Saturday, March 31, 2007

B16 hears confessions in Rome

Just a neat tidbit.


I'll never understand the desire of the city council to regulate things like this to death. I'm not sure that it really matters if we let the pedicab drivers use electric assist moters, and I'm not sure why we need to take the time to debate it.

I guess it at least keeps them out of trouble.

Check out this ironclad economic argument:

Michael Woloz, a spokesman for the Metropolitan Taxicab Board of Trade, said the number of pedicabs on the street was already unsustainable.

“Just because the industry has been allowed to grow unregulated for several years doesn’t mean the city should accept the current number of pedicabs that has only reached that level because of a lack of regulation,” Mr. Woloz said. “The city needs to come in and regulate this industry, and that includes a strict cap.”

Well if it's unsustainable, then it won't be sustained, so the city won't need to regulate. However, if it's sustainable, then why should the city impose a strict cap? Come now, you can't have it both ways sir.

Clear thinking, people, clear thinking.

Friday, March 30, 2007

What is Ecofeminism?

Ecofeminism is the social movement that regards the oppression of women and nature as interconnected. It is one of the few movements and analyses that actually connects two movements. More recently, ecofeminist theorists have extended their analyses to consider the interconnections between sexism, the domination of nature (including animals), and also racism and social inequalities. Consequently it is now better understood as a movement working against the interconnected oppressions of gender, race, class and nature.

I've been reading up on this theory, and while I don't agree with all the conclusions drawn by its proponents, it's making a lot of sense to me.

Thursday, March 29, 2007

You must be perfect...

"You must therefore be perfect just as your heavenly Father is perfect." (Matt. 5:48)

There is probably no saying of Jesus subjected to more abuse than this one. The very way in which it is translated into our English Bibles does violence to its profound and paradoxical meaning, for "you must therefore be perfect" brings to our minds the image of abiding by a perfectionist moral code that allows us no shadow, no taint of impurity or imperfection - in short, that does not allow us any possibility for reconciliation with the inner enemey. But this is a misleading translation, for, as we saw earlier, the Greek word rendered "perfect" means literally "brought to an end state." It is not a matter of achieving some impossible saintlike condition, but of being fulfilled as the person we were created to be. We are to be complete or whole, our lives and personalities brought to the conclusion that God has intended, not perfect in the narrow and one-sided meaning of the word. It is this completenesss, this paradoxical wholeness, that is the goal of the Kindgom of God, and it can be established only in persons whose very faults and failures have contributed to the development within them of their highest potential and greatest capacity for love. Such a person will not be otherworldly but this-worldly; he or she will not have fled from involvement with the things of the world but will be involved with the world, and yet will not have succumbed to the collective values of the world. People like this will be, in Jesus' words, "cunning as serpents and yet as harmless as doves." (Matth. 10:16) They will be wise as serpents because, like the serpent, they will be familiar with the things of the earth. Yet they will be innocent as doves because they will be conscious of their own motives and their own earth-nature, and in this way will remain innocent. Such wholeness will be extremely paradoxical. Among the radical descriptions of such a whole person are the parable of the crafty steward (Luke 16:1-8) and the story of the woman who was a sinner (Luke 7:36-50).

- Quoted from The Kingdom Within by John A. Sanford

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Do we really know that much about the past?

Apparently a study found that the extinction of the dinos wasn't really correlated with the rise of mammals, as they made their move about 10 million years after the die off, if I'm reading this correctly. Just a reminder, I suppose, that we know less about the universe than we normally suppose that we do.

This also raises the question in my mind of the historicity of scripture. Do we really know what we say we know? Can there be knowledge about things that happened so long ago? I tend to think that we can't have scientific knowledge, because we can't experiment, but we can, knowing what we do about human nature, carefully examine the surviving documents and organizations and draw decent conclusions about what happened in times long ago. This also applies to history more broadly, I would think. It's not "scientific", in the sense of being a natural science, but it can be a serious and thoughtful process that yields good results.

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Uranium seems to be in these days

For some reason, I was always big on nuclear power in my childhood. My classmates thought I was nuts (and they were right), but it seemed to me that the power to polution ratio of a well-run plant was too good for any other readily available source of power for it not to be successful. Other than France, China, and Russia, I don't think anyone agrees with me, but it does seem like things are looking up if you own a nuclear reactor.


Overheard at work:

"So there are six hours in a day."

Monday, March 26, 2007

Freaky science

I'm not sure why scientists are trying to grow flies with extra eyes or give cockroaches extra legs, but I'm pretty sure they're not such great ideas. I think perhaps these dudes need to get out on the weekends.

Sunday, March 25, 2007

Oh snap

Just wanted to share one of my favorite scenes from the Gospels.

So the guards went to the chief priests and Pharisees,
who asked them, “Why did you not bring him?”
The guards answered, “Never before has anyone spoken like this man.”
So the Pharisees answered them, “Have you also been deceived?
Have any of the authorities or the Pharisees believed in him?
But this crowd, which does not know the law, is accursed.”
Nicodemus, one of their members who had come to him earlier, said to them,
“Does our law condemn a man before it first hears him
and finds out what he is doing?”
They answered and said to him,
“You are not from Galilee also, are you?
Look and see that no prophet arises from Galilee.”

Ah Nicodemus. Tell it like it is. I have this image in my head of the Pharisees asking their question and Nicodemus starting by saying "Actually . . .".


Another opening . . .

Most people know little about Matthew Fox other than that he is a very handsome guy with a knack for seeming noble on television. But considering that the Columbia School of International and Public Affairs invited a winner of the Nobel Peace Prize (Shirin Ebadi), and the business school a former Treasury secretary (Robert Rubin), Mr. Fox has the advantage of relative youth and inexperience.

Somewhat predictably, Mr. Fox’s invitation by the senior class officers has caused a stir on campus, where students have questioned everything from his speechifying bona fides to the wattage of his star power. The Columbia student body is famous for its protests, and extended that same demonstrative courtesy to last year’s speaker, Senator John McCain. At least as a Columbia grad, Mr. Fox knows what he is getting into and, we hope, will take whatever happens with a sense of humor.

A legendary prowess for protesting. During my time at Columbia I spoke on camera for a senior's project about religion in student's lives on campus. Though I never saw the end product, apparently there was a bit of agitation when I came on screen at Barnard, and one person came up to me afterwards whom I had never met before to tell me that I made quite a stir. I guess I should consider myself lucky I wasn't the target of a walkout, or a teach-in, or, horror of horrors, a love-in.

Saturday, March 24, 2007

Hmm, so much for the rights of the guardian

Or, if the hospital decides that your odds of surviving are poor, they're allowed to deny you treatment. Nice.


How to get people to go to Confession

Apparently, asking them to go is rather effective.

But why, I asked, were the four priests in this parish kept busy with confessions each evening, not to mention on Saturday afternoons, when in neighboring parishes only a handful of people showed up at the once-a-week slot for confessions?

"Easy," said the pastor. "It's so easy that other priests don't believe how we do it."

Okay, I said. What's the secret?

"From the pulpit we tell our people that they are sinners, that they know they are sinners, and that they need to go to confession. We tell them that God loves them and wants to forgive them. We tell them that we will be waiting for them in the confessionals each night and on Saturday afternoon. We tell them this often and always gently, and so they come to confession. Lots of them."

That's it? I asked. No fire and brimstone? No bribes, spiritual or otherwise? No threats?

"Not necessary," said the pastor. "If you tell people the truth that they already know in their hearts--that they are sinners and need forgiveness--they will respond to that." And so they did.

I guess there's no point in some over engineered solution when a simple reminder works fine.


Thursday, March 22, 2007

Slowly changing?

From the Times Magazine, as linked by After Abortion:

Although 18- to 25-year-olds are the "least Republican generation" and "less religious than their elders," they are "slightly to the right of the general public" on abortion-related issues, The New York Times Magazine reports. According to the Times Magazine, 50% of people in the age group support some restrictions on access to abortion and 15% support banning abortion. About one-third support making the procedure "generally available," compared with 35% of 50- to 64-year-olds. [People ages 18 to 25] "give every indication of being attentive to the moral issues at stake: they aren't willing to ignore what is troubling about abortion and what is equally troubling about intolerant exclusion," the Times Magazine reports.

15%? Now that's an impressive statistic, about 1 in 7. Think about that the next time you walk down the street. Sure surprised me.


Wednesday, March 21, 2007

A decent question

Why Can't Programmers Program?

In my experience, it's because people who don't get what's going on can still pass class. I'm not one to get huffy and puffy if people don't grok references and pointers at first, as long as they are required to do a large project in C before they graduate, which will . . . help them to brush up, so to speak. But really, if you're at a JavaSchool, you can get your degree without understanding what's going on. Scary.


Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Business as usual in the Ottoman Empire

Baghdad (AsiaNews) – “Non Muslim subjects must pay a contribution to the jihad if they wish to be allowed to live and practise their faith in Iraq”. These orders are being imposed on the Christians of Mosul and Baghdad by Islamic militias.

I would find it quite funny if the US charged a tax on all Muslim militias who wish to practice their faith in Iraq.

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Monday, March 19, 2007

Public Service Freeware Announcement

Geeking out but ISerializable In Israel posted this quite irresistable list of the best freeware. I particuarly recommend AVG Antivirus for its ease of use and low cost of zero.


Sunday, March 18, 2007


Bumping a comment I missed when it was posted. My apologies to Eitan, I've been away.

Game over

Lovely description of Purim in Israel, but Eitan, what's going on over there?

In the morning, after Shacharit (morning prayers) and the Megillah reading for the day, which was much more calm, we started drinking in earnest, and did what any self-respecting drunk people should do, which is decide to dig barbeque pits in the yard, kasher (make kosher by cleaning and super-heating) some old grill tops, and cooking 20 rolling around playing with fire and drinking outside all day. At some point we all went in for Mincha (afternoon prayers), which consisted more of drunk people rolling around on the floor and singing than actual tefillah (prayer), but was holy nonetheless. Rav Yehoshua Kahan won at Purim this year by stripping down to his underwear and reading from the ‘Sermon on the Mount’(from the book of Matthew, in the Christian Bible) during the repetition of the Amidah. At some point in the afternoon, after more barbecuing, and yelling from the rooftops of caravans, we made our way to the houses of the Rebbeim (Rabbis) of the yeshivah, first going to Rav Daniel's, and then heading over to Rav Natan’s (together with Rav Daniel), where we witnessed the two Rav’s arguing about incredibly deep things. It’s interesting, how incredibly different the views of two people who live life within the same, very specific strictures can be, and Rav Natan and Rav Daniel are a perfect example of this.

On the one hand, Jimmy Akin did once . . . pointedly . . . point out that there's no need for clothes in Heaven. However, I don't think that's what the good rabbi was going for.


The fourth Sunday of Lent; - so named from the Latin word Lætare (rejoice), the first word in the antiphone of the introit sung that day in the Roman Catholic service.

So go out and rejoyce in the few hours left.

Not like there's an Introit any more. :-(.


Saturday, March 17, 2007

The plight of the convert in Israel

Bad times all around. Let's pray for some peace between the warring Orthodox (not the eastern kind) and the Christian families.

Article 1

Article 2

St. Patrick's Day

I've managed to successfully avoid any drunken debauchery so far today, though I haven't brought any countries onto the Catholic team either. More to the point, however, today is a day of some reflection for me, as I chose Patrick as my confirmation name about nine years ago. Time to figure out if this programming thing is really the profession that I want to be in. I seem to have some competency in it, but I feel as if I don't have enough stress in my life. Sort of a strange sentiment, I know, but I tend to do better in high-pressure environments, and any vaguely competent shop on the Street is not that.

I guess I could try to find a worse firm.

Or maybe something else is in the works for me.

Friday, March 16, 2007

The Sarabite: Reconstructing Roman Catholicism

A must-read from one of my favorite Catholic bloggers (and fellow East Bay resident):

It has been my contention for some time now that what is going on in the Roman Catholic Church is not reform but destruction. Even if all of the doctrines on the books continue to be the same as before the Second Vatican Council, the practice and atmosphere of the church is slowly mutating into something strange and different. As I have noted previously, many aspects of the traditional Christian and apostolic traditions of the West have either been dismissed as minutiae or consigned to the rubbish bin of history. Historical consciousness becomes an excuse to uproot and change, "reform" and destroy according to the fashions and wills of so called "experts". These technocrats are able find fault with everything from church architechture to traditional piety to sacramental praxis, and propose changes according to the latest theological fad of academia.

Such criticisms against this are not new, and they are formulated by a small minority in the Church known as traditionalists. Often, however, this so-called traditionalist rhetoric is embedded in its own positivist and authoritarian narratives of what the past was like and how the present should be. It is not enough to preserve in some sense the forms used in the past. One must go deeper, into the very foundations of these practices that were dismissed as medieval, baroque, and decadent. Traditionalism, as it has appeared as a movement since the 1960's, is not radical enough, in the sense that "radix" in Latin means the root of living things. Traditionalism tends to ossify liturgy, theology, and the Catholic ethos into an agenda that did not exist prior to the changes. In this post, I want to feature three distinct voices that characterize true meditations on what it means to be a Christian in the West in the 21 st century: Roman, Catholic and Apostolic. These voices not only analyze doctrine, but go to the root of art, literature, and culture to find a new way of adressing the question: Is it possible to be a true Roman Catholic in postmodernity?

Thursday, March 15, 2007

Thus demonstrating a fundamental law of stuff

If you actually let someone touch your device, be it a server or a DVD player, it doesn't matter how many billions of dollars you've spent on obscure math. They own you. It's a common misconception that this is not the case, but it is the case, as these gentlemen illustrate.

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Wanted - one theologian, published and dangerous

“Although the preoccupation of the author for the plight of the poor is admirable,” the Notification states, “the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith has the obligation to indicate that the aforementioned works of Father Sobrino contain notable discrepancies with the faith of the Church.”

I just hope that no one from CDF ever goes over what transpires on this blog.

Tuesday, March 13, 2007


A flip-flopper worthy of the great flipper himself.

When he first began running for New York City mayor in 1989, he said that he personally opposed abortion, favored overturning Roe v. Wade and opposed public financing of abortions. During that campaign he morphed into an unmodulated pro-choicer. He dropped talk of opposing Roe v. Wade and endorsed taxpayer funding of abortion. By the time he was mayor, he was declaring a "Planned Parenthood Day" in New York and all but pledging to perform abortions himself, should it ever come to that.

Now that's he's running for president he says that he "hates" abortion — something he didn't mention when he gave opening remarks at NARAL's "Champions of Choice" lunch in April 2001. (Back then, New Yorkers had a "distinguished tradition" of promoting abortion.) He now supports a partial-birth ban, which he had opposed. His aides say he supports — or wouldn't seek to change — the Hyde amendment banning Medicaid financing of most abortions, even though he once opposed it.

Anything to get elected, I suppose.

Monday, March 12, 2007


A film about the end of the slave trade in the British Empire? Awesome.

Well, in idea. I haven't seen it.

That said, the film would probably have a much greater impact if its quality matched its good intentions. Though blessed with a handsome cast and sumptuous costumes, filmmaker Michael Apted would have done better to have commissioned a better script than the convoluted mess that spills onto the screen.

Though I suppose we must forgive it for its numerous conflations of characters and events in order to simplify things, it fails the basic test of maintaining a coherent narrative. The film travels back and forth throughout Wilberforce's career with a flexibility that recalls Kurt Vonnegut's method in Slaughterhouse Five. But while being "spastic in time" may have worked for that fantasy, it fails here, especially since it must surely confuse even that small percentage of the audience that may already know the history.

And this review isn't too hot. Alas.

Sunday, March 11, 2007

Time and computers

A brief discussion of Unix timekeeping on this Sunday evening. Perhaps not a religious topic, but a brief perusal of the article should be enough to bring any man to thanksgiving that he doesn't have to work with such things.


Saturday, March 10, 2007


Mr. Chen:

Some years ago, I was involved in a discussion over an issue that was affected by time zones. In particular, the feature in question organized its data by hour, and since the raw data format was UTC, the items were grouped by hour UTC. This works great for time zones that are an integral number of hours from GMT, but if you're in a time zone that is not, then the grouping will come out weird.

The program manager for the feature dismissed my concerns. "You're talking about those oddball time zones that are like 3½ hours from GMT? I say, tough for them. We should be optimizing for the major markets, not the fringe cases."

"Um," I replied. "One of those so-called fringe cases happens to be the second most populous country in the world."


I learned today that prodigal, besides meaning wasteful, also means very generous (guess I should have seen that definition coming). So, we are called to be prodigally forgiving during Lent. And the story of the Prodigal Son was also the story of the Prodigal Father, who was so generous with his wealth and his love.

Friday, March 09, 2007

The end of Duck Hunt

Yes, it's linked from the Wikipedia article. I got sucked in. But it's surreal.

If you can help someone know that they are loved

It is quite often worth the loss of much sleep to let someone know that they are important to you. You can always sleep.

I have mixed up my priorities often in life. Henceforth, I give everyone permission to yell at me if I invert priorities, and/or engage in priority boosting as in Silberschatz:

Wednesday, March 07, 2007

One nation under God

St. Clement’s letter is also significant in that it concludes with a prayer for political leaders, Pope Benedict continued. This prayer is the first Christian invocation for public authorities, and “has guided the attitude of Christian towards politics and the state” since that day, the Pope noted.

The prayer is noteworthy, too, because it was written shortly after the death of the Roman Emperor Domitian, who organized the persecution of Christians. The Pope of that day, “though aware that the persecutions would continue, did not cease to pray for those same authorities that had unjustly condemned them,” Pope Benedict said.

Going along with our theme of judging not - you can't even judge those who persecute you, not really. Sure, they're objectively wrong to persecute the truth. But authority can be wrong and still worthy of prayer.

Of course, some authorities are nothing more than a band of pirates with guns to back their desires. But that's a story for a different post.

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Tuesday, March 06, 2007

Police madness

The New York Police Department has been going fishing. Not content to nab criminals when they break the law on their own, the department has been planting unattended bags in subway stations to see who might take them, at which point waiting officers pounce.

As NY1 News reported last week, 220 people were arrested last year in the sting, known as Operation Lucky Bag. In dismissing one of these cases, a Brooklyn judge said the police “do not need to manipulate a situation where temptation may overcome even people who would normally never think of committing a crime.”

Come on now. Surely there must be a better use of officers than setting up honeypots and waiting to see who comes around. Testing our brothers doesn't seem like a particularly good use of time.

On the other hand, I guess I'm glad that the NYPD is so bored that it's engaging in this program. That's got to be worth something.

Monday, March 05, 2007

Morning homily

Well, seeing as the gospel this morning was about judging not, that's what I was thinking about for a good chunk of the day. In particular, I'm thinking about how a few people who I'm close too now I had at one point written off as too different from me to be worth talking too. Good thing I wasn't allowed to make that mistake.


Sunday, March 04, 2007

If you ever wanted to understand economics . . .

Hat tip to Blair on this one.

The joys of religious education

Next week I'm to give my kiddies a lesson in "Safe Environment" training, which requires me to get up in front of the class and tell them that if someone touches them somewhere that a bathing suit covers, it's bad. Unless it's not because your mom's helping you to get your bathing suit off. Or something. I'm not entirely sure why this responsibility falls to me, while I'm not able to share with them any of my opinions concerning non-abusive sexuality. Alas.

At any rate, if come next Sunday afternoon I've not posted an entry, you'll know I'm on my way to Sing Sing.

Saturday, March 03, 2007

Happy almost Purim

Came across this interesting article by one Rabbi David Aaron. In particular:

Therefore, when Judaism asserts that G-d is one, it does not mean "one" in the dictionary sense of "the opposite of many." The oneness of G-d is the power of love, which transcends and includes both "one" and "many." It includes opposites in a simple oneness. Although our logical minds cannot understand this paradoxical oneness, we get a taste of it on Purim, because the story of Purim aptly illustrates that even the evil person who denies G-d and rebels against His will ironically serves to reveal G-d's truth and — to the evil person's own dismay — actually end up bringing blessing to the world.

Hmm I feel like I've heard this before somewhere . . .

Thursday, March 01, 2007

Honesty in politics?

De Romney:

Before he ran for senator against Kennedy in Massachusetts, he was pro-life. Then, as he ventured into America's most liberal state as a Republican candidate, he said that his experience with a relative who died after an illegal abortion led him to reconsider his stand on the issue. "I will protect and defend a woman's right to choose" he said as he campaigned for the governorship after losing his Senate bid against Kennedy. But after he had been re-elected as governor and began to focus on a possible presidential race, Romney rediscovered his roots and began to "evolve" on the issue back to a pro-life position, a change which isn't fooling anybody or satisfying either side.

I suppose taking a stand is probably too much to hope for.


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