Friday, June 30, 2006

 

Another T-Shirt

I saw a guy this morning wearing a t-shirt that said "Husband for sale. Low milage, take up payments"

Fai Mao

 

More T-Shirts

About a year ago I made a post on the funny, sometimes really dirty t-shirts that you see the Chinese here wearing.

As it happens this week has been a good week for strange t-shirt spotting. Most of them have been rather dirty. Maybe I've just been getting out more. Maybe it is just the season.

Seen this week, as best as I can remember:
The best of the week?

These just reminded me that you should never wear any thing that has words in a language you cannot read.

Until Next Time
Fai Mao
The T-Shirt Reading Blogger

Wednesday, June 28, 2006

 

Bull-Horns

I went to a restaurant yesterday with my daughter. We were having a wonderful lunch unil a tour group of elderly mainlanders came in. The tour guide was using a bull-horn to get them to their tables and give them instructions on how to get to the buffet.

That's Hong Kong.

Until Next Time
Fai Mao
The gourmand Blogger

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

 

Byzantine Hymns

I ran across this series of links the other day.

I am still away and part of being away means having time to refocus a little bit.

However, this is a cool site of ancient Byzantine hymns. They are in Greek and require a Real Player and a plug-in to play them but they are really worth listening too.

Here is the link

Enjoy

Until Next Time
Fai Mao
The Musical Appreciation Blogger

Friday, June 16, 2006

 

Away, away, take me away from it all!

My job has been really hectic the last week. It will continue to be so for the coming week.

I should be able to post regularly again starting the last week of June.

Until Next Time
Fai Mao
The Otherwise Occupied Blogger

Friday, June 09, 2006

 

Hagia Sophia

This will probably be my last travel-log post about my recent trip to Turkey. It will also be the hardest to write because I am going to deal with some very abstract concepts. I'll try not to ramble.

I will also not respond to those wishing to call me names or who complain about my lack of sensitivity to Muslims in this regard. So, save the hate mail. I won't respond to it.

It is amazing to me how close the emotions of love, hate, joy and bitterness often stand to each other in our conscience. I find the ability to rapidly slide from one to the other to be one of the more uncomplimentary facets of the human condition.

I ran into this while in the Hagia Sophia. While looking at the remnants of the beautiful mosaics and frescoes as well as the magnificent dome and the truly monumental proportions of the church I was struck with what a travesty the Ottomans perpetrated on my culture when they overran the Byzantines. Let us be frank, the Ottomans invaded and conquered a culture that had existed for nearly 1000 years in its Roman form and much longer as a conglomeration of Greek speaking peoples. As a culture, the Byzantines were superior to the Ottomans in almost every way except the ability to wage the most cruel and barbaric form of war. This doesn't mean that the Byzantines were perfect, far from it, but there is no doubt that the Turks simply stole a country from people who had lived there for millennia and who were culturally and spiritually their superiors.

The Turks then set about destroying all the references to that culture they'd conquered and apparently designed mosque to resemble Orthodox churches. They plastered over they tore down, they changed the language and while slightly more tolerant than the Fatmids in Egypt they forced many to convert to Islam at the point of a sword. The accounts of the atrocities committed upon the people of Constantinople after its fall are difficult for me to read.

The Turks even changed the names of cities so that the Greek heritage of the area was lost or at least submerged beneath a forced veneer of Turkish colored paint. The palace of the last Sultan is a tourist attraction. I don't think the Germans do tours of Adolph Hitler's house. If they do they approach it very differently and the Sultan was a ruthless dictator.

Much of the New Testament was written to churches in what is now Turkey. Much of the best of ancient civilization was preserved by the Byzantines. The Renaissance in Western Europe was possible not because of anything done by the Arabs as is often stated but because the Byzantines had never lost the knowledge of antiquity and Byzantine teachers were hired by Italian merchants and princes to educate their children. The Byzantines were the only state besides China to make the transition from antiquity to the middle ages. Far from being a culture in decline they remained until almost the end, a vibrant culture though reduced in size and influence.

I simply broke down and wept in the Hagia Sophia. I found myself weeping over the loss of what is without doubt, my cultural inheritance. I wept because it is a lie that the plaster over the frescoes preserved the art in the church. The art would have been better preserved if the Hagia Sophia was a working church as it had been for 800 years before the Ottomans converted it into a mosque. I wept and had to quickly leave before I collapsed on the floor. I went outside and waited near the gate for the rest of my group. Outside in the bright sunlight I was able to regain my composure and calm my soul.

Outside I was able to forgive both my myself and the 15th century Ottomans and I sat there and enjoyed the wonderful Saturday morning sun. I waited about 15 or 20 minutes for the rest of my group.

I had to struggle to remember those who committed this great crime are not the same people who are living in Turkey today. I do not hold children responsible for the crimes of their fathers. That said, I don't think that the Turks are able to stand emotionally far enough away from their history to be able to understand why the Hagia Sophia was simultaneously the one thing in Turkey that I felt I must see and the one thing I so dreaded to see.

Other Western nations are somewhat ashamed or at least speak in sheepish tones of their Imperial past and especially the crimes their ancestors committed in the name of their nation. I didn't see that in Turkey. As I said earlier I think that the Turks are still standing too close to their history to see how some of the things they've done look to others. I should also say that the Turks I met were friendly, polite and generally good people. I'd live in Turkey before I'd live in France or Germany or the UK. But, I still had to struggle to not hate the Turks on that day for what their ancestors did to my culture. It is a struggle I won, at least on that day.

I am grateful to the Turkish government for the restoration that is occurring in the Hagia Sophia. I am grateful that they have turned it into a museum. It will only become more spectacular in the future.

I'm planning to return to Turkey someday

I am praying that the Gospel may one day be proclaimed again from the pulpit of the Hagia Sophia.

Until Next Time
Fai Mao
The Philo-Byzanto Blogger

Labels: , , , , ,


Thursday, June 08, 2006

 

Philosophy of Education

(A Morning Devotion Presented during the 2005-2006 School Year)

I'd like to challenge you today to think about your underlying educational world view. We often think about classroom management, or best practice or curriculum development but we don't think about the philosophy that undergirds what we do. I'd like to raise this issue today. I'd like to challenge you to think about educational philosophy at a very basic level and to consider doing some reading on the subject

I'm going to do this in a strange way. I'm going to quote someone who in some very important areas I disagree with and then hopefully tie what he has to say into some Biblical principles. That person is John Dewey.

Dewey was an apostate, who disavowed his Christianity after reading the works of Darwin. I don't buy nearly all of what Dewey says. However, the fact that I disagree with John Dewey on so many issues makes it even more striking to me when he says something that hits the nail on the head. I believe that while we need to be careful with John Dewey he still has, on the whole, something to teach us.

C.S. Lewis wrote in his book Letters to Malcolm that the best devotions are those " that you do while reading a pagan philosopher with a pen in your hand and a pipe in your teeth" Well I don't smoke but I understand the sentiment. Some of my best and deepest devotional thoughts over the past three or four years have come reading Kierkegaard the existentialist, Heiddeger the NAZI, Bergson, Popper and Husserl who were Jewish, and John Dewey who was a lapsed Protestant.

In the past several months it has been Dewey who has 52 years after his death stirred my soul and turned my heart and mind to ponder just exactly what is God's concept of education and what is my role as a librarian who is also an educator.

As we talk and sit and hopefully learn in teacher workdays and late start days this coming year I think it might be a good idea to revisit John Dewey who is, after all, without doubt, the most important philosopher of education in the last 150 years and see if he has anything to say us in a Christian school.

For those who are unfamiliar with John Dewey let me quickly give you an overview. Dewey believed that the best education was education that comes from experience. He was struggling against an educational system that believed that knowledge and wisdom were external things that could be inserted into the minds of children through repetition and drill. Education in his time was strict and taught that there must be a strict adherence to to facts and a preset curriculum.

Dewey was not the first but was the most influential thinker to say that education should be child centered not curriculum or teacher centered. He invented the lab school. He advocated cooperative learning and was an early and vocal advocate for better special education as well as planting the seeds that would become the inclusive education movement. He pioneered smaller class size. He advocated such now standard ideas as group learning and relating lessons to everyday experience.

In many respects his criticism of the educational establishment of his day was well founded and accurate. The problem was that the educational system of late 19th century America had grown out of the Sunday-school movement, catechism schools and the efforts of Protestants to improve literacy so that people could read the Bible.

When the established educational system of Dewey's time opposed his reforms it was, in part because they saw those reforms, I believe, incorrectly as an attack upon Christianity. I must stress that while Dewey abandoned his Christian roots he consistently refused make overt attacks upon the church or Christianity as he saw the great good that Christian social missions had provided to the poor of the industrial revolution and exhibited great respect for his Christian colleagues throughout his life.

I believe that the schools of Dewey's times missed an opportunity to reform the idea of education and to retrieve a wandering and back-sliding man. For as the schools opposed Dewey his position against them hardened and he was forced to ally himself with the secular and socialist elements in society and it is these groups who have become the champions of a better education in the world not the church. Education has been poorer every since.

Thus, without further explanation; I've re-printed some excerpts from John Dewey's book Experience and Education. As you have time today or tomorrow, I'd like for you look at these quotes and see if you can put them in a Christian perspective. Think about how you can refine, clarify or improve your philosophy of education and discover how that philosophy is based or grounded in your faith.

Mankind likes to think in terms of extreme opposites. It is given to formulating its beliefs in terms of Either-Ors , between which it recognizes no intermediate possibilities. When forced to recognize that the extremes cannot be acted upon, it is still inclined to hold that they are all right in theory but that when it comes to practical matters circumstances compel us to compromise. Educational philosophy is no exception. The history of educational theory is marked by opposition between the idea that education is development from within and that it is formation from without; that it is based upon natural endowments and that education is a process of overcoming natural inclination and substituting in its place habits acquired under external pressure. (Experience and Education p.1)

Now, all principles by themselves are abstract. They become concrete only in the consequences which result from their application. (Experience and Education p.20)

When external control is rejected, the problem becomes that of finding the factors of control that are inherent within experience. When external authority is rejected, it does not follow that all authority should be rejected, but rather that there is need to search for a more effective source of authority. (Experience and Education p.21)

This last quote is one of my favorites. It can be paraphrased as change does not equal progress.

We shall operate blindly and in confusion until we recognize this fact; until we thoroughly appreciate that departure from the old solves no problems. (Experience and Education p.25)



Lastly, read Hebrews 5:14

Shouldn't one of our objectives as a Christian school be to help our students find the Truth? I think John Dewey had a lot to teach us about finding the Truth.


The complete text for Experience and Education can be found HERE

Until Next Time
Fai Mao
The Educational Philosopher



 

More Moral Outrage

Just to be fair to those who think I am a bigot and pick on Muslims.

Here is a link to a story about a family in Texas that starved a child to death.

I am morally outraged by these people as well. However, look at the difference. What these people did is not sanctioned by society and their church or religion (assuming they had one) does not support, sanction or condone it. If the neighbors had known they would have probably intervened or at least called the police. This just doesn’t seem to happen in Islamic societies where the entire society seems to look the other way and life is devalued. (Turkey may be an exception)

I hope the mother and her boyfriend who did this are given the death penalty. I cannot imagine anything that child could do that would deserve being staved to death.


Until Next Time
Fai Mao
The Morally Outraged Blogger

 

I'm So Weird

I messed my sleeping schedule up on the way back from Turkey.

It isn't that I am jet lagged. It is just I'm not sleeping right. As an adult with ADHD I don't sleep much. Normally 3 to 5 hour a night. However, since returning I have been sleeping about 9 to 10 hours every OTHER night. If you average the week I get about the same amount of sleep but now I am just dog tired about 1/2 the time.

Most people when they can't sleep lay there and try to think of calming things. I don't know that I've ever met anyone who actually counts sheep; but, you know what I mean. They clear their mind. They focus on breathing slowly. They listen to soft music through headphones. Somehow, these types of activities never work for me. Last night I found myself arranging all real numbers into the smallest number of discrete potentially infinite sets. Then through extrapolation I set about proving the existence of God through the existence of numbers and then showing that it is possible for evil to exist in the same universe as an infinite God because they are in mutually exclusive sets that exist within the same super set just like different numbers. They neither contradict nor conflict with each other.

I finally got up about 2:30 and took a pain killer that makes you sleepy. Now I can't remember how I formed the argument last night. I remember that I had the argument formed through about 15 logical steps but I can't remember the steps. I can only remember that I did this and what the outcome was.

I guess I need to learn how to take notes in the dark.

Until Next Time
Fai Mao
The Sleepy Blogger

Wednesday, June 07, 2006

 

Stumbling towards the finish

Summer break starts June 15.

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

 

Parmukkale

14. "To the angel of the church in Laodicea write: The Amen, the faithful and true Witness, the Beginning of the creation of God, says this:
15. `I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot; I wish that you were cold or hot.
16. `So because you are lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of My mouth.
17. `Because you say, "I am rich, and have become wealthy, and have need of nothing," and you do not know that you are wretched and miserable and poor and blind and naked,
18. I advise you to buy from Me gold refined by fire so that you may become rich, and white garments so that you may clothe yourself, and that the shame of your nakedness will not be revealed; and eye salve to anoint your eyes so that you may see.
19. `Those whom I love, I reprove and discipline; therefore be zealous and repent.
20. `Behold, I stand at the door and knock; if anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and will dine with him, and he with Me.
21. `He who overcomes, I will grant to him to sit down with Me on My throne, as I also overcame and sat down with My Father on His throne.
22. `He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.' "

Revelation 3:14-22

When I was in Turkey last week one of the places I visited was the spring of Parmukkale,
This was probably one of the most interesting places that I've ever seen. There is a hot spring there, right outside the ancient Roman city of Hierapolis. It was a famous place in ancient times because the water has a high mineral content that was thought to have healing properties and was used as an antidote for various poisons and parasites. Indeed, the city of Hierapolis used the springs as its main source of income. People would come and pay to bath in the pools and drink the water. Because so many people came to be healed the city's ruins are dominated by a vast necropolis of tombs and sarcophagi. You had to pay for your funeral in advance if you came for healing and the payment was not refunded if you didn't die. It is easy to see that death was a very lucrative industry in Roman times.

As the spring cascades over the cliffs to the valley below the water begins to cool. At the top of the mountain it is 127 degrees Fahrenheit of about 51 degrees Celsius. By the time it reaches the valley it is cool mineral spring that can be used for drinking or even in swimming pools. As the water cools it is able to carry less minerals and the calcium carbonate percipitates out. Over 1000's of years the rocks have aquired a think and beautiful coating of cystalized calcium carbonate. The rocks are a snowy white that looks like ice.

Another interesting bit of trivia about this spring is that while the hot spring was used for medicinal purposes and the water at the bottom of hill for drinking, the water half way down is not used for anything. It still had too much salt in it for drinking but not enough for medicinal purposes and was bitter. It is also luke warm. Fun to wade about in but that's about it.

It was probably this spring, that Jesus is referencing in this passage because Parmukkale is only a few kilometers from Laodicea and the two cities would have been familiar to each other. I'd never understood this passage until last week. Jesus is saying that we should be good for either healing or refreshment. Not simply good for soaking or wading.

I don't think I'd ever understood this pasage before.

Until Next Time
Fai Mao
The Historical Theology Blogger



 

The Paradox of Living

I am, in general quite critical of the Roman Catholic Church. I find RC theology to be flawed in many ways and wonder how anyone claiming to be a Christian could believe it? I disagree with almost every aspect of RC theology from the three tiers of devotion to the near deification of Mary, the sacraments that lead to salvation (rather than grace), I disagree with the whole nine yards of it. I understand what they believe and I reject it. I am also bothered that the RC church would allow the worship of obviously pagan idols like the Virgin of Guadalupe to be done openly in the churches in central America. In short, I am probably as committed an anti-Catholic as you will ever find.

Yet, two of my favorite colleagues are Catholics. They are two of the most Godly people I know. Over the time I've worked with them I have grown to appreciate their insight, counsel and obvious faith. They will be returning to their home in Canada at the end of the school year. I will miss them.

Such is the nature of life. Such is the nature of friendship. Such is the nature of tolerance that we over look disagreements and enjoy our friends for the good that is in them.

Until Next Time
Fai Mao
The Blogger Who is More Tolerant Than He Thought Was

Monday, June 05, 2006

 

17 years

Last night was the protest remembering the 17th anaversary of the Tiananmen Square massacre. There were two or three soccer pitches worth of people in Victoria Park. It is amazing to me that this event is still remembered and the attendance is so good. The PRC government and their Hong Kong toadies just pretends that they don't see or that it never happened but, in Hong Kong it is remembered every year.

As I stood there with my candle, I couldn't help but quietly think that one day the students who died there will be considered to have been the first martyrs of the new and free China. It is my prayer today that China will become a free nation soon.

"There ain't no funerals, there ain't no prayers, there ain't no blood in the government square. Reign of terror, true and tried, dried the eyes before they'd cried! And how many tears must fall down? Oh, how many tears must fall? How much blood must soak this ground and how many tears must fall?"
Mark Heard

Pray for China today


Until Next Time
Fai Mao
The Chinese Patriot Blooger

 

Here we go again

About two months ago I posted a long essay titled "Evil Depraved Barbarians" on the abuse of an 11 year-old girl in Afghanistan.

Last week I received a very angry e-mail calling me all sorts of names and basically saying I had no right to be morally outraged over this situation.

Well, here is another article about the kind of culture that exist in the Muslim world.

I'll say it again.

If this the type of culture that exist in the Islamic world I'd rather not spend blood and treasure saving them.

Until Next Time
Fai Mao
The Still Morally Outraged Blogger

Sunday, June 04, 2006

 

Of Wolverines and Men?

Just read an AP article that says the X-man character "Wolverine" is the most popular comic book super hero.

Who'd a thunk it?

Fai Mao

Friday, June 02, 2006

 

The Counter

After my last post I got to thinking it might be nice to know how many, if any people actually find my blog. So I looked up a counter. I am not quite comfortable with this "Service" because I don't want people to get spammed by Online Viagra drugstores or refinance schemes. However, it seemed to be the most forthright company that offered these things. I have noticed that it bumps the number up everytime I make a post so If nothing else It will tell me how often I update. As if I needed to know that.

I guess I should be grateful that none of the companies that put out these counters were founded by a princess from Nigeria who needs my bank account number to regain her fortune.

If it turns out that this company is bothering the few readers I have I'll remove it.

Until Next Time
Fai Mao
The Number Fixated Blogger

 

Traffic

It is sometimes a bit deflating to my ego to look at the lack of comments by viewers, assuming that there are more than one or two who ever see this blog. I guess it really shouldn't be that unexpected as there are probably 100's of thousands of blogs. However, it seems that the comments I do get are generally when I venture into the realm of politics. Since I make an effort to avoid overt political themes then maybe this explains the lack of readers.

When I do touch on politics I almost never mention US politics. So, Bush haters or Bush lovers or the Dick Cheney is the antichrist crowd probably don't have any reason to either praise or bash me.

Until Next Time
Fai Mao
The Blogger with an Easily Bruised Ego

Thursday, June 01, 2006

 

Alvin Plantinga

I've been reading the book The Nature of necessity by Alvin Plantinga.

The basic problem is that I started reading this book on an airplane. I'm going to have to start over. This isn't a book that you can read in 15 minute whacks.

Until Next Time
Fai Mao
The Slow Reading Blogger

 

The Turkey Trip

It is strange that for a man as traveled as I am I hate to travel. I hate planes. I wish it were a law that you had to travel by ship or train. But, then I'd have to have a month to take a 6 day tour in Turkey from Hong Kong.

I just spent 6 days in Turkey on a death march tour. A death march tour is one that you do in 6 days that should take 9 days. We stepped off the plane and onto the tour bus with no time to recover from jet lag or get acclimated to the climate or country.

In 6 days I saw Ephesus, Pergamon, Parmukele, Heropolis, Izmir, St. Johns basilica, The Red basilica, swam in the pool of Cleopatra, shopped at a Gypsy market in some small town, shopped the Egyptian bazaar (Twice) toured the Blue Mosque (actually I stood outside while the rest of my group went in), the Sultan's summer Palace, St. Sophia, the Underground water cisterns, took a cruise up the Bosporus, spent two evenings in Taksim (A restaurant and night club area), The spice market and generally saw the sights of Western Turkey and Istanbul. There were a total of 4 three-hour bus rides on this tour.

I came home with a kilo of olives, two-kilos of cheese, a big box of Turkish Delight candy, a kilo of mixed nuts, and big bag of Turkish coffee.

I can almost without reservation recommend Turkey to anyone looking for a really unique vacation. The people are friendly, the food is good and most things are reasonably priced. The mass transit system is usable even if the streets are unpronounceable. It is the best of Europe without the European snobbiness and attitude.

Both my wife and I are academics and one of the nice things about being an academics is that you can often find work on a one or two year contract. Turkey is a place, the only Islamic place that I would feel comfortable working in.

Not that everything was perfect and I'll talk about my experiences more in another post but, considering that I was thrown into this trip at the last moment when another teacher had a family emergency I thoroughly enjoyed it.

Until Next Time
Fai Mao
The Reluctant Tourist

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?