Thursday, November 28, 2013

Timer to Turn on and Off an Outside Faucet

We have some plants outside that can't be reached by our current sprinkler system, and we hand- water them with the hose.  What do you do when you go out of town for a couple of days?  You first go to Home Depot and buy gadgets.  This time its a Melnor "Automatic [Digital] 1 Outlet Water Timer" (SKU 558-026) ($30) and an inexpensive Oscillating Sprinkler (SKU 619-344) ($7).  (I already have the hose.)

The timer unit is encased in a sturdy little plastic box, runs off two AA batteries (not supplied) and has an input port that fastens to the faucet and an output port to which the hose fastens.  Before installing the unit, however, one programs it - which is a snap, with some simple written instructions.  The unit has an LED screen to assist in the programing that is easy to read.  

When I first installed the unit, which I had programmed to be "off" but to turn on 15 minutes later for 30 minutes, the water poured through it when I turned on the faucet.  The instructions had a "trouble-shooting" chart, and the first thing on it was that problem.  The valves, the chart advised, may have come "open" during shipping.  Take out the battery holder, wait 30 seconds, and re-install.  I did that and then needed to slightly touch up the programming.  Back on the faucet it went, and no water ran through.  I installed the hose, fastened the sprinkler to the other end, and waited the 15 minutes.  Bingo.  Problem solved.

The timer is an elegant little work of applied technology.  The timer I bought was Melnor's basic digital timer product.  It makes more involved ones in its "Aqua-Timer" line.

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Eight million dollar man

Zac Vawter
Associated Press/Photo by Brian Kersey
Zac Vawter
Zac Vawter’s right leg is a mechanistic marvel: Made of aluminum, it has a computer, two motors, and 13 sensors to measure movement or pressure, and weighs less than his left leg. For Vawter, who lost the bottom half of his right leg in 2009 after a motorcycle accident, walking comes as easy as thinking.
Too bad he’s not allowed to take the leg home just yet. The bionic leg is part of a project at the Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago, funded by about $8 million from the Defense Department. Electrodes fitted to Vawter’s right thigh sense muscle movements associated with walking or bending an ankle, and read his intention to bend an ankle, walk, or climb stairs.
The smart leg, according to a September report in the New England Journal of Medicine, cuts falls and unnatural movements nearly in half, compared to regular prosthetics.

-from World Magazine's issue of 11-2-2013.

Here's the "preview" for the NEJM article to which World Mag refers.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

The Film "Pacific Rim" and Climate Change

I finally saw this movie, via Amazon, when the price finally dropped into the realm of reasonableness.  (Do people really pay $12.99 and above to watch a non-Prime Amazon movie?)

Inside all the fantastic photography and sympathetic characters and competent acting, the producers tuck a  climate change theme.  The aliens who climb out of the Pacific Rim and wreck havoc on the West Coast, are aliens who, millennia before, introduced the dinosaurs to our planet as a sort of guinea pig species.  Those creatures died out, however, because the atmosphere was not toxic enough.  So the aliens waited until humans polluted it to the extent that Earth is ready for them.  So here they come.


On the other hand, humans and their technology defeat the aliens in Act 3, using a nuclear device.

So what's the moral here?  Are humans and their polluting technology bad or are they good? Or do we have a mixed bag?  Or are the creators of the movie just sloppy or cynical?  I vote for sloppy.

Maybe we will find out in the inevitable sequel.  I sure hope del Toro is doing it.

The Bangs, Father and Son, the Dutch Reformation, the Pilgrims, and Jacobus Arminius.

The November - December edition of The University of Chicago Magazine, presents a profile of Jeremy Bangs, X'67, entitled "Going Dutch."  It not only introduces me to that gifted scholar,  but also to Leiden in the Netherlands, the Reformation as it took place in that country, and reintroduces me to the Pilgrims, "yes, those Pilgrims" as Lydialyle Gibson, the article's author, writes.  (What a beautiful name, Lydialyle.)

The article also introduces me to Jeremy's dad, Carl Bangs, PhD'58,

a church historian and theology professor, and an expert of the 16th-century Dutch theologian Jacobus Arminius.  Carl Bang's biography, Arminius: A Study in the Dutch Reformation (Abingdon Press), is a definitive text. 
Arminius!  But he was so wrong!  Isn't that just like a UChi scholar, picking such a subject to write about?

But over to Amazon, to look at that book.  Here's a great review:

5.0 out of 5 stars A Unique, Enlightening, and Rewarding Study (Especially for a Calvinist)., June 18, 2006
Mr. Bangs presents a very systematic and, sometimes, personally affective account of James Arminius. Not only does he present Arminius objectively as a pastor, theologian,and professor but also a few yet essential insights of a man who has had his share of sorrow.

I was warned many years ago not to read this book. I was told by Calvinist-leaning individuals that it would upset my faith and cause me to fall away. I have read this book 5 times and filled it with highlighting and notations. Apparently, the one who warned me never read the book. And I think that is a big problem with those who adhere to Calvinism when discussing issues regarding election and predestination. I would encourage every Calvinists to read this book not for the purpose of changing their view but to understand what Arminius really taught as, it seems, many books by Calvinist theologians misrepresent terribly the teachings Arminius espoused. To call him a heretic is to be wholy misinformed or uninformed about the man Arminius and his teachings.

Reading "Arminius" has helped me to understand the significance of Arminianism, it's value and importance in Christian theology, the essential issues that divide two camps of believers (one, Calvinism, and the other, Arminianism), and it has provided me with an alternative (and better, in my estimation) understanding of certain "problem" texts in the Bible.

Most important of all, to me, it has brought me closer to a man after my own heart; a man who knows the pain of lose, still trusts in God, and seeks to present God in a way that makes Him available for all sinners to embrace in repentance and faith.

I highly recommend reading this book. If you do not, you will miss a very important phase in Christian history. It has gotten to a point that when I'm going to my study to read this book and his "Works", I tell my wife I'm going to spend some time with my best friend.

Buy it, read it, you won't regret it.

Also, read "The Works of James Arminius", London Edition, 3 vols. So far, I've read all volumes three times. It is a little difficult to read at first, but once you get use to how it is written, you'll find it very rewarding.

Now, over to, to find a $6.00 "Acceptable" copy on sale (although,you never know just what you are going to get with "Acceptable" - other than a real bargain).  Can't wait to read it.

The reviewer quoted above, Mr. Banuchi, writes that he "read 'The Works of James [Jacobus] Arminius', London Edition, 3 vols.  .  .  . three times"!  There are editions of those works at Amazon in Kindle Editions.  Here is volume 1 of the edition published by the Christian Classics Ethereal Library ("CCEL").  CCEL's website is worth exploring.