Saturday, January 28, 2006

Feast of St Thomas Aquinas

I'm re-reading a light book from one of my all-time favorite secular scientists, Richard P. Feynman called "The Meaning of It All". Though he's an atheist, and more 'rational' when it comes to faith than most secular scientists I have encountered, I think St. Thomas Aquinas would give him a run for his money when it comes to proving not only there is a God, but also there is no conflict between science and religion!

Will write about this as I read on. Just thought to post this in honor of one of my favorite saints :)

Thursday, January 26, 2006

Deus Caritas Est

Since 'discovering' Humana Vitae & Evangelium Vitae, I found encyclicals to be rich & engaging materials for reading.

This is Pope Benedict XVI's first encyclical ("Deus Est Caritas") and here's his preface. I'm trying to find time to sit down & read it, let me know if anyone has seen it & what impressions/insights you have garnered from him.

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Roe v. Wade anniversary: March for Life

Life: "From conception to natural death"

I'm watching thousands march to protest Roe v. Wade in Washington DC, as well as many other states in the US.

Update: EWTN reports 6000-8000 young people attending the Vigil for Life in the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington DC.

UP to 150,000 people are estimated to attend this rally.

We pray for conversion of hearts...

Some thoughts: Singapore has abortion law that is comparable to the US (abortion on demand up to 24 weeks), why is there no visible pro-life movement?

Sunday, January 22, 2006

Dante's Inferno Quiz

The Dante's Inferno Test has sent me to... Purgatory!
Here is how you matched up against all the levels:
Purgatory (Repenting Believers)Extreme
Level 1 - Limbo (Virtuous Non-Believers)Very High
Level 2 (Lustful)Low
Level 3 (Gluttonous)Very Low
Level 4 (Prodigal and Avaricious)Very Low
Level 5 (Wrathful and Gloomy)Low
Level 6 - The City of Dis (Heretics)Very Low
Level 7 (Violent)Very Low
Level 8- the Malebolge (Fraudulent, Malicious, Panderers)Low
Level 9 - Cocytus (Treacherous)Very Low

Take the Dante Inferno Hell Test

Is this a good sign? ;)

Friday, January 20, 2006

Is it enough?

WARNING: Looking at my past postings, I seem to have a predisposition for writing long posts, sometimes meandering. Perhaps this is destined to be such a post. I have a lot of things off my mind to write, and I have no patience writing multiple posts that rotate around one thought.

I just came back from attending the first session in Bioethics Forum 2006 about prenatal testing. In it the speakers highlighted the various types of conditions that can be detected prenatally (some of which are treatable & are not—contrary to popular beliefs—going to make the baby and its family suffer for the rest of their lives), which unfortunately have resulted in the parent "opting to terminate the pregnancy" (read: abortion). Three doctors were the speakers, one of them from the Catholic Medical Guild (of Singapore), and the theme of the evening seemed to be that moral relativism is sweeping the society and that these principled members of the health professions are doing their best to uphold their positions by practising "conscientious objection" against procedures they find morally unacceptable.

But is it enough?

I asked that question to them, sounding a little exasperated, but I think towards myself. I have come to a point in my life—a juncture really—where I must decide what to do with my life. My earlier crossroad had passed, I had chosen to stay in this path, but the New Year brought fresh revelations, fresh signs that stirred my restlessness.

Starting up a company has been a challenge, and while it hasn't been particularly rewarding, it was good while we were 'independent'. There was a recent development and we partnered a company. While the people have been professional, I heard nothing but 'money, money' and 'profit' and 'branding' and 'marketing'. Suddenly I cannot remember why I am doing what I am doing now.

Perhaps some of you who's read this far down might identify this situation as a typical midlife crisis. I think I've just plain become disillusioned with the kind of work and people I mingle with. There's no longer any value we're trying to create. And in the middle of this, a message came...

And the saints are here...

It started innocently: a blog I read linked to Saints of the Year project and I thought, how appropriate, asking the saints to pick us & pray for us! (Moneybags, many thanks!) Moneybags' friend helped me to 'pick out' (rather, the saints picked me out) St. Luke & Sts. Cosmas and Damian! Well, what do these saints have in common, and how do they relate to my life? Well, it seems like they are patron saints of physicians, surgeons & pharmacists. Oh well... I thought inwardly, before I remember the person that I was many years ago, before going to university here made a cynic out of me...

The long road

Before entering university, I had plans to study computer engineering for undergrad and then go to medical school, hopefully applying my engineering backgrounds into medically useful R&D and help millions of suffering people... Yet long before graduation day, I was put off by the kind of life that my university made me go through. The saints & my recent encounters with bioethics issues have roused me from the living dead for I had begun to despair in my current state of life as I lapsed into a hateful routine at work. This latest 'reminder' of my old dream, if it were truly the message that God is telling me, is nothing less than an epiphany.

"There's no such thing as an ordinary life"
Fr JJ Fenelon in his homily last Sunday said that for a Christian, there's no such thing as an ordinary life because all of us are called to extraordinary life. The first reading last Sunday told the story of Samuel who was called three times by the Lord before he realized who He is ("Speak Lord, your servant is listening") and "let none of his words fall to the ground". And just like Jesus' first disciples had to change, leave their old lives—old selves behind, a life after Christ's epiphany demands a change.

"What do you seek?"

Jesus asked this question to the first disciples, and they in turn asked Him where he lived. Again Fr JJ mentioned that there is something to be read from the question and the response. The disciples knew not how to explain the longing, the restlessness in their heart, the desire to be with God, so their response indicated that they'd go where Jesus goes. I felt I could identify with Andrew (and John, son of Zebedee) at that moment, because what I wanted in my heart wasn't what I'm doing in my life currently. It is time to listen to the Word and change.

I am afraid, for I'm leaving behind an old familiar path for the unknown. But having seen what I've seen, experienced what I've gone through, I cannot stay. Saints, pray for me, for only Christ can give a life worth living.

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

Bad dream

I woke up with a loudly beating heart (dug-dug-dug-dug) this morning after such a vivid nightmare... it's been awhile since I last had this kind of palpitation-inducing dreams!

I dreamt I was back in an old-fashioned classroom, jotting down biology notes about a small snake with yellow-silver stripes (the name, so patiently mentioned by the teacher, escapes my waking consciousness), and happened to be having one in a leaf container on my lap! I felt it move slightly and knew it had to be getting out from a hole somewhere in the container, so when I took a peek at the bottom of the leaf container, it struck at me! Having little space between my chair and the desk behind me I think I was probably bitten; but it was more of a shock than pain (has anyone ever felt pain in a dream?) that gave me racing heart...

What a start to a day! I spent the morning jumping at the slightest rustle...

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

James Bond, here it comes...

Dream car? Replete with gadgets & features! Now if only it comes with hybrid engine..

Check this out:

Mercedes' engineers obviously put a lot of effort into designing the ergonomics of the seat, and extended the comfort features to include a selection of back massages. Seven air chambers in the cushion deflate and inflate according to whether you select a light or more vigorous massage using the car's display console.

Now relax back & enjoy your drive...!

Sunday, January 15, 2006

Update about Commenting

HaloScan seems to remove old comments, so I've decided to discontinue using its service. The link is still there because there are several old comments left, but PLEASE don't use them. Use the Blogger comment instead. Thanks!

UPDATE! Jan 18th

I've removed the HaloScan comments now.

Victory of Reason: yet another thread in the "War that Wasn't"

Zenit carries an article about Rodney Stark's new book: "The Victory of Reason: How Christianity Led to Freedom, Capitalism, and Western Success"

I came across the same idea that Thomas E Woods' wrote in How Catholic Church Built Western Civilization in Stark's defense of his thesis:

Christianity sees God as a rational being and the universe as created by him. Thus, a rational structure awaits human comprehension. And rising to the challenge have been theologians in the Catholic Church, who over the centuries engaged in careful reasoning that led to the development of Christian doctrine. Leading thinkers such as Augustine and Thomas Aquinas, Stark explains, celebrated the use of reason as a means to gain insight into divine intentions.

Perhaps the idea that Christian theology fosters the "transmission of faith in progress into technical and organization innovations" isn't as unique amongst historians of science and Church... it's just ol' uninformed me :)

Full link here

Saturday, January 14, 2006

Science & Religion: A War that wasn't

A lucid article about the illusion of battle between science & religion. Good to read this after Thomas Woods' book. Plus, he mentioned (Blessed?) Nicolaus Steno!

Friday, January 13, 2006

Bioethics Forum 2006: Prenatal Testing

I found out about Bioethics Forum from Dr Ignacio Segarra. He spoke of issues in bioethics using natural law framework with strong Catholic flavor. If any of you reading this are in Singapore, do attend the forum's first session of the year.

What do we do about them?

Scientists are finding that plants emit methane too, and in large amounts (up to 30% of all emission).

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

Back from vacation: some thoughts

How is each vacation different? Both I and my sister (who until recently, studied in Singapore as well) always go home for Christmas and New Year. Typically we'd either spent a few happy weeks with our family at home, or go on a road trip to East Java (where my grandparents and numerous cousins live) to spend the New Year at our grandparents' house. So this year's road trip isn't so unlike those in the past.

Yet every vacation gives different things. For instance, this time I got to read cover-to-cover a few books (something I've never been able to do during the past vacations!), I cut my hair short, and I actually completed a small part of an inventory system for my mom's pharmacy! Also, I had a pretty long talk with my grandpa (no mean feat, since he spoke a Chinese dialect which I mostly had to guess & listen to its context to understand what he was saying). The long road trip forced all of us who weren't driving to face the big questions we'd normally defer from thinking about in busy days.

I finally finished reading Woods' How the Catholic Church Built Western Civilization. There are a few short chapters after the long chapters on Science and the University; these are on: Art ('nuff said), Economics, Charity, International Law & Western Law, Western Morality, and finally, a chapter titled A World Without God. Though these chapters were well-written, the sense of being blown away upon their discovery had somewhat lessened after the chapters on Science. These chapters, just like the previous few, focus particularly on the big ideas that the Church helped bring about/nurture and had her role all but denied or misunderstood.

In modern fiction work such as the Samurai by Shusaku Endo (which I just read), the Spanish clergy in the New World were depicted as repressive, manic zealots, or collaborationists in imperial conquest. Woods pointed out that it was Fr Francisco de Vittoria, sometimes called 'the father of international law', who "brought forth the first grand treatise on the law of nations"—considering matters of jurisdiction, ownership and just treatment of fellow human beings in the person of the natives, based on the concept of natural law. This book also gave an ironic context to 'separation of church and state'; where instead of the Church interfering in State, he pointed out to the historical circumstances that spurred the Gregorian reform to draw the line limiting secular authority exercising power over ecclesial matters (especially in officials' appointment).

In the field of Charity, Professor Woods argued that Charity (of the scale witnessed) is a singularly Christian enterprise and that the Catholic teaching, based on Jesus' new commandment to love one another, surpassed ancient Stoicism to contribute to the spirit of charity. In this chapter also I learned that the insitution of hospitals was the fruit of Christian charity, and about the good sense of ancient monasteries who owned land and acted as kind, reliable proprietors.

What do these mean to me, one who is not immediately part of the 'Western Civilization'? The contribution of the Church has been far and their impact deep. Reading the chapter on Western morality, the Church's teaching against infanticide, suicide, adultery, and the need for three conditions to justify starting a war, seems like listening to a message of universal morality. One doesn't need to be Western to realize the evils of those practices prevalent then, but it was the Catholic Church who proclaims the values that necessarily render these practices sinful. My country's laws were based on those of the Dutch, which no doubt has Christian legacy. The schools which I attended were founded by missionaries from Europe.

This post which is supposed to be a reflection from my vacation turns out to be a crude summary of Thomas E Wood's wonderful book. Yet this book gives an inspiration for those who, like me, are discerning upon their vocation in the face of increasingly secular world. He wrote:

"The Church recalls the great men of Christendom—like Charlemagne, Saint Thomas Aquinas, Saint Francis of Assisi, and Saint Francis Xavier to name a few—and holds them up as models for how true men live. Its message? Essentially this: You can aspire to be one of these men—a builder of civilization, a great genius, a servant of God and men, or a heroic missionary"

In his acknowledgement, Woods wrote that he hoped his daughters would find in their Catholic faith a 'pearl of great price', and quoted St Thomas More: "No one on his deathbed ever regretted having been a Catholic."

UPDATE: The first part of comments on Woods' book is here

Link to Swimming Tips

I've been searching for something exactly like this.

And more links (thanks to the same blog):
Go Swim
USA Swimming
Swimming Science Journal
The Counsilman Center
Swim Research Center (Amsterdam)