We always have time

From Dr. Al Mohler:

David McCullough once told of Teddy Roosevelt during his time in the Dakota Territory and before his arrival on the world scene. Two thieves who had been on something of a crime spree in the territory had stolen Roosevelt’s rowboat, and he was determined to chase them down and arrest them. He chased the thieves for 40 miles of rough landscape, through deep snow and in constant danger of attack, and indeed brought them to justice. McCullough then tells the reader: “But what makes it especially memorable is that during that time, he managed to read all of Anna Karenina. I often think of that when I hear people say they haven’t time to read.”

John Ames

John Ames

My Kindle Paperwhite, has arrived.

I don’t fancy liturgy, but with my books and reading devices I take a peculiar distinction. What books do I upload in the Kindle cloud and sync with my device? What books should I read first?

I decided on the following:

— Marilynne Robinson’s Gilead, a letter of a 70-year old pastor from a small town in rural America, to his seven-year old son. I always treat Ms. Robinson’s works—Homecoming, Gilead, Lila—with a kind of sacrosanct awe. Her prose is topnotch. Relevant things happen that remain unwritten, a bit hidden from the narrative, which makes the imagination run wild. There’s a certain kind of peace and stillness to her fiction, as well, as if one can hear cicadas in the background as Reverend John Ames, after whom I’ve named my Kindle, settles himself in his chair to relieve his anginal pains. This is the second time I’ve read Gilead, but my appreciation for it has more than doubled. Maturity, or so I hope, gives a person a wider, deeper understanding of things—like grace, hope, kindness, and forgiveness.

— John Calvin’s The Institutes of the Christian Religion Volume I, a masterpiece of theological writing, penned by one of the forerunners of the Reformation, whose 500th anniversary we’re celebrating this year. Calvin was an exceptionally gifted, intelligent man; he was only around my age when he had written the Institutes—a voluminous work that reflects his lofty view of the Word of God and his passion for the Lord’s glory.

— Lauren Collins’s When In French, an American woman’s journey into the study and application of French, an inevitable chore she needed to do partly out of duty (she and her French-speaking husband Olivier have moved to Geneva, Switzerland) and out of love, in a sense, so she could understand and get to know her husband more. I’m self-studying French myself, just for the fun of it, to kill time, as if I have any to butcher.

— Tim Challies’s Do More Better, a guide to productivity, centered on the goal of glorifying God by doing good in whatever we do. Published by Cruciform Press, it’s a short book that will benefit anyone who struggles with procrastination, busyness, and unproductivity. I look to Tim Challies for his efficiency and wisdom. I visit his blog daily and have taken many of his recommendations on which apps to use (Ulysses, for distraction-free writing; Kindle, for reading; Evernote, for note-taking; and many more).

— Life Stories: Profiles from The New Yorker, edited by David Remnick, a collection of the best profiles published in one of the world’s best magazines written in English.

What I Talk About When I Talk About Running by Haruki Murakami. I haven’t taken on running yet, but the title seems so interesting. Many colleagues from the hospital run along Roxas Boulevard—why they do this, apart from the cardiovascular benefits derived from physical activity, remains a mystery to me.

I carry John Ames anywhere now. Its battery lasts for four to six weeks without charging. It’s lighter than my phone. I adore the screen, whether I read it in broad daylight or in between my sheets at night, because it does not have the glare of my iPad but feels a bit like paper itself. I’ve become more active in Goodreads, which is a friendly community for readers, to which I’ve linked the Kindle account so I can keep track of my reading habits.

I showed it to friends from work.

“Where’s Harrisons*?”

“It’s not here,” I said, partly because the Kindle is not optimized for reading PDFs, partly because I want John Ames to be my repository of non-academic reading.



*Harrison’s Principles of Internal Medicine—our textbook in residency.

Many thanks to Hannah for getting this for me!

In a sea of surgeons

I was in Hong Kong for four days to present a paper at an Asia-Pacific Urology conference, making me and Jay Magbojos the only internists in a sea of surgeons. We took some time off to explore Hong Kong, this trip being my second time—never mind the fact that I still can't figure out the locals' English accent, if they care to speak English at all.

Vintage posters of Mao and other Chinese ladies line the streets near the Sheung Wan MTR. We figured this out because my friend and elementary-college schoolmate Trisha Moustafa, now based in Hong Kong, took us around her favorite city spots on our last day.

Mao and other Chinese ladies

Colorful murals make the buildings look Instagrammable.

Sheung Wan

The trip won't be complete without trips to the night markets, this one near the Jordan MTR. I don't enjoy shopping, but I like sampling street food in the area. I'm a huge fan of sugarcane juice, usually sold here for 30 HK dollars.

Yau Tsim Mong, near Jordan MTR

We also visited the Hong Kong Museum of History, where we visited the exhibition, "The Hong Kong Story."

Chinese opera

I'm quite tired from the trip, but I was refreshed, what with the extremely efficient public transportation system, the first world comforts of working elevators, the Chinese efficiency often mistaken for rudeness. More photos to come.

Also read Hong Kong 2016.

Books—digital or otherwise

The only time I regret owning many books is when I move out of a place. Books and other reading materials—but mostly books—constitute majority of my material possessions, a humbling testament to my current net worth.

I still get the childlike wonder of leafing through physical pages; of going to bookstores to while away time; of wandering inside cold, dark, and damp libraries. The physical presence of tangible books reassures me that I won’t go idle for many days. A stack of books sits beside my call room table, as if to remind me that I have friends who can take my mind off death and dying and clinical dilemmas. Another stack of books lies on my bedside desk, so I can pull out a story to keep me entertained for the night just before I sleep.

But I’ve cut back on my book spending, a moratorium I intermittently violate whenever I find rare titles, as if leaving them un-bought were a crime. This weekend I shipped my books to the province, a tedious task that entailed a lot of carrying and packing and sweating. I’m glad to have my brother Ralph, who owns ten times as much reading material as I do, accommodate my collection in the cargo that’s on its way to my aunt’s Court Library in General Santos. My brother Sean will get them and drive them back to our house in Marbel in a pick up truck.

“What will we do with them at home?” my mother asked—she who used to be a rabid book collector herself but who had lost track of her Ayn Rands (yes, she recommended “Atlas Shrugged” to me when I was in elementary) because she didn’t make a list of people who borrowed them from her.

I said she may need to have new book shelves constructed, maybe inside the empty room that now serves as a storage facility.



For the past three years I’ve mostly done my reading through my iPad’s Kindle and iBook apps. Since this year I’ve only read Tim Keller’s “Walking With God Through Pain And Suffering,” portions of Eleanor Catton’s “The Luminaries,” and the first third of Adam Johnson’s “The Orphan Master’s Son” as physically printed books. I’ve transitioned—slowly and painfully—into the electronic. I’ve gotten over the longing (well, most times) of smelling ink on paper. Owning a tablet has effectively reduced my material properties to a bare minimum.

I was encouraged by Tim Challies’s powerful arguments for owning a digital library. He even went as far as writing, “I am selling my library. At least, I think I am. I’ve made the decision. Almost. It feels just a little too final to actually say it like that. But I’ve got a big library and a small house and something has got to give.”

Professor Jeff Straub has a helpful series on building a (digital and physical) theological library, but mostly for the digital—something we can all learn from, whether we’re pastors or not.

As for me, I’ll probably get a hardbound copy of Wayne Grudem’s Systematic Theology when I see one, but I won't mind reading it in a tablet. I’ll keep on reading using an electronic device. I’m also super excited to get a new Kindle Paperwhite this month. The Amazon website says, “Lose yourself in a book. By design, Kindle is purpose-built for reading and creates a sanctuary so you can lose yourself in a book. Unlike tablets and phones, Kindle doesn’t distract you with social media, emails, and text messages.”

I can’t wait.

Calibri!

I'm not the biggest fan of Calibri, Microsoft Word's default font. Recently it has figured into different anomalies and has generated interest about fonts.

Lucas de Groot, a Dutch typeface designer living in Berlin, recently began receiving a flood of calls and e-mails from Pakistan that, he said, “seemed very urgent.” He soon discovered that Calibri, a font he’d designed almost fifteen years earlier, was playing a central role in a corruption scandal engulfing Nawaz Sharif, the Prime Minister of Pakistan. As part of an investigation launched by the country’s Supreme Court, the Prime Minister’s daughter had released a supposedly exculpatory document signed and dated February 2, 2006. The document, however, had been printed in Calibri, which was not widely available until 2007. Investigators deemed the document to have been falsified, and the term “fontgate” began trending on Twitter.

Do you like Calibri?

(My friend Rac said, "I don't like Calibri, but I like libre!")

More Instagrammable

Casey Newton's article in The Verge tells us how restaurants are changing their designs to look more Instagrammable.

Now some entrepreneurs are taking the idea a step further, designing their physical spaces in the hopes of inspiring the maximum number of photos. They’re commissioning neon signs bearing modestly sly double entendres, painting elaborate murals of tropical wildlife, and embedding floor tiles with branded greetings — all in the hopes that their guests will post them.

To be sure, restaurateurs have always wanted their spaces to look attractive. But in the era before social media, a designer could concern herself primarily with the space’s effect on its occupants. How a room looked in photographs was, at best, a secondary concern. Ravi DeRossi, owner and primary designer of 16 bars and restaurants, including the pioneering New York craft cocktail bar Death & Company, says he has never used Instagram, preferring to design by instinct. “I want my places to feel transportive,” he says. Death & Company, which opened in 2007, exemplifies design in the pre-Instagram age: dark wood, dim lighting, and a muted color palette. The bar has a sophisticated interior, but it’s kryptonite for Instagram — good luck getting any likes on that underexposed shot of your $16 Dixieland Julep.

It's interesting to see how social media[1] influences everything around us. Facebook and Twitter, for example, dictate what comes out in traditional news outlets.


[1] Should "social media" take a singular or plural verb?

“In collective references to communication outlets and platforms, generally treat it as singular: The news media is a favorite target of politicians; Social media is playing a crucial role in the uprising. Avoid referring to news outlets simply as the media; that broad term could include movies, television, entertainment, etc. In referring to artistic techniques or materials, treat media as plural (in this sense, the singular is medium): Many different media were on display in the student exhibition.”—Excerpt from Allan M. Siegal. “The New York Times Manual of Style and Usage, 2015 Edition.”

Off the beach coast

When civilian boats voluntarily sailed through the English Channel to rescue the stranded soldiers off the bloodied beach of Dunkirk, France; I was almost brought to tears. After all, home brings a certain relief for most of us, and in this historical display of humanity and nationhood—two concepts that must necessarily, but do not always, go together—home came to hundreds of thousands of men, with gratitude to some yacht owners who braved the turbulent seas, with all the risk that this had entailed. The 1940s was a time when the world, led by the British, was at war against the strong Nazi forces.

Soldiers drowned as British ships capsized. Bombs were dropped from the air. The soldiers would only duck for cover rather than doing nothing at all. Airplanes crashed after being bombed themselves. The magic of the film was its ability to trap us into the visually disturbing and noisy montage of bombs and planes, blue skies and wide beaches, drowning and crashing, hunger and food, agony and relief—as if we were there ourselves.



Fun: Stephen Colbert interviews Kenneth Branagh, who knows his History lessons.




PS. On a more personal note, I remember my roommate, Tom, telling me he'd caught a glimpse of this place during his last trip to the UK for his neurology elective. During my last trip to Paris, I stayed very near rue Dunquerque, a few steps away from the Gare du Nord. I consider this my irrelevant, remote connection to the film.

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Grateful

Jesus, my deepest thanks is always reserved for you. You have always been faithful to your word, though I have not always been faithful to trust it. Thank you for the amazing grace you have extended to me. Thank you for hiding your most precious treasures in the most difficult and painful experiences. And thank you for all that you have done to teach me to walk by faith (2 Cor. 5:7) and put my greatest trust in things not seen (Heb. 11:1). I look forward to the day when the dim mirror of this age is removed and I finally get to see you face to face (1 Cor. 13:12). I know you long for that day, too ( John 17:24). May it be soon. — John Bloom, Dedication. In: Things Not Seen. Crossway Publications (2015).
A blessed Sunday!

Bonding with my friends' kids

Our last batch trip to Bohol was fun. The highlight of the trip was that I got to bond with my friends' kids.

Tagbilaran–Panglao Bridge

Here's Monay Mondragon, barely a year old, holding her Uncle Lance's hand firmly. She has the makings of a future diplomat. I haven't seen a child so sociable and well behaved. Her real name is Alessandra Mondragon, a fact that made us expect that this girl would grow up a diva. "Turuan na nating maging maganda," said Jay.

Interestingly, during the entire trip, Alessa didn't cry or make a fuss about anything, the way kids her age usually do, so much so that Karen, her mother, told us, "Now she's [Alessa] making me look like I'm lying." Karen would amuse us with her motherhood woes—stories of love, sacrifice, and breast milk. . These days, Karen shows us photos of Alessa's crawling and recent transition to more solid food—like mashed vegetables. She'll grow up to be a kind, gracious, smart, and beautiful lady like her mother. And maybe nerdy-cool like her father.

Monay with Uncle Lance

Mohan, who used to hate the water, had enjoyed it this time.

Fish!

Here's Daddy David showing Mohan the wonders of aquatic life. "Peeesh," said Mohan.

David with Mohan, playing with fish

Peeesh be with you, Mohan.

Avoiding children in the plane

I avoid sitting next to children during long flights, mainly because I want to rest during travel. But this article offers a Christian perspective about (and against) this attitude.

First, children hold a special place in the eyes of God. Even the rowdiest of kids brings a smile to God’s heart, and they should bring a smile to ours. Jesus, after all, beckoned the children to come to Him, and we may hardly be more like Christ than when we do the same.

A joyful wedding

YESTERDAY, at Paul and Jac's wedding, I met good, old friends from way back in college—all very dear to me, like brothers and sisters. I hosted the reception party, had tons of laughs with the amazing co-host Sarah, who never lacked the right words to say, and whom—interestingly—I only meet every time we're cohosting weddings and when she gives birth. I saw Paul cry as he made the speech about how thankful he is for his family (and what a wonderful family he has), and Jac, too, who was more in control of her emotions but who succumbed to tears anyway. What love the Lord has granted them for each other, and how their lives have been blessings to everyone around them!

Ssssh, I'm reading

“I TOLD YOU LAST NIGHT THAT I MIGHT BE GONE sometime, and you said, Where, and I said, To be with the Good Lord, and you said, Why, and I said, Because I’m old, and you said, I don’t think you’re old. And you put your hand in my hand and you said, You aren’t very old, as if that settled it. I told you you might have a very different life from mine, and from the life you’ve had with me, and that would be a wonderful thing, there are many ways to live a good life. And you said, Mama already told me that. And then you said, Don’t laugh! because you thought I was laughing at you. You reached up and put your fingers on my lips and gave me that look I never in my life saw on any other face besides your mother’s. It’s a kind of furious pride, very passionate and stern. I’m always a little surprised to find my eyebrows unsinged after I’ve suffered one of those looks. I will miss them.”—Excerpt from: Marilynne Robinson's “Gilead: A Novel.”
I always read Miss Robinson with a sense of wonder, as if her statements were sacrosanct, not to be meddled with nor read with so many distractions around.

Saturated

Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your heart to God.—Colossians 3:16

The word of the Lord, when it occupies the heart, affects it in such a way that the person’s actions, words, and thoughts become transformed into more Christ-likeness. The passage starts with a verb, “let,” which means “allow” or “provide an opportunity for.” There is a sense in which a Christian must actively allow this to happen and to do so effectively such that Christ's word dwells richly. Scripture shouldn’t just reside in the heart—it must flourish there. Here Paul seems to say that the person must be saturated with the word of God before any effective teaching and admonishing, singing and being thankful, can happen.

And doesn’t Paul describe a joyful man? Someone who “sings psalms and hymns and spiritual songs,” someone who is thankful to God for everything. The key to joy is Christ’s word dwelling richly in one’s life.

May I be like this person.

Millennial problems—and funny causes of death

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This New Yorker Shout-Out cracks me up: a collection of obituaries a mother writes for her twenty something daughter. How millennial.*

It is with deep sorrow that we announce the passing of Bess Kalb, twenty-four, of San Francisco, formerly of New York. The cause of death was botulism from a homemade strawberry-rhubarb jam that was prepared by one of her housemates. The housemate, Aviva Something, holds a degree in—I kid you not—modern culture and media. She certainly had no formal training in sterile canning and preservation. If the kitchen in this “co-op” where the jam was prepared looks anything like it did six months ago, there is compost decaying right there on the counter next to the sink. Bess is survived by her brother, who once looked up to her.

I certainly don't label myself a "millennial." I don't like the word; I clump it in the same category as "netizens"—that is, words I will never use, except as an example, as in this sentence, to demonstrate my hatred of it (the word, not the people).