Archive for 2009

In Which I Talk About Christmas

December 21st, 2009 No comments

Don’t worry, I won’t talk much. Christmas is upon us once again and I can take a step back and relax. The year has been a good one. There have been a few key things that I have been dwelling on lately that I think fit well with an end of the year post as well as a reflective post on the meaning of Christmas: 1) The sufficiency of Christ and 2) the absolute necessity of Christ.

Christ is truly sufficient. This is a point that definitely rubs people the wrong way. For me to say that Jesus is the only thing I need is for me to say that others are wrong. That is unfortunately true. But Jesus is the great agitator. And if people are really honest with themselves, they would have to come to the realization that whatever their belief is, they would ultimately say others are wrong and their belief is right. Not everyone can be right. Just because I think I am right and someone else is wrong, doesn’t mean I think anything less of them, they should think I am wrong too. But when it all comes down to it, after all I have studied about Christianity, about other religions, about science (all of which have great aspects to them in their own right), it always comes back to Christ; Jesus is sufficient.

Christ was absolutely necessary. The Jews knew a messiah was necessary, the Old Testament spoke of one who would come to rule the world. They misunderstood what that would look like; a small baby does not seem like a conqueror. Whether Calvinist or not, we should all be able to see that we are ALL broken in some way. That we are lacking. We are not able to do this on our own. Being “good enough” doesn’t really cut it. Now, the old school (well OT) way of doing things would have been to sacrifice a lamb as a replacement for my wrong doings. But that just wasn’t enough because people are so much more important than animals. Our treason against God cannot be made up for through animal sacrifice nor can it be paid for by me doing good things. No one is good or pure enough. Well until Jesus came along. The Gospel truly is the best story ever written, mainly because it is non fiction narrative that was told so well, I don’t have to actually come up with the words (which is fortunate for you all!).

And he who was seated on the throne said, “Behold, I am making all things new.” Also he said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true. And he said to me, “It is done! I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end. To the thirsty I will give from the spring of the water of life without payment.” (Revelation 21:5-6)

His Mercy and Grace has saved us all. And thank God for that, because we cannot do it on our own!

As Relient K said it:

And I, I celebrate the day
That You were born to die
So I could one day pray for You to save my life

Enter into Christmas with this: Christ has already come and died for you and me you cannot do anything to get Him to love you more than He already does right now.

Here are a few of my other selected Christmas posts: I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day, Get the X out of X-mas - Dickens speaks Truth and Christmas a pagan holiday? Also, if Christmas is putting you in the charitable mood, please consider donating to either Blood: Water Mission or Potters for Peace and get clean water to those who need it in Africa.

God bless and Merry Christmas!

As a PS: I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day has easily become not only my favorite Christmas song, but Hymn because it resonates so well with my own soul:

And in despair I bowed my head
“There is no peace on earth,” I said,
“For hate is strong and mocks the song
Of peace on earth, good will to men.”
Then pealed the bells more loud and deep:
“God is not dead, nor doth He sleep;
The wrong shall fail, the right prevail
With peace on earth, good will to men.”

Categories: Daily Life, Religion, Theology

Providing Water to Families in Africa: Water Filter Comparisons

November 25th, 2009 5 comments

A number of people I know have mentioned the Blood:Water Mission and I have even supported a book reading challenge to raise money for that cause (still time to support her!). They are an organization looking to help out Africa. In their own words:

We’re a group of passionate people who have been inspired by our friends in Africa, friends who face unbearable challenges from the HIV/AIDS and water crises. We creatively and thoughtfully raise awareness and the necessary funds for the provision of clean blood and clean water in sub-Saharan Africa.

When they came out with their Christmas Clean Water Challenge, I was very interested in chipping in and helping out. This desire started a very insightful conversation between me, a few friends, and two different water filtration proponents.

The discussion started when Vimal, who has worked with water filtration systems in Africa, was curious about the $85 cost for the biosand water filter through Blood:Water Mission’s Christmas Challenge. This is the conversation that we had (hope you are ok with this Vimal!):

Vimal Shenoy: 85 bucks? How many filters? That’s an expensive filter for developing countries. When I did water filtration work in Africa, our filters cost less than $25 to make and distribute… But whatever.

Matt Jones: Here, watch this video, tell me what you think.

Vimal Shenoy: interesting… if it’s true that it’s good for 20 years, then it may be worth it, though wikipedia only cites 10 years. there’s a lot of factors to consider when choosing water purification means, so I’m not going to diss this means.

Matt Jones: What system did you guys use? I am curious what the differences are and if there are different benefits to either of them. They might be interested in checking out other options as well. Another guy I know used these filters in Haiti and passed on the link. I think this is an important discussion to have because I always get frustrated when non-profs are not using their money wisely. I trust Blood:Water Mission and would love to pass on any other info on what you used.

Vimal Shenoy: yeah, we used potters for peace. I could come downstairs and explain more… but for sam’s sake i’ll put a brief blurb. Basically what we used were what looked like flower pots, the most expensive parts being the plastic pot and spigot. We went to an organization within Benin and taught them how to make them properly and they make them in country with materials there (dirt, coconut shells, whatever else you use in pots). When we left them they were selling them for 25 dollars or so, but we calculated that if they made the plastic parts there, they could sell them for less than 10 dollars, which is a significant difference in that area of the world. Replacement filters after ~10 years is 4-6 dollars, so maintenance is low… take a look at this.

Vimal Shenoy: the greatest downside is the rate of water filtration. only 2.5 liter per hour as opposed to 40 in the other system. but if you distribute these on a household level, they are definitely worthwhile. 2.5 litres x 10 hours is enough for everyone to drink in a household.

Matt Jones: Awesome! That is good information to have. I imagine that the most expensive part of the biosand filters is the “biological layer” (whatever that is). I will definitely pass that on. I am assuming they have looked at other options as well, but have other options available is always good.

As you suggest, there could definitely be benefits to either system and context probably means a lot. It would be good to hear from the organization about how they picked this particular method.

Matt Jones: Got a pretty good response from the Blood:Water Mission people, here is a part:

“As a part of this program, every family wanting filter sends a family member to a three day training held at the compound. As a part of this training, the family member learns about biosand filters, how to maintain the filter, as well as the basics of hygiene & sanitation (there are complete hygiene & sanitation trainings done in villages separate of this training). They also make their own biosand filter, which is then installed in their home at the end of the week. This is a much more intensive process in terms of space, personnel, and time than is typically used in biosand filter programs, but we have found that it is very effective in terms of local empowerment and sustainability. This cost also pays for some follow-up from staff to make sure that everything taught in the training is being implemented in the homes.”

Vimal Shenoy: ah very good. i see now why the cost is somewhat elevated. but with that follow up that’s really good. interesting.

Matt Jones: Indeed. I suppose the important part is not just the cost of the filter at all, but the cost of training and providing resources to help with sustainability and positive practices.

Matt Jones: I just got this from Potters for Peace:

“On our website there is a comparison study, at least one, on the ¨filters¨ sub page ¨studies¨ Yes, the ceramic filter is less expensive, the price varies but generally retails for $15-$25 ready to use with sustainable profit and all costs included. The ceramic filter also usually is more effective at removing bacteria than the bio-sand. One could argue also that the ceramic filter is more user friendly in terms of maintenance. The idea of using terra cotta clay for water treatment is easily accepted and something with a long history in the developing world, many users claim that they prefer the taste of water passed through clay.”

Here is the link to the study he mentioned.

The study was actually quite interesting, you should read it. I am actually going to write up a post about all of this actually, it has been quite helpful.

I would recommend reading the study: Comparative Analysis of the Filtron and Biosand Water Filters. Here is their conclusion:

The Filtron [the ceramic Potters for Peace filter] is more effective in removing E. coli and total coliformes than the biosand filter, but a flow rate of only 1-2 liters per hour and the frequent need for cleaning limit its ability to meet UN minimum requirements. The biosand filter’s flow rate is adequate to meet this standard for quantity, but not consistently for quality, as defined by the WHO. It is, therefore recommended that the filtered water from the biosand filter be disinfected in some manner, such as UV radiation or chlorination, before being consumed.

The cost of the Biosand filter is more expensive but can handle a larger load, but the Filtron system seems to remove bacteria better. One comment from the study suggests that the biological layer (the “schmutzdecke“) of the Biosand filter could take time before it becomes most effective (they saw better and more consistent results near the end of the trial). Also, a disadvantage to the Filtron system (aside from the lower flow rate) is that it requires frequent cleaning to be effective. This could be a huge problem for areas that not only have contaminated water, but small amounts of water.

Anecdotally, both filters have support. Vimal has personal, positive experiences with the Potters for Peace ceramic filters and Nathan had this to say:

biosand is overall the best for family/in-house use. its super simple, super low maintenance, and with a little training can last for 20 years with no costs. so… i’ve yet to hear of anything that can beat that… it’s because it mainly uses a biological layer to eat all the nasty bacteria… however, it does not filter pesticides and other chemicals… which are not usually present in 3rd world countries… so its usually highly effective

Clearly, there are a lot of factors that go into choosing a filter and providing support that goes along with it.

I am still sold on supporting Blood:Water Mission’s Christmas Challenge. I want to purchase at least one Biodsand filter and have a few people already willing to help out. I would love to purchase more, so please let me know if you are interested in helping. My family is also interested in supporting this cause sometime this year (as a group we are supporting Heifer International this Christmas). If you would like to join me, please let me know and I can coordinate OR feel free to donate directly to them or to their Christmas Challenge. OR, if you feel the Potters for Peace method is more to your liking, you should donate directly to them. Either way, I highly recommend that you be giving this Christmas season (and all year really) and spending less on “things.”

Categories: Around the World, Science

A Grecian Adventure

October 2nd, 2009 No comments

Jones.Kos.41Jones.Kos.79Jones.Crete.040Jones.Athens.015Jones.Athens.041Jones.Germany.062Jones.Germany.068I used to be such a good blogger… are those days gone forever? Who knows, it’s my blog and I’ll post when I want to!

Hard to believe, but it was three months ago that I was in Greece! Oh the time has flown! School is back in full force and I have really enjoyed my classes (some more than others…). I figured it was time (well way past time, really) to post my pictures from the European adventure to Greece and Germany!

The bulk of my pictures have been post up at Flickr:

  • Europe Part 1: Kos, Greece
  • Europe Part 2: Crete, Greece
  • Europe Part 3: Athens, Greece - Google map of what we did in Athens
  • Europe Part 4: Germany
  • I was extremely fortunate to join up with some great friends from high school and their families on this trip and it couldn’t have gone better (well could have done without the missed flights and lost luggage…)!! Here is a Google Map of my itinerary.

    Please check out my European adventure photo collection at Flickr! It was such a great experience!

    Categories: Daily Life, Photoblog

    Dad - 15 Years Later

    August 16th, 2009 3 comments

    Summer is drawing to a close and it has been a good one (more to come about Europe and camping with the fam). It is this time of year that my family and I remember the life of my dad, Jim Jones. In previous posts (here, here, here, and here) on August 17th I have posted pictures commemorating the day he passed and left to meet Christ and those who have gone on before him.

    Today (well it got posted early, so tomorrow) is the 15th anniversary of his death and is also significant in that I have spent half of my life without him. Time really has gone incredibly fast but he still lingers in my thoughts, mind, and prayers. Andy put things well in talking about the passing of grandpa Withrow when he said (if I might paraphrase) that we don’t mourn for he who has past, for he has gone on to a better place but we mourn for those of us left behind who now have to continue on without them. And gone on we have. He is missed and I truly look forward to seeing him again. I just hope he is proud of who I have become and who I will become. Thanks to dad for being the person and example he was and continues to be. It has been a hard 15 years, but a blessed 15 years.

    The Jones family out at Northwest Trek.

    Categories: Daily Life

    On Completing my First Year of Teaching and Going to Greece

    June 25th, 2009 1 comment

    I don’t know how it happened, but I survived my first year of teaching! Tillicum has been a great place for me and I have really enjoyed teaching there. My colleagues are great and the students have been a blast. Somehow Bellevue worked things so they didn’t have to lay anyone off (RIF) so I have my job back next year; same place, same classes! How incredible! I posted a few pictures of the last few days at Flickr: Last Days of School 2008-09. My class pictures are also below!

    Since I found out I had a job, I also hopped on board Boutry and Kim’s travel plans to go to Greece! Tomorrow morning I will be heading out for 20 days on an adventure to Greece and Germany! I will visit Kos, Crete, and Athens, then head over to Boutry’s place near Frankfurt and venture out from there. You can view my itinerary here at Google maps. I have never been to Greece and am really excited to go! I will try and send updates if I can. What a great way to end a fun, difficult, tiring, exciting, and a number of other adjectived year!

    Read more…

    Categories: Daily Life, Education

    Late Tuesday returns for a night at the Triple Door

    June 8th, 2009 2 comments

    After two and a half years in retirement, the lovely ladies of Late Tuesday will be performing a show at Seattle’s Triple Door! Dana Little, Tara Ward, and Jocelyn Meyer will be teaming up once again to share their melodious tunes with us at the always delightful Triple Door. Reserve your seats now before they fill up! Cost is $15 and goes to benefit Fremont Abbey Art Center‘s youth programs, so that’s cool too. If you are a Facebook type, check out the event page to RSVP (but still go buy tickets at Triple Door).

    I hope to see you there, I am looking forward to seeing the ladies together again! Is it strange to still have a crush on Dana? Ok, don’t answer that.

    Check out my Late Tuesday page for other various Late Tuesday stuff from the past.

    Categories: Meaningful Song

    5 Year Blogversary and an awesome 30th!

    May 19th, 2009 4 comments

    Today marks the 5th anniversary of starting my blog. Pretty amazing that I have been doing this for 5 years! Of course in the last two years, or so, the posts haven’t been as frequent… but it is quality over quantity, right? I started at the, now nonexistent, Modblog which was a great community and introduction to blogging. I have, since then, had various blogs that I update with varying frequency, but it has been great running my own domain and just writing when I feel like it and about the topics I am really interested in. Everyone should blog really. No, really, go start one now, they’re free!

    Should you desire to take a gander at the various things I have written about, check out the / Random Acts of Verbiage Archive and drop a note!

    Matt and Stacey turn 30!To go along with this anniversary, I am also happy to say I had an incredible night/weekend with some amazing people celebrating my and Stacey’s 30th birthday. I am supremely blessed to have the wonderful friends I have. Thanks to everyone who made it so special!

    We started the night at Anthony’s on Pier 66 on Seattle’s waterfront then went back to our suite at the Fairmont Olympic Hotel for swimming, eating, and just general enjoyment of each other’s company. It was a night to remember! Please stop by Matt and Stacey turn 30! @ Flickr for some pictures from the evening.

    Categories: Blogging, Daily Life

    On Turning 30…

    May 10th, 2009 1 comment

    Well here I am. Three decades in. I can look back and feel blessed, satisfied, and optimistic. Sure, there are things I wish I could have done differently or wished had turned out differently. But those things have become part of who I am. For instance, I make a pretty awesome third wheel. Life moves forward, I have finally found a career that I enjoy, I have incredible friends that encourage me every day, and wonderful family who blesses me all the time. Pretty freakin’ awesome.

    I wonder what the next few decades will bring! I am looking forward to it!

    Categories: Daily Life
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