Monday, May 30, 2011

Small Group Study

A few of us from my church are reading Lee Strobel's A Case for Faith. I have to admit we've been taking our time. We pretty much meet once a month after reading one chapter.

In his book, Lee Strobel discusses 8 Objections people have towards faith (in God). They would be #1: Since Evil and Suffering Exist, a Loving God Cannot; #2: Since Miracles Contradict Science, They Cannot be True; #3: Evolution Explains Life, So God isn't Needed; #4: God Isn't Worth of Worship if He Kills Innocent Children; #5: It's Offensive to Claim Jesus is the Only Way to God; #6: A Loving God would never Torture People in Hell; #7: Church History is Littered with Oppression and Violence; and #8: I Still Have Doubts, So I Can't Be a Christian.

Personally none of those things really bothered me except for, perhaps, #1. In fact I could defend some of those objections, particularly objection #7. There are a number of people of from different faiths and religions that use the name of that particular religion to further their own personal causes. Or to justify some terrible act they have committed. I don't consider them to be true follower of their particular religions. They're just charlatans who are trying to defend their unjust behavior and nothing more.

I'm a bit torn between Evolution and Creationism. Evolution states that we all started as a single celled organism and evolved into so many distinct life forms. And that life started from an inanimate objects/chemicals. That sounds a bit far fetched. As well, I would expect to see more life forms that show progression from earlier stages of evolution to what we have now. There's too big a jump from an ape to a human for example. Why don't we see many other creatures in between? Though the alternative does seem a bit improbable too. That a higher being just put everyone and every living creature here. Of course it's not impossible. I suppose I'd have to give this topic more consideration.

I don't necessarily believe that prayer works. Lee Strobel gave a personal example in how prayer worked for him in his book. At one point his daughter's life was in jeopardy from a mysterious illness that doctors couldn't diagnose. Well, Mr. Strobel prayed to God about it and she miraculously recovered. Lee, at that time, was an atheist and said that he tried to explain the miracle away by saying it was just a coincidence that she got better when he really knew it was God that intervened.

Well, something like that happened at our church. A young boy was gravely ill. They whole church prayed for him. But, unlike the case with Mr. Strobel's daughter this young boy died. It happens all the time. People pray fervently for something and it falls on deaf ears. What happened then? Is God punishing us? Or does he even exist as an entity that Christians believe him to be?

Another objection I have that Lee Strobel failed to include in his book is something I consider pretty major. The fact that dinosaurs were totally omitted in the story of creation. We know they existed. There's no doubt about that. But, nowhere do they fit into the story of how God created the earth and all life on it.

I did a bit of research on the internet about it. Most accounts of how they fit into the story of creation are ridiculous. Some people suggest that dinosaurs did live in the Garden of Eden with Adam and Eve and that they were plant eaters like all other animals. Some say that dinosaurs are, at most, 6,000-years-old and that humans lived along side them. A few of them even question the scientists who say dinosaurs lived between 65 and 250 million years ago. They said things like, "How do the scientists know that dinosaurs lived that long ago? Were they there then?" That sounds like something a five-year-old child would say in a playground argument. All their theories are utterly absurd. Do they expect any reasonably intelligent person to buy into them? It's a vain attempt to explain a large inconsistency in the bible as far as I'm concerned.

Anyone who knows me well knows I'm a skeptic. I don't believe in anything supernatural. I don't believe in ghosts or spirits or that UFOs have visited our planet. Especially without us knowing about it. And I mean all of us, not just a few crazy farmers or whatever in some small town in the middle of nowhere that no one's ever heard of. To make me believe any of that stuff I'd have to see it before my very eyes. Then and only then will I take that step towards believing in it.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Sports Night is Over

Photo by Alan

We had our last night of Sports Night with Cornerstone Church last Thursday. Our team turnout wasn't very good. I guess no one on our team liked volleyball.

When we first started out last fall our attendance was among the highest for European Handball. That continued on through floor hockey, our best sport.

But, when it came to volleyball not a lot of people on our team liked it. Out of the three sports we played I think it's the one that requires the most basic skills. If you can't volley or bump then you're pretty much lost.

The group above were pretty much the only guys on our team who showed up regularly. It made it a little more difficult against the other teams who usually had four guys and two girls on the court. For us, we had three and three.

Still we held our own. Our players were pretty solid overall. No really strong players, but no really weak ones either. That certainly helps a lot.

We were in last by a few points coming into the last day. But, I believe we may have pulled into a tie for second with the green team after pulling off a few victories.

I think all the teams won one sport so that was good. The green team started off winning at European Handball. We won in floor hockey. And the red team pulled it out in volleyball.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Sam's Recital

Our friend Sam played a recital at The Royal Conservatory of Music (on Bloor Street West, just west of the ROM) on Saturday. It was for his graduation.

A few of us that volunteer with him at the Out of the Cold program at Knox went down to watch him. He play quite a few different selections for a total of 1-1/2 hours. It was very good. He's quite a talented pianist.

I didn't take very many photos because I didn't want to cause too much of a disturbance. It's funny how a little click from your camera carries throughout the auditorium. Quite often I would wait, wait, wait with my finger on the shutter release until he played a loud stretch of music before taking the picture.

After the recital a few of us went to Chinatown for dinner (with some other people from Knox). Sam joined some other friends. I'm sure we'll see him another time. His presence was sought by many this evening. Mr. Popular for sure.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

OOTC Volunteer Dinner

We finished our last Tuesday at the Out of the Cold program at Knox at the end of April. Vicki and Bill held an appreciation dinner for all the volunteers this past Tuesday (May 10th). Vicki made a yummy dinner of East Indian cuisine (I believe). I can't remember what it was called.

There were quite a few volunteers who worked behind the scenes to make the program run successfully. Up until that evening I hadn't even met some of them. From buying the food, to preparing it. To setting up and tearing down and cleaning up. From helping with the food bank to doing the dishes.

That's what my group did. We were the dishwashing crew. I have to thank them all. They did a great job under pressure. When the dishes came in they came in. We had to work in a coordinated manner or one of the other people in our group would get slowed down and things would pile up fast. A big thanks go out to Trevor, Sam, Yonni, Marcel and Daphne. You guys made what would have been a difficult job manageable. I'm thankful for that.

Have a great summer and see you in November!

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Cherry Blossoms at High Park

I went to High Park on Saturday to see the cherry blossoms. They're finally blooming. I think it took a little longer than normal because of the cool weather we've been having lately. Usually they would have blossomed the week before.

As expected the park was packed. I knew this would be the case so I rode my bike over to avoid the hassles of trying to find parking. Besides, it was relatively nice out... a perfect day for a spin.

I got there a little earlier than I would normally go because I had some census work to do afterwards. I believe I was there from noon to 1:30 p.m. Not as long as I would have liked, but I think I got some decent photos nonetheless.

It's lucky I got there at that time because I was able to see the A Thousand Paper Cranes display. A few people had gotten together to make origami cranes to raise money for the victims of the earthquake and tsunami in Japan. Their goal was to make 1,000 cranes, but as of the this past Saturday they only had about 450. They only stayed until about 2:30 p.m. I heard. But, they're planning on returning next Saturday, May 14th (hopefully with the rest of the cranes completed).

I had a good time down there taking a lot of photos. The cranes were pretty and so were the cherry blossoms. There were many others, like me, taking pictures and just as many having picnics with their friends or walking around enjoying the day. A couple of people even brought their brushes, easels and canvases to spend the afternoon painting. What a great idea.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Give more than you take...

Give more than you take and you'll make the world a better place.
~ a quote by me

I just read an article in the Midtown Post, a free paper delivered to homes and condos in the area I live. It's directed at people with a higher than average level of income.

The article in question asked if a $400 haircut was really worth it? My answer to that is, why would you even consider such a thing? That much money could sponsor a child in a developing country for one year. Is your hair worth as much as the well-being of another person? It seems quite outrageous to me.

Bill and Melinda Gates seem to have the right idea. They started the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. Along with input from foundation trustee, Warren Buffet, they've given out grants of nearly $24 billion since 1994. Here is a statement taken from their foundation fact sheet:

Guided by the belief that every life has equal value, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation works to help all people lead healthy, productive lives. In developing countries, it focuses on improving people’s health and giving them the chance to lift themselves out of hunger and extreme poverty. In the United States, it seeks to ensure that all people—especially those with the fewest resources—have access to the opportunities they need to succeed in school and life. Based in Seattle, Washington, the foundation is led by CEO Jeff Raikes and Co-chair William H. Gates Sr., under the direction of Bill and Melinda Gates and Warren Buffett.

But, you don't even need to go that far. You can do something as easy as volunteering at your local food bank every now and then. For me, I volunteer at an Out of the Cold program at a church in downtown Toronto. We provide hot meals to underprivileged youths every Tuesday evening from November to the end of April.

As well, I help out with an organization called Project 417. Among other things, we take groups out to deliver bag lunches (sandwich, box drink, apple and snack) to homeless people on the streets of downtown Toronto.

There are a lot of things we can do to make a difference in peoples' lives. We just have to shift the focus a bit further from ourselves to others and we'll be on the right track.

Saturday, May 7, 2011

New Car Shopping (Part II)

My friend and I went out again to look at cars. Again it was after lunch. This time at Congee Queen.

After we ate we headed just down the street to Toyota on the Park to look at the Prius. I thought it would be a good idea to continue looking for fuel efficient cars in light of the recent price hikes on gasoline.

When we got to the dealership we wandered around a bit. Similarly to many of the other dealerships no salespersons approached us. I'm not quite sure why that was. Though I suspect they might have to take turns trying to sell cars to potential clients. So you have to approach the front desk and ask for help and they'll assign someone to you.

Anyway, we were assigned Sylvain when we asked to look at the Prius. Since there wasn't one in the showroom he had to get one for us to look at. He found one and brought it to the parking lot out in front. We got in the car and took a look. Sylvain got in the back and told us about all the features. One thing I didn't like that much was the instrument panel. Instead of the traditional one with the speedometer and everything right behind the steering wheel the Prius had it on a long, thin strip on the dashboard. It seemed a bit strange to me.

The best thing about the car, of course, was the gas mileage. Though I believe Sylvain got the numbers wrong. His estimated fuel usage in the city was too low and for the highway was too high. On Toyota's Canadian website it's quoted at 3.7 L/100 kms City; and 4.0 L/100 kms Highway.

My friend and I were about to leave when this fellow came up and started talking to us. I thought he was an employee at the Toyota dealership. He saw us looking at the Prius and, I believe, had some nice things to say about it. He also mentioned that we should look at the Lexus CT 200h at the Lexus dealership next door because it was only a bit more expensive than the Prius, but much nicer.

He said he had compared both cars and was going to look at CT. He also mentioned he worked for Honda as a technician. His current car was a Toyota Camry though. As for hybrids, he said that Toyotas were better than Hondas. The Lexus salesman, Jim, who we were assigned echoed that sentiment.

They also didn't have a CT 200h in the showroom, so Jim brought one around for us to look at. We sat in it and he told us about all of the features. I have to say it's much more refined and stylish than the Prius. And it's base price is only about $3,000 more at $30,950 (plus freight and dealer costs, plus HST 13%).

Jim even suggested we take it for a test drive. He was the only salesperson we spoke with in the couple of days we were out looking that said that. For the rest we'd have to book an appointment. So that was kind of nice. I think they're quite customer-oriented at Lexus.

The CT 200h was a nice car. I drove it the same way I drive any car. In a pretty slow, steady way. I'm not one of those people who pushes a car hard and accelerates quickly from a standing start. So if it was a high performance car, I couldn't tell. It was just a decent car to drive. I liked it. It's fuel consumption rate is quite good too - 4.5 L/100 kms City; and 4.8L/100 kms Highway. Far better than any gas only engine.

It's something else to think about when I consider purchasing my next car that's for sure.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Auntie Ruth's Place

Last Sunday was Easter Sunday, or as our Pastor Tom said that the church likes to call it now, Resurrection Sunday. One of my friend's, Iris, got baptized today. As well, they had a special presentation by our ACTS drama group and the children from Sunday School sang.

After church service a group of Iris' friends who came to see her get baptized went out to lunch with us. Of course we (Tony, Iris, Lillian and I) went to our usual place, Rol Jui, on Dundas. Along with Iris' friends, Auntie Ruth and her sister, Margaret, came along. Tony and Iris treated this day.

After lunch was over Iris' brother, Tae Hoon, and I and another one of Iris' friends (I don't remember her name) walked Auntie Ruth home. She recently bought a one-bedroom condo at The Village by the Grange.

Auntie Ruth invited us in when we arrived. Her place is on the ground floor off McCaul, opposite the Ontario College of Art and Design. It's not that big. Among other things, she brought down one of her grand pianos, this one a baby grand, from her previous residence in Gravenhurst (up in Muskoka). She proceeded to play a couple of songs for us while we were there. I have to say she's still quite good, especially for someone who is 93-years-old.

As well as the baby grand, she had a machine that she bought at one of the annual health shows here. You stand on it and it vibrates. It almost make you look like you're belly dancing the way it moves your lower body around. I'm not sure what it's purpose is. Maybe to give you a bit of a massage or realign any body parts that are out of place by shaking them back into place. Your guess is as good as mine.

She also has a massage chair. I sat in it for a few minutes. It's pretty good. There are rollers in it that go up and down your back kneading it. I wouldn't mind something like that. They're kind of expensive though and they never look very stylish. I guess that's the only downside.

Anyway, it was nice to drop by and see her place and her little stuffed animals. Perhaps, if I get the chance to go back, I'll take a picture of them too.

Sunday, May 1, 2011

UFC 129 Georges St. Pierre vs. Jake Shields

I went over to my friends', Rob and Kathleen's, place to watch UFC 129 last night with a few other people. It was held at the Rogers Centre in Toronto. It was the first major MMA fight to happen in Ontario which just recently sanctioned the events.

The headliners were Georges St. Pierre vs. Jake Shields for the welterweight championship (170 lbs) and Jose Aldo vs. Mark Hominick for the featherweight championship (145 lbs). Also on the main card was a light-heavyweight (205 lbs) tilt between Randy "The Natural" Couture and Lyoto "The Dragon" Machida in what was to be Hall of Famer, Couture's, last fight.

The Couture/Machida card ended in spectacular fashion with Machida landing a front kick to Couture's face knocking him out cold at 1:05 of the second round. Machida was his usual elusive self for the first round of the fight easily avoiding any of the 47-year-old, Couture's, strikes.

The co-main event saw Canadian Mark Hominick take on Brazilian Featherweight champ Jose Aldo for the belt. Jose Aldo is known for his devastating leg kicks and quick, precision striking. He came in as a heavy favorite and during the fight showed everyone why.

Aldo dominated much of the fight only losing the final round to his game, but overmatched opponent. Afterwards H0minick showed the effects of receiving a severe beatdown at his hands. One fellow beside me remarked that Hominick's face looked similar to one of the grotesque creatures from the horror movie The Hills Have Eyes.

The match between Georges St. Pierre and Jake Shields was much more even. Some people even saw Shields as the favorite. He's had a longer win streak, but I don't believe has fought opponents of the same calibre as St. Pierre.

Shields greatest strength was supposed to be his jiu-jitsu. St. Pierre negated it by keeping the fight standing shrugging off any of Shield's take down attempts. With an array of punches and kicks, St. Pierre knocked his opponent down a number of times, but could not finish. This has been his greatest criticism.

He did have what I would say is a legitimate excuse though. Part way through the second round Shields landed what seemed to be a inconsequential punch to St. Pierre's left eye. Immediately after the round St. Pierre complained he couldn't see out of it any longer. I'm sure it hampered his performance for the rest of the fight.

In the end Georges St. Pierre won a unanimous decision in the eyes of the judges. Though he didn't dominate, Shields didn't do anything remotely threatening either.