Monday, September 26, 2005

Coach Weis Kept His Promise to 10-year old Montana

This story moved me to tears.

Charlie Weis doesn't usually let anyone else call plays on offense. He made an exception for 10-year-old Montana Mazurkiewicz.

The Notre Dame coach met last week with Montana, who had been told by doctors weeks earlier that there was nothing more they could do to stop the spread of his inoperable brain tumor.

"He was a big Notre Dame fan in general, but football especially," said his mother, Cathy Mazurkiewicz.
Weis asked Montana if there was something he could do for him. He agreed to let Montana call the first play against Washington on Saturday. He called "pass right."

Montana never got to see the play. He died Friday at his home.

Weis heard about the death and called Mazurkiewicz on Friday night to assure her he would still call Montana's play.

"He said, 'This game is for Montana, and the play still stands,'" she said.
When the Irish started on their own 1-yard-line following a fumble recovery, Mazurkiewicz wasn't sure Notre Dame would be able to throw a pass. Weis was concerned about that, too. So was quarterback Brady Quinn.

"He said what are we going to do?" Weis said. "I said we have no choice. We're throwing it to the right."
"It was an amazing play. Montana would have been very pleased. I was very pleased," she said. "I was just so overwhelmed. I couldn't watch much more."

Weis called her again after the game, a 36-17 victory by the 13th-ranked Fighting Irish, and said he had a game ball signed by the team that he wanted to bring to the family on Sunday.

"He's a very neat man. Very compassionate," she said. "I just thanked him for using that play, no matter the circumstances."
God bless Coach Charlie Weiss and Notre Dame and the Mazurkiewicz family.

Sunday, September 25, 2005

Extreme Engineering: Hong Kong Airport

Am sitting here with a wireless laptop blogging while watching Discovery Channel's Extreme Engineering's episode on the building of Hong Kong Airport.

To check out a timeline of the airport project, check out this page at the HK Airport home page.

All I can say, AMAZING.

A few highlights:
(1) To build the airport that had to flatten two rocky islands and used the crushed rocks to fill the land between the two islands to make one island where the airport now sits.
(2) To connect the airport to central Hong Kong on Victoria Island, they had to build many miles of superhighway WITHOUT stopping existing traffic and port facility operations so roads were built ELEVATED and at NIGHT.
(3) Hong Kong is comprised of islands and to reach the airport from Victoria Island an underwater tunnel was needed to connect Victoria Island to Kowloon. A prior tunnel already existed but to handle the increased traffic a new one needed to be built.
(4) Kowloon needed to be connected to Lantau Island, the island next to the island where the aiport was being built. Because of heavy cargo ship traffic an underwater tunnel was not possible so a bridge needed to be built and it had to be high enough so ships could go underneath. It also had to be strong enough to withstand typhoons which can slam the area with 200 mph winds.
(5) The entire transportation network had to accomodate cars, trucks and high speed trains
(6) The airport terminal area became the largest enclosed space in the world was built to handle lots of passenger traffic and the world's busiest air cargo facility.
(7) Because the terminal was built on an "artifical" island, they soon discovered that tides might make the ground unstable so the terminal was bolted with massive pillars to the rockbed many feet below the landfill.

Anyway, it is an amazing place as I got to go there in 2001. We arrived from LAX after 16 hour of flying and it was amazing how quickly we got our luggage and were wisked away from the airport toward Victoria Island on a bus.

Thursday, September 22, 2005

Would you have watched?

I have flown Jet Blue. They run a fleet of new AirBus planes and each seat has Direct TV.

The passengers in yesterday's dramatic landing were able to watch the coverage of their story!

If I was on the plane, I don't know how much would I have watched. I suppose being the info hound that I am, I'd watch at least some. I'd probably want to see which cable channel would contact an AirBus engineer who would talk about what the plane can withstand and the likely scenarios.

In local coverage here, one station got a former pilot on and he spoke confidently about pilot training and how tough passenger planes are. He felt everything should work out fine and indeed he was right.

On a tangential note, I have flown Jet Blue out of Long Beach Airport. If you want to feel like you have stepped back in time, see the Long Beach Airport Terminal for yourself as it is small and quaint.

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

Christian Carnival #88

Check out the wide range of topics covered by Christian bloggers at the Christian Carnival hosted this week at Digitus, Finger & Co.

Dramatic Landing at LAX

Screen capture from

For the full story, click here.

The problem with the landing gear was detected shortly after take-off from Burbank airport (a smaller regional airport NE of LAX). The airplane flew low so the gear could be visually inspected. It was decided to land the plane at LAX since it had the most emergency equipment of the various airports in the LA area. The plane flew off the coast for a couple of hours to burn off excess fuel for the landing.

After the tires burned up, the plane rolled to a stop and the passengers exited using the regular mobile ramps instead of having to use the chutes. There were no reports of injury.

Monday, September 19, 2005

Jay Smith - Islam and Christianity: Clash of Civilizations in a Multicultural Age

The other night, I went to First Presbyterian Church of Hollywood to hear a presentation by Jay Smith whose is a missionary to Muslims. His particular approach is to debate with them in London and in other (mostly university) settings as opportunities arise. Some of his material can be found at

Like most Americans, my knowledge of Islam is fairly modest. The other day I was sharing with a friend about this lecture and mentioned that I went in knowing just three things about Islam: (1) not all Muslims are Arab (2) Muslims hold to the Five Pillars of Islam (monotheism - Allah, prayer, charity, observing Ramadan and the pilgrimage to Mecca) and (3) the countries with large Muslim populations are actually Asian countries.

What follows are the notes I took from the presentation.

The situation in London

He began the talk by saying the Islamic groups in London are probably more outspoken than most other places. Over the years, he has befriended some of the people he has debated while others hold hatred for his views.

He mentioned he often goes to "Speaker's Corner" in London to debate with Muslims there usually on Sundays at 4pm. He invited the audience to see him there should they visit London!

In 2002, he got to know a student through debate. Smith found out that student eventually left London to go to Syria to learn Arabic. He would next see a photo of this student on a newspaper in 2003 when that student blew himself up in Tel Aviv.

Smith went to Speaker's Corner the following Sunday and held up the newspaper and asked how many people here support what this man did?

30 raised their hands.

Smith asked, how many would do what he did right here in London?

15 raised their hands.

Thus, the news of the London Underground bombing came as no surprise to Smith. All the bombers in that attempt and in the failed attempt that followed were all citizens of the UK and not foreign terrorists.

In a survey of Islam in the UK taken shortly after 9/11 showed that 15% were radical, 70% nominal and 15% liberal.

The serious readers of the Koran were considered radical. (ed. note - I think this is unfortunate terminology because I don't think of Christians who are serious readers of the Bible should be considered radical). The nominal Muslims were generally non-readers of the Koran. The liberal Muslims were the one who proclaim that Islam is a "religion of peace."

Islam around the world

Smith then gave some quick facts and figures about Islam for our audience: over 1.5 billion Muslims in the world, 700 million can be found in Indonesia, Pakistan, India and Bangladesh and 1 million in London.

He believes that the large numbers in the UK as compared to the USA is intentional because church attendance in the UK is only 5% thus would be more ripe for the spread of Islam. Islamic missionary strategists know that English is become the world language so they need to reach the English world and the UK was more open than the USA for evangelistic efforts.

Smith discussed why there is such hostility to the West and the USA in particular. He mentioned five factors: (1) moral decline of the West is due to the US (2) democracy is incompatible with Islam beliefs (3) usury is a terrible sin and capitalism is a form of usury (4) all of the above mentioned is sustained by the US military and (5) the West is Christian and Christians have corrupted Scripture thus the West is corrupt.

The poll taken shortly after 9/11 was taken again a year later in 2002. The radical portion in the UK grew to 25%. The poll hasn't been taken since but unofficial estimates put the radical group at over 40% today.

History of Islam and the Koran

Smith then moved onto some historical aspects of the rise of Islam.

Muhammad lived in the 7th Century and he received visions from Allah which came to be the Koran text. Smith cited that the oldest biography of Muhammad was about 200 years after his life. Also, the oldest commentary of the Koran was 300 years later. Thus, the time between the actual events and these significant writings is a bit long and thus Smith contends weakens the claims of historicity.

In debates with Muslims, the question often came up, where do you find "Peace" in Islam?

Smith then quoted several passages from the Koran that are used to justify violence. He added that some of the peaceful passages are often mixed with violent ones.

ed. note - I tried to jot down all the verses from the Koran he cited but he spoke fast and I didn't catch all the referencees. I've only list the ones I've been able to confirm by checking an on-line English translation of the Koran.

Smith cited: Sura 9:5, 9:29, 5:32.

The first half of the Koran is from the later Medina part of Muhammad's life. The second half of the Koran is from the earlier Mecca part of his life. For a brief explanation of this see here. The Medina passages are regarded as having precedent over the Mecca passages. 149 verses in the Medina section can be considered as "Sword" verses.

Al-Qaeda is a very violent sect within Islam that cites the "Sword" verses. A 2004 poll showed support for Al-Qaeda in Turkey at 31%, Morocco at 45%, Jordan at 55% and Pakistan at 65%.

Smith believes the "nominals" who used to not read the Koran are now doing so and are adopting the radicalized form of Islam.

Smith's Experiences

Smith says that Bush and Blair can't say the things he is saying because it would be politically incorrect.

He believes Islamic ideology can only be defeated by another ideology and he believes the Christian Gospel is the best idea. He mentioned that Jesus confronted opponents directly. He cited that St. Paul confronted opponents directly.

He mentioned that before St. Paul became a missionary for Christianity he was Saul who was a devout persecutor of Christians. He asked us to pray that there would be an Islamic Paul.

Smith briefly shared that he has met two young men who were very strong Muslims of good reputation who recently became Christians who might be Paul's who can reach the Muslims.

One of them had read an article by Smith and received the Gospel of John to read. He read how Jesus responded on the Cross. He thought about how Muhammad lead military campaigns. Because of this tension, he became a Christian.

The other man Smith met used to watch videos of Smith and then teach Islamic youths that Smith was wrong. He was working in a Mosque when he heard a voice saying, "This is Jesus, follow me." He eventually became a Christian.

Q & A

Q: How does someone in LA respond to Islam?
A: Be friends with Muslims but don't be shy about discussing the differences between Islam and Christianity. Don't be afraid to dialog with the ones who have questions. It makes you learn your Christian faith more when they ask you about your faith. Ask them about why they believe what they believe.

Q: I heard there was some old Koranic texts found in Yemen. What do you know about them?
A: In the 1970s some old texts were found. In the 1980s, 2 German scholars were invited to examine them. The texts seem to be at variance to the Koran as currently configured. Smith has met one of these scholars and that scholar isn't a Christian but one of the leading experts in ancient Middle-Eastern languages. Unfortunately, his findings haven't been yet published and that scholar is fearful about doing so.

Q: Isn't some of the injustices that Muslim societies have suffered part of why they hate the USA?
A: It is a factor. But a lot of people around the world hate America. But only the Islamic ones do suicide bombings. Thus, more is at work than just economic and social injustice. A belief system is in play and the major factor.

Q: How much truth is in the Koran?
A: Scholars are doing source criticism of the Koran. It is quite possible that some sections of the Koran are Jewish apocryphal literature in Arabic. Poetry is about 30% of the Koran and some poems are incredibly similar to some Christian hymns that pre-date the Koran.

Q: Where do you think we will be in 10-20 years in regards to Islam?
A: Military forces isn't going to solve it. Certainly military action and law enforcement might stop some of the terrorists but what has to be defeated is the ideology that breeds the terrorists. They use their scripture to defend their actions. Christians should encourage them to re-assess their scriptures and begin to consider what the Bible has to say.

Q: What is this we hear in the media about 70+ virgins will be the reward for suicide bombers?
A: It is a debated interpretation of Suras 55 and 56.

Q: How to witness to a Muslim?
A: Just like anyone else. Tell them you believe in Jesus and the Bible. It they are open, they will ask you all sorts of questions about it and you should go get answers for them.

Saturday, September 17, 2005

Surprise? UCLA 41 Oklahoma 24

UCLA defeated OU in surprising fashion today at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena. It was the first football game I've been to since the last season of the Toledo era.

One of the key plays was a penalty against OU that nullified an interception. UCLA was leading 27-17 when Olsen's pass was deflected and intercepted. However, a penalty occurred prior to the change of possession.

If the play had stood, OU could have scored to make it 27-24. Instead, UCLA's drive was sustained resulting in a touchdown and a 34-17 lead.

Me and my three friends sat in the general admission section where the ratio was close to 50-50. In our group, there were two UCLA partisans, one Oklahoma supporter and one "neutral."

One of the OU fans behind us acknowledged that this year's team had very few from last year's BCS championship participant.

As for this year's UCLA team, what surprised me was the run defense. Oklahoma's Peterson was limited to 61 yards.

Oklahoma's defense sought to stop the UCLA run and they were successful limiting UCLA's Drew to 70 yards.

Thus, it was up to Olsen, reputed to be just a B, B+ QB, to win the game which was something he couldn't do often in the past two seasons.

Olsen torched OU's pass defense with 3TDs and 313 yards hitting 10 different receivers.

UPDATE: Yahoo! Sports experts and fans had Oklahoma winning. What did Las Vegas say? They had the Bruins favored by 6 1/2. I had my doubts about the Las Vegas odds-makers. But what can you say? They know their stuff?

Tuesday, September 13, 2005

If anyplace needs a county fair, it's LA!

I just had to laugh!

See the commericals for the Los Angeles County Fair.

I've lived almost all my life in LA and I've never been to the LA County Fair so perhaps I'll make the trek out to the Pomona Fairplex.

If I do, I'll be sure to bring the digital camera and photoblog it.

Monday, September 12, 2005

Southern California Sports Report & Rooting for the Giants Tonight

Dodgers defeat the Roxs 7-0. Am now rooting that the Giants hold off the Padres!

Giants lead 4-3 in the bottom on the eighth as of 9:49 PM (PDT).

Its a final, Giants win 4-3. Dodgers down by FIVE games.

Are they really going to catch up?

Probably not. But as fan I can't help but hold out hope!

Meanwhile, the other team with a claim to LA ... the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim ... they insist on making the AL West race interesting by losing to the bottom dwelling Mariners.

I'll be going to my first Angel game this Friday night. I'll take Amtrak down rather than negotiate the parking lot that is Southern California Freeways on a Friday night.

Meanwhile in Southern Division California League play (Class A minor league), the Lake Elsinore Storm is on the verge of eliminating the Lancaster Jethawks by beating them three straight.

In the Northern Division, the San Jose Giants lead the series 2-0 over the Modesto Nuts.

In the most surprising development, UCLA is *favored(???)* over Oklahoma!

Sunday, September 11, 2005

A tape for LA and LA on 9/11 4 Years Later

A new Al-Qaeda tape was released and in it, the speaker said, "Yesterday, London and Madrid. Tomorrow, Los Angeles and Melbourne, Allah willing."

The article goes on to say:
In response to the threats against their city, Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa and the city's police department released a statement this morning. They acknowledged that Los Angeles is a target for terrorists, but said there are no known, credible threats against the city and labeled the tape an instrument of al Qaeda propaganda.

Andrew Sullivan posts on his blog, A PERFECT MORNING: Four years later, another beautiful fall morning. That was the theme of his thoughts on September 16, 2001.

Today, in LA, it was not quite a perfect sunshine morning as it was overcast. But it soon burned away and turned into a perfect afternoon.

In Griffith Park there was a free concert called Symphony in the Glen for Grandparent's Day and a canned food drive for Hope Net who run food pantries for low-income people in LA.

At the Hollywood Bowl the program was Destination Hawaii.

Meanwhile, over at Dodger's Stadium the Dodgers kept their very slim playoff hopes alive by defeating the Padres 7-3.

Over at the Pico and Normandie part of LA, the LA Greek Festival encouraged people to enjoy life.

To the east, the Los Angeles County Fair says enjoy "Moooooosic under the stars" and to "Pig out" on all the great food options.

In the west-side, some would be found checking out the King Tut exhibit.

Saturday, September 03, 2005

Hurricane Relief Efforts

If you haven't done so already, please consider supporting any number of organizations such as:

Search Dog Foundation--they train dogs for Urban Search and Rescue Teams.

Feed the Children--they do exactly that and they are trucking in supplies with the help of corporate partners.

Red Cross--they are the biggest and are on the scene.

To find other agencies check Glenn Reynold's round-up of agencies over at Instapundit.

Also check Truth Laid Bear's list of charities.

Thursday, September 01, 2005

Hurricane Relief Efforts

Support the trainers of Search Dogs!!

UPDATE: I've received an email from the National Disaster Search Dog Foundation. They shared some information about their organization and their role in the current rescue efforts. Summarizing:

As of August 31, 18 Urban Search and Rescue (USR) teams have been dispatched to the area. 26 of the dogs in these teams were trained by the National Disaster Search Dog Foundation (NDSDF). This will be the largest USR effort in the United States since 9/11.

These specially trained dogs are highly mobile in the rough terrain of a disaster site. They can quickly cover areas and using their keen sense of smell determine if anyone is still alive so they can be rescued.

NDSDR trains dogs and provides them at no cost to fire departments and other emergency service agencies.

To find out more about them and donate to their efforts, see their Website: or call 1-888-4K9-HERO.

There are two charities I have donated to in response to the terrible events in the South.

Was listening to KFWB-980AM news and they had a feature story on a team of search dogs that will be sent to the area.

UPDATE: I missed part of the news story when it was aired. I've since heard various other news items pertaining to LA response to the hurricane. I think the full story is that one of the LA County Search and Rescue teams are being sent and that team includes search and rescue dogs. The team will be driving to the scene with equipment and supplies. They didn't fly in because cargo flights are all tied up bringing in food and water and temporary shelters. The trip will take over 30 hours of driving.

The group that trains dogs for these kinds of missions is the Search Dog Foundation. From their web page
The mission of the Search Dog Foundation is to produce the most highly trained canine disaster search teams in the nation. The job of these teams is to find people buried alive in the wreckage of natural disasters and terrorist attacks.
UPDATE: Scrapability (Michelle in the UK) is also profiling Search Dog Foundation.

UPDATE: Jenny of A Jester Unemployed has mentioned Search Dog Foundation in her Blog for Relief Day post.

On KRLA-870AM they are encouraging listeners to support, Feed the Children.

The blogosphere is rallying to get information out. Check out Glenn Reynold's round-up of agencies over at Instapundit. Also, check on Malkin's round-up of the ways bloggers can get involved in being an information source. She also mentions which big businesses are stepping up and which ones aren't.

Instapundit will coordinate a day of fundraising on the blogsphere. Here is his statement:
The plan for tomorrow's (Thursday September 1) flood-aid blogburst: I'd like each blogger participating to put up a post recommending a charity, or other action to help, and linking back to this post where I'll keep a comprehensive list of both bloggers and charities. Basically, a Carnival of Hurricane Relief. That way readers of any blog will have ready access to recommendations on all the blogs. If anyone has a better idea, let me know.
Truth Laid Bear is also keeping a list of bloggers and the charities they are highlighting.

US Coast Guard Rescue Line

State OES (Office of Emergency Services) has learned that trapped victims on the Gulf Coast are calling family, friends, loved-ones, or anyone they can get a call out to in California asking for someone to rescue them. These requests need to go immediately to the US Coast Guard's Rescue Line at 800-323-7233 and immediate assistance will be sent.

Please distribute this information as widely as possible.

Thank you.