Saturday, December 24, 2005

SuSe 10.0

I just installed SuSE Linux 10.0 and I'm very impressed so far! I've been using Fedora Linux for the most part, but I decided to try SuSE for the first time in a while, and I like what I see.

I think I may have to stick with SuSE if today is any indication of my overall experience with this distribution.

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Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Python Programming Conference

I just found a nice collection of audio files from conferences dedicated to the Python programming language. Very cool!

Take a look here.

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Friday, December 16, 2005


I Corinthians 13

If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing.

If I give away all I have, and if I deliver up my body to be burned, but have not love, I gain nothing. Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth.

Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never ends. As for prophecies, they will pass away; as for tongues, they will cease; as for knowledge, it will pass away. For we know in part and we prophesy in part, but when the perfect comes, the partial will pass away. When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I gave up childish ways. For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known. So now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love.

Scripture quotation from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version, copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a division of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

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A Cross Section of My Readers


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Thursday, December 15, 2005

Mr T

Julie Staples has posted an absolutely GREAT post consisting of a collection of facts on Mr T. They just don't make TV stars the same any more ;)

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Tuesday, December 13, 2005

Penn Jillette's Belief

Penn Jillette believes there is no God. He's an author, a research fellow of the Cato institute, and a producer. In an essay, he explains himself.

In his essay, Penn states that he is beyond atheism. He doesn't merely not believe in God, but He believes there is no God. He sees a belief in the non-existence of God as being better than the lack of belief in God. He says that "anyone with a love for truth outside of herself has to start with no belief in God and then look for evidence of God". He then continues to make a number of statements about what believing there is no God provides him with. In conclusion he says:

"Believing there is no God means the suffering I've seen in my family, and indeed all the suffering in the world, isn't caused by an omniscient, omnipresent, omnipotent force that isn't bothered to help or is just testing us, but rather something we all may be able to help others with in the future. No God means the possibility of less suffering in the future.

Believing there is no God gives me more room for belief in family, people, love, truth, beauty, sex, Jell-O and all the other things I can prove and that make this life the best life I will ever have."

I know full well that Penn did not intend to deliver a complete philosophical treatise, however if his essay delivers 10 pounds of content, it also raises 1000 tons of questions.

1. On what basis does believing there is "No God" mean a possibility of less suffering? (especially given our current knowledge regarding psychology and anthropology in general)

2. On what basis does "Believing there is no God" give room for belief in "family, people, love, truth, beauty, sex, Jell-O"? (at the very best, it has no bearing on these things, at the worst, it leaves us with no adequete basis or foundation for these things)

3. And, if he "can prove" all the things mentioned in #2, then one would expect that he would begin by starting to explain love. How do we measure it? Where does it come from? Why chose love instead of hate? Why is love desirable.

Contrary to what Penn states, "Believing there is no God" is no more superior of a position to be in than "Not believing in God". They are both negations, one is just more bold in its negation. They both provide no answers, but are merely denials.

I can take all the good things that Penn lists and reverse the claim and say that they only come from believing IN God. And perhaps we would both lack sophistication (because we would merely be making rash claims). However, there would be a difference that I want to draw attention to. I claim that love, truth, etc. have meaning to me because of an affirmation (what is). But Penn seems to be claiming that love, truth, etc. have meaning to him because of a denial (what isn't).

The belief that something or someone does not exist is never the proper basis for thing of such a nature as truth and love. "God does not exist" in Penn Jillette's mind, but that doesn't explain anything, not even Jell-O. To do that, he will need to provide a POSITIVE statement about things he believes do exist and how they provide us a foundation for logic, love, and truth.

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Monday, December 12, 2005

Spam: The Joke's On You

Since spam appears to be here to stay, some have decided to make the best of it. There are a couple projects dedicated to making use out of mounds of spam, and believe it or not, they are actually quite funny.

The first is Spamradio, a decidedly bizzare project. The folks at Spamradio have developed a system that processes a seemingly never ending pile of spam and uses text to voice technology to turn it into audio files with light background music. The result is a 24/7 stream of spam readings. I can't imagine someone listening to this for more than an hour, but just listening to it for a few minutes sure cracked me up! Perhaps the next project should be to figure out how to convert mass piles of spam into a renewable energy source!

Another project, probably more popular than Spamradio, is This is an attempt at replying to spam, with a vengance. The author of the site, Jonathan Land, acknowledges that most FROM addresses that spammers use are invalid, but that doesn't stop him! He takes secret pleasure in talking back. He writes humorous responses to spam he receives and posts it on his site. And sometimes he even gets replies! This is not some small project either, because now the project has become a published book! No Starch Press has published a number of these responses in a book entitled "The Spam Letters".

Sometimes when we can't seem to get rid of something, we need to learn to live with it. And these projects are dedicated to doing just that! Next, Spam Art! :)

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Sunday, December 11, 2005

On Christian Liberty and Church Laws

Some thoughts on forcing people to abstain from things which are matters of indifference (ie. not specifically legislated in the Scriptures)...

"There are some Christian denominations which actually single out certain specific acts, in themselves indifferent, and require of church members abstinence from those things as a condition of membership. In some cases this requirement of abstinence is written into the denomination's creedal doctrine, and members are not merely required to abstain from the particular things involved, but are also required to express their assent to the rightfulness of this requirement of abstinence. This tendency, which assumes various forms in various circles, is a very unhealthy one, for it tends to give people the notion that the church can, by its own authority, legislate for the lives of its members, and even go beyond Scripture in requiring of them abstinence from particular things which are in themselves indifferent.

Of course the church may and should require its members to abstain from everything that can be proved by Scripture to be sinful. The breach of such abstinence can be justly censured by ecclesiastical judicatories when the fact is proved. But the church has not authority to require abstinence from things indifferent. The church has no authority to usurp the functions of the individual Christian conscience and decide for her members concerning the use of things indifferent. For the church to censure her members for doing that which cannot be proved from Scripture, without the use of any additional authority, to be sinful, is to exceed the limits of legitimate church authority. At the point where a secondary becomes necessary, the matter automatically passes from the church to the court of the individual conscience, precisely because God alone is Lord of the conscience, and human authority cannot bind the conscience." - J. Vos

Friday, December 09, 2005

Happy Birthday!!!

John Milton: I promise I'll try to get to reading Paradise Lost one of these days. (1608)

Grace Murray Hopper: You proved that there are some real geek girls, even long before I was born! (1906)

King Gustavus Adolphus of Sweden: I have no clue who you are, but I assume you must have been a great Swedish king! (1594)

Metius (Adriaan Adriaanszoon): You were right about your doubts regarding astrology, but what were you thinking when it came to alchemy!?! (1571)

Dick Butkus: Maybe you shouldn't have sued your own football team? (1942)

Scattered Thoughts on a Professors Resignation

Professor Paul Mirecki resigned from his position as chair of the Department of Religious Studies at the University of Kansas.

Mirecki remains on the faculty, but has resigned from his chair position and has cancelled the course he planned entitled: "Special Topics in Religion: Intelligent Design, Creationism and other Religious Mythologies".

According to CNN, 'A recent e-mail from Mirecki to members of a student organization referred to religious conservatives as "fundies" and said a course describing intelligent design as mythology would be a "nice slap in their big fat face." Mirecki apologized for those comments.'

I'm glad that Mirecki apologized for those statements. If we are to maintain any serious dialog on issues like this, emotionally charged labels such as "fundies" will not get us anywhere. I think its safe to say that this sort of unsophisticated communication exists on both sides of the fence. CNN goes on to say: "On Monday, Mirecki was treated at a Lawrence hospital for head injuries after he said he was beaten by two men on a country road. He said the men referred to the creationism course."

This sounds like a reflection of the inherent UGLINESS that is sometimes a part of what is bandied around as "fundamentalism". I believe Mirecki is wrong in what he believes. But he is also a human. Made in the image of God. As an image bearer of God, Mirecki has dignity and worth. He is also likely an extremely intelligent individual. On that basis, any dialog should be conducted with love, clarity, respect, and hopefully some level of sincerity. I believe the Christians (I use the term loosely here) who act crudely will, in at least one sense, be held to a higher standard, because they are PROFESSING religion.

Unfortunately, in many charged debates like this one, the real issues get swept under the table. The Christains often crudly fight the wrong battles in a very obnoxious way that merely feeds anti-Christian stereoptypes. On the other hand, the individuals opposing the Christians, often resort to name calling and often their rhetoric is more hype and not nearly as factual as they would assert. Here are some things I think everyone should look for IN THEIR APPROACH to any debate:

1. Have I identified the critical issues which are not symptoms, but penetrate to the root of the problem?

2. Have I taken the time to understand my opponents position and also given some thought as to the reasons it stands in their mind?

3. Am I ready and willing to treat the individual in this conflict as an IMAGE BEARER of God and as one who I am willing to take efforts to CONVINCE not CLOBBER?

4. Have I taken the time to reach a level where I am confident enough to dwell nearly exclusively on the critical issues and not resort to name-calling or other emotional appeals?

I appreciate the fact that Mirecki took steps to resolve this situation. Are the Christians in the area willing to do the same? This does not mean that they have to accept his beliefs, but they should at the very least be ready to keep the lines of communication and dialog open and not do anything rashly to close them. Too often, we do rash things that are very antagonistic.

The Intelligent Designer that I worship has a high regard for Truth. Mirecki is ultimately not the one who decides what is truth, and at least some of what he said is wrong. On the same end, Mirecki is a good challenge to the Christians out there and an opportunity to defend and further clarify their faith. God does not call on His followers to blindly accept the status quo and run anyone who opposes it out of town. His claims on our lives are of such a nature that He wants us to be ambassadors for Him, at that we must seek to be compassionate, grounded in the truth, and knowledgable. We need to be apologists, yes, but that is within the context of being ambassadors and ministers of reconcilliation first.

Wow! This is all over the place. Hopefully it has some coherence.

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Tuesday, December 06, 2005

The Author to the Hebrews

Ian Clary has a post worth reading discussing the authorship of the epistle to the Hebrews (interesting, I just happen to be studying that book).

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Friday, December 02, 2005

Longing for the Transcendental

Society has progressed mightily along the lines of science and technology, breaking new barriers in knowledge and information processing. However, society has not been able to shake off a fascination with the trancedental. In fact, as the 20th century began to close, a renewed interest in spirituality and the "other" began to rise to the surface. The cold, hard rationalism of yesterday swiftly became a thing of the past, being replaced by a renewed interest in the trascedental.

There are clearly two things about this trend that should trouble philosophical materialists, or at least make them think twice before proceeding. First, why, on the foundation of philosophical materialism, should humans be inclined to ponder the supernatural? Second, can it be intellectually honest to claim that ALL reports of supernaturalism which span all human history were fabrications? Surely some of them are forgeries, but can all of them be forgeries?

In ages past, in the times of the witchhunts and such things, some skeptics/rationalists of the day would discount these "curious arts" as the inventions of their persecutors. However, the recent ressurgence in spiritualism calls this explanation in question and forces one to reconsider any such assumption.

The reality we must ultimately accept is this: Man is very religious. Years upon years of new knowledge and advancement will not take that away. It may change who and how he worships, but not the concept of worship and religion, which is so ingrained into the human being.

As a Christian, I must be careful to not fall into two extremes. I believe OS Guinness puts this very well in The Dust of Death when he says: "I would merely say here that, as a Christian, I always attempt to avoid an over-sceptical rationalism on one hand or any premature escape into a magical explanation on the other". Many individuals caught up in the New Age movement are extremely caught up in superstition. Others, often within modernistic Christainity, have become so rationalistic in their thinking that they deny all miracles or supernatural things both in the Bible and in the world around them. Both of these extremes are untenable and ultimately lead to ruin, if consistently lived upon. As Christians we need to be clear that the transcendental is very real. On the other hand, we need to be careful to avoid using the trascendental as a cloak to explain away everything and divorce ourselves from reality.

Humans seem to be wired to worship, and this occurs whether they do so in the context of modern neo-paganism, ancient paganism, or some of the old monotheisms. I don't think this can ever be explained on an evolutionary basis. If we are to assume philisophical materialism, there can be no utilitarian basis for the ultimate religiousness of humans. Religion is not merely a way that some people utilize to control others (as Marx would say), but rather religion seems to be running through our very veins.

The universality of religious devotion does not mean that all religions are equally valid. If we are to have any regard for truth, then the truth claims of each religion must have bearing. And since the truth claims of many religions conflict, we must presume that at least a handful are wrong in their fundamental precepts.

I believe Christianity rigorously answers the most basic questions of human existence. It explains the religiosity of man, and it also explains his fallen station. And it provides a meaningful answer that can provide hope hence balancing the fine line between unfounded optimism and destructive pessimism. I believe Biblical Christianity does answer the dilemas of modern man, and we need to be more bold and ready to proclaim the Gospel because it does speak to the people of our day!

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Thursday, December 01, 2005

A Worthwhile Project!

Years ago, I discovered Project Gutenberg, a great project offering thousands of online ebooks, mainly older public domain classics. After ignoring it for some time, curisoty compelled me to return. Thankfully, not much is new, besides the design and more ebooks! If only more people knew about it and contributed to it!

I've already read the text of "Common Sense" by Thomas Paine, and have also worked through part of a book of Mark Twain's letters. I've put a hold on my e-book reading momentarily, but I'm sure I'll return soon.

The site hosts a plethora of works by well known authors such as H.G. Wells, Albert Einstein, Mark Twain, Jules Verne, Plato, Jack London, G.K. Chesterton, William Shakespeare, Tolstoy, Charles Dickens, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, and some less well-known ones too!

We should be greatful about the geek ethic of nurturing projects that benefit the community. This is not unique to the Internet, but this sort of culture seems to be thriving online! There are many great projects such as this one, Wikipedia,,, and others that are paving the way towards free-flowing non-commercial streams of information, putting content in the hands of those who might not otherwise be able to access it. That is what Mr. Gutenburg's invention was all about. It shook the world mightly, particularly Europe, by enabling the Bible to eventually reach the hands of the common people.

For those interested in checking it out:

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A Verse I've Noticed

"After God spoke long ago in various portions and in various ways to our ancestors through the prophets, in these last days he has spoken to us in a son, whom he appointed heir of all things, and through whom he created the world. The Son is the radiance of his glory and the representation of his essence, and he sustains all things by his powerful word" (Hebrews 1:1-3a - NET Bible)

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A Fix of Trimethylxathine

Some of you may have heard of a drug named Trimethylxathine. The drug is very popular and tracends social classes. The average dosage is 300 mg per day, normally taken orally. A dose of around 10 grams is deadly, though even 3 or 4 grams has been known to cause death.

A high dose of this drug could case gastrointenstinal problems, violent behavior, muscle twitching, diursesis, anxiety, panic attacks, and even hallucinations. The substance is physically addictive and is also known to reduce motor coordination, cause insomnia, headaches, and diziness. It can effect childbirth, causing IDS, miscarriage, etc.

The drug acts as a stimulant, operating through mechanisms similar to (although milder than) heroin and cocaine. One such similarity is the increase of dopamine. It also is known to have withdrawl symptoms including fatigue, muscle pain, and headaches.

Should this drug be legalized? Oh, already is. The drug I'm talking about is caffeine. And, no, I'm not on an anti-caffeine crusude. I enjoy my occasional Yerba Mate tea or Oolong tea.. ;)

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Instructions for a Friend

Samuel Rutherford was a Scottish Puritan who lived in the 1600s. Due
to a book he published, he was exiled from his hometown. Eventually he
returned, and continued his ministry.

He wrote another book :"Lex Rex", stressing the supremecy of the Law
over the King (as opposed to the King over the Law). Study of Lex Rex
indirectly became the basis for the systems of checks and balances
than were implemented in the inception of the U.S. constitution.
Eventually, an insecure Monarchy in Britian decided that they didn't
want to let the author of "Lex Rex" live in peace. So, they summoned
him to appear on charges of treason.

But God had better plans. From his deathbed, Rutherford defiantly
answered the summons by saying: "I must answer my first summons; and
before your day arrives, I will be where few kings and great folks
come" and he then subsequently passed away.

A number of Rutherford's letters exist to this day and they exhibit
the tender care of one who truly cared about his flock. One which I
include here is a letter to an unconverted person in his church:


Loving Friend:

I earnestly desire your salvation. Know the Lord and seek Christ. You
have a soul that cannot die. Seek for a lodging to your poor soul, for
that house of clay will fail.

Heaven or nothing! either Christ or nothing! Use prayer in your house
and set your thoughts often upon death and judgement. It is dangerous
to be loose in the matter of your salvation. Few are saved; men go to
heaven in ones and twos, and the whole world lieth in sin. Love your
enemies and stand by the truth which I have taught you in all things.

Fear not men, but let God be your fear. Your time will not be long;
make the seeking of Christ your daily task. Ye may, when ye are in the
fields, speak to God. Seek a broken heart for sin, for without that
there is no meeting with Christ.

I speak this to your wife as well as to yourself. I desire your
sister, in her fears and doubtings, to fasten her grips on Christ's
love. I forbid her to doubt, for Christ loveth her and hath her name
written in his book. Her salvation is fast coming. Christ her Lord is
not slow in coming, nor slack in promise.

Grace be with you,
Your loving pastor,