Wednesday, October 31, 2007
Halloween and responsibility
On December 7, 1982, Richard Delmer Boyer of El Monte, California, murdered Francis and Eileen Harbitz, an elderly couple in Fullerton, California, leading to the trial People v. Boyer (1989). The couple were stabbed a total of 43 times by Boyer. According to the trial transcript, Boyer's defense was that he suffered from hallucinations in the Harbitz residence brought on by "the movie Halloween II, which defendant had seen under the influence of PCP, marijuana, and alcohol." The film was played for the jury, and a psychopharmacologist "pointed out various similarities between its scenes and the visions defendant described."
Now I'm no expert on PCP or the wacky weed, and I've never seen the movie. So what I'm about to say may not hold water. But it's my expert opinion that the PCP and the marijuana caused the hallucinations, not the movie, which may have provided them some structure. His defense is somewhat equivalent to answering a charge of vehicular manslaughter with the "defense" that you were drunk when you hit the pedestrian, so it's not your fault.
Why bother writing about this? I'm reading a fine little book, which I'll bore you with later, about improving your interactions with others. The author makes the point that, among criminals, almost none admit to having done anything wrong. This is of course a more universal human response. Something to do with pride, no?
So next time you're about to criticize someone, or when someone criticizes you, think about Mr. Boyer and see if you're not about to get into his boat. Better to hold your tounge, I think.
Tuesday, October 30, 2007
Monday, October 29, 2007
Profanity in the workplace
Also, a little something about the pits.
Sunday, October 28, 2007
Friday, October 26, 2007
Thursday, October 25, 2007
It is not unusual for scientists to publish papers and, if they discover evidence that challenges them, to announce they were wrong. The idea that all scientific knowledge is provisional, able to be challenged and overturned, is one thing that separates matters of science from matters of faith.
Just find this a little amusing, given how often a strong Darwinian perspective is held up as right without question :-). Doesn't mean that it isn't, of course.
Wednesday, October 24, 2007
Tegucigalpa, Oct. 24, 2007 (CWNews.com) - A UN official has blamed the Catholic Church for the spread of the HIV virus in Latin America.
Alberto Stella, who coordinates UN efforts to fight AIDS in central America, complained that condom use has been “demonized” by Catholic leaders in the region. He made the remarkable claim, “I guarantee the epidemic would be resolved in the region” if condoms were always used.
You know, because there are no cases of AIDS in the US where condom use is widespread. Alas.
Tuesday, October 23, 2007
A federal judge has halted a reckless plan by the Bush administration to use Social Security records for immigration enforcement. This is good news, not just for the American economy, which would have been crippled by the attempt to force millions of undocumented workers off the books, but also for the untold numbers of innocent citizens and legal residents who also would have been victims of the purge.
I thought the point of working illegally in the US is that you're not on the books. I could be wrong, having never had an off the books job myself, but I'm pretty sure I know what the books are, and I don't think they're on them.
Monday, October 22, 2007
The Merton Lecture
Professor Michael Sherwin, O.P., holder of the chair in fundamental moral theology at the University of Fribourg, Switzerland, is delivering this year's Merton Lecture on Monday, Oct. 22 at 8:00 PM in St. Paul's Chapel on the topic "Happiness and Its Discontents."
The lecture was a pretty decent one, the main topics being whether happiness is synonymous with pleasure and whether we can achieve happiness in this life, from an Enlightenment/post-Enlightenment perspective contrasted with a Catholic perspective. Not the stuff for the 11 pm news, but a refreshing lecture overall.
I've been assured that the talk will soon be online if anyone's interested . . .
Sunday, October 21, 2007
For the Squach in honor of his new Ignatius
Look at it from the perspective of embedded computing. I mean, I don't think that anyone objects to GM saying your warranty is void if you try to fiddle with the computers in their car, or GM forcing you to use a certain brand of real time control software. The computer is incidental, and fiddling is a bad thing. Perhaps Apple and ATT have the same thing going here.
Of course releasing an SDK kind of makes that argument moot.
The new policy is a big shift after decades when Americans arrived at land crossings, declared they were citizens and were waved through. Since the authorities began ramping up enforcement in August, wait times at border stations in Texas have often stretched to two hours or more, discouraging visitors and shoppers and upsetting business.
Good golly Miss Molly. Maybe next time I go to the bank I'll just assure the teller that I'm Bill Gates and withdraw a few K.
Friday, October 19, 2007
I've turned it into a clock and a weather station so far, but the best part is it's name - Ignatius, since it was turned on (born?) on the 17th, the feast of St. Ignatius of Antioch.
Ignatius the Bunny. I'm sure the good saint is turning over in his grave. Though I think he was actually martyred in the arena by some wild animals. He's quite important in his own right as a key link between the Apostles and the later Church, as he was buds with the Apostles and their friends. Probably worth a little more research on my part.
For a romantic trip, you should go to Poland, the land of love. (Questions marks and a respectable pause). And responsibility.
One of the few times someone's laughed at something I said. At least when I meant it to be funny.
Archbishop Daniel DiNardo of Galveston-Houston, Texas, rather than Archbishop Donald Wuerl of Washington, DC. As the leader of the Catholic Church in the nation's capital, Archbishop Wuerl had been considered the American most likely to be included in this year's consistory; Archbishop DiNardo did not figure at all prominently in the speculation prior to today's announcement.
I've heard some grumblings about Archbishop Wuerl. I don't know anything about the man, but perhaps someone else has heard some grumblings as well.
Wednesday, October 17, 2007
The American Numismatic Association board of governors fired executive director Christopher Cipoletti effective 5 p.m. Mountain Time Oct. 16.
In the legal parlance of a motion that was passed in executive session at 6:45 p.m. the day before, Cipoletti's employment was terminated with cause.
Board members and their legal counsel A. Ronald Sirna Jr. said very little to explain their action, but considering the other motions passed at the board meeting, it is clear that they feel that too much authority was vested in one person for the ANA's good.
I may be a coin collector, but I'm finding it a little difficult to get too worked up about this. I hope he was stealing money or something because the emotions are flying high over what seems to basically be a case of hiring the wrong person for the job.
Tuesday, October 16, 2007
It's an open question how much vendors hurt themselves when they so publicly put their own greed in front of the interests of the paying customer. I don't know if Sony BMG lost of a lot of music sales compared to competitors because of the rootkit outrage, but I'm sure the incident did contribute significantly to the industry-wide drop in CD sales. But another of the historic cases of vendor as control freak -- Intuit's TurboTax 2002 product activation fiasco -- certainly damaged what was a dominant brand and gave competitors an opening.
Monday, October 15, 2007
On CNBC's 'The Big Idea' last week, host Donny Deutsch became hysterical when Coulter tried to explain that Christianity considers itself the continuation of Judaism, and thus Christians wish followers of Judaism to complete the journey - "we want Jews to be perfected" she phrased it.
Deutsch called Coulter's comment uneducated, "hateful and anti-Semitic" and went so far as to compare her to Iran in wishing to "wipe Israel off the earth."
I'm no Coulter fan. But after all, it is kind of the point of the religion, and it was started by a bunch of Jews. Presumably they didn't want to wipe Israel off the map.
Luckily, saner heads prevailed:
The offence taken by several Liberal Jewish individuals and organizations is also hypocritical according to Rabbi Levin. He pointed out that true followers of Judaism, like true Christians and sincere believers in several other religions feel they have the fullness of truth, and thus in charity hope for a day when all people will embrace the fullness of truth.
Rabbi Levin explained that especially on Jewish holidays special prayers are said, even several times a day, especially for non-Jews that they will come to accept the truth. Translating one such prayer from Hebrew the Rabbi prayed that "Every person will know that You created him, and everyone who has a soul will declare God his King and His monarchy is forever and ever."
Nice. Never met an Orthodox rabbi I didn't like. Of course I've only met about three. But still, it's a start.
Sunday, October 14, 2007
Reflections on Noah
When Lamech was one hundred and eighty-two years old, he begot a son and named him Noah, saying, "Out of the very ground that the LORD has put under a curse, this one shall bring us relief from our work and the toil of our hands." (Genesis 5:29)Immediately this prophecy of Lamech about his son called to my mind messianic expectations in the reversal of the curse of labor brought on by Adam. I began to see Jesus-parallels as Noah was an intercessory figure who saved mankind from being destroyed through their sinfulness. Noah could be seen as the first of many proto-Jesus figures in the OT.
I found this explanation much more satisfying than my footnote in the New American Bible which says that Lamech's comment was in response to the fact that Noah was the first vinter.
You can also see Noah as a new-Adam figure. He is the new father of all mankind, the earth is in a sense newly created after the flood. Just as Adam had all the animals brought forth and named, Noah saved all the animals. And Noah is given the same blessing Adam was given:
- Go out of the ark, together with your wife and your sons and your sons' wives. Bring out with you every living thing that is with you--all bodily creatures, be they birds or animals or creeping things of the earth-and let them abound on the earth, breeding and multiplying on it. (Genesis 8:16-17)
Anyways, I later realized that of course none of these reflections on Noah were ground-breaking, but the same ideas are part of our tradition in faith and the teachings of the Early Christian Fathers: See New Advent on Noah.
Like many of the great OT Fathers of our faith, we are taught that "Noah found favor with the LORD" and that he was "a good man and blameless in that age, for he walked with God." (Genesis 6:9-10) I puzzled a bit over the expression "walked with God." Isn't that same expression used with some other OT figures who "died" or left this world for the next to be with God? Noah fits the bill for being righteous, especially as he obeyed all of God's commandments to the letter without a word of protest or questioning. I love that expression "walked with God" though as term for one's proximity to God, through faith. Noah's blamelessness and his justness stem from his walking with God.
These are just some of my early AM musings. Nothing deeply profound, but it has certiainly been a while since I gave any thought to Noah.
Saturday, October 13, 2007
If we have food and clothing, we shall be content with that. Those who want to be rich are falling into temptation and into a trap and into many foolish and harmful desires, which plunge them into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is the root of all evils, and some people in their desire for it have strayed from the faith and have pierced themselves with many pains. But you, man of God, avoid all this. Instead, pursue righteousness, devotion, faith, love, patience, and gentleness. (1 Timothy 6)
Makes me feel a little better about not having the job I want, or for that matter a job I like.
Friday, October 12, 2007
Someone also told me that many Cambodian children don't believe the Khmer Rouge existed. Don't know if it's true, but it would be fascinating if it is.
Thursday, October 11, 2007
I don't think many people are aware that for a period of nearly 300 years, until 1869, the Church recognized a distinction between the human dignity of the embryo (before 40 days) and the fetus (after 40 days).
Until he is corrected.
The Church did not officially teach this distinction; it was a widespread theological opinion, but never official teaching.
Canon law being distinct from Church teaching. After all, it's law, and the Church doesn't teach laws, or rules, but truths. At least that's my take. A law may be binding, but that doesn't mean it lines up perfectly with moral truth. Or should.
Wednesday, October 10, 2007
Karen Brooks Hopkins, president of the Brooklyn Academy of Music, said she was initially stunned when she learned that Altria would discontinue its funding, which included a $375,000 donation last year.
The company has been the primary sponsor of the academy’s Next Wave Festival since its inception in 1983, and Ms. Hopkins and her staff are seeking new sponsors.
“They did it because they saw the vision. They got it,” she said. “It’s hard to get money for the arts. It’s even harder the more experimental and unusual the program.”
This seems strange to me for a few reasons. Firstly, I'm not really sure why an artist would want to be reliant on donations from a corporation. I'll admit the money is readily available, but it doesn't really seem sustainable. When you have donations from individual doners, people feel a connection with the program that they're sponsoring. A corporation can disappear, as in this story, or just decide that its money is better spend somewhere else, and then you have a large hole in your budget.
From the other side, I'm not sure what Altria's been getting. Some positive press and mindshare no doubt, but I'm not sure why it should be the job of a tobacco company to "see the vision" when it comes to an arts program.
But they both do it. I feel as if I must be missing something.
Tuesday, October 09, 2007
Thanks to everyone for your prayers and participation in our No More Porn Tour in Baltimore! We had a very successful night. Matt and I showed up early to scope things out, just as Mark Houck and Damian Wargo of the King's Men in Philadelphia were getting lost in Brooklyn (Maryland). I clumsily directed them to the right intersection and they showed up a few minutes later with signs and pamphlets for the event.
We crossed the street and established a post on the sidewalk in front of the porn shop, which is called Video Outlet. It's in a run-down shopping center, of course, at an intersection where you can often find a homeless man pacing the median, wrapped only in black garbage bags. Behind the place lie a big parking lot and a large warehouse-like building where every weekend people gather for a flea market. Next door to the sexually oriented business (SOB) is a pawn shop – no surprise – a rent-a-center, an empty storefront, and a beauty salon. It's not the part of town where you'd think, ahh, these people need to spend their ample discretionary income on adult DVDs. It's a part of town where, unless you live there, you have no compelling reason to go...but if you did, you could probably bet none of your friends would run into you.
Not far from the intersection lines of cute little homes form pleasant neighborhoods of young families and retirees and school teachers and accountants. The store has something to offer them as well, namely family videos in a small section at the front of the store. All the signage makes this clear – "Adult Videos, Family Videos, All Ratings" – lest you think it just a seedy smut shack. Yet, even in the family section, suggestive images adorn the walls and posters hung in strategic places promote soft-core sleaze. The back wall of this section, along with a black curtain and a stop sign that reads "YOU MUST BE 18 TO ENTER" is all that separates dubiously family-friendly from the admittedly hard-core (I ponder whether the implication that hard-core is not family-friendly was intended). On one end of the store, where a high counter spans the length of the building, the divide between genres is eliminated. The counter is high enough to keep non-adults from seeing what the proprietors deem only for adults, which apparently does not include the many "novelty" items, condoms, aphrodisiacs, and lingerie in plain view on the family side of the store.
We set up directly in front of the shop on a public sidewalk skirting the small front parking lot. Mark laid out an arsenal of signs and said, "Pick your weapon." We each grabbed a sign. Mark grabbed two. He handed us each a pile of pamphlets, The Top Ten Questions Asked About Pornography, which he and Molly Kelly had published. We began pacing the sidewalk and soon Mark T. joined us. Most of us were praying silently before Matt suggested a Rosary. Mark T., Matt, Damian and I prayed in chorus. It wasn't long before people were honking in support. I noticed several women slowing down to read the signs as they passed. Not a few gave us thumbs up, a nod, or a wave. Soon, a young man of about 25 came walking up the sidewalk, head down, ball cap pulled down to cover his eyes. At first, it looked like he was just going to cut through the parking lot, but then he quickly turned and entered the SOB. Mark shouted at him, "You deserve better". He pretended not to hear.
Within half an hour, our first heckler arrived on the scene. Waiting at a stop light behind six or seven cars, the man shouted through the open window of his Chevrolet, "I love porn!"
"Why?" Mark shouted back.
"I love porn!" he exclaimed again. The exchange continued like this for a little while with Mark adding a little argument in after each successive why, until after the light changed. As the man drove away, he answered Mark's final why, "Because it excites me." Mark shook his head.
A few miles away, at St. Phillip Neri, Lisa G. was leading others in prayer. There is no doubt these prayers strengthened us. Matt, Mark H., Damian, and I are friends, but there have been times of tension between us: a precedent that could have left room for the devil to enter into our midst. But there was no squabbling or infighting; no one seemed embarrassed or fearful. We all stood tall, as if invisibly girded. No one from the store engaged us in arguments. No one entering the store gave us trouble. The worst passers by did was yell "Porn is good!", or other such erudite mantras, and throw our pamphlets back at us.
At one point I was standing on the median when a young woman caught my attention from her car. I walked over and she asked "Where can I make a donation?" Familiar with the habit in Baltimore of dubious church groups and organizations gathering on medians to request donations, I contemplated whether she thought we were of the same ilk. I told her we weren't really there to take donations, but that she could give her donation to Mark or go on line to make a contribution. She had a few dollars in her hand, but seemed more interested in making an online contribution.
Men on motorcycles passed, one gave us a nod and a thumbs-up. Working men, sweaty from building houses or fixing air conditioners passed by and seemed to stare at us, incredulous. Some men refused to look at us while their wives in the passenger seats cheered us on. One woman shouted "Amen!" as she drove past.
I had to leave the scene to run an errand, which ended up being a wild goose chase, and when I returned our group had doubled. Jeff and Eric were wielding their signs and Tobias of the Warrior Brothers at Catholic University of America had finally battled his way through traffic and was pacing the median with a sign held high.
We continued to draw the attention of skeptics and haters. One woman, crossing the street from the beauty salon to Burger King wondered aloud, "Have you lost your minds?" "No." We told her.
Our ninth man was named Davon. He was apparently a passer-by who'd been recruited into the fight. He must've bought a King's Men t-shirt from Mark or it'd been given to him. He seemed full of energy, but left shortly after I'd returned. He reappeared in front of the pawn shop, giggling. A short while later he walked toward the porn shop and despite Matt and Mark's protestations, he entered. "He went in there with your shirt," Matt remarked plaintively. "He had a King's Men shirt over his shoulder," he muttered.
"It's ok," Mark said, "we just hope he can be strong." Mark mentioned that the guy didn't seem completely with it; he appeared not to fret the matter much. "Hopefully God will turn him around."
Matt's face showed a spark of hope. "Let's pray for him." He began an earnest prayer, and I couldn't help but think about how Matt or someone like him was probably praying for me in a like manner when I was in near occasion of sin or tempted by the conspiracy of the devil and the world, or my flesh.
I was standing on the median with Tobias when a man pulled up to the stop light. He shouted out to me, "Are you with a church?!"
"No," I shouted back, preparing to assure him that you don't have to be "with a church" to stand against porn.
Tobias asked what the man had said. "Are you guys doing this for a church?" the man repeated.
"No," Tobias said, "no particular church. I mean, we're all Catholic, but we're doing this for men and women, not a church." I couldn't have said it better.
It was around this time that Mark H. spent a good amount of time talking to someone who'd pulled into the parking lot, no doubt explaining the myriad dangers of pornography. I didn't see the person pull in, but it seemed to me like I saw them pass and there had been a passenger. Maybe the driver had dropped her off there at the SOB. Maybe she was the woman who worked behind the counter in the evenings who had divulged so much to Mark T. and I when we'd originally gone to check the place out (our reconnaissance mission.) Without much provocation, she told us the story of the owner, the manager, the company and its failure to provide a moving service when they'd moved the store from the now-empty, one-time Seven-Eleven across the street.
Toward the end of our demonstration, Tobias, Mark and I stood on the median chatting when the light turned red and the line of cars began to build. A car full of women was just within our earshot. The ladies looked curious, but careful not to make eye contact. Mark stepped out into the street and passed a pamphlet through the driver's open window. "We're doing this for you women, to protect you and honor you," he said.
"I like porn," said the female passenger, "is that bad? I watch it with my husband."
"Yeah," said Mark.
"Why?" She asked.
"You deserve better. You deserve to be looked at with love, not as an object. He should look at you and see you, not some fantasy from porn."
"But he likes it," she replied playfully. "It's why we have four kids."
Mark continued his protest, "Don't you want him to think of you when you're together?"
"The women are beautiful. It excites him and then he f***s me real good." She was clearly trying to upset Mark. The light changed and her friend began to drive away. I got the impression exchanges like these were routine for Mark. He smiled and told her she was beautiful and deserved to be loved. He reassured her that we were out there for her, for women and children who were being abused and degraded by pornography. Before our protest ended, Mark shouted one more time to a man entering the SOB, "Don't go in there! You deserve better!"
We ended our evening with a prayer circle, thanking God for what he had done and praying for his assistance in the lives of the people there, the customers and employees, the owners and managers. We crossed the street to leave, and from some distant parking lot, Davon was shouting, "Porn is bad! Porn is bad!"
STARKVILLE, Miss., Oct. 5 — The candidate is running to serve his Creator. He is running to restore prayer in schools, bring Jesus into public discourse, force the “money changers” from the state capitol, and move his extensive gun collection into the governor’s mansion.
It is not extraordinary in the local context, except that John Arthur Eaves Jr., the man saying these things, is the Democratic candidate for governor of Mississippi. And the politician he is trying to unseat with these shots from the right is a Republican star, Gov. Haley Barbour.
Monday, October 08, 2007
Columbus Day Observations
Sunday, October 07, 2007
Who's the king?
Each time they appealed to the LORD and said, 'We have sinned in forsaking the LORD and worshiping Baals and Ashtaroth; but deliver us now from the power of our enemies, and we will worship you.'
Accordingly, the LORD sent Jerubbaal, Barak, Jephthah, and Samuel; he delivered you from the power of your enemies on every side, so that you were able to live in security.
Yet, when you saw Nahash, king of the Ammonites, advancing against you, you said to me, 'Not so, but a king must rule us,' even though the LORD your God is your king.
"Now you have the king you want, a king the LORD has given you.
1 Samuel 12
I've always been curious about this bit - if the LORD is the proper king of Israel, it seems strange that the Davidic monarchy would last forever. There are, of course, some answers that become apparent, but this is not the proper forum for airing such ideas. Still, I feel like it's one of the great unresolved tensions in the Hebrew books of the Bible.
Saturday, October 06, 2007
Tuesday, October 02, 2007
The New York office of Catholic Charities, which is bound by the new legislation, challenged the law in court, arguing that the mandate infringed on the organization's religious freedom. Baptist, Adventist, and Orthodox Jewish groups joined in the appeal.
"If the state can compel church entities to subsidize contraceptives in violation of their religious beliefs," the plaintiffs argued in their appeal, "it can compel them to subsidize abortions as well. And if it can compel church entities to subsidize abortions, it can require hospitals owned by churches to provide them."
Monday, October 01, 2007
The Psychology of Computer Programming, 2d ed. New York, NY:Van Nostrand Reinhold, 1998. This is fhte first book to explicitly identify programmers as human beings . . .
P. 685 of the 2nd edition of McConnell's Code Complete.