Monday, March 30, 2009

I think there is a lesson here on the plain

Dubbed the "phantom of Heilbronn", the woman was described by police as the country's most dangerous woman.

Investigators had connected her to six murders and an unsolved death based on DNA traces found at the scene.

Police now acknowledge swabs used to collect DNA samples were contaminated by an innocent woman working in a factory in Bavaria.

In my life I have often been quick to jump for the most exciting answers rather than the more mundane and likely answers. It's more exciting to imagine that God has some plan for your life where you have to go to the Moon to save Earth from invading space monkeys. It's less exciting and infinitely more likely, as I believe Mark Shea once pointed out, that God's plan for your life is to set the dinner table for your family every night for fifty years.

We tend to be drawn to the flashy rather than the plain in work as well. Being a doctor is good. A youth who wished to skip college and become a carpenter or some such, I think, would be discouraged in many communities. Of course, with God being a carpenter and all that argument is a little hard to make with a straight face.

Perhaps striving for a simpler answer will also be more likely to yield a correct answer.

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Monday, March 23, 2009

Informed consent

"With the prohibition of access to the room where the child was, I found myself with the mother there in the corridor. Profoundly and visibly shaken by the situation, she explained to me that she had signed 'some papers over there'. The mother is illiterate and doesn't sign her name, having been called to place her fingerprints on the documents in question."

"I asked her about her thinking regarding abortion. Moved by a maternal sentiment marked by extreme concern for the child, she told me about her unfavorable position towards carrying out an abortion. This was also heard by Robson Jose de Carvalho, a member of our parochial council who accompanied us that day to the hospital...we went out, therefore, from the IMIP with a firm conviction that the mother of the child had showed herself to be completely unfavorable towards the abortion of her grandchildren, even stating that 'no one has the right to kill anyone, only God.'"

. . .

Fr. Rodrigues notes that, despite the fact that the father had not consented to an abortion, the social assistant informed the group that "based on the consent signed by the mother of the girl in favor of abortion, the medical procedures must be carried out by the IMIP within a few days. Without understanding well what was happening, I questioned the assistant about the legal basis for this. Although she wasn't a doctor, she gave us a rather difficult diagnosis of the child, according to her, based on medical opinion, although nothing had been given us in writing."

Indeed it does seem like there is some, I believe the word is, chicanery afoot.


A most humorous comparison of AIG and farmers

In the US, the Government has fanned the flames of populist rage towards $160 million given to certain AIG executives under the terms of their contracts (which we are not privy to and thus cannot ascertain the validity of). At the same time, the stimulus bill calls for the spending of $600 million every day for the next 3 years and has received much less scrutiny . . .

I only want an hour. Sadly there are only 2,520 hours in three years, so I probably won't get one.

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Sunday, March 15, 2009


The dream of the defiant hero, standing alone to face down life's adversities dies hard. The great irony is that many men think they are emulating the Lone Ranger even as they sit home watching him; sifting endlessly through cable channels, beer in one hand, remote in the other. Evidently, in an interdependent world, the sole qualification for claiming self-reliance is not "solving the problem," but never asking for help.

Not surprisingly, male identity is still closely linked to the job. Unlike Depression-era people, we no longer ask "Are you working;" rather we want to know "What do you do?" Your job title or occupation immediately stratifies you in the social bedrock. And when that identity is lost, there is an urgency to replace it with something of stature. When nothing is available, says Dokoupil, "men humiliated by their loss of work often compensate by reasserting their worst hyper-masculine impulses, doubling down on old alpha-male stereotypes." In past recessions, that has meant finding refuge in sports and popular culture, hitting the bottle or the gym, and vilifying women as the cause of the problem. Not much has changed.

Times are tough, but isolating will only make them tougher. If you can't take care of your finances, you have to take care of yourself. IT is insular by nature. Coding can be a solitary pursuit, and developing a relationship with a computer is less demanding and more predictable than the messiness that comes with people. To get through the rough patches, IT professionals may have to make a conscious effort to reach out.

Isolation can indeed be a great temptation for some, ie me, but must be resisted. After all, if you're a member of the City of God, you can't spend your time out in a cave somewhere. Monks living in caves of course have an exception due to the fact that they spend their time praying and are thus in constant contact with the City. Sort of a spiritual telecommuting, in a way.

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Monday, March 09, 2009

Headline of the day

Intelligence is no guarantee of goodness

. . .

In 2005, Foreign Policy marked its 35th anniversary by asking several thinkers to speculate on what ideas or values taken for granted today will vanish in the next 35 years. "The sanctity of life," answered Singer, looking forward to the day when "only a rump of hard-core, know-nothing religious fundamentalists will defend the view that every human life, from conception to death, is sacrosanct." A year earlier, pronouncing "the whole edifice of Judeo-Christian morality . . . terminally ill," Singer had elaborated on his notorious view that it ought to be lawful to kill severely disabled infants. "All I am saying," he told The Independent, "is, why limit the killing to the womb? Nothing magical happens at birth. Of course infanticide needs to be strictly legally controlled and rare — but it should not be ruled out, any more than abortion."

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I no can Purim

iz lent.

(Apologies for the use of Purim as a verb, I have been much contaminated by Googling and Xeroxing.)

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Sunday, March 01, 2009

The taste of salty summer brine

While installing SecureZIP, I noticed the following text in the license, right under the part where you say that you're not in North Korea and/or a former Nazi party member:

The software will not be used for any nuclear activities or for the design, development, production, stockpiling, or use of missiles, chemical or biological weapons. Nor will the software be used at any facilities involved in such activities.

I can have some respect, I suppose, for a pacifist not wanting his stuff being used for warlike purposes. But the specificity here is rather strange, and I'm not sure what it indicates. It's ok if you work for a company that produces land mines and/or Gatling guns, or even bunker buster bombs, but once you attach a motor to that thing it's immoral? Doesn't make a ton of sense to me.

As far as nuclear activities - I would assume that the author would not want this software used in a hospital where radiation treatments were being carried out? Ok so he probably means large nuclear reactors or something similar. Which are in general decently safe, give or take a few Soviet models designed mostly to blow up.

But still, I don't think it sends much of a message except that it's better to use GPL'd software. Free as in freedom and all that.

+2 points for anyone who gets the reference in the title without consulting the source of all knowledge.


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