Jan
31

January 31, 2005

Brian McLaren in Time Magazine

Our friend, Brian McLaren, is included in Time Magazine's 25 Most Influential Evangelicals! Not to brag, but I think that makes me one of Time Magazine's Top 25 Webmasters To Influential Evangelicals. That's right.

Brian's a great guy, and we're very proud of him. We also love and admire his wife, Grace, and their kids. They are good, good people, through and through. Especially Grace ;-)

Monkey's Got Back!

LiveScience reports on a new study that found male monkeys will pay to look at photos of female monkey, er, derrieres. If this isn't evidence of a common ancestry, I don't know what is. Perhaps the proponents of Intelligent Design would argue that this behavior is irreducibly complex, since it would have had to evolve in the complete absence of magazines, video, or the Internet.

Posted 11:10 PM

404 Instant Messaging

A good friend and colleague of mine, who shall remain nameless, is a very conscientious webmaster. He's fastidious when it comes to broken links, and, not content to discover them from the web server logs, has fashioned a custom ASP page for 404s that instantly sends him an email with the offending URL and referrer.

So when I want to send him a quick note, I type something like this into the address bar of my browser:
http://www.domain-withheld.com/the-content-of-my-note-goes-here.

The joke is probably wearing off quickly...

Posted 1:55 PM
Jan
30

January 30, 2005

Elections in Iraq

News from the Iraqi elections today is still very sketchy. If democracy takes hold in Iraq, some years hence, I'm sure Iraqi TV networks will have the same minute-by-minute scoreboard updates, interspersed with footage from identical-looking hotel ballrooms of partying partisans that we watch helplessly on American election nights. For now, CNN is reporting better-than-expected turnout, which gives us cause for hope.

The Mesopotamian describes the event as Suicide Bombers v. Suicide Voters, with 30 or more people giving their lives to vote. Though the ultimate historical impact of this first election cannot be known yet, my jaded, cynical heart is wholely with the courageous people who voted. American voter turnout in national elections stays between 50 and 60 percent -- and that without graphic death threats or an indelible, purple stain on our fingers identifying us as one who voted.

Posted 12:45 PM
Jan
28

January 28, 2005

We're Promise Keepers Breakers

America's Promises from the NY Times (registration required).
Posted 5:27 PM

Software Development Must-Read

From Kuro5hin, comes Politics-Oriented Software Development.
Jan
24

January 24, 2005

Tags and Taxonomies

Clay Shirky makes a lot of sense: Tags != folksonomies && Tags != Flat name spaces (viewer discretion advised for language). He validates some things that have been stewing in my head related to this problem, though I couldn't possibly have articulated them well.

The question I'm left with is: How do you use tags in a system with multiple dimensions? Say, for example, that you want to organize things by geopolitical region, subject (topic), and source. Do you need to enforce uniqueness of tags across all three dimensions or not? If not, I suppose you have to tack something onto the tag behind-the-scenes before indexing.

I'd want to stop somewhat shy of swangling (PDF) in any event.

And then there's the desirability of a hierarchy for navigation. Let's say I have a fairly complex set of documents to assist folks with navigating. I understand it's a problem to assign documents to a category in a hierarchy. It's preferable to assign name=value pairs, where the name equates to a dimension/facet. Do I then redefine the categories in my browsing tree as canned queries?

Any answers from a practitioner would be very welcome.

Jan
22

January 22, 2005

Welcome to the Brood of Vipers, Dr. Dobson

Here's another guy who could use a WWJD bracelet. Dr. James Dobson continues to demonstrate that he wouldn't recognize his beloved Lord and savior in a police line-up. He must have been so busy tilting at windmills and cartoon characters that he stopped reading his Bible. If he did, it would remind him that Jesus saved his harshest words for one, and only one, group of people, evangelical and moralistic "religious leaders" with the wrong priorities.

What's at issue is a video by the "We Are Family" Foundation that teaches elementary school kids the importance of tolerance and diversity. What's Dr. Dobson's beef with that? Well, although they didn't put it in the video, the Foundations website includes Tolerance.org's Declaration of Tolerance, which includes "sexual identity" in its list of things to respect and tolerate. Apparently, Dr. Dobson feels that there's a real danger that six and seven-year-olds will watch the video, go home and visit the Foundation's website, discover the Tolerance Pledge, understand the sexual identity item, and decide that they too would like to be reviled and misunderstood by their parents and peers by choosing to be gay.

Christians like this make me think really hard about becoming a Unitarian.

Jan
19

January 19, 2005

A Holy Honor Indeed

My grandmother, Betty Walworth Lemen, passed away last Wednesday in Rancho Mirage, California. She'd been in the hospital for a full month, originally with pneumonia, her health rallying and then failing, making no promises about what the next day would hold.

My brave Aunt Mary Kay, grandma's only daughter stayed by her side every possible minute, working her teaching job during the day and staying at the hospital through the night. My Uncle Gary, Mary Kay's husband and thankfully a pharmacist, stood guard for endless hours too, carefully checking doses -- at least one of which was wrong. My Uncle Bruce, grandma's son, also juggled his day job along with night shifts at the hospital. And Mary Kay's dear friend, Rose, spent days with grandma, keeping her company and singing for her.

You'll never meet anyone more capable, self-sacrificing, and unwilling to impose on you than Mary Kay, but she finally took my mom up on her offer to come from Minnesota and help at the hospital. I'm so proud of mom for the quiet, cheerful way that she cared for her mother-in-law, doing menial tasks to help grandma feel just a little more comfortable and to give the others a chance to rest.

On Monday, mom reported to us that grandma was thanking everyone and basically saying her goodbyes. I jumped on a plane the next morning and arrived at the hospital about 30 hours before grandma passed on.

Our good friend, Grace, used the term "holy honor" for being present when someone dies. It was unspeakably sad to witness grandpa, Mary Kay, and Bruce, tortured by seeing grandma suffer and then grieving their loss when she was gone. As painful as it was, I'm thankful beyond words to have been there. I witnessed a 90 year-old man tearfully giving his last kisses to his bride of 63 years. A holy honor indeed.

Jan
8

January 8, 2005

Assertiveness Training

Carter (3) comes running to Jen this morning:

Jen: "What happened? ls Madeleine chasing you?"

Carter: "Uh-huh."

Jen: "Well, tell her, 'Madeleine, stop it.' Like that."

(Carter runs back to Madeine.)

Carter: "Madeleine! Stop it!" (pause) "Like that!"

Posted 9:40 AM
Jan
7

January 7, 2005

On Google

My initial reaction to Ferguson's What’s Next for Google article was, "Oh God, not another one!"

Don't get me wrong, I'm a huge Google fan. Ask any of my coworkers, who are nauseated by it. I want a bumper sticker that says "Google is My Co-Pilot" if you happen to know anyone making them. It's just that I'm tired of all the hype and ooh-ahh journalism surrounding Google these days. I almost put a sign in my cubicle that said, "Yes, I saw 60 Minutes" (even though I didn't; I'm not above lying to avoid yet another discussion of it).

I was relieved to find that it was a substantive article, although I have major doubts about the whole API solution idea. I'll probably read it one or two more times to see if a light comes on. I certainly don't have the street cred to disagree with Charles Ferguson, but then again, he is responsible for bringing us FrontPage!

Posted 10:18 PM

Propaganda

Hey! They're bringing propaganda back! Now, granted, they've only spent $240,000 here and $155,000 there, but still, it's a start!

The reason I'm so excited about it is because I love propaganda art! It has a certain realism about it (no abstract or impressionistic notions, mind you), and yet it really gives you a warm-fuzzy -- a sense that all is right with the world. I'd really suggest that the administration take a look at North Korean propaganda art. It's the best. For example, instead of paying some journalist to promote No Child Left Behind, they might consider placing the president in a scene like this one:

Posted 8:46 PM
Jan
3

January 3, 2005

Unintelligent Theory: Intelligent Design

The latest, and most duplicitous form of creationism is Intelligent Design, championed by the Discovery Institute's Center for Science & Culture, which claims not to be creationist and insists that it wants to see more evolution taught in schools, while reproducing articles like Darwinists Eager to Avoid Debate. They seem to espouse a god-of-the-gaps approach, which depends upon, yet claims to refute Darwinism:

The scientific theory of intelligent design holds that certain features of the universe and of living things are best explained by an intelligent cause, not an undirected process such as natural selection. Intelligent design theory then is an alternative solution to answer problems with Darwinian evolution.

In another article reprinted on the CSC website, Standard Evolutionary Theory Has Shortcomings, Henry Schaefer attacks the theory of evolution by embracing Stephen Hawking's two requirements for a good theory, "A theory is a good theory if it satisfies two requirements. It must accurately describe a large class of observations on the basis of a model that contains only a few arbitrary elements. And it must make definite predictions about the results of future observations."

Am I missing something? It sounds like he disqualifies Intelligent Design as a valid theory as well. You might be able to satisfy the first criteria in that Intelligent Design could be part of a grand, all-encompassing Theory of the Cause of Everything: "God made it like that." Unfortunately, ID leaves the second requirement of definite predictions completely unaddressed. Nothing is predictable, because God -- or the Intelligent Designer as you know him/her/it -- could have done anything he/she/it wanted.

Jan
1

January 1, 2005

Conversation in the Car

...on the drive home from watching The Polar Express (one week after Christmas):

Carter (3): Are you know what I want for Trismas?

Us: What?

Carter: I want a train.

Us: What kind of train?

Madeleine (6): A Polar Express train?

Carter: I want a red train. With a gun on top!