Sunday, December 23, 2007

Twitter: I'm afraid it would drive me crazy!

I don't recall how I bumped into Twitter, but I'm really curious why anyone would really want to be so hyper-connected, why Wired supposedly said* it is "incredibly useful," and why, as Time apparently said, it is "on its way to becoming the next killer app."

Got any ideas?

* "Supposedly said" because I did a search for Twitter on Wired's magazine website, and came up empty-handed.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Learn about blogging from Simpleology

Kind of a no-brainer for me.

I've been a member of Simpleology for some time. Some of their courses, I can attest, are worthwhile. And they offer some pretty nifty software as well (for free).

I've completed Simpleology 101 which pushes you (especially with the aid of the free software) to establish new and useful habits. So far, I am impressed, too, with their new course on drawing which I've just begun.

Anyway. They've just come out with a new multi-media course on blogging and for a while, they're letting you take it for free if you post about it on your blog--like I'm doing here! (And if you don't have a blog? --They pop you through to help you begin.)

The course covers:
  • Best blogging techniques.
  • How to get traffic to your blog.
And,
  • How to turn your blog into money. (??!!!)


I'm looking forward to learning a whole lot more than I know now about blogging. (I've been blogging long enough. I just don't know how to do all those things you're supposed to do in order to attract readers! [For example.])

Hopefully I'll remember to write a bit more about the course (while it's still available for free) once I've had a chance to check it out. Meanwhile, why not go grab your copy now! :-)

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Matthew Murray

As you're probably aware, last Saturday evening, a young man, Matthew Murray, murdered two young people at the YWAM base just north of us, here in Colorado, and two young women at a church not so far south of us. In case you had not heard or realized: he was a homeschooler.

Shows how my mind works: "I hope he wasn't a Sonlighter!" (It turns out he wasn't .) . . . But it is unnerving nonetheless. Especially since we know many people involved in YWAM and in the church down south.

Yesterday, someone directed me to a collection of posts Murray made during the period between the shootings in Arvada and the ones in the Springs. From the initial collection, I found additional posts. And they are disturbing.

I think there is little question Murray was suffering some kind of severe mental derangement. How much of the derangement was unavoidable--i.e., completely physiologically based--I cannot say. I think there is little question that he had made decisions over the past several years that intensified the dark state of his mind. (Having found myself "on the edge," emotionally, psychologically, when I was a young man (very young--say, about 12); having been closely associated with at least one person who had to be hospitalized for mental problems--indeed, having been so close to the situation that I had to sign him in to the hospital; and having read or heard the stories of many others; I think I can testify: we humans are able both to improve our mental states through careful self-disciplined mental exercise (think of a person like Corrie ten Boom); we are also able to cause ourselves great mental and emotional harm thro! ugh foolish--shall we call it--"wound-picking": calling to mind, over and over, all the insults to our dignity--insults real or imagined--that others have caused us.)

Murray obviously chose the latter route, constantly bringing to mind the ways in which he believed his parents had wronged him.

That, in itself is disturbing. And as a result, I would like to urge you: if you find yourself having been wounded, or if you find yourself being wounded, even right now by someone you know: I urge you to pursue the path of forgiveness, the path of yielding vengeance to the Lord, the path of speaking blessing upon your enemies rather than curses, etc., etc. --These behaviors, I believe, are at the root of the Gospel. Of course, they arise from an understanding that, as Jesus said, you yourself have been forgiven . . . "forgiven much" (Luke 7:37-50).

I have no doubt many of my readers need to hear this message. And, as I said, if you're one of them, I urge you to meditate on the Scriptures that call you to such forgiveness, to such "giving up of your rights."

But there is something else Murray wrote that disturbs me possibly even more. And it's a second direction for which I sense Murray's comments might offer a useful path to follow and which some of us parents in the homeschool world may need to hear . . . possibly even more than the message of forgiveness.

Murray wrote, "Growing up, TV, Internet/computers, video games, music, Christian contemporary music, movies and books were all extremely restricted. All those things carried this . . . mystique about them. They were like these mythical things imbued with incredible power straight from Satan." One example: "[W]e were told that The Simpsons was a very evil and Satanic TV show with the intent of causing people to leave Christianity"--and, therefore, he would never be permitted to watch it.

Now, I have to admit, I have never watched The Simpsons. I really have no interest. From what little I've seen or heard about the program, it seems quite low-brow and a waste of time. (But then, I have pretty much the same attitude toward most TV. In general, as far as I'm concerned, I have better things to do with my time.) HOWEVER, . . .

I was talking with the president of an international mission yesterday morning about some of these matters. As we spoke, he suggested we (parents) might reduce the "incredible power" of so much of the media if and as we interact with our maturing children about these things rather than simply and solely declaring them "off-limits."

This was the path that Sarita and I followed. As I've written in our catalog over the years, we wanted to be there with our children as they confronted the more difficult issues of life. We tried not to "protect" them so much that they would never be exposed to non-Christian media, to the arguments (or satire or sarcasm or . . . ) aimed at Christianity. We didn't want to keep them from seeing the uglier sides of life.

Instead, we wanted to be able to help them think through the implications of what they were seeing or hearing.

As the ministry leader told me he has said to missionaries who, he thought, had been, perhaps, overly protective: "When would you rather your daughter first saw an 'R' rated movie--after she has left your house, or while she is still with you and you can talk about it?"

I'm not advocating that you seek out rotten movies or degrading literature, music, websites or video games. All I am attempting, here, to say is that an extreme, fearful, complete censorship can actually create what Matthew Murray described: a mystique about these things that actually increases the perception on the part of our children that they must, indeed, hold "incredible power"--more power, apparently (to our kids' minds!), than anything that He Who is within them (1 John 4:4) is able to withstand. . .

So. Rather than, as it were, declaring by our actions that these things do, indeed, hold an "incredible power straight from Satan," may I suggest that we demonstrate how completely foolish and weak they are? At the appropriate time, let us take the initiative and mock them, these "weak and miserable principles," the "beggarly elements" of the world (Galatians 4:3, 8-9).

Do my comments, here, cause you discomfort? . . . I invite you to reply via a comment. . . .

Friday, December 07, 2007

Microsoft launches a viral promotion

Pandora.com online radio features ads that I usually ignore. But, for some reason, this morning as I went to turn it on, I clicked on the ad:



















Clicking brought me to the following page, complete with faux video "debates" (see left side segments) and a faux "children's book" (lower right corner)--complete with $5.95 price and properly coded bar code on the back cover--that utilizes a visual and verbal style that mimics children's "how are babies born" books so well, one almost has to laugh:






















Probably the most boring part of the entire presentation is the "offices are boring" spread in the Mommy, Why is There a Server in the House? children's book:




































The text on the next page reads, "When a mommy and a daddy love each other very much . . . "

But you'll have to turn the page to find out what happens!

The entire site is unbelievably tongue-in-cheek.

Concerning the book's author, Dr. Tom O'Connor, we read:
Just so you know, Tom O'Connor does not actually have a Ph.D. He is also not actually a person. And the entire premise of this book is fictional. But on the bright side, a Windows Home Server is a real product. Perhaps you'd like to buy one!

You can find out more about Windows Home Server at . . .
And in a sidebar:





























Back cover copy tells us O'Connor "first gained prominence in the '80s with his pioneering work on electric pencil sharpeners in the home. 'Mommy' is his eighty-seventh book."

Clearly, I think this is viral-worthy marketing: humorous, shareable. . . .

Enjoy!

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Letting go . . .

I'm trying to clear out my mailbox and came upon an old piece of correspondence.

Those who know me well know I've been going through a faith crisis for many years. Right now, the pressure seems to be off. But about a year and a half ago, I was feeling it intensely.

Someone wrote to me:
There is a story about a man who was wandering about on the top of a mountain. He slipped, fell, and grasped the edge of a cliff. He was hanging there. So he shouted to the heavens, "Is there anyone up there?" There was no answer. So he really prayed, "Is there anyone, please, up there who can help me?"

An answer came. "Yes I will help you, but you must do exactly as I say."

The man said, "Yes, yes, I will do everything that you say."

The voice said, "Release your grip."

There was silence. One second. Two seconds.

Then the man said, "Is there anyone else up there?"
I replied,
Yes, I've heard this story, and it always elicits laughs in every audience in which I have been present. Except I don't laugh, because it frightens me that I may be that man.

Date and Dabitur

I recounted the tale of an online surfing safari. I noted it began with a hunt for an article about usury. That search led, fruitfully, also, to a blog post . . . whose author, I discovered, quotes from Martin Luther by way of explaining the otherwise obscure name of his blog: "Date-Datur."

The following text comes from Martin Luther (The Table Talk of Martin Luther, William Hazlitt, Trans (London: H.G. Bohn, 1857). "Of Justification," CCCXVI--pp. 151-152):
I would not boast, but I well know what I give away in the year. If my gracious lord and master, the prince elector, should give a gentleman two thousand florins, this should hardly answer to the cost of my housekeeping for one year; and yet I have but three hundred florins a year, but God blesses these and makes them suffice.

There is in Austria a monastery, which, in former times, was very rich, and remained rich so long as it was charitable to the poor; but when it ceased to give, then it became indigent, and is so to this day.

Not long since, a poor man went there and solicited alms, which was denied him; he demanded the cause why they refused to give for God's sake? The porter of the monastery answered: We are become poor; whereupon the mendicant said: The cause of your poverty is this: ye had formerly in this monastery two brethren, the one named Date (give), and the other Dabitur (it shall be given you). The former ye thrust out; the other went away of himself.

We are bound to help one's neighbor three manner of ways - with giving, lending, and selling. But no man gives; every one scrapes and claws all to himself; each would willingly steal, but give nothing, and lend but upon usury. No man sells unless he can over-reach his neighbor; therefore is Dabitur gone, and our Lord God will bless us no more so richly. Beloved, he that desires to have anything, must also give: a liberal hand was never in want, or empty.

Sunday, December 02, 2007

FWIW: The record of an online surfing safari

I recounted, below, the story of bumping again into an old acquaintance. I said I found him by a circuitous path.

I thought I would tell the story of that path.

I was looking, this afternoon, for some material about biblical and historical attitudes toward usury--the practice of charging interest on loans.

I have read some good stuff on the subject in the past. I seem to recall it was written by Gary North.

So . . .

* I did a search on Google: gary north scripture on borrowing.

Oh!

* A PDF essay by Ian Hodge titled Usury. I am aware of Hodge. He's pretty good. And he interacts with North.

On page 4: a footnote reference to a book called Christianity and Law: An Enquiry into the Influence of Christianity on the Development of English Common Law by Stephen C. Perks.

Ooh! That looks interesting!

* Does Amazon carry it? (No. Indeed, they don't even list it.)

Where can I find the book?

* I do a Google search.

Kind of slim pickings. But my search yields a Wikipedia article about Stephen Perks. (That's interesting! Who has heard of him? Why would Wikipedia include an article about him?)

* I go to the Wikipedia article. Not bad!

Perks founded the Kuyper Foundation. --Oh, yeah! Abraham Kuyper!

* I click on the Kuyper Foundation link in Perks' article.

Bummer! "Wikipedia does not have an article with this exact title. " Indeed, "If you expected a page to be here, it has probably been deleted (see Why was my page deleted? for possible reasons)."

So . . .

* I click on through to the Why was my page deleted? article.

Not terribly informative.

Due to past sad experience, I know if I write an article about something I know intimately--like Sonlight Curriculum, Ltd.--even if I only use publicly available sources, even if my article follows pure, objective, encyclopedic standards, Wikipedia almost promises to remove it. But I "just" want to see the rules. So . . .

* I click on the link from the Why was my page deleted? to Wikipedia: Criteria for speedy deletion. I read it. And then I get thinking: Maybe I'm not permitted to write such an article, but perhaps someone else wrote an article about Sonlight! So . . .

* Is there an article about Sonlight on Wikipedia? (No.) . . .

Okay. Then how about one of our competitors?

* Bob Jones University Press? . . . (Nah, I tell myself. Don't even go there. Why not start with Bob Jones University, period?)

Turns out there is an article about Bob Jones University. [Later addition: Turns out there is also an article about BJU Press! --But I'm sidetracking.]

* When you get way down the Bob Jones University page, you'll find there's even a separate article about Notable people associated with Bob Jones University.

* And a whole section in that article about Notable former students of BJU who didn't graduate. (Did you know Billy Graham attended BJU for a semester? . . . And Fred Phelps, the pastor of Westboro Baptist Church--the "God Hates F*gs" guy who leads members of his congregation on cross-country protests at the funerals of known h*mos*xuals? . . . And then, way at the bottom of the list, a guy named Barry Rogers (including the link I've just copied). He was thrown out of BJU midway through his senior year because he "came out" as a h*mos*xual. Soon after "coming out," he began making g*y p*rn movies. He became HIV positive and eventually committed suicide . . . last year. But I returned to the Notable former students of BJU who didn't graduate section and clicked on the last link: Chris Sligh, a finalist on the sixth season of American Idol . . . (He was thrown out of BJU because he attended a 4Him Contemporary Christian Music concert. . . .)

Well, by the time I finish reading about Sligh, I begin to wonder: If Wikipedia is willing to feature pages on guys like Sligh and Rogers, . . .

* Is there a page on me? (No.)

* A page on my book, Dating With Integrity? (No.)

* How about on Josh Harris' book I Kissed Dating Goodbye? Yes. (!!!) . . . Hmmmm. (Josh's book has sold more than a million copies, while mine has sold only about 80,000.)

Well,

* There's a link on that page to another Wikipedia page about Josh Harris . . .

And then, way down at the bottom of that page,

* There is a link to "The Way of a Man With a Maid", "an online book critiquing the courtship movement. See Appendix A, titled 'Joshua Harris and the Courtship Movement.'"

So I click on that link.

Oh! "I know this book!" The Way of a Man with a Maid is the online version of Robin's book . . .

And

* The online version of The Way of a Man with a Maid includes a link to Robin's blog. . . .

*****

Oh.

And guess what?

When I got to Robin's blog . . . and I read his article about the "Thought Police"? . . . It was originally published by (you're not going to believe this) . . . the Kuyper Foundation!

What a small world we live in!

Finding a soul mate?

Robin Phillips and I have a little--very slight--history together. He has written a book, The Way of a Man with a Maid, available online, that critiques the "courtship" movement--a form of male-female relationship that was--and, in certain circles, still is--popular in homeschool circles. He mentions me and my book, Dating With Integrity, within his work. At one point, almost exactly five years ago, we engaged in correspondence on this subject of mutual interest.

And now, today, while surfing the web for some information about biblical and historical arguments concerning usury (the practice of charging interest on loans), I bumped into Robin once more. (The happy reunion, as it were, was the result of an extremely circuitous path which I will recount in a separate post, momentarily.)

Anyway.

So there I was on Robin's blog when, what to my wondering eyes should appear, but an article of deep--and ever deeper--personal interest . . . An article wholly unrelated to the subject of male-female relationships but, rather, free speech and, even, epistemology: Robin's Readings & Reflections: Thought Police article in HTML.

"And so we meet again!" I thought. [Apologies to Snoopy--or was it the Red Baron? ("Snoopy vs. The Red Baron" by The Royal Guardsmen, 1966)]

I was first intrigued by Robin's introductory remarks about the increasing restrictions on free speech being enforced by so-called "liberal" protectors against so-called "hate speech":
[T]he reign of Big Brother is being introduced to Britain from the liberalism of the far left, a tradition that has historically championed Orwell’s defence of civil liberties and free expression.

This observation is particularly germane when considering the new corpus of offences restricting speech, religion, public debate and, in some cases, even thought itself, to that cluster of ideas which the liberals have designated ‘politically correct.’[2] The State’s eagerness to function as Guardian, not simply of law and order, but also of the ideologies of its citizenry[3], was made patently obvious last year when New Labour tried to push through legislation as part of the Religious Hatred Bill which would have made it an offence to criticise different religious truth-claims.

Even without the impetus of such a law, UK police currently operate under ‘guidance’ that defines a ‘hate incident’ so broadly that it can include debating another person about their lifestyle.[4] Although this guidance has no statutory force, and has been called ‘pseudo-law’ by one distinguished constitutional lawyer, it can influence the policy of police constabularies provided it does not lead to an actual charge being issued.[5] The effect is that simply to express certain viewpoints is at least treated as criminal.[6]

It was this tendency to police beliefs that Dr. N. T. Wright, the Bishop of Durham, lambasted in an address to the House of Lords on 9 February, 2006. Dr. Wright referred to a new class of crimes which “have to do, not with actions but with ideas and beliefs.” He said:

"People in my diocese have told me that they are now afraid to speak their minds in the pub on some major contemporary issues for fear of being reported, investigated, and perhaps charged. My Lords, I did not think I would see such a thing in this country in my lifetime…. The word for such a state of affairs is ‘tyranny’: sudden moral climate change, enforced by thought police."[7]

From religious organisations that must now navigate the increasingly complex labyrinth of gay rights laws[8] to Christian Unions that are being forced to admit atheists into their ranks[9], it is clear that today’s liberals are making sure Big Brother does more than merely watch us: he’s checking out our credo.[10] Chesterton was surely prophetic when he conjectured that, “We may eventually be bound not to disturb a man’s mind even by argument; not to disturb the sleep of birds even by coughing.”[11]
But my eyes grew wider when I saw the second subhead within his article: "The Self-Destruction of Epistemology."

Wow! I think I may have found a fellow-traveler in the world of thought!

******

I didn't really have any further purpose for this post than what I have written here. Just a desire to record my bemused astonishment.

******

But, y'know, while we're on the subject of Big Brother and the problems of eroding freedom of speech, let me quote from Robin's footnote #11 concerning Chesterton's quote about disturbing men's minds and the sleep of birds. After attributing the quote to G. K. Chesterton, Orthodoxy: The Romance of Faith (New York: Doubleday, 1908), p. 113, Robin continues:
Chesterton’s words are a pretty good description of the Protection From Harassment Act 1997. Worded so vaguely that almost any form of repeated conduct can become a crime, it gives the crown authority to prosecute anyone causing a person ‘alarm or distress’ if this involves ‘conduct on at least two occasions.’ Because such conduct ‘includes speech’, and because it is not necessary to demonstrate that the person causing distress has used abusive or insulting words, merely disturbing a man’s mind by argument could become a criminal offence if another person finds it distressing. The penalty is six months imprisonment or an order preventing the person from repeating the offence on pain of 5 years behind bars. It is now used routinely against peaceful protestors.

The anti-intellectual implications of the Serious Organized Crime and Police Act 2005 is equally disturbing. Although this Act is most known for removing freedom to demonstrate outside Parliament, it also includes a section on ‘harassment intended to deter lawful activities’. Under this act, it is an offence to cause alarm or distress to ‘two or more persons’ by ‘harassing’ them. ‘Harassment’ is defined as seeking ‘to persuade any person ... to do something that he is not under any obligation to do’. This means that if I try to persuade two or more people to change their philosophical views, then because they are under no legal obligation to do so, in theory I could be taken to court for harassment if the other person finds my axioms sufficiently distressing.

See George Monbiot's article 'I'm pleased the case against this ranting homophobe was dropped', The Guardian, October 3, 2006, available online at
www.guardian.co.uk/Columnists/Column/0,,1886185,00.html. See also my article ‘The Orwellian Legacy of Tony Blair’, available online at http://robinphillips.blogspot.com/2007/05/good-bye-tony-blair.html See also Peter Kitchens, The Abolition of Liberty (Atlantic Books, 2004).

Saturday, December 01, 2007

Context is everything . . .

I posted the following message on the Sonlighters Club Forums:
This video disturbs me . . .

As someone who is charitably minded, I'm concerned that this video contributes to an almost insurmountable cultural cynicism. And . . . I wonder why people like Geldof and Bono (I don't recognize the others) would agree to participate in such a program? Doesn't it basically say that everything they are involved with (or have been involved with) is (or was) a sham?

Can anyone help me acquire a counter-balanced perspective?

How can truly godly charities fight (what I see as) this cultural drift to total cynicism? . . . I'm astonished and appalled at the comments of viewers. "Ha ha ha"?!?

Wilberforce had to fight the pro-slavery forces who suggested his pleas in behalf of the slaves were (to use modern verbiage) the result of mindless, bleeding-heart liberalism. . . . How do we reply in today's climate?

Concerning the video: it is a bit lengthy, by video standards. The first two minutes (exactly) set the stage . . . then watch out!

[FWIW: We watch no TV at our home. So let me apologize up front if my lack of standard viewership is contributing to a "poor" response.]

Thanks for your input.
Before you read on, I encourage you to watch the video. (And if you have young children around, be aware that when Geldof makes his appearance, he lets an f-bomb fly.)

Once you watch it, feel free to return.

Or not. You may keep reading. But please understand that there are contextual "spoilers" in what follows.

You want to watch through my eyes as they were . . . or through slightly adjusted spectacles?

******

An Aussie wrote the first helpful reply:
I believe this was shown on a comic relief show, which is an annual comedy show with all the proceeds going to help african charities. I don't think it says everything they are involved with is a sham, they are just pointing out that it seems to be the 'hip' thing for celebrities to be doing right now.
Whoa! That helped! Indeed, I could see the humor.

But my lack of familiarity with the participants beyond Geldof and Bono also hurt.

Another community member added:
It's a satire on celebrities who do a lot of visible charity work for the wrong reasons--publicity to plug a product or to burnish a public image.

Ricky Gervais and the tall guy in glasses, Stephen Merchant, are famous comedians and were in character.

The blond guy, Jaimie Oliver, is a famous television chef, so it was funny to see him eating onion rings and McNuggets. I looked this up, but he has tried to teach children to eat better and had a show where they made school lunches. This is probably what he meant by the "fat chav" line and why it was so funny to see him eating bad food.

Bono and Bob Geldof were taking very broad pokes at their public images of humanitarians.
Ah-ha! CONTEXT is everything! Because with that CONTEXT in mind, suddenly, the sketch really does become humorous! . . . Talk about how someone's words (or, in this case, actions) can be made to say something they didn't intend at all . . . "simply" by having them taken out of context!

In this case, by taking the sketch out of context, I thought it said exactly opposite what the speakers (or, in this case, the participants) really meant . . . !!

Whew! Mind-blowing!

******

And while we're on the subject: It strikes me how a brand or brand image--and, in this case, a person's character--can be so important. Jaimie Oliver, a TV chef concerned about proper nutrition, eating onion rings and Chicken McNuggets. . . .

Political Do-Not-Call Registry

From Direct magazine:

When the federal [Do-Not-Call] registry was established, politicians claimed exemption, arguing that their pitches were not sales calls but free-speech efforts aimed at informing voters.

Perhaps. But sometimes the information given out is mighty dubious. . . . And when even genuine informational calls are followed by direct mail campaign contribution solicitations, the combined effort smacks more of multichannel marketing than political discourse.

So . . .

Shaun Dakin wants to give politicians a taste of their own medicine.

Dakin, a database marketer, was once a volunteer political telemarketer. In 2006 he got an earful of complaints about candidate calls, especially from people who had added their names to the National Do Not Call Registry. Now Dakin has set up his own list for those seeking to avoid political telemarketing. . . .

Dakin's registry is an initial response to the arrogance of politicians who pass restrictive marketing laws they don't intend to follow themselves.

Is it perfect? Probably not. But it gets the debate started. . . .

“If this thing takes off, there'll be a lot of very angry voters who may not vote for candidates who don't participate,” Dakin says of his registry. He hopes to sign up 1 million names by next March.

It's an ambitious goal. The registry (www.stoppoliticalcalls.org) launched in late September.
You'll want to read the article to see exactly what the registry does and does not do.

I know I was frustrated, last presidential round, at how many stinkin' phone calls we received from political operatives. Our phone is normally very quiet. But for a two- or three-month period . . . !!!!

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Merry Tossmas!

Whoa! The other side of "Happy Holidays!"

Feliz Navitoss!

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Creative artistic expression

I was blown away by the videos of Phil Hansen and his unique artistic expressions--not only the final works of art but, much more, his techniques. How, especially, can he do something like his "A Moment"? --How can you keep the sense of the whole even while dealing with the minutia . . . and while the entire piece spins?

I think you may find these videos interesting as well (to put it mildly).

Check out his website at http://www.philinthecircle.com/.

Monday, November 05, 2007

The office of the future (???)

Popular Science magazine features seven products--some big, some small--that may transform the office of the future. From my perspective, the most interesting was, by far, the smallest. Swingline, the staple and stapler manufacturer wants to create RFID-embedded staples:
Soon, staples won’t just keep papers together—they’ll make sure you keep them, period. As RFID tags shrink in price and size, Swingline wants to embed them in staples so that lost documents can radio their location to a tracking device.

Saturday, November 03, 2007

Xobni ("Inbox" spelled backwards)

I bumped into a YouTube video this morning that "blew me away." Can this be real? What an amazingly useful feature set!

I clicked on the next video that was supposed to be an ad looking for Software and Software QA Engineers. Obviously, it's a total joke. But a funny one. (Wait for Sundeep Patel [or however his name is spelled] who claims (about 2:05 into the video) that "Yesterday I singlehandedly reduced indexing time 25.44 percent.")

Or . . . maybe this is no joke at all. Maybe Xobni's foray into offbeat videos on YouTube is an absolutely brilliant ploy to find exactly the kinds of employees it wants. . . .

Xobni outlook add-in for your inbox

Another technical humor post . . .

A couple of weeks ago, I posted some pieces I found at the Worse Than Failure Information Technology blog.

I visited again and found myself entranced once more with a discussion of Security Practices Gone Wild. First in the original post but perhaps even more by the comments made as a result of the post. Amazing what computer programmers have to deal with . . . and the kinds of things, then, that they think about.

To get you started, let me quote from the original post:
It's common knowledge that a security system is only as effective as its weakest point. You can install a reinforced steel door with a two-phase palm-print/retinal-scan entry to protect your home, but if you leave a first-floor window open, you're more vulnerable than your neighbor with a simple deadbolt. One of Nate's clients learned this lesson first hand with its e-commerce Web site. The operation didn't involve terribly sensitive data: there were no bank accounts, no Social Security numbers, nor even any credit card numbers. Pre-approved customers would simply sign in and place their orders. Accounts payable and fulfillment would take it from there.

Yet the Web site painted a different picture, featuring two-factor authentication, encrypted databases and a giant padlock graphic advertising "secure."

Before Nate's team arrived, hacking the Web site proved to be about as difficult as entering a house through an open, ground-floor window. The original developers managed to implement virtually every type of vulnerability:
  • Query String Replacement. Users could (and did) fiddle with the URL in the address bar (for example, changing "/viewOrder.asp?OrderNumber= 80023" to "/viewOrder.asp?OrderNumber= 80024") to view other customer's data.
  • SQL Injection. By using single-quote characters, attackers were able to easily "inject" SQL code. For example, typing "' OR '' = '" in the Password textbox would result in a query that asked for users "WHERE Password='' OR '' = ''." Because an empty string ('') is always equal to itself, this would always return a user.
  • Trusting the Browser. Instead of using server-side code to disable and hide unauthorized navigation links, CSS and JavaScript were used. A quick "View Source" or even a line or two of JavaScript type in the address bar could (and did) easily bypass the protection.
Every time the Web site was hacked, the original developers insisted it was an infrastructure problem. They had the company buy a secure certificate. Then they added a separate database server. Then they installed a firewall to put between the servers. Then an intrusion detection server. And so on. Still, hackers waltzed right in.

Eventually, the company decided that enough was enough and hired Nate and his team to remediate the problems. But his hands were tied as the client insisted on dictating security requirements. And dictate they did. . . .
Enjoy!

. . . Oh. I posted this partially to "explain" how I got to Spamusement.com (see my post directly beneath this one). --One of the respondents said the proposed security measures everyone was talking about reminded him of this "Security Issues" cartoon.

And if I'm gasping in awe at the astronomical photos . . .

I find myself convulsed with laughter more often than not by the cartoons at Spamusement, "Poorly-drawn cartoons inspired by actual spam subject lines!"

I'm astonished: I've looked at 29 cartoons so far--just clicking on the buttons beneath whatever cartoon I'm viewing at the moment: all the cartoons have been "clean" . . . even though quite a number of them have been based on gross subject lines--where the language alone makes you cringe, expecting a perverse cartoon.

If you can handle the language of the subject lines, based on my experience so far, I expect you will find the cartoons themselves at least non-offensive, and, more probably, hilarious. . . . A good example: "s*xy baby and bad erection?"

--Somehow, I appreciate the fact that the cartoonist is making fun of people whose "business" really is perverse.

Amazing astronomy

In case you haven't seen it, I thought you might enjoy the NASA Astronomy Picture of the Day site. I just looked through about the last 20 days' worth of pictures and found myself exclaiming aloud over what I got to see. . . .

Friday, November 02, 2007

One for the Scientific Community

I thought you might appreciate seeing this.

I received it from my brother who is founding president of the International Christian Technologists Association.

Right now, the 2007 Best Weblog Contest is going on. Ten blogs in each of a number of categories. One category is science.

An underdog blog is the mouthpiece for a guy who, on his own dime, is working hard to see better scientific work done on the challenge of climate change. Leslie and I [that's my brother and his wife--JAH] have enjoyed helping a bit in our spare time.

Last year's contest (in the science arena) was won by 4000 votes -- and voters are allowed to vote every 24 hours for a week. (The last day of voting is Nov 7... it's already well under way.)

The great blog: http://www.climateaudit.org/

The vote: http://2007.weblogawards.org/polls/best-science-blog-1.php

Climate Audit is by Steve McIntyre -- the guy who demonstrated errors in the "hockey stick" graph for Global Warming -- a graph created using such bad math that almost *any* data set -- even plain noise! -- will generate hockey sticks. (Steve also proved that the NASA scientist (Mann) at fault KNEW his method was bad: Mann denied he had done a particular statistical test for spurious data... yet Steve discovered Mann had an analysis hidden away in a "CENSORED" folder...with exactly the analysis Mann denied having done!)

Steve is also the guy who recently proved errors in NASA's "revisionist" temperature history, forcing them to update their data. (Yes -- today is not warmer because it was measured warmer. Today is "warmer" because they keep revising OLD temperatures DOWNWARD. I'm not kidding.)

And,

Steve is the guy who keeps highlighting unbelievable practices among climate scientists. Practices that, despite the nasty things said about him, are slowly but surely causing the rest of the scientific community to wake up. For example, this is an actual quote, in print, from a leading climate scientist:

...this does not mean that one could not improve a chronology by reducing the number of series used if the purpose of removing samples is to enhance a desired signal. The ability to pick and choose which samples to use is an advantage unique to dendroclimatology.

Oh, yes: these guys literally believe that data that doesn't fit their hypothesis can be TOSSED OUT! (Earliest post on the theme: http://www.climateaudit.org/?m=200509 -- search for "A quote from Esper." It's been used more often since then, and picked up elsewhere.)

THAT is actually one key reason Leslie and I helped collect new data up near Pike's Peak.

The claim has been consistently made that Trees tell a temperature story of global warming. And that it's too hard, too expensive for the Boulderites to go back up and update the data (last collected in 1984.) Yet we'd been hearing rumors that maybe all was not well. So, based on Steve's Starbucks hypothesis (can a team start at Starbucks in the morning, collect tree ring samples and be back in time for dinner?), we went on our adventure. And proved his hypothesis right.

Photo Gallery, by the way: http://picasaweb.google.com/Almagre.Bristlecones.2007

Some of the story (google Almagre climate audit and you'll get more than you want to know)... http://www.climateaudit.org/?p=2189

Anyway. Once more: please go to http://2007.weblogawards.org/polls/best-science-blog-1.php and vote for Climate Audit for "Best Science Blog."

Monday, October 29, 2007

Differences between the wealthy and not-so-wealthy.

I heard an interview with Keith Cameron Smith and took notes. Then I edited his observations and added some of my own to come up with the following meditation on key differences between wealthy and not-so-wealthy people . . . or between those we might call "successful" and those who are not-so-successful.

The one set of characteristics, I am convinced, does lead to success. The others do not.

Time Frames.

  • Extremely poor people think in terms of days.
  • Poor people think in terms of weeks.
  • Middle class people think in terms of months.
  • Wealthy people think in terms of years.
  • Extremely wealthy people think in terms of decades.
Personal Goals.

  • Wealthy: FREEDOM
  • Middle class: COMFORT
  • Poor: SURVIVAL
Some Words of Wisdom

  • "Seek and you shall find," said Jesus. It takes longer to seek and find freedom than comfort. It takes longer to seek and find comfort than mere survival.
  • "Where there is no vision, the people perish" (Proverbs 29:18, KJV). A corollary: With vision, you can flourish.
  • Wealthy are comfortable with delayed gratification.
  • Middle class seek instant gratification.
  • Delayed gratification is giving up something that you want today so you can have what you want even more tomorrow:
    • Putting aside comfort today for the opportunity to gain freedom tomorrow.
    • Being willing to put aside instant rewards (as a single person: sexual involvement before marriage; as a salesperson: a quick sale . . . ) so as to build a long-term (and, therefore, far more mutually profitable/beneficial) relationships.
Content of speech and thought.

  • Wealthy people think active thoughts about the future: "What can I do? How can I change things?"
  • Non-wealthy people think passive thoughts about the past: "What happened? How was I victimized? Why am I the way I am?"
Two famous comments:


  • Big people talk about ideas.
    Average people talk about things.
    Small people talk about other people.


  • Some people make things happen.
    Some people watch things happen.
    Some people ask "What happened?"
Put those together and you find:

  • Wealthy people
    • think and talk about ideas ["How do I ___?" "Why does . . . ?" "What might [explain, enable, . . . ]?"] and
    • cause events to happen.
  • Middle class people
    • think and talk about things [(baseball, basketball, football . . . ) games, houses, cars, boats] and
    • watch events transpire.
  • Poor people
    • think and talk about other people and
    • ask, "What happened?"
Some Words of Wisdom

  • Non-wealthy people talk about sports, cars, movies, vacation spots. The wealthy own all those things! They talk about how to make or own the things the non-wealthy are willing to spend their money on.
  • The observations concerning speech and thought ought to reinforce the idea that you need to associate consciously and purposefully with people who think and talk in a manner that will help you become what you want to become rather than with those who are where you've been in the past and/or where you are right now.
  • "The tongue has the power of life and death" according to Proverbs 18:21. Our lives are reflections of the things we think and talk about. What you think and talk about, you get. So if you think and talk about things about which you are unhappy, and you concentrate on complaining: expect to find more and more things about which to be unhappy, and expect to "enjoy" a negative attitude. But if you think and talk about things that delight you and for which you express gratitude: expect to find more and more such delightful things in your life and expect to enjoy the blessings of gratitude.
  • Beware of negative vocabulary. Use can more than can't. Use possible more than impossible.
Change.

Ask a crowd:
"Do people like change?"

Their almost universal response:
"NO!"

But ask them,
"Do people like positive change?"

And they will say,
"YES!"

  • Non-wealthy people assume change is going to be bad.
  • Wealthy people figure, if the change is positive, then that's great! And if it's negative . . . why, that gives me an opportunity to learn and grow.
  • Wealthy embrace change.
  • Non-wealthy fear and are threatened by change.

    Some Words of Wisdom
    • You don't "get lucky" because you're in the right place at the right time. You "get lucky" because you're prepared.
      "Luck" happens when preparation meets opportunity.

    • Don't ask, "Why is this happening to me?" God permits change in order to help us [possibly us, personally, but, certainly, us as a society as a whole] to grow and to become who and what we should become.
Risk.
  • Wealthy take calculated risks.
  • Non-wealthy are afraid to take risks.
Calculated risk involves
  • becoming educated first,
  • doing your due diligence, then, before acting,
  • considering the consequences of failure.
    Some Words of Wisdom

    Ask three questions:
    • What's the best that could happen?
    • What's the worst that could happen?
    • And what's the most likely to happen?<
      • If the most likely thing to happen will bring you closer to your goals, and you're willing to "live with" the worst thing to happen, then you should go for it.
      • If the most likely thing to happen will NOT bring you closer to your goals and/or you're unwilling to go through whatever is the worst thing that could happen, then you ought not to do whatever it is.
    Failure, Rejection, Loss.
    • Wealthy embrace failure: "I can learn from it."
    • Non-wealthy see failure as negative or bad.
    • Wealthy concentrate on their personal goals and aspirations rather than the approval of others.
    • Non-wealthy alter their goals and aspirations based on what others say.
    • Wealthy "play to win"; they concentrate on what will enable them to succeed.
    • Non-wealthy "play defense" in hopes of avoiding loss.

      Some Words of Wisdom
      • Think of failure as a verb, not a noun; it's something you do, it's not what or who you are (i.e., "I failed to ____," or "That experiment failed." NOT "I'm a failure.")
      • You have to have a stronger desire for success than desire for the approval of others.
      • You have to play to win in order to win. If a team only plays defense, then they cannot possibly win. Same with you: If you seek only or primarily not to lose, then you are virtually destined to lose.
    Learning, Education.
    • Wealthy continuously learn and grow.
    • Non-wealthy are convinced learning ends at the end of school.
    • Wealthy recognize that knowledge is expensive. They are willing to pay for good advice.
    • Non-wealthy look for free advice.
    Money.
    • Wealthy think in terms of investment.
    • Non-wealthy think in terms of expense.
    • Wealthy think of money as seeds to grow.
    • Non-wealthy think of money as grain to eat.
    Giving, Generosity.
    • Wealthy people [those who are joyful, happy, rich in spirit] believe in being generous.
    • Non-wealthy people [those who are poor in spirit] believe they can't afford to give.
    Income.
    • Wealthy have (or create) multiple sources of income.
    • Non-wealthy have only one or two sources of income.
    • Wealthy work to generate profits (passive income).
    • Non-wealthy work for wages.
    • Wealthy people seek to increase their wealth (assets that produce passive income).
    • Non-wealthy people seek to increase their pay.

      Some Words of Wisdom.
      • Seeking merely to build one's paycheck with no view to increasing wealth--profits, passive income--is not only not smart, it is risky.
        • As pay goes up, so do your taxes. You make money; you're taxed immediately, and then you spend what's left over. (Wealthy people, by contrast, make money, spend much of it as they want [as "investment," "seeds," doing good], and then get taxed on the remainder.)
        • As pay goes up, so does your dependence on someone else. Big paychecks are relatively RISKY! (Think airline pilots or the top-dollar employee who does little more than the relatively recent college grad who is making half or a third the salary.)

      • Wealthy say: "I can hire someone to do a task better than I can do it."
        • If you believe only you can do a task, you severely limit your income potential.
        • You need to build teams and seek passive income. When you seek to build teams and acquire assets that produce passive income, hard work comes first; money comes later.
        • An asset that doesn't produce passive income [for example, houses and cars produce no passive income for most owners] is not really an asset from a wealthy person's perspective. As you build your net worth, make sure it is in the form of things that build your passive income.
    Questions.

    Empowering vs. Disempowering Questions

    • Wealthy people ask themselves empowering questions.
    • Non-wealthy people ask themselves disempowering questions.



















      Empowering QuestionsDisempowering Questions
      How can I make the money I need to do what I want?How can I get my boss to give me a raise?
      What can I do today to show my wife I love her?Why is it so hard to get along with my wife?
      What can I--indeed, what will I--do today that will help me stay fit and healthy?How did I get to be so fat?
      What can I think about right now that I would enjoy thinking about?Why am I always so stressed?
    Be, Do, Have vs. Have, Do, Be.

    • Wealthy people think, "What must I be and do in order to have ____?"
    • Non-wealthy people, meanwhile, ask, "What must I have so that I can do ___ and be ___?"
    • Wealthy people believe . . . Who I am determines what I do and what I have.
    • Non-wealthy believe . . . What I have determines what I can do and who I can be.
    What, Why, How

    • Wealthy people ask What, Why and How:
      • What kind of person do I want to be?
      • Why do I want to be that kind of person? (Is it what's on my heart?)
      • How do I become what I want to be?

      Then they ask,
      • What do I want to do?
      • Why do I want to do that?
      • How can I enable myself to do that?

      And, finally, they ask,
      • What do I want to have?
      • Why do I want to have it?
      • How can I create or acquire it?

    Sunday, October 14, 2007

    Who am I?

    A few months ago, one of the non-profits we support asked if I would consider joining their board. I said yes. They said they would need a biographical résumé from me--something that might help them understand me better before they considered whether seriously to ask me to join the board.

    I sent them what I imagine may be the strangest résumé they have ever received. But it felt good.

    Since then, I think I have come to understand a bit more about why I must have felt compelled to send them such a strange document.

    First I told them about things I thought they might like to know about me "from a functional/professional/historical perspective": achievements, jobs and positions of responsibility (other board memberships, for example) that I've held, education, . . . things like that, but also key relationships that could impinge on my relationship with them, and current "primary concerns and interests" in life.

    --Why would I "bother" them with such details? . . . I think such details would help anyone get to know me better: who I "really" am.

    Personal information: when and where I was born, where I've lived (lots of places), family relationships with my wife and kids.

    Stuff about my broader family--parents, brothers and sisters--that has shaped "who I am" and "how I view" and "how I deal with" life.

    The agency is religious, so I included a bunch of information about spiritual faith realities which differentiate me from a lot of others.

    Then, a lengthy discussion of what I called "John's character." And for this post, that's what I would like to concentrate on and reproduce here:
    John's character:
    • John is intensely interested in and concerned about integrity--saying what he means and meaning what he says . . . and expecting similar behavior on the part of people with whom and organizations with which he deals.
    • Functionally, that means he speaks up quickly and forcefully--i.e., he will become highly confrontative--if or when he senses someone (or the group in which he is present) refuses either to address a truth "out there" or to speak the truth about what is happening "here." Put another way,
    • He refuses to permit unacknowledged "elephants" to remain in the room!
    • John seeks to bring opposing people and parties together through mutual understanding.
    • John tends to avoid "group think" or pitting "our" side against "their" side. If he observes, in a group of which he is a part, a near-universal adoption of a certain mood or emotional feeling; or if he observes what he thinks may be a too-quick rush to affirm one point-of-view, he will often--almost as a knee-jerk response, it seems--place himself, emotionally, in the opposite mood or feeling and/or rouse himself to speak for the (or an) "other" perspective.
    • John asks probing questions. He is interested in "everything."
    • John tends to prefer finding whatever is "good" and potentially useful in an idea or proposal; he does not automatically or quickly seek to identify what is "bad" or unworkable in an idea or proposal. Depending on the circumstance, then, one might characterize him as (positively) "a possibility thinker," "good at research," or (negatively). . . rather "indecisive."
    • With all that, however, John is relatively merciless when it comes to communication barriers. He is quick to notice--and finds it difficult not to comment on--features or factors that hinder communication: use of jargon, grammatical errors, circumlocutions, and so forth. Indeed,
    • John is more acutely aware than most people of "environmental" factors and "background noise" that may cause difficulties. Not only is he aware, but he will turn his attention to identify these matters explicitly, and then address them. Thus, by way of examples:
      • When a room becomes too hot, John is usually the first person to attempt to adjust the thermostat, turn on a fan, etc.
      • If a sound system is too loud, too soft, provides too much treble or too much bass: John is often the first person to seek adjustments.
      • If a publication or video seems muddled in presentation, John often identifies non-verbal factors--visual, spatial, sequential, aural, etc.--that contribute to the problem . . . and he normally expresses his concerns. . . .
      In these ways, then, John is a problem-solver.
    I realized, when I wrote this résumé, that it would come in handy--perhaps to make me more attractive to the non-profit organization, or, potentially, to make me very unattractive. After all, if they want or think they need someone who will strongly maintain "distinctives" in opposition to others--someone who will gladly "take on" those who are less than enthusiastic about the organization's mission, then I am probably not their man.

    If they need someone to build bridges, I may very well be.

    And, as I intend to discuss in my next post, being clear about who you are--your strengths and weaknesses--can readily improve help you and those with whom you intend to work maintain your focus on those tasks where you will serve most effectively and efficiently. . . .

    The result of one of my rare immersions into the tech world . . .

    About a four-link-long surfing series from someone's blog entry about Sonlight, I bumped into the Worse Than Failure (WTF) blog



    and the following entry:

    Do Not Click! 2007-10-10
    by
    Alex Papadimoulis in Error'd

    This popped up for Steve in Lotus Notes. I wonder if this is what happens when you click buttons labeled "do not click!"












    Alan C. came in to work one morning to find that someone had helpfully labeled all the cables on one of the hotdesks. How did they ever cope before?
















    Brian was using an internal tool at work and ran into this next error. Naturally, the window doesn't actually detect key strokes ...







    Best comments in reply:

    Made me think of WTF:
    http://xkcd.com/327/


    and:
    The cable labels gave me flashbacks. At my old position we had to label every cable to a ridiculous degree.

    Ethernet data cables had to be a certain color and Ethernet management cables (DRACs, LOM) had to be a different color. So right off the bat we had to swap out 95% of the cables in our facility.

    Every Ethernet cable had to be labeled on both ends with:
    1. Server name
    2. Server port (in case the server had multiple NICs)
    3. MAC Address
    4. Switch name
    5. Switch card
    6. Switch port

    So you would end up with a cable "flag" that was about 6 inches long. It was obviously useful, in the case when someone sneaked into the server room and unplugged a random cable (which never happened). Of course if you ever moved anything or renamed a server for a new project you had to make 2 new labels.

    The best part was labeling the power cords. You needed to have the server name and the "slot" the cord was plugged into on the surge suppressor. Then you had to label the end of the surge suppressor and which circuit breaker it plugged back into.
    . . . Which comment yielded a reference back to an earlier WTF post:
    Clean design and thorough documentation are essential in every type of engineering, from aerospace to software. Network Engineering is no different: with miles of cables wired to thousands of jacks in a typical office building, an unlabeled block of cable is just as good as a dead one. Fortunately, the fine folks at Patrick McGoohan’s office made sure to carefully label everything . . .
















    *****

    Well. I was about to leave WTF having ignored the following post. I was sure it was some kind of joke. Someone must have done some Photoshopping:

    Sorry, You Used That Password 28,452 Times Ago 2007-10-08

    by
    Jake Vinson in Error'd

    This one's
    from the Microsoft Knowledge Base:







    (submitted by Sean)
    So assuming 60WPM and 4-5 characters in a word, it'd take you over an hour to type in your password. And hopefully you'd type the correct one in, rather than one of your last thirty thousand passwords.
    Amazing! There really is such an error message:

    SYMPTOMS

    If you log on to an MIT realm, press CTRL+ALT+DELETE, click Change Password, type your existing MIT password, and then type a new, simple password that does not pass the dictionary check in Kadmind, you may receive the following error message:
    Your password must be at least 18770 characters and cannot repeat any of your previous 30689 passwords. Please type a different password. Type a password that meets these requirements in both text boxes.
    Note that the number of required characters changes from 17,145 to 18,770 with the installation of SP1.
    NOTE: This is not a common case; it occurs only when you configure Windows 2000 to authenticate against an MIT Kerberos domain.
    Whew! I'm so glad to discover this is not a common case!

    Sunday, October 07, 2007

    Something about humor . . . or a lack thereof

    Through about a 10-step surfing expedition beginning from Thou Shalt Not Kill, Except in a Popular Video Game at Church, . . . I discovered that FDR (Franklin D. Roosevelt) could be quite a humorist.

    This is from a September 1944 campaign speech he made to the Teamsters:

    These Republican leaders have not been content with attacks on me, or my wife, or on my sons. No, not content with that, they now include my little dog, Fala. Well, of course, I don't resent attacks, and my family doesn't resent attacks, but Fala does resent them. You know, Fala is Scotch, and being a Scottie, as soon as he learned that the Republican fiction writers in Congress and out had concocted a story that I had left him behind on the Aleutian Islands and had sent a destroyer back to find him - at a cost to the taxpayers of two or three, or eight or twenty million dollars- his Scotch soul was furious. He has not been the same dog since. I am accustomed to hearing malicious falsehoods about myself - such as that old, worm-eaten chestnut that I have represented myself as indispensable. But I think I have a right to resent, to object to libelous statements about my dog.

    While I'm on the subject of humor, however, let me note two of the stops I made on my way to reading FDR's comment.

    I didn't first bump into the two of them in the sentence, "How they laugh doesn't tell you much; what they're cackling at says a lot: Conservatives Are Such Jokers."

    I believe the sentence should actually read, "How they laugh, sadly, can tell you a lot; and what they're cackling at can reveal more than you'd like to know."

    The first reference is to an article about Hillary Clinton's laughter. (I don't watch TV nor do I listen to radio, so I can make no personal comments on her behavior.)

    The second reference is to an Op-Ed piece by Paul Krugman in the New York Times. When I read what he wrote, assuming he is telling the truth, I found myself truly disgusted.

    As a libertarian (notice I am not using a capital L!), I do not believe the government should be providing the benefits Krugman and others seem to think it ought to provide. BUT. I hate to find my anti-government-funded-services position represented by "humor" of the forms he quotes:

    Ronald Reagan thought the issue of hunger in the world’s richest nation was nothing but a big joke. Here’s what Reagan said in his famous 1964 speech “A Time for Choosing,” which made him a national political figure: “We were told four years ago that 17 million people went to bed hungry each night. Well, that was probably true. They were all on a diet.” . . .

    On Wednesday, President Bush vetoed legislation that would have expanded S-chip . . . providing health insurance to an estimated 3.8 million children who would otherwise lack coverage.

    In anticipation of the veto, William Kristol, the editor of The Weekly Standard, had this to say: “First of all, whenever I hear anything described as a heartless assault on our children, I tend to think it’s a good idea. I’m happy that the president’s willing to do something bad for the kids.” Heh-heh-heh. . . .

    Before the last election, the actor Michael J. Fox, who suffers from Parkinson’s and has become an advocate for stem cell research that might lead to a cure, made an ad. . . . It was an effective ad, in part because Mr. Fox’s affliction was obvious.

    And Rush Limbaugh . . . immediately accused Mr. Fox of faking it. “In this commercial, he is exaggerating the effects of the disease. He is moving all around and shaking. And it’s purely an act.” Heh-heh-heh. . . .

    I believe that the lack of empathy shown by Mr. Limbaugh, Mr. Kristol, and, yes, Mr. Bush is genuine, not feigned.

    Ouch!

    Krugman goes on:

    Mark Crispin Miller, the author of “The Bush Dyslexicon,” once made a striking observation: all of the famous Bush malapropisms — “I know how hard it is for you to put food on your family,” and so on — have involved occasions when Mr. Bush was trying to sound caring and compassionate.

    By contrast, Mr. Bush is articulate and even grammatical when he talks about punishing people; that’s when he’s speaking from the heart. The only animation Mr. Bush showed during the flooding of New Orleans was when he declared “zero tolerance of people breaking the law,” even those breaking into abandoned stores in search of the food and water they weren’t getting from his administration.

    Yowzie!

    ******

    Okay. Now I'm going to wander away from the primary subject of humor (or lack thereof).

    ******

    Way down the page of commentary in response to the blog article from which I quoted the single-sentence reference to both Hillary and Krugman, someone objected to Krugman's reference to Miller and his "Dyslexicon":

    All? . . . Did Mr. Miller say "all [Bush malapropisms]"? Here's a genuine Miller quote: "It's mainly when he tries to feign idealism or compassion that the man [Bush] stops speaking his own native language."

    ******

    I have confessed it before. I will confess it again. I am a relative innocent when it comes to politics. I occasionally take a glimpse at what the politicians are saying or doing. Mostly, however, I remain blissfully ignorant of the primary parties' shenanigans.

    I thought the immediately preceding commentator made some interesting observations, however, when he said,

    As Altemeyer shows, certain relatively extreme political attitudes do tend to cluster together, and people in those clusters do tend to behave, politically, in somewhat predictable ways. The followers are not the same as the leaders, though. Altemeyer, for example, shows that right-wing authoritarian followers have definite egalitarian and socialist tendencies (as long as the socialism part isn't benefitting people outside their own group identity. . . .)

    Followers have political attitudes. Leaders appeal to the attitudes, in order to pursue goals and policies. An attitude is not the same as a policy, and appealing to a political attitude is not sharing it.

    Krugman's column could be viewed as having several partisan purposes, but whatever those purposes, its context is partisan division.

    I suppose that my mixed feelings have to do with a David Broder-like wish for the kind of politics [another respondent to the original blog post--JH] projects onto the unlikely figure of William Kristol: "we should judge policies by a careful examination of the substance" where compromise in a deliberative legislative process would improve laws and programs, a world where liberal soft-heartedness is balanced by a good-natured conservative hard-headedness, and everyone wants the good of the country.

    That's not the present state of our politics and partisan divisions, though. Our times are calling for sterner stuff.

    This guy's comment about "right-wing authoritarian followers hav[ing] definite egalitarian and socialist tendencies" intrigued me. But I wasn't sure whether I really believed it until I read someone else's comment further below:

    In regards to right-wing socialism. The military has free medical care for active and retired members, as well as access to reduced prices at the PX and commisary. Military people expect this for their own, but in general are right-wing and opposed to "socialism" for the rest of society.

    !!!!

    Sunday, September 02, 2007

    Fiduciary Responsibility: "Read the Bill Act"

    Wow! Now here's a not only reasonable, but highly ethical piece of proposed legislation! The RTBA--"Read the Bills Act."

    As DownsizeDC comments,
    Most Congressmen are lawyers, and many others are businessmen. They know what "fiduciary responsibility" is. For Members of Congress, fiduciary responsibility means reading each word of every bill before they vote.

    But Congress has not met this duty for a long time.


    Boy! I know what fiduciary responsibility means for me as a business owner and board member! . . . If I let something untoward happen on my "watch," I'm in big trouble!

    So how do our congressional representatives get away with not reading the laws they are seeking to pass?
    RTBA requires that . . .
    • Each bill, and every amendment, must be read in its entirety before a quorum in both the House and Senate.

    • Every member of the House and Senate must sign a sworn affidavit, under penalty of perjury, that he or she has attentively either personally read, or heard read, the complete bill to be voted on.

    • Every old law coming up for renewal under the sunset provisions must also be read according to the same rules that apply to new bills.

    • Every bill to be voted on must be published on the Internet at least 7 days before a vote, and Congress must give public notice of the date when a vote will be held on that bill.

    • Passage of a bill that does not abide by these provisions will render the measure null and void, and establish grounds for the law to be challenged in court.

    • Congress cannot waive these requirements.
    See more at DownsizeDC. --I'm "all for" this proposed legislation! (Shall we make it a Constitutional amendment?

    Is there room in evangelical/Protestant churches for committed communities that seek to do "great things" for God?

    We (our church) sang Tommy Walker's song this morning:
    Break through, break through all my doubts
    Break through, break through all my fears
    Break through that I may worship You
    Break through, break through all my pain
    Break through, all my guilt and my shame
    Break through like only You can do

    Chorus
    You are brighter than my darkest night
    Stronger than my toughest fight
    Just one touch from You my King, my friend
    And I’ll never be the same again
    Break through, break through
    . . . like only You can do.

    And I got thinking: I don't "live there." I don't want to "live there." I don't want even to try to "live there" with those emotions: doubts, fears, pain, shame.

    Somewhere during the service someone mentioned infirmities.

    I realize all of these emotions and physical experiences are part of life. Everyone experiences them. Sometime. Sometimes. But . . . Why would we--the church--"embrace" these things? Almost revel in them? . . . Isn't it true that the church, in history, has tended to "dwell" there? A major part of Christian "piety" through the years seems to have focused on remorse, regret, "woe is me," "I am unworthy," "I am but a worm." . . .

    But then I look at the people who seem, often, to dwell in these regions--some of whom are very close to me: I don't want to be like them! I don't feel like a loser. I don't experience feelings of shame for the way I live. (At least not often!) And while I have plenty of doubts about a lot of things; and while I can think of things for which I realize I should be--need to be--afraid; and while I can think of battles I need to fight: somehow . . . I don't dwell in meditations about such things.

    [I can imagine medieval knights meditated on such things--and needed to engage in such meditations. They were living in the midst of battles that deserved fear and required strength of a nature few of us today ever require. . . . ]

    But then I got thinking: the things I think of as needing battle, as engendering fear: they are of a completely different nature than the things with which those I know, for whom life itself is a "struggle" . . . --The things I fear and battle are of a completely different nature than the things that those people "fear" and "battle."

    I want to tell these others, "Get over [your (unfounded) fears and] your 'struggles'! It's time to move on with your life!"

    . . . So . . . Where does one go if one wants to take on bigger battles than personal survival? Is there room in the Protestant church for committed communities that seek to do "great things" for God?

    And . . . what about songs that focus less upon "me" and my (potential) "woe-is-me" state and more on the majesty and power and greatness of God . . . almost without reference to me? ----Even some semi-"contemporary" songs like Joey Holder's 17-year-old Scripture-based standard "Unto the King" (from 1 Timothy 1:17):
    Now unto the King Eternal
    Unto the King Immortal
    Unto the King Invisible
    The only wise God
    The only wise God
    (Repeat)

    Unto the King be glory and honour
    Unto the King forever
    Unto the King be glory and honour
    Forever and ever
    Amen
    Amen

    Tuesday, July 10, 2007

    A thought-provoking blessing . . .

    I just ran into this in someone's signature line on the Sonlight forums:
    • May God bless you with discomfort . . .
      at easy answers, half-truths and superficial relationships . . .
      so that you may live deep from the heart.
    • May God bless you with anger . . .
      at injustice, oppression, & exploitation . . .
      so that you may work for justice, freedom and peace.
    • May God bless you with tears . . .
      to shed for those who suffer pain, rejection, hunger and war . . .
      so that you may reach out your hand to comfort them and turn their pain into joy.
    • May God bless you with enough foolishness . . .
      to believe that you can make a difference in the world . . .
      so that you can do what others claim cannot be done.
    I pray such a blessing for myself!

    Sunday, July 08, 2007

    How to Clean Up Your Family History . . . or Your Resume!

    It seems this story, in two minorly variant editions, has been circulating among genealogical researchers on the web for the last 10 years or so. But I never heard it until my brother Dave shared it with me from his blog.

    I have chosen the version alternate to Dave's and have edited it for smoother reading:
    Let's say that your great-great uncle, Remus Starr, was hanged for horse stealing and train robbery in Montana in 1889. A cousin has supplied you with the only known photograph of Remus. It shows him standing on the gallows. On the back of the picture are these words:
    Remus Starr: Horse thief. Sent to Montana Territorial Prison, 1885. Escaped 1887, robbed the Montana Flyer six times. Caught by Pinkerton Detectives, convicted and hanged, 1889.
    Pretty grim situation, right?

    Not to worry!

    Simply crop the picture, scan in an enlargement and edit it with image processing software so that all one sees is a head shot. Next, rewrite the text:
    Remus Starr was a famous cowboy in the Montana Territory. His business empire grew to include acquisition of valuable equestrian assets and intimate dealings with the Montana railroad. Beginning in 1885, he devoted several years of his life to service at a government facility. Upon finally taking leave, he resumed his dealings with the railroad. In 1887, he was a key player in a vital investigation run by the renowned Pinkerton Detective Agency. In 1889, during an important civic function held in his honor, Uncle Remus passed away when the platform upon which he was standing collapsed.
    You have now given Uncle Remus a distinguished place inside the family tree, rather than hanging from it!

    Tuesday, July 03, 2007

    Children "unimportant" in the majority of American marriages

    According to a new Pew Research Center study as reported by the Associated Press,"The percentage of Americans who consider children 'very important' to a successful marriage has dropped sharply since 1990, and more now cite the sharing of household chores as pivotal."
    The Pew Research Center survey on marriage and parenting found that children had fallen to eighth out of nine on a list of factors that people associate with successful marriages - well behind "sharing household chores," "good housing," "adequate income," a "happy sexual relationship" and "faithfulness."

    In a 1990 World Values Survey, children ranked third in importance among the same items, with 65 percent saying children were very important to a good marriage. Just 41 percent said so in the new Pew survey.

    Chore-sharing was cited as very important by 62 percent of respondents, up from 47 percent in 1990.

    The survey also found that, by a margin of nearly 3-to-1, Americans say the main purpose of marriage is the "mutual happiness and fulfillment" of adults rather than the "bearing and raising of children." . . .

    "The popular culture is increasingly oriented to fulfilling the X-rated fantasies and desires of adults," . . . wrote [Barbara Dafoe Whitehead of Rutgers University's National Marriage Project] in a recent report. "Child-rearing values - sacrifice, stability, dependability, maturity - seem stale and musty by comparison."
    Up to this point, even though I found the information disturbing and a bit too reminiscent and confirmational of what Mark Steyn said, the article "made sense."

    But then I got to a concluding comment and political proposal made by Virginia Rutter, a sociology professor at Framingham (Mass.) State College and board member of the Council on Contemporary Families. The article said she proposes that
    the shifting views may be linked in part to America's relative lack of family-friendly workplace policies such as paid leave and subsidized child care.

    "If we value families ... we need to change the circumstances they live in," she said, citing the challenges faced by young, two-earner couples as they ponder having children.
    Oh, yeah! As if the United States had more family-friendly workplace policies 20 or 100 years ago!

    Is it not, rather, the result of the ever-increasing self-centered philosophy that permeates today's society, a philosophy of death . . . the philosophy that, as Mark Steyn notes, is causing the West to wither away?

    Perhaps most striking about the survey results was how sharply divergent the results were in just this one matter concerning children.
    • "Agreement on politics" was perceived as important to a successful marriage by 1% more people in 2007 as compared to 1990: 12% v. 11%.
    • "Faithfulness" declined in reported importance by 2%--from 95% to 93%.
    • "Shared tastes and interests": up 2% (46% v. 44%).
    • "Happy s*xual relationship" was reported important by an additional 3% of respondents--70% v. 67% in 1990.
    • "Shared religious beliefs"--up 4% (49% v 45%).
    • "Adequate income" important to 7% more today v 17 years ago (53% v 46%).
    • "Good housing" up by 9% (51% v 42%).
    • "Sharing household chores" jumped by a remarkable 15%--from 47% to 62% in importance.
    But Americans' attitudes toward "Children" changed most of all: a whopping 24% decline.