Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Pentiums, Palms, and Pianos

Although I like to consider myself a technology buff, many of you know that I tend to lag behind the cutting edge. Here is an example:

My desktop computer is a 450 MHz Pentium III with a whopping 10 GB of hard drive space and runs Windows 98SE. It is paired with a 17 inch CRT whose screen sometimes flickers purple until I hit it just right.

So while I usually stick with my aging electronics as long as possible, I recently was forced to upgrade a few items. Here's a list of new acquisitions:

  • PDA - Previously owned a Palm m105 (five years ago). My sister inherited the m105 when my medical school recently purchased new Palm TX's for all the third year students! I'm really appreciating the hi-res color screen, wireless connectivity, bluetooth, and so on. I immediately put Bible software on it and all the Ellen White books I could find. Oh yeah, I'll need to use it for work too.
  • Camera - Previously owned a Minolta Dimage Xt which was ultraportable but only 3.2 MP. Now my sister uses the Minolta (still a decent camera) because I bought a Canon SD700 IS. The new camera has image stabilization, ISO up to 1600, 4X zoom and 6 MP. I'll be using all 6 megapixels to take prodigious amounts of breath-takingly beautiful photos for the Advent HOPE annual slideshow. (Yay, more pictures for the website!!)
  • Pager - All third year medical school students have to get them, but my program upgraded all of us to 2-way pagers (and paid for them). So now I can save on cell phone minutes when I'm paged/on-call because I can just send text messages to the nurse/intern. Better yet, I can text Norman the Neurology Resident for answers when I'm getting pimped by the attending physicians.
  • Piano - Always wanted to have a piano but never had a house to put it in. Since that just changed recently, I bought a digital piano. And not just any digital piano, this is a professional Yamaha stage piano (Yamaha P-250). It has the best touch I've ever felt on a keyboard as well as incredible sound. But most importantly, it is portable so we are using it for all our ministry events including Day of Prayer and Fasting and Southwest Youth Conference.

Ultimately, everything I own and/or buy is the Lord's and is for His glory, whether directly or indirectly. Sometimes it is easy to get carried away getting things just for the sake of emulating the world or fulfilling our own desires. However, my prayer is that each of us will look at technology as an opportunity to benefit the kingdom of God and then, purchase accordingly.

By the way, anybody want to buy a used Pentium III computer? I'll throw in a monitor for free...

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Of Symphonies and Signatures

The Bowl

A few friends and I went to the Hollywood Bowl yesterday. For those of you who are unfamiliar with this venue, the Hollywood Bowl is an outdoor amphitheater with a unique stage architecture. It happens to be the summer venue for the LA Phil. On the program for this Tuesday evening was the Torke Javelin, Mendelssohn Violin Concerto in E minor, and the Brahms Symphony No. 2. We managed to get better seats than usual (read, K section rather than Z section) and made it with plenty of time for the concert (also a rarity). I should also mention that the weather was absolutely perfect, pairing a warm day with a cool but not too cold evening.

The Review

The Torke Javelin was actually an interesting song. I didn't know much about it except that it was commissioned by the Atlanta Olympics Committee in the mid-nineties and appears on the "Summon the Heroes" CD (Sony Classical). The piece itself was optimistic and inspiring, as would befit the XXVI Olympiad.

The Mendelssohn Violin Concerto was excellent. The soloist was Hilary Hahn. Her rendition of the Mendelssohn, although not particularly inventive, was as expressive as it was technically brilliant. Only 26 years old, she displayed a sensitivity beyond her years yet gave a spirited performance. For instance, during the cadenza in the first movement, she didn't push through it as some violinists do, but she took the time to savor the notes and work the dynamics. It was a pleasure to listen to. However, in the third movement when the famous melody begins, she wasn't afraid to move the tempo along and attack the notes. Man, she really flew through the third movement. It was this type of contrast in tempo, self-restraint versus speed, that really added an extra dimension to the piece.

After the concerto was finished, she came out and did an encore. I couldn't understand the title when she announced it but it was a very technically difficult piece without accompaniment. She pretty much placed double stops (and maybe triple stops) the whole time with some finger plucking, etc. The piece was not well-known (well, at least to me) so it provided an interesting contrast to the sometimes-overplayed Mendelssohn.

After the concerto, we were ready to go home. But the Brahms was next. I was not that familiar with the Brahms Second Symphony. It wouldn't make my personal list of favorite symphonies but there were several catchy melodies and a lot of nice oboe parts, which I always enjoy.

The Signing

We took a while to get out of the Bowl since thousands of people were streaming out of the amphitheater. But when we reached the main gate (where the Tower Records booth is), Hilary was signing autographs at a table nearby. So Al and Norman bought CDs of her playing the Mendelssohn (Sony Classical) and got in line for her signature.

By the way, I don't know if she does this all the time but Hilary wrote the liner notes for that particular CD. That was interesting. Also, she played the Mendelssohn very differently at the Hollywood Bowl than on the CD. Probably because she has matured in the last four years since she recorded it.

While we were in line, we overheard her talking to various people. She says that she tries to practice 2-4 hours a day while on the road, more when she is not traveling. However, she also recommended not practicing that much all at once. I think she suggested an hour at a time.

Well, so we finally got to meet her. Al and Norman presented their CDs and asked her to autograph them. Then it was my turn so I asked her to sign my ticket. Hey, it was all I had! Oh well, I did get a picture with her.

Here was Norman's conversation:
Norman: Could you sign my CD?

(entirely appropriate pause)

Norman: Are you from England?

Hilary: You want me to sign this for whom?

(awkward pause)

Norman: No, I mean, are you from England?

Hilary: No, I'm American.
Other than that, the whole night was very refreshing and inspiring. It reminded me of my orchestra playing days and those Long Long Ago times (pun intended) when I used to play the violin. Perhaps someday I will pick it up again. In the meantime, I'll just have to drop by the Bowl once in a while.

Click here for all the photos.

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Registration Reminders

For those of you planning to attend the General Youth Conference this year, you will be pleased to know that, thanks to Rob Durkin and Alistair Huong, registration is now active. However, only individual registration is available at the moment. This means that, if you plan to register as a family or a group, you will need to wait for about a month until this feature is fully activated. However, early-bird discount applies until September 30 so don't worry! But don't procrastinate either...

GYC will be held in Baltimore this year. The theme is "By Every Word." This is a reference to the words of Jesus in Matthew 4:4.
But he answered and said, It is written, Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God.
If you can't wait for GYC, you can sign up to attend South West Youth Conference on August 18-20. And for those of you that attend Advent HOPE, you all get a special discount so register right away!

It will be held at Camp Mountain Chai in Southern California and the theme is "Let It Rain." This is of course a reference to the latter rain that God's people so desperately need and is taken from the text in Zechariah 10:1.

Ask ye of the LORD rain in the time of the latter rain; so the LORD shall
make bright clouds, and give them showers of rain, to every one grass in the

See you there!

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

A Moving Story

I recently moved out of the dormitory at Loma Linda University and rented a house with two friends from Advent HOPE, Adrian and Bill. Adrian is an Advent HOPE leader as well as the co-leader for Restoration 2007 and Freedom from Fear 2006. Bill is a deacon at Advent HOPE and a second-year dental student at LLU.

Before I show you a few pictures of the house, here are the highlights:
  • three bedroom, two bath with 2 car garage
  • new roof and carpet
  • grapefruit tree in backyard
  • located across the street from Loma Linda Medical Center
Here are a few lowlights too:
  • near emergency room so ambulances, with sirens blaring, drive by all the time
  • AC broke down during the heat wave (96 degrees in the house)
  • driveway is so steep that our cars scrape the concrete as we park
  • lawn died in between owners so we are trying to nurse it back to life in 115 degree heat
Pray for us. And if you are in the area around August 26, we're thinking of having a housewarming then (three months after we moved in)...

Click here for a few photos.