Thursday, November 29, 2007

Plug for prayers & charity as CRS responds yet again

As I am confined to be charitable here in Baltimore, and haven't much money to give, I often like to call on my my more financially endowed friends to remember to support those in need abroad.

Super cyclonic storm Sidr hit the coast of Bangladesh on Thursday, November 15. The government estimates the death toll to be 3,396, with another 4,123 people reported missing. According to the United Nations, over 366,000 homes were destroyed and a further 845,000 houses were partially damaged. Since the cyclone struck, Catholic Relief Services partner Caritas Bangladesh has distributed a five-day food ration to 23,500 families in 9 affected districts. While distributions of food and other necessities continue to take place, plans are now being made to help with house repairs, clear debris, clean ponds, restart schools, build more cyclone shelters and get people back to work.
Just a reminder to please remember those struck by disaster around the world in your prayers and to support CRS if you are able.

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Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Something I don't do on a regular basis

Sleep. I'm glad the Times put this study together, because it shows me just how dumb I am for not sleeping well on a regular basis.

It also gives me the quote of the day:

All good nights of sleep are alike. Each miserable night of sleep is miserable in its own way.

So true! Well not that I've had many good nights of sleep to compare.

The article also appears to vanity, if by "vanity" I mean "health".

Quinn delivered a galvanizing pep talk on selling better sleep to an industry convention in April. He cited new research linking insufficient sleep to poorer metabolism and appetite control. “Are you telling me that we can say, as an industry, ‘If you sleep better you might be able to lose weight?’ ” he said as a slide reading “Chronic sleep deprivation could be making you fat!” filled the wall behind him. Plus, he continued, a bad night of sleep makes you look worn out. “We have a product that can make you look good, and we never talk about it to anybody!” Quinn later told me, “Create the pain, then give them the solution.”

There's also a fascinating little bit about how we used to sleep. Apparently the done thing before the 19th century was to sleep in two "shifts" of a few hours, with an hour or two betweeen of sort of being awake. Sounds quite appealing, though their reasons for doing so probably had more to do with having to tend fires and being in bed with a half-dozen other people.


Tuesday, November 27, 2007

CIA and highlighters

A common problem.

LANGLEY, VA—A report released Tuesday by the CIA's Office of the Inspector General revealed that the CIA has mistakenly obscured hundreds of thousands of pages of critical intelligence information with black highlighters.


Monday, November 26, 2007

The morality of public debt

The good ethicist feels that, in general, the taking on of communal debt for capital projects is essentially a good thing, since it's a prudent investment, but that the same bond floated to pay for expenses is essentially a bad thing, since it's imposing a burden on the future. This seems to hold true even if it's for a good cause, like care for the elderly, because these are essentially acts that should be charitable.

But this is different than having an entire older generation expect its pensions to be paid by the young, which seems to be the case for countries whose social security and pension systems are virtually completely unfunded. Judaism recognizes the obligation of children to support their aged parents, and even considers this the highest priority of charity giving, as the Scriptures teach us, "Don't hide from your own flesh". (Isaiah 58:7.) But ultimately this is still considered a form of charity (5), and our tradition urges us to strive assiduously to avoid dependence on charity and public support. (6)

This seems like a wise bit of thinking. There are probably some economic arguments you could make around deficit spending and keynesian multipliers or consumption smoothing, but I think the essential point holds - consumption smothing implies you'll be in surplus soon enough, and just because you plan do to good things with money doesn't mean you should borrow to get it.

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Sunday, November 25, 2007

Christ the King

Happy feast of Christ the King!

Just a reminder that Christ's kingship is one of his three primary roles: prophet, priest, and king. I have been reflecting a lot lately on this concept of kingship. It may seem a bit outdated when it has been a while since we were ruled by or respected kings, but the imagery of royalty of the Messiah is everywhere in the Bible. I am beginning to grow in fondness for this title of Christ because it helps me to put myself in right relations with my God (humility before the King of the Universe!)

The link above has some suggestions for properly celebrating today's feast day. It's not too late to read a little Quas primas!


No Country for Old Men

Tonight I saw the movie No Country for Old Men, which I had no desire to see, but surprisingly I found the film extremely interesting and really appreciated it. Artistically speaking it was very well done. I appreciated the minimalism which let the compelling story speak for itself. I thought the acting was great in all roles major and minor. With almost no music and no glitz, this down and dirty movie struck me with its honesty in portraying some very ugly truths. I was worried about seeing this movie for fear of excessive or glamorized violence, but refreshingly my fears were unwarranted in this case. While there is a great deal of violence, I didn't think it was over-the-top, rather it was a necessary component to the story. (This is a story about a drug-deal gone wrong and cold-hearted serial killer after-all.) The humor is dry and dark, but appropriate for a tale such as this and doesn't break with the atmosphere and tension the story casts, but rather enhances it. I won't give away the ending, but I found it very poignant and profound. The ending is actually what tied together the film for me and helped me to fully appreciate the story. (If you have seen it you will maybe find this slightly ironic.) At any rate, that's my two-cents and if you think you can stomach the violence and darkness of this modern-day Western I recommend this film to you.

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Saturday, November 24, 2007

Jimmy Akin on embryonic stem cell defenders

It wasn't so much his point of view that puzzled me (after all, you can't expect someone who doesn't believe in moral absolutes to behave as if they do*) but the way he defended it; So, why should we continue with controversial research, even in the face of grave moral misgivings? Because "we live in a pluralistic society".

An answer which, as he points out, justifies everything.

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Friday, November 23, 2007

Anti-semitism is a sin against Christianity

Just a really good post I thought I'd share.

Jesus' suffering redeems us from our sins because (among other reasons) the recognition of Gd's love purifies a person from sin, (It is inconceivable that a person who is aware of how much G-d loves him would sin.) and there is nothing that reveals that love like the Cross. That is why it is so very important to realize that Jesus chose the Cross, that it was out of love for us that he offered himself as a sin offering on the Cross.

Anti-semitism--hatred for the "Christ-killers"--is one of the greatest sins a Christian can commit, for it is a sin against Christianity itself. Insofar as it places responsibility for Jesus death on the Jewish People, it takes that responsibility away from Jesus, and so obscures the immeasurable love--the love of G-d for the sinner--which moved Him to choose the Cross. Anti-semitism undermines the central doctrine of Christian faith: the saving power of the Cross, for that saving power is ultimately the Divine love which it reveals, and anti-semitism conceals it.


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Thursday, November 22, 2007

Awesome homily

I was privileged to listen to a most awesome homily about giving thanks at the noon mass today. Major points:

1) When something comes up, do it ASAP because there may be no tomorrow ( this is especially relevant if you work in a hospital, but also applies more generally ).

2) People liked to be thanked when they work. It also doesn't cost you very much at all. So do it.

3) Sometimes the Church gives out free bread and wine. I think this is because they had leftover fresh bread after their thanksgiving distribution so they gave the rest to whoever was at Mass, but as for the wine I have no idea.


Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Stem-like cells

Philadelphia, Nov. 20, 2007 ( - A new technique for obtaining stem cells could eliminate the public pressure for destructive research on human embryos, a Catholic think-tank reports.

The National Catholic Bioethics Center (NCBC) has welcomed the results of research by Dr. Shinya Yamanaka and Dr. James Thomson, who have found a method of using skin cells to obtain pluripotent stem cells. By "reprogramming" the skin cells, the researchers found that they could reproduce the features that scientists find most desirable in embryonic stem cells.

I feel like I read something in First Things about research towards this technique. It seems good, but I can't help but wonder if there's some moral hazard that careful reflection will bring out. I suppose I'm worried this is another, slightly more devious, form of cloning.

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Monday, November 19, 2007

Walk Scores

Joel Spolsky has made a most fascinating discovery, a website that (using Google of course) tells you how "walkable" your neighborhood is, that is, how easy it is to get by without a car. Might as well check out the new neighborhood before you move.

I suppose a neighborhood with a low walk score would help you lose weight actually. Could be worth marketing the tool to Weight Watchers.


Sunday, November 18, 2007

Canon 915

Just a little reminder of what the "rules" are with the 2008 election smack talk heating up.

The Code of Canon Law is not 'Puritanism.' The canonical laws are indeed the Church’s Sacred Discipline and are binding on Catholics who reject these laws and know they are rejecting the Church.

All diocesan priests and deacons are ecclesiastically bound to obey the canonical notification (c.915). Canon 915 places the responsibility on the minister - 'ne admittantur' - who, in some canonists' opinion, could be punished according to canon 1389 §2, should he unlawfully administer the sacrament with the consequent danger of scandal for the rest of the faithful. In addition, canon 1339 prescribes the possibility of punishing any person who causes grave scandal by any violation of a divine or ecclesiastical law.

And what is Canon 915? In brief:

Canon 915 is a 'sacramental law' that talks about the Eucharist and how not to suffer scandal; it is not a penal law. There are four parts to canon 915 that must be satisfied: 1) The sin must be obstinate; 2) the person in question must persist in the sin; 3) the person in question must be a 'manifest' (that is 'public') sinner; and, 4) it must be a grave sin. When all requirements are met, the Bishop, bound by canon 915 to protect the integrity of the Eucharist, must give the public notification to his priests and deacons not to allow sacrilegious Communions, and to not cause scandal to the people. The Bishop here is not putting 'sanction' on the persons in question; they have, in fact, fallen under the canon 915 sacramental prohibition themselves.

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Saturday, November 17, 2007

Internet Addiction

A look at the youths of South Korea.

If you think about it, however, almost every corporate programmer I know spends comparable amounts of time "online", though not for social or entertainment reasons. I think they're probably safe, for the most common reaction upon getting home from work isn't "I should go online for some more hours", but rather "I should interact with real people".

This may not be the case across all occupations where you're required to sit in front of a computer all day, but perhaps someone with some more data could chime in.

Friday, November 16, 2007

The tritone paradox

Just a little investigation of how the brain works in paradoxical ways.


Thursday, November 15, 2007

Jimmy Akin on the writers strike

While there's not such a thing as a Catholic position on the writer's strike, I think Mr. Akin articulates the moral and economic issues quite well, so I'm going to have to agree with him on this one (pro-strike, for those who don't want to read).


Wednesday, November 14, 2007


The Times had an article today about a guy who shot a cat to protect some endangered birds and how he's on trial, becuase shooting a cat apparently is worth two years of prison time in this country. All I could think as I read the article was "Cats are food somewhere" over and over again. Probably not a good sign.

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Tuesday, November 13, 2007

An article that celebrates politicians sleeping on the job

I don't know if you can get much more awesome than that.


Monday, November 12, 2007

Happy Veteran's Day, Observed!


Saudi king

King Abdullah and the Pope. Who would have guessed.

Of course, Mr. Friedman of the Times has his own comment:

I give King Abdullah credit, though. His path-breaking meeting with the pope surely gave many Saudi clerics heartburn. But as historic as it was, it left no trace. I wished the pope had publicly expressed a desire to visit Saudi Arabia, and that the king would now declare: “Someone has to chart a new path for our region. If I can meet the pope in the Vatican, I can host Christian, Jewish, Hindu, Shiite and Buddhist religious leaders for a dialogue in our sacred house. Why not? We are secure in our own faith. Let us all meet as equals.”

Somehow I'm kind of glad that this scenario didn't go down. It seems like it would have been a cause of some bloodshed, and perhaps the situation is not entirely symmetrical.

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Sunday, November 11, 2007

Sunday Blues

Warning - boring entry about my own observations on religious life.

I noticed an interesting phenomenon today, though I'm sure it's happened many times, perhaps to many people. I wake up on a bright Sunday morning, go to church (good times there), perhaps some scripture reading and such. So far, so good. However, by the time dinner rolls around all I can think about is going to work the next day and how early I have to wake up, sort of destroying that Sunday "feeling", if there is such a thing. Perhaps I just need to chill. Perhaps the Hebrews are on to something with that sundown to sundown day. Either way, something's has to improve in this situation before I lose any more half-Sundays.


Saturday, November 10, 2007

How to know you've been spending too many hours at your financial job

If you think that the opposite of 'over the counter' is 'listed', you've been spending too many hours at work. Please go home and get some sleep.


Friday, November 09, 2007

Obvious Quote of the Day

God Speaks Through Scripture, Says Pontiff

I'm amazed the media hasn't jumped on this. After all, they were amazed when B16 said that the Catholic Church thought that it had the religion thing right.


Thursday, November 08, 2007

Anatomy of a digital attack

Paul and his wife, Robin, lead the CastleCops site, which is the headquarters of a volunteer organization dedicated to fighting malware, spam, and phishing. They are very successful in getting malicious Web sites and compromised computers shut down. They also provide advice in Internet crime investigation and help others preserve evidence useful to law enforcement. CastleCops has been in business since 2002 and, by independent conservative calculations, prevented more than $150 million in losses. This fact is not lost on the criminals who rule the Internet today. CastleCops has been the target of more than a dozen DDoS attacks. This year, it was subjected to two large gigabit-per-second DDoS attacks that caused connection problems for many days.

It's quite amazing how little law there is on the Internet, especially for a network originally sponsored by the DoD. I have trouble believing that the current state of affairs can continue for much longer. But what will replace it?


Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Isn't UNIX made by fat people?

Almost as good as XKCD.

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Tuesday, November 06, 2007




Monday, November 05, 2007

A Review of Bella

Although it was a full length film, I found it so engaging that I wished it were longer! Having a bit of a background “in the business,” I can tell you – across the board – Bella gets very good grades. I expected the message of the movie to be excellent, but I didn’t expect the storyline, cinematography, editing, and soundtrack to be the same: superb. The acting, too, was exceptional, but no surprise since the male lead is Mexico’s most popular soap opera actor. From what I’ve been told, Mexico’s “heartthrob” gave his heart to Christ and now is heaven bent on making films to promote Godly values.

Well I guess this means I have to go see it!

Sunday, November 04, 2007

Is it obvious I'm a day behind?

Saturday I was privileged to hear an excellent homily on a saint that I knew little about before that time - St. Martin de Porres, the saint of small things, as it was explained to me. He was a man who didn't shy away from sweeping and washing. Apparently his holiness broke down a few color barriers in his day, as the Dominicans had racial restrictions up until that point.

Luckily for me, I have some "Lives of the Saints" books on my shelves which I'll crack open in a few weeks, perhaps increasing my Catholic literacy.


Saturday, November 03, 2007

An Athiest in the Woods

My uncle sent this to me. I'm not sure where it's from - if anyone knows, can you comment so I can give proper attribution?



An atheist was walking through the woods.
'What majestic trees'!
'What powerful rivers'!
'What beautiful animals'!
He said to himself.

As he was walking alongside the river, he heard a rustling in the bushes
behind him. He turned to look. He saw a 7-foot grizzly bear charge towards

He ran as fast as he could up the path. He looked over his shoulder & saw
that the bear was closing in on him.

He looked over his shoulder again, & the bear was even closer. He tripped &
fell on the ground. He rolled over to pick himself up but saw that the bear
was right on top of him, reaching for him with his left paw & raising his
right paw to strike him.

At that instant the Atheist cried out, 'Oh my God!'

Time Stopped.
The bear froze.
The forest was silent.

As a bright light shone upon the man, a voice came out of the sky. 'You
deny my existence for all these years, teach others I don't exist and even
credit creation to cosmic accident.' 'Do you expect me to help you out of
this predicament? Am I to count you as a believer'?
The atheist looked directly into the light, 'It would be hypocritical of me
to suddenly ask you to treat me as a Christian now, but perhaps you could
make the BEAR a Christian'?

'Very Well,' said the voice.

The light went out. The sounds of the forest resumed. And the bear dropped
his right paw, brought both paws together, bowed his head & spoke:

'Lord bless this food, which I am about to receive from thy bounty through
Christ our Lord, Amen.'

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All Souls Day

The commemoration of all the faithful departed is celebrated by the Church on 2 November, or, if this be a Sunday or a solemnity, on 3 November. The Office of the Dead must be recited by the clergy and all the Masses are to be of Requiem, except one of the current feast, where this is of obligation.

The theological basis for the feast is the doctrine that the souls which, on departing from the body, are not perfectly cleansed from venial sins, or have not fully atoned for past transgressions, are debarred from the Beatific Vision, and that the faithful on earth can help them by prayers, almsdeeds and especially by the sacrifice of the Mass.

I can think of few religions that don't pray for the dead. Perhaps it's an ecumenical opportunity.

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Thursday, November 01, 2007

The FBI - the last great holdout of organized crime?

The long and the short of it was that an Egyptian national, Abdallah Higazy, was staying in a hotel in New York City on September 11 and the hotel emptied out when the planes hit the towers. The hotel later found in the closet of his room a device that allows you to communicate with airline pilots. Investigators thought this guy had something to do with 9/11 so they questioned him. According to Higazi, the investigators coerced him into confessing to a role in 9/11. Higazi first adamantly denied any involvement with 9/11 and could not believe what was happening to him. Then, he says, the investigator said his family would go through hell in Egypt, where they torture people like Saddam Hussein. Higazy then realized he had a choice: he could continue denying the radio was his and his family suffers ungodly torture in Egypt or he confesses and his family is spared. Of course, by confessing, Higazy's life is worth garbage at that point, but ... well, that's why coerced confessions are outlawed in the United States.

The whole entry is quite worth reading. Basically, a Federal court let out a document that showed the FBI as threatening a dude with deportation if he didn't confess to a crime, and then tried to cover up the admission. Priceless.


All Saints Day

After this I had a vision of a great multitude,
which no one could count,
from every nation, race, people, and tongue.
They stood before the throne and before the Lamb,
wearing white robes and holding palm branches in their hands.
They cried out in a loud voice:

“Salvation comes from our God, who is seated on the throne,
and from the Lamb.”

All the angels stood around the throne
and around the elders and the four living creatures.
They prostrated themselves before the throne,
worshiped God, and exclaimed:

“Amen. Blessing and glory, wisdom and thanksgiving,
honor, power, and might
be to our God forever and ever. Amen.”


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