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Preview: The Book of Shadow

The Book of Shadow

Updated: 2017-06-16T01:28:03.853+08:00


Itchiness and Economic Irrationalism...

2011-08-05T09:19:37.009+08:00 what happens in Year Seven.

The former is a cheap excuse, but the later, for Israelites in Old Testament times, a year of redemption (so the enslaved would go free and debtors would have their debts cancelled) and rest and celebration to remember that God redeemed them from Egypt and that the good land abounding with milk and honey, and their prosperity and wealth thereon, came only from God.

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Jewel Coffee and the Gem of Micah


Jewel Coffee at One Shenton Way - another artisan coffee joint but one stuffed with coffee toys for its single origin beans. At the brew bar - Hario V60, Hario Siphon, Chemex; for the espresso crowd - a manual La Marzocco Strada...and an Uber Boiler. Win.And we're having another go at Micah:Q: What genre of literature is this?series of visions?/prophecies with loads of literary devicesQ: How then should we read/interpret Micah?Q: When did Micah prophesy?1:1 - in the days of Jotham, Ahaz, Hezekiah - kings of JudahHe was a contemporary of Hosea (Hosea 1:1) and Isaiah (Isaiah 1:1), roughly in 8th century B.C. The reigns of Judean kings: Jotham (about 750–735 B.C.), Ahaz (about 735–715 B.C.) and Hezekiah (about 715–687 B.C.).Q: To whom did Micah prophesy?Possibly spoke God's warnings to both Israel (aka Samaria, the northern kingdom) until they went into exile in Assyria, and to Judah (aka Jerusalem, the southern kingdom). Yet, also to the whole world (1:2)[Q: What is the point of prophesy?]Q: What was Micah/God's warning?Impending destruction/judgment from God due to their sin and transgression (1:2-7,12-16).Q: What is notable about coming destruction/judgment?The destruction/judgment will fit their crime:they were proud and coveted the fields of others, oppressed them and left them destitute, therefore they too will be oppressed and ruined and they shall have neither land nor people left after God is done with them (2:1-5)their leaders and rulers are themselves the purveyors of injustice and terror and falsehood and greed when the judges should be the ones discerning what is unjust and the rulers be the ones doing what is right. Since they ignored the good of the people, therefore God will no longer answer them so they will no longer be able to discern or understand (3:1-12)Similar to the "giving over" of Romans?Q: Micah 6-7 presents the imagery of a court case. What is the charge?Covenant violation. God reminds them of covenantal obligations and of his own faithfulness to his promises, and in contrast, their flagrant breaches.Their breaches are not the lack of sacrifices but their disobedience - not doing justice, nor loving kindness nor walking humbly before their God (6:8). They had already been given prior notice of these requirements. Instead they indulged in injustice, violence and deceit.Q: What was the judgment and punishment?Guilty. Since they did not honour the giver of the covenant, they would not be able to enjoy the good land that God had given them - neither the fruit of the land, nor the relationships with each other (6:13-7:6).Q: Why weren't the people given due warning of impending disaster through usual channels?Preachers were false (1:6)People wanted falsehood (1:11)Q: What emotion does God demonstrate as he warns the people through Micah?1:8-9Q: What does this tell you about God?Q: In line with such a marvellous character, what further promises does God give?Reversal and fulfilment (4-5, 7:8-20). God will do a deep clean (5:10-15). New land, new people, new king.Q: In contrast with current situation, what would future hold?God's laws would be learnt, there would be justice and peace.Q: How would promising promised future happen?Shepherd ruler will gather, protect, forgiveQ: How does God sign off so the people would know that God was trustworthy?Reminder that he had been concerned for the Israelites since the time of Moses and that did what he said he would at the Exodus.In Jeremiah 26:18, the elders of the land observe the influence of Micah's words on Hezekiah (cf Micah 3:12). Yet we know that this didn't last long and Judah was carted off by the Babylonians.Q: Has promised future occurred?Q: Now how?[...]

Sirens of the Zeitgeist


From Part 1.Bryant Simon's thesis is that the developed world is more susceptible to the seduction of buying because the pullback of community, the state, and other binding agents allowed brands like Starbucks to sell more goods by claiming the vacuum left by the government. Certainly something we in Singapore may see more clearly in the years after the 2011 General Elections.Like politicians and political parties, Starbucks and other corporates make huge promises about many things. Everything but the Coffee examines the courtship and what consumers are actually buying. Afterall, we fork over money because we value what we think we are getting in return. And the Strawberry Generation of Singapore is lapping it up in droves.So what sort of idolatry does the Starbucks test show up? Simon says, in relation to American society:Values with StatusThe status symbols of the American post-post-hippies of the 1990s were a set of upscale values vaguely revolving around better lifestyle, personal control, better taste, authenticity. It was more about separating oneself from the Joneses than keeping up with them.Howard Schultz portrayed Starbucks as the bastion of authenticity - highlighting the company's know-how and coffeeness with "baristas" who served the drinks and with Italian-sounding beverage names and sizes. At a time when the well-educated stopped trusting traditional advertising, Schultz often boasted to reporters that Starbucks didn't advertise - but of course it did, merely in softer ways through storefronts, visual brand language-speaking logo-ed cups and myth-making in interviews.Experience architect Wright Massey used an appropriate colour palette, wood floors and earth-toned tiles, brown napkins and sugar, displays of raw green coffee beans, to create a natural, slightly Continental feel. But each store always incorporated something unique to the space to ensure that the similarities between stores did not alarm consumers.Predictable IndividualityPost-McDonalisation of society, people had come to prefer to know what to expect in most settings and at most times; they neither desired nor expected surprises. Starbucks then offered that feeling of reassurance when its products were the same everywhere, especially when consumers were travelling in a foreign country and were already alienated by the language barrier. Any tyranny of choice would have added to their feelings of dislocation.This safe predictability had to be carefully staged - Starbucks did this by mechanising its production line so all drinks would always taste the same, by filling its stores with a certain sort of worker, by ensuring that each store had the same facilities (a clean toilet, Wifi etc).However, so as to avoid being associated with McDonalds, it had to simultaneously mask its sameness behind images of choice and individuality. Yuppies and the creative class liked to think themselves as unique and would reject anything in their buying that might mark them out as run-of-the-mill; which is why when Dunkin' Donuts paid some Starbucks regulars to try its coffee for a week, even though most agreed that the coffee was better, they bristled at the bright orange colour scheme and lack of personal importance from being unable to make choices. Starbucks patrons sought out things that made them feel significant.Starbucks did not just limit itself to the customisation of drinks to cater to the egoistically-needy, it also ensured the experience was personalised. The Starbucks manual insisted that workers know customer names, drinks and personal preferences. Workers needed to smile, laugh and ask customers their first names when they order - not just for drink pick-ups but also to help them know their regulars as quickly as possible so they could greet them when they next stepped in the door. The manual laid out a number of "legendary service scenarios" - handing over a drink and saying "Tall mocha, thank you" was basic; to upgrade the service was to say "Thanks, John, enjoy your mocha!", explaining that [...]

Everything But The Progress


While planning to take some wow-Singapore-is-Monocle's-15th-most-liveable-city out-of-towners around Singapore during the Great Singapore Sale (see Foreign Policy Design Group-curated Great Singapore Stores), was amused to notice how closely Singaporean society resembled the American counterpart studied (albeit rather anecdotally, but that is the way of sociologists) by Bryant Simon in Everything But The Coffee: Learning about America from Starbucks. Which may be why we even make it onto Tyler Brûlé's Monocle list.It interests me both as a resident of this country and as someone who wants to speak truth to its people to know where the hearts and minds of this nation are headed. Bandying about terms like "post-modernism", "post-post-modernism", "liberalism" i find don't quite encapsulate ground-level observation. Amongst the hodge-podge of races and religions that is touted as multi-culturalism, Singapore has also embraced Starbucks the way America did in the Noughties. I call the approximately 70 outlets on the island as witnesses.Why the appeal of Starbucks? Because the zeitgeist would have us believe that what we consume has meaning for us and (or because) it tells others what to think about us. What are customers really buying when they grab a white cup with a round green logo? Simon's conclusion is that what Starbucks consciously sells and what their fans buy is/are one or more of the following:- cheap shots of status- reassuring predictability- opportunities for self-gifting- simulacra of community, belonging- veneer of discovery- currently fashionable badges of supporting social justice, environmental protection, fair trade, world peace!Perhaps this too is endemic in Mr. Brûlé's world and the quirky but nebulous indie universe.Part 1 of the plan for entertaining the tourists. Along the way, we met friends who had just come from the Pink Dot event at Hong Lim Speakers' Corner, grumbling that the organisers claimed 10,000 turned up when it seemed much less than that:Little India MRT- Tekka Market - history of name, Chia's Vegetable Supply where proprietor Victor Chia plays jazz and sells vegetables to aunties and ang mohs alike as example of search for authenticity but familiarity, leaving vegetable stalls within surrounding shophouses to be frequented mostly by Indian and Chinese foreign workers- Post Museum + Food #3 - "independent cultural and social space in Singapore, serving as an open platform for examining contemporary life, promoting the arts and connecting people"- Exit A: head towards Niven Road - refurbished shophouses here sell now for several million S$. What top dollar would you pay to live somewhere that looks historical (but is hopefully not haunted)? Spot Sikh ladies on the way out from the Sikh Gurdwara Khalsa Dharmak Sabha temple up the road stopping to shop for punjabi suits- cross through Wilkie Edge past a Starbucks - the yellow neo-classical David Elias Building at junction of Short Street and Middle Road houses Le Cafe Confectionery which is famous for its golf-ball pineapple tarts. Notice the prominent six-pointed Star of David. The Jewish community used to hang out around these parts. - the very popular Rochor Original Beancurd and neighbouring Selegie Soya Bean are round the corner along Short Street. Like many other popular foodstalls in Singapore, there is a backstory to competing neighbours. Stop for a drink and a nibble on fried dough fritters and Portuguese egg tarts- along parallel Prinsep Street, the red brick Prinsep Street Presbyterian Church, the oldest existing church- further up Prinsep Street, LASALLE College of the Arts designed by RSP Architects to "emulate the porosity of the city streets permeating through the campus, and to provide many platforms for design interaction and inspiration. The campus green, city court and the four alleyways that weave into the campus give rise to opportunities for diverse art forms and cultural exchanges between the students and the public, and to enable [...]

Angry Birds at Youth Camp


Some days you think the sky is falling...and it's raining Angry Birds tchotchke. At least one stall in every pasar malam and mall a gaudy display of soft toys, electric fans, bags, files, pens bearing the images of the rotund birds in primary colours.We rode the wave with an Angry Birds-themed Revision Party just as the craze was cresting. In the playing-with-your-food department, a lazy google already turned up:playable Angry Birds cakes - commercially from Bake-A-Log and A Cake Life LLC and out of fatherly love from Electricpig (Youtube)Angry Birds cake toppers from Artisan Cake CompanyAngry Birds cupcakesAngry Birds sandwichesAngry Birds pizzaThe choice to go with Angry Birds cake toppers (with Green Pigs in Kit-Kat structures - cos, well, "Take A Break") to cut through the monotony of study seemed a good one. The fondant excited the campers (several of whom confessed an Angry Birds obsession) and was certainly more appreciated than if the Rovio game had been made retro a la Penney Design.Being fairly contentless, save for a rather loose back story involving egg-stealing Green Pigs and kamikaze Angry Birds, the theme was open to having all sorts of stuff imposed on it without being untrue to author's intent. Stayed true to the original fonts though - Feast of the Flesh by Blambot and OnomatoShark!. Passed on the lovely downloadable wallpaper from here.The erstwhile Irate Aves did not quite follow the bird sounds of the game, claiming that their version was correct. For the record, the sounds on the iPhone game appear to be:Red Bird: ahhh..heehee....haaaaYellow Bird: oi oi...weeeeeeeBlack Bomber Bird: hahahahahaaaa.....weeeeWhite Bird that drops egg-bombs: paka! weeeeeeeNevertheless, the masks they made were excellent and the campers, politely bemused by the breakfast and supper entertainment which included Mr. Quadratic Equations Tan attempting to explain the formula for catapult launching, a Miss Universe Contestant attempting a Peas Treaty and a crusty old British general Mighty Eagle. (We also had the services of a crazy-good pianist who could play variations on Ari Pulkinnen's Angry Birds theme song (and more besides) after just one listen.)This cumulated in the Wide Game where campers had to help the Angry Birds get, well, something so The Mighty Eagle might save them from the porcine scourge. One camper with a "Latitia" accent threatened TME with no ice-cream if he didn't provide assistance, another used his vague knowledge of United Nations conventions to Promise the old bird an early extinction if help was not forthcoming. Hilarious. But it's very important to know what someone wants when trying to please (or threaten) him... The Man With The Tie and Yam Ah Mee hair read out the Golden Egg Awards pursuant to Section 49, Sub-section 7E, Paragraph (a) of the Piggymentary Eradication Act.Long Beak SpeciesHappily, no one was too precious about non-essentials like the entertainment or the food (yummy as usual - babi assam, mustard chicken, pasta bake, apple crumble, banoffee pie etc), though these worked agreeably as white noise, so everyone could concentrate on what mattered - the gospel. Personally, this seemed the most unmuddied proclamation of the good news at camp in recent memory. Particularly enjoyed Stuart Morgan's exposition of the Book of Esther concerning God working even amongst the Jews of somewhat nebulous character, who had not bothered to obey the command to return to God's land. The Times of Quiet Luke 22-24 (x Exodus 12 x Jeremiah 31 x Psalm 22) passages worked well with the Luke 18-19 ones in the Main Talks. The forums about English comprehension and Bible-reading, and the recent devastating earthquake in Japan instigated quite a few good questions from thoughtful campers.The scamper book club book, Greg Dutcher's You are the treasure that I seek (but there's a lot of cool stuff out there Lord) co-operated with the theme by featuring a golden egg (Golden Egg!!) on its cover. The juxtapo[...]

God's Sovereignty, Man's Responsibility, Free Will and Durians


"Our Mate"The morning after being grilled along with some mystery meat at a Korean BBQ, was still considerably in awe of God."If God knows everything that will happen, why didn't he just make everyone obey him?"That's exactly what we would do if we were the too-flawed-to-wield-so-much-power Bruce Almighty. But, as if as additional proof that God wasn't made up by any human being, that's precisely what God does not do:he made the whole world, including human beings who were allowed to choose between trusting him completely and throwing their lot in with a sneaky snake ("You may surely eat of every tree of the garden, but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die." - Genesis 2:16-17);knowing that Adam and Eve will head up a whole nasty race who will have nothing but hatred for him, God nevertheless lets them live and blesses their descendants;knowing that mankind will harden their hearts, God nevertheless woos them with rescue-after-rescue, signs and wonders, faithfulness, prophet-after-prophet, warnings;knowing that his own justice must be served and the guilty punished, God decided before the beginning of time that his Son would die to pay for our sinsHe didn't have to do any of these things but he did.It's excellent to have questions about God's omniscience and human free will because this is precisely the sort of stuff you would come upon if you were paying attention to the Bible.Not convinced by arguments that God gave us so-called free will because he craved genuine love not robot love. No where does it say that God so loved the world he gave them democracy. The Scriptures just states both God's knowing-it-all and man's choice as facts and doesn't bother to explain it to plebs.In fact, the Bible doesn't just stop there. To show you who's boss, it goes one up and adds a durian to its juggling routine - predestination, that is, nothing happens without God's say-so (Colossians 3:12, Ephesians 1:4-10, Romans 8:29-30, Romans 9. Have a listen to Jonathan Fletcher and a stare at Broughton Knox). It's not an embarrassing boo-boo that needs to be kept under wraps made but a proud, loud and constant refrain throughout all those different books by different human authors, writing in vastly different ages and nations. For example,Exodus states baldly, in the matter of a certain king of Egypt, that the Pharaoh's heart was hardened (Exodus 7:13,14,22; 8:19; 9:7), the Pharaoh hardened his heart (Exodus 8:15,32; 9:34), the LORD hardened the Pharaoh's heart (Exodus 9:12), and God knew beforehand that this would happen (Exodus 9:35).In case you were mistaken that Jesus sweet and mild didn't come in for such imperialistic predestination stuff, he was recorded as saying "No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him. And I will raise him up on the last day." (John 6:44), "You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you..." (John 15:16), and also "If anyone does not abide in me he is thrown away like a branch and withers; and the branches are gathered, thrown into the fire, and burned. (John 15:6)".The Bible is really quite adamant about God's sovereignty, omnipotence and total control over everything on one hand, and human ability to choose and bear responsibility for their choices on the other. It's the same as there being one God and the Trinity, and as Jesus being fully human and fully divine.A cop-out? Well, it's a bit silly for those who have trouble following The Matrix trilogy or Inception which are but human constructs, or who can't keep a handle on simplistic political arguments that don't even take into account the system dynamics of SimCity, to find this both-and aspect of God's world offensive. Why, even the brightest minds and hard-working generations have hardly scratched the surface in explaining the known universe (aka science), it's really not surprising that we can't understand this.[...]

Saturday In Design Singapore x Olympus Trip 35


A happy afternoon perusing wares at Saturday In Design Singapore, the first of what's slated to be an annual trade event for the design community. Quite a bit of the exhibits were not new, but it was fun to see them all at one shot, observe tropes and discuss the concept of cross-fertilisation of ideas in a "globalised world".Grateful that God has given us the ability to find beauty in inanimate manmade objects - the Mattiazzi Branca, especially (a Vimeo on its manufacture).Explained the cost of following Christ from Mark 8 and 10 during this week's Christianity Explored course. Good questions at the end - people not so concerned about the cost or about historicity, but about different ways of interpreting the Bible and hypocrisy of Christians.Was interesting to hear Dick Lucas (or was it Jonathan Fletcher?) observe, during a sermon on Isaiah, that the challenge to the preacher is always to convince non-believers that God is not for them, and to convince believers that God is for them. A soundbite that is as inaccurate/vague as some contemporary Christian music?Sometimes, maudlin CCM lyrics encapsulate the riches of a Puritan sermon. Case in point, "you're altogether lovely" from Here I Am To Worship. Says my homeboy, John Flavel in Christ Altogether Lovely:1. Is Jesus Christ altogether lovely? Then I beseech you set your souls upon this lovely Jesus. I am sure such an object as has been here represented, would compel love from the coldest breast and hardest heart. Away with those empty nothings, away with this vain deceitful world, which deserves not the thousandth part of the love you give it. Let all stand aside and give way to Christ. O if only you knew his worth and excellency, what he is in himself, what he has done for you, and deserved from you, you would need no arguments of mine to persuade you to love him!2. Esteem nothing lovely except as it is enjoyed in Christ, or used for the sake of Christ. Love nothing for itself, love nothing separate from Jesus Christ. In two things we all sin in love of created things. We sin in the excess of our affections, loving them above the proper value of mere created things. We also sin in the inordinacy of our affections, that is to say we give our love for created things a priority it should never have.3. Let us all be humbled for the corruption of our hearts that are so eager in their affections for vanities and trifles and so hard to be persuaded to the love of Christ, who is altogether lovely. O how many pour out streams of love and delight upon the vain and empty created thing; while no arguments can draw forth one drop of love from their stubborn and unbelieving hearts to Jesus Christ! I have read of one Joannes Mollius, who was observed to go often alone, and weep bitterly; and being pressed by a friend to know the cause of his troubles, said "O! it grieves me that I cannot bring this heart of mine to love Jesus Christ more fervently."4. Represent Christ to the world as he is, by your behaviour towards him. Is he altogether lovely? Let all the world see and know that he is so, by your delights in him and communion with him; zeal for him, and readiness to part with any other lovely thing upon his account. Proclaim his excellencies to the world, as the spouse did in these verses. Persuade them how much your beloved is better than any other beloved. Show his glorious excellencies as you speak of him; hold him forth to others, as he is in himself: altogether lovely. See that you "walk worthy of him unto all well pleasing," Col. 1:10. "Show forth the praises of Christ," 1 Pet. 2:19. Let not that "worthy name be blasphemed through you," James 2:7. He is glorious in himself, and he is sure to put glory upon you; take heed that you do not put shame and dishonours upon him; he has committed his honour to you, do not betray that trust.5. Never be ashamed to be counted as a Christian: he is altogether lovel[...]

I Shall Wear the Bottom of My Trousers Rolled


Fun times at The Steeping Room, a pop-up shop with a lifespan of only 3 months, from the same folk who brought us Papa Palheta and Loysel's Toy. Reminiscent of Square Mile Coffee Roasters' Penny University. Fantastic initiative and, to use politico-speak, where the ground is heading. (Or is the ground being led there?) Like much art and theory, the methodology isn't new - the nonchalant Kenyan AA in a syphon has hung around The Coffee Connoiseur for some time and the Hario Buono Kettle, V60 drip filters and Skerton and Slim Mill grinders have been offered by Japanese department stores for ages.But this is now gathering enough support (and coolness?) to be termed "a movement", with attendant evangelistic guerilla shop set up on the second floor of the 261 Waterloo Street HDB block, two floors down from and a stone's throw from Food For Thought, with wooden pallets as wall decor and Pyrex Iwaki beakers as beverage vessels.Despite oozing such coolness that even ah-peks think I'm far less hip than them (plus the uncle from the "Famous Waterloo Street" chicken rice downstairs was so pained by my lousy Mandarin, he felt it necessary to hold up the queue to correct it), I've managed to acquire almost half the equipment on display during the continuing quest for the most decent cup of homebrew (early and late March, April*). The current menu for May was interesting enough: Papua New Guinea Sigri Peaberry served in the Hario V60 or Hario Woodneck cloth drip, Ibero El Salvador Pacamara in the Aerobie Aeropress, Ethiopia Yirgacheffe in the Hario Syphon and for The Steeping Series, the PNG Sigri Peaberry and Ethiopian Yirgacheffe paired with dark and milk Royce nama chocolates. Lovely. No espresso-based drinks or milk additives here - just coffee in its glory. Still, the highlight of the visit was to be able to lean over and have a grand old yabber with the baristas about failed home experiments, 13g-14g for the Aerobie Aeropress) vs 23g (! aiyoh!), "circular pour with agitation", Geishas, etc without so much as a puzzled blink from across the counter. It seemed to me, as we were debating the historicity of Jesus' resurrection at Christianity Explored today, that there are great similarities between coffeegeekery and Christian evangelism - you've discovered something great and it's so marvellous that you want to share the good news with everyone! Yet, being obsessed about coffee makes one an interesting person but being passionate about the God who made this wonderful world makes you a scary fundamentalist; gabbing on about beans and showing people that "coffee can be sweet, floral, fruity and nutty" is very exciting but talking about Jesus who died in our place for the sins we committed and showing people the goodness of God's laws just results in complaints that we are infringing on the rights of others.Yet exploring the coffee bean is so much much less important than exploring the meaning to life, the reason we have been put on earth, who made the entire universe, who rules it, and where we will go when we die.*My most recent experiments involving Has Bean's Malawi Mzimba Geisha 2011 + Hario V60 have been fantastic for the princely sum of £4.30. It's not that geisha from Hacienda La Esmerelda in Panama, but the fallout radius was still at least 10m from the epicenter of the mid-afternoon brew in the office pantry. Much less swooning with Has Bean's Malawi Viphya Geisha 2011 though.Here's Stephen Leighton's write-up:Grown in the Viphya North Hills on the grassland plateau overlooking Lake Malawi, this micro lot is of the Geisha varietal. Geisha is an ancient and very rare coffee variety that has gained a lot of favour of late. The agronomic yield of Geisha is extremely low, which is why it is so difficult to find commercial plantations of this variety. One of the reasons for its new found popularity is an auction lot that fetched[...]

May Day! May Day


The destination for this year's May Day pilgrimage was Pulau Besar in Johor, another boat ride from Mersing jetty.We made full use of the 2-3 hour long queues at Malaysian immigration (they were testing out their new biometric thumbprint scanning systems) to hone our wheeling and dealing skills. Malaysian security spotted us and walkie-talkie-d for back-up, but their SOP didn't provide for action to be taken when faced with Monopoly Deal. A roller coaster ride along windy roads to Mersing and a speedy boat ride later, we were at the bucolic island of Pulau Besar. In Malaysia, this meant charming wooden huts amidst coconut trees with creaky plywood boards so thin you could hear passing conversations while inside the hut and take full advantage of the resident rooster(s) for your morning alarm, and stained but clean sheets and comfortably soft mattresses at Mirage Island Resort,hens and chicks just about everywhere - looking for food under the stilted huts, roosting in trees, clucking and cheeping under bushes...attap huts, bats awake during the day and squabbling amongst coconut palms, hibiscus shrubs (at D'Coconut Island Resort), anda tree house replete with well-used hammocks and swings at Aseania Resort.The international flags at Mirage's Pirate Bar and lounging young Frenchmen who alternated between beach volleyball and chain-smoking and drinking beer while swimming in the sea, juxtaposed bucolic with backpacker's haven.Our bed and board for 3 days and 2 nights included two breakfasts, one lunch and two dinners. We needn't have packed Ramly burgers (beef, special, with cheese please) from Mersing jetty; the chicken chop at Mirage was fresh (of course) and the lamb at the barbecue was especially excellent; breakfast was decent (bread, toast, pancakes, scrambled egg, sausage on second day, nasi lemak on third day) and lunch was both delicious in a homecooked way and generous (of course, a morning of snorkelling and swimming, and beach frisbee and shell picking does give one a ferocious appetite). Service was excellent and unstinting - food was served and plates were cleared in due course, slugs of alcohol were generous, bottled water was given freely, as was tutoring in the art of pool (or i suppose, not ripping the velvet off the pool table).Fishing off the jetty was easy - the turquoise waters were dark with schools of fish. The issue was hooking the fish of one's choice rather than taking all eager comers.Bobbing about in a red kayak, chatting and drinking potent Long Island Teas was also an option,as was just lazying about on deck chairs with suntan lotion and a good book.Sadly, the snorkelling was only so-so compared to Pulau Rawa, and past the mosque, to the left of Mirage Island Resort, sea urchins proliferated below fairly shallow waters and sandflies abounded above*.If we had been Malaysian, we would have come adequately prepared with paper lanterns to send off in the night wind. But we were not and made do with hilarious rounds of Phase 10 and Bang!,accompanied by all manner of snacks and news of the royal wedding of Prince William and Kate Middleton.I had a bit of a wrestle with Micah, and as a consequence inadvertently brought back half the beach, wedged between Jonah and Nahum.Haven't quite got mind round the book yet, but from the little gleaned so far, whadda chum.Micah was a contemporary of Hosea (Hosea 1:1) and Isaiah (Isaiah 1:1), roughly in 8th century B.C. He prophesised through the reigns of Judean kings Jotham (about 750–735 B.C.), Ahaz (about 735–715 B.C.) and Hezekiah (about 715–687 B.C.). Possibly spoke God's warnings to both Israel until they went into exile in Assyria, and to Judah. In Jeremiah 26:18, the elders of the land observe the influence of Micah's words on Hezekiah (cf Micah 3:12).Need quite a few more passes at the prophet, not sure if this book is a compilation[...]

Thoughts for Cooling-Off Day


How lovely if the crowd that had filled the Serangoon Stadium to capacity had streamed out, not from a Workers' Party rally, but from one of Billy Graham's; if the clusters of people in fiery debates under trees and in the void decks of HDB flats were arguing about things of eternal value.With everyone talking about the upcoming Singapore general elections on 7 May 2011 - the most hotly contested elections in recent memory with 82 out of 87 parliamentary seats up for grabs, have been wondering how to vote:The Christian is to be concerned about heavenly things; but that is not to say that the Christian should not be bothered about the present. The Christian should be engaged in his/her community, but the Christian must not think that this world is all there is; for this world is passing away (1 Corinthians 7:29-31). While our vote matters, it matters only for a very short while. Yet, in this fleeting moment in the history of mankind, it is important to act in a way demonstrates God's design and God's priorities for this world.Therefore, perhaps:we must not vote based on precedent - "I will always be a PAP supporter", "my family has always voted opposition"we must not vote out of fear - even if we do not believe that our ballot is secret and the serial numbers on voting slips are merely to prevent fraudwe must not vote based on favoritism - swayed solely by the candidate's race or religion or school affiliation (eg. not voting for Vivian Balakrishnan from PAP because he's an old ACS boy or because someone has seen him at a church service before)we must not vote out of sympathy for the underdog - such trend being part of the tyranny of modern culturewe must not vote merely based on current sentiment or just to be contrarianwe must not vote for charm or stage presence or content-free rhetoric (from both the incumbent and the opposition) - this isn't Singapore Idol or a Miss Singapore pageant ("world peace!", "low taxes!", "cheap and plentiful transportation!")Acting responsibly as a Christian might then mean:voting for a candidate who, as far as we can tell, is competent to govern wiselyvoting for a candidate who, as far as we can tell, is trustworthyvoting for a candidate who, as far as we can tell, has convictions in line with the Christian worldview - in terms of ethics and morals, in terms of freedom to advance the gospel for the salvation of others, in terms of care for the poor and weak, in terms of justice and mercy that favour neither the rich nor the poor(Of course in the Singapore system, if one is in a GRC ward, one might vote for the political party rather than an individual candidate.)The Bible tells us much about the human hearts of both the government and the governed. In Judges and 1 and 2 Kings, we see how flawed leaders are, sinning even though they had the best intentions, with the worst ones leading the country in the way of their corruption. In Exodus, we see how even when led by God's specially-appointed leaders, the people grumbled and rebelled and found fault with God's own rescue and provision.We will not be governed perfectly nor will we be willing to be subject absolutely to such government until God himself rules over us plainly and directly and our sinful hearts have been changed. This will not happen until this earth passes away and God creates a new heavens and new earth where those who trust in him in this life will live with him eternally.Yet, we must not forget that God governs this present world too and puts in place rulers and authorities. Therefore, whatever the outcome of the elections, we are told:Let everyone be subject to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God. Consequently, whoever rebels against the authority is rebelling against what[...]

This Do In Remembrance of Me


One of the best things I learnt from the very well thought-out OMF missionaries in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, is to consider the practical human aspect of evangelism: that is to say, when one does evangelism, one is also modelling to others how evangelism should take place. (That the gospel should be preached faithfully (with adequate helpings of judgement and hell) is a given.) Teaching English and conducting medical missions have been traditional ways of making inroads into certain societies. But missionaries began to realise that because of the pervasiveness of such methods, the locals let themselves become dependent on foreign missionaries, thinking that they could never reach their fellowmen for Christ because they knew neither English nor medicine.We had great fun at the youth evangelistic Easter event generally attempting not to be the operative cause of guests meeting their Maker.The tweens were meant to play an active role not only in inviting friends to hear the good news that added a holiday to the Singapore calendar, but also provide the entertainment and help in ensuring the smooth running of the cafe-style space with root beer and lemonade on tap and made-to-order desserts.Had to figure out how to model the backstage element of this ministry - the food and drink for the cafe. While 3D Wilton-approved icing and fondant sculptures perched atop cupcakes and other confections would be delightful and attention-grabbing and would have made the recipients very happy, they might have been a great discouragement to teenagers thinking of organising their own event - if they didn't have baking skillz, decorating talent, maids or mothers who were willing to help, they might think that they would never be able to do this by themselves.Assembling dessert cups layered with store-bought stuff seemed an excellent way of demonstrating that even with zero culinary talent and a budget of S$50 for 55 mouths, budget-store and discount shopping would yield excellent results that made guests quite cheerful (and receptive).Since several of the young people started working in fast food joints as soon as they turned 14 (Diner Dash, Sushi Chef or current time-management game to the more comfortably-off), they were able to settle into a routine quickly with minimal instruction.Arguably, people who are adamant and urgent about gossiping the gospel to their neighbours will, naturally, be creative about their methods. But it would be right and proper not to discourage even in small ways, innit. title="YouTube video player" src="" allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="390" width="480"> [...]

The Pies of Pressing Petition


Assembled a chocolate, banana, toffee pie for the first time last Saturday. Unfortunately, it was for a newcomers' dinner at which several people, for whom banoffee pies were sacred, would be present. Hadn't been too fond of the same confections they'd said they'd enjoyed on account of stupid taste buds that only understand things in layers - that is, layers of taste and texture. So didn't think they’d like the stuff and wasn't sure anyone would take well to bananas in their dessert. But it couldn’t be helped - I'd volunteered to bring something and hadn't remembered till the last hour, there were relevant items near their expiry that needed to be in tummies pronto, I was in the midst of preparing a bible study on Genesis 32 involving a motley collection of Playmobil figurines pretending to be Jacob, camels and a heavenly wrestler… so needed something fast and easy.Also, was rather nervous using dairy products that were near expiry - didn't want to obviate anyone’s opportunity to come into a saving relationship with God or dissuade them for coming for the Sunday meeting or Christianity Explored the next day.So there was a bit of triangulating between the necessity of bringing something (the worried host had said that there wouldn't be enough food), how loving it might be to neighbour to bring something that they might not enjoy, and how the remaining few hours to the dinner should be spent.In the end, the deed was done, tummies were filled, no food was wasted and no one was harmed (to my knowledge), but not before desperate petitions were sent heavenward that the dish not ruin the proposed welcome and fellowship.Later that night, the mental filing cabinet popped open at the tab labelled:"prayer - empty parking lots"Was it God-honouring to pray about such trivial matters? Added Phillip Jensen’s article to that folder:Praying In Crisis: Helpful Or Hypocritical?Originally Published:25th February 2011It is an old wartime saying that ‘there are no atheists in foxholes’. Leaving aside the silly arguments as to whether this is statistically true or an aphorism – is it a good thing? Will God be pleased to answer the prayers of those in danger? Is God honoured when we pray to him in times of trouble?Prayer is one of the most basic human responses to trouble. When the doctor’s diagnosis is really grim, it is only natural to seek divine help. When our children are in danger, who doesn’t utter a quick prayer for safety?But is prayer to be encouraged amongst people who ignore God except in times of crisis? Is God to be used as a 'phone-a-friend' when the going gets tough? Will God allow us to be his ‘fair weather friends’ – only calling upon him in times of difficulty?This summer we have seen some dreadful tragedies with floods and cyclones in the Eastern States of Australia, fires in the West, and earthquakes in Christchurch. In the face of these disasters people can do little else but pray for God’s mercy and rescue. Politicians and journalists, not given to religious references, start talking of praying for people when confronted with the horrors of these catastrophes. Only the most rigorous of atheists will talk of our concern for others without mentioning praying for them. But is it a good thing or hypocrisy?The trouble with unbelievers calling upon the name of the Lord in the face of disaster is that they lose their title deeds to the name “unbelievers”. They may still be doubters or superstitious or hypocrites, but they are no longer "unbelievers".Even more importantly, the trouble with unforgiven sinners praying to God is that it compromises his holiness. The Psalmist wrote "If I had cherished iniquity in my heart, the Lord would not have listened." (Psalm 66:18). The book of Proverbs s[...]

The Hario V60 Trials and Stewardship of Time


Assume only one brewing device: the single-cup Hario V60 - 01.Assume a similar grind: dialing in at 3 notches from zero on the Hario Skerton.Assume also a dose of 23g of the same beans (but no two beans are the same!).Assume even a water temperature of 93 degrees celcius.There are still too many factors to vary in search of the perfect cup:Brew RatioThe market norm is said to be 60g coffee for 1l water. But everyone has their sure-hit ratio. Plus this is probably dependent also on actual grind size of beans, type and roast profile of beans, maybe even composition of water, etc etc- Stumptown Coffee: 23g with 11oz water for 8oz coffee- Counter Culture: 1.6 - 2g per 1oz water- Brown Coffee Co: 18g; 11 fl oz of water at 204F to yield 10 fl oz (via bitterpress)- Taylor St Baristas: 23g with 320ml water- Trevor Hyman (Bean Vagrant): 29g with 500g waterBoiling the waterTo boil water in the Hario Buono drip kettle or not?Filter water or tap?Pre-wettingTo pre-wet or not? Theoretical grounds (haha) for pre-wetting include allowing the carbon dioxide trapped within the beans during roasting to be released, ensuring even extraction of the groundsCircular pour vs center pourRaised (though not high and dry) most famously in Scott Rao's "Everything But Espressp". See Matthew P Williams' post for a re-think.You know that this is an all-important topic when Hitler gets emo about it.To allow all the water to drip through or to stop near the end? If so, when to stop the flow?Bean: Ethiopian Harrar, Oriole Coffee RoastersTime from roast: 5 daysGrind: 2+ notches from zero on the Hario SkertonBrew Ratio: 23g to 11 fluid ozWater Temperature: 93 degrees celciusPre-wetting: yes (but didn't record how much water was used or whether allowed bloom to subside)Pour: circularDrip-through: yes, all the way to the last dropTaste: floral but sour on finish when cold Bean: Ethiopian Harrar, Oriole Coffee RoastersTime from roast: 6 daysGrind: 3+ notches from zero on the Hario SkertonBrew Ratio: 23g to 8 fluid ozWater Temperature: 93 degrees celciusPre-wetting: yes (but didn't record how much water was used or whether allowed bloom to subside)Pour: circularDrip-through: noTaste: floral, lovely even when cold but somewhat bitter when added to milk!But such record-keeping is hardly accurate. What about the percentage of extraction and total dissolved solids via extractmojo or mojotogo + refractometer? Will these numbers necessarily give a good cup?And since the smelevision and tastovision has yet to be invented, words are the only means of recording taste, perhaps via coffee journals like 33 Coffees or drinkyourwords.Still, exciting stuff!The attempt at keeping records of these little variables and examining how small things affect the end product, has made me curious about my stewardship of time. So i've had a go at listing the goings-on of the past week.On one hand, it is useful to keep close accounts of resources gifted to one by God (still alive = gift of time) so as to be considered about the spending of such resources, and additionally in my case, to ensure i stop double-booking the same time slots.However, there is the danger that is somewhat similar to the danger of census-taking (especially wrt the Old Testament), and also the danger of doing this all for the sake of ticking off the to-do list and being smug and self-congratulatory about all this activity (or v.v.).So, just a once-off snapshot for future reference (to satisfy own idle curiosity in future about how 2011 went by in a flash):Sundayjourney to church: stonedmorning: Sunday School on Genesis, breakfast, serviceafternoon: lunch, 121 on John, wandered around Little India + salty fruit juiceevening: old friend's birthday dinnerjourney home: slept Monday journey to [...]

An Ethiopian, a Palm Civet Cat and a Judge Walk into a Brew Bar...


It is a funny feeling to come upon one's preferences quite suddenly, as if simultaneously running into an old friend around a street corner and identifying him for the first time.At first cupping, the Ethiopian Djimmah stood head and shoulders above a rather earthy Sumatran Madheling and dependable Brazilian Santos although the Japanese neighbour preferred the Sumatran.Then at Tea & Coffee World Cup Singapore 2011 (Singapore's Suntec Convention Centre), while others had photos taken with towering shiny Probat roasters and coffee industry stars, I stood gobsmacked at this sight:It shouldn't have come as too much of a surprise since Howard Schultz's re-education (or good marketing story) and the company's monopoly on Clover machines has already been widely reported. The Starbucks booth, fooling no one with their new nameless logos, was serving a mix of "aged Sumatran" and "sun-dried Ethiopian" in their 40th Anniversary Tribute Blend - note ubiquitous (and very useful until someone manufactures something better) Hario Buono drip kettle, Melitta single-serve drip filter holders on a rack (the Marina Square branch was selling the filter holders for S$8.90). Somewhat fragrant, safe and clean, just not terribly attention-retaining. What left a very long and pleasant after-taste that compelled me to look for more of the same the next day, was the Ethiopian Sidamo offered by Oriole Coffee Roasters just across from the Starbucks booth.They'd put the beans in their spanking new La Marzocco Strada (Singapore's first say some), despite crowd-opinion about putting Ethiopians only in filters and siphons, and what a good call - in an espresso, the florals and citrus were squeezed into a nice round body. The obvious sweetness of the coffee juice was different from the sweetness of steamed milk, so when paired with dairy, the drink teetered on the edge of too-much-of-two-good-things. Still, a lovely cup. There are no plans to serve the Sidamo on the machine at the Oriole Cafe & Bar for now...if only we had the taste/olfactory equivalent of a snapshot of this one-off.(We realised later that Romeo Alfen might have been practising for the finals of the Singapore National Barista Championships 2011. The next day, he based his routine on that very same single origin, 80% roasted to half-city on the Diedrich and the rest roasted full-city, rested for 10 days.)(Ryan Kieran Tan of Papa Palheta eventually swept the top prize for both the Greenfields Latte Art Challenge as well as the Singapore National Barista Championships.) Since there weren't any packs of the Sidamo to be had from Oriole Coffee Roasters, settled for an Ethiopian Harrar instead from the Yirgacheffe (and?) Harrar region. It was a mixed heirloom varietal, dry-processed. Oriole's tasting notes enthused about floral notes and bergamot, blueberry flavours, smooth and clean acidity, balance of fruit notes and sweetness. Ethiopia heirloom varietals from the wild forests are said to resemble the typicas from Yemen which were brought to Indonesia and later Latin America. Stumptown Coffee Roasters say that heirlooms produce some of the most coveted flavours in the world that, ranging from floral (jasmine in particular), to sweetly citric (distinct lemon), to chocolate, to Assam tea, and to wild berries. This bag from Oriole had a lovely floral aftertaste 5 days from roasting - coffee breath begone! and was exceptionally good with buttery Danish biscuits.Brew method: Hario V60Grind size: between 2-3 notches from zero on the Hario SkertonDose weight: 13gBrew water temperature: 93 degrees celciusBrew water weight: 161gTime from roast: 5 days The Ethiopian Yirgacheffe from Papa Palheta, wet pro[...]

The Flat Whites (and Some Caps) of Singapore and The Failed Humans of the World


On the way to lunch, the newly-minted owner of a naff Nespresso from Nestlé and I were drawn into a cafe by fresh coffee smells and a fire-engine red roaster in the window. A short discussion and rush of related questions commencing with "But why...?" led to the witch's cottage in the deep dark woods. And I forgot to leave a bread crumb trail.But for once, instead of being a fussy old drag unreasonably picky about perfectly decent chicken ("What do you mean it tastes like dead chicken? It's dead!") and clear sanitary water ("What do you mean it tastes like dead water? Water doesn't live!"), what has now been termed a "sensitive palate" (though one ought not be too optimistic since "tastes like the fag end of a wet bad cigarette" doesn't a coffee cognoscenti make) actually contributes to interesting conversation with neighbouring coffee enthusiasts.Cappuccinos at Aerin'sThe modern coffee enthusiast neighbour seems to be all about coffee use that is open platform, lo-fi, Coffee Common at TED, collaboration not competition, slow-food, third wave, similar non-homogenuity, commodities de-commodified, artisanal world barista championship wins; he is origin and terroir-obsessed and geekily discerning. He supports sustainable direct trade, and is enthusiastic about traceable microlot coffee micro-roasted then precisely ground and exactingly brewed to individual order by a tattooed barista. Simple pleasures fetished into luxuries.(Coffee as traded commodity is still very current. And it still features in those macro-economics exam questions.And of course, allegations of climate change and global warming cannot be too far away: Columbia, Costa Rica)Cappuccinos at Barracks Cafe, Dempsey HouseThe days of coffee as chair-and-wifi rental (and so imbibed with more than a few spoonfuls of sugar and cream to help the bad espresso-based bitterness go down) have been swept away, not by attention to consumption alone, but by the eye-widening focus on quality in the cup, specific origins, production methods, roasting and preparation styles.The newest arrival to the party in Singapore appears to be the pour-over. Previously as welcome as the comb-over, the pour-over has already done a tour of New York, with Hario of Japan* supplying the gadgetry of choice to the design-conscious - lovely ribbed V60s (though some swear by the Coava's stainless steel kone used with a Chemex as profiled in The Kitchn), and delicate swan+beehive-like Buono drip kettles. George Howell Terroir Coffee Company has Hario dripper brewing instructions here, as has Barismo amongst others, or ask a coffee-loving Japanese friend (if you have none, take solace in yume2coffee's video here and Cafe Iko's video here); Rob from Antwerp Barista shares Jaime van Schyndel's bloom diagram here; La Terza helps with the mathematics of brew volume, coffee dosage, presaturation percentage and time.The Hario entourage came to the party accompanied by the Aeropress (designed by the maker of my first frisbee, the Aerobie® Superdisc™, which was sadly cold-shouldered by real frisbee-playing friends), an undefinable device that produces a stronger cup that is just as clean as the pour-over. (Best used with stainless steel Coava disk filters say some forummers.) Something like my previous coffee + syringe + hot water experiments but obviously miles better. Aeropress World Championship recipes here; CoffeeGeek discussion on the device here and on the brewing parameters here.chart from hereTo be really in on the scientific action, grind your home-roasted green beans with a Porlex stainless steel Japanese ceramic burr grinder (weighed out with a Salter scale), take the temperature of the liquids with a neat espress[...]

God and the Japan Tsunami of 2011


Elsewhere on the internet, someone expressed revulsion at another's status message calling on Japanese people to repent and be saved.Q: Is it as some claim that it was because of their great sinfulness that Sendai and whole towns in Miyagi and Iwate prefectures, Japan were wiped out? After all, that's what happened to Sodom and Gomorrah because of their sexual immorality and perversion (Genesis 19:1-29, Jude 1:7).A preposterous unbiblical claim. First, only God knows why he allowed a tsunami to hit them so hard or why the residents near Fukushima nuclear plant were exposed to radiation leaks and reactor core meltdowns. Second, Jesus said about the incidents of his day (Galileans whose blood were mixed with their own sacrifices, and the victims of a tower collapse in Siloam) that this did not mean that the deceased were worse sinners than others (Luke 13:1-5a).They were not more guilty than others. Rather, Jesus said that all deserved the same fate (Luke 13:5b-8)Q: Is this a sign that the world is going to end (in 2012)?No one knows when the world will end, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father (Mark 13:32).But daily news of nation rising against nation, and kingdom against kingdom, and famines and earthquakes in various places must remind us that the end will definitely come (Matthew 24, Mark 13). Therefore, surviving a disaster or merely not being at any risk of being in one does not give us licence to merely sit around and be mesmerised by the horrific photos on our laptop or telly screens and congratulate ourselves on our good luck; God has granted us another day of life so that we have the opportunity to start believing in him.Q: Look at all the death and destruction, grief and pain. How can you say there is a God?But why do you say all this is bad? Where do you find your reference of good and evil? Why do we, globally, historically, even have such categories?Surely human wisdom and experience percolated through the ages should have been desensitived us to all this pain and suffering. After all, that's part of life in this world, isn't it - everyone dies; stuff happens. Yet, we persist in considering all these things as calamities and insist on something more...perfect.This is because God has set eternity in the hearts of man (Ecclesiastes 3:11). There was a time when there was no suffering, when the forces "of nature" did not kill humans, but Adam and Even, representatives of the human race, rebelled against their Creator, fancying themselves to be God, and the world descended into chaos, rebelling against them as they rebelled against God. And here we are now. But this is not the end, because there will come a time when there will be no more mourning nor crying nor pain for those who repent of thinking themselves as God and who turn from making up the rules to their own lives to obeying him (Revelation 21).Q: How can a good God have done all this? How can Jesus claim to love us if he allows all this to happen? src="" frameborder="0" height="320" width="400">How can God allow suffering and evil in the world? from A Passion for Life on Vimeo.We pray because God is the only person who truly loves mankind and who is really in control.[...]

The Heavens and The Earth, The Sea and The Dry Land


There is much to be said about the romance of cruising the high seas with wind harnessing sails, but when the cold beer runs out and the onshore barbecues are a-calling, an immediate return to land usually necessitates vigorous use of petrol-fuelled mechanical means. So it was only wise to top up RYA's competent crew certification with a powered pleasure craft driving licence - necessary for driving powered vessels from jet-skis to mega-yachts registered as SZ or SZH within Singapore waters.Church-mates were greatly delighted by the news of the licence, especially since our church's constitution allows for the purchase of boats and ships. There were day-dreams of church services on barges, sailing and deep-sea fishing ministries and diving sessions off Pulau Hantu."Yes," I said,"And I am even trained in retrieving people when they fall overboard.""Good, good.""When we train, we try to determine how much might be left of the fallen person when we finally retrieve him - if there is a hard knock at the bow, we've probably killed him but he'll be in one piece; if we let him get too far to the stern before going to neutral, he might have lost part of his limbs to the propeller.""Oh, actually, if we fall overboard, don't worry about us - we'll swim to you."'"But I passed the test!""Seriously, don't do anything, man."Anyway, while watching The Captain fix an outboard motor on one training boat which had conveniently spluttered its last just as smoke rose from one of the bilges of the other training boat, I realised that few things bring more joy that taking things apart and seeing how they work. Taking the Silly Black Car to the workshop and looking under its hood with John Tan, the long-suffering mechanic, has always been cause for excitement rather than frustration. Unlike others of the same ilk however, my interest has always been more rabid curiosity than useful practicality - in the toy box, together with the much thumbed The Big Book of How Things Work, there used to lie the carcass shells and innards of dozens of toys, alarm clocks and other household items that were taken apart and examined and once their workings were explored and more or less understood, abandoned for the next mystery.The great thing about God, of course, is that he is endlessly fascinating - so no one can never really tire of him (or his creation for that matter). Which is why reading the Bible, God's word to humans, is so utterly good fun. It's not just exciting on the level that the pointers on getting a PPCDL* might be - that is, only to the speck-like minority who are keen on pleasure boating in Singapore; neither is it a book merely for geeky classicists to obsess over regardless of authenticity of historicity; nor is it just for those insecure types whose fruitless quests for self-improvement serve to emphasise their abject loser-liness.First, it is a historical document corroborated beyond reasonable doubt by a variety of contemporaneous historical documents - therefore, it cannot be easily dismissed as one might Greek mythology. Second, it claims to be from the God of the whole world, even the God of those who worship other gods - there is no one He does not address. Third, even though it is the Creator's instruction manual to his creation how to make the best use of what he has created (which "experts" will never be able to deduce on their own), that is not the end-point. The historical record of God's dealings with mankind through hundreds of generations is most importantly about whom this God who made everything is, what he wants from all the people he created and about what he will do to the world and everybod[...]

Boating, Transversing Park Connectors and What We Talk About When We Talk About Prayer (Colossians 4:2-4)


A pant-astic Saturday is:being out in the waters off Raffles Marina, waving to coast guards and getting the power boat driving sorted (and also having the Dynaglass gorge out a bit of flesh from the shin),sitting on the breakers, chowing down a McDonald's Samurai burger meal while watching the test launches from the Singapore Poly Marina and commentating obnoxiously on the same (the obnoxiousness is intensified if one of you has a strong American drawl that carries across water),getting a Flying Pigeon from the old Tong Ah & Co bicycle shop, only to have the right crankarm shear off from the crankset about an hour later, being rescued by an uncle who laughed at the assumption of a return policy or warranty of any sort, nodded his tight perm, stroked his small moustache with uncle-bling-ladden hand, directed me to Teck Bee Brothers on Syed Alwi for a fix, took me along backroads of Jalan Besar and Lavender to Kallang River where he offered his number, expressed fear for my safety, then left to continue his attempt to clear his head from last night's binge-drinking, riding the Kallang, Ang Mo Kio and Buangkok Park Connectors till it was too dark to see anything. (National Parks' more useful maps from 2009 are here: Kallang Park Connector, Ang Mo Kio Park Connector.)A few photos from the trip:the bridge linking Lavender Street to Kampong Bugis across Sungei Rochor, pitstop at Loysel's Toy at Kallang Bahru for flat white, croissant and water, where a light drizzle made some very nice strangers offer brollies to keep forever,through Kallang Riverside Park, past the huffing dragonboaters, to cross Sir Arthur's bridge to use the underpass on the other side,dismounted and pushed bike along the edge of Geylang Lorong 1 Bus Terminal towards Kallang MRT and connected to the disconnected Kallang Park Connector across Sims Avenue,swept past Chwee Kang Beo temple, crossed a bridge and paused to enjoy the view of the Singapore Flyer,marvelled at the loveliness of staying in a HDB flat at The River Vista @ Kallang,carried the 20kg dead weight of F Pigeon up the overhead bridge across the very busy Bendemeer Road,National Aerated Water Co. Ltd. - Kickapoo in glass bottles no more,on the opposite bank of the Kallang River from National Aerated Water Co. Ltd. building where people were chatting and fishing,crossed back over the Kallang River - this bridge had helpful grooves for bicycle wheels,turned right through a little grove and then left onto Moonstone Lane, headed uphill and turned right towards Topaz Road while being amused by the gemstone road names (in the vicinity, "Ruby Lane" and "Opal Crescent"),not so amused to be confronted with the mother of overhead bridges across the Pan-Island Expressway (PIE) to St. Andrew's Village, carted the 20kg dead weight across again, (at which point I wished I could, just like one toggles a weapon-change in RPGs, toggle my ride to the 10kg Strida...) pushed F Pigeon along a narrow path along the walls of the peach-pink Anglican Diocesan Centre, across another bridge where the view of the St. Andrew's bridge was lovely,from then it was smooth cycling along the feeder into Kallang River with the charmingly un-upgraded Potong Pasir to my right, until I had to dismount and push F. Pigeon through the underpass under the Central Expressway (CTE) or risk a S$1,000 fine,past the SBS Transit headquarters and ComfortDelgro Engineering, we were confronted with yet another overhead bridge across Braddell Road, this one fortunately with bicycle wheel grooves for the Fat Princess, another smooth ride along Sungei Kallang SMRT Train Depot to the right[...]

The Ghosts of Cows Past and The Omnivorousness of Faith


Each forkful of juicy fat steak managed somehow to acquire, between plate and masticating organ, a seasoning of lingering guilt; residue, no doubt, of years of vegetarianism that accompanied adherence to earlier beliefs.Those beliefs were born of a worldview that theorised that human history was circular, that one's spirituality and actions determined one's reincarnative vehicle. Depending on which text one looked at, non-violence towards animals, not taking the lives of other beings, and not making one's body as the graveyard of dead things would contribute mightily to being at least bipedal in the next life.While some arguments about reality are interesting and plausible (Colossians 2:4), such philosophies are ultimately deceitful because they do not reflect the actual state of things (Colossians 2:8). How lovely then, the amazing freedom that accompanies truth that is according to Christ - we can no longer be disqualified by our abject imperfection:For in him the whole fullness of deity dwells bodily, and you have been filled in him, who is the head of all rule and authority. In him also you were circumcised with a circumcision made without hands, by putting off the body of the flesh, by the circumcision of Christ, having been buried with him in baptism, in which you were also raised with him through faith in the powerful working of God, who raised him from the dead. And you, who were dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made alive together with him, having forgiven us all our trespasses, by cancelling the record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands. This he set aside, nailing it to the cross. He disarmed the rulers and authorities and put them to open shame, by triumphing over them in him.Therefore let no one pass judgment on you in questions of food and drink, or with regard to a festival or a new moon or a Sabbath. These are a shadow of the things to come, but the substance belongs to Christ. Let no one disqualify you, insisting on asceticism and worship of angels, going on in detail about visions, puffed up without reason by his sensuous mind, and not holding fast to the Head, from whom the whole body, nourished and knit together through its joints and ligaments, grows with a growth that is from God.If with Christ you died to the elemental spirits of the world, why, as if you were still alive in the world, do you submit to regulations— "Do not handle, Do not taste, Do not touch" referring to things that all perish as they are used)—according to human precepts and teachings? These have indeed an appearance of wisdom in promoting self-made religion and asceticism and severity to the body, but they are of no value in stopping the indulgence of the flesh. (Colossians 2:9-23)Jesus is fully God - there isn't any extra bit of deity that isn't seen in Jesus. Jesus' death completely cancelled our record of sins - there isn't any remnant particularly stubborn trespass that he hasn't forgiven. Because Jesus is fully God, he has all authority and power over everything - there isn't any tricky insurgent who can give him the slip.Because we can only be saved from the consequences of all the wrongs we have done in our lives by trusting in Jesus, so all our well-intentioned attempts to be more spiritual via man-made laws and regulations will fail. There is no other way to be saved.So with deliberate consciousness, I can celebrate the cows (whether their carcasses were well or badly treated) I've had over the past year: The real stud by far - the complimentary warm cheese puffs, soft pretzel and[...]

Chinese Lunar New Year, Wholesale Food Shopping and The Great Mystery


Another lunar new year, another repetition of things soon to be ossified and thus dignified as "tradition". Yet it would be a queer thing indeed if there were no observable change to the human beings participating in such traditions.Paul describes the normal Christian life similarly as one of continuous growth and progress. Just like a plant rooted in the soil (cf Colossians 2:7), we are to mature and bear fruit (cf Colossian 1:10). Progress to maturity isn't something just for the spiritually elite, the sort who get headhunted for full-time paid ministry; adding the extra inch to one's Christ-likeness every year is meant to be the usual progression of things for the well-loved Sunday school-teacher, the boring piano-player, the old pastor, the teenager in the pew with Issues, and the aunty who cleans up after morning tea. Any stuntedness would require a thorough check-up and immediate remedial measures. Just like the curious relatives who keep popping into the kitchen, asking "how did you get the cucumber slices so fine?" (the marvellous mandolin), "how did you make this/that dish?" (an amicable accident) and "how do you perform the Heimlich manoeuvre (j/k), so any one, who though once estranged has now been reconciled to God, would to be eager to learn how to hold on to and deepen that infinitely pricey relationship with God.How is the Christian to mature and fulfil his/her role as a believer and a human? The answer is, unsurprisingly yet strangely, forgettably - Jesus. For Jesus is everything - he is the full image of God, he created all things, he holds all things together, he has authority over everything, he leads in every way, he reconciles all things (Colossians 1:15-20). Therefore, it is in Christ and not a particular church, teacher, preacher or programme that we will grow. They who might have leapt out from one of those medical journals on our coffee table: before, and after lack of medical intervention.Symptom of the diseased world after the Fall.But this is mere stock Sunday school answer unless we know what this entails. Paul tells us that it is about:(1) being taught and warned about the truth of who Jesus is - how was God going to deal with a world so mired in sin, a creation so dismissive of its creator? How can a good God forgive wrongdoing without exacting punishment and yet still be just and righteous? How was the God of the ages who gave consistent promises to Abraham, Moses, David and the scattered people of Israel through hundreds of years going to fulfil his promises if his people were never really going to worship him as they should? What is God going to do about this world and where is it heading? A mystery. A mystery hidden for ages and generations but now revealed - Jesus Christ who disclosed fully the mind and purpose of God and through whom God reconciled all things to himself by Jesus' death on the cross, so that we who were once alienated from God and hostile in mind have now been reconciled to God, being presented holy and blameless and above reproach before him (Colossians 1:20-22).The proclamation of the mystery that is Christ is God's means of growing the church/Christian (Colossians 1:28). So it is important for a church to have teachers and preachers who make the word of God fully known (Colossians 1:26 - while Paul was on special commission from God to bring gospel to the Gentiles, this method of growth was modelled by, rather than exclusive to, Paul). Since no human mind can adequately conceive the full riches of Christ, teachers and preachers must then be faithful to God'[...]

The Destruction of Pompeii and the World


Pompeii has always evoked the same slow-down-to-gawk-at-road-accident schadenfreude fascination humans have for horror shows, gory nature shows and salacious murders that sell tabloids; delight at evidence that the world out there is wild and dangerous elevates our relative circumstances.The remarkable thing about the Pompeii: Life in a Roman Town 79CE exhibition at the National Museum of Singapore (free entry during its concluding weekend. go see!) was the evidence that these were people not quite different from us who live in "developed" countries or in cities. It would possibly be more of a culture shock to visit a current-day "lost" Amazon tribe than to do a homestay with Lucius Caecilius Iucundus."Whose likeness and inscription does it have?" (Luke 20:19-26)Lucius Caecilius Iucundus was a banker who, basically, ran e-bay (before the "e"). He managed auctions by paying vendors immediately but allowed purchasers a time frame to pay, with interest. Proper accounts were kept of these transactions in legalese such as:Umbricia Januaria declares that she has received from Lucius Caecilius Jucundus 11,039 sesterces, which sum came into the hands of Lucius Caecilius Jucundus by agreement as the proceeds of an auction sale for Umbricia Januaria, the commission due him having been deducted. Done at Pompeii, on the 12th of December, in the consulship of Lucius Duvius and Publius Clodius. (56AD)and authenticated by seals and signatures of witnesses.While he was situated in Pompeii, most of the bankers could be found 30 miles from Pompeii in Puteoli, which was a major shipping town. Three-hundred ton grain ships from Africa and Egypt docked here for transshipment of goods to Rome. One such precious cargo was a man known as Paul of Tarsus (Acts 28:13).But back to Pompeii. Pompeii was the place for the leisured classes to live well - it was blessed with delightful climate, fertile soil for the garden and was politically stable. There, bankers and other successful merchants (and those who made their fortune on fish sauce empires) put their wealth to work in large luxurious seaview properties. The garden took up at least one-fifth of total floor area and consisted of not just of a practical kitchen garden (hortus) where fruits and vegetables were cultivated but elaborate peristyled affairs filled with life-like statues (even if some looked like Michael Jackson), water features, garden furniture, fine art tromp l'oeil wall frescos and even aviaries. (Sir) Roy Strong would have been in heaven there.The gardens were watered by fresh clean spring water from hills about 40km away, piped to Pompeii via aqueduct. Water pipes entered at the front door, fed mosaic fountains at the side of the impluvium or in the peristyled garden for household needs and decoration, then flowed out into a drain on the road at the base of the kerbstones where it flushed the streets of rubbish before ending up in storm drains that carried it to the river.Bedrooms were located at the sides of the central courtyard and were windowless. Beds were made of stone or wood with bronze or silver trimmings. There was a headboard and a mattress base made of wooden cross pieces and strips of cloth or leather. In these rooms, women rocked their babies in wooden cradles and went about their daily ritual of doing their hair in the current fashion (this changed constantly and was set by the celebrity of the day - a member of the emperor's family) and beautifying themselves with cosmetics (whitening paste of chalk or lead, rouge, lipstick, [...]

One More Time, With Contrition


We were enjoying the tactile pleasure of cold finger-tips running over, exploring a jagged geography of warmth (and a pedantic argument concerning the word "zeitgeist" and whether it can appropriately describe the crowd-effervescent-think, drunken auld lang synes and the last-365-days-or-so-in-subjective-summaries of the last day of an old year).Another new year countdown with fireworks, in different circumstances, amidst a different crowd.Life's trajectory seems less linear than we would like. "Higher and better!" we toast, but the decades smirk. Though achievable in assets and status, internally holistically spiritually we are but dogs returning to our vomit of half-hearted resolutions and failed intentions.For Christians, this circularity might perhaps occur with marginally decreasing radii, as we become alarmingly aware (from God's laws in Scripture) of the height of the Creator's perfect requirements, our tragic and desperate inadequacy and inability to really fulfil anything of it even if we wanted to, spiralling inward, but somehow never quite depending fully on, the absolute grace and mercy of God.And all this is stirred into the puerile mess that is the God's ordained community: the church that is led locally by sinful fallen leaders with their baggage and insecurities, who can easily be observed not to practise what they preach; the church whose congregation is led in songs meant to praise God by singers (whether of heavenly voice or unable to hold a tune) and musicians eager for their own glory; the church of hypocrites who operate under appropriately spiritual and evangelical cover - bible study leaders who see the watching of their flock as a barely bearable chore and leaders who harness the trust and dependence of their sheep to build edifices to their own egos surrounded by adoring fan-club empires, parents who proudly marvel at their children's growth yet never bother to plant seeds of eternal life and parents who worship their children in place of God and parents who get home in time from their extra-marital affairs to ensure they read the Bible and pray with their children every night, singles who use their idle time to scheme to end their God-given state by every possible means and singles who indulge in godless chatter and pointless "hobbies", believers whose false friendliness and rampant flattery and calculated concern for others betray the need to be valued by men not God, older folk who wield their age as an excuse to be curmudgeonly etc etc.And these by their sinfulness induce others to sin.Yet, it is for these that Jesus died. It is the community of these undependable self-indulgent laughable perverts and criminals that God has ordained to lead others to his kingdom.What a year 2010 has been - a grand clutter of failure - failure to love the unloveable as we should, to do what we know to be right, to love the Loveable, to be discerning about false teachers and wolves amongst the sheep; failure to be humble and not self-righteous in face of objective progress in godliness (thus negating such progress), in accurate assessment of the godlessness of others and when choosing to leave churches and bible study groups. The same as 2009 and 2008 and 2007 and...from the year of our birth. There is no fresh start per se in 2011 - only another year to add to the list of sins yet committed/re-committed, but perhaps hiding them with greater proficiency and intricate Christian spin that may fool all but God.Who are we, with boardwalk planks in [...]

Bah, Humbug.


Champagne and chardonnay - poured. Handel's Messiah - sung along to. Wonderful Christmas wedding table decor - adopted, beauty given more mileage. SMS-ed Christmas greeting spam - received. A few choice carols - butchered by increasingly groggy carollers. Turkeys from faraway lands - marinated, roasted, carved, eaten with gravy and stuffing and cranberry sauce. Friends (new and old) - hugged remotely. All manner of liquid concoctions - concocted and drunk to colourful simultaneous reviews. Gifts - exchanged, received, given. A Charlie Brown Christmas - junked for Mirrormask because Dave McKean = treat. Hot mincepies washed down with fruity TWG's Miraculous Mandarin tea - during The Queen's Christmas Broadcast 2010. Omaha Collective's EP - grooved to. Cathartic jamming - greatly enjoyed. Morning-after turkey porridge - supped with joy.One is hardput to ignore the advent of Christmas: seasonal decor plastered around every mall, Orchard Road shopping belt lit by Christmas lights, carols playing in shops in late November, Christmas and Boxing Day sale adverts stare out of every newspaper and magazine and hurriedly-thrust flyer, fir-tree-scented IKEA is filled with shoppers gulping down Nygårda Julmust (see Yuletide powers of said soda: here, here and here), Starbucks cups are dotted with snowflakes...and the acapella carollers and the poinsettias! they are taking over the country!. Because Christmas is so big here, it poses a challenge to those who do not believe in reason for the season, much less celebrate the occasion of his birth. They want in on the festivities but don't want to acknowledge that there is anything worth rejoicing about.No one says "Oh, during Deepavali (or Hari Raya Haji) I just celebrate the spirit of family togetherness and gift-giving and love" because they acknowledge these as Hindu and Muslim festivals. Sure, secularists argue that Christmas has so commercialised that they can, with good conscience, enjoy it without its Jesus-trappings. But what of the ubiquitous nativity scenes? the content of Christmas carols? the moralistic mawkishness of Santa Claus?And about Mr. Claus: if Jesus were to give a Christmas Day message, it might be along the lines of "We are not amused...", but harsher and not something you would do a stand-up comedy about after. "He sees you when you're sleeping, he knows when you're awake, he knows if you've been bad or good" is stalker scary, but without bite since most kids get presents from "Santa" anyway despite throwing a tantrum at the mall. Scarier than that, the snowy-bearded male bundled in a furry red suit with white trimmings is a dead-ringer for the dragon and beasts of Revelation - he claims to possess the attributes of God himself: omnipotence (all-seeing, all-knowing), omnipresence (especially in the early hours of Christmas Day whatever your time-zone and whether you've remembered to set the intruder alarm), being the arbiter of right and wrong (assumedly, to determine entitlement to pressies), and being acknowledged, almost to the exclusion of all others, as the giver of good gifts. (God knows exactly what you've been thinking and doing, God determines right and wrong because he made the world, and God knows that you've been very very evil with no hope of ever doing enough good to even outweigh your evil, God gives you the best gift of wiping your slate clean (IF you will accept it).)Some attempts at "reclaiming" Christmas have not gone much better either, eg. delightful [...]

Youth Camp and Growing Pains


A whirlwind snowed-in-at-some-European-airport-type week at youth camp, bookended by fortifying good beef shabu-shabu and lovely handmade tofu, and photog duties at a fun wedding where the newly-weds were their own emcees and reviews from friends were warm and glowing. Camp recovery was also aided by champagne and chardonnay on one night on the occasion of Christmas and birthdays and retro sing-a-longs, and jugs of honey beers by a river on another on occasion of it being too early to go to bed when there were new friends to chat with. Greatly glad for the opportunity to do some work at camp and be partnered and encouraged by the hard work of others - the without-fanfare kitchen slog that produced delicious pots of picky-camper-approved spag bog, curries, mustard chicken, babi assam..., the determination with which campers were served by leaders bearing food, water, good cheer.The holiday camp menu may have lacked the medieval culinary delights of roast swan and pig on spit, but the knights of 1395 were tearing up Project Run-Away with spaghetti pot helmets complete with the latest in wireless pink remote-controlled water guns, vital-parts-endangering bubble-wrap armour, insectile gold 4G antennae for communication with headquarters and Saturday Night Fever dance moves.During the day, even without skateboard steeds and horseys to pull them, knights made short work of each other at the jousting tournament with pool noodles chalked with plain flour. The presence of a style judge ensured there was neighing and grunting before the joust, with one horse deciding to buck and run away altogether.Defending the Castle against the Dastardly Dragons was a tower defence game with flour and water catapults clearing their columns of the jumping fire-breathing overgrown lizards who sometimes managed to retrieve the medieval explosive devices and fling them back at the catapults. Loads of work to be done on gameplay but glad the boys were immensely happy to be throwing flour and water around. Later, the dragons decided they had enough of all that white powdery stuff and made off with a princess from each of the four kingdoms. Kingdoms were to retrieve their princesses by collecting power cards hidden in locations around Changi Point during the wide game. Since only one princess could be rescued, the kingdoms then fought each other by attacking with weapon cards or weighing down a gluttonous enemy princess with cake cards so she'd be too heavy to be saved. The smack talk was hilarious.One of the most powerful weapon cards was a Grow Your Own Giant kit which had to be used together with a Plain Water card. Before receiving a kit, Giant Protection Laws required kingdoms to demonstrate the ability to care for their giant by identifying flavours of jelly beans (a Giant's staple food). All teams managed the 70% pass rate but all failed to distract attacking enemy giants with the requested jelly bean flavour at the Final Battle. The next day, we held a jelly bean tasting session for the remaining half-kg of gunk made from artificial additives, chemicals, preservatives and flavours held together by a strong binding agent. (Candylicious at Resorts World Sentosa supplied flavours not found in Cocoa Tree stores. Who can resist the ironic simulacra-referencing-simulacra of Jelly Belly jelly beans!)Pants and Lions around the Fairy Point Chalet were ace, though nothing more than a variation of hide-and-seek, and so brought to min[...]

Games and Wide Game Preparations - Underway


It's that time of the year again when philosophical questions about the pedagogical value of games arise amidst the increased pressure to complete preparations for the upcoming youth camp.For the Pensieve, to be taken out and considered at a more opportune moment:1. At the very least, games are required in any camp for the element of fun. This relaxes campers and ensures that they are not brainwashed or pressured into making any important decisions. The fun is multiplied, I think, by the whole atmosphere of the camp - hence the themed booklet and time-table, quirky morning announcements in costume, evening entertainment and the angle used in the exposition of the passage (within the bounds of the text itself of course). Reports are that the Titus Trust camps do not go to such lengths to do the good work, however, to Jews...2. Games create opportunities for relationships to be built and also demonstrate character. The wide games, especially, are meant for chats about what has been taught and for questions from campers, if any. No pressure of course since the Spirit blows where he will, though we must be faithful in proclamation.3. Modern pedagogy recommends games as effective teaching tools. One notes, however, that God employs practices and ceremonies as mnemonics and Scripture (the word) as weapon. (Have been thinking for some years about the validity of board games as effective means to teach God's character and man's dire need for salvation but drawing board is still cluttered. How to demonstrate not just need for salvation but also grace freely given, faith not works, and need for perseverance concurrently? Love Andy Geers' brilliant idea for Bible-teaching computer games. Enjoyed Monkey Island very much for its humour. Reading through the Bible with two people now is fantastic not only for what we learn about God, but also the LOL yet all-too-understandable moments in the Old Testament, so that should translate easily... A biblically-accurate Old Testament adventure game would be utterly cool.)4. Since it makes an appearance only toward the end of camp, the wide game might be used as a revision of things learned - recall and reinforcement. Naturally, it'll always be about the need for/importance redemption rather than being huge (and useless) on morality. Would rather have this subtly in gameplay rather than crudely in clues (too ed psych!). However, difficulty lies in getting the exact facets from speakers beforehand.5. For future reference, previous themes, entertainment, games and wide games off the top of my head, alot of misses but a few near hits:Revision Party 2006 (Singapore International Campus)Theme: there wasn't a theme.Games: Debut of the flour and water game at the BBQ at the international hostel. But the mix of the heady aroma of meat roasting and groups of strangers ravenously attacking whatever came off the fire and the lack of tongues wasn't much use for the game.Wide Game: There wasn't a wide game. There was only one camper and he "forgot" to bring his revision. There were also four or five rather tired tween-companions.December Holiday Camp 2006 (Costa Sands Resort, Sentosa)Theme: apparently it was pirates. We had pirate hats, a swashbuckle and a hook for announcements. Monty Python's Parrot Sketch in the heat and mozzies failed, mostly because we were both reading off the same script. Parrot (really a bobble-headed toucan) nodded through a talk perched[...]