Monday, December 31, 2007

Book Log: Sprit of Penance---Path to God, By Dom Hubert Van Zeller

I found this to be a very helpful book. I had read it years ago, but was not at a point in my walk with the Lord where I could really process what it said. It used to be that my whole being just recoiled from the subject of penance. I didn't want to go too deeply into it. I think I was just afraid that life would get too hard if I took penance seriously.

Now, I feel I've reached an age where I am starting to really reap all that I've sown in my life. My bad habits are hard to break, and I find them getting in the way of accomplishing what I want in life. I'm overly attached to food and drink. I'm overly attached to video games. I would rather read news and e-mail than work. When I try to go against any of these tendencies they put up quite a fight. I've come to the place where I can appreciate now the need for penance.

The most important lesson I've taken from this book is that the very first area of penance I need to accept is that which God sends to me against my will. This means that the trials, annoyances, and difficulties associated with my state in life are the first things to accept, offer up to God, and ask Him to join to the sufferings Jesus felt on the cross.
It is to be assumed as axiomatic, then, that the trials that God allows us in the nature of human existence are to be preferred before any that we could device for ourselves.
...Among such penances could be numbered the trials that come from one's temperament and training, one's state of life, one's contact with others, one's age and health, and one's surrounding circumstances generally.

This book has helped to inspire a deeper resolve to live my life in complete surrender to God.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Monday, July 23, 2007

C# Namespaces

Warning: Somewhat serious C# geekage lies just yonder. It is geared towards those of you who are software developers working with C#, especially if you're coming from a few years of Java coding. If this is not you, you're welcome to read on, but you'll probably be bored.

I just went through some pain trying to figure out why ReSharper was telling me that the namespace of a particular class was wrong. The specific error I was getting was "namespace does not correspond to file location". I noticed that the directory name the source file was in did not match the namespace. I liked the namespace, so I decided that once the project was in a somewhat stable state I would go back and clean up the directory structure.

So, once the project was in a somewhat stable state, I cleaned up the directory structure (not a completely trivial task, as I had to coordinate the solution with the project files and keep the revision control system happy), and was surprised to find that ReSharper was still telling me the namespace was wrong. I tried different names. I tried adding dots. I tried removing dots. I tried searching the ReSharper support forums. It was all to no avail. Then I dug through the .cproj file itself, and found that it contained an attribute indicating a root namespace for the assembly.

It then all fell into place: I was treating namespaces just like packages in Java. Although they're close, they're not the same. In Java, the package name must match the directory name. In C#, it appears it just has to match (or be a subspace of) the root namespace for the project.

This is one of those cases where, having Java experience hindered rather than helped my learning of C#. Of course, if the ReSharper error message had mentioned the root namespace rather than file location, that would have been helpful as well. Perhaps the ReSharper developers are coming from a Java background as well. But I can't get too annoyed with them because ReSharper is a fantastic tool.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Book Log: Prgramming C# by Jesse Liberty

I found Programming C# to be exactly what I needed to make the transition from Java to C# and .NET development. Jesse Liberty has a very clear, consistent expository style. He is readable while avoiding excessive cuteness.

The book covers the C# language itself, then shows how to build applications that use the Windows GUI, ADO.NET, web services and the whole .NET framework. Throughout there are warnings and tips directed a programmers coming from Java, C++ and Visual BASIC.

I recommend this book to any software developer moving from another language to C#.

Tuesday, April 03, 2007

Construction-Paper SCUBA Gear!

Sure, diving equipment made of paper may not last quite as long as other materials. But it is quite a bit cheaper.
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Wednesday, March 28, 2007

"...lower the rescue pack"

This is another post in the "Kids say the Darnedest Things" category. It's cute. You have been warned.

A couple of months ago, Davey (5 years old) came into the room where I was futzing with the computer. With his usual earnest manner he asked, "Dad, have you seen Slowly?"

"Who?" I replied. I assumed I misheard him.

"Slowly. I've been looking for him and can't find him anywhere."

"Hmmm," said I. "I'm not sure who you mean. Who is 'Slowly?' "

"You know," he said, "Buzz Lightyear's little friend." (Buzz Lightyear is a character from the movie Toy Story. We have a Buzz Lightyear action figure with a cool space suit. The suit has a backpack with a built-in net on a string that can be lowered down and brought back up. Buzz also came with the little three-eyed green alien who fits in the pack.)

I queried, "Do you mean the little green alien with three eyes?"

"Yes," said Davey. "I can't find him."

"What makes you think his name is 'Slowly'? I don't remember them giving the little aliens any names in the movie."

"I know his name is 'Slowly' from what Buzz says when you push his button. He says, 'Slowly...lower the rescue pack.'""

Friday, March 16, 2007

Monday, February 12, 2007

Book log: The Cube And the Cathedral: Europe, America, And Politics Without God by George Weigel

In this meditation on the state of Europe, George Weigel looks at certain puzzling aspects of European culture and tries to understand how it got this way and where it might be going.

What are the puzzles posed by Europe? Are few:
  • "Why, in the aftermath of 1989, did Europeans fail to condemn communism as a moral and political monstrosity?"
  • "What accounts for disturbing currents of irrationality in contemporary European politics?"
  • "Why is European productivity dwindling? Why does German, rightly renowned as the economic engine of the European Union, have a per capita gross domestic product equivalent to Arkansas and only slightly higher than West Virginia and Mississippi? ... Why does Sweden have a considerably higher level of its population living below the poverty line ... than the United States?"
  • "Why, in the process of enlarging the European Union, is Europe retreating from democracy and binding itself ever more tightly in the cords of bureaucracy, with Brussels bureaucrats calculating the appropriate circumference of tomatoes and prescribing the proper feeding procedures for Sardinian hogs?"
  • "Above all, and most urgently of all, why is Europe committing demographic suicide, systematically depopulating itself in what British historian Niall Ferguson calls the greatest 'sustained reduction in European population since the Black Death of the 14th century'?"
Weigel investigates many aspects these issues, but he focuses on the cultural trend to erase the influence and even the memory of anything Christian from European public life. He sees this as the fruit of intellectual currents from before 1900 that then gave fruit to the horribly grizzly traumas that Europe went through in the 20th century.

The books is very readable, much more so than I expected. I found it riveting and insightful. One chapter entitled "Two Ideas of Freedom" is the clearest exposition I've found of the distinction between freedom as understood in Catholic moral teaching ("...a matter of gradually acquiring the capacity to choose the good and to do what we choose with perfection, with excellence."), versus the notion of freedom as nothing more than the ability to do whatever one has a whim to do. Weigel very clearly shows how the first understanding of freedom has the potential to elevate human beings and draw them into real happiness. It connects people with each other and with every idea of human excellence. In contrast, the idea of freedom simply as the exercise of willfulness severs people from one another, leaving them adrift, without direction, and prey to every whim, passion, and emotion.

It is this second idea of freedom that dominates modern European thought, driving many of its pathologies and partially explaining the intense hostility in European intellectual circles towards Christianity.

Weigel sees this hostility towards Christianity as a great threat to democracy itself, for the democratic models of government in Europe and America owe a great deal to the development of Christian theology of the centuries, especially its emphasis on the value and dignity of every person.
A thoroughly secularized culture from which transcendent reference points for human thought and action have disappeared is bad for the cause of human freedom and democracy because democracy, in the final analysis, rests on the conviction that the human person possesses an inalienable dignity and value and that freedom is not mere willfulness. [pg. 172, emphasis added]
Ultimately, Christians have a firm, deep, and strong reason to defend the value of liberty for all. Secularists, who see freedom only as license and have no "higher" values to point to, have no such basis to defend the idea of democracy.
Christians do know...why they need to engage the convictions of others with respect and why they must defend the Other's freedom: because it is their Christian obligation to do so; because this is what God requires of them. But who, or what, teaches a similar sense of obligation to the people of the cube [the secular modernists]... Who, or what, will teach the Europeans of the future that the democratic values this cube claims to represent are worth promoting---and defending?[pp. 176-177]

Friday, January 26, 2007

Book log: The Children Of Men by P.D. James

I decided to read this book after scanning a couple of reviews of its recent movie adaptation. They were both quite adamant that the book was wonderful, interesting, and very insightful. They were also equally adamant that the movie was a heavy-handed political hack that didn't simply miss the main point of the book, but actually subverted and attempted to undermine it.

The premise of the book is extremely interesting. It is about two decades into the 21st century, and no children have been born in the past 20 years. In the late 1900's, women stop becoming pregnant. Midwives are the first to notice it, as they see no appointments being made for 6 months in advance. When it becomes clear that this is a world-wide phenomenon, huge social upheaval follows. England (the book's setting) falls under a dictatorship that guarantees people security and entertainment as society winds down, followed by easy suicide for those who wish it.

James does a great job of exploring what might happen in such a situation. The separation of sex from procreation, a cultural trend strong in the West for at least 40 years, is now taken to its extreme as procreation no longer happens. Sex becomes more mechanical, frantically pursued, yet ultimately unsatisfying even at a physical level. In the hopes that a medical cure for infertility will be found, the government runs pornography shops to try to keep up interest in sex as the population ages.

Industry winds down as the energy and interest of the young fade into apathy and pursuit of comfort. Mass suicides are encouraged in order to get rid of the old and weak. Women desperately seek child-substitutes in ultra-realistic baby dolls. Celebration of the birth of kittens and puppies become major family events. An old Anglican priest starts performing baptisms on household pets.

These explorations were enough to keep me engaged throughout the book. Which was fortunate, since I really had a hard time relating to the characters. It may be that I was not a careful enough reader. Or, perhaps there is a cultural divide involved in trying to understand English emotional reactions. I am quite willing to concede either of these points, but it may be that James simply did not create very realistic characters in this novel. Theo, the protagonist, has an emotional life completely alien to me. The political rebellion involving five activists was described in a way that seemed very simple and naive. The interpersonal interactions of the government leaders, along with the romance at the end of the book, just did not work. They seemed contrived and unconvincing.

All this said, I would still strongly recommend the book. Its unique, fascinating premise and explored in a variety of ways that casts light on several current trends.

Tuesday, January 09, 2007

Book Log: America Alone, by Mark Steyn

My recent and anticipated reading seems to be following a trend. I haven't planned this, but I have recently received a number of books surrounding topics related related to Europe, Islam, culture, and Catholicism. In addition, I was prompted by two movies reviews to borrow from the library a copy of The Sons of Men, by P.D. James. (The reviews both raved about the book and decried the horrible way in which the movie completely missed this point of the book.)

So, for now, I'm going to just log what I've read and leave a more complete review and summary for later when I can compare the different books.