Friday, September 23, 2011

Oscar Munoz lecture

It has been a while since I have been able to attend a magic lecture. And so despite having a headache and feeling tired the whole of yesterday, (and knowing that there might be a jam due to the Rugby game on the North Shore), I made the effort to attend Oscar Munoz's lecture. Thanks Alan Watson for arranging this!

And I am so glad I did. Not only did having a rest from thinking about work and other responsibilities was refreshing, the magic was inspiring as was his life story. Coming from a very messed up childhood, (imagine the stereo type Hispanic boy growing up in a broken and violent home) magic was his outlet for coping and it became a means for him to survive and later make a good living.

He is an IBM "Gold Cups" of excellence award winner (only seven people have been given this award since its inception - so you can update the wikipedia entry below to "As of September 2011 instead of August 2006".

Gold Cups - I.B.M. (* from wikipedia)

The most prestigious "close-up" award in the International Brotherhood of Magicians competitions is the I.B.M. Gold Cups International Award of Excellence in Close-up Performance. Along with other anuual awards such as First place, Second place, third place, etc., there is a possibility of this special Gold Cups award being issued if the judges decide that they have witnessed a contest performance of Gold Cups quality. As of August 2006, only seven Gold Cups awards have been made, to:

His magic style is humorous and if you see the sample youtube video below, his style is that of a humorous story teller. And most of what he presented was simple (not the same as easy!) - yet captivating. And his original touches to some classics is "amazing". He did linking rings(the large rings) and linking ropes close up!  Those are basically stage effects but he can do it close up!

BTW, in the video below he looks pretty heavy but that was before he lost 95 pounds (an disciplined effort for health reasons - also an amazing achievement).

Oh and the bonus .... he is not just a superb performer but also a first class lecturer.
Learnt many things and a couple that with good practice I believe are things I could do.

Here's his website:

Not A "two -State" but A 'two-Stage" Solution (Tawfik Hamid)

Another excellent piece by Tawfik Hamid

Not A "two -State" but A 'two-Stage" Solution 
by Tawfik Hamid
All attempts over several decades to create a two-state solution for the Arab-Israeli conflict have ended in failure.
On one hand, the Israelis ask themselves a basic question: Why should we accept the statehood of people who shamelessly promote in their media, educational systems, and public speeches our annihilation and destruction? 
On the other hand, the Palestinians want to play a trick by gaining statehood without accepting the legitimacy of Israel as a Jewish state in the region. This refusal lays the groundwork for a Palestinian state to continue its stated goal, since the time of Arafat, of taking over all the land of Israel.  It is this reality that has and will continue to prevent the two state solution.
High levels of Anti-Semitism in all the surrounding Arab countries further impede hope for any solution, as Israel's security concerns are totally realistic.
Further attempts to create a two state solution in the current atmosphere of anti-Semitism from the Palestinian side and mistrust from the Israeli side are likely to be about as effective as banging our heads against the proverbial brick wall.
The only situation that has resulted in some resolution for an Arab-Israeli conflict occurred when President Sadat of Egypt accepted the existence of Israel and expressed a true desire to live in peace beside the Israelis. The offer of President Sadat was welcomed by the Israelis and resulted in the returning of Sinai back to Egypt. 
The following "two-Stage" solution may help resolving the conflict:
Stage 1: Palestinians would offer to accept the existence of Israel as Jewish state, criminalize anti-Semitic remarks in their societies, and teach educational curricula that promote living in peace with the Israelis.
This stage would need to last for 2-3 years to prove that the Palestinians are genuinely interested in peace with their Israeli neighbors, not in deception.
Stage 2: After the Palestinians has demonstrated true ability to live peacefully beside and with acceptance of the state of Israel, border disputes could be addressed and resolved.  The atmosphere of peace and relationships of trust must however be created first.
We have to accept the reality that Israel's peace treaty with Egypt and return of Sinai to Egypt has not yet achieved true normalization of their relationship. Israelis are therefore understandably suspicious about future peace deals with Arab nations. Palestinians would need to prove their commitment to peace and accept international monitoring to verify their actions. 
In sum, a two-stage solution rather than the traditional two-state solution may offer more potential for solving the Arab-Israeli conflict.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

How Western Tolerance breedsIntolerance in the Muslim world (Tawfik Hamid)

How Western Tolerance breedsIntolerance in the Muslim world
By Tawfik Hamid
Recently a well-known Egyptian TV show host Wael El-Abrashi invited a leading Islamic scholar Sheick Yasser Burhani to discuss the future of tourism in Egypt after the Jan 25 Revolution. The discussion that appeared on one of the mainstream TV channels in the country was titled: "This is the Halal Tourism that Slafi Muslims want to see in Egypt".
Sheick Burhani  is well known to promote Sharia controlled country where women are stoned for adultery, gays are beheaded, and Non-Muslims are humiliated as second class citizens. On the contrary, Wael El-Abrashi is well known to be a very liberal person who believes in secularism, freedom, and equality.
Sheik Burhani promoted a form of tourism that separates men from women on beaches, and prevents women tourists from wearing Un-Islamic dress and does not allow drinking alcohol. Ironically, Sheick Burhani views were based onthe fact that the Queen of England showed respect to the Muslim world when she was in the UAE by wearing the Hijab.  He sees that what the Queen of England did supports the Salafi Islamic view that tourists MUST respect the culture when they visit Egypt by abandoning alcohol, by wearing Hijab dress, and by avoiding that women tourists  wear swimming togs in public beaches.
The discussion was a clear example on how actions of some western liberals that aims at showing cultural sensitivity became the fuel that aggravates Islamist intolerance to the values of freedom and Liberty.
In conclusion, what western liberals do as a matter of showing cultural sensitivity to Muslims can actually encourage more intolerant views to grow in the Muslim world. The actions of the West toward the Muslim world MUST be calculated on the basis of how they are perceived in mind of Muslims as what we think of as a model to show cultural sensitivity can actually be counterproductive.
Note: The discussion mentioned above  isavailable on You Tube in Arabic and a Photo of the Queen of England wearing the Islamic Hijab is shown during the discussion.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Mid September catch up ramblings

Have not blogged for quite a while. Usual reason ... busy :-) Busy with responsibilities (especially the period of 2 weeks when my wife was away for her parents 50th wedding anniversary). Busy with ministry ... church is growing, needs are growing and lots of new challenges to add to the mix. Very exciting ....

But also that quite a number of things are simply not appropriate to blog about ...

And generally my sleep patterns have been terrible and I wake up every day feeling tired and yawning. Then it's just  a lot of effort to get the adrenaline flowing so I can focus on the tasks and responsibilities ... and after each task or meeting, my body kind of crashes. But it is getting better and I have resorted to returning to a morning cup of coffee. But nothing with caffeine from the the late afternoon onward.

Still working on my garden - but not much time and energy. Is looking pretty decent - at least the vegetable boxes are ...will post some photos one day ...

Anyway blogging naturally takes a back seat in terms of priority when there is a lot on my plate. Interestingly I think I pray more often now :-)

Here's some random photos taken over the last few weeks.

Huge and delicious cake brought by Janice Wee for us to celebrate Father's Day in church.
I am not really a big fan of rich chocolate cake but this made me change my mind.
Nice surprise but yet in hindsight should not have been surprising as this is typically Janice
- generous and encouraging.

Took this a few days ago - during a 5 minute break at our church committee  meeting.  Hock Fie
had a major eye operation the week before and has to wear dark glasses.
Makes him look 20 years younger and so cool :-)

A couple of the older Sunday School boys making their first ever public announcement.
They are in charge of promoting the sake of home made cookies and lemonade to help raise funds for the
Samaritan Purse Christmas shoe boxes project.
Really encouraging that not only are the Sunday School leading the way again in this project but the
older children are willing to take on the challenge of doing most of the work in the foreground this year.

My younger son Steven sharing before his baptism a few weeks ago.

Making his public confession of faith

And me getting the privilege of baptizing him

Five people this round and he was the last.

Our youth Sunday worship leaders ... Moon Ho and Laura. 

Andrew (before cutting his hair!) and Steven as part of the worship team. What I also enjoyed
was seeing three different youth pianist during the service. Each learning and practicing one piece.
A lot of effort and a well received service

I took a video (using my camera) of a nice skit done by the youth which was a strong message in itself but won't upload it ... as I think the youth need to see if first and give their approval :-)

Friday, September 2, 2011

A Fathers Day Prayer

No Pastor's notes in this week's bulletin (4 September) but a nice Father's Day prayer.

To read, click HERE

I found it here: Source: