Monday, December 31, 2007

Public Service Announcement

January 1st is a Holy Day of Obligation for those of the Romish persuasuion.


How could I best Raymond Chen's year in review?

I coulnd't. That's why I linked to it.


Sunday, December 30, 2007

Guinness is good for you

The Wisconsin team tested the health-giving properties of stout against lager by giving it to dogs who had narrowed arteries similar to those in heart disease.

They found that those given the Guinness had reduced clotting activity in their blood, but not those given lager


Saturday, December 29, 2007

Latin in life

None of the leading presidential candidates majored in Latin. Hillary Clinton studied political science at Wellesley, as did Barack Obama at Columbia. Rudy Giuliani had a minor brush with the language during four years of theology at Bishop Loughlin Memorial High School in Brooklyn when he toyed with becoming a priest. But then he went on to major in guess what? Political science.

How things have changed since the founding fathers.

Of the 7,000 books originally in Thomas Jefferson’s library, only a couple of dozen are still at Monticello. The rest were sold off by his descendants, and eventually bought back by the Library of Congress. The best-thumbed of those remaining — on a glassed-in shelf in Jefferson’s study — is a copy of Virgil’s “Aeneid.”

And look at the quality of politicians then and now.


Fair Use

Possibly to increase their chances of a win, a supplemental brief filed by the RIAA contends that ripping music from legally purchased CD’s is illegal. This would eliminate any escape the Howells have. If successful, it would also mean that anyone who ever ripped a CD for their iPod or other MP3 player — would now be a criminal.

I'm writing to my senators and various reps to see if I can get a strong fair use law in place. I recommend you do the same.


Thursday, December 27, 2007

Maybe now's a good time to pray for Pakistan

Just a thought. It seems like an ugly situation quickly getting uglier.

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Wednesday, December 26, 2007

A Bronx mansion of one's own

And then, in June 2006, they took a drive to the Bronx with a friend who was looking to buy a rental building. Touring East Tremont, they came upon an address on their friend’s list on Anthony Avenue and gazed, awe-struck, at a splendid, slightly forbidding stone mansion planted formidably in an otherwise ordinary neighborhood dense with mid-rise apartment buildings and two-family houses. They were told it was under contract to be sold, but that did not stop them from fantasizing.


Tuesday, December 25, 2007


"Thus, according to Gregory's vision, the stable in the Christmas message represents the ill-treated world. What Christ rebuilds is no ordinary palace. He came to restore beauty and dignity to creation, to the universe: This is what began at Christmas and makes the angels rejoice. The earth is restored to good order by virtue of the fact that it is opened up to God, it obtains its true light anew, and in the harmony between human will and divine will, in the unification of height and depth, it regains its beauty and dignity. Thus Christmas is a feast of restored creation."


Monday, December 24, 2007

Christmas Eve traditions

I believe that it is a tradition in my family to try to

1)Show up late for the 5PM Mass
2)Eat dinner as far away from other family members as possible.

This is rather sad. I believe that we're trying something new this year - eating with family. Whoo hoo! Sounds like a good first step.

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Sunday, December 23, 2007

Tony Blair switches teams

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The true meaning of Christmas

Vatican, Dec. 21, 2007 ( - Pope Benedict XVI (bio - news) emphasized the duty of all Christians to evangelize in his Christmas message to the Roman Curia.

"The disciple of Christ must also be a 'missionary,' a messenger of the Gospel," the Holy Father said during his December 21 meeting with leaders of the Curia.


Friday, December 21, 2007

Romney and seeing

Mr. Romney’s latest concession is that he only “figuratively” saw his late father, George, march with Martin Luther King Jr., something he claimed in his highly publicized speech about his Mormon faith earlier this month. Some publications have raised doubts that the event ever happened at all.

I guess it's all a matter of how you define the verb "to see".


Thursday, December 20, 2007

On a letter

A checkbox - next to it a sentence: "Pray for me Father, I will be alone this Christmas."


Wednesday, December 19, 2007


In reference to the walkscores, a reader has found Drivescores. Bravo!

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Not as simple as you would think. I for one would be very hesitant before stepping into any program that required random numbers. Way too easy to mess up and lose money - e.g.:

By synchronizing our clock with the clock on the online casino and hitting the "shuffle" button, our program can calculate the exact shuffle. That means we know all the cards that have yet to appear, everyone's hand, and who will win.


Monday, December 17, 2007

News Flash! Programming Can Now Make You Hip!

Case in point, Robot in indie band music video. Who knew?

Gospel of Judas - minor mistranslations

It was a great story. Unfortunately, after re-translating the society's transcription of the Coptic text, I have found that the actual meaning is vastly different. . . . Several of the translation choices made by the society's scholars fall well outside the commonly accepted practices in the field. . . .

I guess it's probably too late for everyone to unlike Judas again. I feel like I'll be answering quetions about this one for a few years, like that whole "Was Jesus Married" bit.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

I hope I never have a stroke on public transit

They'd probably put a bullet in my head.

Mr Gaubert said he was on his way to meet friends when he suffered a fit on the bus and slipped into a coma which left him slumped on his seat clutching his rucksack.

Armed police were called to the bus depot in Headingley and when he failed to respond to their challenges he was shot with the Taser.

He said as this was happening, another officer was pointing a real gun at his head.

He was restrained and eventually came round in the police van.

He said it was only then that the officers realised it was a medical emergency, despite him wearing a medical tag round his neck to warn of his condition, and took him to hospital.

Thanks to the Crypto-Gram for supplying the link.


Friday, December 14, 2007

Lebanese Melkite Archbishop Gregoire Haddad on Martyrdom

Found on MEMRI TV. Really interesting if you want to hear about the theological/political discussions in Lebanon.

"According to my faith, anything that harms Man harms the faith and harms God. This means that the path of martyrdom-seeking is itself wrong, even if it is for the liberation of Lebanon from the Israelis, or for the liberation of Palestine and the Palestinians. What I mean is that one day, everybody must realize that the goal may be very lofty, but if the means we used to reach it harm human beings, their honor and lives, this is wrong. The end does not justify the means."

-Archbishop Haddad

Thursday, December 13, 2007

How do normal people sort?

Jeff Atwood's blog about sorting now has a response from Ian Griffiths.

Both of them ignore one of my pet peeves. For centuries, people alphabetized words and phrases by ignoring spaces and punctuation. For example, "Newark" would come before "New York." Computers changed all that, and I think for the worse.

How to know you've been at work too long: You can't imagine why Newark would sort before New York.

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Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Our Lady of Guadalupe

Another year, another look at the Marian apparition. My CCD students always used to ask me why miracles and such didn't happen in modern times and I'd assure them that they do, and they'd have some trouble believing me.

Of course, they also thought that two thousand years ago dinos were roaming the Earth. Alas.

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Tuesday, December 11, 2007

In God We Trust blooper

Our favorite newspaper of record has printed a minor falsehood. From this article:

Mr. Romney dragged out the old chestnuts about “In God We Trust” on the nation’s currency, and the inclusion of “under God” in the Pledge of Allegiance — conveniently omitting that those weren’t the founders’ handiwork, but were adopted in the 1950s at the height of McCarthyism.

Of course, as any good numismatist knows, "In God We Trust" was added to our money quite a bit earlier:

Congress passed the Coinage Act (1864) on April 22, 1864. This legislation changed the composition of the one-cent coin and authorized the minting of the two-cent coin. The Mint Director was directed to develop the designs for these coins for final approval of the Secretary. In God We Trust first appeared on the 1864 two-cent coin.


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Monday, December 10, 2007

Why is it that Chinese grocery stores are NSFW?

(That's not safe for work, fyi).

A fascinating look at the follies of machine translation. Turns out that some minor errors in your algorithm when translating between languages tend to cause your software to drop the f-bomb more than James Joyce.

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Sunday, December 09, 2007

Grace Before Meals

We've all heard the idea that regular family meals together help to keep families together and can help individuals lead healthier and happier lives. Today Fr. Leo came to my church (St. Rose of Lima) and spoke about this. He also reminded us that Christmas is Jesus' birthday and we should ask ourselves what gift are we giving Him. He had some suggestions based on today's readings. He was also promoting his website (linked above) and his new book full of recipes and ideas for how to have meaningful family conversation.

In my family meals have always been an important time together. Sometimes this can come across as a negative, or a means of control, (you must be home for dinner on Sunday!) And sometimes our dinner conversations were dominated by the parents and their investigations on me and my brother. They wanted to be sure we were doing everything right in our lives and used this time to drill us. Those dinners sometimes became disasters and unpleasant memories. However, there have been good times in which we all simply relaxed and enjoyed each other's company.

Dinner together as a family can be great, but man does not live on dinner alone! As with everything the motivations you bring to the table will determine how pleasant that family meal is. Eating together should be a time to really check in (not check on) your kids. I think if you suspect there is an issue that needs to be resolved you should do that with the child individually later. Eating together should be a cause for celebration and a time for thanksgiving. I think my parents often felt pressured to drill my brother and I because we had so little time together that they worried if they didn't bring up certain things over dinner, we would slip away and the topic wouldn't get discussed.

Now my housemates are my surrogate family. I live in a former convent with eight other women. We eat dinner together every Sunday and we try to eat together (schedules permitting) Monday through Thursday. I try to make it to every dinner, because I know this is usually the only time in the day I'll take to enjoy the company of those I live with. If it weren't for these dinners I wouldn't have such good bonds with some of them. Of course there are those housemates who are unable or choose not to come to the majority of dinners. We lament that they chose not to join us and that they miss out on community life, but you can't force people into spending time together.

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Saturday, December 08, 2007

Anglican diocese splits

FRESNO, Calif., Dec. 8 — The Diocese of San Joaquin voted on Saturday to cut ties with the Episcopal Church, the first time in the church’s history a diocese has done so over theological issues and the biggest leap so far by dissident Episcopalians hoping to form a rival national church in the United States.

And of course the lawsuits begin. Always nice when churches sue each other.


Friday, December 07, 2007

Public Service Announcement

Saturday, December 8th, is the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception. That's a holy day of obligation, unless your bishop says otherwise.


Best christmas lights ever

A new form of art perhaps. Hat tip to my uncle for finding this one.


Newman quote of the day

Life passes, riches fly away, popularity is fickle, the senses decay, the world changes, friends die. One alone is constant; One alone is true to us; One alone can be true; One alone can be all things to us; One alone can supply our needs; One alone can train us up to our full perfection; One alone can give a meaning to our complex and intricate nature; One alone can give us tune and harmony; One alone can form and possess us.

John Henry Cardinal Newman, Prayers, Poems, Meditations (London: SPCK, 1989).

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Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Loving the Christmas season

A coworker of mine opined that, although he normally tried to be tolerant of religious belief, the amount of Christmas music on 106.7 FM was too much and he thought something should be done about it.

I hate to be snarky, but there is something to be done about it. You can change the station.

I do not know what was going through his head, but I do think that allowing people to play reindeer songs on the radio is probably a pretty basic exercise in free speech. There's no Constitutional requirement for music to be in good taste.

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Tuesday, December 04, 2007

And of course

The "Festival of Lights" starts tonight. Please don't OD on potato. I had an unfortunate experience at the Carnegie Deli once when the latkes tasted too good, so I've been there.

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What we talked about at work

Oddly named birds and oddly named streets. May not be safe for children.

Sometimes I wonder how we get anything done. Then I remember that as a general rule we don't. Not the sort of day that you feel like you can offer to God.

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Monday, December 03, 2007

DNS hacked, again

Just a reminder that open source doesn't mean more secure. It can. But it doesn't have to.

Kind of scary that the bug has been there for 10 or 15 years.

Besides making sure your DNS servers are running up-to-date versions of DNS, I think Klein's findings bring up another interesting point. Open source advocates are always touting how open source software allows programming and security bugs to be found faster than with closed source software. It certainly makes sense – there's source code to review, and more eyeballs to review it. But as Klein's research shows, it doesn't make that much of a difference. In the 10 to 15 years that have gone by, nobody (publicly) found the bugs in either the closed source or open source versions inherently faster. Both errors went undetected for more than a decade until one person got interested in the research.

There are dozens of cases just like this, where open source bugs remained unfound for a decade or more, until one lone individual on their own personal quest did some digging. You can look at any of the popular protocols (such as SMTP, SNMP, HTTP, FTP, ASN.1, and so on) and find vulnerabilities that went undiscovered for over a decade. Heck, people are still finding problems in IPv4 packets that have been around for 20-odd years. And as far as I can tell, whether or not the product was open source didn't really play a part in the finding or the fix, albeit the open source fixes are consistently coded faster when the problem is located. What mattered most was a single person (or company) that cared enough to investigate. To the responsible bug disclosure people, I salute you!

Sunday, December 02, 2007

Ah the openmindedness of Austrian abortion clinic escorts

Dr. Fiala, the Director of the well-known Gynmed walk-in abortion clinics in Vienna and Salzburg is fighting for the ban. According to Dr. Fiala, police officers are not allowed to take action against "those fanatic anti-abortion demonstrators, even when they "bother" women in a crisis situation."

The video evidence has however given the lie to Dr. Fiala's claims and shown him to be the perpetrator rather than the victim of intimidation.

Salzburg Auxiliary Bishop Andreas Laun viewed the video and spoke with about his reaction. "I am horrified that this is possible in Austria," said Bishop Laun noting the brutality of the abortion clinic guards. The Bishop called the video a real eye-opener. "One can clearly see that they actually did such things," he said.

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Subsidies save the day

Lest anyone accuse me of being some sort of capitalist monster, I'd like to recommend a read of this article about ending famine in Malawi by subsidizing fertilizer. Sure my "friends" at the World Bank may have recommended against them, but a good harvest is often more efficient than a stronger fertilizer industry, especially if no one actually works in the fertilizer industry. I haven't sat down and worked it out, but I'd think that there were probably externalities here that would have recommended subsidy, if someone had thought a little harder about the problems of Malawi instead of giving the standard line, which is the apparent situation.


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