May 27, 2003
California, ungodly, shallow, materialistic, and the scourge of evil.

I'm wondering if there's a sense of materialism that comes from being on the west coast. This is somthing I don't see as much within the anti-wealth, poor social worker, community based, urban tribe culture of my church in Cambridge. There's a contrast of lifestyles, between my life on the east coast, and the life I might have lived if I had stayed in the west.

So in my two day layover here in San Francisco, I arrived, and then proceeded to go shopping at A/X, Macys and Banana Republic. My sister is still insisting that I purchase more clothes than I'm going to immediatley wear. She's trying to change the way I dress, make me cooler, and less geeky. Essentially "more stylish" I wanted to walk to the store, my sister wanted to drive, we comprimised and took the bus. I wanted to buy one shirt, we ended up with four. I wanted to spend about $15 dollars, we ended up spending $100.

On Sunday instead of going to church I went to a beginning yoga class out here in Piedmont. In fact it was at the yoga studio of the famous Rodney Yee. He supposedly is a superstar of the yoga field, not to mention having a hot body. He gives classes around the country, people flock for miles around to be in his presence. The yoga class was both strenuous and relaxing. In the end it was almost a spiritual experience. Yoga allows one to focus their mind, to clear it from the mental noise which clutters our lives. We finished the yoga, with a relaxation exercise - also known as the 'corpse' pose. So; given that I'd been traveling and was quite exhaused, but now relaxed; I fell asleep in the 'corpse' position. My cousin said I started snoring.

Afterwards we ate brunch, I ordered plate of chorizon and scrambled eggs, with fried potatoes. This place happens to serve their hashed browns with beets and onions. Chorizo and eggs, are pretty standard breakfast fare, and not unusual for brunch at a cafe. However beets with hash browns? Only in California.

After brunch we headed back to his house, he surfed the web on looking for women. Later on we cruised around in his convertible, played some golf. We went back to his house, I took a shower,

As we prepared to go out to dinner. His his brother-in-law pulls up in his Lexus with his somewhat spoiled 2 year old son, just as we are leaving. I look a little perplexed and surprised to see them, he mentions that he was coming over for dinner, while his wife is out on a weekend retreat. We decide to all go out together.

We chose to eat at well known Mediterranean cafe. We ate outside in the cool breeze (under a propane heater) looking out on one of those quaint little streets with cafe's, small shops, latte vendors, an independant theatre, and unique socially responsible businesses.

After dinner my cousin dropped me off at the airport. I checked in, got a first class seat for the flight home, synchronized my mail in the private club, then got on the plane, after the flight attendant attempted to card me, I was trying to figure out if he was flirting with me, (he was pretty cute) then sat down had a glass of wine and leaned back and relaxed on my flight home to Boston.

All in all it was a quite relaxing weekend, starkly different from what I'd typically do in Cambridge. In Boston, I'd have friends over, and I know people who golf, but I probably wouldn't go with them. I'd be too busy at community boating sailing, or just putzing around my house. I'd be at church on a Sunday, instead of taking a yoga class. Although there are similarities, they both can be spiritual activities, the motions of yoga and the pews of a church force you to maintain good posture, not to mention that people have tendancy to fall asleep in both church and yoga.

I can't help but think about how my life would be different, yet similar if I were back in California. My cousin fixes up old houses and then sells them. I could imagine myself in a similar role. What better way of getting to know the community than as a realtor. He was involved in selling a piece of land to a church which wanted to build a co-housing community next to a housing project.

By the simple fact that he buys houses and resells them for profit, it makes him a developer. Thus he is directly responsible for the gentrification of neighborhoods. Yet he's involved in the community. What better way of practicing the idea of improving the community that becoming involved with it. What better way of making a profit on housing than improving the community.

This is a photo of him.

My cousin, as the chairman of the schoolboard, is also a politician with a knack for extracting favors from local businesses. His latest triumph is getting a local company to sponsor a private screening of their unreleased movie at their headquarters, complete with sushi. It was, in fact, a fund raiser, in which he raised twenty five thousand dollars for the local schools. In exchange, the company was able to create goodwill within the community. What better way to increase property values than to improve the quality of the schools.

Alhough he can be called a gentrifier, he's not ungodly, shallow, materialistic, or the scourge of evil. I often wondered why people villanize real estate developers, politicians, and Californians that way.

Posted by justin at 04:24 PM
May 20, 2003
The life of a traveler.

Okay, I'm on the road again, in my frantic, I'm about to leave stress pressure/relief mode. Perhaps some of this I thrive on.

I live in Boston, why? Well I could say because the federal building is located on the T in North Station. It happens to be a convenient place to get your passport renewed on the way to the airport. And of course, it's even nicer when you realize that you've been told that they'd like you to go to Korea, next week, on Friday afternoon. And of course me, having the laid back, "no problem" attitude that I do agrees, knowing that my passport expires in May of 2003 (of course I haven't renewed it, that would be too much forsight). Only when I got home did I read the that didn't say May 2003, it said 13 Mai/May 03.

Part of me said, "ah... well... It's only a few days I should be able to get away with it." I had already booked a ticket leaving Boston at 5:30PM. So... given that... Although the story from Chris and Shikky, was inclining me to say, well I gotta just go anyways, because it's not like I can get the passport in a day. But after a somewhat pleasant story from Clara, and checking the state department web site again. I called in, got an appointment, and decided to skip work in the morning so I can renew my passport. I prop my coolpix on my chair, to make a passport photo.

I run down the the CVS, give them the memory card, the technician takes a bit to figure out whether to use the digital minilab, or the picture station. In the end decides to go with the kiosk. I emerge seven dollars poorer with eighteen passport sized photos.

I head over to the Tip O'neal federal building, go through the metal detectors, and renew my pasport. It's surprisingly easy, show them my old passport, show them the plane ticket, write a cheque for a hundred fifteen. And they tell me to come back at 3pm. Great, just in time to show up for a 5pm flight out of Boston. Just for kicks, I ask for the double sized passport. I'll never use 48 pages of visas.

I head home, find my housemate is still home (it's noon on a weekday) re-install the dial up network client on my computer. Clean my room a little bit, pack the rest of my stuff, head to the gym for a dip in the pool, take a shower. Then head back and prep the rest of my stuff for the trip.

I get back on the T, go back to the Federal Building, pick up my passport, and find that it's only 3:45pm. Dang... Flight doesn't leave till 5:35. If I leave now I'll be earlier than I usually am, but having nothing else to do, I go to the airport anyways. Perhaps I'll hang out in the executive lounge for a bit, and surf. I arrive find the terminal packed. Note to self... It's graduation season, and everyone, their parents, grandparents and siblings has been in town, and they all seem to be in Terminal C. I've never seen lines like this outside Disneyland. The ticketing agent, says she would have let me through even with an expired passport, and I might have gotten to Korea anyhow.

The flight is delayed for 45 mins, because the TSA is taking it's sweet time scanning people. They re-scan my computer and my shoes, must be the chocolate bar in my Although I'm through security with 40 mins to spare. Half the plane is still back there.

I get on the plane. I'm not in business class, and realize that I am pretty spoiled, but I'm not really complaining. I'm off to Seoul. I can taste the sushi now.

Posted by justin at 09:22 PM
May 13, 2003
Tiger Balm

Okay this is random, but Tiger Balm is distributed in the United States by a company known as Prince of Peace Enterprises. I wonder if that's a Christian owned company.

Tiger Balm® pain relieving ointment is used by millions of people around the world (over 80 countries) to soothe aches and pains due to overexertion and arthritis. It was originally formulated for an Asian emperor over a 100 years ago.

According to the company:
TIGER BALM® DOES NOT HAVE ANY TIGER PARTS OR ANIMAL BY-PRODUCTS IN IT? Tiger Balm® was named for the tiger's speed and strength to pounce on pain.

Posted by justin at 10:57 PM
May 12, 2003

Are you a professional complainer?

Above, what I expected rare tuna should look like. Made by myself

Anyhow this past friday a good friend of mine came by and we went out for dinner and he told this story, about someone who always seemed to complain about things and as a result seemed to get a lot of things for free.

The restauraunt served what they called Asian Charbroiled Ahi - Seared Rare with Stir fried vegetables, steamed white rice and glazed with a soy-ginger sauce. So I ordered it rare (specifically saying raw in the middle), and it came out looking like the photo on the website (shown below), but I still thought it was overcooked.

I told the waitress, and she said she could take it back, but I passed, not wanting to wait for them to make another one. I picked at it, and it wasn't horrible, but I wasn't all that hungry anyhow. Patrick said it tasted canned. I didn't think it was all that bad.

The manager came by offered another, and then offered free desert, then offered to take it off the bill. He took it off the bill. I was unusually pleased. Given that their average guest check is $16 (information from the website) and they make somewhat of an effort to have for the most part freshly made food (not sure how much of it is pre-made, frozen or canned) and that one of my friends is now a prep cook at a restauraunt that really does make things fresh every day, and he comments on pulling the skins of chick peas, and picking apart beans. Part of me suddenly understands why it might be expensive to go out to eat, and why some chain restauraunts will skimp.

Posted by justin at 10:38 AM
Why I live here.

Things continue out here in our fine city, Cambridge. Although the weekend proved to be unproductive. My neighbors, by planting their tulips and other spring foliage, are making me look bad; not to mention feel kind of guilty because my lawn is all dirt, and I've been a bit to lazy to find a shovel to plant the roses I should have done.

Anyhow otherwise I had a decent weekend, and reminder of why Cambridge is the unique place it is. And why I live here. Took an old friend (and my old boss) plus his girlfriend, and my housemate, his girlfriend and her housemate (that's six people, including me), sailing this Sat.

Sunday, for the most part I slept in till noon, then made a bit of breakfast, which my housemate and his girlfriend were kind enough to show up just as I had pulled the eggs out of the oven, so I made another plate and we called it brunch. Afterwards I surfed the web and read the paper, took a nap, looked at the clock, looked out the window, decided I might have wanted to go sailing (even though it looked like it might rain) and then broke down and decided to go to a church vision setting meeting. So I packed up headed to the gym, to take a quick shower and perhaps get a few laps in the pool. Before you get any strange ideas that I'm this heath and exercise nut, I will clarify that I think I swam for a good total of 10 minutes, and even then showed up 15 minutes late to the church meeting, they still hadn't started.

Went to a concert after church, at paradoxically 9PM on a Sunday night. The Lowell House "Last Minute Orchestra" presented the Brahms Requiem, at of course, the Lowell House dining commons. An impromptu classical concert put on by Harvard affiliated folk (some alum, some undergrads, and others) complete with brownies and "for-the-most-part-hot" coffee provided by the Harvard dining services as part of the midnight brain food, because they're in the middle of exams and papers.

The concert was relaxing, it's always kind of neat to listen to live music,

Live concerts are also a reminder of the first things that brought me into Boston even though I was living in that fabulously happening city of Marlborough MA. I used to come into town for all the most random reasons.

So I guess it's kind of a strange to reminisce, about how I think some random Saturday in August of 1996, I drove out to the Woodland T-stop on the green line, then hopped on the train into Boston. I met a bunch of BU freshman and their RA on the subway. So, deciding that the museum of science might be an interesting thing to do, I tagged along with them, the RA bought me a ticket to the museum of science, and the Omni theatre. It was a pretty neat afternoon, I thought there was a magic to the city, besides it seemed like BU had a whole lot of money to spend on freshman events, of which not that many of the students participated in.

So as a result I found out about free stuff to do in Boston. Free classical music at the New England Conservatory, chamber music on Wed nights, soloists tues and thurs, and once a month an orchestra, choir, or both would perform.

I'd drive into Harvard square on Friday nights, to see the performers, and wonder just where Tufts University was, and what all the students from there were doing in the square (it was only months later that I leered that Tufts is practically within Boston as well.

Anyhow I'm rambling. I should get to sleep.

Posted by justin at 12:33 AM
May 06, 2003
Is there Regret in Heaven?

I think at all the injustices in the world, acknowledge their existance, yet feeling powerless to change things. How long will I cry out for justice? Deep down, I have doubts, do I really even believe it's possible.

John Piper writes
"When I think on these things, it makes me tremble at the prospect of living a trivial, self-serving, comfortable, middle-class, ordinary, untroubled American life. I can’t keep eternity out of my mind. Life is short and eternity is long. Very long. It is a long time to regret a wasted life. "

I look at all my friends, and wonder if we are indeed deceiving ourselves. That we may be destined for a quiet suburban lifestyle, backyard bbq's, home improvement projects, a small yard. Living in our gated communities, our kids safe, commuting to our jobs located not in the city, but another suburb.

Suffering, Mercy, and Heavenly Regret
by John Piper

When I think of the atrocities in the world, like the
genocides of the 20th century, it makes me want to
live my short life on earth with as few regrets as
possible. Germans killing Jews during World War II (6
million); Turks killing Armenians, 1914-1915 (1.5
million); the Khmer Rouge killing Cambodians,
1975-1979 (2 million); Saddam Hussein’s troops killing
Iraqi Kurds, 1987-1988 (100,000); Serbs killing
Bosnian Muslims, 1992-1995 (200,000); Hutus killing
Tutsis, 1994 (800,000); Americans killing unborn
children, 1973-present (40 million). Not to mention
the 60 million people killed by the Communist regime
mainly under Stalin. There were others.

Add to this the suffering owing to natural disasters
like the tropical storm in November, 1970 that killed
about 400,000 people in Bangladesh, or the earthquake
of Gujarat, India in January, 2001 that killed 15,000,
or the AIDS epidemic in Africa that has taken the
lives of 2.5 million people. Then add the sadness and
pain and eventual death of your own family.

When I think on these things, it makes me tremble at
the prospect of living a trivial, self-serving,
comfortable, middle-class, ordinary, untroubled
American life. I can’t keep eternity out of my mind.
Life is short and eternity is long. Very long. It is a
long time to regret a wasted life.

Which raises the question: Is there regret in heaven?
Can regret be part of the ever-increasing, unspeakable
joy of the age to come, purchased by Jesus Christ
(Romans 8:32)? My answer is yes. I am aware of
promises like Revelation 21:4, “He will wipe away
every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no
more, neither shall there be mourning nor crying nor
pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.”
But I don’t think this rules out “tears of joy,” and
it may not rule out “regretful joy”.

Why do I think this? I do not see how we will be able
to worship Christ and sing the song of the Lamb
without clear memory of the glorious, saving work of
Jesus Christ and all that it involved. According to
Revelation 5:9, the saints will sing “a new song,
saying, ‘Worthy are you to take the scroll and to open
its seals, for you were slain, and by your blood you
ransomed people for God from every tribe and language
and people and nation.’” Ransomed from what? Will we
have forgotten? This song and this memory will make no
sense without the memory of sin. And the memory of sin
will be hypocritical without the confession that it
was our sin that Jesus died for.

It is inconceivable to me that we will remember our
sin for what it really was, and the suffering of
Christ for what it really was, and not feel “regretful
joy.” The intensity of our joy in grace will be fed by
the remembrance of our unworthiness. He who is
forgiven much, loves much (Luke 7:47). But this does
not mean we should sin so that grace may abound
(Romans 6:1). The holiest will be the happiest. But it
does mean that regret will not ruin heaven. There will
be kinds of joys, and complexities of happiness, and
combinations of emotions in heaven of which we have
never dreamed.

But all this leaves me trembling that I not throw away
the one short life that I will look back on for all
eternity. Just think of it. You have one life. One
very short life. Then an eternity to remember. Does
not the suffering in this world seem inexplicable to
you? Is not this great global (and intensely personal)
suffering a call to magnify the mercy of Christ by how
we respond? Is not suffering a seamless fabric
stretching into eternity for unbelievers? And
therefore, are not Christians the only people who can
respond with relief to the totality of misery?

Shall we not then live our lives – and prepare for
heaven – by strategizing in all our vocations and with
all our talents and all our money to relieve suffering
(now and forever) for the glory of Jesus?

Posted by justin at 09:56 AM
May 05, 2003
Class and Privelage....

My weekend was busy,

I went out on Friday night, went to a lounge somthing similar to what I might have done in Arizona, 'cept the people were younger and even better dressed, and even more hip. The drinks were even more expensive, only French and Italian wines, and we started at 10PM instead of 7pm. I wonder why I do that kind of thing. Just looking over the lounge seeing a bunch of youngsters drinking champagne, trying to dance in a really crowded place. Strange to say the least. Who's got the money for all that kind of stuff?

Anyhow, my co-worker was hung over, so he spent the night at my place, we went out for breakfast, then my housemate had planned to go to see the ocean, sit on the rocks and have a late afternoon snack. So we packed up and headed for Nahant, an peninsula which looked promising. We shouldn't have even bothered, only after realizing that it was a locals only town, and wondering why they just don't put a gate and a guardhouse on the only road leading to town, to save us the trouble of figuring out that we can't go to the beaches there.

We found another beach, and then enjoyed our lunch. I'd brought my wet suit, and tried to go swimming, but it was still too cold. We went home, my housemate, his girlfriend and the other housemates she lives with came over, mixed some drinks, we ate a bit more, drank some wine and talked.

This morning, woke up late, my housemate went out walking as part of a fundraiser, I took my bike out, and headed around in the hills. Too many flat tires, and having to flag down someone to give me a lift to the bike shop didn't help too much for my desire to actually ride this thing and reduce my gut a bit.

Got back, saw my housemate plopped on the couch, watching basketball with his friends, eating pizza. Tired from walking the Boston "Walk For Hunger." Somene noted how much litter a thing like that generates. Went to church, talked to the usual crowd a bit, got falafels, came back, and found one of my friends had come back again to my house to bake some sort of cake. He's got an amazing recipe, which might put the woman who actually charges for cakes to shame. Then again it's all about consistancy.

Let's see things I still have to do now, got to work on the car, put in my spring plantings, get my motorcycle on the road, not to mention clean the house and do my grocery shopping for the week.

Dang it, too many toys, not enough time to play!

Posted by justin at 08:22 AM