Geneva 2006

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I just returned from Geneva, Switzerland–a trip I decided to take a mere 3 weeks ago. Every year, my parents have a business trip in late September to some international location (for legal reasons, these meetings have to take place outside the US). Since I graduated high school in 2000 and chose to attend Stanford (a quarter school), I’ve had the good fortune to not be in class during these trips, and thus was able to tag along with my folks. We’ve been to some great places–London (twice), Dublin, Lisbon, and Barcelona (after I graduated). I didn’t go on the 2005 trip, but since my work schedule permitted this year, I was able to go to Geneva. (For a few older blogs of such trips, see here for Lisbon 2002 and here for Barcelona 2004).

These trips are always fun, not least because I’ve gotten to know many of the other attendees, all great people. At times there have even been sons or daughters there like myself, and so there are often young people to hang out with, in addition to spending great time with my parents. My friend Laura was there, of this January’s Bahamas trip fame.

The group dinners are generally quite nice, and so it’s also fun to bring “dress-up” clothes to wear consistently. (I wore my suit this week for the first time since last December, I think). This trip was particularly special for me, however, because it happened that my 24th birthday was during the trip, and I had a wonderful time celebrating it with my parents and some friends, both at a spectacular dinner and later at our pub of choice, over fine cuban cigars and cognac. I certainly couldn’t ask for a better birthday experience, though I did miss my friends from home. As an extra special gift, my parents also let me use some of their airline upgrade coupons, so we all traveled to and from Geneva in business / first class. What luxury!

I spent most of my time in Geneva sleeping, hanging out in our great hotel (the Hotel d’Angleterre), working out or using the sauna, catching up on my reading, or wandering around taking pictures and buying sandwiches using poor French. One tourist highlight was definitely the Patek Philippe museum, which had on exhibit some of the oldest and most complicated watches in the world. The sheer amount of time, love, and skill put into these objects by their craftsmen was literally awing. One complicated mechanical watch we saw had over 1800 unique parts, individually designed and produced and assembled. This watch, like some others in the exhibit, kept track of the time, of course, but also such measurements as the day, the week, the month, the year, the lunar phases, sidereal time, the location of certain stars in the sky, etc… (taking into account leap years, etc..–it’s guaranteed to be accurate for something like 500 years if kept wound).

Life in Geneva appears to be very expensive, and the same was true of souvenirs. Accordingly, the only things I brought back were two beer glasses (one a .5L stein (Cardinal), and the other a Belgian snifter (Leffe)), both procured by my dad, free for the asking from bars. Incidentally, the beer of the trip was hands-down the Belgian Leffe (the blonde variety). It had a light color, a creamy texture, and a strong, sweet taste. It was not overpowering, though, and had a very strong spruce hops aroma which kept the whole thing dynamic and interesting. It probably now ranks in my top 5 beer list.

Well, check out the pictures, and let me know what you think!

Futurebeer, NT Wright, and Frisbee Hype

Some random notes:

First, in trying to assist Nyffy with his desire to one day become the Brewmaster of Heaven, a contingent of my friends spent some time this last weekend brewing a batch of Futurebeer:

The current state of Futurebeer

Futurebeer is beer, after a while. It is not yet, however. It’s that same mysterious “already but not yet” we find with the kingdom of God. Anyway, it was fun to go through a process involving (mostly) natural ingredients that will culminate in pure enjoyment after a period of care and waiting. Being a creative person who works mostly with digital or musical media, I was very glad to work with actual substances to create a product. It’s sort of like the joy I have found in cooking nice meals, only greater due to the extended period of time involved in the process.

Second, I received in the mail from Amazon the first three books in NT Wright’s massive “Question of God” undertaking, beginning with The New Testament and the People of God. After hearing much about these works and reading some other stuff of Wright’s, I’m very excited to go on an extended journey of engagement with history, theology, and literary criticism on issues surrounding the origins of Christianity. Thankfully, I’ve finished Alister McGrath’s likewise-authoritative critical-realism-inspired trilogy on scientific theology, so I now have room for another expedition. You will no doubt be hearing various thoughts on the books here, which is why I thought I’d give forewarning. As a bit of a taste, here’s a paragraph from the introduction:

The New Testament has not been around as long as the land of Israel, but in other ways there are remarkable parallels. It is a small book, smaller than anybody else’s holy book, small enough to be read through in a day or two. But it has had an importance belied by its slim appearance. It has again and again been a battleground for warring armies. Sometimes they have come to plunder its streasures for their own use, or to annex bits of its territory as part of a larger empire in need of a few extra strategic mountains, especially holy ones. Somestimes they have come to fight their private battles on neutral territory, finding in the debates about a book or a passage a convenient place to stage a war which is really between two worldviews or philosophies, themselves comparatively unrelated to the New Testament and its concerns. There are many places whose fragile beauty has been trampled by heavy-footed exegetes in search of a Greek root, a quick sermon, or a political slogan. And yet it has remained a powerful and evocative book, full of delicacy and majesty, tears and laughter.

What ought one to do with the New Testament? We may take it for granted that it will be no good trying to prevent its still being used as a battleground. No border fences would be strong enough to keep out the philosophers, the philologists, the politicians and the casual tourists; nor should we erect them if they were. There are many who have come to pilfer and have stayed to be pilgrims. To place all or part of this book within a sacred enclosure would be to invite a dominical rebuke: my house is to be a house of prayer for all the nations. Past attempts to keep it for one group only–the take-over bids by the scholars and the pietists, the fundamentalists and the armchair social workers–have ended with unseemly battles, the equivalent of the sad struggle for the control of Holy Places in the land of israel. This book is a book of wisdom for all peoples, but we have made it a den of scholarship, or of a narrow, hard and exclusive piety.

Inspiring, no?

Third, I am going to Switzerland next week. I would like to get a good digital SLR camera before then. Anyone have one they want to sell? Or any recommendations?

Fourth, I wanted to upload something to YouTube, but only have 3 or 4 home videos on my computer. Only one happened to be appropriately flattering of myself, and since the purpose of the Internet is for people to upload flattering things, I chose to throw it in to the churning mill. It’s from last year in Costa Rica when Justin turned on the camera and told me to go catch a frisbee in the ocean. You can see the video here. After uploading I found many videos of real ultimate frisbee layouts, which were much more impressive. So watch those too.

Until next time, this has been your beer, academic theology, travel, and sports update. Cheers.