Thursday, March 29, 2007

Top ten reasons why James Cameron won't wreck Easter

There has been a great stir within the Christian community since the Discovery Channel aired a documentary "The Lost Tomb of Jesus" by James Cameron about the discovery of the ossuaries in Talpiot, Israel, alleged to contain the remains of many people close to Jesus, and possibly of Jesus Himself. The doctrine of the Resurrection is so central to Christianity that the Apostle Paul said, "If Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins." 1 Cor. 15:17.

One of the statements I heard recently was that James Cameron was going to ruin Easter. I disagree. Accordingly, here are my top ten reasons why James Cameron won't wreck Easter.

10. James Cameron won't stop the Easter Bunny from delivering candy to children in homes that buy into that pagan influence.

9. James Cameron has given countless preachers something to rail against, without any negative consequence to themselves, on Easter Sunday morning.

8. James Cameron has created a market that will keep countless Christian bookstores doing a profitable business for the next year.

7. James Cameron has tossed a slow pitch that the dullest of Christian authors can turn into a home run.

6. For many people who do not know Jesus He is the subject of fable and myth; James Cameron forces these strangers to the Christian faith to reckon with the truth of Jesus as a real person.

5. James Cameron has piqued the interest of those who do not know Jesus in learning more about who He is, creating countless opportunities for Christians to engage in dialogue about the message of Scripture.

4. James Cameron has created an occasion that pushes many Christians to refresh their acquaintance with the Biblical witness to Jesus. Biblical literacy among Christians can only rise.

3. James Cameron has given Christians an opportunity to dust off all the tried and true arguments for the Resurrection.

2. James Cameron appeared on the Today show to say that the Jesus ossuary did not even appear to have contained any bones, but only fragments of fabric, perhaps a burial shroud.

1. There is no way to argue with an individual's experience of the Risen Lord.

File under : , , ,

Vandalism at the James E. Wolfe Skate Park

The most significant act of vandalism at the James E. Wolfe Skate Park in the half year that it has been open was committed by a Tarentum Borough official who ordered that bolts should be cut to remove a piece of skate equipment from the park.

Original location of the picnic table at the James E. Wolfe Skate Park, photo taken 3-26-2007The skatepark was designed to include a picnic table upon which the skaters could use their boards. This was not an ordinary table, but was made from durable welded steel, and bolted into place so that it would remain in position when skaters used it. It was installed near the entrance to the park.

It is not there any more.

Table now located outside the skate parkNow the table is outside the skate park, suitable for use only ... as a picnic table.

No one consulted with the Tarentum Recreation Board before damaging the skate park and removing the equipment.

The purchase and installation of this table were funded by the Allegheny County Department of Economic Development through the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development's Community Development Block Grant Program and the Borough of Tarentum. I wonder whether equipment purchased through grants for a specific purpose can legally be appropriated by a municipality for a different use.

None of the skaters I spoke with understand why this was done.

File under : ,

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

A few things that made my week.

A number of good things have happened recently.

Last night at the Tuesday Evening Meal and Ministry, there were ten of us who participated in a lively Bible study of 1 Samuel 4:12-22. We had a newcomer last night, who had just moved into the neighborhood. When I asked her where she was from, she told me Eritrea, and I responded that I had lived there for a few years as a child. She kept asking me if I knew other people in the area from Eritrea or Ethiopia and I explained that I did not. She was the first person from Eritrea that I have met in over 40 years.

We have been reading straight through the book of 1 Samuel on Tuesday nights. Last night we read the story of the death of Eli and his daughter-in-law. These are grim stories that can tend to fuel the false understanding that God as described in the Hebrew Bible is more about wrath than God described in the New Testament. I encouraged the participants to see these stories in the context of the prophecy of judgment and promise that was given in 1 Samuel 2:27-36. The deaths of Eli's two sons on the same day were predicted as the sign for the whole prophecy, but the promise in the prophecy was that God would raise up a faithful priest. So the calamitous events that occurred were the fulfillment of prophecy but also the basis for trusting that the promise was sure. We ended up having a vigorous discussion of the meaning of troubles in our own lives, and how we deal with them.

This morning I had my third successive session in the Maintenance Program following my Cardiac Rehabilitation program at AVH. I had been worried that my routine of getting exercise might be lost once I finished rehab. The maintenance program is at a different time, but I have now succeeded in doing a week of maintenance at the new time. I hope I have this routine well-established now.

This afternoon when I went past the James E. Wolfe Skatepark, it was open and filled with young people using the equipment. It looked like the sign was still on the gate, but with the gate open the sign only faced the inside of the park.

File under : , , , ,

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

If you think your utility bill is high, it pays to check the calculations

The recent news about a high water bill for a Ford City church has had an interesting development. It turns out the bill was calculated wrong.

This news raises questions about how water bills are usually calculated in Ford City, and how many other bills may have been miscalculated ... and paid.

On the other hand, there are some debts that are not miscalculated at all, but are simply forgiven, fully and forever, by the grace of God.

File under : , , ,

Monday, March 26, 2007

Pictures of lock-out at James E. Wolfe Park in Tarentum

closed sign at James E. Wolfe ParkThis post is to show some of the pictures that document what I found when I checked out the lock-out at Tarentum's public skateboard park, the James E. Wolfe Park.

I mentioned that a skater had already been in to clean up the mess found in the morning. The next three photos show the condition in which the park remained locked.

a clean skateboard park

a clean skateboard park

a clean skateboard park with a couple of leaves

As an example of unequal treatment, I share this photo of the litter at the playground in Riverview Park. The litter on the ground included children's cups from Wendy's. No one has put up signs warning the responsible adults at the playground that it will be closed if they don't pick up after themselves and their children.


File under : , ,

Tarentum Skateboard Park locked

Today the James E. Wolfe Skateboard Park in Tarentum was locked. A sign on the gate announces: "Closed Indefinitely Due to Filthy Conditions [signed] Tarentum Borough".

Here is the story behind the closure as I understand it. Some visitors to the park have not shown respect for the rules, and even became rude and belligerent with borough officials when asked to clean up the mess. At the same time, some of the local skateboarders have been very ready to clean up the park, regardless of who caused the messes.

There was also allegedly an incident last week in which advertisements for a local business were affixed to many pieces of equipment in the skatepark.

The Tarentum Recreation Board recently gave authorization to the Borough Manager to lock the park if the conditions continued.

On Thursday of last week I heard about this brewing controversy and checked out conditions in the park. The offending advertisements had been removed. The park was clean, open, and in use.

I checked again on Saturday, and found the park still open, neat and clean.

Apparently, the Borough Manager found filthy conditions this morning and proceeded to lock the park and post the sign. When one of the local skaters learned about the lock, he hopped the fence and cleaned the park.

When I checked this afternoon, I found an immaculate park, padlocked closed, with the sign on the gate.

I'll post my photos later when I can download them from my camera.

It seems to me that no one is enforcing the rules against those who violate them; instead, all skateboarders are prohibited from using the James E. Wolfe Skateboard Park because of a borough response that is far too broad and severe.

When someone litters in Riverview Park, no one talks about posting signs that the whole park is closed to everybody. When a dog owner walks a pet through Riverview Park, no one talks about closing the park to everybody. But when someone spoils the skateboard park, no one gives a local skateboarder even the time to get in and pick up someone else's mess; instead, the park is closed to everybody.

After visiting the skateboard park, I walked through part of Riverview Park. There was more litter in the kiddie playground being used by toddlers and their parents than I saw at the skateboard park.

Not fair.

File under: ,

Wednesday, March 21, 2007


Today I graduated from the Cardiac Rehabilitation program at Alle-Kiski Medical Center, having completed my 36 sessions.

There was not a formal ceremony. Nobody played Elgar's "Pomp and Circumstance" but they did give me a Certificate of Completion.

my certificate of completion

They also gave me my own copy of the RPE Scale, suitable for framing.

RPE scale

I feel that I have accomplished a lot over twelve weeks. I see a big improvement in my stamina, especially in my ability to handle the stairs at the church. The program has taught me how to exercise, and perhaps more importantly has helped me get into a routine for exercise three times a week. The lectures have also given me a good overview of issues I need to keep in my awareness as I continue to take care of my heart.

The Cardiac Rehabilitation Team let me take their group picture, even though Breanne was quite uncharacteristically wearing sweatpants.

photograph of Cardiac Rehabilitation team at the Alle-Kiski Medical Center: Marian, Lhea, and Breanne

So, to what have I graduated? I need to continue exercising, and I will continue to use the same exercise equipment in their maintenance program where I will not use a heart monitor or have my vital signs checked as frequently.

Over the last week I have been watching my rehab class change, as people who started before me have finished up, and new people have joined the class. As I have watched the new people arrive, I have been remembering how I felt when I first started, and only used a few pieces of equipment for short times and at low levels. All in all, I am somewhat amazed at where this class has taken me.

Technorati : , ,

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Doo Wop in Western Pennsylvania

Tomorrow evening, March 21 at 7:00 PM, Dave Crawley of KDKA-TV will present his program on "Doo Wop and Ballads: Vocal Legends of Western Pennsylvania" at the Alle-Kiski Valley Heritage Museum in Tarentum.

I've had opportunities to see this program before, as Crawley has given many such programs at Central Presbyterian Church over the years. It will feature several of the segments he made for KDKA's "Hometown Faces and Places." Crawley is always an entertaining and informative speaker.

For more information about the event click here.

File under : , , ,

Monday, March 19, 2007

Tarentum Borough Council cares for the river

The Tarentum Borough Council accomplished all of the business of its monthly meeting in one hour and fifteen minutes tonight. A major part of the time was devoted to matters stemming from the community's relationship to the Allegheny River.

Martha Mackey reads presentation at Tarentum Council meeting, March 19, 2007At the beginning of the meeting Martha Mackey, our local Waterway Conservation Officer, gave a presentation from the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission to Tarentum's Police Department, officers, Dispatch, and staff.

She read a statement that included a list of many ways in which these local public servants have given assistance to her in her work over the last ten years. The presentation thanked the borough's employees "for support of conservation law enforcement."

representatives of Tarentum departments receive presentation from PA Fish and Boat CommissionShe called forward representatives of the various Tarentum departments to receive the presentation.

During citizen comments the first comment came from a Frazer resident who rents a boat dock from Tarentum. He had a number of concerns about changes made for the new lease.

During the time of the President's Remarks, Council President Carl Magnetta "gave credit where credit is due" to Representative Frank Dermody for encouraging PennDOT to replace traffic signals. This summer the traffic signals at the bridge and E 10th Ave will be replaced. He also credited Senator Sean Logan with getting funding for AED devices (i.e., automated external defibrilators) for the Borough's police cars.

In other business, Council passed Resolution 07-03 to grant a cost of living adjustment to the widows of two tarentum police officers, passed Ordinance 07-04 concerning hazardous trees, and passed Ordinance 07-05 allowing attorney fees to be collected on Sheriff sales. Tarentum Moose Lodge 71 will have the Easter egg hunt on April 7. Summit Hose will hold the annual carnival in West Tarentum on June 25-June 30. Summit Hose will use Dreshar Stadium on July 1 - July 4 for the Community Fireworks event.

With all of these positive things happening I was disappointed to see the renewed eruption of bickering among the council members about issues of communication within the council and personal responsibility to prepare for meetings. Blame for this unpleasantness could be assigned to a number of people, council members and observors alike. I credit borough manager William Rossey for making the most calm and mature intervention to stop the quarrelling.

File under : ,

Sunday, March 18, 2007

Urban Fusion Cafe

Yesterday I discovered the Urban Fusion Cafe with an actual visit. I had known for a long time about the Union Project and that there was a cafe in the building. I drive by the location on my way to the hospitals in Oakland, but usually am so focused on my destination that I don't think to stop. Yesterday it was past my lunch time when I finished a hospital call and was on my way home. When I noticed a sign outside announcing that the cafe was open I decided to use some of the street parking to stop and check it out. Was I ever glad I did.

The menu was filled with interesting and creative sandwiches. I tried one of the panitos, and was very pleased with the bold flavors.

There was a computer connected to the internet, available for the use of paying customers. I relaxed for a couple minutes while my meal was being made and checked on a couple matters online.

Overall the setting was very relaxing, so I think this will become one of the places I plan to stop on trips into Oakland. If it has its own parking lot, I did not see it; but there is plenty of on-street parking around the corner of Negley and Stanton in the Highland Park neighborhood.

Jason G. is waiting on a cardiac unit for a heart transplant.

Marion V. continues to improve slowly and the family is beginning to make plans for her discharge.

File under :

Saturday, March 17, 2007

Passed another milestone


About 1:00 PM today this blog passed a new milestone with its 30,000th hit. Thanks for reading.

By the way, the library catalog card came from the Catalog Card Generator.

File under : ,

Friday, March 16, 2007

The Penguins won't march

The news came out this week that the Penguins are staying in Pittsburgh.

I had been pretty sure that all the drama was just so much posturing.

Why was I so sure? Well, here in the Valley, when the sports boosters get serious about meeting a challenge they put their children on the line, sending teenagers on foot into traffic along the Tarentum Bridge Road to ask drivers for donations.

The Penguin fans never did this. They must have known something.

File under :

Saturday, March 10, 2007

"Fiddler on the Roof" at Highlands High School

Picture of tickets for Highlands School District production of Fiddler on the RoofLast night I saw the production of "Fiddler on the Roof" at the Highlands High School. It was well done, and there will be performances tonight and Sunday afternoon (if this blog is the first place you are hearing about it, and want to go.)

All of the lead players were good. Don Hughes brought Tevye to life, and Emily Kolek played his wife Golde. Jessica Mriso gave a great performance as Tzeitel, Tevye's oldest daughter. Abby Slater played Yente the matchmaker beautifully. Damian Lynch did a great job as Lazar Wolfe the butcher. Bryan Rosenberg was memorable as Motel, the tailor who marries Tzeitel. Meggi Stimmler played Hodel, who fell in love with Perchik played by Justin Pitkavish. Cassi Kosmal played Chava, who fell in love with Fyedka played by Josh Barch.

An accident in the Friday night performance has had me thinking a lot about what was being portrayed in the musical. The wedding between Tzeitel and Motel at the end of the first act is supposed to be interrupted by a pogrom, mob violence against the Jewish community with the official blessing of the Tsar. In this production the pogrom was executed by a single hoodlum being protected by the constable. The young actor who had the responsibility of representing a whole mob used shocking force when he began trashing the wedding, overturning the table and throwing the gifts across the stage with loud crashes and bangs. One of the props ended up in the orchestra where it hit a trombonist on the back of his head. I was sitting pretty close to the orchestra and was very aware that fast moving objects were invading my space.

Audiences expect to be safe in the theater; the orchestra certainly has a right to be safe. The accident in that performance of a symbolic pogrom forced me to recognize how sheltered I am from the kind of violence that would end the former existence of the village of Anatevka - in spite of Tevye's doomed insistence that tradition would maintain the delicate balance of things as they are and ought to be.

File under : , , , ,

Thursday, March 08, 2007

The March of the Penguins

The local news this week has been full of news about the circus surrounding speculation about whether the Penguins will leave Pittsburgh. Monday the big news was about the letter from the Penguins owners to local officials saying that the Penguins will "aggressively pursue relocation". Then the governor got into the act, threatening to ask the NHL to stop the move, and holding a special meeting today.

I imagine these people think they are accomplishing something by trying to make this a matter of high drama. But I don't think they realize how ridiculous it looks for obscenely wealthy people to be begging for public handouts, and then complaining if the handouts are not big enough. Some of the public are tired of listening to the whining. If the Penguins want to go, then just go.

Meanwhile, there have been a number of positive things happening around Tarentum.

At Central Presbyterian Church we had some new visitors for our Tuesday Evening Meal and Ministry.

On Wednesday at noon Rev. Jim Gascoine, pastor of Center United Methodist Church, preached at the Community Lenten Service hosted by the First Baptist Church in Tarentum. He spoke about the Discovery Channel's program about the alleged discovery of Jesus' tomb, and encouraged people to share what they know of their faith with others.

On Wednesday afternoon we went ahead with Grand Central Station even though the Highlands School District cancelled school because of snow; the snow was melting in the sun by 3:00 PM. None of the young people from Highlands came that evening, but we had a new youngster come from across the river.

My own cardiac rehab is going very well as I approach the end of the program.

Marion V. spent Wednesday in the ICU after mixing bleach and drain cleaner. Today she seems to be improving, and is out of the ICU.

File under : , , , ,

Saturday, March 03, 2007

The exhiliration of a near miss

On Thursday afternoon I drove to Sarver with an elder to have communion with a shut-in. On the way back I suddenly started hearing an alarming knocking sound from direction of the left front wheel. From that point on I drove very slowly back to Tarentum.

I did not know what the sound was, but whatever was wrong sounded very expensive.

At my earliest opportunity on Friday I got the car to a garage to be checked out. I sat in the waiting room unsure what the news was going to be.

Eventually the mechanic came back and gave me the bad news: the wheel was falling off. The good news was that it was only caused by loose lug nuts, that the wheel had not fallen off, and that they had fixed it by retightening all the lug nuts.

It is still sinking in to me that I had been close to having a wheel fall off, and I easily could have been driving at highway speed when the failure occurred.

File under :