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It’s Not Sunday’s a-Comin’

Today is the first day of the omer. Actually, it began last night.

Beginning with the second day of Passover, Jews begin counting the days. For 7 weeks they count, 49 days. This is called “Counting the Omer,” laid out in Leviticus 23:15-17. The omer was a measure of grain, an offering of thanksgiving for the freedom of Pesach. On the second day of Pesach, an omer of barley was brought to the Temple as an offering. The counting culminates with day 50, which is the holiday of Shavuot, the Festival of Weeks, the holiday of Pentecost. Shavuot is a like a Hebrew Thanksgiving, and on this day, two loaves made of wheat were offered in the Temple. Jews don’t go to the Temple today, because there is no Temple right now; but they still offer prayers and thanksgiving to God for all that he’s given us. Many decorate their homes and synagogues with greens and flowers, to remember the harvest. Some stay up all night studying Torah. And they read the Ten Commandments in the morning service.

In Jewish tradition, Shavuot is when God gave the Torah to Israel at Mount Sinai, and Israel became a nation, rather than just a bunch of refugee slaves escaped from Egypt. If Pesach is the holiday of chaos and questions and upheaval and dramatic miracles (and it is), then Shavuot is a holiday of fulfillment. And so Jews count the days between Pesach and Shavuot, and they pray each day, and wait for the fulfillment of the promise.  Click to continue »

The Last Passover

“I have earnestly desired to eat this Pesach meal with you before I suffer.”

Tonight begins the first night of Passover, of Pesach, the Jewish holiday of remembrance and living-out the Israelite escape from Egypt. It is a holiday of questions, of upheaval, of chaos, of suffering and deliverance. And for Christians, also the beginning of a significant spiritual change.

Yeshua pours the wine. Then he lifts up the cup and says the brachah: “Blessed are you, Adonai, our God, king of the universe, who creates the fruit of the vine.” He drinks, then looks up at his disciples. “I will not drink again from the fruit of the vine,” he says, “until God’s kingdom comes.”

His disciples had the sense that he was going to miraculously overthrow the Romans and usher in a new age of Israeli peace, all in good time. Now they know, “good time” means “real soon now.” A great political upheaval is afoot.

This is Pesach.

He lifts up the bread and says the blessings: “Blessed are you, Adonai, our God, king of the universe, who brings forth bread from the earth. Blessed are you, Adonai, our God, king of the universe, who sanctified us with his commandments, and commanded us concerning the eating of matzah.”  Click to continue »

If Everyone Did This, the World Would Be a Happier Place

According to Jake Shimabukuro, “It’s the instrument of peace, because if everyone played the ukulele, this world would be a much happier place.”

He said that at TED in February 2010, in the performance that kicks off today’s concert.

And then he set out to prove it by playing Queen’s “Bohemian Rhapsody,” the whole thing, solo, on his ukulele.

This post was actually inspired by a cryptic-to-a-non-musician but otherwise innocuous-looking circle-of-fifths chord chart, shared on Facebook by That ukulele-playin’ Neil Guy. Thanks to Facebook’s marketing, that led inadvertently to watching ukulele videos on YouTube, at which point I discovered some of what musicians are doing with ukuleles today, and it’s très kewl.

Therefore, I put together an ukulele concert, in the form of a YouTube playlist, of 48 minutes of some of my favorite online ukulele performances.  Click to continue »

The Very First Wife Swap

(This is part 3 in my series on 1 Corinthians 5. Click here to read from the beginning.)

Most of us probably imagine the first swingers as 1960′s hippies in a free-love commune. But in fact, it started earlier than that, in World War II. Christopher Ryan explains:

It seems that the original modern American swingers were crew-cut World War II air force pilots and their wives. Like elite warriors everywhere, these “top guns” often developed strong bonds with one another, perhaps because they suffered the highest casualty rate of any branch of the military. According to journalist Terry Gould, “key parties,” like those later dramatized in the 1997 film The Ice Storm, originated on these military bases in the 1940s, where elite pilots and their wives intermingled sexually with one another before the men flew off toward Japanese antiaircraft fire…

Joan and Dwight Dixon explained to Gould that these warriors and their wives “shared each other as a kind of tribal bonding ritual, with a tacit understanding that the two thirds of husbands who survived would look after the widows.”  Click to continue »

Whatever the All-Merciful Does Is for Good

The Talmud tells this story (in Berachot 60b):

Rabbi Akiva was once going along the road and he came to a certain town and looked for lodgings. But everywhere he went, he was refused.

He sighed and said, “Whatever the All-Merciful does is for good.”

So because he couldn’t find a place to stay in the town, he walked out of town, into an open field, and camped out there.

Now, he had with him a rooster, a donkey, and a lamp. But during the night, a gust of wind blew out his lamp, and so he had no light, and no protection. Then a weasel came and ate his rooster, so he had no one to warn him up when the sun rose. Then a lion attacked and killed his donkey, so he had no transportation.

He sighed and said, “Whatever the All-Merciful does is for good.”

Early in the morning, while Rabbi Akiva was still sleeping, a band of brigands attacked the town. They stole everything they could get their hands on and even carried off the inhabitants of the town. But they didn’t see or hear or even realize that Rabbi Akiva was there.

When he woke up and realized what had happened, he sighed and said, “Whatever the All-Merciful does is for good.”

We can’t control everything in our lives. And often our lives even wipe out spinning careening out of control. Every human has an innate sense that tells him—correctly—that this is a really bad thing. And that’s why it’s disturbing, and distressful.

But there’s a wisdom in accepting the things you can’t control, and focusing on those things that you can. Just because you feel out of control, that doesn’t mean your life is a mess. It only means that you can’t predict right now exactly what you’re going to be 10, 20, 50 years down the road. Well, welcome to the club. Sometimes it turns out that the distressful things that happen to you, they actually were blessings in disguise.  Click to continue »

When You Feel You’re Falling Off a Cliff…

…make sure you have a wingsuit!

Happy weekend!
-TimK

A Little Truth Would Go a Long Way

(This is part 2 in my series on 1 Corinthians 5. Click here to read from the beginning.)

One marvels at the repetition of intentionally tragic stories, like Evergreene’s: After her Christian marriage ended in divorce, and after she slogged through the concomitant depression, she decided she’d be happier living a bisexual, polyamorous lifestyle. She hid her new lifestyle from her Southern Baptist friends and family, but not well enough.

“My mother wonders what went so monumentally wrong with how she raised me.” Answer: probably nothing. Believe it or not, despite what the book of Proverbs says, there’s precious little we parents can do to change the direction of our children’s lives. I plan to return to this in a later post, but basically the best a parent can do is to provide her children with a safe environment in which to discover themselves and the world they live in. If she failed, she only failed in that.  Click to continue »

Replacing Passive-Aggressiveness with Grace and Beauty

Bad Hippo, by Trevin Chow

Last week, I drove my daughter’s iPad down to her at to school.

One of the Blue Shirts there in the parking lot approached me and asked what I was doing, and told me, “we get a little concerned,” because I was waiting there for her. I figured, as soon as he realized I was a parent who had a legitimate reason to be at the school, that would be the end of the conflict. But during our short conversation, he repeated this line several times, “we get a little concerned.”

I said, “Sorry about that.” But what I was thinking was, “‘Concern’ on your part does not translate to a demand on mine.”

And maybe if I were a bigger asshole, I would have said, “Well, I’m sorry you feel concerned. Maybe if I bring you some milk and cookies next time, you’ll feel better. Would you like that?”

I really have to find a more constructive way of dealing with the Blue Shirts, because the nice-guy approach clearly isn’t working. Over the past 3½ years, I’ve had several unsatisfactory encounters. (And the sense I get from my daughters is that these are actually nice guys.)

The only other similar encounter I’ve had with a female teacher (who was not wearing a blue shirt), a couple years ago: I told her was meeting my daughter, and the very timbre of her voice became pleasant to listen to. I still remember smiling at her. I wish I could remember her name.  Click to continue »

The Most Powerful Programming Paradigm in the World?


Cornell Facebook Camp Hackathon
Photo by Benjamin Golub

I’m not a hackathon kinda guy. I don’t get off on solving hard or novel problems. I don’t believe in contests. I’m not particularly energized by the idea that a whole bunch of us are trying to solve the same problem at once— I do believe in community, and I appreciate being able to interact with other developers, but on a different level than just getting into the same (virtual or physical) room together, eyes to the computer screen.

So why then did I participate in the Dallas/Fort Worth Perl Mongers
Winter 2013 Hackathon?

If we’re looking for root causes, the article that ultimately inspired my motivation, I think, was Paul Graham’s essay, “Beating the Averages.” In this famous piece, Paul tells the story of how, back in 1995, he and Robert Morris created Viaweb, which was an early e-commerce platform (bought by Yahoo! in 1998, to become Yahoo! Store). They chose to develop Viaweb using Lisp, because, Graham says:  Click to continue »

Removing the Leaven from Passover

The Passover stuff is already out at the grocery store. At the other end of the store, an even greater selection of pastel-colored candy and related items.

But Pesach is still several weeks away, and first I have another bat mitzvah to think of. My Beloved will finally herself be called to the Torah in an adult bat mitzvah. Better late than never, as they say.

We’re all helping out. Our younger daughter is laining the day’s maftir portion. Our elder daughter is canting as chazzanit. And I am laining the New Testament reading for the day, which is from First Corinthians chapter 5:

Your boasting is not good. Don’t you know that a little khametz leavens the whole batch of dough? Clean out the old khametz, so that you might be a fresh batch of dough, in the same way as you are unleavened. For our Passover lamb, the Messiah, has been sacrificed. Therefore, let us celebrate the feast, not with the old khametz, nor with the leaven of ill-will and malice, but with the matzah of sincerity and truth. (1 Corinthians 5:6-8)

Okay, so I took a little liberty with the translation. But those of you who have read Walking in the Moment between Tick and Tock will be used to it by now.  Click to continue »

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