Wednesday, October 31, 2007


Ahh, the life of a professor - public opinion is often swayed by folks listening to those they would like to believe. When second lady Lynn Cheney releases a report "How Many Ward Churchills?" many shake their heads approvingly with the conclusion that there are Ward Churchills everywhere. David Horowitz, the jerked-over Marxist, has made a second career by pushing his neoconservative academic bill of rights and dogging the "dangerous" left-wing radical elites in academe. Probably bigger than the liberal bogeyman is the public perception that professors really do not work very hard - ten or twelve hours a week in the classroom, summers off, holiday breaks - and once they put in a few years without getting fired, tenure guarantees employment for life. On the other hand, public opinion polls often put university professors ahead of many other professions regarding prestige and confidence. To me this simply demonstrates that most of the public does not really know what a professor does or what goes on in most university classrooms.

And - I am not going to explain what I do or what goes on in my classrooms!! If you really want to know about what professors do, go out to Malibu and spend a few days trying to keep up with my colleagues such as Steve Davis or Jay Brewster just to name a couple out of many exemplary professors. What I am going to write about are the special opportunities that can come your way as a member of the academy. On the lighter side, I am thinking of playing noontime basketball at Pepperdine with the great Lunch Bunch group, which at times would include David Duchovny, Flea, Jefferson Wagner [aka Zuma Jay] and my good friend Scotty Brown. Being able to occassionally play with guys like Robert Turner was special - Robert made us all look good! Although Reggie Miller did not join the Lunch Bunch, I rebounded for him for quite awhile as we talked of 'back home in Indiana." I am also thinking of dozens upon dozens of esteemed colleagues that I also consider friends - Marv Dunphy, renowned mens volleyball coach; Ron Sega, who has flown on two Space Shuttle Missions; Neal Lane, former head of the National Science Foundation and Presidential Science Advisor; Christopher Parkening, preeminent classical guitarst. And, I am also thinking about having the privilege of attending faculty meetings and academic conferences, listening to Jared Diamond share with our science majors, having Ken Starr, Doug Kimec, and Paul Westphal converse with our science faculty, and being able to chat with folks like Chris Matthews, have dinner with the Reverend Dr. John Polkinghorne KBE, and most recently having conversations and, along with three students, going out to dinner with Peter Arnett. These examples are just a few highlights, but they demonstrate one of the blessings of being a university professor.

Sunday, October 28, 2007


Here are a few pictures taken in the HKBU/NTT neighborhood.
Looking Northwest From My Office - Beacon Peak in the Nine Dragon Range
North of Campus - The Palace Residencies with Lion Rock Peak in the Background.
On one of our Saturday hikes, eleven of us went to the summit of Lion Rock. We went in the late afternoon to avoid the heat, had a picnic dinner, and wended our way down in the dark.
On another of our Saturday afternoon hikes, we went to the nearby Kowloon Walled City Park, mentioned in an earlier blog. Along the way was this "Christian Cemetery."
Across the street is an old British Army Barracks that is now staffed minimally by the People's Republic Army. Roughly translated, the sign proclaims "Be Politically Correct! Behave Properly!Protect Your Country Forcefully, and The Military is Hard." :-)
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On Saturdays, I try to organize a hike, city walk or an outing for any of the students who are not traveling or studying. A couple of weekends ago, Rich Johnson, pastor of the campus chapel, led a hike up Sunset Peak. Near the summit, there are a group of stone cabins that were built before WWII by mission workers. They were used as getaways, particularly during the hot, humid summer months. During the war, the Japanese blew the tops off of the buildings so that they could not be used by resistance forces. Many of the cabins have been restored to rustic functionality - there is no road access, it is over an hour hike, and all supplies have to be packed in, including gas cannisters for cooking. Rain water is collected from the roof and there is a spring not too far from the cabins. The Johnson family has been using their ministry's cabin for many years, ever since their now-adult children were fairly young. Unfortunately it was hazy - otherwise one could see other peaks on Lantau Island, the airport below, and across many of the Hong Kong islands.

Sunday, October 21, 2007


Kowloon International Baptist Church - Try to visualize an amalgamation of US Baptist Pastor - Anabaptist Minister of Youth - Vineyard Worship - English-Speaking Chinese congregation with a few internationals mixed in - enthusiastically participating in a lively contemporary worship. I guess you would have to be here to fully comprehend a typical Sunday morning service. About 250 folks gather for the Contemporary Praise and Worship service at 9:30, and another 250 participate in the 11:00 Traditional Worship Service. And at 5:00, another 100 or more attend the Evening Worship Service. In the morning, the message and testimonies are the same, but the music is quite different. Early service - band with keyboard, guitars, bass, drums and percussion, amplified but at a level that makes it possible to hear yourself and the others singing songs such as Amazing Grace - My Chains Are Gone, How Great Is Our God, How Great Thou Art, Breathe, All Creatures, Blessed Be Your Name, and Here I Am To Worship. And today's offeratory was a great trio, two guitars and bass, and great vocals on I Can Only Imagine. Second service - organ prelude and postlude, congregational singing of Joyful, Joyful, We Adore Thee, Glorious Is Thy Name, More About Jesus, Word of God Across The Ages, Wonderful Words Of Life, Teach Me O Lord I Pray, and Go Out And Tell with the choir singing This Is My Word. Congregational worship is a great bit of inspiration to begin the week.

Thursday, October 18, 2007


It is hard imagine that I have been playing basketball for over 50 years, having spent my early years in the long-gone gym at New Paris Grade School. For me it is both a privilege and a blessing to be able to get out on the court and not embarrass myself! Thursday evening is basketball night for me and some of the Pepperdine students. Last night, Maurice, Shawn and Matt all made it over to Junction Road Park where there are nice lighted courts that have been recently resurfaced. The locals play standard playground 21, twos and threes, make-it, take-it. We have been very successful - of course it helps that Maurice and Shawn could both probably play college ball somewhere, and that Matt is 6'8" - it pays to choose your team well! Two of the local fellows that we played with last night were both fairly tall and reasonably talented, but were in awe of the young fellows' play - they even got out their camera to take a group picture! Also, after they played against Maurice for several games [and losing each time], we switched up so that they had the pleasant experience of playing with Maurice - I think that they were very pleased :-)

Friday, October 12, 2007


I believe that all of the students enjoyed their time in Viet Nam, despite the borderline accomodations and four students having a bout with some stomach problems. So, here are a few pictures and abridged comments of several students, taken from their blogs without their permission :-}

Aaron With His Hands Full of "Dragonflies"

Andy, David, Kate & Big Snake

Kris in a Tunnel Entrance at Cu Chi

Chris - End of The Journey, and Perhaps Taking On One Too Many Tigers

"Walking through the dense, muddy jungle with the Mekong River right next to me, it finally hit me: I am in Vietnam. Vietnam is an unbelievable country. It is situated about a 2 hours flight to the south-west from Hong Kong. The South China Sea is on the east border, Laos and Cambodia on the western border. It is one of those countries that you just read about in National Geographic magazines or in the Vietnam War section of your American history book, but it is so much more than that. Get ready; this will be a long entry."

"I was shocked to see so many motorcycles. My eyes widened to images of old and young, two hands strapped on motorcycle handles, in a damn crowded country, moving along so freely and comfortably as if breezing along an ocean side on a beach-buggy. When later I would walk the streets (specifically cross the streets), well, that was a whole new adventure staring at center lights of motorcycles barging my way ready to take me over. At one point, I started singing “I will survive” running across every intersection, hand in hand in a straight line of 5 people. And I thought Hong Kong was bad?!"

"I absolutely loved Vietnam! Viet Nam was a country filled with people on scooters! I thought I was going to die several times!! Viet Nam felt like home because my country is as poor as Viet Nam. Most of the country is filled with rivers, little houses, and lots of wandering animals. I felt like I was in a movie, especially during the boat trip. It was a beautiful experience. We went to this exotic restaurant that seem that it was in the middle of nowhere. The food was delicious and I almost got killed by a Vietnamese woman. I loved it! Everything I see reminds me how much I admire my parents. If it was not for my parents I would probably be the little girl selling flowers on the street just like Vietnamese girls. Most of these people have nothing to give, but they have gratitude, maybe not for God because in Vietnam God is not the center of their lives, but they are loving people."

"After the Palace, we went to the War Remnants Museum. In Vietnam, the war during the 60’s and 70’s is called the American War not the Vietnam War. This museum showcased war artifacts like tanks, guns, and airplanes, as well as many photographs depicting far reaching devastation of the war. Obviously, each side holds their biases and will present those biases, but it was interesting to learn about the Vietnam War from outside a US History class. There were pictures depicting the tragedies of Agent Orange and cluster bombs as well as the inhumane actions of the Vietcong. It gave me an uncensored view of the reality and severity of war. There is nothing glorious about war that should be idealized in the young minds of our children. It is consistently brutal, savage, and devastating."

"Without a doubt the most awesome part of the visit was our overnight excursion to the Mekong Delta region in the extreme south of Viet Nam. We rode a traditional boat along a stretch of the river, stopping at a couple cool shopping shacks along the way, plus a lovely house-cum-restaurant that's been inhabited by the same family for over 300 years. Our river tour culminated with a stop to hold Anacondas (yes, I mean the huge constrictor snake!), followed by a hike through the countryside and into a village by the main finger of the Mekong River, where we jumped back on the boat for the journey back to our bus."

"I can say that I enjoyed the trip. It was an eye opening experience, and I had the opportunity to share it among my peers. I had first hand experiences with the inhumanity of prostitution. These woman seemed to think massages came with sexual acts. It was not a big deal at all. It was weird for someone to not want what they had to offer. We saw where many American soldiers lost their lives, and the consequences of the war. It was really cool to actually see what we've been taught in school. We had a good time, and I got to spend time with people I didn't really know and form a friendship more than surface level. The hours I spent in bed sick as bad as it was, I will never forget. We made the best of it and I wouldn't change a thing. It was an experience I won't forget."

And last but not least - a semi-serious but hilarious commentary on the quality of our hostel.

The Vietnam Human Rights Manifesto

"For all those who struggle against the tyranny of hostel accommodations, we suffer together in hopes of five star habitation for all travelers of the world. We live for the day where we can have breakfast in bed, without the threat of rodents bravely stealing away our food in front of us. We labor for locks on our hotel doors that function, so that we may never enter our room to find vagrants again. My brothers and sisters, our struggle does not end until we make sure no one ever has to wake up in the morning with a cockroach on their eye, brothers. Join us. Donate your money to our cause. Give us all your money so that one day we can achieve freedom. You are either With us, or against US. Join our 'Coalition Of The Willing To Pay For Your Own Hotel If Need Be' as it is your patriotic duty. Don't let the terrorists win. Live like kings, and you shall reap the rewards of being cool in this life AND the afterlife, but most importantly this life."

Wednesday, October 10, 2007


One of the many interesting facts in the CIA Report on Viet Nam is that it is a country about the size of New Mexico, but with 85,000,000 residents rather than the 3,000,000 in NM. When we arrived in the former capital of South Viet Nam, we quickly learned that although Ho Chi Minh City is the official name, many of the locals still prefer Saigon. The names are used interchangeably, but many of the businesses, signs and landmarks are still Saigon. Our tour guide, Viet Nguyen, said that hundreds of years of history as Saigon means that a name change cannot be done so simply and easily. They revere Uncle Ho, but they also maintain their love for Sài Gòn.
Uncle Ho in Can Tho
Most of the time of our Educational Field Trip in Viet Nam was spent in and around Saigon- a city of 7 million people and 3 million motor bikes. We had a day trip to the Cu Chi tunnels and Cao Dai community, and an overnight trip to Can Tho on the Mekong Delta. In Saigon, we toured the city, visited the Reunification Palace which is the fomer Presidential Palace of the Government of South Viet Nam, the Ben Thanh Market, and the War Remnants Museum. Near the Market, I found a place to get a haircut, and it is the first time that I have spent 80,000 on a haircut!!! Of course, the current exchange rate is about 16,000 dong per US dollar, so it really only cost me five bucks. And the fellow did a great job which also included a nice warm rinse.

Heading To The Reunification Palace aka Nick's Crib

{this link is definitely worth your time}
{more links to come}

Thursday, October 04, 2007


And it's one, two, three,
What are we fighting for?
Don't ask me, I don't give a damn,
Next stop is Vietnam;
And it's five, six, seven,
Open up the pearly gates,
Well there ain't no time to wonder why,
Whoopee! We're all gonna die.

Many of you reading this probably do not remember Country Joe and the Fish but Joe's songs were just one of myriad thoughts and memories that came to me during our six-day Educational Field Trip to Viet Nam. It has been 40 years since the most intense years of the American War, as it is refered to in Viet Nam. Even though both countries and most folks have 'moved on,' it seems clear to me that the Viet Nam War was our generation's war, deeply embedded in our psyches regardless of whether one received an exemption from any service, did service as a civilian or in the reserves, or spent time on the ground or in the air in southeast Asia. And thus, just looking over the map, our itinerary, and the flight route from Hong Kong to Saigon brought forth many memories of the 60's - the Gulf of Tonkin, Hanoi, Hue, Da Nang, Khe Sahn, Cam Ranh, Cu Chi, Can Tho, the Mekong Delta.

The 1969 Draft Lottery Number for May 3

However, in 1968, when I graduated from college, everyone got drafted. And as we found out at our physical and mental examinations in Chicago, everyone was fit for the military. Actually there were a couple people who failed and were declared 4-F, but the great majority were I-A, including one friend with a heart murmur [the examining doctor was hard of hearing :-], and another who was nearly blind, but only in one eye! We also learned that by signing our name at the top of the military aptitude test, we had passed our mental competency exam. Thus, being declared I-A, it was then time for my local draft board to consider my request for I-O status and to serve two years in Civilian Public Service [CPS] as a conscientious objector. Given the need for draftees, not many people were granted I-O status. However, with the guidance of the late Bob Detweiler, several of us filled out alternative service papers in 1964 at the time we turned 18 and first registered with the Selective Service System. At the time, we really had no idea how much the war would escalate during our college years with the accompanying pressure on draft boards to meet their quotas, but our group of 5 or 6 guys from College Mennonite Church were all granted I-O status and were assigned to CPS. And each of us had good friends in Viet Nam, which kept us very much emotionally involved in the war, emotions that continue to this day.