Sunday, August 13, 2017

What is our hope?

I recently came upon Mary Jo Balistreri's lyrical, poignant essay, At the Window, in Issue 13 (spring 2017) of Minerva Rising. Balistreri was 71 when she wrote the essay, speaking of the present and the past, of her dead grandsons and her dying daughter, and her own failing body.

I re-read the essay during a week when I learned of two deaths. I met Bill, who was about my age, in the early 1980s; I last saw him a few years ago in Yosemite. He died in an automobile accident earlier this month. The next day, Marshall, 71, perished in an airplane crash. I served with Marshall several years ago in the coffee and hospitality crew at our church's San Mateo site.

My mind turned toward my own future as these events, and Balistreri's essay, seeped into my consciousness. I reminded myself that every day is a gift, that life is uncertain. And I thought about hope. Yesterday morning, the lovely Carol read to me from Frederick Buechner's Secrets in the Dark (HarperCollins, 2006) [author's site]:

To remember the past is to see that we are here today by grace, that we have survived as a gift.

And what does that mean about the future? What do we have to hope for, you and I? Humanly speaking, we have only the human best to hope for: that we will live out our days in something like peace and the ones we love with us; that if our best dreams are never to come true, neither at least will our worst fears; that something we find to do with our lives will make some little difference for good somewhere; and that when our lives end we will be remembered a little while for the little good we did. That is our human hope.

op. cit. pp. 63–64, in “A Room Called Remember”
Buechner goes on to describe a better, fuller hope.
Then death shall be no more, neither shall there be any mourning or crying. Then shall my eyes behold him and not as a stranger. Then his Kingdom shall come at last and his will shall be done in us and through us and for us.
loc. cit.
This is hope indeed. We pray to God, “Thy kingdom come, thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.” but speaking for myself I often fail to do what I know to be his will. Love my enemies, pray for my persecutors? I have the hope that one day I'll be fully willing and able to do all that.

But for today, I put one foot in front of the other. I ask for help. I fall down. I get up. And I remember, or try to, what God has done in my life and in the world, and I hope.

Friday, July 28, 2017

Come to me, rev2

Is this a little easier to follow?
This is not exactly a continuation of an earlier post… well, maybe it is. Or it could be. I’m using it to explore the idea of Matthew 11:28-30 as a gospel invitation.

What was I doing in this Bible lecture? Well, actually I know how I got here—I tried to get a date with Doreen, but she got me to go to “Alpha” with her, then I found myself reading the… the New Testament for crying out loud!

Then I was hooked—not just on her, but on the subject; I mean I really wanted to understand all this. So when she invited me to a talk about the Good News of Jesus for Today (approximately), it sounded interesting enough that I didn’t even mind when she couldn’t make it at the last minute. Anyway, the lecture was starting.

“Jesus said, ‘Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.’ This invitation is the centerpiece and summary of Matthew’s gospel.”

That confused me. I mean, was that it? I heard several times in college and grad school that “All have sinned…” which I never liked much, but this guy was talking about a yoke?

“What makes us weary and burdened?” he went on. “What makes me weary is trying to manage other people’s opinions of me.” I could relate to that one.

“And what burdens do we carry?” he continued. “Jesus isn’t talking about rent and groceries. But there are burdens we really shouldn’t bear, things we worry about—things I worry about—that we need to set down,” he said.

I started making a mental list, which to be honest didn’t include world peace or a cure for AIDS; the issues, I’m embarrassed to say, were mostly about me. Affording a house, the next round of layoffs in the rumor mill, this sort of thing.


“So what did you think, Ray?” Jeff asked over a beer. I’d met him at Alpha, and wasn’t sure if he was like me, or if he already believed most of this.

“It’s more appealing than ‘You’re all sinners,’” I said.

“Yeah,” he said. “I mean, I don’t disagree with all that, but ‘Come to me’ is more, you know, inviting.”

OK, he did believe most of that. So I wondered aloud why he was here.

“Well,” he began, “I’ve been asking myself on and off the past few years, ‘What is the gospel?’ I mean, when Jesus preached the good news about 2,000 years ago, people were mostly really happy to hear it. What message would appeal that way to my friends and neighbors? Some years ago, I actually spent time knocking on people’s doors and asking them what they thought about Jesus. And if they let me, I’d explain the good news that although they were sinners, Jesus died for them. Results were, as they say, mixed.”

“Wow! You never struck me as one of them,” I said. He chuckled a bit—he didn’t seem embarrassed at all. “So you still believe that, but you’re wondering how to market it better? I mean, ‘Come to me…’ and ‘All you guys are sinners’ sound like they came from different books.”

Jeff had an answer for that one. “Jesus did say ‘Come to me…’ but he also said that looking on a woman to lust after her was committing adultery in your heart. And that being angry at someone was like killing them. He also said to love your enemies. When I put all that together, I get the picture that we are all sinners. So he effectively said that ‘sinners’ thing too. Jesus healed a paralyzed man, but before he healed him, he said to him, ‘Your sins are forgiven.’ This got him into some trouble with the religious authorities of his day. He definitely did it on purpose.”

I remembered that story. “Didn’t he say something like ‘So that you guys know I have authority to forgive sins’?”

“Yes he did! He made a big deal about having that power.” He was on a roll now. “Here’s how the thing about sinners ties in. If I don’t know that my sins are forgiven, I’ll always be insecure, so I’ll feel compelled to try to manage people’s opinions. I don’t think it’s possible to escape the addiction to ‘impression management’ unless we know our sins are forgiven.”

“Whoa,” I said. “If I’m honest, I’d have to say I do a lot to give the impression that I’m cool or smart or whatever… though at the same time I try to tell myself that I shouldn’t care so much what everybody thinks. And it is tiring, like the guy said.”

“We like to think we’re too sophisticated for this, but we all have a kind of primitive fear of being found out. That’s why it’s good news that Jesus has the power to forgive sins.”

“So when Jesus says, ‘Take my yoke’ and ‘learn from me,’ he’s deliberately leaving some parts out—doing a kind of head fake?” I asked.

“Well, he doesn’t give the entire dissertation in every sound bite.”

Did Jeff sound a little defensive? But he had a point. “Fair enough,” I replied. “But if somebody hears the ‘summary and center-piece’ and tries to live like Jesus and learn from him, they’ll get frustrated that it’s not actually possible?” So much for all those guys who think religion is a crutch; this one at least was looking like a cast-iron bitch.

He paused a moment. “When Peter Drucker was a boy, his piano teacher told him, ‘You will never play Mozart the way Arthur Schnabel does. But there is no reason in the world why you should not play your scales the way he does.’ Drucker’s point was that a lot of practice is required. We can’t learn the Jesus way like we learn which sorting algorithm works best for which dataset. It’s a lifetime of walking with him. That’s why he said ‘yoke’; he didn’t say ‘teleprompter.’

“Jesus isn’t a textbook; he has a different way of teaching. Do you know the parable of the sower?” I didn’t. “Jesus says the kingdom of God is like this strange guy who throws seed everywhere.”

“Everywhere?” I asked. “Like not just in his field?”

“Right. On the road, on the rocks, in the weeds—very inefficient. The text says that some people came around him to ask what it meant, and Jesus said, ‘The secrets of the kingdom are given to you…’”

What? “Who’s the ‘you’ there?” I wanted to know.

“That’s exactly the point. Most of the audience said, ‘Great sermon, Rabbi,’ then went home and forgot all about it.”

“But the few who didn’t?” I asked…

“Right. The ones who said, ‘Uh, Rabbi, what did you mean?’ Those were the ones who heard the secrets of the kingdom.”

“So if you ask and keep asking, you’ll get it?” I think Jesus said something like that, too.

Jeff was nodding. “You know how every hotel room in America has a Bible in it?” I did, and not just in the USA either. “Probably 99% of the guests never even open it.”

I saw where he was going. “But anyone who reads it, and keeps reading to try and understand it and live it…”

“They get the secrets of the kingdom,” he said.

Fascinating. The words of the parable say one thing… “So the parable is an invitation to do something, not just an explanation of interesting facts?”

“Exactly,” he said. “He’s not giving us a dissertation or a topo map or a textbook. Instead he’s inviting us into a relationship. An apprenticeship.”

“So when he invites people to ‘learn from me,’ as he says,…”

“That’s apprenticeship,” Jeff completed the thought. The parable—well, its interpretation at least—also invites us to apprenticeship. But ‘learn from me…’ is more straightforward.

“So what do you think, Jeff?” I wanted to know. “You’ve been thinking about what the gospel is for today; do you think that’s it? That Jesus is taking apprentices, and if we sign up, we can get healing from our addictions and burdens?”

He was nodding. “Hey, that’s pretty good! Mind if I use that?”


Of course, the gospel is more than that (why is Romans 1:17 good news?). But as far as why it might be interesting to someone who doesn’t know Jesus, is it all that bad as a summary?

Monday, July 17, 2017

Come to me… Is this the gospel?

This is not exactly a continuation of an earlier post… well, maybe it is. Or it could be. I’m using it to explore the idea of Matthew 11:28-30 as a gospel invitation.

What was I doing in this Bible lecture? Well, actually I know how I got here—I tried to get a date with Doreen, but she got me to go to “Alpha” with her, then I found myself reading the… the New Testament for crying out loud!

Then I was hooked—not just on her, but on the subject; I mean I really wanted to understand all this. So when she invited me to a talk about the Good News of Jesus for Today (approximately), it sounded interesting enough that I didn’t even mind when she couldn’t make it at the last minute. Anyway, the lecture was starting.

“Jesus said, ‘Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.’ This invitation is the centerpiece and summary of Matthew’s gospel.”

That confused me. I mean, was that it? I heard several times in college and grad school that “All have sinned…” which I never liked much, but this guy was talking about a yoke?

“What makes us weary and burdened?” he went on. “What makes me weary is trying to manage other people’s opinions of me.” I could relate to that one.

“And what burdens do we carry?” he continued. “Jesus isn’t talking about rent and groceries. But there are burdens we really shouldn’t bear, things we worry about—things I worry about—that we need to set down,” he said. I started making a mental list, which to be honest didn’t include world peace or a cure for AIDS; the issues, I’m embarrassed to say, were mostly about me. Affording a house, the next round of layoffs in the rumor mill, this sort of thing.


“So what did you think, Ray?” Jeff asked over a beer. I’d met him at Alpha, and wasn’t sure if he was like me, or if he already believed most of this.

“It’s more appealing than ‘You’re all sinners,’” I said.

“Yeah,” he said. “I mean, I don’t disagree with all that, but ‘Come to me’ is more, you know, inviting.”

OK, he did believe most of that. So I wondered aloud why he was here.

“I’ve been asking myself on and off the past few years, ‘What is the gospel?’ I mean, when Jesus preached the good news about 2,000 years ago, people were mostly really happy to hear it. What message would appeal that way to my friends and neighbors? Some years ago, I actually spent time knocking on people’s doors and asking them what they thought about Jesus. And if they let me, I’d explain the good news that although they were sinners, Jesus died for them. Results were, as they say, mixed.”

“Wow! You never struck me as one of them.” He chuckled a bit—he didn’t seem embarrassed at all. “So you still believe that, but you’re wondering how to market it better? I mean, ‘Come to me…’ and ‘All you guys are sinners’ sound like they came from different books.”

“Jesus did say ‘Come to me…’ but he also said that looking on a woman to lust after her was committing adultery in your heart. And that being angry at someone was like killing them. He also said to love your enemies. When I put all that together, I get the picture that we are all sinners. So he effectively said that ‘sinners’ thing too.

“Jesus healed a paralyzed man, but before he healed him, he said to him, ‘Your sins are forgiven.’ This got him into some trouble with the religious authorities of his day. He definitely did it on purpose.”

I remembered that story. “Didn’t he say something like ‘So that you guys know I have authority to forgive sins’?”

“Yes he did! He made a big deal about having that power. Here’s how the thing about sinners ties in. If I don’t know that my sins are forgiven, I’ll be compelled to try to manage people’s opinions. I don’t think it’s possible to escape the addiction to ‘impression management’ unless we know our sins are forgiven.”

“Whoa. If I’m honest, I’d have to say I do a lot to give the impression that I’m cool or smart or whatever… though at the same time I try to tell myself that I shouldn’t care so much what everybody thinks. And it is tiring, like the guy said.”

“We like to think we’re too sophisticated for this, but we all have a kind of primitive fear of being found out. That’s why it’s good news that Jesus has the power to forgive sins.”

“So when Jesus says, ‘Take my yoke’ and ‘learn from me,’ he’s deliberately leaving some parts out—doing a kind of head fake?”

“Well, he doesn’t give the entire dissertation in every sound bite.” Did Jeff sound a little defensive? But he had a point.

“Fair enough. But if somebody hears the ‘summary and center-piece’ and tries to live like Jesus and learn from him, they’ll get frustrated that it’s not actually possible?” So much for all those guys who think religion is a crutch; this one at least was looking like a cast-iron bitch.

He paused a moment. “When Peter Drucker was a boy, his piano teacher told him, ‘You will never play Mozart the way Arthur Schnabel does. But there is no reason in the world why you should not play your scales the way he does.’ Drucker’s point was that a lot of practice is required. We can’t learn the Jesus way like we learn which sorting algorithm works best for which dataset. It’s a lifetime of walking with him. That’s why he said ‘yoke’; he didn’ say ‘teleprompter.’

“Jesus isn’t a textbook; he has a different way of teaching. Do you know the parable of the sower?” I didn’t. “Jesus says the kingdom of God is like this strange guy who throws seed everywhere.”

“Everywhere? Like not just in his field?”

“Right. On the road, on the rocks, in the weeds—very inefficient. The text says that some people came around him to ask what it meant, and Jesus said, ‘The secrets of the kingdom are given to you…’”

What? “Who’s the ‘you’ there?” I wanted to know.

“That’s exactly the point. Most of the audience said, ‘Great sermon, Rabbi,’ then went home and forgot all about it.”

“But the few who didn’t?” I asked…

“Right. The ones who said, ‘Uh, Rabbi, what did you mean?’ Those were the ones who heard the secrets of the kingdom.”

“So if you ask and keep asking, you’ll get it?” I think Jesus said something like that, too.

Jeff was nodding. “You know how every hotel room in America has a Bible in it?” I did, and not just in the USA either. “Probably 99% of the guests never even open it.”

I saw where he was going. “But anyone who reads it, and keeps reading to try and understand it and live it…”

“They get the secrets of the kingdom.”

Fascinating. The words of the parable say one thing… “So the parable is an invitation to do something, not just an explanation of interesting facts.”

“Exactly. He’s not giving us a dissertation or a topo map or a textbook. Instead he’s inviting us into a relationship. An apprenticeship.”

“So when he invites people to ‘learn from me,’ as he says,…”

“That’s apprenticeship,” Jeff completed the thought. The parable—well, its interpretation at least—also invites us to apprenticeship. But ‘learn from me…’ is more straightforward.

“So what do you think, Jeff?” I wanted to know. “You’ve been thinking about what the gospel is for today; do you think that’s it? That Jesus is taking apprentices, and if we sign up, we can get healing from our addictions and burdens?”

He was nodding. “Hey, that’s pretty good! Mind if I use that?”


Of course, the gospel is more than that (why is Romans 1:17 good news?). But as far as why it might be interesting to someone who doesn’t know Jesus, is it all that bad as a summary?

Monday, June 26, 2017

Adventures in Automotive Technology, Prius Edition

FRESNO, Friday 6pm: 150 miles from home, on our way back from a week in the mountains, we're on our way to meet our friend Sylvia for dinner, when warning indicators suddenly appear on our 2006 Prius. We bought it 15 months ago with 57,000 miles on it; now the odometer reads 80,000.

The icons include a scary red triangle with a bright "!" in the middle, and something that looks like a skinny doughnut. On the "Multi-Information Display" we see the red outline of a car profile with another red "!" superimposed.

The car drives just fine, so we drive another few miles to dinner, where we enjoy catching up with Sylvia. I inspect the instrument panel further. I find nothing, but a web search tells me that it's not safe to drive unless we know what the codes are. The Diagnostic Trouble Codes (DTC) can't be read at any random auto repair shop; only the dealer knows how to get them and what to do with them.

Early Saturday morning, we get to a Toyota dealership, where a friendly service rep tells us that unfortunately, all the master technicians are at a Toyota sponsored event. Last year it was Disneyland; this year it's NASCAR. So probably nobody can actually read the codes, or knows what to do if they could. I thrust both arms in the air and cry: "Today must be my LUCKY DAY!" (I didn't say what kind of luck.) This got a smile out of "Ted" (name changed to protect the innocent).

I ask him, off the record, what he would do in my place: 150 miles from home, car full of camping stuff, gotta get to work Monday, all the master techs are out of town, etc. "I'm not gonna tell anyone, 'Ted at <dealership name> told me…'" I say.

He says he'd take a chance and head home. "I'm a risk taker," he says.

"So THAT'S why you work at a Toyota dealership!" I say. "Those guys that climb El Capitan without ropes—they're BORING. Life right here, now THAT'S livin' on the edge!"

That gets another chuckle out of Ted. And just in case I'm not a complete whack job, he adds: "But if you lose power" or any other hiccup, we should pull over and get towed, he says. Fine. I shake his hand and he gives me his card.

Well, we didn't quite make it to Los Banos. The car lost power and I pulled over near some almond trees by the side of the road. At least it wasn't too hot. The lovely Carol called AAA for a tow, and was on hold for a while; I took over with her phone and waited... well, a while longer. I don't actually know how long we were on hold. Eventually, though, a wonderful lady came on and took our information. She arranged a tow, and said the driver ought to be to us about 11:27am.

At 11:26 (I am not kidding) I saw a tow truck on the opposite side of the highway. It made a legal U-turn and the driver pulled in front of us. He took my AAA membership number and towed us to the Toyota dealer in Merced, about 2 hours from home. I guess that means we drove 50–60 miles before crapping out.

We paid the driver for the extra mileage (AAA covers a 5-mile tow, but we went 21 miles), then I chatted with Kevin the service manager. When I told him what lit up, he said, "that's the indicator you don't want to get." Exactly. "90% of the time when you get that," he said, "it's the hybrid battery. The other 10% it's something else."

Oh, and all the master techs watching NASCAR races? "I have a master tech in here every Saturday." Wow! It really is my lucky day! He was out at lunch but would be back soon.

How much does it cost to replace the battery? Something like $3,500. But the other issue would be time. "It takes six hours to replace the hybrid battery," he said. "and we close at five." He could get us into a rental car before that and we could head home with the laundry and the perishable stuff anyway.

The master tech returned from lunch, and after a while Kevin asked us if we ran out of gas. "No, we filled it up in Visalia" (or was it Three Rivers?) "and drove about 200 miles." I said we had about half a tank. A short while later, it looked like we had a bad fuel level sending unit.

More time passed. Kevin came over. "I have some more information. You weren't that lucky. He did a test drive and found something else was wrong." It turns out that the Prius has a lot of sophisticated electronics. Those electronics must be kept from overheating. There is a pump for the coolant, and it had failed. It would set us back several hundred dollars to replace that. The good news was: it would be done by five.

Kevin was good as his word. We had been there about five hours, and spent about $500. The tow truck was about $100 and about another hour. So we got off easy this time.

So the end of our vacation week could have been a little better; it also could have been a whole lot worse.

Sunday, May 21, 2017

Isaiah, Merton, Rob

When we lived in Kobe (Japan), our pastor frequently spoke on the theme of the way we live our lives. A big problem we have, he said, is something he called “My Way.” I was reminded of this recently when he posted a photo of a printed prayer, with the caption “If you pray this sincerely from your heart, you will be given eternal life!” (roughly translated).

I expect that Pastor Rob composed that prayer, which reads in part: “I've gotten so tired of doing things my own way” (roughly translated. Actually all my translations are rough, so this is the last time I'll say that). The prayer goes on to describe an earnest desire to live God's way from now on.

I'll include the entire prayer below, but this contrast between “My Way” vs. “God's way” reminds me of another prophet—the Old Testament prophet Isaiah actually. One of Isaiah's famous quotes is from chapter 53, which you may have heard in Handel's Messiah:

All we like sheep have gone astray.
We have turned every one to his own way.
And the Lord hath laid on Him
the iniquity of us all.
Isaiah 53:6 (AV)
Isaiah writes about our ways vs. his ways a fair amount in these chapters. In chapter 55, for example, we read
Let the wicked forsake his way
    and the evil man his thoughts.
Let him turn to the Lord, and he will have marcy on him,
    and to our God, for he will surely pardon.
“For my thoughts are not your thoughts,
    neither are your ways my ways“
                        declares the Lord.
Isaiah 55:6–8 (NIV 1984)
And what does that look like, to go my own way? Thomas Merton, a 20th century Trappist monk, writes very insightfully that
…I do not find in myself the power to be happy merely by doing what I like. On the contrary, if I do nothing except what pleases my own fancy I will be miserable almost all the time.
No Man Is an Island 3.1 (p. 25)

The prudence of the flesh is opposed to the will of God. The works of the flesh will bury us in hell. If we know and love and act only according to the flesh, that is to say, according to the impulses of our own nature, the things we do will rapidly corrupt and destroy our whole spiritual being.

op. cit., 8.3 (p. 134)
According to Merton, the antidote to “My Way” isn't necessarily to join the military or monastery, where we're no longer free to act as we like. On the contrary, he writes that
…we must remember the importance and the dignity of our own freedom. A man who fears to settle his future by a good act of his own free choice does not understand the love of God. For our freedom is a gift God has given us in order that He may be able to love us more perfectly, and be loved by us more perfectly in return.

Love is perfect in proportion to its freedom. It is free in proportion to its purity. We act most freely when we act purely in response to the love of God. But the purest love of God is not servile, not blind, not limited by fear.

op. cit., 8.1–2 (pp. 132f)
So that's the thing: we act most freely by acting most purely in response to the love of God. This is a supernatural thing; it does not come naturally. Consequently, we need help.

Which brings me back to the prayer, which as I mentioned I believe is due to Pastor Rob.

天の神様
私にはあなたが必要です。
God of heaven: I need you
今へりくだって、あなたを呼び求めます。
Humbly now I call on you.
もう、自分のやり方でやって行く事に
疲れてしまいました。
I've totally gotten so tired of going my own way.
あなたのやり方で生きて行けるように助けてください。
Please help me to live life your way going forward.
私は、今、自分の人生の扉をあなたに向けて開きます。
I now open the door of my life to you.
あなたが私の主となり、救い主となってください。
Please be my Lord and Savior.
私の心にぽっかり空いた穴を聖霊で満たし、
私を完全な者にしてください。
Please send the Holy Spirit to fill the hole that opened up in my heart, and make me a perfect person.
主よ、私があなたを信頼できますように、
私があなたを愛せますように、
私があなたのために生きていけますように、
どうか私を助けてください。
Lord, please help me somehow—to be able to trust you, to make me love you, to live my life for you.
あなたの恵みと憐れみ、平安を私が理解できますよう、
私を助けてください。
Please help me to understand your grace and compassion and peace.
主よ、感謝します。 アーメン
Thank you Lord. Amen.
Thanks to my friend Shuji for checking my transcription, and for his suggestions on my translation. All remaining errors are mine.
Update Monday morning, May 22: It struck me that this prayer can be a response to Matthew 11:28–30, where Jesus says
Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.

Saturday, April 15, 2017

LG 34UM58-P, Debian Jessie, nVidia NVC0

Short version: I run this script after logging in (runlevel 5):
#!/bin/sh
# Extract from Xorg.0.log when monitor was connected via DVI/HDMI cable
# (II) NOUVEAU(0): Manufacturer: GSM  Model: 59f1  Serial#: 105956
# (II) NOUVEAU(0): Modeline "2560x1080"x60.0  185.58  2560 2624 2688 2784  1080 1083 1093 1111 -hsync -vsync (66.7 kHz eP)

/usr/bin/xrandr --newmode  "2560x1080_60.0"  185.58  2560 2624 2688 2784  1080 1083 1093 1111 -hsync -vsync
/usr/bin/xrandr --addmode HDMI-1 2560x1080_60.0                            
/usr/bin/xrandr --output HDMI-1 --mode 2560x1080_60.0 
Details follow.
Remember the bad old days of monitors on Linux? A new monitor meant trying to figure out the modeline, tweaking various configuration files, all the while hoping you didn't smoke your monitor?

It's been a long time since I've had to do anything like this, and so I was out of practice when my brand new LG monitor (2560x1080, 34" diagonal) didn't work "out of the box" with my computer.

I brought the monitor home from our neighborhood Costco, where I had been eyeing it for some time. Because of my temporal separation from the bad old days, I didn't even think of checking for compatibility until it didn't work. But I'm getting ahead of myself.

First thing, I got home and noticed oops, it only has HDMI inputs, no DVI (even I didn't think it might have (S)VGA). No problem; I have a DVI/HDMI cable. Which the quick start guide warns against using. Well, what was I going to do about that? So I connected it up, and after the initial screen, nothing. Fortunately, my old monitor had started working again by then so I could look at /var/log/Xorg.0.log and such.

Eventually I noticed this in the logfile:

[    18.396] (II) NOUVEAU(0): Initializing outputs ...
[    18.424] (II) NOUVEAU(0): Output DVI-I-1 has no monitor section
[    18.480] (II) NOUVEAU(0): Output DVI-I-2 has no monitor section
[    18.482] (II) NOUVEAU(0): Output HDMI-1 has no monitor section
What do you mean, "HDMI-1"? Well, there was a mini-HDMI socket in the video card. I hadn't noticed it before. Keeping in mind that LG warned of (in)compatibility issues when using a DVI/HDMI cable, I sought a miniHDMI/HDMI cable.

With that cable, things started working better, but still I was getting 1920x1080 resolution, which looks ugly. Also not so useful. And the monitor whined about it. After some web searches, I came up with the script you see at the top of this post; I run it after login and it works fine.

There is a way to make Xorg just come up in this mode, but I don't have the motivation to figure out what it is... Just call me slacker.

Whirlpool cooktop repair GJC3634RP03

We've had this cooktop since we re-did the kitchen in 2008. A few months back it developed a crack. Recently, the front right burner stopped working.

I ordered a replacement burner, and thought to install it last Saturday. I'd done this before (with a different burner) and was overconfident; I removed the cooktop from its recess in the countertop and, long story short, it experienced sudden deceleration upon impact. Instead of one crack I now had, well…

7:15 AM
Right. I didn't replace the burner last weekend, because I discovered why it was dead: stuff had literally fallen through the crack, which now was a hole, and interacted unfavorably with the burner element. More on this below.

Anyway, the first thing to do is turn off the power:

7:43 AM
After flipping the breaker off, I ensured there was no juice by turning on a burner and verifying that the power indicator didn't illuminate.

Next, I pulled the cooktop from its recess in the countertop. I opened the drawer (knob(s) visible in the picture below) and pushed up on it, then manhandled it out of the hole, placing a piece of scrap wood under it. You can see in the photo that the crack is especially pronounced.

7:47 AM
The glass top is held on with eight (8) "Phillips" head screws, three on the long sides and two on the short sides. The picture below shows two of the screws (well, one hole and one screw) on the rear edge of the cooktop:
7:52 AM
Fortunately, the glass isn't all that heavy. I lifted it off and set it aside. Here's what the range looks like without the top. Note the small dish in the foreground, where I stashed the screws.
7:53 AM
Here are the two damaged burners. "Wait," you may be thinking, "you only mentioned one bad burner!"

You're right; we hadn't noticed the rear burner was bad. Well, it wasn't all bad; you see, the rear burner is a sort of dual burner; you can heat up only the center part, or you can turn on the whole thing. It was the outer, torus-shaped part that was damaged. Details of the damage are shown later on.

7:55 AM
Then I removed the front burner. Notice that no fewer than four wires are connected to this thing! That's because it has a temperature sensor in addition to the heater. When the surface is hot, an indicator lights up to warn you.

Anyway, I took a photo so I could be sure to put the wires on the right place when installing the new burner:

7:55 AM
Once the wires are disconnected, the burner basically lifts out; it's held in place by these, umm, brackets?

Anyway, here's the old one.

7:57 AM
And here's the new one, which doesn't come with its own brackets; I moved the old brackets onto the new one.

Since I moved them one at a time, a photo wasn't strictly necessary (as I thought it was for the wires), but still:

7:58 AM
The next two photos give some detail of the damage to the burners. The damage to the front burner is extensive.
8:00 AM
Damage to the outer part of the rear burner isn't quite so bad, but methinks it's enough to make the outer burner not work:
8:00 AM
The wiring for the rear burner is a little more complicated than for the front burner:
8:01 AM
Undersides of both rear burners. Same deal: the "brackets" need to be moved from the old burner to the new.
8:04 AM
Here's a pic of the two new burners, installed.
8:10 AM
The new glass top is black, for two reasons: first, I could find one in stock at appliance parts pros (I think repairclinic.com also had one), whereas a white one would be back-ordered.

Second, as you might guess, the white glass top is very hard to keep clean-looking. Some stuff just doesn't come off. This one might not be any easier to keep clean, but it won't look as bad when it's not.

Here it is, before I screwed it on. Dad always told me to start all screws before fastening any, but I made an exception for the toughest-to-reach screw on the rear edge. From this picture, you can imagine how annoying it is; I only wanted to put the screwdriver in that position once. (I suppose I could have started the other 7 screws, and done that screw last, but I didn't think of that 'til now.)

8:12 AM
The new glass didn't come with the rubber grommets/washers/bushings/whatever for the control shafts. I transfered them from the old glass:
8:13 AM
It also didn't come with knobs. I could have bought new black knobs, but maybe the white-on-black look won't be so bad.
8:20 AM
Here it is, with knobs on and eased back into its recess in the counter. It doesn't look half bad, if I do say so myself:
8:22 AM
And now, turn the power back on:
8:23 AM