What I'm Doing

Wednesday, December 28, 2005

Busy Christmas

Well, December has been a busy month, with all the running around, visiting relatives, flying down to Florida for the company Christmas party, and trying to figure out what to buy for who. Fortunately, at work, we've been at the end of a project, so I've had some time to sit back and work a bit on some side projects.

The week before Christmas was the worst. Kristen and I flew down to Florida the Saturday before Christmas for a company party, flew back Sunday morning, and then drove up to a cabin my family rented in the mountains Sunday afternoon. The problem with all that was that I was sick. I started really feeling bad on Saturday, so I ended up spending most of the time in the cabin sleeping. I ended up going to the doctor on Tuesday when we got back and got some antibiotics, which really started to kick in around Friday, so I was, at least, feeling better for Christmas. Kristen's birthday was on Thursday, and then Friday, my family went to visit relatives, coming back on Saturday night. Then, I ran home, wrapped all my presents, got some clothes to wear to church on Sunday, and went back to my parents' house to sleep. Sunday, of course, was Christmas. I finally got some free, personal time on Sunday night, and ended up staying up too late.

Now things are finally winding down, so I should have some time to enjoy my Christmas presents, and get the other stuff done that I need to do (get my own cell phone plan, look at buying a new computer, camera, and PocketPC, clean up around the house, etc.). Things at work are starting to pick up again, too, so we're, hopefully, getting back to normal. Maybe I'll have more time to come up with some original stuff to blog.

All that said, I hope everyone had a Merry Christmas! Also, have a safe and happy New Year!

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

Explaining My Previous Post on Christmas

It has come to my attention that my previous entry wasn't terribly well explained, and, perhaps, a bit extreme. My point, regarding some people/groups not wanting to acknowledge that the holiday they are celebrating is Christmas, is that, in my opinion, it's not as big a deal as I've been hearing people make it, and I'm getting kind of tired of, as Dr. Mohler called it, the "exceedingly thin skin" some Christians have developed. Again, to quote Dr. Mohler, "...it used to be that Christians were very concerned that Christmas was getting too commercial; now, there's some who think that maybe it's not commercial enough," and "if we as Christians are known mainly for complaining about "Happy Holidays" at the store, of all things, or out in the public square, then we're probably missing something."

I mentioned that I think it may be a good thing that the secular celebrations are becoming seperated from the sacred, and that the holiday non-Christians are celebrating isn't Christmas. I stand by that, but it does require some clarification:

1) "Christmas" is derived from the words "Christ's Mass". It is a holy day of obligation for traditional Christians (one of the two holiest days on the Christian calendar), a date which the Church long ago set aside to celebrate the birth of Christ*. As I explained in my previous post, Advent is the month leading up to Christmas in which the faithful prepare for the birth of Christ. The holiday is founded upon, and centers around, the central truth of Christianity: the Incartation, that mystery by which a holy God took upon Himself the flesh of men.

Many customs have grown up around Advent and Christmas, some as Christianized versions of pagan celebrations that occured in December, others as simply local traditions that spread to other cultures. Different cultures celebrate Christmas in different ways, but among the variations the point of it all is Christ. Without Christ, the celebration is no longer Christian, and it is no longer Christmas. Many good deeds may be done as part of the celebration, and good sentiments may reign over the hearts of every man, woman, and child, but if Christ is absent, it is not Christian.

Perhaps it is a little much to say that Christ is totally absent from our culture's celebrations of Christmas, although it has become harder to find Him (see, for instance, the television specials that proclaim that the meaning of the season is family/friends/loved ones). Certainly, many of the shoppers buying gifts at the stores and malls are doing so as a part of their celebration of Christmas, but many are doing so as a celebration of a cultural holiday which, as far as they are concerned, has nothing to do with Christ (or perhaps Jews celebrating Hanukkah).

Here's what I'm saying: if people don't want to celebrate Christmas, why not stop insisting that they still call it "Christmas"? Let them celebrate Festivus, or Generic-Nonoffensive-Holiday, and we will happily continue celebrating Christmas. This brings me to my next point.

2) I am not suggesting that Christians simply throw in the towel, pick up their toys, and go home. I am not suggesting that we simply say to the world, "Do whatever you want, we don't care." I am definately not suggesting that we, in any way, hide Christ from the world. Christ is the center of all that we do as Christians—He is what makes anything Christian. Rather, I am suggesting something similar to what Dr. Mohler said to his church: "Look, this is the deal: make sure that your Christmas cards have a Christmas message; make sure that your Christmas conversation is about Christ; make sure that you are focused on this. Use it as an opportunity for winsome witness, but I don't think it's really effective to say we're going to boycott a company because it has 'Happy Holidays' out front rather than 'Merry Christmas.'"

Christians should continue to engage non-Christians with the story of the Gospel, and Christmas is certainly a great time for that. However, I don't think that the way to go about it is to insist that non-Christians act like Christians and celebrate a Christian holiday that has no meaning to them. I also don't think that we should go around condemning those Christians who are trying to be sensitive to the fact that other people may not want to celebrate Christmas. Rather, I think that we need to take a step back and realize that we may have gotten things mixed up. To hear many "thin-skinned" Christians talk about it , it sounds like they believe that the way to change people's hearts is to change the culture (or to preserve the culture that is not a reality anymore). This, to me, seems akin to wanting a Porsche, and so taking your Geo Metro, modifying the body to look like a Porsche, and calling it a Porsche. It's not a Porsche, however well you may get it to look like one, because, under the exterior, it is still a Geo Metro. Rather, the way to change the culture is to change the hearts of the people.

So, in the end, let those who want to celebrate something other than Christmas celebrate it. Let us, as the Church, remember what we celebrate as we celebrate Christmas, and be always inviting those who will to join us in the celebration.

And a request for comments: does anyone agree, or am I just out of my mind? I know of a few people that read this—or, at least, have a subscription to it. Surely some of you have some thoughts, and maybe even better ideas on how to approach this subject. That's one reason why I post here; to subject my thoughts to the critique of anyone who may read them.

*I will note that not all Christians celebrate Christmas. The Puritans held to a form of worship that said that all worship must be explicitly from Scripture. As such, if I remember correctly, they did not sing hymns, but stuck only to the Psalms. They generally rejected the idea of "holy days," and, so, did not celebrate Christmas (however, they did, I believe, consider Sunday the Christian Sabbath, and, therefore, was set aside as a day of worship). In fact, when the Puritans came into power in England for a while, they outlawed Christmas.

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

Albert Mohler on the Secularization of Christmas

For those who don't know, Dr. R. Albert Mohler is the current President of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. In addition to this, he has a radio show, which is also published as a podcast, to which I am currently subscribed. On yesterday's show (the podcast comes out a day late), he gave a short blurb on the issue of Christmas and the secularization of our culture that I found to be rather refreshing. I couldn't find a transcription of the show, so I went ahead and transcribed the section of interest (you can listen to the show here):

Let me ask you a question: honestly, is Christmas getting too commercialized, or is it not commercialized enough? You know, when you listen to some of the debates out there these days, it's hard to know which side some people are on.

Last year, we did a "Scrooge Alert"; we were watching very closely what was happening when, for instance, parades were changed from Christmas parades to holiday parades, or when people said "Look, you can't have a Christmas tree in a courthouse, because that's an establishment of religion," or when companies said to employees, "You can't say 'Merry Christmas.'" Well, folks, I'm all over that; that's ridiculous. That is a denial of religious liberty. It is a denial of the obvious. After all, when the federal government has a legal holiday on December 25, is it supposed to be because they just chose the 25th of December for no reason in particular?

But, I have to tell you, I think some Christians are developing an exceedingly thin skin. And, I'm listening to many Christians say, "Well, you know, we just need to get these stores, and malls, and all the rest to make it all about Christmas." Well, lets just remember what these stores are trying to do. They are trying to make a profit. They are trying to sell a product. They are trying to entice you in, in order that you will buy things that you will give during the Christmas season. And, you know, it used to be that Christians were very concerned that Christmas was getting too commercial; now, there's some who think that maybe it's not commercial enough.

I don't know that there's any, just, clear and absolutely irrefutable principle that we should put into place here, but I would suggest that we ought to make sure that we are celebrating a Christian Christmas before we start going after all those who may be confused about the holiday season, or whatever it is they call it. Yesterday, when I was preaching at my church, I said, "Look, this is the deal: make sure that your Christmas cards have a Christmas message; make sure that your Christmas conversation is about Christ; make sure that you are focused on this. Use it as an opportunity for winsome witness, but I don't think it's really effective to say we're going to boycott a company because it has 'Happy Holidays' out front rather than 'Merry Christmas.'"

Yes, I'm very disappointed at the secularization of the culture; we talk about that a lot. Yes, I'm very, very concerned about the regime of political correctness and how it is constricting Christian liberty. But, I have to say, if we as Christians are known mainly for complaining about "Happy Holidays" at the store, of all things, or out in the public square, then we're probably missing something.

I know that, at my church, I've heard a lot of the talk he's speaking of here. I've even been told that there is a list of stores being circulated that we ought to be boycotting because they don't say "Merry Christmas".

I was pleased to know that this is not an attitude that is universal among conservative evangelicals, and I agree with most of what Dr. Mohler says here. I do think that the whole "Happy Holidays" thing is really about as silly as using "C.E." (Common Era) and "B.C.E." (Before Common Era) instead of "BC" (Before Christ) and "AD" (Anno Domini—"year of Our Lord"). As Mohler says, "when the federal government has a legal holiday on December 25, is it supposed to be because they just chose the 25th of December for no reason in particular?"

However, perhaps this increasing disconnect between the secular and sacred celebrations of December 25 is a good thing. Maybe this is the answer to Christians' wailing over the lost meaning of Christmas: let the world continue its pagan celebrations of the gods of Bacchus and Mammon, and we Christians will seperate ourselves from that and worship Jesus, our God and King. Consider this description of secular vs. sacred Christmas celebrations attributed to C.S. Lewis (I don't know what book it is supposed to be from, nor whether it really was written by Lewis, but it is very insightful). The non-Christian world is not celebrating Christmas, and I will be more than happy if they will stop calling it that. Call it Exmas* or Festivus, for all I care, but if it has nothing to do with Christ, don't call it Christmas.

Besides, it is difficult to deny that the Amercian churches' celebrations of Christmas has been tainted by the culture when some churches are even deciding not to meet for public worship on Christmas, which this year falls on a Sunday (so not only are they not worshipping on Christmas, which is understandable, but they are not worshipping on the Lord's Day because it happens to be Christmas). Michael Spencer has some good comments on that story over at his blog, The Internet Monk.

I'm not suggesting that we simply hide Christ during Christmas. Rather, maybe we should recover the idea of Advent. Advent, in the Christian calendar, is a holy season of the four weeks or so before Christmas where Christians enter into the Gospel story at the time just before the birth of Christ (the Christian calendar then takes Christians through the Gospel story through Good Friday and Easter and to Pentecost). Advent is a time when we join in the anticipation of the birth of the Messiah. That's right, Advent is not the "Christmas season". Christmas has not yet occured; we are waiting for it, and, in the meantime, we are to be preparing the way, preparing ourselves for the celebration of the birth of Christ.

Even if we cannot totally abandon Exmas right now—or ever—, perhaps we can begin moving toward Advent in our own lives. Take extra time for prayer this season, and seek harder after Christ. Let your focus be turned anew to Him. On Christmas Eve and/or Christmas Day, be sure to celebrate Christ. My family has, since I was little, had a tradition of baking a "happy birthday, Jesus" cake, reading the Christmas story (no, not the "You'll shoot your eye out" one, the one with the baby, and the shepherds, and the angels), and singing happy birthday to Jesus before going to bed on Christmas Eve. Yes, it seems a little silly, but it has reminded us, as we anticipated the gifts we'd receive the next morning, of the Gift that was given to the world: Emmanuel, Christ our King.

*On second thought, leave "X-mas" to us, as well. "X" is an abbreviation for "Christ" (Greek: Χριστός); the "X" is used as it resembles the Greek letter chi (Χ), and, contrary to popular belief, is not a denial of Christ. The abbreviation has been in use for quite some time in Christian writings where, for sake of space, "xian" has been used instead of "Christian", "xmas" instead of "Christmas", etc. It is not some nefarious scheme conjured up by "the Liberals", or athiests, or what have you, in order to obscure Christ.

Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Five Questions Non-Muslims Would Like Answered

This interested me mostly due to the idea that some people have that "The [Liberal] Media" is simply anti-Christian, etc. Here is an article from the L.A. Times that somewhat takes the Muslim community to task for their silence regarding the violence and atrocities perpretrated in the name of Islam. One question I hadn't thought of before was:
(2) Why are none of the Palestinian terrorists Christian?

If Israeli occupation is the reason for Muslim terror in Israel, why do no Christian Palestinians engage in terror? They are just as nationalistic and just as occupied as Muslim Palestinians.

I'm sure Christian Palestinians are none too happy about being occupied and all, but I have never heard of them practicing terrorism. Another good point from the article:
Instead of confronting these problems, too many of you deny them. Muslims call my radio show to tell me that even speaking of Muslim or Islamic terrorists is wrong. After all, they argue, Timothy McVeigh is never labeled a "Christian terrorist." As if McVeigh committed his terror as a churchgoing Christian and in the name of Christ, and as if there were Christian-based terror groups around the world.

In addition, Timothy McVeigh is one man. Eric Rudolph is one man. There have been a few nutters in recent days who have committed terrorism in the name of Christ, but there is nothing today comparable to the Muslim systematic terrorism.

This reminds me of a sad video I saw the other day of Palestinian children talking about wanting to be martyrs and killing Jews. A part of me hopes that is a sick joke and the subtitles are not actually what the kids are saying, but, chances are, the subtitles are accurate. As the auther of the page with that video so wisely says, "If this is the next generation over there the Palestinians and Israelis are going to have a pretty hard time living together for the foreseeable future."

There is one beef I have with the article: one cannot forget that, in the past, atrocities have, indeed, been systemized in Christianity. The Crusades were a low point in Western Ecclesiastical history, and an error that Christians today recognize as wrong. In that instance, Muslims and Jews weren't the only ones that suffered; the Western Christians also sacked the Christian city of Constantinople, and were quite indiscriminate in who they killed. The Inquisition was another low point, again inflicted by the Church on Muslims, Jews, and "dissident" Christians alike. I think that any discussion of the topic of systematic terrorism must honestly own up to the good and bad of both sides, and all issues should, as much as is possible, be understood in the light of society at the time. Regarding these issues, however, I think it is somewhat telling that Christianity as a whole has come far enough to recognize these things as wrong.

Ultimately, I think the main thrust of the article is this: it doesn't matter whether Islam is really an inherently oppressive, violent religion; the way things are right now certainly gives Westerners a legitimate impression that it is. Say whatever you want, it's what you do that matters.

Monday, November 28, 2005


I really should pay more attention. I just found out that yesterday was the first Sunday of Advent. For those that don't know, Advent is the four weeks leading up to Christmas. From what I have read, traditionally, this is supposed to be a time of preparation and of waiting for Christmas. The idea is that we enter into the Gospel story, in some way.

Of course, in our society, Advent has been eclipsed by the phenomenon known as the "Christmas season". Rather than being a holy season where we are especially focused on Christ and His Coming, it is a season of sales, shopping, and stress. The preparation of the soul to celebrate the birth of her Savior has been replaced with the preparation of the gift pile. Instead of a time of quiet devotion, or of recollection, it is a time of busyness. It is rather sad that the season of Christ's birth has become the greatest annual show of consumerism.

I'll buy gifts, certainly, but I will try to do so not out of a sense of obligation, but willingly. I'll probably listen to some Christmas music, but I'm going to try to listen to more songs like "O Come, O Come, Emmanuel" than "White Christmas". I'll enjoy the Christmas season, partly because some of it is enjoyable, but also partly because I have no other choice. However, I want to try this year not to forget, as the cliché goes, "the reason for the season."

In addition, this seems like an appropriate time to try again at reading On the Incarnation by Athanasius. For some reason, I have repeatedly begun, but never finished, reading that book. This year, that will be my goal.

Also, if anyone can suggest some good (preferably free) resources to better understand the Christian calendar and the signifigance of the different days/seasons, please do. I'd love to read more about this stuff.

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

Arby's Loaded Potato Bites

So I just ran by Arby's and picked up some lunch. While I was there, I figured I'd go ahead and get an order of their loaded potato bites, which is one of their "limited time offers". I think what that means is that someone thought up this idea, and successfully pitched it to some higher-ups, and they're testing it on the public. Sort of a fast-food beta test.

The bites are described on Arby's menu as, "A blend of seasoned potatoes, aged Cheddar cheese, bacon and chives in a crispy coating, served with a Cool Ranch Sour Cream." Basically, they're small "potato cakes" with some extra stuff added in to make them taste like loaded baked potatos.

So, my opinion? They're okay. Not too impressive on the first bite; it takes a couple bites to decide whether you like them or not. The ones I had didn't have quite the same texture as normal potato cakes, which was a downer. The taste was interesting, but not really memorable. By that, I mean I doubt that I'm very likely to say someday, "hey, let's go to Arby's; I want some loaded potato bites" like I sometimes do regarding the potato cakes, Beef 'n Cheddar sandwich, or Chick-Fil-A's chicken sandwich. In fact, if I'm choosing a side for my meal, I'll go with curly fries or potato cakes over the loaded potato bites any time.

Now, granted, I didn't try them until after I had eaten my sandwich and potato cakes, so they'd had time to cool. They might be better when they're hotter. As it stands, though, I'm unimpressed. I'll stick with the regular potato cakes.

Tuesday, November 22, 2005


What I've been doing at work today: Writing a routine to build a report to validate the results of another routine I wrote to convert data from an old file to a new file. This has turned out to be a little more complicated than I expected, but at least I got the hardest part out of the way yesterday (figuring out how the heck this is going to work). In other words, I've been having fun and getting paid for it.

Currently, my code has finally been written. Now, I have to do testing, to make sure it works (correctly).

This part is not very much fun. It's more tedious than fun.

I wish we got snow that's drivable in, so I could go into the office if it ever snows. That way, I could wish it were snowing right now, because it would look really nice outside my office window.

Today just seems like a great day to go sit at a coffeehouse, drink coffee, and read. Unfortunately, I didn't bring any books with me to work, and once I go home, I'm not going to want to come back to this area. I wonder if the apple cider I bought last month is still good.

A word of advice: don't go shopping for food before going out of town for two weeks.

Friday, November 18, 2005

Sony Update

So, it seems quite a bit has happened the past couple weeks regarding Sony's recent foray into "doing unto them before they do unto you" (execpt the people getting done unto by Sony are mostly the legitimate customers). Sony released an uninstall program to remove the rootkit software via a website. However, apparently, the uninstall software had its own set of security problems, which some websites have figured out how to exploit. In addition, Mark Russionvich (the one who brought Sony's rootkit to popular attention) stated in another blog entry that Sony made the customer go through numerous hoops to get the uninstaller—if they can find it. His description of how difficult it was can be summed up in his statement, "Without exaggeration I can say that I’ve analyzed virulent forms of spyware/adware that provide more straightforward means of uninstall."

Now, Sony has released a new uninstaller that is supposed to be more secure, and has issued two statements of apology. They are also (according to a CNet News.com article) recalling the CDs. The end of that article also mentions that there are still some lawsuits pending against Sony, which is encouraging. If Sony were to just be let off the hook, the PR hit they've taken would be little more than a slap on the hand. The RIAA (of which Sony is a member) has been happily suing anyone they can; let's start putting them on the recieving end of the legal system.

Been Out of Town

As anyone who actually reads this blog may have realized, I've not posted for the past week or two. That's because I've been out of town on business (testing at a site in Tampa, FL), and haven't had much time to post—or think of anything to post. I have decided that I need to start making time for reading and really thinking about things, so hopefully that will translate into having more to write about here.

When I finally got the chance to check for comments today, I noticed something odd. The page would display most of the text of my previous post (Sony Rootkits), but would stop before the end of the last paragraph, and display nothing else. The sidebar was gone as well as all the other posts. I went and mucked around a bit with the Sony post's HTML and republished it, and everything's fixed now. I'm not quite sure what happened. Did anyone else notice it, or was it just my browser messing up?

Also, when I got home from my trip, I found a box from Amazon at the front door. Inside was the Family Guy Volume 1 and Aqua Teen Hunger Force Volume 1 DVDs I ordered last week. Oh joy!

Thursday, November 03, 2005

Sony Installs Rootkits as DRM

This is absolutely appalling. This past Monday (Oct 31, 2005), Mark Russinovich, author of a utility called Rootkit Revealer (RKR), revealed on his blog that, while testing the latest version of RKR, he discovered that Sony's DRM software installs a rootkit in users' PC's (for those who are unfamiliar with the term rootkit, see "What Is a Rootkit" below). You can read his post, where he explains how he made this discovery and gives screenshots as proof, here. The Washington Post also has an article on this, and this story was the subject of a recent Security Now! podcast (which you can download from here.

According to the stories, this software is installed when a user attempts to play a copy-protected CD on a Windows machine, as CD playing software which is required to play the music. If the user chooses not to install the CD software, the CD will not play. What the user is not told, however, is that the software installs as a rootkit, that it integrates itself as a driver into the operating system, etc. The EULA only says that the software will remain on the computer until it is removed, which is misleading, because there is no provided way to remove the software—there isn't even an entry in the Control Panel's Add/Remove Programs list. In fact, as Russinovich discovered, attempting to remove the software manually can result in Windows not being able to find your CD-ROM drive!

This is all bad enough: a major music label secretly installing software on a user's machine that integrates itself into the OS and hides itself so it cannot be found and/or removed. It gets worse. The method the rootkit uses to hide files, directories, registry keys, etc. is indiscriminate; anything with a name starting with "$sys$" gets hidden. Russinovich discovered this by creating a copy of notepad.exe that he named $sys$notepad.exe, and the file disappeared.

What this means is that anyone that wants to has the ability of hiding malicious files, procosses, etc. on a computer with Sony's software installed, without knowing how to create a rootkit of their own. This is a huge security hole!

Apparently, the company Sony got this software from has, since the story broke, released a patch that will remove the software's inability to hide files, although installing this patch involves knowing that it exists, and, apparently, removing the software can still cripple the user's computer. Sony, also (according to the Post), has indicated that the software has been included on 20 CDs so far, and thay it "may" include it on future titles.

In another twist, it was pointed out both in a comment on Russinovich's blog and on the Security Now! podcast that Russinovich's blog entry could possibly be considered a violation of the Digital Millenium Copyright Act (DMCA).

For me, this is another reason not to buy CD's. I have recently downloaded iTunes in Windows, and had already decided to use that for any further music purchases, for a variety of reasons. This only adds to that list. However, whether I want to buy anything from Sony right now is questionable. This is just another example of the recording industry screwing their customers. Note that this software only affects Windows; Mac and Linux users can play the CD normally. Regardless, pirates are going to find a way around the DRM, and still pirate music, and this crap is only an incentive to not buy the CD.

What Is a Rootkit?

For those who don't know, a rootkit is software that is designed to hide itself on your system, so that you don't know it's there. Rootkits are used by crackers (bad hackers) to hide their presence on a compromised system. They have been increasingly used by spy-ware (software that collect data such as what web sites you visit and report this data back to some server) and other malware programs to make the user unaware that the software exists on the computer. Because the software's existence is hidden, typical malware removal detection and removal programs (like anti-virus software) can't detect it. When it is detected (using, for instance, a special program like Rootkit Revealer), it is very difficult and requires some more advanced knowledge to remove, and there is the potential that doing so may cripple your system.

Monday, October 31, 2005

Happy Halloween/Reformation Day

So, today is Halloween, or, if you're so inclined, Reformation Day. That's right, on October 31, 1517, Martin Luther nailed his famous 95 Theses to the door of the church at Wittenburg.

Tomorrow is All Saints' Day, when some traditions honor all the men and women of God, whether known or obscure, who have gone before us. Perhaps I can celebrate All Saints' Day by finding a short biography or martyrdom account to read and be encouraged/edified by, to the glory of God.

Tonight, however, I will be trying to get sound working in Linux, and, hopefully, watching Family Guy.

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

The Fatherhood of God

Earlier today, I found an old article on Touchstone that was really interesting: "Thou Art the Everlasting Son of the Father," which I will first summarize some parts that stuck out to me and then offer some of my own thoughts.

Summary of (Some) Interesting Points

The main focus of the essay is (as the subtitle says) the Fatherhood of God. What got my attention was when the author started talking about how many groups are moving away from the traditional names of the Trinity (Father, Son, Holy Spirit) to "Creator, Redeemer, Sanctifier." His problem with that is that "Father, Son, Holy Spirit" refers to God in Eternity—in His eternal relationship to Himself—while "Creator, Reedemer, Sanctifier" only refers to God in His relation to his creatures. In other words, the Trinity is "Creator, Redeemer, Sanctifier" in the "economy of salvation", but if there were no creation to have created, no fallen man to have redeemed or to sanctify, God would not be "Creator, Redeemer, Sanctifier". However, God is always "Father, Son, Holy Spirit", because that is how God relates to himself: the Father is Father to the Son, etc.

He also talks about the monarcy of the Father, and—another thing I found interesting—says that referring to the Father as "Father" is not a figure of speech. It is not a metaphor, whereby God is compared to our earthly fathers. As the author says, He is not simply like a father, nor is He even a father, He is the Father, and all earthly fatherhood finds its source in Him. Rather than saying our relationship to God is like our relationship to our earthly fathers, we should say our relationship to our earthly fathers is like our relationship to God the Father. He does refer to some instances where metaphor and simile are appropriate: for instance, referring to God as a rock is a metaphor, comparing his steadfastness, strength, etc. to that of a rock which is never moved but God is not actually a rock, and one could legitimately refer to God, metaphorically, as a mother, but He is not "the Mother."

The author also makes the point that mixing the names "Father" and "Creator" is the heresy of Arius, because if we say that "Father" and "Creator" are the same, that makes the Son a created being (Arius was deemed a heretic because he taught that Christ was only a man, and not divine). Rather, God is Father apart from being Creator. If He had never created anything, He would still be the Father in relation to the Son.

My Thoughts

I think the author does a good job of discussing this regarding how the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit relate to one another, and I will leave more thoughts as to that to the reader. "Practically", regarding how we relate as men to one another this seems, to me, to show my relationship to my parents in a slightly different light. How I understand this (and, if I'm wrong, I'm sure—and I hope—that someone who knows better will correct me), is that, in a sense, my father is, to me, an icon (or image) of God the Father. When I speak of an icon, by the way, I am speaking of how I understand the 7th Ecumencial Council to have understood icons, where the icon is a "window" through which we see God (you don't look at a window, you look through it), and the honor given to the icon is passed on to the original (which is, ultimately, God). In this sense, perhaps, the commandment was given to "honor your father and mother" because, by honoring them, you honor God. I read something else recently (can't remember where) that stated that it is worth noting that this commandment marks the transition in the Decalogue from those governing how we relate to God ("No gods before Me", "No idols", "Don't take My Name in vain", "Remember the Sabbath") to those governing how we relate to man ("Don't muder", "Don't commit adultery", "Don't steal", "Don't bear false witness", "Don't covet"). By the way, I'm not entirely sure how the mother fits here, since we are discussing God's Fatherhood, so any thoughts on that would be appreciated. Perhaps the mother is included as being one flesh with the father? Anyway, this specific discussion can go in two ways: the responsibility of the child, and the responsibility of the father.

The responsibility of the child is to honor one's parents, because, in doing so, one honors God. Obedience to one's parents, then, is obedience to God, and rebellion against one's parents is rebellion against God (I am sure, of course, that an exception exists when obeying one's parents is contrary to obeying God). This also means that encouraging someone else to dishonor his parents is encouraging him to dishonor God.

The responsibility of the father is to be, himself, a proper image of God to his children. It is no wonder that many who grew up with an abusive/absent father find it difficult to accept God as a good, loving, and faithful father! Fatherhood is a grave responsibility, because, being an image of God to their children, fathers, in some measure, shape how their children view God.

Anyway, those are just my thoughts on the article. There's much more said (and much better said) in the article, and I encourage anyone with the time to spare to read it.

Monday, October 17, 2005

"I Smoke My Pipe and Worship God"

Whene'er I take my pipe and stuff it
And smoke to pass the time away
My thoughts, as I sit there and puff it,
Dwell on a picture sad and grey:
It teaches me that very like
Am I myself unto my pipe.
Like me this pipe, so fragrant burning,
Is made of naught but earthen clay;
To earth I too shall be returning,
And cannot halt my slow decay.
My well used pipe, now cracked and broken,
Of mortal life is but a token.

No stain, the pipe's hue yet doth darken;
It remains white. Thus do I know
That when to death's call I must harken
My body, too, all pale will grow.
To black beneath the sod 'twill turn,
Likewise the pipe, if oft it burn.

Or when the pipe is fairly glowing,
Behold then instantaneously,
The smoke off into thin air going,
'Til naught but ash is left to see.
Man's fame likewise away will burn
And unto dust his body turn.

How oft it happens when one's smoking,
The tamper's missing from it's shelf,
And one goes with one's finger poking
Into the bowl and burns oneself.
If in the pipe such pain doth dwell
How hot must be the pains of Hell!

Thus o'er my pipe in contemplation
Of such things - I can constantly
Indulge in fruitful meditation,
And so, puffing contentedly,
On land, at sea, at home, abroad,
I smoke my pipe and worship God.
—J.S. Bach
I found this online the other day, and it made me think. How often do we miss God in the mundane things of life? How often are we blinded by our eyes, that we should not, in a sense, see through the things of this world and perceive the Kingdom? Bach here has seen through the smoke and embers of his pipe to perceive spiritual realities, and, in the process, his smoking became his worship.

Perhaps this struck me as it did because a sort of theme in my thoughts lately has been worshipping God in all things. Christ did not just redeem our spiritual actions—praise, prayer, reading Scripture. He redeemed us, and with us is included all those things we do throughout the day. Even our eating and drinking is to be an act of worship. My work at my job is to be an act of worship. Brother Lawrence of the Resurrection once said that he was happy when he could pick up a straw from the ground for the love of God, and to "count as lost every day that is not spent in the love of God." This is how I would like to live: a life devoted to the worship of God, not split between "secular" and "sacred things" but recognizing that Christ has redeemed those "secular" things and made them "sacred."

I will end my ramblings with another relevant quote:

One of the greatest hindrances to internal peace which the Christian encounters is the common habit of dividing our lives into two areas, the sacred and the secular. As these areas are conceived to exist apart from each other and to be morally and spiritually incompatible, and as we are compelled by the necessities of living to be always crossing back and forth from the one to the other, our inner lives tend to break up so that we live a divided instead of a unified life.

Our trouble springs from the fact that we who follow Christ inhabit at once two worlds, the spiritual send the natural. As children of Adam we live our lives on earth subject to the limitations of the flesh and the weaknesses and ills to which human nature is heir.

Merely to live among men requires of us years of hard toil and much care and attention to the things of this world. In sharp contrast to this is our life in the Spirit. There we enjoy another and higher kind of life; we are children of God; we possess heavenly status and enjoy intimate fellowship with Christ.

This tends to divide our total life into two departments. We come unconsciously to recognize two sets of actions. The first are performed with a feeling of satisfaction and a firm assurance that they are pleasing to God. These are the sacred acts and they are usually thought to be prayer, Bible reading, hymn singing, church attendance and such other acts as spring directly from faith. They may be known by the fact that they have no direct relation to this world, and would have no meaning whatever except as faith shows us another world, "an house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens."

Over against these sacred acts are the secular ones. They include all of the ordinary activities of life which we share with the sons and daughters of Adam: eating, sleeping, working, looking after the needs of the body and performing our dull and prosaic duties here on earth. These we often do reluctantly and with many misgivings, often apologizing to God for what we consider a waste of time and strength. The upshot of this is that we are uneasy most of the time. We go about our common tasks with a feeling of deep frustration, telling ourselves pensively that there's a better day coming when we shall slough off this earthly shell and be bothered no more with the affairs of this world.

This is the old sacred-secular antithesis. Most Christians are caught in its trap. They cannot get a satisfactory adjustment between the claims of the two worlds. They try to walk the tight rope between two kingdoms and they find no peace in either. Their strength is reduced, their outlook confused and their joy taken from them.

I believe this state of affairs to be wholly unnecessary. We have gotten ourselves on the horns of a dilemma, true enough, but the dilemma is not real. It is a creature of misunderstanding. The sacred-secular antithesis has no foundation in the New Testament. Without doubt a more perfect understanding of Christian truth will deliver us from it.

The Lord Jesus Christ Himself is our perfect example, and He knew no divided life. In the Presence of His Father He lived on earth without strain from babyhood to His death on the cross. God accepted the offering of His total life, and made no distinction between act and act. "I do always the things that please him," was His brief summary of His own life as it related to the Father. As He moved among men He was poised and restful. What pressure and suffering He endured grew out of His position as the world's sin bearer; they were never the result of moral uncertainty or spiritual maladjustment.

Paul's exhortation to "do all to the glory of God" is more than pious idealism. It is an integral part of the sacred revelation and is to be accepted as the very Word of Truth. It opens before us the possibility of making every act of our lives contribute to the glory of God. Lest we should be too timid to include everything, Paul mentions specifically eating and drinking. This humble privilege we share with the beasts that perish. If these lowly animal acts can be so performed as to honor God, then it becomes difficult to conceive of one that cannot.
—A.W. Tozer, "The Sacrament of Living", The Pursuit of God

Thursday, October 06, 2005

TI Makes Cellphones Into Safety Devices?

According to Engadget, TI has applied for a patent on a device that will allow cellphones and PDAs to detect when you wreck your car and to automatically notify 911. I wonder if it works if you're using the cellphone when you have the wreck?

Wednesday, October 05, 2005

South Korean City of the Future

From Engadget,

Seems [South Korea is] whipping up a brand new metropolis called New Songo, a “ubiquitous city” being built 40 miles outside Seoul, which, like the world’s largest gadget, will serve as one of the largest integrated technology testbeds ever conceived. Billed as the next stage of development for technology-enabled living, New Songo will equipped [sic] with a $297 million RFID research center when completed in 2014, and its 65,000 residents will all have homes with electronic locks, integrated videoconferencing, VoD, and unified systems and services down to details like each resident having a non-identity linked smartcard that transacts purchases, grants entry to mass transit, parking, and opens your front door at the end of the day (uhh).
There's some pretty cool-sounding words in there. I'm pretty sure it'd be a while before something like that appeared in America. There's probably still enough people here that have read 1984.

Still, it does sound cool.

Peter Jackson Named as Executive Producer for Halo Movie

According to Reuters,

The Oscar-winning creative team behind the "The Lord of the Rings" films, including director Peter Jackson, has been named to run the production of the upcoming film based on Microsoft Corp.'s blockbuster "Halo" video game, the company said on Tuesday.
More details can be found at Bungie.net.

Tuesday, October 04, 2005

Google-Sun News Conference Notes (Updated)

Well, the Google-Sun News Conference is over. I took a few notes of things that stood out to me, and, afterwards, wrote up some thoughts.


  • Well, I missed the first couple minutes, due to my RealPlayer link. I connected a few minutes before 1:30, and it brought up a screen saying it would start soon, and started playing some "hold music." About 1:35 or so, I began thinking, "it should have started by now," so I stopped RealPlayer, and tried connecting again. After a few times of RealPlayer not wanting to find the link, I was finally able to reconnect, and they were already talking!
  • Eric Schmidt (CEO of Google) kind of looks like Gary Winston from Antitrust. "Bill who?"
  • Someone asked about Microsoft/Office. What are Sun and Google after? "Revenue...users..."
  • What about the Google OS? Google is "in the end user search business." Sun has a new version of Solarius.
  • I'm having some connection problems.
  • Someone from CNET is asking a question. Apparently, Google is talking to CNET again.
  • I did not know that Google contributes to open source communities.
  • A question about OpenOffice as a web service. Much beating around the bush. Maybe?
  • A lot of questions relate to OpenOffice.
  • The partnership seems to be mostly about distribution.
  • Another question about Microsoft.
  • Client server is "last-millenium" and Windows is the last remnant of the technology.


It seems like there wasn't a whole lot to the conference. Maybe I did miss something important at the beginning. They, of course, stepped around any questions relating to Microsoft, and were very ambiguous regarding suggestions about an OpenOffice web service. Google is going to be buying more Sun hardware, and Sun is going to be including an option to install the Google toolbar when users install the Java Runtime Environment. I hadn't heard much before about Google's apparently "broad" support of open source, but that is good news.

Overall, it wasn't too exciting. I'm curious as to what other bloggers have to say, and what will be written by the reporters who were actually there. It seems like Google and Sun scheduled the conference simply to say, "we're working together," and the rest of the Internet picked it up and ran with it. Free publicity can't be bad. Perhaps there will be more to see later. We will simply have to wait and see.


And now there is a press release on Sun's site briefly covering the conference. You can read it here. Yes, that is basically all that was said at the conference.

Google-Sun Alliance?

According to recent news, Google and Sun may be joining forces. Sun's website mentions a live webcast at 10:30am PT (1:30pm ET) where they will "discuss joint activities".

Rumors are already circulating as to what, exactly, this means, largely fueled by a recent blog entry by Jonathan Schwartz, the President of Sun, on software distribution. The most often quoted portion of the entry that I've seen is:

But value is returning to the desktop applications, and not simply through Windows Vista. But in the form of applications that are network service platforms. From the obvious, to music sharing clients and development tools, there's a resurgence of interest in resident software that executes on your desktop, yet connects to network services. Without a browser. Like Skype. Or QNext. Or Google Earth. And Java? OpenOffice and StarOffice?

If I were a betting man, I'd bet the world was about to change.

The most widely circulated rumor seems to involve some sort of Google Office (based on Sun's StarOffice) or, at least, something similar to Microsoft's Outlook that exists online. The office idea is interesting, but the idea of an online Outlook is exciting; I mentioned back on my Xanga blog a while ago that I'd really like a "GCalendar" that would be stored online, would allow you to make entries public or private, and could possibly sync with Outlook and/or Mozilla Sunbird.

These ideas, however, bring up some issues. How much data—especially more personal data like calendar appointments—are people willing to expose to the Internet via Google? How much trust does Google have that they can protect people's data, or that they will maintain their "do no evil" motto?

Todd, on the Geek News Central podcast, says that "Google has basically declared war on Microsoft." That'd be nice, really, but if Google has really declared war on M$, why don't they have Linux versions for more of their downloaded software? Perhaps, given much of it comes from companies Google acquired, they're working on it?

Or, maybe Google really is working toward a Google OS, as some have speculated. Regardless, it will be interesting to see what comes of this. Check it out at 1:30pm ET. I plan to.

Monday, October 03, 2005

Oregon RIAA "Victim" Files Countersuit

From Recording Industry vs The People,

This is the case peer-to-peer file sharers have been waiting for. Tanya Andersen, a 41 year old disabled single mother living in Oregon, has countersued the RIAA for Oregon RICO violations, fraud, invasion of privacy, abuse of process, electronic trespass, violation of the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act, negligent misrepresentation, the tort of "outrage", and deceptive business practices.
More details can be found at the link above.

Overall, this is pretty exciting news. If, indeed, this woman is innocent of any wrong-doing, I hope she wins. If she is not innocent, perhaps some good will still come of this. Howewer, as some comments to the original article point out, the allegations of cracking her computer are questionable, and could kill the case.

Now, let me be clear on one thing: The more I hear of the RIAA, the less I like them. However, my understanding of the commandment, "Thou shalt not steal," leads me to believe that piracy (of music, software, whatever) is generally wrong. I recognize the RIAA's right to sue those who illegally download music. My problem is with the greed that seems to be very manifest in many of their actions. They often look more like a playground bully than like the victim they want us to believe that they are.

Many species go extinct because they are unable to adapt to changes in their environment. The Internet has turned many a "traditional" company on its head. Some adapted and survived. The RIAA seems to be determined to die as loudly as possible.

Wikipedia Corrects Encyclopædia Britannica

From CNET:

Those who have voiced skepticism over the reliability of information found in Wikipedia should take note of this.

The collaboratively assembled encyclopedia maintains a page devoted to correcting errors in its chief offline competitor, the venerable Encyclopedia Britannica.

Of course, Wikipedia admits its own errors, but that is part of its project. Unlike a printed encyclopædia, where what is already printed is "set in stone", Wikipedia is dynamic. When an error is found, whoever found it can correct it "in real time," and the correction is immediately available to all users.

In a related story, Esquire magazine used Wikipedia's model (and user base) to write an article about Wikipedia itself.

Sunday, October 02, 2005

Gas Tax Returns in Georgia

Early last month, Gov. Sonny Perdue chose to waive the state gas tax for last month, in response to the surging gas prices due to Hurricane Katrina. Starting today, however, the gas tax is back, and a local news station ran an article about the return. Here is my favorite part:

Lyle Morgan said the return of the tax means he will have to spend an additional $10 to fill up the tank on his sport utility vehicle.

"You've got people now having difficulty meeting their bills because gas their gas expenditure has tripled," he said.

Maybe they should trade in their SUV's for something more fuel-efficient? I just filled up the tank of my Civic today (should've done it yesterday, I know), and spent $5 more than a few months ago.
With an SUV now guzzling up to $75, many drivers are taking the joy out of their rides, eliminating any driving that isn't strictly necessary, especially on weekends.
$75‽ I spend about 1/3 of that! I can't imagine what those Hummers cost.

The ones I really feel bad for are the people whose business requires a lot of driving, and the people who really may not be able to afford higher gas prices, even with fuel-efficient cars. But people who complain about higher prices while driving SUV's?

Saturday, October 01, 2005

Is a Government DNA Database in Our Future?

According to a recent post on C|Net News.com's "Politics Blog",

The Violence Against Women Act may be about to do violence to Americans' right to privacy.

A U.S. Senate committee has adopted an amendment to the VAWA legislation that would add the DNA of anyone detained by the cops to a federal DNA database called "CODIS."

The author goes on to note that, currently, authorities are only authorized to collect DNA from those actually convicted of a crime. However, this new law allows them to collect DNA from those who are simply "detained;" what that means, exactly, is unclear.

Stuff like this always reminds me of the movie, Minority Report. Specifically, I think of the scene where Anderton (the main character) is walking through a mall, trying to figure out how to escape the police (for those who haven't seen the movie, he was framed for a murder he hadn't yet committed) and all of the advertisements were recognizing him and blurting out his name. How did they recognize him? By scanning his eyes.

Okay, so maybe that's a little bit alarmist. I doubt we will ever have a "Department of Precrime" in real life. DNA is, from what I understand, still the best evidence to tie a person to a crime, and the more people's DNA the authorities have in storage, the easier it would be for them to find criminals. However, it is a bit scary to think of how much information Big Brother may have on us someday...

Wednesday, September 28, 2005

Another Reason to Use Firefox

From a C|Net News.com article: "A new flaw in Internet Explorer could be exploited to launch spoof-based attacks, or access and change data on vulnerable PCs, security experts have warned." The article goes on to say that the problem lies in how JavaScript is implemented in the browser, and that it is currently ranked as "moderately critical." Microsoft is angry that security researchers did not privately report the flaw to MS, but instead disclosed it publicly. In addition, this flaw can affect even "fully-patched computers running Windows XP with Service Pack 2 and Internet Explorer 6.0."

Yet another reason to switch to Firefox.

Get Firefox!

Tuesday, September 27, 2005

Switchfoot vs Copy Protection (and a rant about the RIAA)

[Google News Search]
Apparently, one of the members of Switchfoot has a problem with the fact that their label, Sony, has started putting copy protection on their CD's. One problem with copy protection is that, while preventing pirates from illegally copying music (although, those who really want to will always find a way around it), it also causes problems for everyone else who simply wants to back up their CD (in case it somehow gets destroyed), or make a copy to listen to on their iPod, or any other legitimate use. So, he took matters into his own hands, and posted a comment on a message board on their site, detailing how to circumvent the copy protection. This, of course, caused some problems, not only with Sony, but also with certain laws in the US that make it illegal to circumvent copy protection or even to publish how to circumvent copy protection (regardless of whether it is for legitimate or illegitimate use).

I had a link to the specific post earlier today, but, alas, the link no longer works, and I can't find the post in their forums anymore.

Here's a discussion point regarding this story: Switchfoot is a Christian group. As Christians, was it good or ungood for them to do this? Yes, they were breaking the law (I wonder if they were aware of that, actually), and, technicaly, Sony is their boss. So, on the one hand, submission to authority comes into play here. Also, Sony produces the CD's, Sony loses money if the CD's are pirated (*ahem*debatable*ahem*), and Sony has the right to do whatever they want with their product. On the other hand, the RIAA in general is pretty much well known to be greedy, heavy-handed, and, overall, just plain evil. So, were they standing up for the "little guy" (perhaps the musicians who don't approve of copy protection, or the customers who are being sold an intentionally defective product), or were they out of line for not submitting to those in authority over them?

Also, a comment on copy protection in general: Considering the fact that there is certainly someone, somewhere, who will always figure out how to circumvent the copy protection, and put the songs on the Internet illegally, anyway, is the RIAA really doing itself any favors here? The people who are going to pirate the music are going to pirate the music; all it takes is for one person to by the CD, copy it, and put it online, and it will just grow from there. The people who are actually being hurt by this are the people who actually buy the CD. And, what if someone buys the CD, wants to put it on an iPod or just listen to it on their PC, but can't, so they find copies of the songs on the CD they already own online. Say they just download those songs that, by "fair use," they have the right to have on their computer anyway. Is the RIAA going to sue them, just like it has hundreds of people already, including some moms and grandparents who didn't even know their children/grandchildren had downloaded music on their computers?

Monday, September 26, 2005

First Spam

Wow, I knew about people spamming blogs by posting advertisement comments, but, for some reason, I guess I didn't think I'd get spammed so soon after starting a blog. Yup, my previous entry (the one about Trained Attack Dolphins) had a comment posted to it by an "anonymous" poster advertising some sterling silver website. Actually, the spammer said the site is a "sterling silver site/blog" that "pretty much covers sterling silver related stuff." Riiiight, sure looked like a commercial site to me. Well, except that I couldn't find anywhere to order their products.

The spam has been deleted.

Of course, I wouldn't mind as much had the site been relevant to anything posted here. Oh, well, at least I haven't had to worry so much about spam in GMail.

Killer Dolphins on the Loose

According to The Guardian, the U.S. Navy may have lost trained attack dolphins in the Gulf of Mexico during Hurricane Katrina. These dolphins were trained by the Navy to protect warships from terrorist attack. They may be armed with "'toxic dart' guns", and it is feared by some that they may mistake divers or surfers for terrorists.

Obviously, the Navy is not talking much about it, so most of this is speculation. The Guardian seems to be the only source with this story; other sites seem to just be linking back to The Guardian. However, if it is true, I'm predicting that we will see the formation of armed dolphin gangs taking divers and surfers captive, and holding them for ransom. I'm guessing their demands will either be large amounts of fish, or that we release all their brethren held in captivity for our amusement. Seriously, dolphins are the second-smartest creatures on the planet (humans being the third). I'm not sure why they haven't developed weapons on their own yet, but now we've given them weapons and let them loose.

World of Warcraft Plague

On one of the podcasts I listen to, this WEEK in TECH, reported that a plague has broken out in the online game, World of Warcraft. According to the podcast, players contract this "plague" when fighting a certain, powerful enemy in the game. When they contract the disease, their health starts dropping rapidly, and, when they die, they explode, infecting everyone around them. This was bad enough while fighting this enemy, but some players survived long enough to return to a town. Once in town, they eventually died and infected everyone around them, including some NPC's (non-playable characters; characters that are controlled by the computer).

Ars Technica has an article here

Time Waster 1—Troyis

Okay, so here is my very first "Time Waster" post. In these posts, I will mention interesting pages (usually games) that are so fun to play, your productivity will drop until you force yourself away from the site.

This time waster was featured as UserFriendly's Link of the Day on Sunday. Troyis is a game where you control a chess knight on a random board of white and blue squares. The goal of the game is to use the knight's chess move (the 'L' shape) to visit every white square at least once. It's great fun; so far, I've made it to level 8.

Saturday, September 24, 2005

New Location

As I mentioned on my blog at Xanga, I've been considering finding a new place to host my blog. As I said, Xanga is alright, but there are some things—one of the big ones being control over the layout—that bugged me. So, I am, for now, moving my blog here onto Blogger, to see how it is.

I'm also considering changing the name. I would like to keep the "Echoing Across the Binary C" part, but I'm not sure about keeping "cin >> cout;". One friend has suggested "printf(scanf());". So, if anyone decides to read this, tell me what you think of either of these titles, or suggest another one.