16 Dec 2004

Look What I Made!

Submitted by Paul Brown

Yesterday I had a lot of time waiting for simulations (pretty much all day), so spend the waiting time making a simple web interface for a tic-tac-toe program. Wow! You can check it out here. Keep in mind that it may be a work in progress, but at least for now it works. :)

[edit 12/28/05] not so much in progress any more....

12 Oct 2004

On a Roll

Submitted by Paul Brown

Classes are started, work in INESC is daily reality, and regular church activities come around weekly. The weather is turning cool and rainy. Traffic is jammed up about every other morning. In other words, life is becoming normal. :)

Classes started three weeks ago. They are, somewhat to my surprise, almost all in Portuguese. To my even greater surprise, I can follow along without many problems. The classes are all on Thursday afternoons and Fridays, so for Monday to Wednesday I am just working on my projects in the office at INESC. In the beginning of the semester I thought I would have a Portuguese language class two nights a week, but it turned out to be the same level as the one I took during the summer and is full of Spanish students. I have nothing against people from Spain, but they have entirely different needs in studying Portuguese because their language is linguistically similar to Portuguese.

I sent off a report over my first project. The report went through a number of iterations, but by the time it went out the door (figuratively speaking--it was emailed of course), I think it was a pretty good piece of work. There was a period where I didn't have anything to do, but now I have another project to work on. This project involves similar tools and materials as the previous one as it is also looking at the dynamic performance of the power system on small islands with relatively large installation of wind generation, but in this case it is an additional study to follow up on a previous study that was done some time ago and is more involved. As always I am applying my maximum ingenuity to minimize the amount of work I have to do get to the answer!

I have found a church that I am quite involved in now. The young people there ("jovens") are trying to become more active both in the church and in impacting the community. Last Sunday we led a Sunday evening service for the first time in a while. I played the guitar for the choruses, marking my first public "performance" with a guitar. I was also part of a mime act that we did. I have been playing and practicing guitar in most of my spare time lately since up till now the guitar has been mostly just for fun. Also I have been writing some articles for a monthly jornal that one of the girls in the group has been publishing. (For now it is just of the sort made in Word but she has hopes to get access to a computer that can run more professional software to make it really like a jornal.)

Gone are the days where the sky was always blue and the temperature always perfect! Now we have entered the period where it will get cooler and rainier. In fact I don't mind this so much except that I don't want to get wet (so far successful), and since no one else does either, the traffic is sometimes terrible. The morning choise is often whether I want to spend half an hour walking to work or spend half an hour crawling along in the bus.

I am looking forward to moving to another apartment sometime later this month where I will be able to walk to campus in I guess about 15 min. and not have to fool with all the traffic. The move will also make me closer to church and pretty much everything else as well. While the new place is the same price as my current apartment, it will have newer furniture and owners that I hope I have a better chance of convincing to let us use the living room instead of renting it out as another bedroom or just closing it off.

Last week I bought my airplane tickets to head for Iowa for Christmas and Sarah's wedding this winter. Although there was some confusion with the website I bought them through, I still ended up with a nice schedule that avoids going through Paris (the tight scheduling there is I think impossible to meet given the size of the airport). Even though the trip is still more than two months away, I am already looking forward to seeing my family again, visiting Cornerstone, and generally just being "home" where things are comfortable. That time will fall just before my finals, which will pretty much determine my grade in every class, so it won't be (or at least shouldn't be) a complete vacation.

23 Aug 2004

Reflections on a week at camp

Submitted by Paul Brown

I had the privilege to attend a one-week Baptist camp for young people last week. It was a very encouraging and fun week and I hope that sharing some of my experiences can be an encouragement for others as well. The week was full of many activities ranging from worship and teaching from the Bible to sleeping on the beach. This "article" was written in response to a request by my Sunday school teacher.

The first group activity each day was a Bible study with Raquel. She preached from Exodus 20 on five out of the Ten Commandments: the third (v. 7), the fourth (vs. 8-11), the fifth (v. 12), the seventh (v. 14), and the ninth (v. 16). Like Jesus in the Sermon on the Mount (Mat. 5-7), Raquel gave applications of how we might break the spirit of the commandments in ways that are not explicit in the text of the commandment itself. From this teaching I don’t think I learned many new things since I have already given thought to these subjects, however, the problem in walking in righteousness more often lies not in failing to know right thing to do but in actually doing it. This part of the week was a great encouragement to me to strive hard to walk in the ways of Jesus.

There was one day in which I got stirred up because I disagreed with Raquel. She taught that Sunday is for Christians as the Sabbath (Saturday) was for the Jews. What bothered me wasn’t the idea of a day of rest (I think that’s healthy) or setting aside Sunday for worship both with the church and in private but the presentation of the fourth commandment as a rule for Christians. Afterwards I spent time thinking about the issue more and found my opinion the same. Nonetheless, it was a good exercise to work through what the Bible teaches again.

After the Bible study each day, we met with “mini-groups” for a time of discussion over the day’s lesson in the context of a smaller group of about eight people. My mini-group leader had a number of questions or topics prepared to start us on discussion. Unfortunately my group had a couple of guys who continuously made jokes that kept everyone laughing but also kept the group from seriously discussing things in any meaningful way. The mini-group was also the period in which I had the most language difficulties.

During two of the afternoons we watched some (American) movies dealing with honor: Men of Honor and The Last Samurai. These were not just entertaining movies, but they also presented powerful images of men acting honorably, willing to lay down even their lives in pursuit of a purpose higher than themselves. Viewed from a Christian perspective, these movies reminded me of the strength of the great exhortations and examples in the New Testament like “Let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us.” (Heb. 12:1) and “I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. Brothers, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead. I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.” (Phil. 3:12-14).

On three other afternoons we had time for “you choose” sessions of studying a topic (yes, you guessed it) of our choice. I went to the sessions about “praise” where we studied what adoration is, ways that adoration is expressed to God in the Bible, and some things that can hinder adoration. What I took away most from these sessions was the concept of a life driven by adoration of God occasionally punctuated by expressions of this adoration in song, prayer, etc.

In the evenings we had services in the chapel with worship in music led by various campers on various instruments and in the end with preaching by Pastor Pedro. This time of preaching was one of the highlights of the week for me. Pastor Pedro presented with great style powerful challenges for us to live lives fully committed to Christ, bearing fruit in increasing holiness. Fortunately and in answer to prayer, I understood the majority of these messages, for the most part only missing the jokes. Like the morning teaching, this time was not so much about learning new things as about being encouraged to live passionately a life worth of the love the Lord has lavished on me. (Col. 1:10)

Although we had many activities planned and scheduled for us, nonetheless there was significant free time to use as we pleased. One thing I especially enjoyed was getting up a little early to spend quiet time reading and meditating on passages in the Bible, praying, and reflecting on the previous day. Most of the rest of my free time was spent with Lemuel talking about all kinds of things, sometimes in English, sometimes in Portuguese, playing games, napping on the beach, or just relaxing on the swings. I don’t know how much my Portuguese improved, but there was noticeable (to me) improvement in Lemuel’s English from the beginning to the end of the week.

In the end the answer to the question “Did you enjoy the week at camp?” is a resounding “Yes!”. I feel as much love for the Lord and as much energy to live for him as I ever have and am eager to see the fruit that he will bear in my life and in the other young people from the church. “No eye has seen, no ear has heard, no mind has conceived what God has prepared for those who love him.” (1 Cor. 2:9)

11 Aug 2004

A Day in the Life....

Submitted by Paul Brown

I haven't been doing anything really extraordinary or interesting lately, so I thought I would just write a little about what I do on a typical day. Basically, this is what I have been up to for the last two weeks since the language program finished at the end of July.

7:30 - The alarm goes off for the first time.
7:45 - Get up, get cleaned up in the bathroom
8:15 - Do some situps and pushups to maintain my stunning figure :)
8:30 - Make breakfast, comprised of delicious oatmeal and eggs cooked to perfection, all accompanied by a fine glass of milk or water.
9:00 - Head out for INESC. Generally I walk 15 minutes into Porto proper and catch a bus the rest of the way.
9:30 - Arrive in INESC, say good morning to the others that are here, and get to work checking email, looking up the news, and possibly making some progress on my project.
12:00 - Go for lunch. Sometimes in the food court near INESC, sometimes to a mall, usually with someone(s) from the office. After we eat, we can browse through things at the mall, or just sit and talk--pretty much anything except work!
2:00 - Return from lunch, nose back to the grindstone!
5 or 6:00 - Go home, usually getting a bus with someone from INESC and getting off when it stops going closer to where I live, then walking the rest of the way. If I need groceries, I can stop on the way.
5:30 or 6:30 - Get home, maybe have a snack of some fruit or bread, then sit down to read for a while. I've cruised through a couple long Stephen King novels I borrowed from Naing and am now starting a Portuguese book (not exactly cruising....).
9:00 - Take a break from reading to throw together something to eat. Pan-fried chicken, rice, and vegetables from the freezer have been popular, though it could also be pan-friend pork. Or even something crazy like pan-fried meat and rice with tomatoes on top!!
9:30 - Back to reading....
10:30 - Get ready for bed, write in my journal for a while, do some Bible studying, and hit the hay.

24 Jul 2004

Update after Week 4

Submitted by Paul Brown

I'm coming up on the end of my fourth week here in Porto, and I can say that things are going well, but not as fast as at first.

Language class is not very stressful for me any more, and although there are still times when I feel like I'm underperforming, there are also times when I really feel like I'm moving along. Speaking is still not natural and I often forget to do the right conjugation of verbs, but last night I was able to read a computer magazine in Portuguese without much difficulty and without having to continuously use my dictionary.

Next week I will meet with Prof. Pecas Lopes (my boss at INESC) and another researcher to learn what my work will be for August. Most of the rest of people in INESC will be on break, so I will get exercise my "self-starter" skills. With any luck I will get a new computer since the one I am using now is in the 300 MHz range and I will mostly be doing computer simulations.

Last Sunday I found a Baptist church here in Porto that I am looking forward to attending again tomorrow. So as not to hang too much weight on first impressions, I'll leave it at that, but I hope that before long I'll be able to say with some confidence that I have found a church home.

Another batch of photos have been posted to the gallery, this time complete with captions and everything. I have also updated the times to local time here (having been in EDT before, since that was how the camera clock was set).


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