Tuesday, December 28, 2004

Monday, December 27, 2004

Caroling Party 2004 Posted by Hello

Wednesday, December 22, 2004

Crouching Tiger, Hidden Foo

I don't want to brag (well, actually, I guess I do), but I have proven to the world my Java Foo.

Monday, December 20, 2004

Red, Blue, Yellow, and Green States

Living in Minnesota for way too long, I can only imagine: Do Texans have conversations like this?

"I'd like a coke."

"What kind?"


Sunday, December 05, 2004

Nathan, and TJOPP, part II. Posted by Hello

Nathan, and the joy of packing peanuts. Posted by Hello

Amanda and Kit Posted by Hello

Emily, on the Feast of Christ the King Posted by Hello

David, on the Feast of Christ the King Posted by Hello

Working With Electrons vs. Working in the Real World

Greetings, all. I am just ending the second four-day weekend I've had in a row. I think I could get used to having four-day weekends. I find I truly leave work behind when I'm gone this long.

This evening has been very good. I spent time reviewing lessons for our church's religious education program. It has been a while since I've done something like this, and it has reminded me that my true areas of strength (such as they are) do not really lie in the "real" world. I'm not very good with wood, sheetrock, wiring, gardening, and the like. I struggle to get my house ready for Winter and my yard ready for Spring. Yet, when I am given the opportunity to put together a presentation, write a clever piece of code, or review a theological lesson for accuracy and clarity, I find I'm in my element.

It can be frustrating, because the things I'm good at are just not evident to the casual observer. Unless you understand software development you just won't appreciate the work I do. (You may not appreciate it anyway, but I can guarantee you won't appreciate it if you are not a developer.)

But this is all good. I should not be doing work to impress you or anyone else. I should be working for the glory of God. He knows what I do (and, m0re often, don't do) better than anyone. If I can work for Him, then my work is never in vain.

God bless you all!

Thursday, October 28, 2004

Trouble with posts

Did this get published?

Testing, 1-2-3

Can I post here?

This is a test of a new posting technique. Does it work?

Tuesday, August 10, 2004

What could be better than Dairy Queen on a warm evening? Posted by Hello

The Fair Denise, and Baby Nathan. Posted by Hello

Wednesday, June 23, 2004

You Want The Culture of Death? You Can Find a Good Example In London

The subject is babies that survive abortion attempts and are born alive. This quote is stunning in its callousness and depravity (emphasis is mine).

Professor Thornton, of City Hospital, Nottingham, [apparently channeling Satan directly] said: "Once it is born, you can't kill the baby but the law doesn't say anything about to what degree you resuscitate it.

"The way it is dealt with is by sensible doctors and sensible nurses keeping it under their hat and allowing the baby to pass away peacefully."

Professor Campbell does not believe that a baby born in this way should be kept alive at all costs.

"What paediatricians do is spend resources keeping a baby that is going to die, alive. It is absolute nonsense. It does show that is up to us (obstetricians) to make sure the baby is not moving."

Tuesday, June 22, 2004

Dave, the naturalist at Wild River State Park. Posted by Hello

Carry nothing but your walking stick. And your tent. And your camp chairs. And... Posted by Hello

We are off on our camping trip! What a great crew! Posted by Hello

Focus, focus, focus!

Today, has been a very difficult day to focus. I've been getting far too little sleep lately. I find it curious that when I am extremely tired at work, I don't have a hard time staying awake or working with the computer. The tiredness manifests itself in an inability (or at least unwillingness) to stay attentive to the task at hand.

When I am tired, I fiddle with my background image and cursors. I adjust the sounds my computer makes for its default beep. I repeatedly check e-mail, or see if there are new versions of utilities available for download.

I found it useful today to just spend the last hour of my time at work reading a new book on object-oriented programming. I will be posting a more thorough later. The book is by David West and titled Object Thinking. I'm about halfway through it and am thoroughly enjoying it.

Rather than complain about lack of sleep, I best head off to the land of Nod. God bless you all.

Wednesday, June 09, 2004

Book Log: The Introvert Advantage

This book, by Marti Olsen Laney came very strongly recommend by a friend. It's main point is that introversion is a personality type (one with many advantages), not a character defect.

It's All About Energy

An introvert is someone who gains energy by being alone or with one close friend in a quiet setting. An extrovert is someone who gains energy by being with other people. These definitions are very important. Many people things being an introvert and being shy are the same thing, but introversion is not shyness. Shyness is the feeling of anxiety caused by being in the presence of other people. Both introvert and extroverts can be shy.

Olsen Laney makes the point that she is a social introvert. She likes being with other people. She has always had jobs (librarian and therapist) that bring her into contact with many different people. But such contact, even though enjoyable, is draining. As an introvert she needs time alone to recharge.

Actually, It's All About Me

I found the first part of the book to be especially useful. She spends a good deal of time talking about characteristics of introverts, including common strengths and weaknesses. A couple of her points really struck home.

Introverts often have a hard time starting tasks, because they feel they have to have very in-depth knowledge of a subject or problem before they can really tackle it. This resonated with me very deeply. I read this at a time when I was starting a new project at work and was having a very difficult time just getting going. Realizing that this is a tendency common with my temperament freed me to put my hesitancy aside and do some initial work before I felt really comfortable doing so. It was very freeing.

The concept of a "social introvert" really helped to explain some of my more puzzling reactions to situations. I have come to understand that feeling drained and worn out after a social event does not mean the event was a failure or that something was wrong with me. It is simply part of my introverted personality.

Has It Changed My Life Forever?

No. The book is very good, and I definitely recommend it to anyone who is an introvert or lives with one. But it was not as life-changing (at least for me) as some of the reviews seem to imply.

The first part of the book (which explains the main concepts, talks about the physiological brain mechanisms underlying the temperament, and provides insight into common characteristics, problems and strengths of introverts) was very useful. However, the last part of the book is an extended discussion of coping mechanisms that introverts can use to deal with the extroverted culture in which we live. I don't know if I'm just not that introverted or if I'm old enough to have figured out how to deal with most of these situations on my own. The last section was not very helpful, and I found myself skimming the last third of the book rather than reading it thoroughly.

I wish I could take credit for this one...

...but I know not who the creator of this image is.

Find the hidden bird! Posted by Hello

The Bloggopottimus himself Posted by Hello

Monday, June 07, 2004

If It Wasn't So Depressing, It Would Be Really Funny

This rather sarcastic satire from the Most Excellent ScrappleFace was depressingly echoed (albeit seriously) in this article from the Minneapolis Star Tribune.

I was very tempted to post both articles side-by-side on the exterior of my cube at work, but I feared it might prove to be a CLM (career-limiting move).

The Fantastic Four

My dear wife, Denise (actually, she's my only wife), and I were at a conference for Catholic Homeschoolers this weekend. The conference started on Friday night, and Denise took our four children to meet me at St. Thomas University (the conference's location) after work. As Denise was getting the children out of the car, another car pulled up to hers and a family composed two adults and one small child stepped out.

The mother looked at our van-load of four children and started to remark how amazing it was that we had such a large family. She repeatedly complimented Denise at her ability to handle so many children. She said several times that she had no idea how Denise could keep up with them. She said she could hardly handle the one little boy they had. She even gave our oldest soon (who was on the threshold of turning three years old) a tennis ball.

She was very kind, and I very much appreciate the fact that she was trying to be encouraging. But it saddens me that a family with four children should inspire such awe. Yes, they're a handful, but children are also an amazing gift. We don't stand in awe of people who work weekends and evenings to get a promotion or raise. We recognize that they are making an investment in what they believe to be important. Well, in being open to having and raising these children we are investing in what we believe to be tremendously more important than any promotion or raise could ever be.

Thursday, April 22, 2004

Take Your Kids to Work!

(But you won't do any work when you get there)

I am having a great time today at Take Your Son or Daughter to Work Day. But I'm not doing much else.

Saturday, March 06, 2004


A Cry of Stone by Michael O'Brien

This is another fantastic novel by Michael O'Brien. If you have not already read his Fr. Elijah, then stop reading here, go buy the book and read it. It will be much better than anything I will ever write.

A Cry of Stone is the latest book in the "Children of the Last Days" series. It does something that I would have thought almost impossible before I read it: It presents true poverty of spirit as something desirable and attractive. O'Brien gives an account of the entire life of a poor (fictional) native woman from northern Canada. Her name is Rose, and she has known great deprivation from her earliest memory. The novel shows how God uses Rose in so many ways. She is constantly aware of her weaknesses and smallness, but she just as constantly offers her entire self to the Lord. It is an amazing book.

In the Fullness of Faith by Von Balthazaar

A series of reflections on the "distinctively Catholic" elements of the Catholic Church. Very insightful.

Saturday, February 07, 2004

The Religious Right as the "Other"

I was listening to public radio in the shower this morning. There was a report on the controversy over sex education in the public schools. The story told was that of how the "Religious Right" had been so effective over the past couple of decades at influencing the content of sex education courses. Apparently, many of the more "progressive" sex education programs and educators are now on the defensive, with abstinence-only courses in the ascension.

Of course, the report was completely devoid of what I would consider substantive discussion. It did not talk about the effectiveness of programs at curbing teen pregnancy or sexually transmitted disease. I am not surprised that it did not give a full accounting of the questions that burn at the heart of the controversy, for these questions are deep and profound, and can not be reasonably presented in a three-minute report. These questions regard the nature and meaning of sexuality. And we can not seriously discuss the nature and meaning of sex without talking about the nature and meaning of being human. It is frustrating, though, that there was not even the slightest hint of recognition that these issues are at the core.

The entire report was about the political action of the "Religious Right" and how it mobilized to counter many public school sex education programs. The sense throughout, although you could tell the reporter was attempting to appear objective, was that conservatives were "other". It was painfully obvious that the reporter was not speaking of something he knew, or to which he could begin to relate.

Oops, I must go. See you later.

Thursday, January 08, 2004

Recent Book: Amusing Ourselves to Death

by Neil Postman

This book had been sitting on my shelf for some time. I started it once several years ago, got distracted from it and never went back. Then, around the turn of the new year, a radio station was talking about people who he died in 2003. Neil Postman's name was mentioned, so I found and dusted off my copy and dove in.

This was an incredibly insightful book. I, like many others, have long felt that television's influence on society was, on the whole, extremely destructive. But I had not been able to explain why so much on TV is so bad. Why did TV draw such consistently horrible content? Why were examples of intellectually challenging and coherent programming so incredibly rare?

My first tendency has been to simply blame the people in charge of television production. If the people creating the shows are focused on the trivial and the banal then we would expect their show to reflect that. But this never really explained why so many of the people producing TV shows are unable to deal with any kind of serious intellectual content.

Postman makes the argument that it is the medium of television itself that drives such vapid content. Television, by it's very nature, demands at least two things:

  1. All information must be presented in a "context free" manner. You will never hear an announcer say, "If you missed yesterday's episode, don't bother watching today." This is especially true of the news. All stories are given in little snippets that are entirely self-contained, without any real background or context provided. That would take way too much time.

  3. Most importantly: Everything on television takes the form of entertainment. From Sesame Street to the evening news, everything is a form of entertainment. As our society has come to accept television as the standard mode by which we know the world, all other media have to change to mimick it. For example, newspapers have shorter stories and more pictures, and a radio story would be considered very "in-depth" if it took ten full minutes to consider a single topic. Most significantly, schools have to adapt to entertain their students. Educational topics that can not be reduced to entertainment are not successfully taught.

On Politics

In a passage that presciently described the Clinton presidency:

If on television, credibility replaces reality as the decisive test of truth-telling, political leaders need not trouble themselves very much with reality provided that their performances consistently generate a sense of verisimilitude. I suspect, for example, that the dishonor that now shrouds Richard Nixon results not from the fact the he lied but that on television he looked like a liar. Which, if true, should bring no comfort to anyone, not even veteran Nixon-haters. For the alternative possibilities are that one may look like a liar but be telling the truth; or even worse, look like a truth-teller but in fact be lying. [pg. 102.]

Tuesday, January 06, 2004

Trouble In Resolutionville

Well, we have some trouble here. It is already the second day of my resolution to write for ten minutes, and I don't want to do it! This means that I may just ramble on here with nothing at all to say. That would not be good, since I really do have things to say. I'm just too lazy to try to organize all of it. Make that: I'm just too lazy to try to organize any of it.

Haikus About Work and Children

When Nathan wakes up

at one or two or three

he cries until fed.

Work is great. My job

feeds my family. Reading

procedures is dull.

Amusing Ourselves To Death

I'm in the midst of a book with this title. It is a frighteningly lucid description of the way television has shaped the way we look at the world. The problem is not just the fact that people produce and broadcast bad TV shows. It is fundamental to the way the medium works. I will give a complete review when I'm done.

Sunday, January 04, 2004

New Year's Resolutions

It's resolution time! This year's list is rather short. My hope is that by keeping it small I might actually make some progress.

  1. Do my best to leave work by 5:00 Pm. Denise (that would be my beloved wife) said this is one of the best things I could do to help her in the new year.

    To do this successfully, I'll have to focus on leaving for work earlier and probably cutting down on lunches and coffees with friends.

  2. Spend at least 10 solid minutes a day writing.

    For a very long time I have felt that I just consume and absorb information without producing much of anything. I need to have some outlet! My writing can be in a journal, this blog, the back of an envelope, anything, as long as I'm writing.

A Week To Forget

This evening is the last night of a two-week break from work. My most excellent employer, Guidant, has a company-wide shutdown from Christmas Eve through January 1st. This year they threw in January 2nd as the floating holiday. The result is that I could take two vacation days and get two weeks off. Nothing to complain about in that, is there?

Now, the first week was great. We had a very nice Christmas celebration. But starting on the Friday after Christmas my kids started getting sick. Soon, all four of them were down with the flu. Shortly afterwards my wife got sick as well.

I can say that it could have been much worse. We did not have the stomach flu, thank God. But everyone was moping about, and there were several nights where I was awakened a number of times by children wanting to be comforted, or wanting to sleep in our bed, or wanting water or medicine. The sleep depravation was getting very severe. But we have appeared to weathered it, with the only remaining symptoms being tiredness and slight lack of appetite. The high fevers are a sad memory, and it looks like we are on the mend.

This ended up being one of those vacations which will make returning to work a very recuperative experience.