Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Bryan McMurray

This morning the front page of our Daily Illini had a great guy on the cover.  Yeah -- exactly, the picture underneath Obama's.  Bryan McMurray heads up the on-campus test-taking site for students with disabilities.  He himself has been blind since shortly after birth, but has still taught himself to bike, swim, and wrestle!  You can read his full story at the Daily Illini.  The most incredible thing about him, though, is his consistent Christian witness.  He takes every opportunity to point others to Christ, and lives a life of love on campus and beyond.  Way to go, Bryan.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009


"The two kings, with their hearts bent on evil, will sit at the same table and lie to each other, but to no avail, because an end will still come at the appointed time." (From Daniel 11)

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

The Widow's Might

The Widow's Mite hit theaters this week.  I'm going to check it out.  It's a feature film produced by 19-year-old John Moore and HeuMoore Productions, with family and friends as principal actors.  From what I hear, it's a movie-within-a-movie, telling the story of a family making a film to help a widow on the brink of financial collapse.  A trailer, behind-the-scenes clips, and the list of theaters it's in, are all available at   

It competed at the San Antonio Independent Christian Film Festival, which had its fifth annual event January 8-10, 2009.  This event is sponsored by Vision Forum, and its $101,000 cash prize for the Best of Festival Award was a sizeable incentive to succeed.  Mite went up against such films as Expelled and Fireproof.  While many in the mainstream wouldn't recognize the title of either movie, both films are well-known in homeschool circles, and were shown in theaters across the country.  In 2008, Fireproof especially reached a large audience, grossing the most of any *independent* film at the boxoffice, thus beating even the now-Oscar-studded Slumdog Millionaire.

A month before the event, on December 9, 2008, John Moore blogged about the competition their film faced.  Instead of turning defeatist, he viewed the upcoming competition with an incredibly positive attitude, closing with this thought:
 "We need to take the blinders off, look at the real world of films, and grow up. Moaning about Fireproof and how unbeatable it is ultimately shows how small our picture is of the filmmaking world. It's time to think big, grow up, take charge, move on."
That optimism paid off.  The "Best of Festival" Jubilee Award and its $101,000 prize went to The Widow's Mite.  It was also runner-up for "Best Feature Film," the prize that went to Fireproof.  The Terri Schiavo Story -- hosted by Joni Eareckson Tada -- was named the "Best Documentary."  The Prodigal Triology was deemed the "Best Dramatic Short," and the "Best Biblical Family" was portrayed in Binding Faith, a story of the missionary Dr. Ajai Lall's persecution in northern India.  The "Best Original Score" was found in The Secrets of Jonathan Sperry.  The "Young Filmmaker's" Award went to a thirteen-year-old mastermind who told the story of the man who began the Childrens' Aid Society in New York.  Surprisingly, Noah's Ark: Thinking Outside the Box (a film produced by Answers in Genesis), and not Expelled was given the "Best Creation" award.  And new ideas are already in the works: a three-page condensed script called Sandtown  won the "Best Treatment" award. 

Is your interest picqued?  Take a look at to catch the soundtracks or films of several of the finalists and semifinalists.  And if The Widow's Mite is showing in a theater near you, go, then tell 100,000 of your closest friends!  (Thank you, Rush).

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Science: Political or Otherwise

(This is a draft I saved back on Tuesday, September 23, 2008)

What do I like about my job?  You're constantly testing things.  Like one professor describes it, you're on a constant cycle of ideas, experiments, results feeding back into ideas.  If you think you might have a possible explanation for why things turned out as they did, that usually means a whole series of new experiments to test this idea pops into your head! 

I think that if more micromanagers went into science, they'd be happier people.  I mean, if social engineers would channel their delight for control into something useful and humane -- like PCR -- well, the world would be a much different place.

A lot of times, I feel sorry for folks in political science.  As I was listening to the radio this weekend, one poor guy was trying to decipher the effects that the respective conventions, and the selection of VP candidates had the approval ratings of the two major candidates.  He could give a rough approximation, but it's kind of like trying to model the peaks in an x-ray photoelectron spectrum: you can guess where the overlapping peaks start and end, but a good bit of it is approximation.  It's impossible to back off the various components.

In political science, you can't even begin to control many key factors.  At least in what I do, you can choose a factor and vary it at will.  Hmm... maybe I should stay put...

So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.

Genotype, Phenotype, and Other Fun Types

I thought about the genotype vs. phenotype discussion, and this is what I came up with.  In the evolutionary model, the exact DNA sequence of an organism's genome (its "genotype") doesn't matter as long as the characteristics of the organism (its phenotype) increase its chances of survival.

The thing is,
- How do you know any population has the characteristics needed to survive in a given environment: what if it doesn't, and all life dies out?  Start over from scratch?
- How do you coordinate evolution of sexual reproduction?  How does the timing of male/female evolution coalesce?  What if it doesn't?
- Why is there a spectrum of difficulty in breeding different types of animals?  Wouldn't evolution be much more efficient if this barrier was in place? Why is there this barrier?
- Is man really a product of his environment? Solzhenitsyn in the Gulag tells a different story.


The "Freedom of Choice Act" would take away health professionals' ability to say "no" to abortion.
The "Fairness Doctrine" would be a gag order for radio hosts and guests.

Why let godless politicians set the terms?

Monday, April 13, 2009

Happy Holidays, You Radical

There's always something exciting going on on campus.  For example, you can learn about the revolutionary dates of Red China -- for free! 

The Center for East Asian and Pacific Studies (EAPS) is hosting a teacher workshop next Monday and the deadline has been extended to 5:00pm Friday:

EAPS Educator Workshop:

China's Revolutionary Anniversaries:

1919, 1949, 1969, 1989

Featured speaker:

Charles W. Hayford, Department of History, Northwestern University

Champaign Central High School Library Lecture Hall

Monday, April 13, 4:00 pm - 7:00 pm

FREE, Light Chinese Dinner Provided

Popular demonstrations and official public displays show us how Chinese told the "Story of Revolution" in different ways in each of these years.

This workshop will help educators gain insights into the debates between competing views within China and comparisons with the stories told in the French, Russian, and American revolutions.

CPDUs are available to teachers.

Registration Deadline: Wednesday, April 8, 2009

To Register: Please complete and fax (preferred) or mail the Registration Form (PDF download) to the Asian Educational Media Service at:

China's Revolutionary Anniversaries Teacher Workshop Registration

Thursday, April 02, 2009

Gotta Learn This

"The whole point of getting things done is knowing what to leave undone." -- Oswald Chambers