninvited attention and sexual requests that she has been receiving since her seventh grade (as depicted in the first verse).

Then the male voice comes into the first part of the chorus,
It’s funny how a many only thinks about the *beep*
You got a real big heart, but I’m looking at your *beep*

You got a real big brain, but I’m looking at your *beep*

Girl, there ain’t no pain in me looking at your *beep*

Justifying the lady’s disappointment and annoyance towards men. Then the lady retorts in a couldn’t-care-less manner,
I don’t give a *beep* keep looking at my *beep*
‘Cause it don’t mean a thing if you’re looking at my *beep*
Ha, I gonna go my thing while you’re playing with your *beep*
Besides the exchange between both genders, the song brings out the inner thought and, at times, struggles of individual ladies who are being preyed as nothing more than sexual beings in the writer’s context. The first and second verses unveil this feminists’ sentiment vividly, which seems to be telling the male audiences how deeply annoying they are,
Every boy's the same
Since up in the seventh grade
They been trying to get with me
Trying to... (Ha, ha-ha, ha, ha-ha)
They always got a plan
To be my one and only man
Want to hold me with their hands
Want to (Ha, ha-ha, ha, ha-ha)
I keep turning them down
But, they always come around
Asking me to go around
That's not the way it's going down

'Cause they only want
Only want my ha, ha-ha
Ha, ha-ha
Only want what they want
But, na, ah-ah
Na, ah-ah

Do you know that 'no'
Don't mean 'yes', it means 'no'
So just hold up, wait a minute
Let me put my two cents in it
One, just be patient
Don't be rushing
Like you're anxious
And two, you're just too aggressive
Tryin' to get your (ha)

Do you know that I know?
And I don't want to go there
However, there is a distorted portrayal of man in general in the song. Will.I.Am’s voice representing the man in the song is repeating the first part of the chorus, as if to mean that sex is the only and primary thing occupying the males. Rendering the gender as irredeemable. But such depressing over-generalization is unnecessary and misleading to both genders.

That means this is really a monologue from both gender rather than a dialog between them as previously stated. That means through the whole song, there is no really communication between both sides. The picture given is that of gender isolation, where both sides are talking without really listening. Each one are too into themselves. Thus this is not the case where the lady resists the man, but both genders resisting each other; isolating oneself from the different Other.

No doubt the song gives you plenty beats to groove along (at least to me), but if you want hope, look here: There is neither... male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. (Galatians 3.28).

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Will I be a good husband?

I'm in a relationship, and like all relationship this one has its holes and patches. Since about 6 months ago, I started picking up interest in reading about testimonies by Christians who are struggling in their marriage. I want to find out what are the common struggles faced and the common mistakes made by both persons in sharing a covenanted life together. Many of these articles aid me in my articulation of this aspect of life.

The latest one is from Today Christian's Woman website. It's a testimony of an experience from an 'abusive Christian marriage'. The author's ex-husband was described "appeared spiritually mature. He prayed eloquent prayers, participated in deep theological discussions, and often referenced Scripture to support his insights." When I read this, naturally I asked myself, "Will I end up like that husband?"

The husband in the testimony doesn't seem to be aware of himself and how his ex-wife thinks about him. My problem is that I'm too well aware how manipulative, domineering, and self-centered I can be. I'm terrified even by the sheer possibility that I will indeed end up like that husband. And my future wife will be contributing her testimony to Today Christian's Woman.

Reading these testimonies enable me to approach this issue about marriage with a certain stands. For eg. I'm not dogmatic over the issue of divorce, remarriage, importance of 'virginity' (which I think is constructed to support patriarchalism), premarital sex, co-habitation and etc. I think such flexibility is required in this imperfect world which consists of unsatisfying marriages made up of self-deluded people.

Long time ago, Steven Sim told me that marriage is a nightmare. At that time, I thought Michael Bolton's 'When a man loves a woman' was the best song. I can't sympathized with him. And now, it seems that Steven has changed his mind. And I've changed mine. It's not merely a nightmare. It's Freddy Kruger!

Yet we have G.K. Chesterton saying in all nobility, "Marriage is a duel to the death which no man of honour should decline." (Manalive, p.85). A duel to the death huh?

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Brief mental check

Do I have bipolar disorder? No.

Am I depressed? No.

Good luck!

Malaysian government asking for respect for...

The Malaysian Government Pensioners' Association and the Council of the Justices of the Peace of Selangor has called on all parties to respect Sultan Azlan Shah's decision for consenting the formation of the new Perak government.
(Bernama report. Emphasis added.)
What!? These government organizations are asking citizens to respect unconstitutional use of power?

Let me get this right.. the government is asking its people to respect unlawfulness!!?? Pigs.

Following Peter Rollins, I've to confess my denial of the resurrection of Jesus

Sivin Kit introduced Peter Rollins on his blog. And I was intriguing by Rollins' post on his denial of Jesus' resurrection,
"Without equivocation or hesitation I fully and completely admit that I deny the resurrection of Christ... I deny the resurrection of Christ every time I do not serve at the feet of the oppressed, each day that I turn my back on the poor; I deny the resurrection of Christ when I close my ears to the cries of the downtrodden and lend my support to an unjust and corrupt system."

Monday, February 16, 2009

V-Day: Valentine or Vanity?

I remain puzzled over a social phenomenon called the Valentine's Day. Last Saturday I wished many people "Happy Valentine's Day" without knowing who was Valentine or what contributions he had for humanity. Only know that his name is being exploited by capitalists for monetary gains.

You might say that the day marks the significant of 'love'. But we already have Christmas for that, don't we? Dare we say there is another day better than Christmas to celebrate Love?

Hence I find wishing people "Happy Valentine's Day" is as meaningful as uttering "Happy Kulujajagaridodo Day". Signifies nothing and commemorates nothing (unless you are Jim Brickman or Sarah Brightman, or a saint-worshiper). And it's not even a public holiday!

Among many observational ugly facts about this day, one of them is the absurd hyper-commodification of pitiful and deteriorating flowers, especially roses, that cost consumers more than 10 times its usual price. What more do we need to realize how pathetic humans can be, not to mention the betrayed vanity?

I took risk with this post, realizing the possibility that I might be condemned to be unromantic or worst. If you deem so; if you think romance is that pathetic and obscene, all I could beg in reply is that of Henslowe's tongue, "Cut out my heart! Throw my liver to the dogs!"

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Sze Zeng on...

What is worse than having too much works to do?
Nothing to do.

Diagnosis of UMNO and its corrupted evil leaders

Behind every disobedient ruler is Satan, but behind Satan is nothing other than the figure of disobedient Adam, the sum of our own recalcitrance, that originates not in individuals but in long generations and traditions and so to humanity as a whole, and of which of our individualism is but the merest epiphenomenon.
(Douglas H. Knight, Oliver O' Donovan on Political Theology)

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Omnipotent God as Idol (He is not sugar-daddy)

'Neurotically sick people develop forms of behaviour which come close to the 'religion of anxiety', in which the religious can, for example, be recognized in ritualized pattern of suppression and crazy practices. These 'pattern formations for repression and the idols and laws of the religion of anxiety may not either suffer or die, since they have been erected against suffering and dying. They must be omnipotent and eternal, because they are meant to help impotent and mortal man and to relieve his anxiety... But the crucified God renounces these privileges of an idol. He breaks the spell of the super-ego which men lay upon him... In becoming weak, impotent, vulnerable and mortal, he drees man from the quest for powerful idols and protective compulsions'.

(Geiko Muller-Fahrenholz discussing and quoting from Jurgen Moltmann's The Crucified God in The Kingdom and the Power, p.75. Italics added to emphasize Moltmann's writing)
You think the Christian God is product of wishful thinking? You think that the Christian God is the guarantor of your health and wealth in your life? You think that Christian God gives you an impenetrable, immutable, and settled system of thoughts or presupposition? The crucified God demands us to think again.

Monday, February 09, 2009

Belongs to OR about Jesus Christ? (Revelation 1.1)

The revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave him to show his servants what must soon take place.
(Revelation 1.1)

During this morning lecture, Tony Siew made a passing remark on the exegetical debate among scholars over the phrase "The revelation of Jesus Christ". The contention is over the word "of" in the phrase.
One camp argues that the "of" is a subjective genitive. That means the phrase should be understood as "The revelation belongs to Jesus Christ".

The opposite camp argues that the "of" is an objective genitive. So the understanding should be "The revelation about Jesus Christ".
While thinking over Tony's passing remark, I start to wonder if there could be a third way to exegete it. It dawn to me that there is. And here's my try:

Instead of polarizing the "of" as subjective vs objective, I suggest to read it as a reflexive genitive. Before any furtherance I have to clarify that I don't know if there is such term in NT Greek studies. I derived it from 'reflexive pronoun', a common grammar the biblical writers applied in their writings.

The pattern of a reflexive genitive is commonly seen in the form of testimony made by a person about himself. And if that is true, then that act of testifying about oneself is also a self-revelation; someone revealing something about himself.

The reflexive genitive functions not merely to combine the subjective and objective genitive ('both/and') over against their polarization. This combination opens up a third hermeneutic:
a theological interpretation.

That means the revelation mentioned in Rev. 1.1 neither merely a belonging of Jesus Christ plus a testimony about Him. Genitive reflexive's main contribution to the understanding of this passage is its emphatic implication on the act of divine revelation.

Going back to the form of testimony as statement made by a person about himself, such statement is not simply a belonging to the person about the person. If anything, such statement has to first came from the person himself (via a messenger, as later part of v.1 shows). Therefore such reading points the readers to the act of (active) testifying; a self-disclosure of that self.

Applying that to Rev. 1.1, we have a disclosure that came from Jesus Christ that is about Himself and belongs to Him, and it is given by God.

Just a try.

Need Christ?

Yesterday’s Straits Times (The Sunday Time, 8 Feb 2009), page 6, features a section at the bottom of the page on a struggling businessman, Edward Loh, and his newly found faith in times of financial crisis.

Mr Loh was once living in luxury until recent financial woes. In 2007, he became a Christian and is currently attending New Creation Church. His church members are graciously helping him ‘by proving food for the family and financial help’.

All is well, especially the help given to Mr Loh by his church-mates is especially encouraging and commended, until Mr Loh’s final remark:
I accepted Christ at a time I didn’t need help financially. But now I really, really need him.
Reading that left me wondering what does Mr Loh means? It’s only when one is financially-struggling that one really, really needs Christ? Did he get this kind of idea by himself or from others, like from his church's teachings (here I'm not assuming what his church teaches)?

Friday, February 06, 2009

Coffee Reduces Dementia

Drink 3 to 5 cups of coffee a day helps to keep dementia away. That's what recent study shows.
"...scientists found that the subjects who had reported drinking three to five cups of coffee daily were 65 percent less likely to have developed dementia, compared with those who drank two cups or less."
3-5 cups reduce dementia, 7 and above may cause hallucination, so to play safe, one may drink between 4-6 cups of coffee a day.

Christian Perspectives on Financial Relationship

Thursday, February 05, 2009

Pathetic married couple

This lesbian couple fought to get married in 2001. They got it in 2004. Now they are divorced. Why throwing away something they spent years fighting for?

Before they got married, this couple can live their lives as other heterosexual married couple. But apparently they didn't think that's enough. They felt the state should recognize their relationship as a 'marriage', so they fought for it.

And less than 2 years married, they separated in 2006. Now they divorced. Pathetic.

Please start governing!

The latest defection in Perak should be the last game Malaysians allow their rulers to play. Be it BN, PKR, DAP, or PAS, enough is enough.

The whole world is facing the most challenging time now and yet our rulers are still malfunctioning. If politicians love throwing sands or jumping ships, then they should resign as rulers and take up other full time jobs that afford their indulgence. The citizens did not vote you to waste our living.

Read more and learn how to act at Anthony Loke's site.

I am very very disappointed with Hee Yit Foong.
"Hee is not needed by UMNO after all for BN to form a majority in Perak with Nasarudin’s return to UMNO less than a fortnight after he defected to PKR. This means, what she did has not only brought defeat and shame to PR but she has became redundant in UMNO’s plan for takeover. Her two decades of contributions and her electorate’s support for her and DAP has been flushed down the drain by her immature actions this evening."
(Steven Sim's remark)

Value Parenting

When I was back in Penang for CNY, I was having a conversation with a parent about his son’s friend who has become a doctor while his two cousins are in medical and law school respectively. Interestingly, in the middle of the conversation, the parent remarked that she is suspicious of doctors nowadays.

I asked her why.

She said that most of today’s doctors deliberately prescribe deficient medicine to patients so that the patients will return for more consultation, and thus able to squeeze more money out of them.

Her remark caught me. My eyebrow rose. My brain spun a bit over it. And then I proposed,

That is the effect of the inculcation of certain family values among the community. Let me ask you, how many contemporary parents want their children to grow up as doctors and lawyers because we aspire our children to help the sick and fight for justice?

None. We want our children to be doctors and lawyers so that they can be rich and wealthy. And if that’s the case, then this is the sort of society we’ll get. And we shouldn’t be surprised to have bred a generation of greedy and unethical doctors and lawyers. We asked for it.

This is so true especially among Chinese families. Parents expect and desire their children to be doctors, lawyers, engineers, businessmen, actors and etc for reasons like wealth, fame, and pride. If this is parenting of our time, then what kind of society are we building?

A related question: How many Christian parents want their children to be in full-time ministry, say being a pastor or missionary or theologian?

A respectable and active church elder of an established church once told me that he doesn’t want his children to be in the ministry because their lives will be unstable and financially insecure.

I think my mom, a devout Buddhist, is more exemplary than this church elder. She told me that she is happy if all her children become monks. In fact, me and my siblings were encouraged to go for short-term monkhood during our school holidays. And we did. That includes my teenage sister, who has her head shaved and arm symbolically burned with incense.

CNY 09

I had great time during last week’s Chinese New Year. Besides catching up with familiar people that grew up together, I went to Kampar and met new friends. Two of them are especially significant because I have known them through mIRC more than ten years ago.

Though great, there were two misfortunes. First, I fell sick on the fifth day of CNY till now (the eleventh day). I have been sick for six days, and there is a busy weekend coming. Wanting to attend both of Gordon Smith’s lectures, but not sure if my wailing body able to endure it.

The other misfortune was the terrible bus condition in which I took to come back to Singapore. The bus seat cannot be adjusted, so I have to sit up right the whole 11-hour journey. The passenger in front of my was extremely inconsiderate. He lowered his seat to the lowest, leaving barely enough space for my legs.

When I reached Singapore, all that had happened in the wonderful week seemed like a dream. The feeling is like waking up from a long dream. Back to reality.

Hence the first day at work felt horribly long. In fact it’s really long because I had a drama practice until 10pm that day. Coupled with cough and sore throat, Tuesday was historical. Thus I really needed medical leave yesterday.

(Lion dance at grandma's place. People say if you touch the lion, you'll have a lucky year ahead. Can't remember did I touch it..)

(Had this steamboat at 4am on the second day of CNY. Some guys from our table almost fought with those from the next table. What a scene at 4am!)

(Saw this banner at my mom's frequented Buddhsit temple. They are seeking donation for site extension. The last phrase reads "...we sincerely appeal to the enthusiatic devotees to donate generously with the boundless merits." Try using the same phrase in the church..)

Tuesday, February 03, 2009

Free Classes on Theology by STEMI

You don't like the theology of Karl Barth, Wolfhart Pannenberg, and Alister McGrath?

Nevermind, Christian Post recently reports that STEMI (Stephen Tong's ministry) is having a series of classes on Systematic Theology this whole year:
STEMI... is scheduled to hold a beginner’'s programme in systematic theology starting Thursday this week.

God & His Word will be held at 7.30 p.m. at 420 North Bridge Road #05-20 on February 5, 19, March 5, 19, April 16, 30, May 14, 28, June 11, 25, July 9, 23, and August 6, 20.

'Rescuing Darwin' Report

Theos, a UK think-tank, has freely made available their latest report on evolution and belief in God.

The report, which drafted together with the Faraday Institute, explores "the extent and nature of evolutionary and non-evolutionary beliefs in the UK today and their perceived relationship with theism and atheism."

The report here.