Sunday, April 28, 2013

Manly Adventist Cooking: Granola

Smells great cooling on the counter.
Making granola is pretty simple and looks more impressive than it is.  All you need are the right ingredients and an oven.  You can start with this simple granola recipe and add all sorts of extra tasty stuff and make granola your kids will eat by the bowl for snacks.

It's not sugar free, but if you use honey and maple syrup and other natural sweeteners, it's better for you than anything you can get on your grocer's cereal shelves.  You can add your favorite nuts, dried fruits or practically anything. You can throw in a little Chex mix, a load of cashews, craisins, dried pineapple.  I buy a $4 bag of Wal-Mart's Tropical Fruit Trail Mix.  There's enough in a bag for two batches of granola.

If you want to be really impressive, try creating a fancy storage box for your homemade granola.  You can probably find something in an antique store that is unlabeled or that you can relabel. Take your time and find something that fits on the shelf or countertop that holds 10 or 15 cups of granola at a time.  It should seal tight to keep the granola from going stale, although at my house there's not a lot of danger of that.  My problem is keeping it in stock.

It makes a great TV snack or afternoon munch too.  You can make it while you're working on another project around the house.  This makes a great mult-tasking project. It will amaze your loved ones when you repair the window screen and make a batch of incredibly tasty homemade granola at the same time.

The recipe is here:

Bon Appetit'

Uncle Tom

Saturday, April 13, 2013

Master Guide Secrets: The Stars – Part 3

Orion – Pathway to Home 

Hubble view of the Great Nebula in Orion

Dark heavy clouds came up, and clashed against each other. The atmosphere parted and rolled back; then we could look up through the open space in Orion, whence came the voice of God. The holy city will come down through that open space. - -Christian Experience and Teachings of Ellen G. White, page 111.

A lot of people have made fun of that passage as pure fantasy, objecting to the idea that there even is an “open space” in the great nebula. After all, astronomers haven’t found any such thing……………….

Shuffle forward a few years till the Hubble Space Telescope turned its eyes on Orion. 

“Packed into the center of this region are bright lights of the Trapezium stars, the four heftiest stars in the Orion Nebula. Ultraviolet light unleashed by these stars is carving a cavity in the nebula and disrupting the growth of hundreds of smaller stars. The dark speck near the bottom, right of the image is a silhouette of an edge-on disk encircling a young star. Another whitish-looking disk is visible near the bottom, left, just above the two bright stars. This disk is encased in a bubble of gas and dust.”

The Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics includes this notation under "Orion Nebula":

"Some of these collapsing stars can be particularly massive, and can emit large quantities of ionizing ultraviolet radiation. An example of this is seen with the Trapezium cluster. Over time the ultraviolet light from the massive stars at the center of the nebula will push away the surrounding gas and dust in a process called photo evaporation. This process is responsible for creating the interior cavity of the nebula, allowing the stars at the core to be viewed from Earth." -Source. See also Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics.

Once when Joseph Bates was preaching he described the Great Nebula in Orion as one of the great wonders of God's creation.  After the sermon, Ellen White, who was present at the meeting,  approached Elder Bates and told him she had seen that very thing in vision and that she believed the light shining from the Great Nebula shone from heaven itself.

So Orion is, to Seventh-day Adventists, a special place. I always get a thrill in my heart whenever I locate the Great Nebula in my telescope.  Here’s how to find it.

Like last week’s constellation, the Big Dipper, Orion is one of the most distinctive constellations in the night sky.  Because it is close to the ecliptic (the apparent path of the Sun on the celestial sphere as seen from the Earth's center) Orion is visible in both the northern and southern hemispheres.

Located between the zodiac constellations Aries and Taurus and a bit south of them, Orion is a distinct four-sided box of very bright stars.  Unlike most constellations, Orion looks rather like the mythological character it is named after – Orion the hunter.  The stars trace the body of a great hunter with a shield, raised arm and a sword that hangs from a starry belt.   It is most visible in the Northern Hemisphere during the winter months and during the summer months in the Southern hemisphere. 

Orion and its neighboring constellations provide a wealth of celestial objects to look at.  Let’s start first with the stars that make up the constellation itself.  

Orion is very distinct against its background of stars
Meissa, located above the Orion quadrangle where the head would be, is actually a double star with an outlying brown dwarf companion star.  It is surrounded by a gas ring which may be the remnant of another companion that went supernova.  

At Orion’s right shoulder (your left) lies Betelguese (“BAY-tell-jewz”), a bright reddish-orange star. It’s that color because it has expanded and become a massive M-type supergiant star.  Having burned through most of its nuclear fuel, Betelguese will one day explode and become a supernova that will be so bright it will cast a shadow at night and be visible in the daytime for several weeks.  No one knows when this will happen.  It could happen eons from now or next week.  It may already have happened and the light just hasn’t quite reached us yet.  No one really knows. Betelgeuse is the eighth brightest star and second brightest in Orion.

Orion’s left shoulder  is marked by another of Orion’s stars that has given its name to a movie villain.  Bellatrix is a B-type blue giant and 27th brightest star in the sky.  Though too small to go supernova, Bellatrix shines brightly thanks to its very high temperature. 

Two blue-white colored stars mark Orion’s feet.  The one on Orion’s left and our right is Rigel (Rye-jel), the sixth brightest star in the sky and brightest in Orion.  Rigel is actually a triple star system.  The primary star, Rigel A, is a blue-white supergiant.  Rigel B, it’s companion, is itself a spectroscopic binary star made up of two blue-white stars revolving around each other. You can see A and B in most backyard telescopes if you look closely.
Orion’s right foot (the lower left star of the rectangle) is is a less well know star (no movie villains have yet been named after it).  Saiph is about the same size and distance as Rigel, but its surface temperature causes it to emit more light in the ultraviolet range and so appears less bright than Rigel.  

The three stars lined up in a tidy row in the center of the quadrangle formed by Betelgeuse, Bellatrix, Rigel and Saiph mark Orion’s Belt distinctly.  These stars are named Alnitak, Alnilam, and Mintaka. The astronomer who catalogued them, Johann Bayer named them alphabetically from left to right as you look at the constellation.  The belt lies nearly on top of the celestial equator.  

Through an Earth bound telescope the Orion Nebula looks like this.
If you look closely you’ll see the prize find of the Orion group.  What appear to be three dim stars hang down from the belt to form Orion’s sword.  The middle star appears kind of fuzzy. That’s because the middle star isn’t exactly a single star.  It is the Great Nebula in Orion.  There are other nebulae in the region including the distinctive Horsehead nebula.  All are well worth looking at, but the Great Nebula is the one Ellen White spoke about.  The great nebula looks like a small bright flower in an ordinary telescope.  The Hubble Space Telescope has produced an incredibly detailed series of pictures of the Great Nebula.  The Nebula is a great glowing cloud of gas and dust and baby stars.  It seems that the Orion Nebula is one of those places in the universe where brand-new stars are created.  Rather what one would expect the vicinity of  a portal to heaven to be like.

Orion As a Guidepost:

Like the Big Dipper, the constellation Orion can help you find your way to other bright stars and constellations. 

If you draw an arrow from Rigel to Betelgeuse and keep going, you’ll find your way to two bright stars – Castor and Pollux found in Gemini, the Twins. 

Draw a line through the 3 stars of the belt and go to your left and you will come to the brightest star in the night Sky – Sirius the Dog Star.  Sirius is the most noticeable star in the constellation Canis Major or the Big Dog.  If you draw a line from Bellatrix through Betelgeuse and keep going you’ll run into Procyon, the brightest star in Canis Minor (The Little Dog).  These two constellations are Orion’s hunting dogs.

Draw a line to your right through the three belt stars and you’ll come to a bright reddish star called Aldeberan, a red giant that marks the “eye of the bull” in the Constellation Taurus.  Aldeberan is the brightest of the stars in the open cluster that makes up Taurus.  There are five faint stars so close to Aldeberan that astronomers consider them companion stars.
If you keep going on from Taurus, you will you come to the most noticeable of the open star clusters – the Pleiades or Seven Sisters.  The constellation is quite distinct.  It looks like the picture to the left when you look at it with the naked eye.

With even a small telescope you can see a breath-taking jumble of stars if you turn it on the Pleiades.  The whole area is densely packed with stars and wispy nebulae. It’s guaranteed to get you a “pretty cool” from your Pathfinders when you show it to them.
The Pleiades close up

Like the Big Dipper, Orion sits in the middle of five easy-to-find constellations including:
  • Orion itself
  • Canis Major
  • Canis Minor
  • Taurus the Bull
  • The Pleiades
The Horsehead Nebula

There are several fainter and harder to find constellations in or near Orion.  There’s Lepus the Hare, Eridanus the River, Monoceros the Unicorn and Fornax the Furnace. These are much harder to trace, but will give your kids some exercise with a star map if you'd like to teach your group how to use star maps.

You might want to cast around near the Great Nebula and see if you can spot the distinctive Horsehead NebulaYou can find it just south of Alnitak, the most easterly star in Orion's belt.  It's made up of a swirling cloud of dark dust and gas set against a glowing backdrop.  The dark cloud looks just like a horse head sticking up out of a cloud. You can see it clearly in the photograph at the right.

If you consult a star chart you'll see other galaxies and nebulae marked with an "M" and a number.  These objects were originally identified and cataloged in the Messier Catalog.  Messier included pretty much all of the galaxies and nebula you can see with a small telescope in his catalog. There are many other nebulae, galaxies and star clusters that have been cataloged as telescopes have improved and given NGC (New General Catalog) numbers.

Take your time.

Set aside an entire night of star-gazing just for Orion and another for the Big Dipper and its companions.  As natural guideposts and very distinct constellations, these two constellations are the first ones you want to become familiar with if you're new to astronomy.

If you want to bone up on astronomy yourself there's a college introductory workbook and companion software called Red Shift that you can still find on Amazon and other places. It was written by the late Bill O. Walker (Bo Walker), former director of the Tyler Junior College Planetarium and an elder at the Tyler SDA Church in Tyler, Texas.  I've seen it on Amazon as a used book.  Bo was a friend of mine and I used to love to listen to him talk about the stars. I learned to love star gazing at Lone Star Camp as a staff member when Bo was our nature instructor.  We spent a lot of late nights with other staffers sitting out on the boat dock underneath a clear Texas sky, waiting till Orion finally came up over the eastern horizon.  I always look for him whenever the night sky is clear.


Tuesday, April 9, 2013

As Adventist Men We Must Get Behind Our Schools

It's time for a revolution in SDA education

It is time our SDA school system got past the one teacher/one grade classroom model. A lot of Adventist educators are pushing for change, but so far its mostly a top-down effort. It's time for some grass roots activism.  There are a lot of things we could do to change the way our local schools run.  We could, for instance, reach out into the community to home-school families.  Other Christian schools like King’s Academy in Tyler, Texas already do that.  They offer certain classes to home schooled kids that are problematic for home-school parents to provide – athletics, choir, music, equipment intensive science, etc..
Teacher Classroom @ Walla Wall Adventist College
missing a lot of opportunity. There is not reason SDA schools could not do similar outreach programs.

I think it’s time we turned our schools wholesale into mission schools with a focus on outreach. There are many challenges faced by U.S. schools that could be addressed if our schools returned to the original SDA school model.  These issues include:

  2. Discipline
  3. Vocational Training
  4. Home-schooling
  5. Failure to learn
  6. High drop-out rates

Let’s look at one that hits me where I live – ADHD.  Ellen White suggests that some kids should NOT be in formal classrooms till they are age 10 – that they should be free as lambs and allowed to grow.  I think she’s talking about so-called “hyper” kids of the sort who are labeled ADD/ADHD.  Such kids who enter school at a later age, have been shown to catch up quickly with their peers and to function better in classes than those hyper kids who start early and are forced to show up on time, sit in desks, do repetitive work and not sass authority figures from an early age.  This German “Kindergarten” model was adopted by the US education system in the early 1900s.  It was designed to train workers for industries like Kruppwerks, Messerschmidt, Fokker and other war industries. 

The trouble is, relatively few of us work in heavy industry in this country anymore.  In our current economy, the ability to do repetitive tasks and to follow directions is rapidly becoming less important than the ability, as futurist Marshall McLuhan put it, “ learn, unlearn and relearn.”  More and more the workforce needs people who can ramp up their skills and knowledge for a project, do it and then move on, ramp up for another project and do that one.  An education system that reinforces passive obedience and the ability to do repetitive work without complaining is hardly relevant anymore and yet the teachers who manage our  public school classrooms cling desperately to that system.

In the US, we are ill-suited to such a system.  Our ancestors included too many “hyper” people who gto kicked out of their own countries.  These restless souls, not content to remain in the fair lands of the East Coast, pushed the boundaries of this country westward until they hit the Pacific coast and couldn’t go any further.  Then they invented Hollywood which is like an ADD paradise.  In their wake these wild-eyed pioneers left behind them a progeny that now has the highest rate of ADD in the world.  It’s time we as Adventists recognized this and created a school system that recognizes and reaches out to the kids we actually have in this country and not to the ones we wish we had.

Ellen White offers us a model education system that is perfect for the children we have and the needs of our nation’s economy.  She urges in her writings that we offer more flexible options – late entry, more vocational training, Bible study and religious training broadly infused into the curriculum.  She suggests partnering our schools with our medical work and with business and industry to offer our kids real world vocational skills training as early as possible. 

I agree with her. With computer systems and modern testing technology it is possible to identify a student’s interests and to create a vocational profile at a very early age.  In fifth and sixth grades we could help a child choose his or her life’s work and with a properly designed education system, we could send them on their way.  New technology offers a wide range of skills to learn that are not subject to OSHA restrictions the way industrial skills are.  Such technology could allow a child to learn all about architecture, design and construction without their ever having to pick up a circular saw or nail gun until they were old enough.  Such kids would quickly become independent contractors, architects, designers and crew leaders almost right out of high school.

The dropout rate could be sharply reduced, if we gave kids training that was relevant to their skills and interests rather than offering them only a one-size, fits-all precollege preparatory curriculum that they probably will never use.  SDA teachers have long been teaching in the kinds of multi-directional classrooms that could be adapted to address groups of kids on individually tailored programs. One-teacher small school settings are ideal for an individually tailored curriculum.  One-room schoolteachers are already waltzing between a graded and study-at-your-own-pace model and would likely thrive in a truly individualized classroom.  Back when I was teaching we were trained in college to teach in one grade/one classroom schools.  Almost as an afterthought we were given a "seminar" in how to teach in multi-grade one teacher schools.  It was, at best, a cobbled-together affair that didn't work well. And even if you did manage to get your kids to learn, or even excel, woe unto you if there was an ex-teacher on the board because what you were doing didn't look like proper teaching the way she used to do it.  

SDA Teachers all over the country, have been winging it for years, struggling toward the type of individualized model I've been talking about.  It's time they got a little support from the Adventist grassroots. There is a lot of expertise and resources out there in Adventist congregations and its time we used them.

Also, it’s time we made our schools less dependent on donations and more self-sufficient and sustainable. A busy vocational training program would not only offer kids a chance to jump start their careers, but would also generate income to support the school.  The boost to the student’s self-image from helping earn the money to pay for their own schooling cannot be underestimated.  In this fast-paced world, how much better would it be to equip our students to support themselves in better paying jobs from the time they cross that artificial 18 years old line into adulthood.  If they choose to go on to college, then they have the ability to pay off more of their college tuition if they choose to pursue an advanced degree.  That means graduating without a crushing school loan debt.

We can do it.  Modern technology makes it possible. One forward-thinking school board could start the revolution, creating new school designs, reworking curriculums, redesigning classrooms, rewriting coursework, restructuring how it monitors progress and rethinking who its students are.  Any school in the nation could become a self-supporting institution providing not only on-site coursework, but also low cost home schooling resources via the Internet.  Teachers could refocus their energies from disciplining large groups of kids toward mentoring students independent explorations.  They could facilitate students’ efforts to find their way toward the career for which God has fit them.  They could spend time writing new training materials, on-line tests and assessment instruments, reviewing student work and encouraging parents to become more involved.

Teachers would work as coaches and mentors rather than as dry lecturers and disciplinarians.  It’s far easier to discipline kids who have something to do than it is to corral kids who are overwhelmed or bored.  A self-paced system would virtually eliminate the problem of holding back the smart kids and dragging the slower learners along at everyone else’s pace. 

We are standing on the threshold of a revolution in education at a time when the public school system is mired in an institutional bog and failing America’s kids on a massive scale.  It’s time local school boards and local leaders got involved.  

Here’s what you could do to reinvent your own school:

  1. Discuss the issues with your local school board.  If you are a parent, you may start with a couple of informal parent groups, then approach the board about creating a working group. Agree not to look for who is to blame, but to look for solutions to the problem.
  2. Create a strategic plan.  Sit down and imagine where you would like to be in five years and draw up goals and objectives for how to get there.  These will change and be adapted as you move forward.  Remember these are goals for the board, the parents and the church to accomplish NOT the poor overworked, under-paid teacher that’s working for you.  Be sure and include all the teachers, but don’t dump stuff on them.  They have enough to do running the school – especially during a transition period.
  3. Think outside the box.  Do a working session as you develop the goals and objectives and encourage every wild idea you can think of to be put on the table.  Interesting ideas should be assigned to subcommittees to develop and present to the working group for adoption.
  4. Expand your school’s customer base.  The schools should offer educational resources for everyone whether they be kids in traditional classes, home-schoolers or non-SDA families. The school should strengthen its resources so that it provides the kinds of laboratories, libraries, technical, athletic and specialized facilities not readily available to home-school families.  Think about how to use local museums, wildlife parks, libraries and even corporate resources and make yourself the go-to place to find out about them and how to use them.  Become THE community educational resource for information about where to get access to materials and services that beef up a home-school curriculum.  Offer those kids access to athletics, music, science and other coursework that goes beyond the basic 3 R’s. You WILL grow your student body that way and you will be able to bring in some extra income.  Offer a “home school” membership for a small monthly fee that allows home-schoolers access to your resource guides. Charge a reasonable fee for them to join your choir, baseball team or to take science lab classes in your lab facilities.
  5. Meet with other school boards in your conference.  Pull together a conference and invite other school boards to come look at what you are doing and to talk about building alliances.  Perhaps your school has a great science guy, but no one with music experience and a nearby school has a terrific choir director, but no science strength.  Work out an exchange of personnel that benefits both schools and get the conference behind such teacher-sharing arrangements.  You may want to bus the kids to another school for a science day or a music day.  You can even work out a bus-sharing agreement whereby several schools share the cost of a bus between them. 
  6. Draw on community resources.  Identify talented church members with special skills that could be transmitted to your students.  A brilliant working computer programmer, an information systems manager, a wildlife expert, a physician, a chiropractor, nutritionist, account or other expert could perhaps be persuaded to come to your school several times a month for a while to help teach your children’s biology class, computer skills class, and accounting or health classes. Let these guys teach new off-the-curriculum stuff that gives the kids a glimpse of what it’s like to work in the field in this subject. 
  7. Meet with conference, union and national education officials.  Choose someone articulate who has taken a strong leadership role in your efforts to revitalize your school.  Send that person to meet with officials all the way up to the world conference level and seek their blessing for what you are trying to do.  If it works, I promise you the idea will spread. And while you may experience some resistance from the “Wait for me I’m your leader!” crowd, you will also find many allies along the way who will champion your efforts.  
Ellen White was correct when she said the greatest want of the world is the want of men.  Women have been pushing education forward for a long time and we’ve become used to hearing and too-often dismissing them.  It’s time the men in the church took a leadership roll in education and not just as Education department heads.  It’s time we took the lead locally, put ourselves out there and made an effort to contribute to our children’s education.  It involves real work and real sacrifice.  

Your wives and the ladies in the church will likely be surprised and grateful.  They have been holding the school together for a long time through hard work and dedication.  Too often they’ve done it almost alone. Your children, however, will be the real winners when their Dads get involved.  Men are gifted at moving projects forward into new areas, at turning ideas into bricks and mortar and at achieving long-term goals.  

We cannot accept the status quo. We cannot let our education system erode and crumble. We are needed in the breech today, if we are to hold what we have and to advance the cause of Adventist Education.

Tom King, © 2013