Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Something I learned in Econ

Second, immediate drilling to recover oil that is under U.S. control, namely in the Arctic and on the outer continental shelf. No one pretends that this fixes everything. But a million barrels a day from the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge is 5 percent of our consumption. In tight markets, that makes a crucial difference.

We will always need some oil. And the more of it that is ours, the better. It is tautological that nothing more directly reduces dependence on foreign oil than substituting domestic for foreign production. Yet ANWR is now so politically dead that the president did not even mention it in the State of the Union or in his energy address the next day.

Actually, the more domestic oil you consume, the more dependent you are on foreign oil in the long term. Because you want the foreigners to run out of oil before you do. That's a neat little result you get when you turn the 'ole brain into consequence mode.

Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Bombs away

Come on now. I feel as if a few hunderd thousand GIs could put an end to this. Wouldn't mind taking a shot in the head myself if we could stop people having bad years from blowing themselves up.

Relatives of the bomber, Mr. Siksik, said he left home three days ago and was upset because he had no job and his baby daughter recently died of an illness, The Associated Press reported. Also, a friend of his was killed in a clash with Israeli forces, they said.

A plea from Columbia Catholics for Life

A good cause being advertised. I have donated some cash to it.

Hello everyone,

I'm writing to let you all know that a small group of Barnard alumnae (and
I think a couple of Columbia alumni) is in the process of creating a
prolife group for graduates of Barnard and Columbia. Suselina Acosta, the
Fr. Jaceks and I were contacted a couple of months ago by a 1962 Barnard
graduate, Carol Murtin Lavis, who runs an organization that reaches out to
single pregnant women. She and another 1974 Barnard alum, Amy Daiuta
DeRosa, who had responded to an article published in the Barnard Magazine
about how all Barnard students were "enlighted" enough to support legal
abortion (an article whose author ignored the responses of some prolife
students she had contacted), have become the chief organizers of this
prolife alumni group. As a recent alumna, I'm working as a sort of liaison
between graduates and undergrads. We're hoping that as an organized
group, we can garner support, both financial and moral, from prolife
alumni for undergraduate prolife groups.

Currently, Columbia Catholics for Life, Columbia Catholic Undergraduates,
the Columbia College Conservative Club, and perhaps the College
Republicans are working together to bring Serrin Foster, the president of
Feminists for Life, to campus on February 15 to present a lecture titled
"The Feminist Case Against Abortion". Below I've attached the ad that we
intend to put in the Spectator and the Barnard Bulletin. On the day of
the lecture we need to present a $3000 honorarium to Ms. Foster, about
half of which we currently have. I realize that many of you have just
begun working or are in grad school and are unable to make any donations.
So for those of you who can't, please just spread the word about this
group, and about our upcoming event (details are on the attached ad), to
any other interested prolife alums. For those of you who wish to make a
donation, please make checks out to Columbia Catholic Ministry and send
them to the following address:

Ask me for details if you're interested.

An interesting movie

Courtesy of June-moon.

Monday, January 29, 2007

Kudos to The Waffling Anglican

Who has found a most unusual statement from, well, an Anglican. Read all about it on his page.

Suffice to say, I think it's a rather good sign that there's enough sense in the Church of England to come to the defense of common sense (an icky sentence, but a good sentiment). Most of the Anglicans in my life have been rather apathetic towards theological truths. Perhaps this portends a brighter spiritual life for them in a general Anglican awakening. Maybe not. But we can hope.

Sunday, January 28, 2007

Midterm blues

No, not congressional elections. I mean my class. Some of them did really well on the midterm. Others ... well let's just say they didn't know what Advent is. Sigh sigh. I'm trying to figure out how much is my newness as a teacher and how much is their general disinterest in the topic, and how much of their general disinterest is my fault. It's a rather terrible thing, having the resposibility to shape these growing minds, and having an hour a week to do it.

Saturday, January 27, 2007

Morality and Bankrupcy in Airlines


American is the only one of the six "legacy" carriers (the others are United, Delta, Northwest, Continental and US Airways) that has never been in bankruptcy. Is it irresponsible for American not to use bankruptcy to lighten legacy costs — shredding labor contracts and reducing obligations to retired employees?

Gerard Arpey, American's chief executive, replies with a laconic "no." He considers it unseemly and shortsighted — and unnecessary — to seize short-term competitive advantages by reneging on labor contracts freely consented to, and to escape commitments to investors who lent you money in good faith. Furthermore, the damage to employee relations makes bankruptcy more costly than some companies realize when they use it as a routine management tool.

Friday, January 26, 2007


No special reason. Just thinking about it, after some reading of the Bible.

Thursday, January 25, 2007

Old, but still good - Article about Tridentine Mass at St. Margaret Mary

The longer I stay in Oakland, the more I come to appreciate the Tridentine Mass. It really is a beautiful liturgy. It promotes contemplation, reverence for the Eurcharist, and deep prayer. Try as I might, rarely do I seem to get these things on the same level from the Novos Ordo. I just hope that wherever I next move I can find a proper mass. I've only begin to appreciate this priceless gem I have found.

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Wanna learn VMS

Sign me up

Blogger is back up

Couldn't get anything posted yesterday . . .

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

I'm not seeing the problem so much

The automakers are systematically working to take the driver out of the equation; it may not be deliberate — and is probably more due to the convergence of piranha lawyers on the one hand and mewling mobs of “safety” advocates on the other. Still, the end result is the same. New cars are increasingly defined by the presence of “perpetual training wheels” that not only presume incompetence — but encourage more of it.

For instance, consider the electronic parking system Lexus now offers on its top-of-the-line LS sedan. Using sensors, an electronic brain and various actuators, the thing is capable of sizing up a potential parking space, determining how the wheels should be cocked to slide in — and basically drives itself into the spot. It’s fascinating stuff, from a technical standpoint. But it must be asked: If a person is lacking the skills to safely and efficiently guide his car into a parking spot without help from the onboard nanny, perhaps this person needs a few remedial hours of “behind the wheel” training, eh?

. . .

But it’s a pretty bleak thing to contemplate for those who can recall a better time, when driving well was a skill to be proud of and which took some time to acquire. When cars were a little bit scary — and demanded full time and attention. Learn to master something like an old F100 with three on the tree (and no hydraulic assist for the clutch) and you came away from it with a sense of accomplishment — and generally speaking, were competent to drive virtually anything on wheels in a way that today’s crowd, who grew up with “modern” cars, can’t begin to appreciate.

It’s a shame for them — because they’re missing out on some great experiences. And it bodes ill for the future — because the skill level of the typical driver is sure to get worse, not better. That will require more built-in idiot-proofing technology, more suffocating laws — and perhaps make the whole thing not worth the effort.

I mean, I don't drive a car to drive myself, I drive to get somewhere. If I can get there with a computer driving, all the better. But I suppose that the human is ultimately responsible, and the computer is most likely to fail in the edge cases, where an untrained driver would be . . . not good. There's soemething to be said about having a high bar and a low average skill level.

Monday, January 22, 2007

Still here

Roe no more

It sounded deeper when she said it

Me - "Approximately, 8 PM good for me"

Her - "Is approximately 8 PM good for you or is 8 PM approximately good for you?"

Sunday, January 21, 2007


Eventually, Moses comes to the realization that the Lord has been teaching him a basic lesson about human behavior. Great miracles, no matter how awesome and overwhelming, do not change human behavior and beliefs in any meaningful fashion. Pharaoh will be defeated only by force that strikes home to him personally -- his first born child is killed and he is also in danger of being killed. It is not the miracle of the first-born killings that impresses him. It is the fear for his own safety that the miracle engendered that causes him to free the Jews, a decision that he almost immediately regrets. Miracles may raise Jewish faith temporarily but they do not form the methodology for developing lasting faith and commitment.

After all of the miracles, the Jews are still capable of making and worshipping a golden calf and rebelling against the rule of Moses and G-d. Moses realizes that no matter how many miracles occur, faith has to be nurtured and developed and maintained from the inside and not from outside circumstances and happenings.

New Blogger

I can't switch to the new Blogger b/c I have too many posts! Bah!

Saturday, January 20, 2007

The horrors of technology

Note to self - write Unicode-aware birthday cake writing software before sending cake to Ariana's children.

Friday, January 19, 2007

Rebel Latin?

The 67-year-old Carmelite priest, a native of Wisconsin, had taught students at the Jesuit-run Gregorian University from the mid 1970s until this year, when he was informed that his position would not be renewed. University officials were reportedly annoyed by the irrepressible teacher’s disdain for administrative procedures; Foster had reportedly admitted scores of students to his classroom without requiring them to enroll in the Gregorian.

Now, with the help of friends, Father Foster has set up a new school where he will continue teaching by his own unorthodox but very popular methods. “Latin isn’t going to disappear,” he told reporters; “not if I have anything to do with it.”

Apparently the Roman Empire still lives. I should go sign up.

Thursday, January 18, 2007


As an Illinois Senator Obama had the unstinting approval of the Illinois Planned Parenthood Council for his dependable support of pro-abortion legislation. Now, after a short two years in the U.S. Senate, Obama has earned 100% ratings from pro-abortion groups across the board, including NARAL Pro-Choice America and the National Organization for Women.

In 2002 he voted against a bill to protect or offer medical care to babies that survive botched abortions. Prior to that he opposed an Illinois State ban on partial-birth abortion, and refused his vote to a bill mandating internet pornography filters in schools.

In 2006, Obama cast his vote against the Federal Marriage Amendment. “Personally, I do believe that marriage is between a man and a woman,” he said the day he voted against defining marriage as between a man and a woman.

But Father Pfleger is just concerned for Obama’s “vulnerability.”

. . .

Although Father Pfleger says he is pro-life, he has a long history of inviting outspoken pro-abortion advocates into his pulpit – this despite the fact that the Chicago Archdiocese has a longstanding policy explicitly forbidding the use of Church property, under any circumstances, by pro-abortion advocates.

Yet in January 2003 singer Harry Belafonte was invited by Pfleger to speak at a Sunday Mass, where he criticized Bush for being pro-life and threatening a “woman’s right to abortion.”

I think under the circumstances, it might not have been inappropriate to start a riot during Mass.

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Need an incentive to get a stronger password?

Look no further. A weak password means that I get to play you, and you really don't want that, do you? Click and scroll down to "Choosing Secure Passwords".

Islam and women

Or, women who become Muslim because they don't like their society.

Sometimes women converts confuse Christianity and the mores of modern society. "Women regain the possibility of living according to their 'feminine nature'," Van Nieuwkerk writes. "Contrary to Western socialisation, Islam highly values motherhood and the nurturing qualities of women. Motherhood is not merely valued in Islam, but acknowledged as an important performance equal to labour and is also supported by men."

One woman converted because "in Dutch society women are obliged to earn an income and Islam permits women to stay at home and raise children". Obviously this woman had a problem with Dutch society and not with Christianity. Christ did not require women to work outside the home if they do not wish to do so. And authentic Christianity certainly values the nurturing qualities of women. In fact, if one examines Muslim esteem for motherhood more deeply, one can see the real Islam. This commandment to stay home and not to leave the home without a male relative was issued because women could not be trusted morally. That is why women are forbidden to go out alone anywhere in Muslim countries such as Saudi Arabia. This esteem is, in fact, a form of oppression.

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

I only didn't comment because I have nothing intelligent to add. If anyone has a topic they'd like to see me cover on the man, I'm up for it . . .

OK, I'm a geek

But Firebug is too cool not to share. It's an AJAX debugger and shows you your CSS and the structure of your webpage to boot, like a DOM inspector on uppers. An excellent way to learn how webpages are structured.

A man I can relate to

Regular expressions can save lives!

Monday, January 15, 2007

What I'm reading

A delightful tome editedby Mr. Spolsky of Joel on Software fame, with articles about the technical, ethical, and social aspects of programming (and getting screwed by your employer). I've read half of it in one day, hoping that day two will get me finished.

Sunday, January 14, 2007

The effects of the DCMA

The Act

The problems

Mark Shea on capital punishment

Awesome. I don't read enough Shea these days. And I have nothing productive to add.

Saturday, January 13, 2007

The New Evangelization in South America

Now this sounds like something worth giving your life for.

Father Gutiérrez said this is why the theme of the general conference "is centered on believers in Christ and on the missionary character" of the Church. "It is not just a 'private' faith but must be shared with others."

"From this conference, a great continental mission will begin," he said. "The conference will initiate an evangelizing dynamic of renewal of Catholics in Latin America. It is the novelty of this 5th conference."

Father Gutiérrez continued: "It is not clear how this mission will unfold. CELAM is studying with experts in missiology how to develop this great continental mission. We don't know how long it will last, but we know it will be a long-term project to reinforce the faith of people of Latin America.

"May 31 will be the last day of the conference, but it will also be the beginning of a great mission."

Friday, January 12, 2007

Trying to have it both ways

This has always been a tendentious characterization of the argument for restricting stem cell research that relies on the destruction of embryos. I have long supported legal abortion. And I don't believe that life — meaning the attributes and protections of personhood — begins at conception. Yet many secularly inclined people such as myself have great trepidation about the inherent dangers of wanton and unrestricted manipulation — to the point of dismemberment — of human embryos.

You don't need religion to tremble at the thought of unrestricted embryo research. You simply have to have a healthy respect for the human capacity for doing evil in pursuit of the good. Once we have taken the position of many stem cell research advocates that embryos are discardable tissue with no more intrinsic value than a hangnail or an appendix, then all barriers are down. What is to prevent us from producing not just tissues and organs but humanlike organisms for preservation as a source of future body parts on demand?

Once you start treating human organisms as fingernail clippings, what indeed is there to stop you from treating human organisms as organ banks? Better use of resources, after all.

Thursday, January 11, 2007

Stuck doing dull, repetitive work?

Automate it. Awesome.

Let's kill some kids and use their parts for research

WASHINGTON (AP) -- The Democratic-controlled House Thursday passed a bill bolstering embryonic stem cell research that advocates say shows promise for numerous medical cures.

But the 253-174 vote fell short of the two-thirds margin required to overturn President Bush's promised veto, despite gains made by supporters in the November elections. Bush vetoed identical legislation last year and the White House on Thursday promised he would veto it again.

The White House said the bill -- the third bill of the Democrats' first 100 hours agenda to pass the House -- ''would use federal taxpayer dollars to support and encourage the destruction of human life for research.''

At stake was whether research on cells taken from human embryos -- considered by scientists to be the most promising approach to developing potential treatments or cures for dozens of diseases -- should be underwritten with taxpayer funds.

Too bad that embryonic stem cell research has yielded no results and probably never will. The point is, some people think it's promising, so we have to do it.

Tuesday, January 09, 2007

A bad way to start the year

Warsaw, Jan. 8, 2007 ( - Archbishop Stanislaw Wielgus of Warsaw resigned on January 7, shortly before he was scheduled to be installed as head of the Polish archdiocese.

The installation had become the focus of a tense controversy in Poland after a Church panel confirmed reports that Archbishop Wielgus had been an informer for Poland’s secret police during the Communist era.

No, I don't know if that's the most compatible with giving your life for Christ. Times were tough, no doubt, but still.

Monday, January 08, 2007

Happy Baptism of the Lord

For some reason this day, and the end of the Christmas season, strike me as of great importance this year. Perhaps it's a growing realization of how I'm not really in control of my life, how some things are beyond my ability to achieve by work. And so I'm thankful for the gift of the season.

Sunday, January 07, 2007

Office XML

Please excuse the geek post, but I was personally offended by Massachusetts two years ago. No it didn't have anything to do with gay marriage. It did have everything to do with a little document they issued calling for 'open standards' in the software they used, calling for Open Office's file format and PDFs in all documents, but attempting to exclude Office XML, which in fact is quite more open than the binary blob of a PDF.

Finally, I find someone who agrees with me.

In reading Joe's remarks, however, it's difficult to find a coherent position. At one point, he bases his notion of "open" on the acceptance of a standard by an independent standards body. At another point, he defines "open" based on the extent to which independent software vendors have supported the format with a certain degree of fidelity. Thus, OASIS's OpenDocument XML format is "open," but so is Adobe's PDF.

As a side note, back on September 1, Joe was scratching his head about Massachusetts' inclusion of PDF in their definition of "open." Apparently Joe forgot that he'd done exactly the same thing back in June. To be fair, Joe's reasoning was subtly different from that invoked by the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, but neither line of reasoning is all that coherent in the exclusion of Microsoft's use of XML in Office from the "open" rubric.

A fascinating little document that looks into the relationship between jargon, XML, and openness. Good stuff.

Saturday, January 06, 2007

What the hell happened to reading the gospels?

Brown and Bakker:

So when did the focus of Christianity shift from the unconditional love and acceptance preached by Christ to the hate and condemnation spewed forth by certain groups today? Some say it was during the rise of Conservative Christianity in the early 1980s with political action groups like the Moral Majority. Others say it goes way back to the 300s, when Rome's Christian Emperor Constantine initiated a set of laws limiting the rights of Roman non-Christians. Regardless of the origin, one thing is crystal clear: It's not what Jesus stood for.

His parables and lessons were focused on love and forgiveness, a message of "come as you are, not as you should be."


29"Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You build tombs for the prophets and decorate the graves of the righteous. 30And you say, 'If we had lived in the days of our forefathers, we would not have taken part with them in shedding the blood of the prophets.' 31So you testify against yourselves that you are the descendants of those who murdered the prophets. 32Fill up, then, the measure of the sin of your forefathers!

33"You snakes! You brood of vipers! How will you escape being condemned to hell? 34Therefore I am sending you prophets and wise men and teachers. Some of them you will kill and crucify; others you will flog in your synagogues and pursue from town to town. 35And so upon you will come all the righteous blood that has been shed on earth, from the blood of righteous Abel to the blood of Zechariah son of Berekiah, whom you murdered between the temple and the altar. 36I tell you the truth, all this will come upon this generation.

Friday, January 05, 2007


The birth of the modern era of memory research is often pegged to the publication, in 1957, of an account of the neurological patient H.M. At age 27, H.M. had large chunks of the temporal lobes of his brain surgically removed in a last-ditch effort to relieve chronic epilepsy. The surgery worked, but it left H.M. unable to remember anything that happened--or anyone he met--after his surgery. The case showed that the medial temporal lobes (MTL), which include the hippocampus, are crucial for making new memories. H.M.'s case also revealed, on closer examination, that memory is not a monolith: Given a tricky mirror drawing task, H.M.'s performance improved steadily over 3 days even though he had no memory of his previous practice. Remembering how is not the same as remembering what, as far as the brain is concerned.

Memory is a wonderful thing. Don't take it for granted. And don't forget what you should remember.

Thursday, January 04, 2007

Freedom of me

Only in the US could the First Amendment be construed as preventing people from talking about politics on TV. Luckily, things may be swinging in the other direction:

A three-judge federal court recently tugged a thread that may begin the unraveling of the fabric of murky laws and regulations that traduce the First Amendment by suppressing political speech. Divided 2 to 1, the court held — unremarkably, you might think — that issue advocacy ads can run during an election campaign, when they matter most. This decision will strike zealous (there is no other kind) advocates of ever-tighter regulation of political speech (campaign finance "reformers") as ominous. Why? Because it partially emancipates millions of Americans who incorporate thousands of groups to advocate their causes, groups such as the American Civil Liberties Union and the National Rifle Association.

And Wisconsin Right to Life. It is another organization by which people assemble (see the First Amendment) to speak (see it again) in order to seek redress of grievances (the amendment, one more time). In 2004 Wisconsin Right to Life was distressed because Wisconsin's senators, Russ Feingold and Herb Kohl, were helping to block confirmation votes on some of President Bush's judicial nominees. It wanted to run ads urging people to "contact Senators Feingold and Kohl and tell them to oppose the filibuster."

But Feingold was running for reelection, and the McCain-Feingold "reform" makes it a crime for entities such as Wisconsin Right to Life to use their corporate funds to broadcast an "electioneering communication" within 30 days of a primary or 60 days of a general election. An "electioneering communication" is one that "refers to" a candidate for federal office.

If you can't discuss electoral politics during an election, when can you discuss them exactly? More freedom! Less regulation!

Wednesday, January 03, 2007

A sort of scandal

A gentlemen here finds the Vatican response to Saddam Hussein's execution a reason to push him away from the Church. I find his conclusion rather . . . odd:

Good Lord. Child molestors get a slap on the wrist, if that; a mass-murdering dictatorial warmonger can't be executed or else it's a crime? What do we do with him then? Suppose we put him in jail and there's an earthquake which crumbles one of the walls and he escapes? Suppose his supporters bust him out of jail? Suppose the guards are bribed to release him? What then, oh Vatican? "Oh well?"

Indeed, "Oh well" would be the correct response. However, I do have some sympathy for his sentiment. Given that the Vatican, as a soverign nation, has executed people in the past, I find Cardinal Martino's statement quite strong.

He also has an insightful post about the SF zoo tiger incident, where a zookeeper was mauled by a tiger. The zoo spokesman said

"We're still trying to figure out what happened and why it happened," Jenkins said.

He responded:

Here's a possible explanation of what happened and why: It's a God damned tiger.

Tuesday, January 02, 2007


"The best way to prepare for death is to spend every day of life as though it were the last. Think of the end of worldly honor, wealth and pleasure and ask yourself: And then? And then? - St. Philip Neri

Monday, January 01, 2007

Christmas meme thing

Under great pressure from The Waffling Anglican, I hereby fill this thing out.

1. Egg nog or hot chocolate? Hot chocolate.  I prefer my eggs scrambled.  Or at least not raw.

2. Does Santa wrap presents or just sit them under the tree? Santa's job

3. Colored lights on tree/house or white? Both on each, it's an art form.

4. Do you hang mistletoe? No way.  Too much potential for . . . problems.

5. When do you put your decorations up? As close to Christmas as humanly possible.  We turned them on this year on Christmas Eve Eve.

6. What is your favorite holiday dish (excluding dessert)? Macaroni pie.  Not the kind with brains in it.

7. Favorite holiday memory as a child: Eating macaroni pie.

8. When and how did you learn the truth about Santa? Third grade, fourth grade, something like that.

9. Do you open a gift on Christmas Eve? Opening gifts on Christmas eve?  What is this heresy?

10. How do you decorate your Christmas tree? Put up a million old ornaments, then a bunch of new ones, then a thousand feet of cheap Christmas lights, then an angel on top.

11. Snow! Love it or dread it? Can't wait for the snow.

12. Can you ice skate? I can.  In fact, I used to play ice hockey, until a career-ending run-in with a ninth grade girl.

13. Do you remember your favorite gift? Knuth.

14. What's the most important thing about the holidays for you? I go to church so many times I need to hit up an ATM.

15. What is your favorite holiday dessert? Those little honey covered balls.

16. What is your favorite holiday tradition? Macaroni pie.

17. What tops your tree? An angel my mother made when she was in school, around the year 1327.

18. Which do you prefer, giving or receiving? Giving, due to the enormous amount of crap in my room.  Unless it's a good book.

19. What is your favorite Christmas song? Does Conditor Alme Siderum count, or is that an Advent song?

20. Candy canes: yuck or yum? Yum.

21. Favorite Christmas movie? The one with the Claymation.  I forget what it's about.

22. What do you leave for Santa? Cookies and carrots.  You know.  For the reindeer.

Happy Feast of the Circumcision

And Solemnity of Mary, Mother of God. And New Years Day. Plus anything else I missed (I feel like there are a lot of Muslims in Mecca right now).

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