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Monday, October 23, 2006

Narcissistic tendencies

For some reason I lay in bed last night thinking about the title of this blog. "MY life, MY thoughts, MY work". It appears I'm pretty wrapped up in myself. If you just looked to see the title and noticed it doesn't say that, well you're too late. I changed it. Sure, the new title conveys the same message, but it doesn't sound so self-centered.

You know what else I was thinking about in bed last night? Curling. Yes that's right, curling--the game that most Americans didn't know existed until tuning in the Winter Olympics some late night. Have I ever participated in this game? No. Have I ever watched an actual match? No. Have I seen anything over and above clips on an Olympics recap show? No. So what exactly was I thinking about last night? Well, here's where the narcissistic tendency comes back into play. I was laying in bed thinking about how I would approach each delivery of the stone and how my approach would probably be superior to other approaches. I figured the key to doing well in this game I've never played would be to have sweeping brooms with 3 different levels of 'grip'. The person furthest from the stone would have the broom with the most bite and then the next player would have one intermediate in bite, and the person closes would have a broom that leaves the ice the smoothest. It's kind of like sanding something. Start with the lowest grit (most bite) and then move up in grit (and down in bite). What's so surprising to me is that I don't even know if you can do that. To tell the truth, I don't even know if you have 3 sweepers or not. For some reason I thought I had the key to the game. Why did I think that's the best way to go? I have no idea but I have a feeling it's because I thought of it.

What can I do about these narcissistic tendencies? I'm not sure, but if past experience is any indication, I'm sure I'll think of the correct thing to do pretty quickly.

Friday, September 22, 2006

Just a few updates & some thoughts

We are officially getting a dog! We're going to call him Aquinas (it's been Orlando which is just a little soft for me) and he's currently 8 months old. If everything goes as planned he'll come home with us next weekend. Oh yeah, in case you're wondering, he's a Cardigan Welsh Corgi.

Another exciting thing is that this week I had my advisory conference. This is a meeting with what will likely be my dissertation committee (there could be one two members that get changed out, but that's not very common) about my future courses and the scheduling of my general exam. It looks like this Spring I'll take the last exam of my educational career. If that goes well and I pass the exam, I'll be considered ABD (All But Dissertation). From there I'll have 2 to 3 years of funding to write my dissertation and teach one class per semester. It's still kind of weird to think that I'm this close to finishing the program. Wow.


Have you ever wondered what happened to common, run-of-the-mill decency towards one another? I'm shocked at people that just don't give a damn about anyone else. Think about it... Go to the grocery store parking lot and there are stray carts left all over the place, 20 ft from the cart return. How long do you think it'd take to walk that cart over? 20 seconds? 30? Drive through a construction zone and everyone thinks they have to drive in the soon-to-be-closed lane all the way until the cones force them over. Don't they understand that if everyone just merged over as they had time that everyone would get through it faster? No, of course not because they're to concerned that those 5 other people are going to get through the zone faster. When was the last time you've gone out to eat dinner and didn't see someone (at your table or otherwise) interrupt a dinner to answer a phone call?

Just an ounce of common decency would drastically change any of these situations. I'm almost certain that the cause of the lack of decency is an increase in self-centeredness. In this culture it's terribly easy for us all to become more and more self-absorbed and forget that the world doesn't revolve around us. Throughout the next couple of days, ask yourself how you may have allowed the me-centered culture to change your attitude toward others in a negative way.

Grace and peace,

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

The Da Vinci Code

It's been awhile since I've last posted, but after finishing Dan Brown's The Da Vinci Code, I thought I'd come out of hibernation and give you some thoughts. So, here are my thoughts:
  1. The book is a good read, but the amount of copies it has sold is surprising (it's not that good).
  2. The Church has a lot more to worry about than this book; let's focus on people coming to Christ and not on some piece of fiction.
  3. If you're a conspiracy theorist, then this book will really get you going (just remember that Harvard has no professor of symbology, no one does because it's a made up profession).

Okay, in regards to 1. I think I know why it has sold so many books. People like controversy. That's it, nothing more needs to be said (but will be said anyways). If Dan Brown concludes at the end of the book that the Church had it right all along and isn't hiding the truth about Jesus and his family, then I'm certain it wouldn't have sold as many books as it did. Heck, it probably wouldn't even have gotten published because the writing just isn't that good. In the future I plan to post about the writing itself, some of it just doesn't make sense.

As far as 2 goes, too many people in the Church today have gotten very worried and upset about this book. Guess what, people have been writing this type of stuff for awhile now, just this time it's much better than before. If you're curious about what makes people so upset, go to your local bookstore and read Chapter 55. This is the chapter that causes all the problems with many people in the Church and sets the stage for the rest of the book. Don't worry, reading this before everything else won't ruin it; you won't understand some of the plot but the plot isn't why I want you to read the chapter. It's also the chapter that made the book much less interesting for me. It's like when a movie takes such a terribly unrealistic turn that it's hard to watch anymore, that's what chapter 55 does for me. Some may be convinced that something like what happened in chapter 55 could happen; if that's you, go buy Darrell Bock's Breaking the Da Vinci Code or for something not related to Brown's book, get J.P. Moreland and Michael Wilkins's Jesus Under Fire. (The latter is a very good book, the former I haven't read yet but Bock is one of the foremost New Testament scholars and is sure to be helpful).

Finally, conspiracy theories will never go away. It's why in grade school rumors get started about someone eating his boogers. It's why in high school some guy is always accused of being gay (especially if he is in drama). There is an often insatiable desire for controversy and that's exactly what conspiracy theories are supposed to cover up. Brown has written a book that fans the flames of controversy in people's hearts, especially those that have something against the Church.

Read the book so you can know what the heck is going on in our culture today (that's why I read it). Don't be afraid that your faith will be shattered or that you'll lose trust in the New Testament. If that indeed happens, please let me know and I'd be glad to help out or at least locate some resources to answer your questions.

Grace and peace,

Thursday, June 08, 2006

A new house and other miscellany

1) My wife, Tina Marie, and I closed on a house this morning. We're pretty excited about it and can't wait to start moving into to it. The whole process has been so smooth and stress-free, it's amazing. I can't believe I'm old enough to buy a house and finally in a place to afford one (that last part is mostly due to my sugar-momma [who is not yet a momma!], remember grad students don't get paid much). I bought a really nice 2 wheel dolly from Home Depot today; the beginning to my new tool collection!

Here's one pic of the house from the realtor website we found it on. Once we take our own I'll post some more.

2) Game 1 of the NBA Finals is tonight. I'm in shock that the Mavs made it. I've been wanting this for so long I can't believe it's happening. I really don't like Shaq, Gary Payton, or Pat Riley and love Mark Cuban, Dirk-the-German-wonder, and Avery Johnson so I'm sure you know who I'm pulling for. I really hope the refs don't decide the series either way. The NBA is very susceptible to having games ruined by ticky-tack fouls (or fouls only going one way). I'm hoping for another good series with no external influences.

3) I submitted my general exam reading list today and promptly realized that I left out Leibniz's contribution to the problem of evil debate. That's a big mistake that I'm sure I'll hear about from my committee. Oh well.

4) I started painting this huge house in OKC this week and it's going to be a killer. Its a 2 1/2 story wood paneled house that has like 45 foot gables. Me and a good friend from the philosophy program are painting it together. This week we worked 7 to 5 and will probably keep that schedule most of the summer so we can actually finish it. I'll post a pic of it when I can.

Well, that's about it for now.

Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Philosophy is hard

Doing philosophy is pretty hard work. I may not have worked up a sweat today, but I'm exhausted! I've spent the last 7 hours going through journals (online and in-hand), books, and companions trying to come up with a reading list for my general exam. I've got to get this thing completed so I can get the approval from my dissertation committee and then get busy studying. It's weird to think that I'll be studying for 1 exam for the next 10 months, but I'm really excited about it.

My general exam is going to be in the philosophy of religion with an emphasis on the problem of evil. I'm excited about this test because it's in an area that I really love learning more about. I finally have a reason (or excuse depending on how you look at it) to read a ton of material that I've wanted to read for a long time. There are so many arguments for/against God and our experience with him that I've wanted to read but had to spend my time in other areas of philosophy.

I now understand why people have told me to focus in an area that I love. If I didn't enjoy doing philosophy of religion so much, there is no way I could put this much energy into it. Once I have an approved reading list, I'll post it for anyone's perusal.

Sunday, April 30, 2006

The Church

What do you think the primary role of the church is? I'm not talking about the Church (big-C), but the local church that has four walls (at least) and weekly meetings. I think I'm pretty clear with what big C-Church is about, but lately I've become less and less clear of what role the local church is supposed to play in the Kingdom.



Wednesday, April 05, 2006

The Problem of Evil

Every Christian should realize that the problem(s) of evil are difficult to deal with and can stand as legitimate obstacles to someone's belief in the existence of God. For those that are not familiar with this problem, I will give you a very quick version:
  1. If God exists, he is omnipotent and omnibenevolent
  2. Evil exists.
So, it seems that:
  1. God wanted to prevent evil, but couldn't and so is not omnipotent, or
  2. God could have prevented evil but didn't want to and so is not omnibenevolent.
It seems that there is an inconsistency within the first two premises, so they both cannot be true at the same time. The non-theist says we have good reasons for believing evil exists, so we should reject (1). The theist, however, doesn't want to reject either so must figure out a way to make (1) and (2) consistent. This version of the problem of evil is one of many, but gets the general idea across.

What I hope is that Christians understand the force of this problem and do not just chalk it up to the lack of faith in God in the non-believer. That probably plays a role, but even many Christians are troubled by this as well. I feel that we have good responses to this type of problem in the 'free will' defense, but it isn't likely to answer the non-theists questions on the first pass. I recently had the opportunity to lecture for two introduction to philosophy classes at the University of Oklahoma on the problem of evil and had some really good discussions with many of the students. If you would like more information on this type of objection, let me know and I'd love to direct you to some great resources.

Grace and peace,

Friday, March 24, 2006

Sweet relief, for now

Well, I finished my PhD qualifying exams this morning. The first one on the history of modern philosophy was yesterday and went well. I answered the three questions that I was really hoping were going to be on the exam:
  1. What is the charge of circularity against Descartes in the Meditations and how could one defend Descartes against this charge?
  2. Explain the view of creation as held by Descartes, Leibniz, and Spinoza. Be sure to include Descartes' discussion of the creation of eternal truths, Leibniz's divine calculus, and Spionza's necessitarianism.
  3. What is Locke's view on the primary/secondary quality distinction? How does he argue for this distinction? How does Berkeley critique Locke's view? Does Berkeley misunderstand Locke?

This morning I took the exam on metaphysics and epistemology and, again, the questions I wanted to be on the test most were there:
  1. What is the ontological argument for the existence of God and what are the objections to it? How does it stand up to those objections?
  2. What is (are) the main problem(s) of free will? What is a compatibilist response to the problem(s)? How does compatibilism stand up to objections raised against it?
  3. What is Gettier's objection to the traditional account of knowledge? What are the possible responses to that problem? How do the responses fair to objections?

I feel really good knowing that I answered everything that I wanted to and don't think I forgot anything that was crucial to the arguments. My only concern is that in preparing my notes and outlines, I may have overlooked or forgotten something important and because of that, it didn't end up on the exam. I don't think that is a real plausible scenario, but it is plausible at least.
So, I leave with another request. Please continue to pray for favor among the 5 professors that will be grading the exam. I need to get a 'high pass' to continue in the program. I'll keep you updated.

Grace and peace,

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Ph.D. Qualifying Exam

Well it's that time of year... I'm among about 8 other graduate students that are trying to spend their time studying for the upcoming M.A. general exam/ Ph.D. qualifying exam. This Thursday at 10:00 I'll be taking a 2 hour test on the history of modern philosophy and then Friday at 10:00 I'll take the metaphysics and epistemology exam. This is quite frightening because if I don't get a "high pass", I don't get to stay in the program.

Fortunately, I have past exams to look through to see what type of questions are usually asked and, in some cases, what the chances are of certain questions being on the exam. This second part is a tremendous help. It's not too fun to think that you have to know enough to write for about 40 minutes each on 6 questions when there are about 40-50 questions to study. My study guide is somewhere between 45-55 pages long, and that's with eliminating many of the questions that have been asked in the past. Here is a list of the questions I feel like I need to knock out of the ballpark the following questions/subjects:

  1. Anselm's Ontological Argument
  2. A compatibilist response to the free will/determinism debate with a critique of that response
  3. The functionalist account of the mind/body problem with critique
  4. A response to Gettier's critique of knowledge consisting of 'justified true belief'
  5. An argument for epistemological skepticism with critique
  6. Descartes' main purposes in writing his Meditations
  7. The charge of circularity against Descartes and a defense of him
  8. Leibniz's law of the 'Indiscernibility of Identicals' and what its supposed to support
  9. Spinoza's position on the mind/body problem noting his doctrine of explanatory isolationism
  10. Descartes, Spinoza, and Leibniz on God's creation of the world
  11. The discussion around Locke and Berkeley's conception of primary and secondary qualities
  12. Berkeley's idealism with critique, noting how he thinks he avoids skepticism
  13. Hume's view on causation and/or induction

Some of these are almost gauranteed to be on the exam, whereas others just might be. Of these 13 questions, I'll answer 6; 3 on Thursday and 3 on Friday. I'm hoping that I'll have time to at least briefly study for about 6 others just in case I get totally screwed and most of these 13 are on the test. I figure if I can really blow them away with my answers on 2 out of the 3, then it may not be so bad if I don't do as well on that final test. My prayer is that the questions on the exam will include most if not all of these questions. That way I can really just pick the ones I feel the best about and not just the ones I feel less screwed about.

I've had my break now, so it's back to studying. Well, it's actually time for dinner, but then back to studying. Please pray for me this Thursday and Friday morning. Thanks.

Grace and peace

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

Oh the web we weave...

What is the number one thing that almost every United States president has said is vitally important to export to other countries? Answer, democracy. Democracy has long been heralded as the only acceptable form of government. All else fails short of what democracy can bring to the people of a country. Fast forward to an article in today’s New York Times.

”The United States and Israel are discussing ways to destabilize the Palestinian government so that newly elected Hamas officials will fail and elections will be called again, according to Israeli officials and Western diplomats.”

So, Hamas is democratically elected as the new authority, but the U.S. and Israel don’t like who was elected, so that election isn’t supposed to count. What is really interesting is that the whole idea is to destabilize the government so the people will be upset with Hamas and elect someone else. It seems that many people will realize why things are so difficult and be angry with the U.S. and not Hamas.

Why would they want Hamas out? Well, many people aren’t happy with their terrorist activities, and I’m not a big fan of terrorism myself. However, we don’t want to forget that before Israel was recognized as its own nation, they were pretty active in terrorism themselves. How do you think England felt about the Colonies’ actions before the U.S. won the revolution? It’s important to distinguish between an organization engaging in terrorist activities to advance an ideology alone and one that is trying to win political independence. That was the case with the U.S. and Israel, after winning what they wanted, the terrorism ceased. Back to Hamas, because this organization was democratically elected, shouldn’t we at least wait to see if their terrorist activities continue or if they will now begin engaging in diplomacy to advance their desires?

I leave you with this; what country has been the frontrunner in acknowledging Hamas as a legit government? Russia. Yeah that’s right, Russia, our former “Cold War enemy” is leading the way in accepting a democratically elected government. I find that very interesting. It seems that the U.S. should change its pro-democracy stance to pro-democracy-if-you-elect-who-we-want-elected.

Monday, February 06, 2006

The Blessings of Friends

I was reminded this weekend about how nice it is to have great friends. Not only did Tina Marie and I have a great time at the movies with Chad, but we also had a great time Sunday night watching the Super Bowl at the Starling house. It was nice to just hang out and catch up a little bit. The time we spent with them reminded me of other friends that I have throughout the States that I miss dearly.

For anyone reading this that is still in college, take advantage of the times you have to build a solid community that you can maintain once you leave school. It wasn't until after I graduated from SAGU that I realized the difference between graduating from college and graduating from high school. When you finish high school, you still think there is a chance you'll see your friends back home again. Most of the time that is an illusion, but there's still hope. When you finish college, most of your friends move to different parts of the country or the world. What's great though is that I was lucky to develop solid relationships with most of them and still are close. I hope you do can do the same.

Lord, I pray that those reading this will continue to understand the value of having a community that will be there to encourage, strengthen, and challenge them in their life's journey as a follower of your way. Be with them and lead them to new relationships or just help them to renew old relationships that haven't been appropriately attended to. Thank you. Amen.

Friday, February 03, 2006

My conversion story

Many of you know this about me already, but after emailing a friend the other day I decided to publish a story about my conversion experience. To set the stage, it began approximately 8-9 months ago, but has really taken hold of my life in the past 2-3 months. I know, I thought that I was 'converted' several years ago, back in high school. Well, this is a conversion of a different kind. What follows is the email I sent my friend Steve (who, you will see, is a former graduate of Miami University), I hope it explains a bit more about who I am.
How's it going man? Things are going well out here in OK, but I have a confession to make. Most of my life I have pulled for OSU (but never really wanted OU to lose, unless they were playing OSU). After a lot of soul searching, I decided that I have more reasons to be an OU fan than I do to be an OSU fan. I've been wooed. I know I know, this is unthinkable for you, but remember I was never a 'die-hard' OSU fan in the same way you are a die-hard Miami fan. If I liked OSU as much as you like Miami, I would probably wear a "THE SOONERS SUCK" shirt everyday, but I'm not. I thought, they're paying for my school, they're paying me a yearly stipend to go to school, and my wife is a full time employee as's hard to not start pulling for them. We spend more of our time on the OU campus than we do off campus, and let me tell you, Sooner Magic isn't just alive when OU's trailing a game. There's something about being on campus, I'm sure if I attended OSU, I would have much different feelings. In reality, the only reason I started pulling for OSU was to piss off my brother.

So, there you, ream, and make fun all you want. I feel like I've 'come out of the closet', but now have a clean conscience.

So, this may be shocking to you, but it does feel nice to get it off my chest. Well, now you all know that I am a University of Oklahoma fan. It's still hard to call myself a Sooner, for now I'll just stick with being an OU fan. The 'Sooner' will come someday, just not today.

Monday, January 16, 2006

What hard work gets you...

I spent this last weekend working with my father in our backyard. You see, about three weeks ago there were a bunch of fires in Mustang, Oklahoma. My parent's backyard caught fire, but thankfully the firemen were able to save the house and our cabana. Unfortunately, our shed was not saved from the destruction.

Thankfully my parents did have the shed and contents insured and will be able to build a new one relatively soon. Actually, because my father knows so many contractors of various sorts, he is going to end up with a much nicer building that he can finally restore old cars in. I knew that he was going to do much of the removal work himself, and he isn't 25 years old any more, so I volunteered to help out (because, well, I am in fact 25 and have no excuse to not work my butt off for family). We spent almost all day Friday disassembling the shed. It was pretty fun actually. Hard work, but fun. After we were through tearing it down (got it down by lunch, thank you very much), we carefully stacked all the wood pieces in our just delivered dumpster. We knew we had a lot and needed to be conscientious about how things go in to make sure it all fit. It seems that was more work than the actually tearing it down part. As the night wore on, I found myself really enjoying this time with my dad. It's times like these that I am thankful Tina Marie and I moved to Oklahoma.

I was so tired Friday night that Tina Marie and I decided to spend the night. We got up somewhat early on Saturday morning and started helping our neighbor tear down his shed. What was interesting about his shed is that from the outside you couldn't even tell it was burned. Somehow the fire made it's way inside the shed and was burning it inside out. This was a bit more fun than tearing down our shed because it involved chain saws and a Bobcat (the tractor, not the animal). We filled our second dumpster by 2:00pm and then it was finally time for me to go home. I had earlier received my first assignment of the semester and needed to go buy The Complete Works of Plato before I could begin.

As I was sitting on my couch Saturday night my mother called and asked me a strange question. She said, "Would you rather have an 8-cup or 12-cup coffee maker?" I of course responded that the 12 would be better, still not knowing why she asked. She said thanks and then hung up the phone. You see, my wife and mother went shopping while we were working in the backyard and my parents decided to reward me with a brand new Barista Aroma Grande coffee maker from Starbucks.

Needless to say, I was pretty excited about this. You see, we received a really nice coffee maker as a wedding gift that kept causing us lots of problems. First the electronic buttons wouldn't work correctly, then it started leaking, not stuff that you want to deal with, especially if it costs as much as it did. Tina Marie had taken it back earlier in the day and got a store credit to buy other items that we needed, but we had no coffee maker! Things were going to be really bad the next couple of days. Then, out of nowhere, my parents come through and buy us a coffee maker that is nicer than the one we just returned.

So, for those of you that might shy away from lending a helping hand, just remember (but don't tell Kant!) there is always the possibility that self-satisfaction with a hard days work might not be your only reward.

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

Judge Alito's Confirmation Hearing

After approximately two hours of watching Judge Alito’s confirmation hearing before the U.S. Congress, I have come to realize a couple of things. One, some people are just smarter than others. When watching several Senators question Judge Alito about cases ranging from the famous Rowe v. Wade to the more obscure cases like the transportation of machine guns across state lines it is quite apparent that he is almost always a step ahead of whatever question is being asked. It is amazing that any person can have so much knowledge about one subject and recall that knowledge in such a demanding way.

Another thing that I noticed is that some people are just dumber than others. Presently, Senator Jeff Sessions (R-Alabama) is ‘questioning’ Judge Alito about abortion. It seems quite clear that he feels his job is to ‘serve up’ questions that Judge Alito will be able to answer without causing a stir with those that oppose his appointment. He began his ‘questioning’ with about a five minute speech about how great he thinks Judge Alito has been answering the questions and how “unfair” some of the questioners have been up to that point. After that he continued his ‘questioning’ with pauses to ask about a federal judge’s salary, a Supreme Court judge’s salary, and the ability of the President to lower a judge’s salary. How these are relevant, I do not know because he just moved on to the next question. What was really entertaining was seeing Judge Alito try to make some relevant comments after Senator Sessions’s pointless questions.

Now, I hope that Judge Alito is appointed to the Supreme Court. I have done a decent amount of research and it seems apparent that Judge Alito will try to continue the idea that a Supreme Court judge should not legislate from the bench. His/her job is to remain faithful to what the Constitution proscribes and interpret Constitution in today’s context. What I wish would happen is that some of the Republicans that share my sentiments and question Judge Alito during these proceedings would not try to bait him in their favor. It is obvious that they are trying to make Judge Alito come off in the light they want him too. These absurd ‘questions’ will most likely come back to haunt those in favor of the appointment by those not in favor. Actually, it is almost embarrassing to listen to these questions.

The have just announced a 15 minute break and will resume with Senator Feingold (D- Wisconsin). If he is opposed to the appointment (which I expect he will be) I half expect his opening statements to be nothing more than making fun of Senator Sessions. If it is indeed humorous, I will probably update this post to reflect that.

Thursday, January 05, 2006

It's a One-Pete!!!

OH I FRICKEN LOVE IT!!!!! The only thing that could make this better is if I were in SoCal right now listening to all the USC fans bitchin' and moanin' on ESPN Radio AM 710.

Tuesday, January 03, 2006

Denomination Selector

I recently ran across a really interesting website (Denomination Selector) that would tell you what denomination (or for the A/G, 'fellowship') you should join given your beliefs about certain doctrines. Now, I have no idea who put this together, or how it is put together, but the results are pretty interesting (and funny!). I did notice that there are 24 questions and 24 denominations, so it could be the case that each question represents at least one denomination. I don't really feel like going through several different trial runs to test the results. I actually think it is more complicated than that, given the possible answers of agree, disagree, or no preference and the ability to rank each question's level of importance as high, medium, or low. Here are my results for your viewing pleasue:

  1. Methodist/Wesleyan Church
  2. Assemblies of God
  3. Mennonite Brethren
  4. Free Will Baptist
  5. Evangelical Lutheran Church
  6. Presbyterian Church USA
  7. Seventh-Day Adventist
  8. Southern Baptist
  9. Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod
  10. Orthodox Quakerism
  11. Presbyterian Church America
  12. Reformed Baptist
  13. Reformed Churches
  14. Church of Christ
  15. Episcopal/Anglican Church
  16. International Church of Christ
  17. United Pentecostal Church
  18. Eastern Orthodox Church
  19. Roman Catholic Church
  20. Jehovah's Witness
  21. Mormonism
  22. Liberal Quakerism
  23. Unitarian Universalism
  24. Unity Church
I thought I'd add that I think some denominations have to show up; so please don't send me any 'concerned brother/sister' stuff about some of the results (especially towards the bottom). Click the link to take the test for yourself Denomination Selector.