In Absentia once again …

Just wanted to post a quick message to let everyone know I’m having a bit of a busy week. Taking a course for work, so I am not online during the day as much (ironic that its only when I work that i have a lot of time to read, write and post, lol). There are a few things I’ve been meaning to blog on this week, and I am sure I will get to all of them by the weekend, but please bear with me for the week, and I’ll be back to my normal verbose self in no time, lol …


BBC NEWS | Programmes | Panorama | Climate chaos: Bush’s climate of fear

BBC NEWS | Programmes | Panorama | Climate chaos: Bush’s climate of fear

I just caught this documentary on CBC tonight, and I quite enjoyed it.  I must admit I didn’t come to the subject with an open mind … it’s been pretty clear to me for some time now that human activity CAN affect climate, and climate is changing.  We owe it to future generations not to gamble their future on our greed.

In the interest of full disclosure, I should mention that the reporter for this documentary is an old acquaintance of mine.  While I was in Lagos in the 90’s, she worked the BBC bureau there, reporting on coup’s and fuel lines.  While we didn’t know each other all that well, we did spend a very enjoyable day together deep sea fishing with a mutual friend.  More than anything though, I saw in her reports the reality of the place she was reporting from.

That may sound odd, but very little of the reporting I saw from Nigeria caught the true flavour of the country.  Nearly all local news sources were cowed by the government into non-political news, and very few international news organizations had any real idea what was going on.  But Hilary’s reports were always spot on.

This current report on global warming seems very muc the same to me.  Se does have an agenda, but its a documentary and an opinion is expected.  What struck me most was her usual thoroughness in the details and background of a story.

I recommend it to anyone interested in climate change.  Its a pretty scary look, but scary is accurate right now, IMO.  There is a final point I’d like to make about the relationship between hurricanes and global warming.  Warm water is the food that hurricanes eat … the warmer the water, the more energy a growing hurricane can gather.  That isn’t speculation, its not a guess, and its not opinion … its simple fact on the way hurricanes work.

We can argue all we like about what is causing the changes in temperature, what is causing the arctic to melt.  It may or it may not be affected by human action … I tend to think the evidence is there to say we do affect it, but the facts ARE there to say we MIGHT affect it.  And given that chance being the cause, its worth trying to curb our behaviour.  People ask if its worth the trouble, especially if it might not be true.  I ask it in a different way … can we afford to ignore the possibility that global warming is our fault?  I say no … but as I said at the start, I am not unbiased.

The Good Samaritan Parable

The Good Samaritan Story explained

I've commented on this briefly in the past, but I am in the middle of a discussion where its relevant, so I wanted to go into some more detail about it.  The site I link at the top of this provides and excellent base interpretation of this parable, and while it is by no means the only lesson Jesus gave us, it is one of the most direct and important.  Before going in, we need to point out that when Jesus speaks, especially in the 4 Gospels of His life, he uses example VERY specifically.  When he omits something in one portion that is explicitly stated elsewhere, that omission is important.  Likewise, when he specifically includes something that is omitted elsewhere, the inclusion is very important.

From Luke …

30. Jesus replied and said, "A certain man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho; and he fell among robbers, and they stripped him and beat him, and went off leaving him half dead.

31. "And by chance a certain priest was going down on that road, and when he saw him, he passed by on the other side.

32. "And likewise a Levite also, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side.

33. "But a certain Samaritan, who was on a journey, came upon him; and when he saw him, he felt compassion,

34. "and came to him, and bandaged up his wounds, pouring oil and wine on them; and he put him on his own beast, and brought him to an inn, and took care of him.

35. "And on the next day he took out two denarii and gave them to the innkeeper and said, 'Take care of him; and whatever more you spend, when I return, I will repay you.'

This is one of Jesus' most compelling lessons.  In it, He combines much of His teaching, His philosophy, and he makes the point that action speaks louder than words, that acts have supremacy over belief or faith.  Jesus chose his examples very carefully, and the three men in this parable are not randomly chosen by any stretch.  The choice of a priest and a Levite as the first two men is telling because both are men of the Book, closely related to Temple life, to the belief and faith of Jesus time.  The choice of the Samaritan complements the first two, by providing Jesus with a man not of the Book, not part of Temple life, not part of the Hebrew society at all, an outsider who is quite literally a Heathen.  The Samaritan does not believe what Jesus does, has not learned what Jesus has, and does not worship as Jesus does, and he is chosen by Jesus for this parable precisely because of those qualities.

In the story, the priest and the Levite walk by the fallen stranger, refusing to help him.  By excluding them as his neighbour, Jesus clearly tells us that faith is meaningless without proper action.  Without the reality of acts, the abstractness of faith is meaningless.  The faith of the priest is not enough to make him a neighbour in Christ.  The Samaritan, on the other hand, stops to help the fallen stranger, spending his own money without repayment, using his own time to make arrangements.  By declaring the Samaritan a neighbour in Christ, Jesus shows us that it is his acts which promote him to that level, and nothing else.

If Jesus had meant to say that faith and acts go hand in hand, then the third man in his example would have been a pious priest or Levite who understood the value of helping others.  Jesus would have chosen someone of the book to demonstrate that acting rightly isn't sufficient … thinking rightly is also required.  But Jesus hasn't done that here … in fact, He has down the opposite.  He has elevated someone considered NOT of the faith to the status if neighbour in Christ, while specifically chastising people of the faith for not behaving in a faithful manner.

In the Good Samaritan, Jesus sends us a clear message that it is through helping the stranger who has fallen among thieves that we become a neighbour in Christ.  We don't do it through faith, we don't do it through belief, we do it through simply helping the stranger who has fallen among thieves.  His characters were clear, the story direct and compelling, and yet people seem to ignore the central point … believe whatever you want, but if you do everything you can to help that man, fallen among thieves, then, and only then, you WILL be a neighbour in Christ.  I am happy to take Jesus at his word, that its about helping the man who has fallen among thieves, and nothing more.

Modern Mechanix Minutia …

I've been browsing through the Archives over at Modern Mechanix this morning and there are a couple of posts from the past I want to highlight quickly.  So, in honour of that …


$7,000,000,000 for door-to-door salesman is a wonderful article that could only have been written in the 50's.  I suppose today's brave new world of direct sales are Internet e-commerce sites … the most direct way to direct market these days.  Fascinating to see chain letters and pyramid schemes touted here as excellent business plans, but equally fascinating to see the genesis of the home sales party and other unique ideas.

Compressed Air to Shoot Packages into Moving Train – this is one of those wonderfully whimsical ideas that really required some sober second thought.

Click to enlarge

You don't need a ton of technical details to echo the words of the writers of Modern Mechanix on this one … "Sounds great, what could possibly go wrong?"

Build Your Own Dive Helmet – This is one of those stories that comes from a different time.  In today's world, the liability issues of this sort of thing would have killed this article faster than you can imagine.  Like the home chemistry set, the wood burning kit, and the pocket size Uranium kit this is one of those articles that just couldn't be published in today's world.  Love the technical details though … anyone wanna try?

The prophylactic-toothbrush – Just a quick example that sexual innuendo in advertising is hardly a product of today's society.  We may be more blunt about it, but this is pretty darned suggestive, really ;-).

And finally, the New Heath Kit Personal Computers is an excellent piece on what probably represents the first true, fully functional PC to be sold.  Even in today's $$, the process listed aren't cheap, and given that the ad is from 1977, they are pretty pricey pieces of kit.  Having said that, the H11 16-bit system was truly revolutionary for the day, essentially a full "mini-computer" on the desktop.  This is pointed out near the end of the write up in geek-speak … "DEC PDP-11 software is included."  PDP-11 was still in business use a decade later on mini-computers in a variety of industry and educational settings, and at the time represented a VERY powerful operating system.  And on top pf all that, you have a choice of paper tape or the ultra high-tech cassette tape deck (still in development, you'll note, lol) for data storage.  Its also worth noting that the internal storage set of this high-end system was 20Kb … far less than the 5MB hard disk I wrote about earlier.  As late as this ad in 1977, a 5MB hard disk was still a pretty cool, and pretty high-end, piece of kit.


The irony, ofc, is that non-geeks don't even REALLY get the joke, lol.

Modern Mechanix » 1956: World’s First Hard Drive (5MB)

Modern Mechanix » 1956: World’s First Hard Drive (5MB)

In many ways, this represents the birth of modern computing as much as the first micro-processor, though its hard to see a resemblance between this hulking behemoth and the 200gb 3.5" 1/4 height drive in your computer, but functionally speaking, this hard drive is the original progenitor of yours.

A few things struck me in this, and made me chuckle. The awe over "5,000,000 characters" (less than 5mb really) is a bit quaint from today's perspective, but in an era where you measured storage capacity in the bytes of vacuum tubes, it represents a truly monstrous storage capacity. As well, the notion of "Random Access Memory Accounting" or RAMAC is fundamental to everything we do in computers today, and represents a wholly new way of doing things over the sequential access of tape, or the hard-wiring of tubes and cables. While it seems a simple idea today, the technical challenges involved with essentially being able to access any of 5 million data bytes at any time are daunting … even after the challenge of actually STORING the information … just finding it again was a huge technical issue. The RAM memory chips, the way your hard drive works, the very way you compute, is based this notion of RAMAC.

Even the 1200rpm spin rate is impressive given the context. In today's world of super high speed access to 300gb of data at a time, the disk platters spin in the 7200rpm range for a decent drive. For the first device, constructed half a century ago, 1200rpm seems a very high platter speed … shame the article doesn't translate that to a data transfer rate, lol.

Audi R-Zero Electric Sports Car 

TechEBlog » Audi R-Zero Electric Sports Car


Now this is a SERIOUSLY cool car from Audi. Its a concept car, so the chances of it ever being made are slim to none, but the idea is very cool. Eventually, it seems inevitable that we will move to electric vehicles … as battery costs go down, and generation capacities go up, there seems very little down side, especially if efforts are made to make more environmentally sounds batteries. But at the same time, sports cars are NEVER about practicality, and this one likely wouldn’t be either. But it would still be cool to cruise in … D

Catholic bishop says all bets are off : Catholic bishop says all bets are off

Posted at Elron's Global Paradigms blog page on June 23rd, 2006 : Catholic bishop says all bets are off

There’s a potential controversy brewing Calgary’s Catholic community.  For several decades now, the Calgary Seperate school board, essentially a Catholic organization, has used casinos and bingos as a way of fundraising for needed school supplies and events.  Prior to the current noise made by Calgary’s Bishop Fred Henry, the Catholic hierarchy in Calgary to not notice, or not care, that Catholic schools were fundraising using an addictive activity that is seriously frowned upon by the Catholic Church.

There are issues where I take exception Bishop Henry’s view, and I’ve expressed that publically a few times through letters to the editor.  But in most cases, he is a man who sticks to a well defined principle for his views, and that shows through here, IMO.
Now, I am someone who enjoys the odd game of blackjack or poker, but I would never presume to think I was being Christian while I was doing it.  What surprises me most about this is that its taken so long to come to a head … gambling didn’t become a sinful activity yesterday, and for many years, the Catholic community in Calgary has been using the wages of that sin.

What surprises me is that the Catholic schools ever came up with this idea in the first place.  The arguement against the Bishop is that the revenue earned from gambling is required for the efficient running of the schools, and its hard to argue with the numbers.  The Bishop isn’t handing out wads of cash to offset the casinos he says should stop, so perhaps there’s a valid concern about what to do without the ill-gotten gains.  But thats just it … I can’t imagine how they got to this point of depending on gambling money to survive.

When that decision was made to do casinos and bingos, how was it made?  What moral principle allowed the church-run schools to decide that gambling was a good revenue generater?  I can’t imagine the same thing happening with other immoral things … can anyone else see the church deciding to sell alchohol, or run a strip club, to generate cash?  I can’t, and I wonder how a group of Catholics decided that gambling was a proper way to raise funds for their children’s education.

I gotta say, Bishop Henry is bang on for this one.  The startling thing is that he had to say anything at all and that people are fighting it.  Its as if someone were saying to the Pope “but we don’t care about your moral issues with contraception, its required.”  Its the job of non-Catholics to point that out, IMO … a Catholic is beholden to their Pope or Bishop to come up with a better excuse than mamon.  “I needed the money” strikes me as an especially poor justification for profiting from sin, especially when talking about the education of children.


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