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Month: July 2007



I saw this quote on a forum relating to the rapid rate of scientific advancement and the corresponding demands of those advances in consumer culture.

Yesterday’s luxuries are today’s necessities.

I found that to be an interesting quote, and propose a corollary:

Yesterday’s privileges are today’s demanded rights.

I’m always intrigued by what ‘rights’ people claim to have all the time. “It’s my right to do X, it’s my right to be given Y.”  I often try to find out where/how/when these purported things were granted to them as a ‘right’ – especially when those ‘rights’ imply that I should be opening my pocket to them.

In order to spell out ‘rights’ one has to have an idea of what a person is entitled to and what things are optional. We all do not have a right to own a new Mercedes free of charge, or the right to disobey the law of gravity. But we do have rights like religious freedom, due process (well, we used to until habius corpus was basically rescinded), freedom of speech/assembly and so forth (all within certain bounds of course). But I often at amazed at how quickly we forget of what sorts of things we didn’t have even a generation ago, such as the women’s right to vote amendment in 1920. It’s also too easy to just start saying we have rights that we don’t.

Determining what is someone’s right relies on a deep understanding of the value and dignity of the human person at their core – something that faith and the Church has talked about in great depth (read Humanae Vitae from the 2nd Vatican counsel for a good spelling out of what rights/dignity the human person is recognized as having. Religious freedom and choosing the option not to believe is one of them). Anyway, just thought it was an interesting quote.

Were they conservative or liberal?

Were they conservative or liberal?

While running last night, I saw an old acquaintance and we stopped to catch up. Turns out they were helping to revive the young adults program in their local parish. I mentioned there were a good number of young adult groups meeting in the Portland area and that there was probably a lot of great resources they could take advantage of.One of the events they wanted to get started was a theology on tap program. I mentioned that Portland has a very successful and large Theology on Tap discussion group/series each year. At this point, the person asked if the speakers were conservative or liberal – and that they’d much rather hear a person of affiliation X than Y.

Now, I know this particular person has a strong leaning towards one side of that affiliation, but I’m not going to say which – because it’s not important.

I think I’ve told many people that I no longer use the words conservative or liberal to describe politicians, religious philosophies, etc – because I think those words are now usually MEANT to distract from the point or idea the person wishes to share, intentionally polarizes and prejudices opinion before you even hear what the person has to say, and defuses any ability to start a dialog – and ultimately, hinders the real point and ability for both parties to lovingly grow from each other: a respectful relationship. These labels often have the primary effect of tipping the deck to rhetoric – not ideas, discussions, and mutual respect.  (Yes, it is possible to have a mutually respectful relationship with someone whom you disagree with!)

Now, if you read this correctly, you’ll realize this works both ways – for so called ‘liberal’ or ‘conservative’ whatever. In this particular case when confronted with the question if the person is conservative/liberal, I simply would say, “Ah, is that the most important thing that matters to you when deciding what a person is saying?” Because if it is, you’re at best being prejudice – you a pre-judging what someone is going to say before they say it and are no longer in dialog, no longer really THINKING about the ideas, or being challenged, and don’t seem very genuinely interested in respecting the person.

It’s much easier to listen to what we want to hear – and a problem of religion (and politics) today is that we like to pick and choose what truths we’d like to hear. Unfortunately, Truth with a capital T is the reflection of how things really work.  Shocking – but there is a way that things do work in the world irrespective of how we’d like to believe it works.  For a religious person, this is how God intended and created them to work – and that these truths about horseshoes and blue skies and mother-in-laws are all linked as one big, beautiful mural. But by picking and choosing the things you wish to believe, you can easily start causing contradictions and conflicting messages that do not reflect the faith you profess – nor the reality that God has spun into motion. It’s much like refusing to buy into the idea of gravity because you don’t like that one. Well, it will still give you a painful reality check when you jump off a building whether you believe it or not. That is way God’s kind of truth about relationship and loving works too.

I have had to learn this difficult lesson over time: I need to not only hear the things that I would normally agree with, but I must even more constantly challenge myself to go and listen to religious folks I normally wouldn’t agree with. And you know what – God has something to say through them. It’s always very challenging, and sometimes gets me worked up. It requires a lot of internal maturity to sit, listen carefully, and then think through the ideas without just going with my first gut reaction.  And again, you know what – I have grown far, far richer because of it.  In all human lives and philosophies, we are always a mix of truth and the still-trying-to-get there. It is a great mistake to forget that for anyone who is truly and actively seeking God, there is always a lived experience of their faith that is on track and God is working through – and that is something to be learned from and shared. There is also a part that is not on track or still needs a lot of refining and sifting. You must listen and sift carefully with reflection and prayer – and verifying your facts with scripture and a knowledge of Church teaching.

I have come to realize that Jesus was really teaching us that we are one large family – and God has given it many parts for a reason. It’s given us scholarly folks who sit in Rome, it’s given semi-revolutionary missionaries in 3rd world countries, it’s given us the ordinary family in Kansas, it’s given us millionaires. When we start selectively listening to any one part – we are no longer challenged to grow and appreciate the need for the other parts of the family we were given – and indeed – NEED.  We need all those parts – both sides – all sides – to be whole. Paul tells us the body of Christ is given many parts – and they all need to work together. If the ‘conservative’ side refuses to listen to the ‘liberal’ or vice-versa, then it is the foot ignoring the hand. We really do need all those voices together to get harmony – if not, we have a whole bunch of people singing to themselves.

Beautiful music comes from different voices – a band with 5 lead guitars isn’t as great to listen to as 5 different instruments.  We might be a virtuoso at our instrument, but as any musician will tell you (me included) you actually learn how to play your own instrument differently, and arguably much better, when you start playing with other instruments. We are still a guitarist, but if we don’t learn how to play with the strengths/weaknesses of the drums and keyboardist, we won’t make even more beautiful music.  So it goes in the body of Christ. Probably one of the most painful struggles in our current society is that we lack real relationality – or even the desire for it.  We are now more opt to force/legislate responsibility to one another (witness rise of lawsuits for matters that normally should be resolvable by two mature adults) – but not offer real relationship in which we both give and take freely with the other’s and mutual good in mind.  But I digress…

So, if we aren’t challenging ourselves to get to know and incorporate relationship with each part of the body now, if we don’t realize we really do need all the parts – the brains, the hands, and the feet of the Body of Christ, if we aren’t challenging ourselves to grow in playing our instrument (strengths/weaknesses) in concert with each others strengths/weaknesses – we will certainly continue to struggle in this life, live less rich lives ourselves, and be confronted with that need before we get to enter the kingdom.

Haiku day

Haiku day

I was using my IM client to annoy a coworker today. Our corporate IM client sends a tiny ding when a message arrives.  If you don’t have the IM app in focus, it flashes the icon at the bottom of your screen. I knew he was in the lab so I typed a whole sentence one word at a time so he would hear it. So, I wrote a haiku about it:

Every time I type
Your boxen dings and flashes
IM clients rule

They sprayed oil INSIDE my car!??

They sprayed oil INSIDE my car!??

After a coworker got oil sprayed on the outside and INSIDE his car (ruining his upholstery and was un-cleanable by a auto detailer) I went on my rant about oil change, brake and muffler shops. You can read it here: Link

Can you guess what it was?

Can you guess what it was?

Here’s a little clip of information taken directly from a recent article I was reading. I replaced the parts that would give away what it is, see if you can guess what it is:

Even as project proposals were being submitted, a 53-year-old structural engineer secretly already had the job sewn up. He had met with the government official in charge of funding and the official had rigged the process so that only this engineer could possibly win the bid. When the construction was started, more than 300 prominent [inhabitants] signed a petition protesting the [construction]. They claimed that [it] would “disfigure and dishonor” the city.

There was a great deal of protest surrounding the construction as well. A [prominent] mathematics professor predicted that when the structure passed the 748-foot mark, it would inevitable collapse; another expert predicted that the [construction]’s lightening rods would kill all the fish in the [nearby river].

The [local] edition of the New York Herald claimed the [construction] was changing the weather; and a daily newspaper ran a headline story claiming The [construction] was sinking. “If it has really begun to sink,” [local paper] pontificated, “any further building should stop and sections already built should be demolished as quickly as possible.”

What was this abominable construction that would destroy the environment and be a disfigurement to the city? It was none other than the Eiffel tower.I always try to keep things like this in mind when confronted with the scads of ‘disaster is imminent’ reports on everything from new public/religious social programs, to dams, to global warming, to whatever. Whatever you’re in the middle of, by nature you are going to be very myopic. Now, this is not to say that disastrous human endeavors do occur and are often foreseen but warnings ignored, but it reminds me that you need to look at the real data and know that expert ‘opinions’ are just that – and are just as equally wrong as right on both sides.

Instead, the only way to denounce critics or lend credibility for a plan is in a *lot* of careful research and number crunching before one begins. A great example is a task force in Portland that have done some great research on homelessness patterns and found that often times the current feed/shelter system simply prolongs and perpetuates the homeless’ problems (this is not to say that homeless help should go away – but that their influence and role needs to change in a new way). Some of their findings

There has also been all this talk of carbon-neutral obsession, bio-fuels, etc. This is all good, but simply reducing environmental impact down to your ‘carbon-load’ doesn’t take into account scads of other toxic stuff you release. Use an air conditioner in your car/home? What about your freon load? What about your arsenic load? What about your estrogen loads ? (yes, estrogens from shampoos and birth control pills goes right though water treatment and has long been known to be mutating fish/river life. That one sure doesn’t get as much press as blowing up damns now does it) Now we hear that bio-fuels aren’t that much better than other fossil fuels as far as the environment goes.

I guess my point is that productive change in the right direction requires people not being reactionary, over-simplifying the problem, or lately appealing to sentimentality or emotionalism, or even spiritualism about ‘mother earth’ (I could go on about that one being even worse than the religious appeals made in the middle-ages that everyone loves to decry) – but really put some pencils and pens to paper and do the math and science. Real science that isn’t myopic ‘experts’- or we’ll end up looking as silly as the Parisians did to future generations.

Deckchair takes flight in Oregon

Deckchair takes flight in Oregon

Oh happy day!In a recreation of the original flight by Larry Walters in 1982, a man in Bend, Oregon repeated the feat this weekend. Here’s a bit I enjoyed:

Even at two miles high, Couch said, he could hear cattle lowing and children talking. He heard gunshots, which worried him. A black butterfly flew past. He passed through clouds. He said they were fluffy.Couch stopped when he was down to a gallon of water and just eight pounds of ballast. Concerned about the rugged terrain outside La Grande, including Hells Canyon, Couch decided to come back to earth.

Man I love Oregon! Story link

Intel 965 chipset + Vista + 4 gigs ram – saga resolved!

Intel 965 chipset + Vista + 4 gigs ram – saga resolved!

I call the Intel motherboard support guys, and they were very good – probably some of the most knowledgeable front-line phone crews I’ve ever run into (and I’m not saying that just because I work there). I’ve only had to call them about 3 times, but every time they are right on the money and know exactly what obscure feature of the SATA raid controller I was trying to use, strange chipset interaction, etc and have some clever way to do what I was trying to do by pointing me to an article/whitepaper.

First they tell me to try a Microsoft patch: KB929777 (for those who want to know/try it). This is a manual patch, so I go and download it (did you know you must download the patch from the machine you’re trying to patch? The Windows Genuine verifier tool actually re-directs the website to the matching OS download (and not show you the other versions) based on the WGA response code. I did it from my XP laptop and got the 32-bit version which wouldn’t install on my Vista box. So I download it from my Vista box and you get the 64-bit version. I personally think this is colossally stupid because what if you need a patch for a machine that can’t use the internet/boot properly/etc – sigh) but no luck.

Another call to Intel’s support and we back and forth the info, and he nails it right off. He asks what bios version I’m using (ver. 1687) and says, Ahh, well, the 965 chipsets have a known problem we just discovered with these last two bios revisions.  Turns out there is a bug in the bios (as I predicted) that shows itself if you have 4 gigs/4 sticks of ram in at the same time. You must go back to bios ver 1669 before they introduced the problem. Well, upgrading a bios is easy as pie, but rolling back a bios requires a multistage process of setting a recovery jumper, burning a cd, etc (go to and look up article 023360 for the process) then go download an old version of the bios 1669 by going to your board’s update page, scrolling down to the bottom and select “This product has Previously Released software” then download version 1669. Flash your machine, and voila! Super-fast machine. But not only that, I did a test. It took ~1:45 sec to boot with 3 gigs using bios 1687; but with bios 1669, the same 3 gig setup takes ~0:45 sec. That sounds like more than one problem, but anyway…

So, there’s your answer. Go to bios 1669 and wait for a bios update after 1687 that specifically mentions a fix for this 4-stick/gig problem.