Monday, July 28, 2008

Chinese round houses

Thanks to the blog of Green Home Building and Sustainable Architecture I learned there are round houses with courtyards made from rammed earth in China called Tulou. These things are awesome in too many ways. Since the Dilbert DUH house I've liked the luxury of a courtyard. And I am a sucker for a round house. And rammed earth is almost like having an earth-sheltered house. But these houses are made for family clans to live together. They are big. But I love them so much. Some information on these houses as well as Chinese architecture in general here. This picture and specific historical information on these houses here. Both sites have close ups including of the interiors as well as more aerials showing clusters of these homes, like a mass UFO landing.

update Dec. 2010. I found a travel article about these complexes on a Chinese news website. There are more pictures and more information. Great info,

When I first read about tulou (literally, earthen buildings) I was surprised that I hadn't heard of them before. Giant structures that rise from the picturesque Fujian countryside, the "roundhouses of Fujian" are more like circular fortresses than houses.

Between three and five stories high and up to 70 meters in diameter, their pale, earthen color and slightly cracked veneer give a timeless and organic look.

Tulou in Fujian were built by the Hakka ethnic group from the 12th century until the 1960s. After migrating from northern China, the Hakka settled in a number of areas, but Yongding county in southwest Fujian is where they really left their mark.

Facing constant threats from marauding bandits and wild animals, the Hakka decided to build fort-like structures large enough to house entire villages. The result is a collection of structures that not only protected the Hakka from the outside, but today provide a wonderful glimpse into their old ways.

Tulou have thick, earthen walls made from a mixture of rammed earth, glutinous rice and bamboo strips. Each level has between 20 and 70 rooms facing inward to the circular courtyard, usually with an ancestral hall in the middle.

Friday, July 25, 2008

Summer explorations

Most people find summer a great time to read books, but I haven't. In the winter when we are trapped inside because of lousy weather, then I have time to read, but now...I'd rather bike around Block Island, Rhode Island.

One book I can't finish at this time is The Invasion of America by Francis Jennings. It interests me as he discusses the tribes that still live in my area, the Narragansetts, Niantics, Pequots and Mohegans. He described Block Island as a "mint" of wampum, the pre- and post-colonial currency of the area (p.93) An Englishman, Captain John Oldham, was murdered near Block Island and the native inhabitants were presumed guilty. A punitive party was sent to mete out "justice," but were unsuccessful.
The expedition turned into an expensive fiasco, however. On Block Island, English guns and armor easily overcame the Indians' brief resistance, but no amount of trudging about that isolated tiny tract of land would disclose the Indians after they had hidden themselves in its then dense forests. The conquerors looted empty villages, destroyed crops, and killed one or a few warriors who had been rash enough to chance arrows against bullets, but instead of a great haul of wampum and slaves they took away only a few utensils and woven mats. p.210

I did see a dense forest preserve on B.I. and took a picture of it. It's called Rodman's Hollow.
The methods of those English were not unusual for their world across the Atlantic but more violent than what the Indians were used to. Jennings writes
Armed conquest in New England was a special, though not unique, variant of seventeenth-century war, closely resembling the procedures followed b the English in Ireland in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. In these lands the English -Puritan and royalist alike- held the simple view that the natives were outside the law of moral obligation. On this assumption they fought by means that would have been thought dishonorable, even in that day, in was between civilized peoples. Four of their usages, transferred from Scotland and Ireland to America, profoundly affected the whole process of European-Indian acculturation: (1) a deliberate plicy of inciting competition between natives in order, by division, to maintain control; (2) a disregard for pledges and promises to natives, no matter how solemnly made; (3) the introduction of total exterminatory war against some communities of natices in order to terrorize others; and (4) a highly developed propaganda of falsification to justify all acts and policies of the conquerors whatsoever. The net effect of all these policies in Amerisa has been the myth of the Indian Menace - the depiction of the Indian as a ferocious wild creature, possessed of an alternately demonic and bestial nature, that had to be exterminated to make humanity safe. No Indian people has sufferd more from this myth, either in its own time or in the historical records, than the Pequots. (p. 212-213)
The Pequots now run Foxwoods casino and resort. I blogged about the massacre they suffered earlier here. That was a quote from a book report I did on Blood and Soil by Ben Kiernan which also had more information on 17th century British warfare, see my quote of it here.

On my bike ride I stopped at the Indian cemetery. At least 150 people are buried here, most are marked with a simple upright fieldstone.
It's on a knoll that overlooks Fresh Pond the largest body of fresh water on the island. The sign says 1661/Here original settlers/Lived in caves and shelters/Site of first church 1772/../Nearby site of first/schoolhouse, windmill, pound/precious spring/ Indian burying hill. I guess the Indians buried there weren't "original settlers." They just lived and fished and minted wampum but either they weren't "original" although they were there for ages before the English or they weren't "settlers" like the ones who lived in caves as they lived in villages that the English tried to destroy. The Euro-centric sign was erected in 1942 when Indians were perceived more as caricatures than fellow humans with genuine history.
Surrounded by all this beauty I can sadly understand how so much tragedy can be wrought by men on weaker men in the quest for possession of something so valuable. We foul our own place and seek to take a new place regardless of the current inhabitants. It's the behavior of 5 year olds but with weapons of steel and black powder instead of open handed slaps and temper tantrums. If only the means of the 5 year old were retained with the motives...

Thursday, July 24, 2008

confounding child molesters online

Sadly, not a week goes by that someone arrives at my blog searching for topics such as "6 y. o. sex" or "pro child sex" or worse. It is dreadful. They come here because of a post I did on a 6 year old girl rescued from the sex trade in Cambodia. I'm glad perverts are briefly confronted with the tragedy of their sin when they arrive at my blog. I doubt it helps them much though. I do want to note, again, that the International Justice Mission is an organization trying to rescue those enslaved in the sex trade and are worth your support.

However, I have a crazy idea about confounding the search for perversion. If those of us with blogs included such awful key words in blog posts but with pointers to the tragedy suffered by children and the hope offered by organizations such as IJM perhaps we can confound those seeking such depravity. Let me know if you do it with a comment here.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Understanding the Bible Gayle Erwin's way

Gayle Erwin is a traveling Bible teacher who really grasps grace. His style is humorous and profound. He has really influenced me as a teacher. This method of preparation for teaching from his latest newsletter is a gift. I encourage all to read the jokes and the teaching at the newsletter then listen to his streaming broadcasts (or watch video) as well as purchase his book, The Jesus Style.

Sometimes I tell an audience that I wish they could see the Bible through my eyes. It would truly come alive. I try to put myself in a passage, become a character there or an observing bystander, look around and think of what I might be seeing and what might have led up to the event recorded.

Then I ask what the event or passage tells me about God, about his character, about his actions. Next, I ask what the passage tells me about myself, my character, my actions and thoughts. Finally, I ask what action the passage urges or commands me to take or what warnings of actions to avoid.

Once I have begun to make those interpretations, I run that through what I call The Nature of Jesus list to make sure it does not violate that nature. The written Word must never violate the Living Word. Jesus was the fulfillment and not the alternative. If my interpretation violates his Nature, then I know I cannot teach or act on it.

That system can be applied to my actions and thoughts with great effectiveness.

Two years ago I copied and posted his contract with God for our edification.

Monday, July 14, 2008

The Lord's Prayer for a 5 year old

Our Big Daddy
You are totally awesome
Make things here like at home
Come back soon
We're hungry
We're sorry
We forgave the other kids
Can we sit on your lap?
You are totally awesome...

Friday, July 11, 2008

why black Christians are pro-Obama - update

I'm a white Christian, but I try to follow blogs of those different from me. Hence, I read Indian, Black, and gay blogs. I was pointed to this blog by a black Christian on the reasons why many fellow black Christians can look past Obama's pro-choice, pro-gay stance. Basically, because of his color and what his victory would represent. The comment afterwards by a 70 year old black man is important to read also.

I'm not convinced that electing a black leader justifies ignoring his support of the legal decimation of the black population by infanticide. Abortion's body count overwhelms anything else. And the economic ramifications make our recession look like a hiccup. 40 million americans , over half in the prime of their working lives right now if let to live, are not paying taxes, buying houses, and having families themselves. How a black politician can support Margaret Sanger's vision of eugenics against black citizens is mind boggling. Margaret Sanger founded Planned Parenthood said, "We do not want word to get out that we want to exterminate the Negro population." Abortion is the number one preventable killer of African Americans. Every other baby in the black community is murdered by "choice." Over 3/4ths of abortion clinics are located in or near minority neighborhoods. Planned Parenthood was recently exposed in a journalist sting accepting donations specifically for minority abortions in response to affirmative action.

Despite all this, Obama is strongly pro-choice, and black Christians have enough hope in him to vote for him. WHY?!

HT: Blaque Tulip.

Prosperity gospel is not the good news of Jesus Christ

Please stop and watch for 2 minutes and 47 seconds...

HT: Stuff Christians Like

Tuesday, July 01, 2008

Management: good and bad

Recently, I read the book, How to Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie. Some people I know will say out loud, "Finally," as they read this. It actually was pretty eye opening. Now I know the basis of every After school Special I ever watched. It also explained to me some of the American Christian culture, not the evangelical culture in particular, but in general. It also explains why I hated English literature so much, they were so polite that nothing ever happened!!! Below are the points made in Carnegie's book. His techniques are used throughout the book as well. It's hard not to become a Carnegite after reading it. He weaves in testimonies of Carnegites who repented and came to faith in Dale's ways with spectacular results. Not that Dale's ways are so bad. It's barely about memorizing people's names. It's about treating others as you would like to be treated, with respect, with focus, with interest. How hard can it be? As any Christian can tell you, very hard.

Which leads me to an interesting intersection. After finishing the book, the PBS reality show, Texas Ranch House came in the mail. As a family we watched 8 hours of pain and frustration and bad managment. It seems inevitable in these shows that as soon as certain people are designated higher, they treat those beneath them in a way that Dale Carnegie wouldn't approve. However, when people rise to the top, they don't forget their roots. Texas Ranch House shows examples of good managment by the head rancher who rose to his position and bad management by the Christian family and manipulative mangment by the wife of the ranch owner. This isn't the only dynamic, the battle of the sexes was plainly evident also, but as a way to talk about Carnegie's book, it's a fun lens to look at it through.

All about How to Win Friends and Influence People.
Fundamental Techniques in Handling People:
  • "Don't criticize, condemn or complain."
This caused great strife on the ranch. When ranch "owner", Mr. Cooke, criticized everyone publicly for slacking when they slept in after a huge haul of cattle the day before all the cowboys despised him more. He felt that "nice guy" management wasn't making the ranch productive. Now the cowboys did plenty of complaining among themselves about the ranch owner and family, they kept it to themselves, at least verbally.
  • "Give people a feeling of importance; praise the good parts of them."
Did not happen much at all. We don't know if Mr. Cooke gave the cowboys any praise for building all the fencing for the cattle. He would congratulate them on the cattle finds, but he could take it away too. The head cowboy, Robby, seemed to praise his cowboys enough to give them a sense of pride in their new work.
  • "Get the other person to do what you want them to by arousing their desires."
Rallying people to a greater cause can be tedious, especially when you want them to shovel manure. I think it's easier when natural consequences occur to use those as rallying issues. I can't believe the Cooke women did not clean dishes or manure for a week and let the flies breed and swarm. Gross.

Six Ways to Make People Like You:

  • "Become genuinely interested in other people."
I'm sure this was tried.
  • "Smile."
When associated with feelings of manipulation, the smile is not enough.
  • "Remember that a man's name is to him the sweetest and most important sound in any language."
It didn't help on the Texas Ranch House.
  • "Be a good listener. Encourage others to talk about themselves."
I think Mr. Cooke tried to be a good listener, which is why the cowboys could say they liked him when they talked to him one on one.
  • "Talk in the terms of the other man's interest."
It's very hard to talk about another person's hobbies or interests, especially if they are boring (to you) or if you are in a rush. Mr. Cooke seemed unable to make the time to spend with his cowboys and his family.
  • "Make the other person feel important and do it sincerely."
Sincerity is proven by action. Actions will undermine your words.

Twelve Ways to Win People to Your Way of Thinking:

  • "Avoid arguments."
Not on TRH.
  • "Show respect for the other person's opinions. Never tell someone they are wrong."
I think respect for opinion's was shown, but it would have been useful to seek opinions from the cowboys before decisions were made.
  • "If you're wrong, admit it quickly and emphatically."
This never happened.
  • "Begin in a friendly way."
Unfortunately, it never ended that way at TRH.
  • "Start with questions the other person will answer yes to."
This takes much preparation which needs time which I don't think Mr. Cooke made, found or did.
  • "Let the other person do the talking."
Mr. Cooke did a good job with this.
  • "Let the other person feel the idea is his/hers."
Didn't happen at TRH.
  • "Try honestly to see things from the other person's point of view."
Mr. Cooke, but not Mrs. Cooke, practiced this.
  • "Sympathize with the other person."
Did not happen at TRH.
  • "Appeal to noble motives."
Did not happen at TRH.
  • "Dramatize your ideas."
No inspiration at TRH.
  • "Throw down a challenge."
He did in a nasty way.

Nine Ways to Change People Without Giving Offense or Arousing Resentment:

  • "Begin with praise and honest appreciation."
Mr. Cooke and Robby, but not Mrs. Cooke, practiced this.
  • "Call attention to other people's mistakes indirectly."
Direct method only at TRH.
  • "Talk about your own mistakes first."
Never happened at TRH.
  • "Ask questions instead of giving direct orders."
If only the Cooke's had brought this book with them.
  • "Let the other person save face."
Never happened at TRH. It was a constant power struggle.
  • "Praise every improvement."
Robby did this with the cowboys, not the Cookes though.
  • "Give them a fine reputation to live up to."
  • "Encourage them by making their faults seem easy to correct."
  • "Make the other person happy about doing what you suggest."
If only.

The denial of dysfunction and unwillingness to see one's own faults is especially disturbing. Read the online Q & A at WaPo. One great quote I saw recently says, Our enemy's opinion of us is usually more truthful than our own opinion of ourselves. Sometimes the Cookes were downright mean, especially at the end. They used their position to exact justice. This is part of the concept of abuse of power. Even when caught in a lie on tape, the denial continues. Ms. Cooke saw her own mountain tops but the cowboys' valleys. This brings me back to Carnegie's first principle that he spent much ink on. Everyone walks around with burdens we have no knowledge of which leads to ignorant criticism and condemnation. No matter what the claims were about life off tape or on the cutting room floor, they made huge gaffes and refuse to own them.

One unknown story that stands out though is the homeschooled Christian boy who took over as cook and bridged the two houses. He still maintains a friendship with one of the women. Good on you Shaun.