Friday, April 28, 2006

What Evangelicals Believe: Part I

There is an increasing debate these days on what constitutes an evangelical. The term is becoming more and more identified with politically and theologically conservative movements, but I have said before that I believe that the term should not be exclusively used for these groups, and that more moderate Christians should not abandon it.

Working for one of the most prominent evangelical seminaries in the world, perhaps I have a unique perspective on this issue, and it bears further explanation. One of our seminary's former presidents wrote a book entitled What We Evangelicals Believe, published by the seminary back in 1991. The term "evangelical" was the subject of a considerable amount of controversy and confusion even then, and this book sought to identify what core attributes were essential to being considered "evangelical," while acknowledging that "no one item should control the evangelical agenda. And certainly no doctrine not central to the gospel should become an ultimate bone of contention among us." (p. 8)

This seminary has crafted a "Statement of Faith" which all of its faculty members must affirm and sign before they may teach at the seminary. The trustees annually affirm this statement, as well. It is not intended to be divisive, but rather to assert the seminary's intention to be "evangelical" in its academic goals, and to maintain an "evangelical" identity, even in the midst of changing times and cultures. The Statement of Faith is not itself immutable, and in fact has been revised at least once in its history. Nonetheless, it is intended to set forth those doctrinal elements that we as a seminary consider to be essential to the definition of "evangelical."

What We Evangelicals Believe follows the structure of the seminary's Statement of Faith, and expands and articulates the elements within it. Although written 15 years ago, I believe that these discussions continue to be relevant to the debate on what constitutes "evangelicalism" today. From time to time in the days and weeks to follow, I intend to use this book as a guide to a more comprehensive understanding of the term "evangelical," that is not limited to a particular political party or ideological movement.

Article 1 of the Statement of Faith states "God has revealed himself to be the living and true God, perfect in love and righteous in all his ways; one in essence, existing eternally in the three persons of the Trinity: Father, Son and Holy Spirit."

The first element of this article is perhaps the most essential for Evangelicals. We have certain beliefs about God becuase we believe that God took the initiative to reveal who and what God is to us. It is more than just what we humans have decided about God, but rather what we believe about God based on God's revelation. The author of What We Evangelicals Believe says that "[w]hatever we can say about our own evagelical faith must be said in response to what God has told and shown us. Otherwise we can never break through our own experience.... Theology--what we believe about God--can never move beyond private opinion.... unless God takes the lead in revelation." (p. 21)

We also affirm that God has revealed God's character to us. God is living and true. God is perfect in love. God is righteous. These are aspects of God's character that nearly all Christians can affirm, and form the core of the Evangelical perception of God.

The final element of the article, that describing the Trinity, owes much to the Nicene Creed. Many churches that do not otherwise affirm creeds affirm the Nicene Creed. Yet the Trinity is perhaps the most difficult to understand aspect of God's identity. I have no expectation to draw new light upon the matter in a brief blog post, but suffice it to say that affirming that God is "one in essence" is essential, because it reminds us that we are not polytheists (people who believe in more than one God). However, the three persons of the Trinity are our best attempt to reconcile the fact that God has been revealed to us in such a way. As the author of What We Evangelicals Believe says, "What we mean by person is that there is an eternal reality to the distinction within God just as there is to his unity. Jesus the Son is more than just the form that God took when he came to earth. God the Spirit is more than just the means God used to establish his church at Pentecost." (p. 25)

Although I do intend to continue this series in the near future, I feel I must close here with the following words from the book: "It is both presumptuous and dangerous to speak about God. Only one thing is more presumptous and dangerous--not to speak about him when he has spoken so clearly to us." (p. 26) As human beings, we do not understand fully. Yet we must still must attempt to articulate what we understand as best we can.

Thursday, April 27, 2006

The Mystery Revealed

After more than a year of waiting for the Official Transformers Club to reveal their first club exclusive (not counting the ones you get free with your membership), a name and pictures have finally been announced. Click here to see a picture and brief description of the new Astrotrain.

For those who haven't followed Transformers since the 1980's, it's worth noting that the original Astrotrain was one of the very first "triple changers." A triple changer is, as the name might suggest, a Transformer with three modes instead of the conventional two. In this case, the original Astrotrain was a robot, a locomotive, and a space shuttle.

So, what's the verdict on the new exclusive? I want to like it. I really do. Members of the club have waited for a very long time for this. And if the note saying this won't actually be in our hands until the Fall is to be believed, that makes for a full year and a half of club membership before the toy is finally obtained. One can certainly hope that future exclusives come out on a now regular basis (the rumor is two per year).

The toy is a repaint (and slight remold for the head and faction symbol) of Armada Jetfire. The toy is sufficiently different from Jetfire that one can believe this toy is a different character. Also, the colors unmistakably work as an homage to the classic character, while not a slavish reproduction of the original. These are good things. Oddly enough, this color scheme seems not to have been selected with Astrotrain in mind. Click here to see pictures of the proposed Transformers: Universe toy "Spacewarp," which never made it to full production. While Spacewarp did not have the new head that will be made for Astrotrain, it otherwise appears to be the same toy we're now getting. A lot of fans who wanted this toy as "Spacewarp" will no doubt be pleased.

But this is a mold that, frankly, never impressed me when it first came out, and the idea of a toy named "Astrotrain" that doesn't turn into a train is somewhat off-putting. (Yeah, yeah... A train is a connected series of vehicles, and therefore the original Astrotrain wasn't a train either. Just a locomotive. You know what I mean...) Also, as a larger Transformers mold, and accounting for the usual need to price such limited exclusives higher than one would pay for the same mold on a store shelf, I'm afraid that the price will be astronomical.

Ultimately, I want to give Fun Publications credit where it's due. It's clear that a lot of time and effort went into this, and I hope that they are successful. A lot of the early buzz is quite positive, if admittedly not universally so. Also, we've been led to understand that this figure will also come with a Mini-Con figure (presumably a recolor of Commetor, the Mini-Con that came with Armada Jetfire), which could be cool. For myself, I'll be waiting for further information on price and looking for final pictures (including the recolored Mini-Con and Astrotrain's robot mode with the new head) before deciding whether or not I'll be buying this one myself. I'd be curious to hear other comments.

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

The Immigration Game

One of the differences between writing for a print publication and writing for this blog is that one often has to adhere to strict word-count limits when writing for print. For the seminary newsletter, I was asked to write an article between 500-700 words. When I first drafted this article, the word count was over 800!

Having to adhere to a word count isn't all bad. It forced me to spend more time with the article than I otherwise would have, eliminating unnecessary words and making the whole thing more tightly focused. There's no question but that the article was ultimately better off for it.

Still, there were a few bits that I had to cut that I felt could have used a bit more explanation. So, for those of you've who've already read the article as it appeared in the newsletter, and for those of you who haven't yet had a chance, here is an expanded version of my article on Immigration. Hopefully, it finds a balance between focus and full detail.
I love games. Especially the kind you can watch on TV. If you were to ask me about almost any game show from the past 20-30 years, there's a good chance that I can tell you all about it, including how the game was played.

Immigration reform is not a game, yet to watch the television reports coming out of Washington D.C. these days, you might think it was just the latest game show. Listen to how often you hear some politician accuse another politician of "playing politics." With national elections looming, it seems clear that our politicians see immigration reform as a game to be won, with the prize being re-election in November. The winners get to come back and play again for another two (or six, in the case of Senators) years.

Like any game, the "game" of immigration reform has certain rules. The rules of American government are extremely complicated, and I couldn't begin to go through them all here, but there are a few rules that deserve special attention. For the sake of clarity, I will use the issue as being debated in the Senate for reference.

Rule 1: Language. Come up with a word or phrase that communicates easily with your constituents, making your position appear to be the best. For the Republicans, this word appears to be "amnesty." No one will go on record as supporting amnesty. It conveys to the average person the sense that people are being allowed to "get away with" breaking the law. To be against amnesty is to put yourself on the side of law and order.

Whatever else may be said about the bill recently tabled by the Senate prior to their Spring recess (still in effect at the time of this writing), it does not grant "amnesty." The current compromise bill being debated in the Senate would require fines and an additional 11 years of work toward the path of citizenship, even at the most generous level.* Immigrants who have been here less than two years would still be required to return to their home country. This is not amnesty. There are penalties imposed on all people who have been here illegally. These penalties are different from what they have been in the past (simply being sent home once discovered, regardless of how long the person's been in the country), but they still exist. However, in this game, the accuracy of language is secondary to its effects.

Rule 2: Strike first. If you're the first to make accusations about your opponents, you set the tone of the debate, forcing them to respond to your claims rather than forge their own arguments. This is demonstrated by the statements of President Bush as the Senate break was beginning. Bush accused Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid of "blocking tactics" by refusing to allow votes on several Republican-backed amendments to the compromise bill that was already on the table. Had Reid gotten his message out first, noting that it was the Republicans who voted unanimously to keep the issue open to debate past the Senate recess, rather than bring the compromise bill to a vote, he could have accused the Republicans of trying to kill immigration reform by adding endless amendments to the existing bill. Instead, Reid was left to make his statement after being attacked: "The amendments were being offered by people who didn't want the bill." By being first, the Republicans win control of this part of the debate.

Rule 3: Stall. Delay voting rather than make a vote that your opponents can use against you later. It has already been suggested (by Democrats) that the Republicans are adding amendments to put off voting on immigration reform. This works the other way, as well. Republican Arlen Specter has said the reason that immigration reform has "not gone forward" is "because there's a political advantage for Democrats not to have an immigration bill." This would allow the Democrats to say, "We opposed the party in power. Vote for us if you want real change."

The lack of immigration reform hurts everyone. As it is, undocumented immigrants are exploited by employers who pay substandard wages for backbreaking work. The employer can always threaten to turn the worker over to authorities if the worker objects, and the worker, often desperately needing the money to support a family, has little power to get out of the situation. In turn, low wage workers who are here legally (both natural-born and immigrant) are hurt, because employers would have to pay minimum wage and provide worker's compensation to comply with federal laws, and hiring "illegals" is seen as an easy way to keep costs down. In the "game" of immigration reform, whoever ultimately wins the prize of re-election, it is the people of America that turn out to be the losers.

*For these and further details of the Senate compromise bill, see Republican Lindsey Graham’s web site on the matter at

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Administrative Professionals Week

This week is the official "Administrative Professionals Week," commonly referred to by most people as "National Secretaries Week," despite the official name change in 2000. I mention this out of at least some measure of self-interest, as this observance is intended to recognize people like me: people who serve in administrative positions that are often unseen and unheard, but which are essential to the function of an institution. In fact, although my full title these days is "Assistant to the Faculty and Dean's Office," occasionally I myself still go with the job's former title (actually changed to "Faculty Assistant" before I assumed the position) of "Faculty Secretary" out of convenience.

I have no suggestions on how you should observe this event for the "administrative professionals" in your own circles. Suffice it to say, "you gotta be nice to me this week!" ;)

P.S. Just in case the week wasn't enough, the IAAP actually still has a specific "Administrative Professionals Day" on the Wednesday of the week. But I have other plans for tomorrow's blog entry....

Monday, April 24, 2006

Latest Rare Transformers Auction: G2 Streetwise

The latest G2 Protectobot ("G2" = "Generation Two," for the uninitiated. These are the early 1990's era Transformers, as opposed to the original Transformers of the 1980's, which are retroactively referred to as "G1") to be auctioned is G2 Streetwise. As of this posting, the bid for Streetwise is at $910. Last week, I predicted the final value for this toy would probably be a little lower than the $1825 that G2 Groove went for, but that future auctions would probably stabilize around Streetwise's price. We'll see if I was right....

For those of you who've been looking closely at the packaging for these toys, you'll have noticed that each one makes some claim toward "realistic styling." Now, an all-black police car such as Streetwise isn't by any means common, but it isn't too bad. Nor would an ambulance such as First Aid seem terribly out of place. But check that link for G2 Groove once again. Have you ever seen a bright orange motorcycle like that (with green trim, no less)?

This is a fairly common trend in G2 marketing. A great many of the G2 toys made some claim to "realistic" something or other. Before I criticize Hasbro for absolute bold-faced lying about the G2 Protectobots, I might theorize that the way that the letters, numbers, and "emergency vehicle" style insignias appear on these toys is at least mildly realistic, and certainly represents an effort beyond what was done for the original G1 Protectobots of 8 years earlier (see the SWAT logo on G2 Blades, presumably two weeks away from being auctioned himself, for example). Still, I'd hardly call the new designs "realistic," and I think this advertising is misleading.

But the Protectobots were hardly the worst case of misleading "realism" in Generation Two. Check out this example of one of the Combaticons, a group of military vehicles that also combined into a super-robot. Can anyone tell me what a space shuttle needs with camouflage? Yet, there it is on the packaging: "realistic camouflage graphics." (You'll have to click on the graphic of the front of the package to see it properly.) Some of the other G2 Combaticons weren't much better. A "realistic" camouflage pattern won't do much good against some of those eye-searing colors!

Unlike the G2 Protectobots, the G2 Combaticons were indeed widely released by Hasbro. Should anyone want one, there are plenty of deals to be had on eBay.

Friday, April 21, 2006

Bloggy Birthday

I have an article being published in the seminary newsletter today. If you're reading this blog for the first time today, it's probably because you read that article. Thanks! I'll probably post a longer version of that article sometime next week. For now, it's worth acknowledging the fact that on Wednesday I celebrated exactly one year of blogging at this site, although the fact completely slipped my mind at the time.

Since I already posted a fairly retrospective article last week, rehashing all that stuff again would be pretty redundant. So, instead, this seems to be a good time to restate some of the "ground rules" that have arisen over the course of this blog's history.

1. Although most of you who come here already know who I am (I certainly didn't use an alias on the newsletter article!), I go by "B-W" around here, and I ask that neither my real name nor the name of the seminary be used in any comments on this site. This is mostly for spam-prevention purposes, but also to give a (very) slight measure of protection to the seminary in case I say something stupid. Basically, the usual "the views expressed here do not necessarily reflect those of the seminary, its affiliates, lackeys, etc...."

2. I do moderate comments. This arose out of the fact that some spammer kept coming on here and posting weird apocalyptic-style messages multiple times on my posts. The "type in the following letters" automated mechanism wasn't keeping this spam out, so I decided to handle comments myself. Oddly enough, no such message has appeared since I've started moderating, even for me to say "no" to. Not sure what to make of that.... Rest assured that I will not edit any of your words (unless it turns out that my or the seminary's name is inadvertently mentioned, but the rest of the comment is still worth posting), nor will I prevent messages from appearing simply because they may disagree with my own views.

3. I retain the rights to the words the I write on this blog under a "Creative Commons" license. This means that I allow people to quote me or otherwise use my works under the following conditions:
  • Please credit me with writing the work. I usually suggest something along the lines of "Written by B-W of Transforming Seminarian."
  • You may not use my work for commercial purposes. There's probably not much (if any) money to be made off of what I write, but I reserve the right to be the one to do it.
  • You should feel free to rewrite, alter, or otherwise build upon my work. But if you do, you may only make the resulting work available under conditions identical to these.
Of course, regular "fair use" rules apply, as they do to any copyrighted work.

Anyway, enough boring stuff. I'll be back on Monday with the latest G2 Transformer up for auction and appropriate commentary.

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Seeking accountability

The media has been all over the fact that a half-dozen retired generals have (independently of each other) called for Donald Rumsfeld to resign from the position of Secretary of Defense. President Bush has, on several occasions now, consistently risen to Rumsfeld's defense, saying that he wants Rumsfeld to stay exactly where he is.

This statement the President made to reporters the other day is somewhat telling:
"I hear the voices, and I read the front page, and I know the speculation. But I'm the decider, and I decide what is best. And what's best is for Don Rumsfeld to remain as the secretary of defense."
Leaving aside the atrociously poor grammar of calling himself "the decider," the President has a point. It is his responsibility to make the final decision as to who fills the role of Secretary of Defense. And if the President were to bow to every complaint that came his way, he'd never get anything done. None of this is new, of course. President Bush is famous for talking about how he never pays attention to the polls. And no one can deny that he makes decisions based on what he feels is right.

But there's still a sense of arrogance in that statement that's somewhat frightening. Does the President ever listen to criticism? Does he ever change his mind when shown that he's on the wrong path? President Bush is famous for saying that he'll "stay the course." But if that course is a course to destruction, surely the wise thing to do is change courses! Bull-headedly staying on such a course is pure folly. What accountability is the President held to when he makes decisions that prove to be wrong?

I'm not here calling for the President's impeachment. As terrible as I see some of his decisions as being, I don't see anything that rises to the level of being impeachable. But surely impeachment isn't the only level of accountability a president should be held to. He was voted into office by the people, and is accountable to them. If he were running for re-election (again), I'd suggest that he could be held accountable to voters by losing the election. However, although the vote in 2004 was closer than almost any election in modern history (notwithstanding the 2000 election, where Bush actually lost the popular vote, and the final count in the state of Florida will forever be the subject of partisan debate), Bush did gain over 50% of the popular vote (a feat not achieved by any other Presidential candidate since 1988), and earned the right to be President, and to make these kinds of ultimate decisions.

But just because President Bush can't run for office again, surely that doesn't mean that he is no longer accountable to the people! Even a large number of the people who supported him now disapprove of the way he's running the government!

No doubt time will tell whether the President's decisions (not just to keep Rumsfeld, but elsewhere in his presidency) were ultimately good ones (President Bush himself contends that history will vindicate him). Unfortunately, with all the secrecy and ongoing investigations that make solid information hard to come by, if these decisions are poor ones, we'll never know until it's too late to do anything about it.

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

Moving In

I've finally finished switching over from my old ISP to my new one, and I should have all of the old links up-to-date. If anything's still broken, drop me a comment, and I'll make sure to do something about it.

I'm especially pleased to have the Montreat Youth Conference '89 sermons by Tom Are, Jr. back up. The link has remained visible on the sidebar to the right all this time, but if you clicked on it, you would have found a broken link until this morning. The odds are that no one but me has even noticed. But these sermons are such a huge part of who I've become over the past 15+ years, it was very important to me to have working links available. If you haven't looked through any of them yet, I'd strongly encourage you to check them out.

Monday, April 17, 2006

Rare Transformer Auction Update: Final Price for G2 Groove

As promised, today's update brings the final value of the latest G2 Protectobot auction from the Hartman collection: $1825. This is considerably less than the previous auction's final value of $3050, which isn't terribly surprising. If I had to make a guess, I'd say that we can expect the next figure to be auctioned will take in a somewhat smaller price, but that the value will more or less stabilize there for the remaining 5 auctions to follow. Time will tell.

What's a bit more surprising is to see that the same person won this auction as won the last one. While there is a certain feeling among some transfans that it would be nice to see these set remain together, it seems unlikely in the extreme. Especially given the winner's statements online that he's "not rich" (on two separate occasions, implying in this second one that although he'd like to get all the Hartman combiners, his lack of being "rich" would prevent this, although he does say later that this was his goal).

As I said this weekend (and actually said to the auction winner directly in the message board thread), rich is often a matter of perspective. We tend to think of people who have more than we do as "rich." That said, I wonder how this fan can make such a claim. He's already spent close to $5000 on two small toys! Toys that make up $2 worth of the $5 knock-off sets I mentioned earlier (arguably, even less, since the one figure of the five not to be auctioned is larger than the other four)! I just don't see how someone can drop that kind of money on something like this and not be considered "rich" by practically any reasonable definition.

Oh, well. If he has the money, and wants to spend it on this kind of thing, that's his right. I'll continue to enjoy my knock-off.

Bonus! There are a couple of other really rare auctions currently up. These are for almost-never-seen Japanese Headmaster heads. I won't be following these on the blog, but thought it worth posting the links here.


Saturday, April 15, 2006

Taxing Thoughts

I don't usually post on weekends, but with Monday already to be dedicated to the next update on the rare Transformers auctions, and with today being April 15th, it seemed best to go ahead and post this now.

A recent Associated Press article (EDIT: 10/18/06 - original link is gone) suggested that most Americans think that the current tax system is unfair. This is hardly a surprise. People will most likely always think that they are being taxed more than they should be, and that others (i.e., "the rich," which is usually defined as "anyone who makes more money than I do") are being taxed less then they ought to be.

But perhaps this other recent article (EDIT: 10/18/06 - original link is gone: here's a similar one, but it's not quite the same) can put some of that in context. We have been told that the President and his wife paid $187,768 in federal taxes this year, having reported an income of about $735,000. I did the math, and that comes out to about 25.5% of their income going directly to the Federal Government. A fairly sizeable portion by pretty much anyone's standards. For comparison, a couple with an income of about $73,500 (or 10% of the Bushes income), would pay $9211 in federal taxes, or about 12.5% of their income (assuming they took only the standard deduction of $10,000 for a married couple and no other deductions). This is less than half the share that the Bushes pay. A couple with an income of $50,000 (and the same standard deduction) would pay $5,274 (10.5% of their income) in taxes. Clearly, the graduated system of taxation does indeed result in richer people paying a higher percent of their income to the government.

Or does it? The Vice President and his wife had an income of about $8,820,000. Of that, they paid only $529,636 in federal taxes. That's only about 6.0%! What's going on here?

What I haven't mentioned yet is that, of that $8.82 million, the article says that the Cheneys donated $6.87 million to charity. This means that they were only taxed on $1.95 million. By this standard, the Cheneys paid about 27.2% of their income to the Federal Government, a comparable amount to the Bushes.

There has always been a debate about donations to charity as being a way out of paying taxes, and whether or not that is appropriate. But it's worth noting that the Cheneys did not use that $6,870,000 on themselves. Rather the organizations (usually dedicated to education in the case of the Cheneys) benefited.

Look at it this way, if the Cheneys were taxed at the full 35% rate (Currently the highest bracket) on the entire $8.82 million (incidentally, I know that this is not how the income tax system actually works, but this is for the sake of argument), they'd have paid $3.087 million in taxes. This is far less than the combined amount of approximately $7.4 million that the Cheneys actually gave of their income. Much less even than the $6.87 they gave to charity, not counting the money that went to the government.

Certainly, if the Cheneys had no ability to make charitable deductions, the government itself could have had about $2.5 million more that they could have used for government programs, including programs that Democrats would probably have preferred having that extra money for. But Republicans have always advocated the right to choose how one's money is spent, and far be it from me to say that the educational institutions that received the bulk of the $6.87 million were unworthy of such assistance.

So, at the end of the day, I have to say that the system works. That's not to say that it's perfect, or that it couldn't be improved. But it does provide a mechanism for encouraging that money does, in at least some measure, go from those who have wealth to those who need the extra resources.

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

Old-Fashioned Thinking

It's been a while since I've commented on one of Billy Graham's "My Answer" columns. Here's an except from today's entry:
Q: A friend of mine says she doesn't think she ought to monitor or limit what her children read or see on television or the Internet, because sooner or later they'll find out what life's all about anyway. I don't agree with her, but am I just being old-fashioned? — Mrs. W.J.

A: Dear Mrs. W.J.,
No, you aren't being old-fashioned; you're being wise. After all, no parent would allow their children to wander into a busy intersection or sample the pill bottles in their medicine cabinet. Shouldn't we safeguard our children's moral and spiritual health just as much as their physical health?
Dr. Graham spends a few more paragraphs detailing the need for parents to be involved in the raising of their children, and decrying the potentially disastrous (his word) consequences of neglecting such responsibility. If this is admittedly conservative, I would still basically agree with his main points.

But that's not the main thing that caught me about this article. After I finished the article, I re-read the first sentence of Dr. Graham's response: "No, you aren't being old-fashioned..."

I don't mean to sound rude, but.... yes, she is. The person who wrote the question is most definitely "old-fashioned." The trend away from "monitoring" or "limiting" what children watch on TV is fairly widespread. There's little way to describe those who continue to do so other than "old-fashioned."

It seems to me that both the woman who wrote the question and Dr. Graham himself have fallen into the trap of thinking that "old-fashioned" is to be equated with "bad," and so they seek to run from the term. In many cases, I certainly am against being "old-fashioned" and would consider it bad to be "old-fashioned" on certain issues, such as women's ordination. "Old-fashioned" values that dictate that women are not eligible for some positions in the church have been extremely harmful to many people, and I'm not at all ashamed about calling such "old-fashioned" behavior bad.

But being a responsible parent who's aware of what his/her child watches on TV? There's nothing wrong with that! I would probably advocate a more measured approach than Dr. Graham, I'm sure, but I would still hope to be aware of what my child (if I had one) was watching, so that I could process the material with that child, helping them to see what was good and what was undesirable about such material. I would seek to be active in guiding my child through matters of "right" and "wrong."

This may be "old-fashioned" to some, but on this issue, I would wear that label proudly.

Monday, April 10, 2006

Latest Rare Transformers Auction: G2 Groove

Apparently I misspoke when I said that the Hartmans were going to post a new G2 Protectobot or G2 Stunticon every day or so. Turns out they're looking to post every other Sunday. So, for the next several months, it appears as though I will have updates every Monday on how these auctions are progressing. Some weeks with the new auction, other weeks with the results of the previous auction.

The latest G2 Protectobot to be placed on auction is G2 Groove. Like G2 First Aid* before it, this is a toy that the winning bidder would be well advised never to take out of its package. I say this not because to open such a rare item will reduce its resale value (although it will), but because of what has been called "Gold Plastic Syndrome."

"Gold Plastic Syndrome" (sometimes referred to as "GPS") is a phenomenon that, in Transformers, afflicts mostly late G1 and some G2 Transformers. Only, but apparently all, Transformers with gold-colored plastic are afflicted, hence the name. Most plastics are colored by adding pigments to the plastic as it is being mixed. For gold plastic, a pigment with gold-colored metal flakes was added. For some reason, this pigment did not mix thoroughly with the rest of the plastic, and the result is visible random weak spots that cut right across areas of the plastic, making the gold plastic brittle and prone to breaking along these lines of uneven mixing. In the case of G2 Groove, this will likely not be a huge problem, as the main area of visible gold plastic is right along the robot's chest (not a moving part). In the case of G2 First Aid, the problem is far more serious. Check out the bottom picture of the toy at the link above. The places where gold plastic is placed on this toy correspond to the robot's head and the robot's legs. Not only do these parts move frequently during transformation and regular play with the toy, but the robot's head is a crucial part of the transformation of the five Protectobots into the super robot Defensor. If/when this gold plastic breaks, the owner will be left with not only a decapitated robot, but one incapable of combining with the other toys. These are collectors items best left packaged.

At the time of this writing, G2 Groove is selling for $760. However, if G2 First Aid's final auction value of $3050 is any indication, expect Groove's price to shoot way up as the auction nears it's close at the end of the week. Updates to follow....

*Since eBay auction sites are ephemeral, and will be taken down a month or so after an auction is expired, all links to G2 Protectobots after a given figure's auction close will come from, one of the few places I know of with pictures of these toys in their packaging. I'm still looking for a source for non-eBay images of the G2 Stunticons for when the time comes.

Friday, April 07, 2006

Cleaning House

I'm in the process of changing my home Internet provider. As part of this process, I need to backup any and all files that were on the old providers FTP space, so that I can upload it again to the new space. Then I'll need to update any old links that point to the old space.

This means that I need to go through all of my old blog posts (especially those made before I learned that I could upload images to Blogger directly), and fix the now-broken links. Since I'm not fully connected with the new provider yet, this process will take a couple of days, so if you happen to be searching through the archives, don't worry. I'm working on it. However, feel free to leave a comment here in case I've missed it.

One fringe benefit of this endeavor is that I get to look through some posts that I haven't thought about in a while. I hadn't realized that I have been blogging here for almost exactly a year now. I suppose I'll have to mark the occasion more properly when it arrives. In the meantime, here are some highlights from the blog's first six months:
  • Interesting in light of my recent posts on women's ordination is this anecdote that grew out of a visit to a rather conservative church in Orange County. I find it to be an amusing read even now, although the things that happened at the church later (noted at the end) were rather tragic.
  • Now that the latest Transformers Club exclusive has been announced, but not yet delivered, it's interesting to read this post written during the time I was waiting for last year's toy.
  • My fleeting attempt to do verse-by-verse commentary (on I Samuel). I tried this for two posts (here's the second), then gave up.
  • Here's a list of all the ways in which our train was delayed while traveling to Washington state to attend a wedding.
  • My attempt to do a Transformers: Universe style page for the first Transformers Club exclusive (quickly rendered obsolete when the club created their own a few months later.) and my similar effort for the BotCon exclusive Ricochet. I probably won't be doing any more of these anytime soon, since the Club seems to be going ahead with official bio pages for many of these in the Club magazine.
  • I discussed a book by Dan Kimball entitled Emerging Worship, to be surprised when, only a day later, Mr. Kimball himself commented on my post.
  • A post made at the beginning of what would be become a series of eye care visits, where I was later scared that I might have retinal detachment (thankfully, a second opinion later confirmed that this was not the case, and my vision has remained essentially the same in the months since).
  • The beginning of my occasional series telling stories from my own growing-up, followed shortly by the series of anecdotes from a series of sermons that were very important to me in my teen years (the full sermons are transcribed at the link entitled "MYC '89 Sermons by Tom Are, Jr." on the sidebar).
  • My first attempt to do reviews of Transformers toys. I keep meaning to add to this series, but still have yet to do so....
Who knows what the next year will bring?

Thursday, April 06, 2006

Faithfully interpreted

Today I announce the addition of a new blog on my sidebar, The Scroll. This is the official blog of Christians for Biblical Equality, an organization that advocates for the full involvement of both men and women in all areas of Christian ministry. For those who do not believe that women should be ordained as pastors (to name but one of the roles women are often denied in churches), CBE is understandably considered a theological adversary. CBE is not by any means to be confused with The Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood (CBMW), one such group of people opposed to women's ordination. Despite the claims (and honest attempts, in most cases) of both organizations to advocate a "biblical" stance, they hold diametrically opposed views.

It should come as no surprise, then, to note that CBMW, as well as many "complimentarians" (those who advocate a traditional view of separate roles for men and for women), attack certain translations of the Bible that, they feel, do not faithfully interpret the Bible in areas that relate to gender roles. The latest translation to be so attacked is the TNIV (Today's New International Version, a revision of the NIV, which has long been the favored translation in many evangelical circles). In a recent entry on The Scroll, these attacks are discussed as being largely an issue of control: "The critics of the TNIV want to control 60% of the church [read: the women]." This becomes even more apparent (and hypocritical) when it is noted that the TNIV was not translated strictly by "egalitarians" (those who advocate for equal access to all roles for both men and women), but that many "complementarians" were also involved in the creation of the TNIV.

This is not to say that the TNIV is perfect. No translation is, and the people behind the TNIV readily acknowledge this. However, it is a faithful attempt to accurately convey the word of God to God's people. To accuse it of attempting to change God's word to fit a modern agenda is nothing less than defamation.

Wednesday, April 05, 2006

Deliver Us From Evil

Sometimes I wonder if some of my best posts are just stolen from others. The "Top Ten" list on men's/women's ordination is easily the one I've gotten the most comments on in the entire time I've kept a blog. And I regularly make reference to something or other that Slacktivist said. It appears that today will be no exception.

Slacktivist had a number of interesting points to make about a recent rally for evangelical teenagers, but this bit particularly caught my attention.
If [Sex, Drugs & Rock and Roll] really is the apotheosis of evil, then Mick Jagger really is the Prince of Darkness -- a greater threat to humanity and a greater source of pain than Osama bin Laden, or Kim Jong Il, or Ken Lay or any other predatory purveyor of pain and injustice. The confusion here seems to be mistaking vice (and an expansive understanding of vice, at that) with genuine evil. Vice has to do with weakness; evil has to do with injustice. The Teen Mania obsession with SD&RR winds up declaring "war" on weakness while ignoring injustice. That's not good. Nor is it compatible with Christianity.
This is a clearer statement of the weakness of much of conservative Christianity (Slacktivist speaks of "evangelical" Christianity, but I still want to keep that name for those of us who believe in the call to spread the gospel, but who reject many of the more extreme stances of conservatism). We (despite my last statement, I must include myself here) spend so much time rallying against the ills of society, but so often we're fighting against the wrong things. Jesus had something to say about this sort of thing: "Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You give a tenth of your spices--mint, dill and cumin. But you have neglected the more important matters of the law--justice, mercy and faithfulness. You should have practiced the latter, without neglecting the former." (Matthew 23:23)

I see this as the major failure of American Christianity. We fight so hard to live in a culture that honors and respects our faith, and try to cultivate an environment (often that the expense of those who do not share our beliefs!) that is conducive to godly living. But we focus so much on sex, or national allegiance, or "inerrancy", or any number of other red herrings that we identify as "true Christianity." As a result, Christianity is made unappealing to those who might be brought to Christ. This isn't their fault, their "hardness of heart," if you will. It's ours!

But I must beware of being too self-righteous when I talk of these things. Jesus had something to say about that, too: "Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in someone else's eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye?... You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from the other person's eye." (Matthew 7: 3, 5)

Sunday, April 02, 2006

Rare Transformer Auctions update

I was apparently mistaken when I said last week that a new G2 Protectobot or G2 Stunticon would be posted on eBay every day or so. It now appears that we'll be looking at a new item once a week (in fact, the second auction in this series has yet to appear as of 8:47 PDT). The first auction, for the G2 Protectobot First Aid, closed with a winning bid of $3050! (And, yes, shipping will be extra.)

For those who may be interested in these toys, but don't feel you can spend a month and a half's worth of your paycheck on them, I observe that knock-offs of the Protectobots can often be found at discount chains such as Big Lots for $5 for the entire set of 5 robots. If you like, go ahead and buy a set of paints and you can customize your own "G2" Protectobots for a miniscule fraction of the cost of these auctions. (Sorry, I do not know if knock-offs of the Stunticons are available. There used to be a set including 3 of the 5 Stunticons (and 2 molds from a completely different set) out there some time ago, but I haven't seen these in some time, nor have I ever seen knock-offs of the remaining two Stunticon molds.)


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