Thursday, January 29, 2009

High Five

American Idol has started again.
Last year we reluctantly started watching American Idol, and got hooked. At first we were a little embarrassed to admit that we were fans, but we have since come out of the closet, and enjoy watching the competition.
We were very glad that David Cook won last year - he became our favorite when he sang Hello, way back in the top 16. Rosemary still YouTube-s his rendition of Always Be My Baby about once a week.

Even though the new season of AI has been going for a few weeks now, we just got around to starting to watch it.
At the end of the first episode, there was a blind guy, who sang well and got put through to the next round. Interestingly, as he came out to celebrate with his family, Ryan Seacrest tried to give him a high five. No, really; Ryan Seacrest tried to give a blind guy a high five!
We busted up!
Here's the video:

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

An Explanation

A while back, my friend Josh gave me a copy of "The Reason for God - Belief in an Age of Skepticism" by Timothy Keller, and today I was reading the section entitled, "The Problem of Sin," which I found very interesting and enlightening.

Keller gives this definition of sin:
Sin is the despairing refusal to find your deepest identity in God. Sin is seeking to become oneself, to get identity, apart from Him.
Sin is not simply doing bad things, it is putting good things in the place of God.
So the only solution is not simply to change our behavior, but to reorient and center the entire heart and life on God.

What I really interesting in this section, was his explanation of the social consequences of sin:
How does this destruction of social relationships flow from the internal effects of sin? If we get our very identity, our sense of worth, from our political position, then politics is not really about politics, it is about us. Through our cause we are getting a self, our worth. That means that we must despise and demonize the opposition.
If we get our identity from our ethnicity or socioeconomic status, then we
have to feel superior to those of other classes and races. If you are profoundly proud of being and open-minded, tolerant soul, you will be extremely indignant toward people you think are bigots. If you are a very moral person, you will feel very superior to people you think are licentious. And so on.
There is no way out of this conundrum. The more we love and identify deeply with our family, our class, our race, or our religion, the harder it is not to feel superior or even hostile to other religions, races, etc. So racism, classism, and sexism are not matters of ignorance or a lack of education.
Foucault and others in our time have shown that it is far harder than we think to have a self-identity that doesn't lead to exclusion. The real culture war is taking place inside our own disordered hearts, wracked by inordinate desires for the things that control us, that lead us to feel superior and exclude those without them, and that fail to satisfy us even when we get them.

I think that is really telling. I have always wondered why, for example, there are such fierce rivalries between high schools in the US (where kids go to school according to where they live). Its kind of dumb that the one group would "hate" the other group, just because their parents bought a house in a different part of town, on the different side on an imaginary line decided by some school board officials...
Or, you wonder why neighboring nations, in Europe for example, despise each other so much. Oh, I don't like you, because you are Romanian - as if that person had any choice about where they would be born. What if you had been born in that country, instead of the one you were born in? Would you then hate yourself?

Its ridiculous really - and most of the time, the explanation you hear for this kind of behavior or attitude is that it is a result of ignorance and a lack of education, but Keller (in the footsteps of Soren Kierkegaard, Jonathan Edwards, and C.S. Lewis) points out that the real reason for this is sin - that people are trying to find their identity and self-worth apart from a relationship with God, putting other things in His place.

This explains the "us and them" mentality, and the reason why people who claim to be open-minded and tolerant are often intolerant of those who don't agree with them.

There's a lot more good stuff in the chapter, and the whole book is really excellent - I would recommend it to anyone.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

British Columbia: Land of Dykes

On our trip to America, after we left California, we got the chance to visit our friends Rob and Kitty, who live in Langley, BC.
We had a great time with them, and they showed us around the Vancouver area.

British Columbia is beautiful, and definitely a place where I would like to spend a lot more time. It was quite foggy while we were there, so we weren't able to really see the mountains, so we are planning that someday we have to go back in the summer time to get the full effect.

If I could sum up my impression of BC in just a few words, they would be: Dutch, Bald Eagles, Skid Row, and Dykes.
  • Dutch. In Langley there are a lot of Dutch people. They're cool I guess. I love their stroopwafels.
  • Bald Eagles. As we were driving down the highway, we drove through a bird sanctuary, where we saw probably at least 20 bald eagles. This was crazy to me, since it is pretty rare to see them - at least for me. I think I had only seen 1 bald eagle in my life before this, and then in just 5 min time I saw 20! It was very cool.
  • Skid Row. Rob took me through the city of Vancouver at night, and I was very impressed with how clean and modern it is. And then Rob, who used to be a Vancouver police officer, said, Hey, let me show you Skid Row (not the band!). I was expecting the usual run down stuff, but this was beyond that - like something out of a gangster film. But the weird part was that it was only for a few blocks, and outside of that few-block radius of the skids it was super nice again. For example - the main tourist walking area is only like 2 blocks away from this part of town with abandoned buildings, boarded up windows, and lots of people on the streets.
  • Dykes. As we were driving around one day, Kitty tells us - Yea, Rob and I used to live right over here. I used to love going out at night and walking around the dykes. There are a lot of dykes in this area; they are really nice.
    Rosemary and I found this to be very funny!
    Here's why:

    dyke (also: dike)

    1. n. an embankment for controlling or holding back the waters of the sea or a river.
    2. n. Offensive Slang, Used as a disparaging term for a lesbian.
    3. n. Chiefly Australian Slang. a urinal.

    We quickly figured out that Kitty, a very godly lady, was not speaking of the same kind of dykes that we were thinking of...

    Either way, I will always remember British Columbia as: The Land of Dykes.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

A Huge Bell

One of my pet-peeves is when we sing worship songs in church in which we claim to do something, that we are not actually doing.
For example - we sing something like: "We lift our hands to praise you", but no one actually raises their hands, they just sing the song and stand or sit there.

I talked to another pastor once, who told me that he tells his church, that when they sing songs that say, "we raise our hands", that they should actually raise their hands in praise, because otherwise they are setting a precedent for themselves that they say one thing, but actually do another.
I think that's a really good point, and ever since, I have sought to do the same.

This came to my mind again, as I was recently somewhere where the worship leader happened to be singing a song called "I Will Not Forget," which, by the way, I think is a great and meaningful song. There are just two lines in it that make me wonder.

First, there is a line that says - A wild dance I dance before you.
I think its great to dance before the Lord as David danced - I'm all for that. It just struck me as odd to have a bunch of people who are sitting in chairs singing "a wild dance I dance before you".
Maybe its just me splitting hairs. Maybe its supposed to be metaphoric. Maybe its supposed to be a reference to something we do in general - not just right there. I don't know.

But the line that really gets me is the one that says - A huge bell I ring.
Now, I could see how dancing a wild dance is something a person might do from time to time, but ringing a huge bell? For the Lord? What is that? Is this some form of worship I didn't know about?
Not to mention that the word "huge" is not the most poetic word, I can think of only two instances where this might be actually true:
  1. If you are Quasimodo, or someone who does the same job as Quasimodo
  2. If you are in a bell choir, and it is your job to ring the "huge" bell (meaning that this would not apply to the people ringing the tiny, small, medium, or moderately-large bells).
Those people could honestly sing this song, knowing that what they are singing is really true!
Again, probably this is just metaphorical, but I just don't want to get in the habit of saying one thing and doing another.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009


Kids are expensive.

We woke up this morning to the smell of Balázs getting ready for school.
That's right, not the sound - the smell.
Specifically, it was the smell of his Adidas body spray, which he unsparingly lavishes on every morning.
The stuff smells nice and all - but it isn't cheap, and he goes through it like nobody's business. The same goes for his hair gel.

And its not just Balázs who I'm thinking of when I say that kids are expensive.
Today I got a call from someone in our church, who told me that Nathaniel must have gotten a hold of my mobile, because he called her a few times, and then sent her a couple of "multimedia" text messages.

I'm going to have to pick up a few more hours at the language school...

Monday, January 19, 2009


It is often said that people generally hate change or that they resist change, but of course there are exceptions to this rule.
This week some changes are going to take place in our world.

Tomorrow, Barack Obama will be sworn in as the 44th president of the United States of America, after winning the election on a campaign which promised "Change".
It will be interesting to see what kind of changes actually take place. I've already summed up my thoughts on Obama's victory here, but I really do hope that his presidency does good things for America.

But a much more interesting change this week, at least for me personally, is that Season 5 of Lost begins on Wednesday night.
This is the kind of change that I can believe in! This is the kind of change that we here in Eger long for; there is nothing like waking up on Thursday, knowing that there is a new Lost episode to watch.

If you haven't watched season 4 yet, and don't want to know what happened, then you shouldn't read on.

The 5th Season of Lost, acccording to Lost's co-creator/executive producer/writer/show runner Damon Lindelof, "is about why [the people who have left the island] need to get back".
Season five follows two primary storylines. The first takes place on the island, which has been moved in both space and time by Ben, and focuses on the events that lead to Locke's death in 2007. The second takes place off the island following Locke's death and deals with Jack and Ben's attempt to reunite the Oceanic Six and return to the island with Locke's dead body.

Source: Wikipedia

No matter who the president is, as long as I can watch Lost every week for the next 17 weeks, I will be very happy!

Thursday, January 08, 2009

Fresh and Easy

In Hungary and some of the surrounding countries, as far as supermarkets go, Tesco is the biggest show in town.
In Eger we have a big Tesco store, where you can get pretty much anything.

Although Tesco is a British company, their biggest stores are actually based in Eastern Europe - the biggest one of all being in Budaörs, Hungary.
Tesco also has stores in many other countries, especially in Asia, which usually don't go by the Tesco name, but are nonetheless Tesco-owned.

Tesco is now the world's 4th largest retailer after Wal-Mart (USA), Carrefour (France) and Home Depot (USA).
And now Tesco is making their move on the American market under the name Fresh and Easy.
The first Fresh and Easy stores opened in 2007 in California, Nevada, and Arizona, and Tesco's American headquarters is in El Segundo, CA.

I went to a Fresh and Easy for the first time tonight in Vista, CA. We were looking for baby food, and curious what an American Tesco store would be like.

Firstly, it was nothing like the Tesco stores in Eastern Europe (which, by the way, are nothing like the Tesco stores in the UK).
Fresh and Easy is a discount grocery store with an environmentally friendly angle to it.
At Fresh and Easy there are no casheirs - only self-checkout machines.
And the food there is CHEAP. But I guess I understand why they didn't choose to name the store Cheap and Easy, as that might have another connotation!

All in all, I think Fresh and Easy is pretty cool, and would shop there again in a heartbeat.

Tuesday, January 06, 2009

A New One

I know its kind of late to be writing about the New Year, but we've been very busy here in California, so I haven't had a lot of time to sit and write.
So, once again, this post will contain some pretty random thoughts.
  • Rosemary and I are officially geezers. Or maybe misers. Whatever - we are old and boring.
    Our New Year's Eve of 2008 was not spent partying like it was 1999, but rather going to bed around 10pm, because we were tired and bored. We watched a movie, and then around 10 decided to just go to bed.
    I remember that my parents used to do this same thing, and I thought they were so old and weird. Now that has become us...
  • As the clock struck midnight and 2008 gave way to 2009, a few things changed in Europe:
    - As 2008 passed into history, so did the Slovak Koruna, as Slovakia became the first of the former Warsaw Pact countries to integrate to using the Euro currency and join the Eurozone. Congrats to SK! Hungary is still not going to be getting the Euro for many years to come...
    - On Jan 1st, Czech Republic became the first of the former Warsaw Pact countries to take over the 6-month rotating EU presidency. One of their stated goals is working towards EU membership for the Balkan nations, specifically for Serbia.
    - Vilnius, Lithuania and Linz, Austria became the new European Capitals of Culture.
  • This has nothing to do with the New Year, but I was turned on to a very funny blog by a friend of ours:
    It has pictures of professional cakes, some with mistakes, others just unbelievably weird, etc...
    Browse through it if you have time; some of the stuff on there is really funny - we cracked up.
Anyways, I hope you had a happy New Year, and pray that your 2009 will be blessed.