Monday, January 19, 2015


I felt a strange pressure on my shoulder and turned to see a man with a marker writing on my shirt. I recognized the man as one I had seen before at similar events, but did not know. He had a confident paternalistic smile on his face as if he had both deigned to impart a gift to me and also earned merit points himself in the process. In this dream I was back at a religious youth conference and was in a crowd somewhere in or near the exhibit hall. This young man had just written with permanent marker on my shirt. I looked more closely at the marks he had made and saw it was the crudely lettered acronym of a particular supporting ministry he was promulgating.

The ministry behind the slogan on my shoulder is one I respect. I have no doubt they would not want to be marketed in that way, yet I was repulsed by the attempted advertisement.

Upon waking, I thought back to the conference and recalled seeing stickers for a different supporting ministry stuck to the backs of at least two conference participants—likely placed as a joke by someone who knew them, but stuck between their shoulders without their knowledge nonetheless. I recall seeing, both at that conference and elsewhere, instances where worthwhile literature had been “seeded” in inconsiderate and distasteful ways. I recall presentations I have attended that reek with overtones of “I have the whole Truth characterized, purified, and put into a capsule. All you need to do is swallow it and don’t ask the wrong questions.”

…and I ask myself:
What is my attitude as I communicate about the things I hold dear?
Does my desire for others wear the slogan I believe in interfere with what that slogan stands for?
Do I indeed have, on a daily basis, more than just a slogan to share?

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

While working on his master’s degree, my grandfather needed to learn more about a particular concept and asked his advising professor for some good references he could look up. His professor said that he had no suggestions, and that my grandfather should search the academic literature, thus sending him on his way to look for pertinent journal articles (before the days of computers). Some time and much work later, when another professor who had been out of town returned, my grandfather asked him the same question. This second professor looked a little puzzled and said that certainly the best place to start would be a bundle of journal article reprints that the first professor had from the work of a previous graduate student. Returning to his adviser, my grandfather asked about the reprints and, without getting up from his chair, the adviser reached over and pulled out a massive folder of reprints that were all related the subject my grandfather was trying to research.

As children of God we have certain resources at our fingertips that some of the people around us are searching for; inner peace, the power that comes through prayer, confidence in what the future ultimately holds, etc. Yet, sometimes we are like my grandfather’s advisor and, for whatever reason, send away the people that are searching for the very things our Father has given us to share. Like my grandfather, these people may not know what resources are available and thus cannot, at least at first, ask for them by name... but we still have a responsibility.

“But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts: and be ready always to give an answer to every man that asketh you a reason of the hope that is in you with meekness and fear:”

(I Peter 3:15)

Thursday, July 28, 2011




I was asked to build a counter in the lab where systems physiology and cellular & molecular biology are taught - here is what I came up with. My understanding is that a moveable cart will be put back in front of the door (it is a rarely used access to the roof) and the other spectrophotometers/computers from the first picture (or their replacements?) will go on the counter.

*I find it humorous that the last time this room was painted the electrical conduit was not painted behind some moveable object as can be seen in the second picture.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Lessons from Canoeing

Lessons learned from hundreds of miles of canoeing – primarily in the wilderness of the Canadian Shield.

When paddling, it is the goal we choose that determines the journey we take and not the direction of the current. Pursuing this goal may require paddling upstream and at times we come to places where the opposing current is too strong to resist – here we must take to the wilderness, and from there we can either carry our cargo around or, with our feet on solid rock, pull it through.

Sometimes the current moves toward our goal – but it is then that we are in the greatest danger of being swept into rough water, or, calmly but swiftly drifting past on the opposite bank from the mouth of the next river in our journey – or simply losing track of where we are in relation to the map. For these and other reasons we must carefully and frequently study the map as well as paying attention to the landmarks around us and consulting with those who have done the journey before. It is especially important to study the map before making changes to the planned route since alluring deceptions abound. By studying our map we will be aware of the dangers ahead and be better prepared to negotiate them. Once again, when facing a stretch of rough water, take to the wilderness, study your map, and plan the best route through or around the rapids.

It is customary for those traveling downstream in water that is calm and deep to accumulate extra baggage - but when water is rough or shallow (or worse yet, both) or a portage is in order these niceties can bog us down and slow not only our progress but also that of our companions as we journey toward the Goal.

Friday, June 10, 2011

Lessons from GIS

It just wouldn’t go where it was supposed to! I had a drawing of building footprints (made with CAD software) that I was supposed to superimpose on an aerial photo of the exact same buildings for my geographic information systems (GIS) class – I could rotate the drawing, I could move it around a little bit, but I wanted to make it line up with the buildings that were on my map of a college campus in Pennsylvania (where they belonged). Instead, the building footprints were somewhere in the vicinity of Kentucky and facing the wrong direction.

I tried doing everything that should have moved it, searched for tips on the web, and blindly hunted through various tabs and toolbars trying anything that looked vaguely promising without any better results. It was like setting two marbles down on opposite ends of a table and subsequently not being able to move one of them more than an inch in any direction.

Upwards of two frustrating hours later, on my third or fourth time starting over from scratch, I happened to try clicking a different checkbox during the process of importing the troublesome file. This proved to be the key which allowed me to move the drawing onto my map from where I could adjust it to make it line up with the buildings.

In my exercise I had two, fully formed pictures which I needed to reconcile. I could zoom in to each one to view it in more detail and it was easy to see how the details ought to line up if one drawing could be moved, resized, and reoriented.

As a student of biology who believes that the Bible is the inspired word of God I am in a similar situation. It is as though I have two pictures of this world’s change through time to the way it presently appears. However, unlike the layers in my GIS assignment, both of these pictures are largely incomplete. Both pictures are supported by evidence I myself have seen and experienced, yet I have not been able to reconcile them very well in any meaningful way.

In another GIS assignment I ended up with countless map layers which, although interesting, and even useful for generating predictions, did not end up being necessary for the final project... and if one of these had been difficult, or even impossible to align with the others it would have been of little consequence in the grand scheme of things.

In a similar way to this second assignment I believe that our mission here in this life does not require us to reconcile all available opinions but rather, that the data needed to complete life’s assignment is all available from a single source.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

I received a phone call yesterday in which a guy in his early thirties whom I’ve never met before was requesting the phone numbers of single females I knew – preferably the “homemaker” type since he has several children. He had two names in mind of girls my age and younger (for whom I actually did have the numbers) and suggested that I could think of a few more... I declined in short order to give out contact information for any of my many “sisters” to a stranger - but if any of you are disappointed with that decision I could arrange for him to contact you.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Electron Microscopy Part II - the SEM

The face of an ant

The face of a Gnat

The face of a flea