An Operational Definition of Objective Reality

Here’s a fascinating little snapshot of modern science:

A team of US physicists has proved a theorem that explains how our objective, common reality emerges from the subtle and sensitive quantum world…

The Los Alamos team define a property of a system as ‘objective’, if that property is simultaneously evident to many observers who can find out about it without knowing exactly what they are looking for and without agreeing in advance how they’ll look for it.

The full article Natural Selection Acts On The Quantum world is just plain cool (and accessible to non‐scientists).

A Most Peculiar Conference Precursor

As many of you are no doubt aware, I am coordinating Chi Alpha’s San Diego winter conference.

Now it is virtually axiomatic that everything goes crazy prior to a Chi Alpha conference. For example, last year I got a ticket for running a stop sign as I was preparing to head up to our Lake Tahoe winter conference. For the record, I still dispute the legitimacy of that ticket. I think the cop was asleep and was startled into consciousness by the vibrant hue of my car. But I digress…

This year things have been crazy as well. Let me highlight one thread of our conference preparations–the worship.

This year we parted with tradition and booked an outside band instead of asking one of our Chi Alpha groups to lead worship. An unexpected consequence was that unlike our Chi Alpha groups, the band doesn’t normally bring their own sound system with them.

Now as anyone who has ministered to collegians will attest, having a good sound system is fairly important. Most students are audiophiles or pretend to be, and so getting the right gear makes a difference.

It is also ridiculously expensive. We found a competent sound guy who also works with equipment rentals and he did some research and found us the low, low price of $4,500.

That’s more than our entire conference budget (excluding housing).

So we went back to the drawing board.

I should mention that I was stranded in Louisiana without cell phone coverage most of the time that we were trying to fix this. I seem to be allergic to the entire state of Lousiana, because every time I go home I get major allergy attacks. So I’m grumpy from my allergies and unable to call anyone to make alternate plans for the sound equipment.

Eventually we got back home and I started working hard to find a backup sound system. We accosted Chi Alpha ministries, churches, and random passerby to no avail.

Finally my good friend Jeff Devoll came through for us. Jeff has got one of the nicest sound systems I’ve ever seen and is also one of the nicest (and sharpest) guys I’ve ever met. So we were able to get an outrageously good system as a very reasonable price.

Now we had the problem of transporting this sound system the 500 miles from Sacramento down to San Diego.

Instant success–our ministry in Sacramento has a trailer for transporting sound gear.

The heady swell of success was soon dashed on the hard rocks of reality. We had a trailer but no means to haul it.

So we called every single Chi Alpha ministry in northern California to see who had a pickup truck or an SUV or even a tow‐capable van.

No one. None of the staff and none of their students have anything suitable.

This is in marked contrast to my years of ministry in Springfield, MO. Finding tow vehicles was easy. Limiting myself to female acquaintances alone I could have drummed up a truck in under five minutes. But in this ecotopia no one seems to own anything significantly larger than a chipmunk.

At this point, I should mention that I’m still sick and unable to think as clearly as I would like. And the “this point” that I’m referencing is Christmas day.

That’s right–I’m calling people on Christmas day to find a hauler. “Merry Christmas! Do you have a truck I can borrow?”

Alas, there were to be no tow‐capable Christmas gifts for me.

On the day after Christmas we decide we have no choice but to rent an exorbitantly priced and uncomfortable moving truck (we attempted to rent a pickup truck first, but no company was willing to rent us a pickup to haul a trailer–I guess towing is considered a Bad Thing).

Now in order to rent a truck you need a driver. I thought I had one lined up, but he didn’t work out. I then thought I had a couple lined up, but they didn’t work out. I thought I had another guy lined up but he was heading to Tahoe to spend time with his family prior to conference. I finally called my ace in the hole and he was driving to Tahoe to spend time with his fiancee priot to conference.

What can I say? Tahoe is popular.

To make things even more tumultuous, the kindly Mr. Devoll is in the midst of moving and has left a crucial piece of sound equipment at his old place in Napa.

It is now Sunday December 26th and Paula and I are flying out at 10:00am tomorrow. We need to get this taken care of pronto.

To our horror, we learn that all the rental places close at noon on Sunday. Even if we find a driver we’re hosed–we’ll be on a plane before we get a chance to rent a vehicle.

It’s around 1:00PM Sunday afternoon, the equipment has to leave tomorrow, parts are still in Napa, we have no driver, and we have no truck.

And then the magic happened.

Tahoe boy (with fiancee) is passing right next to Napa on his way to Tahoe. So he and his fiancee drive to Napa and rummage through Jeff’s garage looking for a 24‐channel mixer and a box of microphones and cables. I coach them through the process by looking at a Microsoft Word sketch of Jeff’s house marked the likely location of the equipment which he sent me in the wee hours of the morning. It takes a while but they finally find it.

And then we discover that our sound guy (the $4,500 sound system guy) is going to be driving a truck full of music instruments down to San Diego in a rental truck anyway and is happy to bring our sound system as well.

And then we discover that the sound guy is going to be hanging out that night across the street from the Tahoe couple who have the extra sound equipment, so the handoff will be easy.

And that’s the way it always happens. Everything goes nuts and then everything works out. To wrench 2 Corinthians 4:8–9 from its context:

We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed.

Relieved, Paula and I turn to preparing for our trip tomorrow morning and discover that we misbooked our tickets and are leaving at 9pm instead of 9am, which messes up several parts of our schedule down south.


To add insult to injury, I’m getting a prominent facial pimple in the first time in forever. That’s right–take another look at the photo on th e top right. See the blemish next to my nose?

Also, I’ve spent much time on my cell phone today that if cell phones really do cause cancer I’ll be growing a blue ribbon tumor out of my ear by tomorrow morning.

At least I’m not sick anymore.

But things will work out–the magic will happen and the conference will be a smashing success.

In fact, it’s a generally accepted principle that the more hectic the pre‐conference brouhaha is the better the conference winds up being.

Based on our sound system problems alone we’re expecting either global revival to break out or the rapture to occur. We’re not sure which one, but be ready just in case either comes to pass next week.

Christmas Pictures of Dana Are Up

Some All of our Christmas pictures of Dana are up (the ones from my Dad’s camera). We’ll upload some more pictures later today from our own camera.

Dana really seemed to enjoy her first Christmas. She didn’t understand anything, of course, but she does actually enjoy playing with her gifts quite a bit.

I personally thought it was silly to buy her toys on the theory that she’d be just as happy with the boxes and wrapping paper. Turns out I was very much mistaken, and I’m quite glad to be. Watching her play is FUN.

Merry Christmas!

Christmas Eve draws to a close and I can hear reindeer in the distance, so I’m signing off for the night.

In those days a decree went out from Emperor Augustus that all the world should be registered. This was the first registration and was taken while Quirinius was governor of Syria. All went to their own towns to be registered. Joseph also went from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to the city of David called Bethlehem, because he was descended from the house and family of David. He went to be registered with Mary, to whom he was engaged and who was expecting a child. While they were there, the time came for her to deliver her child. And she gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in bands of cloth, and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn.

In that region there were shepherds living in the fields, keeping watch over their flock by night. Then an angel of the Lord stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. But the angel said to them, ‘Do not be afraid; for see—I am bringing you good news of great joy for all the people: to you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is the Messiah, the Lord. This will be a sign for you: you will find a child wrapped in bands of cloth and lying in a manger.’ And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host, praising God and saying, ‘Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace among those whom he favors!’ When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, ‘Let us go now to Bethlehem and see this thing that has taken place, which the Lord has made known to us.’ So they went with haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the child lying in the manger. When they saw this, they made known what had been told them about this child; and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds told them. But Mary treasured all these words and pondered them in her heart. The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen, as it had been told them.

Luke 2, NRSV

Merry CHRISTmas. Enjoy the rest of your break–Paula and I look forward to seeing you all when Winter Quarter kicks back off! Don’t forget to pray for us at Winter Conference.

Merry Christmas!

It’s Christmas Eve and I’m off to bed, so have a merry Christmas. The well‐known words of Isaac Watts express my sentiments best:

Joy to the world! the Lord is come:
let earth receive her King;
let every heart prepare him room,
and heaven and nature sing,
and heaven and nature sing,
and heaven, and heaven and nature sing.

Joy to the world! the Savior reigns;
let us our songs employ,
while fields and floods, rocks, hills and plains
repeat the sounding joy,
repeat the sounding joy,
repeat, repeat the sounding joy.

No more let sins and sorrows grow,
nor thorns infest the ground;
he comes to make his blessings flow
far as the curse is found,
far as the curse is found,
far as, far as the curse is found.

He rules the world with truth and grace,
and makes the nations prove
the glories of his righteousness,
and wonders of his love,
and wonders of his love,
and wonders, wonders of his love.

Now I’m off to have visions of sugarplums dance in my head.

The Greek New Testament Online

I just ran across a most remarkable online Bible study tool: the Greek New Testament browser. If you ever want to do some serious study this site will be pretty helpful. I can’t say enough good things about this site’s elegant interface and solid content.

Hat tip to the two excellent blogs who brought it to my attention: the New Testament Gateway and the Bible Software Review.

On A Cool Tangent

Yes it is our anniverary (as well as Jayne Zickafoose’s birthday), yet I still find time to blog. I’m such a romantic.

I just noticed that a friend of ours, Earl Creps (UPDATE: Earl also has a blog: RSS feed here), has been nominated to host one of the cohort groups at the Emergent convention in San Diego.

Although they misspelled his name.

Anyway, I just thought that was cool.

And to stave off any marital‐counseling comments, Paula and I have been having a perfectly wonderful anniversary and are in the process of getting ready for an evening out.

Too Pooped To Party

Paula, Dana and I just returned from our Christmas pilgrimmage to Louisiana. And we’re all exhausted.

It was a nice visit, and Dana behaved like an angel on all the flights, but it’s nice to be back in our own home with our own wireless interenet connection and our own weather and our own timezone.

Oh, and our own beds. Dana has already become reacquainted with hers and Paula and I will soon ambush ours.

Christ, Christmas, and Credit Cards

Randy Jumper, an old friend from grad school, just posted a wonderful piece from NPR.


I’m not fighting the commercialization of Christmas; that fight was lost ages ago. What I’m after is more radical: Disentangling Jesus entirely from this blight on his good name. I’m out to change the bumper sticker from ‘Keep Christ in Christmas’ to ‘Free Christ from Christmas.’

Heresy? Well, compare Christmas with Martin Luther King’s birthday. On his birthday, nobody ever pays any attention to his birth. Instead, it’s ‘I have a dream’ and his impact on society. We mark Dr. King’s birth by focusing on what he said and did as an adult. Christmas, by contrast, has no time for what the adult Jesus said and did. Christmas keeps him safely shut up as a baby in the manger, where he can’t make his usual noise about people repenting and living a godly life.

I’m not proposing that we cancel Christmas. I know, the economy would collapse without it. Fine. Keep the gift‐giving and the jingle bells. Let’s just subtract the remaining Jesus element from it and move that over into Easter. Call December 25th Solstice. Call it Retail Day. Call it Holiday Number Nine. I don’t care, just leave Christ out of it. He was not born to be the patron saint of fourth‐quarter earnings.