Thursday, November 27, 2008


Ah yes, Thanksgiving. A wonderful holiday. A time to gather together with family and friends and count your blessings (over and above not being the poor turkey that is likely contributing to your happiness and gluttony this day). I know that I have many blessings in my life that I am thankful for and I'd like to list a few of them here.

I am first and foremost thankful to Jesus for being my savior and redeemer. I was in a pretty deep pickle fourteen and a half years ago when he reached down and scooped me out of the depths that I was in.

Then I'm most thankful for my wife and children. The delightful, lovely and absolutely gorgeous Sis. Geek is very forgiving and understanding of all my faults and foibles and I am thankful for that. As I tell my friends, I don't know why she married me but I'm very glad she did. Naturally, the geeklets are cute as well. Although, as I like to remind them, that's on account of me having picked them such a pretty mommy.

I am most thankful to my in-laws. I lucked out in the lottery that is the obtaining of in-laws and got some of the best that any guy could hope to have. I wouldn't trade them for anything. Oh, and my brother-in-law is a geek as well.

I am very thankful for our assigned congregation. While the Lord's calling for me to pastor this congregation caught everyone by surprise, they came behind us immediately and have been wonderfully supportive as we learn "on the job" about how to pastor. Sis. Geek and I love them all and they really do feel like family to us. We wouldn't swap them for anything. (Ok, perhaps one or two of them I might swap for a pony, but mostly I'd keep them. :-)

I am thankful for all of the wonderful ministers and saints of the fine district of the United Pentecostal Church International that I am privileged to serve in. I have been the editor of the district newsletter for seven years (wow, where does time go?) and now a pastor for a year and a half. What an honor it has been and continues to be.

I am thankful for the good health that the Lord gives me and my family. I do get a little stressed around the edges by work, but mostly when I don't let go and allow the Lord to go before me.

I am thankful for well paid employment. Especially one that involves nothing more strenuous than sitting at a desk tinkering with computers all day. I'd rather be full-time pastoring, but this will do until I get there.

I am thankful for the wonderful opportunities that I have had and continue to have. The Lord causes me to have far more favor with people than I think I deserve and I have been blessed to serve in both the kingdom of God and to have some interesting opportunities in the technical world. Professionally, I have spoken at several events (including a NFJS), have had an article published in two respected industry journals, ran a popular blog (the previous one, this one is just for relaxation and fun) and am writing a book on JUnit. This is all most agreeable and I am very thankful it.

I am thankful to live in the greatest nation on the face of the earth. I am glad that our founding documents recognize that I have inalienable rights bestowed upon me by my creator. I am glad to be free. Free to try as hard as I want to succeed in whatever way I want to define succeed. I love this country.

I am thankful for all of the Bill of Rights, but I'd be lying if I didn't admit that the second amendment was my favorite. I plan on dusting it off again this weekend and checking that it still applies in my state. (It still worked last week, but one needs to exercise rights on a frequent basis to ensure they keep working.)

I'm thankful for our military. We have the finest fighting force in the world and they do us proud wherever they go. Whether it's for their humanitarian efforts (building schools or installing water sources) or for their fighting prowess (recently 30 marines overcame 250 insurgents) they leave a strong impression upon those that they are liberating.

God Bless the United States of America.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

National Ammo Day

I haven't finished my last box of ammo that I got from Cheaper Than Dirt yet, but hey, today's National Ammo Day, so it is my patriotic duty to buy at least 100 rounds of my favorite caliber. This is a duty I will gladly fulfill. Hmmm, I wonder if Sis. Geek will mind if I get another thousand rounds of 7.62x39 for the SKS, because I see that CTD has it on sale and bargains are always good, right? :-)

And may I take a moment to wish a happy birthday to Kim du Toit. In case you didn't know, National Ammo Day was started by Kim and is on his birthday. Kim doesn't know me and while I used to be active on his blog and forums, it was not previously under this SooperSekret Codename. Kim was my direct and primary inspiration to start blogging and to start shooting. I love blogging and while this blog is humble (by choice) I have enjoyed my previous time in the spotlight and have enjoyed the blogging culture that grew up around Kim and "The Mrs.". I also love shooting and am proud to be a member of the Nation of Riflemen and often wear my NoR t-shirt to the range in the warmer weather. I guess, I'd better buy another one of those before Kim posts his last blog post.

If everything goes to plan, I will also be buying a new (to me) gun this evening. One of our congregation, let's call him The Merchant of Death on account of his extensive personal armory, has a British Lee-Enfield 303 rifle that he has agreed to sell me for a small sum agreeable to both parties. I'm looking forward to holding such a fine piece of military history in my hands. I'm not looking forward to the cost of the 303 rounds. Now I need to find out if there is anything else that can be shot through the 303 chambering.

Edit: Ended up ordering from after seeing comments from others on Kim's blog.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

No Tee Vee

Tam, over at BooksBikesBoomsticks recently mentioned that she has no TV and suspects that people think she's weird. Not having met her personally, I can't say for sure, but I suspect not from what I've read of her writings.

This got me to thinking and if my memory works correctly today (never a sure thing), I believe that I have been TV free for about fourteen years now.

It was never a deliberate thing. I moved location to ReallyBigCity, here in the Mid-West of America. As I was traveling light, I dumped all kinds of stuff, including an entire record collection (showing my age there) and anything heavy, especially household electrical articles.

While in ReallyBigCity, I borrowed a TV and a video player and infrequently watched anything. This was a time of working long hours during the week and heading out of town on the weekend to court the lovely Sis. Geek. I was actually glad to be able to return it as it mostly gathered dust and got in the way.

When the time came to move to a different state, the TV stayed with it's owner and I never bothered to buy one when I moved into my new apartment. Not that I'm cheap or anything; what I didn't spend buying a TV, I spent on a nice music system. The music system still works and currently lives in the den where I can rock out or listen to the football games at this time of the year. A much better purchase.

Where I differ from Tam is in the reaction that I get from people when I explain that I don't have a TV. Certainly people are initially surprised, but mostly I hear some variation along the lines of "I wish we didn't have a TV in the house".

The TV, according to surveys that I hear about now and then, is one of the biggest time wasters in this day. I forget how many hours of TV per day the average child is reputed to watch, but it staggered me. If I lost even just an hour a day to TV, I think I'd be so far behind that I'd never catch up.

I'm busy enough as a pastor that I hardly even have time for regular bible reading. I spend much of my time in the bible, but often finding passages by word searches rather than just sitting down and reading it. It's got to the point that I have to read scripture, while car pooling with a couple of my co-workers, from the Bible program on my Palm TX.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

An Age of Miracles

One of my required reading books for my General License is a scholarish tome by the name of "A Short Life of Christ". It's an interesting book, but as scholars tend to the liberal end of the spectrum it periodically makes statements that are either unintentionally funny or unintentionally annoying.

Call me sneaky, but as I have to read this book for my next level of ministerial license, I am teaching it chapter by chapter at our mid-week services. There's nothing quite like studying a chapter to know it well enough to teach; it beats the casual reading it would get otherwise.

This week we are on the chapter about the miracles of Jesus. I foolishly thought that it would examine the miracles, but instead it discusses the metadata about the miracles. It spends time discussing the categories of miracles and their characteristics and the reasoning and motivation behind and the reception of them. All interesting material.

The annoying thing was the short dismissal made of the number of miracles since the time of the apostles. It was implied that we are in a time of no miracles and that there have been many such times, so we shouldn't be surprised to be in one ourselves.

For the record, we have noticed no shortage of miracles in and around United Pentecostal Church International churches. As the district newsletter editor, I get to hear abut many such miracles. At the church I pastor, we take prayer requests and praise reports most services and we have a very good track record of answered prayer at our churches. And if waiting a week or two for the answer to your prayer means that you're going to discount it as a miracle, then you need to revisit your definition of miracle. I have also seen (and experienced) instantaneous miracles and healing. There is no miracle shortage. If you think there is, then I suggest visiting a UPCI church as soon as you can.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Veteran's Day

A salute to all the veterans out there. Thank you for your service to this country and your efforts to keep me and mine safe and well. This is not just a thank the veterans because it's the right thing to do (although it is) post. I have personal reasons for being thankful.

My father served his country for 22 years in the Navy. Often sailing to interesting parts of the world and reminding them to play nicely (with the implicit understanding that the next visit would be by the Marines!)

My father-in-law also served his country for several years and while he could have tried to claim an exemption as a licensed minister, he served in the medical wing of the Army, helping to patch up our brave soldiers who received on the job injuries.

I salute both Dads. I also especially salute both Moms, because being a military wife is hard work. (And for the record, being a military kid is no picnic either, but looking back I wouldn't swap it for anything.)

Not many people realize that there are other types of veterans; there are those who have fought in different wars.

Yesterday, I received a copy of a letter sent to one of the ministers in our district who had reached the incredible milestone of sixty years in the ministry. I have a massive year and a half of pastoring under my belt, so the thought of sixty years is fairly mind-boggling to me! Our General Superintendent, Bro. Hanney sent a personal letter to this minister thanking him and congratulating him on his service to the kingdom. (I got a copy of the letter as the district newsletter editor.)

I think this is a wonderful idea. The Army of the Lord may not seem dangerous to anyone outside of it, but for those of us on the inside, we realize that we are indeed in a war, even if the ammunition isn't in the form of lead bullets and the enemy isn't always human.

I am delighted that the United Pentecostal Church International is taking this step to recognize our veterans of the faith. These are people that inspire me and I'm sure they'd inspire you if you heard their story. So, as the editor of the district newsletter, I shall be making every effort to ensure that you do hear about it.

Friday, October 31, 2008

Why do atheists get so worked up?

Have you ever wondered why atheists get so worked up over Christians? Just watch the news on even an irregular basis and you'll see some lawyer from the ACLU citing the separation of church and state to "prove" that under no circumstances should anything even slightly governmentish have any connection with anything that even looks or smells slightly religious.

The fact that there is no such term as "separation of church and state" in any of the documents used to found these great United States of America is a topic for another time. I can only address a finite amount of stupidity at once.

As a parent, the cries of the atheists remind me of the plaintive cries of a small child that two of the foods you have put on their plate are touching. Not just touching, but TOUCHING! TOUCHING I TELL YOU! Perhaps if parents were required to hold a Ph.D in Biochemistry before downloading progeny, they'd understand without being told by the shorter members of the family that when two different foods touch, they immediately start a powerful catalytic reaction that results in the formation of the most powerful neurotoxins known to mankind.

Oh wait ... it's not true. Silly me. Different foods can touch in complete safety, often even enhancing each others flavors when they do so. And a good thing too, speaking as the world's greatest chili chef. Just imagine if it was not possible to combine all of the herbs and spices that go into a really good chili? At our church, for a recent New Year, we invited our congregation and friends over for some relaxed fellowship and chili. I spent the entire previous evening cooking that chili. I browned off the ground beef, I peeled and chopped onions, washed and chopped bell peppers and jalapenos and habaneros. Then, I added the super secret combination of herbs and spices that make my chili a wonder to behold. And finally, I simmered that mix for another hour after everything was thoroughly mixed in together. Modesty prevents me from telling you that it was magnificent and that members of my congregation were still raving about it for weeks afterwards whenever I spoke with them.

In the certified logic-free world of the atheists, I should, instead of serving a chili, have placed separate bowls of ingredients on the table and have kept them all apart. You want beef? That's in the bowl at the far end of the table. The vegetables are at this end and don't let me catch you mixing them. Methinks that would fail to win prizes at any reputable chili cook off.

Well, it's the same when religion touches (gasp!) something governmentish. Let's face facts here: there are things that are best done by government and there are things best done by the church (or faith based charities to use a modern term). The government is pretty good at getting roads built and defending the country and that's about it and most likely where they should stop. The church is not so good with roads and I don't know how many of my fellow ministers own guns (I have several, I know what to do with them, and I do belong to the NRA thanks for asking). On the other hand as I keep discovering in my own city, the church is good at ministering to people.

We are there when the government aid agencies tell people that they have a six month waiting list for housing and it's just too bad that your landlord is throwing you out of your apartment this evening and you need help to get to the next town because you don't have a car and most of your friends don't have vehicles either.

This is a real and recent example from my own experience. The church picks up the slack that the government fails to address. Our church worked with the couple in question. And just to annoy the atheists, we brought them to church and taught them a bible study to ensure that they knew about God. And we bought them groceries. We caught them when the government failed them. Atheistic government is about large programs designed to be seen to be helping people. Forget that. We were too busy actually helping people to worry about being seen to be doing it.

Oh, and before I forget, the denominal churches in town didn't help them either. Score one for the little UPCI church that could!

I guess I have a bit of a rant going here. Oh well. It's good to let off a little steam now and then. So ... back to our hot and bothered atheist friends and looking at how they get that way.

It can't be just the believing thing because there are plenty of other religions in the world that believe in all kinds of gods and you don't hear the ACLU getting upset about them. Alright, they do get upset at the Jews now and then, but as it's the same God (for those of us who are monotheistic rather than trinitarian), that's understandable.

If I can be completely honest with you, and that's why this blog is anonymous, so that I indeed can be completely honest, I know exactly why atheists get so upset. (Yes, I know that not all atheists get upset, but enough of them that it feels like all of them.)

It's not a complicated reason. It's actually very simple, but it's very hard to prove unless you have the piece of data that I possess and am willing to share with you. Having been an atheist myself, I am able to tell you what no practicing atheist will ever freely admit. Atheists get very upset when I divulge this fact, but despite their protestations that I am mistaken, I know full well that I am correct and that their claims are false.

You see, the problem for atheists (again, most atheists) is that they really do believe in God. The issue with (most) atheists is not that they don't believe there is God, but rather that they don't want God to exist.

The existence of God is quite a problem for atheists. Typically they choose lifestyles that are contrary to the teaching of the scriptures. They realize this and so have to cover their tracks. The best solution for them is if they don't have to pay attention to the bible and can claim that it's all just a collection of bizarre writings written by guys over two thousand years ago who needed to get out more and spend less time tending sheep in deserts. The only way that the bible can be dismissed is if there is no spiritual author of the scriptures. That spiritual author would be God and so they desperately need him to not exist. The problem with that is that he does exist and most of us are pretty certain about it.

Now atheists are an imaginative bunch and so they have been following a plan of assuring people that God does not exist. Obviously this does not cause God to not exist, but if they can get enough people to not think about him, they hope that they'll be left alone to proceed with their selected lifestyles.

Unfortunately, there is a lot of merit to their plan. Many decades into their plan, the atheists have many of the believers beaten down and afraid to speak openly of God. God may be mentioned on the dollar bills, but he's pretty much unwelcome anywhere else in America these days.

God hasn't been welcome in a schoolroom for quite a while now and many companies will frown upon workplace mentions of Jesus or even some quiet bible reading. Universities are quite possibly the hottest battlegrounds for the atheists right now. It's a well known fact that university students are all of the age to be at their peak "I know everything" stage in life, so capturing their thoughts and hearts will net immense gains for the atheists.

This also explains why so much fuss is made about Darwinism and preventing anyone from discussing Intelligent Design, let alone full blown Creationism. It's about getting university students to think there is no God. And how can there be a God when we all formed from slime and then grew fins, feathers or legs and evolved from there? Really, who needs God when your great, great (lots of greats) grandfather was an amoeba instead of some guy called Adam who married Eve, the prettiest girl on the planet.

As an aside: How do we know that Eve was the prettiest girl on the planet? Other than the fact that she didn't have a lot of competition? When Adam first saw Eve, he said "Woah! Man!" and thus was the name of the other gender decided. It's a good job she was pretty because women might have ended up being "woick's" instead. (Think about it for a moment; you'll get it.)

Jokes aside, it is vitally important for the atheists to win the battle for the minds of the university students and they see evolution as their best bet at this time. This should be evident from the number of attacks that are launched against the proponents of Intelligent Design and Creationism. We are not attacking them, they are attacking us.

The sad thing about this is that they are so desperate and so short of proof that God doesn't exist that they are reduced to shell games and sleights of hand. And when those don't work, they have resorted to strong-arm tactics down to the depth of getting scientists sacked who have expressed anything less than 100% loyalty to the cause of Darwinism.

On a regular basis these days, I read about critically thinking scientists who express an interest in having their students look into both Evolution and Intelligent Design so that they can review and weigh the evidence from both camps, being brought under fire from the scientific establishment. Check out the blog by the good folks over at Uncommon Descent and you'll see plenty of instances of this behavior. There is quite a growing list of scientists who have been released by their universities or denied tenure, for having even just talked to the Intelligent Design side of the intellectual house.

This kind of behavior would be funny if it wasn't so sad and pathetic. I don't know that I've ever even heard an explanation (good or bad) about why Evolution and Darwin supporters are afraid to allow their theory to be judged on it's own merits and to have a little competition in the marketplace of ideas. If Intelligent Design and Creationism are so far-fetched and ludicrous, then surely Evolution could only benefit by being compared and contrasted to them?

The atheists are acting like they're hiding something. The reason that they're acting that way is that they actually are hiding something. They're hiding God. Hiding him from others who may also believe that he exists and that his received word, the bible, should be considered, taught and followed. This is an unacceptable risk in the world-view of the atheists.

The good news is that we've rumbled them. The less good news is that they are far into their plan and it's going to take us a huge effort or amount of time or both to catch up and tear down all the lies and misdirections that they have spread about. Fortunately, there are many more of us than there are militant atheists, so it's all doable.

I hope that what I've written here will help you to remember why atheists get so worked up, next time you hear one venting on the news. It's all bluster and misdirection in the hope that you wont look past their high-volume protestations and see Jesus standing behind them calling you to salvation and a personal relationship with him.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Dear Mr. Obama

The tip of the hat goes to Barking Moonbat Early Warning System care of The Smallest Minority. Copied in full, per the permission at the end of the piece.

To Barack Hussein Obama,

The New York Times carried a story on Saturday, October 4, 2008, that proved you had a significantly closer relationship with Bill Ayers than what you previously admitted. While the issue of your relationship is of concern,
the greater concern is that you lied to America about it.

The Chicago Sun reported on May 8, 2008, that FBI records showed that you had a significantly closer relationship with To NY Rezko than what you previously admitted. In the interview, you said that you only saw Mr.
Rezko a couple of times a year. The FBI files showed that you saw him weekly. While the issue of your relationship is of concern, the greater concern is that you lied to America about it.

Your speech in Philadelphia on March 18, 2008, about "race" contradicted your statement to Anderson Cooper on March 14 when you said that you never heard Reverend Wright make his negative statements about white America. While your attendance at Trinity Church for 20 years is of concern, the greater concern is that you lied to America on March 14.

In your 1st debate with John McCain, you said that you never said that you would meet with the leaders of Cuba, Venezuela, Iran, and North Korea without "preparations" at lower levels ... Joe Biden repeated your words in his debate with Sarah Palin ... While the video tape from your debate last February clearly shows that you answered "I would" to the question of meeting with those leaders within 12 months without "any" preconditions. While your judgement about meeting with enemies of the USA without pre-conditions is of concern, the greater concern is that you lied to America in the debate with McCain.

On July 14, 2008, you said that you always knew that the surge would work while the video tapes of you from more than a year ago show that you stated that the surge would not work. While your judgement about military strategy as a potential commander-in-chief is of concern, the greater concern is that you lied to America on July 14.

You now claim that your reason for voting against funding for the troops was because the bill did not include a time line for withdrawal, while the video tapes of you from more than a year ago show that you voted against additional funding because you wanted our troops to be removed immediately ... Not in 16 months after the 2008 election as you now claim. While your judgement about removing our troops unilaterally in 2007 is of concern, the greater concern is that you lied to America about your previous position.

You claim to have a record of working with Republicans while the record shows that the only bill that you sponsored with a Republican was with Chuck Lugar ... And it failed. The record shows that you vote 97% in concert with the Democrat party and that you have the most liberal voting record in the Senate. You joined Republicans only 13% of the time in your votes and those 13% were only after agreement from the Democrat party. While it is of concern that you fail to include conservatives in your actions and that you are such a liberal, the greater concern is that you distorted the truth.

In the primary debates of last February, 2008, you claimed to have talked with a "Captain" of a platoon in Afghanistan "the other day" when in fact you had a discussion in 2003 with a Lieutenant who had just been deployed to Afghanistan. You lied in that debate.

In your debates last spring, you claimed to have been a "professor of Constitutional law" when in fact you have never been a professor of Constitutional law. In this last debate, you were careful to say that you "taught a law class" and never mentioned being a "professor of Constitutional law." You lied last spring.

You and Joe Biden both claimed that John McCain voted against additional funding for our troops when the actual records show the opposite. You distorted the truth.

You and Joe Biden claim that John McCain voted against funding for alternate energy sources 20 times when the record shows that John McCain specifically voted against funding for bio fuels, especially corn ... and he was right
.... corn is too expensive at producing ethanol, and using corn to make ethanol increased the price of corn from $2 a bushel to $6 a bushel for food. You distorted the truth.

You and Joe Biden claim that John McCain voted like both of you for a tax increase on those making as little as $42,000 per year while the voting record clearly shows that John McCain did not vote as you and Joe Biden. You lied to America.

You and Joe Biden claim that John McCain voted with George W. Bush 90% of the time when you know that Democrats also vote 90% of the time with the President (including Joe Biden) because the vast majority of the votes are procedural. You are one of the few who has not voted 90% of the time with the president because you have been missing from the Senate since the day you got elected. While your absence from your job in the Senate is of concern, the greater concern is that you spin the facts.

You did not take an active role in the rescue plan. You claimed that the Senate did not need you while the real reason that you abstained was because of your close relationships with the executives of Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac, Countrywide, and Acorn ... who all helped cause the financial problems of today ... and they all made major contributions to your campaign. While your relationship with these executives and your protection of them for your
brief 3 years in the Senate (along with Barney Frank, Chuck Schumer, Maxine Waters, and Chris Dodd) is of concern, the greater concern is that you are being deceitful.

You forgot to mention that you personally represented Tony Rezko and Acorn. Tony Rezko, an Arab and close friend to you, was convicted of fraud in Chicago real estate transactions that bilked millions of tax dollars from the Illinois government for renovation projects that you sponsored as a state senator ... and Acorn has been convicted of voter fraud, real estate sub prime loan intimidation, and illegal campaign contributions. Tony Rezko has contributed hundreds of thousands of dollars to your political campaigns. You personally used your political positions to steer money to both Tony Rezko and Acorn and you used Acorn to register thousands of phony voters for Democrats and you. While your relationships with Rezko and Acorn are of concern, the greater concern is that you omitted important facts about your relationships with them to America.

During your campaign, you said: "typical white person." "They cling to their guns and religion." "They will say that I am black." You played the race card. You tried to label any criticism about you as racist. You divide America.

You claim that you will reduce taxes for 95% of America, but you forgot to tell America that those reductions are after you remove the Bush tax reductions. You have requested close to $1 billion in earmarks and several million for Acorn. Your social programs will cost America $1 trillion per year and you claim that a reduction in military spending ($100 billion for Iraq ) can pay for it. While your economic plan of adding 30% to the size of our federal government is of concern, the greater concern is that you are deceiving America.

The drain to America's economy by foreign supplied oil is $700 billion per year (5% of GDP) while the war in Iraq is $100 billion (less than 1% of GDP). You voted against any increases to oil exploration for the last 3 years and any expansion of nuclear facilities. Yet today, you say that you have always been for more oil and more nuclear. You are lying to America.

Mr. Obama, you claimed that you "changed" your mind about public financing for your campaign because of the money spent by Republican PACs in 2004. The truth is that the Democrat PACs in 2004, 2006, and 2008 spent twice as much as the Republican PACs (especially George Soros and You are lying to America.

Mr. Obama, you have done nothing to stop the actions of the teachers union and college professors in the USA. They eliminated religion from our history. They teach pro gay agendas and discuss sex with students as young as first grade. They bring their personal politics into the classrooms. They disparage conservatives. They brainwash our children. They are in it for themselves ... not America. Are you reluctant to condemn their actions because teachers/professors and the NEA contribute 25% of all money donated to Democrats and none to Republicans? You are deceiving America.

Oh, Mr. Obama, Teddy Roosevelt said about a hundred years ago that we Americans should first look at the character of our leaders before anything else.

Your character looks horrible. While you make good speeches, motivating speeches, your character does not match your rhetoric. You talk the talk, but do not walk the walk.

1. You lied to America. You lied many times. You distorted facts. You parsed your answers like a lawyer.

2. You distorted the record of John McCain in your words and in your advertisements.

3. You had associations with some very bad people for your personal political gains and then lied about those associations.

4. You divide America about race and about class.

Now let me compare your record of lies, distortions, race baiting, and associations to John McCain: War hero. Annapolis graduate with "Country first." Operational leadership experience like all 43 previously elected presidents of the USA as a Navy officer for 22 years. 26 years in the Senate. Straight talk. Maverick. 54% of the time participated on bills with Democrats. Never asked for an earmark. The only blemish on his record is his part in the Keating 5 debacle about 25 years ago.

Mr. Obama, at Harvard Law School, you learned that the end does not justify the means. You learned that perjury, false witness, dishonesty, distortion of truth are never tolerated. Yet, your dishonesty is overwhelming. Your dishonesty is tremendously greater than the dishonesty that caused the impeachment and disbarment of Bill Clinton. Your dishonesty is tremendously greater than the dishonesty of Scooter Libby. You should be ashamed.

Mr. Obama, it is time for us Americans to put aside our differences on political issues and vote against you because of your dishonest character. It is time for all of us Americans to put aside our political issues and vote for America first. It is time for America to vote for honesty.

Any people who vote for you after understanding that you are dishonest should be ashamed of themselves for making their personal political issues more important than character. Would these same people vote for the anti-Christ if the anti-Christ promised them riches? Would they make a golden calf while Moses was up the mountain? Would they hire some one for a job if that someone lied in an interview? Of course not. So why do some of these people justify their votes for you even though they know you are dishonest? Why do they excuse your dishonesty? Because some of these people are frightened about the future, the economy, and their financial security ... and you are preying on their fears with empty promises ... and because some (especially our young people) are consumed by your wonderful style and promises for ‘change’ like the Germans who voted for Adolf Hitler in 1932. The greed/envy by Germans in 1932 kept them from recognizing Hitler for who he was. They loved his style. Greed and envy are keeping many Americans from recognizing you ... your style has camouflaged your dishonesty ... but many of us see you for who you really are ... and we will not stop exposing who you are every day, forever if it is necessary.

Mr. Obama, you are dishonest. Anyone who votes for you is enabling dishonesty.

Mr. Obama, America cannot trust that you will put America first in your decisions about the future.

Mr. Obama, you are not the "change" that America deserves. We cannot trust you.

Mr. Obama, You are not ready and not fit to be commander-in-chief.

Mr. Obama, John McCain does not have as much money as your campaign to refute all of your false statements. And for whatever reasons, the mainstream media will not give adequate coverage or research about your lies, distortions, word parsing, bad associations, race baiting, lack of operational leadership experience, and generally dishonest character. The media is diverting our attention from your relationships and ignoring the fact that you lied about those relationships. The fact that you lied is much more important than the relationships themselves ... just like with Bill Clinton and Richard Nixon ... Monica Lewinski and Watergate were not nearly as bad as the fact that those men lied about the events ... false witness ... perjury ... your relationships and bad judgements are bad on their own ... but your lies are even worse.

Therefore, by copy of this memo, all who read this memo are asked to send it to everyone else in America before it is too late. We need to do the job that the media will not do. We need to expose your dishonesty so that every person in America understands who you really are before election day.

Mr. Obama, in a democracy, we get what we deserve. And God help America if we deserve you.

Michael Master
McLean, Virginia

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

You call that documentation?

I'm trying to learn CXF and the folks on the CXF project aren't helping!

What is CXF and why on earth should you care? Good questions, grab a cup, make yourself comfortable and I'll tell you.

CXF is the result of the merger of the Xfire and Celtix Web Service frameworks. They now live under the Apache banner and in a prime example of why people think that geeks have no imagination, they called the merged product Celtix XFire, or CXF to it's friends. Woah ... fear those mad naming skills!

At the day job, I need to talk to a SOAP based web service and my co-worker who is project lead on the project suggested CXF. Another co-worker also said he liked CXF, so off to the Apache website I go.

When I look into using a tool, I like to check out the tutorials and follow a couple of them to help bootstrap myself into understanding. Normally, this is a pretty good approach, but after searching for "cxf tutorials" and trying a few out, I was about ready to start pulling my hair out. Where are the good tutorials?

I even tried the simple how-to article from the CXF manual, but it insisted that I needed a file called IntegerUserMapAdapter as an XmlJavaTypeAdapter, but then neither told me where to get it or even how to write my own. Arrgh, and without it, the code won't compile, let alone run. For that matter, most of the CXF documentation seems to assume that you know SOAP web service programming inside out and back to front. Well, I don't, so some tutorials that take you through the boring and mundane steps would be greatly appreciated.

I did finally find a tutorial on the IBM developerWorks website, but that doesn't cover any of the wsdl2java that I was hoping to learn about. At least it helped me create and consume a (very) simple SOAP web service.

Now I have a headache and I still have to preach this evening! So, I'm plowing through the Sun J2EE tutorial for JAX-WS seeing if they explain the wsdl2java thing at all.

And my wife wonders why I don't talk much about what I actually do at the office!

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Not quite how I expected it to go

I mentioned the other day about not enjoying preaching some sermons. Well, on Sunday I preached an anti-Halloween sermon and thought that I'd get some serious push back from it. Wow, was I surprised. When I announced at the start that this was going to be a standard anti-Halloween sermon, I got several enthusiastic amens and after the altar call, I had a line of people asking for a copy of my notes so that they could explain to their families why they shouldn't/wouldn't be celebrating Halloween this year.

I had wasted quite a bit of energy being concerned about how it would be received. I shouldn't have worried. While this congregation normally listens attentively, they were hanging on my every word and soaking it all up like sponges. It's hard to make predictions in pastoring. (Except for Ice-cream socials and pot lucks, you're pretty much guaranteed that they'll go well! :-)

Friday, October 24, 2008

The Joys of Writing a Book

I have previously posted JUnit information on this blog. The entries are now in the process of becoming chapters in a book.

I don't have a contract with a publisher, but at this point I'm not worried. From previous experience with the world of computer book publishing, I know that the publishers prefer to start looking at a manuscript after you've written a quarter to a third of the material. This helps reassure them that you're serious and not just wishing to write a book, but have actually invested some sweat equity in the project.

I may not even bother talking to any publishers. The wonders of modern technology mean that on-demand publishing through the likes of combines nicely with the ability to produce professional-quality typesetting using the LaTeX application. As the newsletter editor for the state for our church organization I'm used to layout and typesetting (using Adobe InDesign), but LaTeX continues to amaze me every time I see it render my documents.

As I come towards the end of the fifth chapter, I am planning to print what I have so far through the services of and see how it looks when I've done everything myself. If it looks good, then I may just finish the book and plan to sell it myself. If my self-promotion efforts fall flat, then I can still fall back on talking to the publishers. At the worst, it should be good fun.

The process of writing has been fun. As a young fellow, I never enjoyed writing, but these days I quite enjoy it and only lack of time slows me down. Previous years of blogging helped me to find my writing voice. I'm sure professors of English Literature could pick my style apart, but I like it and feel no need to change. While I'm quite happy editing my own writing and even get ruthless with myself, I don't enjoy huge changes. One of my co-workers read an early draft of the first five chapters and suggested a big change. It made sense, and I'm in the process of finishing the edit, but I haven't enjoyed it.

I started the book using a plain text editor, then I tried using Microsoft Word and one of the free templates from Lulu, but a couple of months ago I switched to LaTeX to get the professional layouts. While it takes time to get used to not using a WYSIWYG editor, I find it actually speeds me up as I no longer worry about the layout when I'm working on the text. The LaTeX application and the selection of document class will take care of most of that for me. It feels very liberating.

For those who have never used LaTeX, it is powerful, but complex. Simple documents are not too bat to produce, but here I'm using lots of included packages, non-standard page sizes and specifying lots of layout details. Thank goodness for Internet search engines and bloggers who describe the details of how they've published their own works. Once I get this figured to my own satisfaction, I shall add to their efforts and write my own "How to write and publish a book using LateX" post.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Wash, Cook, Clean and Iron

Rachel Lucas writes about her current experiences going through school as a mature student.

[A tip of the hat to Kevin at The Smallest Minority.]

The blog post is excellent, but the comments complete it. Many commenters have joined in to give their accounts of going through school. Reading the comments is a journey of hope. I am so impressed by all those who have gone back to school to earn their degrees while working full-time jobs. My (free for early renewal of my NRA membership) hat is well and truly off to you all.

Of course, I had it tough. I walked uphill both ways to school, barefoot through the snow. Not really, but I did want to comment on one of the many good things that was drilled into me growing up.

I will always be eternally grateful to my parents for their insistence that before I left home, I should be able to wash, cook, clean and iron. I could do other things as well, but that was my mother's way of lumping them all in together in one easy to remember phrase.

Before I went to university I spent a year training as an X-ray Technician. It seemed like a good idea at the time and even though I only did it for a year, I have no regrets about the time spent. The reason that I mention this is that the school I was attending had a schedule of mornings in the classrooms and then the afternoons in the hospital X-ray department. The students were required to abide by the department dress code and so as an eighteen year old, I was required to wear dress pants, dress shirt and tie every day and the obligatory white coat. (Those who get to just wear scrubs are very lucky!) Having left home to stay at the school's student accommodations, this meant washing and ironing these items on a very regular basis. I can assure you that white coats get dirty really quickly and so I learned to wash and iron them as well.

Cooking is a very iffy thing with me. Most cooking does not interest me that much. I've tried different things, but mostly I just enjoy cooking chili or grilling things. Fortunately, being able to cook rice and pasta and make basic meat sauces and grill portions of dead animal will keep even a hungry student alive and well. Again, many thanks to my parents for insisting that I needed to learn that stuff before I left home.

Lastly, the cleaning side of things was very useful. As a student, I kept my space clean and tidy and I don't recall ever having anyone complain about me leaving a mess or not doing my washing up. For extra cleaning practice, the hospital had an arrangement whereby the regular cleaning crews would wash the floors and dust the stuff around the walls, but all X-ray equipment was to be cleaned by the X-ray department staff. For department staff, think students!

I quickly got used to spending quiet times in the department grabbing a bunch of paper towel and antiseptic cleaner and cleaning the equipment. It was actually kind of relaxing and it got you out from under the watchful eye of the other technicians. What took a little more getting used to was cleaning up after patient accidents. I'll refrain this time from describing any of the details, but I assure you that I'll come back and spill (no pun intended) the straight poop (pun intended this time).

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Didn't Wanna Do It

I hear tell that some denominations send out the lessons to their pastors and the pastor's job is to read the lesson, shake everyones hand and lock the doors after folks leave.

I wish!

Here in the United Pentecostal Church International we do it the old fashioned way. We talk to God. Directly and personally. I don't check with my Presbyter or my Superintendent first. I get the lesson directly from Almighty God himself.

It's a rush!

Anytime the Blessed and Only Potentate, the King of Kings and Lord of Lords chooses to communicate with this imperfect and humble fellow, it's awe inspiring. And every single week (that I've been scheduled to preach) since taking over the role of Pastor at this church the Lord has given me a message for the congregation. Sometimes he gives me a couple of messages for the coming weeks, but mostly he gives me a single message and that's what I preach on the Sunday. Mid-week service is teaching of Apostolic doctrine, so while very important, it's less evangelical and more structured.

The messages have varied greatly in content and direction, while still having a discernible objective. The Lord is trying ground our congregation in the basics so that we will be positioned for growth. Shallow roots and growth do not mix well, so he's trying to get us to drive our roots deep to be ready for the heights that he wants to take us to.

It's exciting!

The messages on preparation are fun to teach. I love the encouragement messages. I love to talk of the coming growth in congregation size and that we need to prepare for an influx of new people, even with all of the work that it would involve. New believers are wonderful. We love to see them, but they are like spiritual babies. There is much to teach them and the occasional spiritual diaper change required. You just haven't lived until you've heard a new believer expressing how wonderful they feel in their new life with Christ. It takes you back to when you were new in the Church. (Of course, sometimes, being so new in the Church, they express their strength of feeling by using the kind of four letter words that would make a sailor blush ... oops ... hence the spiritual diaper changes and damage control! :-)

But then sometimes the Lord needs to apply a more serious correction to the congregation. There are times when the Lord is aware of matters that would be dangerous to the congregation if left unchecked. Guess who gets to deliver those messages? Yup. Me.

Not fun.

I had to deliver one this Sunday and I'm here to tell you it was not fun. Not even close. Of all the aspects of pastoring that I have experienced so far, the delivery of a chastening sermon is my least favorite thing to do. I besought the Lord to see if there was something else I could teach instead, but I received no license to teach an alternative. I even tried ignoring my lesson on the Thursday and Friday evenings and worked on the district newsletter instead, hoping that the Lord would have mercy on me and would give me something lighter and more "fluffy bunny" to present instead.

No dice.

Having tried everything I could think of, except saying "no" (never a good idea to say no to the Lord), I started working on the sermon.

Remember this next time you feel like the pastor just tap-danced all over your toes and you feel mad at him. Understand that there's a pretty good chance that he didn't enjoy it either.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Rise of the Virtual Machines

I was pondering the matter of the Next Big Language, or NBL as Steve Yegge likes to call it. There are many opinions on what the next big language will be. Some say JavaScript, others say Erlang, naturally there are also supporters of the idea of it being Python or Ruby.

(Of course, no discussion on the future of programming languages can proceed without the obligatory references to LISP. (Please note the extensive use of parenthesis to reinforce this point.))

I have even previously offered pronouncements on this very matter, although I don't think any of them are online to embarrass me when they are proved wrong. And I do think that all discussions on the next big language are both wrong and irrelevant. Let me tell you why.

The days of a single language dominating everything are practically gone. Even the big boys realize this. Microsoft now offer several languages on their Common Language Runtime (CLR) with more on the way, Sun have just hosted their first JVM (Java Virtual Machine) Languages Conference and IBM don't care what you program in as long as they can sell you hardware and services.

My resume says that I am a Java Web Developer, but perhaps it should just say Web Developer? While I do use Java, most web applications these days involve XML, HTML, JSP and JavaScript at a minimum. Then throw in a little REST and AJAX or perhaps some JSON or YAML and your technology count is reaching for the sky. I really don't think most of us are using a single language too often any more. And this is before you start worrying about deployment platforms and application servers. The days of mono culture are numbered and n is looking fairly small to me.

So there's no such thing as the next big language, but I do think that there is a next big thing. Our industry never stands still. New and exciting technology is being developed all the time. The trick is to figure out what's going to be big, or even better, actually useful.

Recently I read this blog article over at InfoWord. It helped crystalize my current thoughts and now I sincerely believe that multiple languages are here to stay, and that the next round of excitement will be over the environments, specifically the platform independent Virtual Machines, typified by Sun's JVM and Microsoft's CLR. The JVM and CLR are not the only players in town. There is plenty of excitement over at the LLVM camp, who if I remember correctly are strongly favored by Apple within their developer tools group. And I would kick myself if I forgot to mention the Parrot VM currently under development for the forthcoming (someday) release of Perl 6.

This is already where the excitement comes from these days, but I think many of us have not realized it for all of our worrying about the next big language. The next big environment question has been flying well below most of our radar screens and has taken a great many of us by surprise.

I'm actually glad about this because I love programming in multiple languages. Being forced to use only one language is quite stifling to me and I'm much happier when able to bounce back and forth between a couple of languages, each selected for it's suitability for the purpose of the task I use it on.

Even with these powerful forces moving with all of the certainty and unstoppability of tectonic plates, many are going to continue to search for the next big language and will proclaim that this language or that language is The One. I don't doubt this for a moment as the urge is strong in geeks to discover new languages. The problem will then be that language A will be positioned against language B with the implicit (or increasingly, explicitly) understanding that it's one or the other ... last programming language standing ... in the arena of programmatic battle. We must get used to using multiple languages and spend our energies on where they compliment each others abilities. Until we get here, the specter of the mythical next big language will continue to haunt us.

Friday, October 17, 2008

Quick! Give Me An Estimate!

I'll see how short I can keep this one. If I don't try to keep it short, it might turn into a major rant and then I'd feel that I had to publish it as a book.

So there I am talking to a co-worker this morning and we're exchanging stories of management insanity. It's one of our favorite topics and virtually guaranteed to never run dry of source material. He tells me that he talked to the new big boss who wanted an estimate for some work that needed to be in production at the January deploy.

For those who may not be used to the way things work in Corporate America, let's revisit that one in slow motion so that you can admire the sheer talent required to ask a question of that nature with a straight face.

We're pretty used to being asked for estimates in the IS world. We're also used to having those estimates ignored, but that's another rant for another day, so the question doesn't seem out of the ordinary at first. The jaw-dropping display of audacity comes when the manager slips the answer they want on the end of the question. Did you notice that?

It must take a level of poker skill beyond the ability of mere mortals to construct a question that includes the only permitted answer. The asking of the question in the first place is only to give the programmer the momentary illusion that their opinion is valued and then the realization dawns that it doesn't matter what your estimate is, because there are only a finite number of weeks/days/hours between now and late January.

I don't think I've ever pulled off a trick like that and I'm pretty certain that I'd never want to. Even while I can recognize the immoral nature of the question, I must concede a certain initial grudging admiration for anyone who can pull it off. After that, I just settle back into my normal bitter and twisted cynicism for all things Corporate.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Texas Deputy Sheriff vs. New York Lawyer

A friend of mine emailed me this the other day. Naturally I do not endorse violence, but no harm came to any police officers in the telling of this joke, so that makes it alright by me. :-)

A lawyer runs a stop sign and gets pulled over by a sheriff's deputy. He thinks that he is smarter than the deputy because he is a lawyer from New York and is certain that he has a better education then any cop from Houston, Texas. He decides to prove this to himself and have some fun at the Texas deputy's expense.

The deputy says, 'License and registration, please.'

'What for?' says the lawyer.

The deputy says, 'You didn't come to a complete stop at the stop sign.'

Then the lawyer says, 'I slowed down, and no one was coming.'

'You still didn't come to a complete stop, Says the deputy. License and registration, please.'

The lawyer says, 'What's the difference?'

'The difference is you have to come to complete stop, that's the law. License and registration, please!' the Deputy repeats.

Lawyer says, 'If you can show me the legal difference between slow down and stop, I'll give you my license and registration; and you give me the ticket. If not, you let me go and don't give me the ticket.'

'That sounds fair. Please exit your vehicle, sir,' the deputy says.

At this point, the deputy takes out his nightstick and starts beating the daylights out of the lawyer and says, 'Do you want me to stop, or just slow down?'

One Trick Pony

There I was teaching at our mid-week service last night and I was describing how Satan pretty much comes across as a one trick pony in the scriptures. While he does have powers and a number of them are described, he tends to stick to the one that works best against us humans.

Sometimes, certainly not very often, I wish that the evolutionists were right and that we humans could evolve to be a little smarter than we seem to be right now. You see, Satan worked Adam and Eve over in the Garden of Eden using only a lie. He sowed doubt and discord into the first man and his wife by questioning the word of God and using a few "fake but accurate" statements.

Satan is still using the same trick because it has worked so well for most of history. He still lies and many of us still believe him, despite no history of truth on his part. This is distressing to me as I keep hoping for better from my fellow humans.

Naturally, in the more enlightened environs of Corporate America, no such thing could ever take place. Right? I mean, with all those managers with MBAs, it must surely be an impossible thing for a lie to last 5 minutes in the full glare of an analytical management team? That's what I used to think. Then I observed our current contractor group in action.

The leaders of our primary onsite contractors have exactly one line that they use again and again and again. They do have another one, but the first one works so often, that they nearly always forget to use the second one.

When we, the customer (you know, the folks who are in charge), ask for something and specify any detail that they don't like, they come right back with "That will mean we miss the deadline." and our management fold like a limp rag. It's an amazing (and frustrating) sight. It's like watching the strings being cut on a puppet. One minute they're standing tall, laying out requirements and specifying how things should be done and the next minute they're backpedaling and saying words to the effect of "Oh! Really? However you need to do it then. That'll be fine."

While the pony may have only one trick, it's quite effective! Unfortunately, the same trick doesn't seem to work when we employees try it. Oh well.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Dealing with Yard Sign Theft

MorningGlory was a regular blogging friend of mine a few years ago when I blogged previously. I am delighted to see that she is still blogging, still conservative and doing well.

Welcome (back) to the BlogRoll MorningGlory.

Sick Days

Sick days are funny things in Corporate America. Being sick generally isn't funny, but the games that companies play with their HR policies to try to prevent rampant abuse by a few unscrupulous characters is borderline hilarious.

Back in the old days (or at least at places where I have previously worked) salaried staff just took sick days as needed. If you were sick enough to go to the doctor, you got a note and presented it to your boss when you dragged yourself back in. Abuse was pretty low, because only salaried staff could do this and back then managers would actually watch your sick days and make honest judgement calls as to whether you were really just having a bad flu season or that you were "swinging the lead". This seemed to work pretty well.

Then came the concept of the timebank and logic seemed to rapidly leave the building. The timebank feels like a devious way to try and get more work out of the employee. By taking the old-fashioned concept of vacation time and adding a few days to it and calling it a timebank or the trendy acronym PTO (Paid Time Off) the companies now penalize sick employees by forcing them to use valuable vacation time for reasons other than rest and recreation.

Naturally, this concept has backfired and as could be easily foreseen, the fact that it has is completely lost on the HR folks. In the same way that being forced to work extended overtime causes people to compensate by taking longer lunch breaks to allow them to run their errands, the lack of real sick days causes otherwise sensible employees to drag themselves into work when they are sick.

This is a problem because sick employees are less productive in terms of real work and there is a huge chance of them infecting their co-workers. It only takes a few of these "heroes" to drag themselves to work during a round of sickness to seriously affect the productivity of a team or even an entire office.

The irony is that most management equate seeing you with knowing that your working. This is obviously not true, but it is their primary metric for deciding whether you are a slacker or not. So, even though you're running to the bathroom every half an hour and getting through tissues like they were going out of fashion, you are seen in the office, so you must be a good employee. No account is made that you are likely less productive at your work, and highly productive at infecting those around you so that they can be less productive for the next few days or week as well.

If companies would bring back the old-fashioned sick days, they would greatly reduce the amount of sick time that they currently endure by allowing sick employees to stay home and recover and not infect co-workers. Obviously sick days would have to be watched to prevent abuse, but adapting the advice to "let sleeping dogs lie", it's time to "let sick employees stay home"!

(Yes, I went to work today even though I was sick! Thanks for asking. :-)

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

An Hour On Sundays

Pastoring is many things and it's very hard to describe to people what it is. It really is something that has to be seen up close or lived through to understand. But I find when I'm trying to describe what a pastor's life is like, it's easier to describe what it isn't ... it isn't an hour on Sundays.

Let me tell you about last week. Even though we're just a small congregation, we handed out two sets of groceries to those in need on Sunday morning. I went for breakfast with one of the men of the church on Saturday morning to discuss various matters and play catch up because he and I hadn't had any time to get together for a couple of months now. Then I zoomed over to our local farmer's market to help my wife with the church stall we had there. That took up the entire rest of the morning, leaving me with only the afternoon and evening to prepare my lesson for the following morning. Naturally, the Thursday and Friday evenings had been spent preparing for the farmer's market; we made peanut brittle on Thursday evening and I printed and matted some photography on Friday night to sell. And I think I forgot to mention that on Wednesday nights one of the ladies in the church has my wife watch her daughter after school and then usually stays for dinner with us before we head off to service. And then Sunday evening, I updated the district news website. Phew. Good job this pastoring stuff only takes an hour!

We are constantly on the move and I'd be lying if I said it wasn't very draining. So draining, that I'm exploring available options so that I can give the church all the time it needs even at this early stage in its growth. Naturally, I have also been seeking the Lord's help to get through this difficult time. As I observed to a friend of mine yesterday, the congregation don't contact us in proportion to the time we have available for them. They have needs and call their pastor regardless of the time or convenience for us. My wife fields as many calls as she can, but even then she often needs to escalate the issues to me.

On one level this is obviously me feeling sorry for myself, but it is also to let people know that if their pastor isn't just coasting through, then they are one of the busiest people you know. As a bi-vocational pastor, I work a day job, but even the full-time pastors I know pull down a quantity of hours per week that would make a lesser man cry.

Allow me to leave you with this thought. Think of your pastor as a swan: quiet and graceful to see, but paddling like crazy underneath to make progress.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Still alive and kicking

Maybe only just alive and kicking, but I have a pulse and can sit up and take nourishment.

I have apparently finally overdone everything. I knew that working in corporate america was tiring, and that pastoring was tiring, but I hoped that I could keep them both going. I'm seriously questioning that thought now. I managed to get myself burnt out many years ago with too many months of sixteen hour days followed by a couple of years of straight twelves. I crashed hard back then and I feel the same thing coming on now.

I realize that I have a very small readership (hello both of you) and that's by design, so that I can just blog when I want to and have time to, but please either pray for me or think some positive thoughts if that's more your style.


Monday, August 18, 2008

My all-time favorite Ron Jeffries quote

From the NeverIsNeverNever page on the C2 wiki:

I know that if you agree NEVER to let the unit tests drop below 100%, you'll only do it that one time when you just couldn't figure out an incremental way to change all the deductions from negative to positive. If you agree NEVER to keep a task open for two weeks, you have a better chance of finding the way to do it incrementally, and that one time you'll make sure you've sucked every idea out of the universe before giving in.

When I say something should never be done, it should mean that you'll never do it unless you really have to.

And if you really have to, you'll ask everyone you know first so you still won't have to.

And if you still have to, you'll be looking over your shoulder scared to death that I'm going to materialize there and say "why didn't you just ..." and be RIGHT, and EVERYONE will know you're an idiot.

When you're sure that you'll be able to say "because X" and I'll quietly lower my eyes and say "oh" and de-rez back to wherever I come from ... then break the rule.

Then do one more thing. When it's over, and you've suffered - as you will - for breaking the rule, think back and figure out what you could have done, and learn the deeper meaning of NEVER.

Monday, August 4, 2008

No, no and thrice no!

Over at Coding Horror, Jeff Atwood has run off the rails and gone over to the dark side. He has uttered words that are indistinguishable from those that come forth from the majority of Corporate America Information Technology management. Don't believe it? Check it out for yourselves. I'll be waiting for you when you've read it.

Not being one to beat about the bush, let me offer this comment to Jeff's idea.

No, no and thrice no!

Since pastors aren't supposed to say naughty words, I am left with little alternative but to fire up some sarcasm and get to it.

There are so many things wrong with this perspective that it's almost impossible to know where to start debunking this foolish notion. After all, if quantity was all that mattered, then the Microsoft Vista operating system would be the best thing since sliced bread, the bee's knees and the cream of the crop all mixed in together and served with a cherry on top. Last I heard, it was seven shades of dreadful. (Or at least that's what I hear, I use Mac's at home and my employer hasn't moved past Windows XP yet.)

I've mentioned this before in this blog, but the system that I and my co-workers are trying to fix, is an eight year accretion of code. If quantity trumps quality then how come I can't find any in the system? There isn't any. I've looked. My co-workers have looked. And then because we hoped there was something of merit in there, we ran some automated code quality tests on the codebase and some of the modules on their own break the email system when the error logs are emailed internally. That's quite a lot of errors and not a lot of quality.

If quantity trumps quality, then how come the twelve line blank templated JavaDoc before each of the methods don't give me the warm fuzzies? It should. I mean, what's not to like about fifty percent of the source code in any randomly selected Java source file being empty JavaDoc? And broken JavaDoc with invalid JavaDoc tags at that. Goodness, I bet Jeff would love them. There's so many of them, I might ship him a few as we have so many of them to spare.

Now, don't get me wrong here, I think that the best way to learn to write code is to read a little theory and write a lot of code and throw it away. Then repeat. Read a little more theory and then write a bunch more code and throw it away again. Keep repeating this, as I have for about twenty eight years, and you'll be a fairly good programmer. It's not quantity of practice code that I object to, it's the inference that any code base can attain quality by just churning out code with no regard to quality.

Sorry. Ain't gonna happen!

You see, the ceramics example that Jeff gives us just proves that practice does help. There were items made by the "bulk" half of the class that were excellent, because the quest for quantity effectively forced the students to practice their craft. But the admission that not everything was of high quality shows the problem.

Any programming project is the sum of all the code that gets written for it.

By seeking quantity and taking a "quality be damned" approach, you may eventually have the quality that comes from practice, but that quality code will be on top of the early dross and a diamond in the mud, while still a diamond is still muddy and hard to appreciate.

So, may I suggest, as I have learned from experience, that quality comes from caring and practice and not as an accidental discovery within bulk code.

Friday, August 1, 2008

Men are just happier people

As I get ready to head off to our district's Men's Camp, allow me to leave you with another classic Internet funny. Enjoy!

If Laura, Kate and Sarah go out for lunch, they will call each other Laura, Kate and Sarah.
If Mike, Dave and John go out, they will affectionately refer to each other as Fat Boy, Godzilla and Four-eyes.

When the bill arrives, Mike, Dave and John will each throw in $20, even though it's only for $32.50. None of them will have anything smaller and none will actually admit they want change back.
When the girls get their bill, out come the pocket calculators.

A man will pay $2 for a $1 item he needs.
A woman will pay $1 for a $2 item that she doesn't need but it's on sale.

A man has six items in his bathroom: toothbrush and toothpaste, shaving cream, razor, a bar of soap, and a towel from M&S.
The average number of items in the typical woman's bathroom is 337. A man would not be able to identify more than 20 of these items.

A woman has the last word in any argument.
Anything a man says after that is the beginning of a new argument.

Women love cats.
Men say they love cats, but when women aren't looking, men kick cats.

A woman worries about the future until she gets a husband.
A man never worries about the future until he gets a wife.

A successful man is one who makes more money than his wife can spend.
A successful woman is one who can find such a man.

A woman marries a man expecting he will change, but he doesn't.
A man marries a woman expecting that she won't change, but she does.

A woman will dress up to go shopping, water the plants, empty the bins, answer the phone, read a book, and get the mail.
A man will dress up for weddings and funerals.

Men wake up as good-looking as they went to bed.
Women somehow deteriorate during the night.

Ah, children. A woman knows all about her children. She knows about dentist appointments and romances, best friends, favorite foods, secret fears and hopes and dreams.
A man is vaguely aware of some short people living in the house.

A married man should forget his mistakes.
There's no use in two people remembering the same thing.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Technical Debt

Technical debt is a great term, originally coined by Ward Cunningham, to convey the reality of future problems brought about by making decisions with an eye to short-term gains instead of long-term correctness. This is not a new concept, but before Ward, it had never been applied to software development. (Martin Fowler reports that the term was used in Ward's report at the OOPSLA conference in 1992.) Let's say that again incase you missed it.
Technical Debt: future problems brought about by making decisions with an eye to short-term gains instead of long-term correctness.
This exact concept was used years ago in the advertisements for Fram motor oil filters. Every car owner knows that they need to replace the oil and filter in their car on a regular basis or they will eventually experience engine problems. The advertisements in question stated that using inferior oil filters (naturally, anything that wasn't sold under the Fram brand name) would eventually cause the same problems. At the end of the commercial the mechanic looks at the camera and invites you to "pay me now or pay me later". This is how you avoid mechanical debt; take small amounts of appropriate action now, or take massive (and expensive) reparative actions later.

The financial world has had this concept from the beginning of money (or at least the lending thereof). Debt is a very real thing for many people and it's something that gets dramatically worse the more you fail to address it. The definition of worse can vary of course. For some "worse" means having a credit card declined, or a car repossessed, or a house repossessed, or a business declared insolvent. And then there are some who operate outside of the realm of the legal, who will be more than happy to break your kneecaps when your debt exceeds the agreed repayment amounts.

One aspect that most forms of debt share is the personal pain (sometimes literal pain if you borrow from stereotypical Italian gentlemen named Vinny) from failing to address that debt. When you ignore it long enough it has a way of getting your attention, often to the exclusion of everything else. While this is generally quite unpleasant, it does effectively concentrate the mind on efforts to bear down on the debt and start making it go away.

A big problem with technical debt is that the personal pain is often not applied to the one making the decisions and who, by all rights, should be experiencing it. I'm talking about Information Technology managers here. While not a few bad decisions are made by programmers, the clear and massive majority of them are made by managers. The problems and pain of the technical debt is then felt by the programmers. The irony in the situation is that those same programmers have likely warned against exactly the situation that they now find themselves placed in.

I have seen technical debt accrued in almost every company that I have worked for. There seems to be a slavish adherence to the concept of "first mover advantage". This would be lovely if the concept worked, but the general public seems to be learning to place a premium on correct over fast. Sadly, the memo hasn't made it to Information Technology management yet. Consider Microsoft's Vista operating system. I understand from reading technology blogs that Vista was released because they were fed up of the computer press asking when it was going to be ready (Really, what's the rush? Doesn't everyone take five or six years to release a new operating system version?). Microsoft picked a date and shipped it "no matter what". The result was a stack of bugs tenuously piled up into the shape of an operating system.

I'm sure some are reading this and saying words to the effect of "but you have to spend money to make money", meaning you have to accrue some debt to make money. I call "nonsense" on that. The only way to get out of debt is to spend less than you earn. It also happens to be the only reliable way to not get into debt in the first place.

Technical debt is completely avoidable. You can run your project in a debt free fashion. I've done it and thereby feel that I have the right to refuse to hear that it's impossible. The trick is knowing what's right, sticking to your guns and doing it. Lather, rinse, repeat; as the shampoo instructions say.


A good example of running a technical project debt free may be had by watching almost any open-source project run by the Apache Software Foundation. The Apache folks have a reputation for high quality work. Part of this comes from the natural tendency of good programmers to want to work on Apache projects. Another part of the quality equation comes from the peer review that naturally happens in an open-source project where everyone can see all of the code and is free to examine and comment on it. The biggest part of the reason for the quality of the Apache projects comes from their standard answer to the most common question received on their mailing lists.

The most common question that I remember seeing when I frequented the Apache Struts mailing list was "when will it be done?" A few months after any release I remember seeing this question being asked about the next version or point release. As regular as clockwork this question would come up time and time again. The impressive thing was that the answer was always the same. The answer was always "when it's done!"

Even a superficial consideration of the question leads to the conclusion that it's the only answer that can realistically be given. If a project team sets out to perform a certain unit of work, then they either perform it or they don't. It's a binary issue and that unit of work is delivered or it isn't. While I understand that life brings surprises and plans can change, the work is still either done or it isn't. Sometimes those life surprises are bigger than expected and the plans have to change and the unit of work is modified and that will affect the estimated completion date (remember, an estimate is only a wild guess in a suit) because the work is still done when it's finished. Even changing scope does not eliminate the binary nature of the matter.

All Apache projects are done when they're done. Period. Apache projects carry a heavy expectation of excellence. I know that even back in the 1.0 days of the Struts web framework, I was able to rely upon it totally for the system that I was the tech lead over. In fact we even went to production with a beta version of Struts 1.1 as the quality was so high that I couldn't see any reason not to use it while I waited for the final 1.1 release.

The Apache projects know what the right thing is and they stick to their guns. They know that they pick a unit of work to perform. They work on it until it is finished to their satisfaction and only then do they release it to the waiting world.

Sadly, the concept of "it's done when it's done" is foreign to the modern Information Technology manager. Modern Information Technology projects are all driven by deadlines; arbitrary deadlines at that. I'm working on just such a project now, fixing a compliance issue with our widget sales. We're already out of compliance, but the management thinking was that it should be fixed by the end of the year so that we'd be compliant next year. There was no examination of whether that was doable by a single developer still getting used to the system in question and for which there are no tests so who knows if anything gets broken? Management says proceed because it's more important to be seen to be fixing the issue even if it's a hurried fix that might in turn need to be fixed.

I don't think I could begin to count the number of timeframe driven decisions that I have witnessed or have heard details of from reliable sources that I trust. These decisions have a long history of turning out badly, but because the pain is felt by the programmers, the managers find them most agreeable.

This is root cause of technical debt. Information Technology management making bad decisions based on a desire to get things done "at the speed of business" and then not feeling any of the follow-up pain of those decisions. And the punditry wonder why there are falling numbers of programmers. I know that I've advised my little geeklets to not even think of working in Corporate America and especially not Information Technology. Even just last week I was chatting with co-workers about Corporate Escape Routes; just how do we tunnel out of the cubes that are our prison cells?

So, how does a deadline driven approach to project management, the way that it's implemented in Corporate America today, cause technical debt?

Let me start by saying that deadlines aren't all bad, especially if they are determined by a careful examination of the amount of work that needs to be done and the availability of skilled programmers to do it. This is not how it's done in Corporate America today, so we'll skip straight to discussing "pick any two".


Information Technology is still a relatively new discipline, but it has been around long enough to have had classic project management principles applied to it. These principles tell us that there are three aspects to a project and that two can be tightly controlled at any time with the third varying depending upon the decisions you make on the two you choose to fix.

The three aspects of an Information Technology project are Scope, Time and Quality. Some people use the term Cost instead of Time, but Cost tends to vary in direct proportion to Time, so with the time obsession of Corporate America, it seems more appropriate to call that aspect Time. The interplay of these aspects are seen by way of tradeoffs. The more rigidly you fix any two of the aspects, the more the third one is left to vary.

A good example of an engineering tradeoff would be NASA. These folks put people into space and bring them back again alive and well. NASA fix Quality at it's maximum and Scope doesn't change because otherwise there's no point in the mission. This leaves Time/Cost as the variable. Of course, being a government agency, it seems like Time/Cost is the last thing they worry about anyway!

Now, in most Information Technology projects, and when I say most I mean every one that I've been on and just about everyone I've heard of from my contacts, the two fixed aspects are Time and Scope. As a motivational speaker that I heard many years ago said, "Every project starts out with a deadline and a name."

Even the Scope is not usually that well defined. Hence the large number of incidents of scope creep. It's not really scope creep ... it's more that the project was started before they knew what they wanted. This is the usual behavior of Information Technology management. They aren't sure what they want, but they're deadly certain about when they want it. To get a change in the planned project completion date usually requires a presidential declaration, delivered by pink pigs flying in formation with white unicorns.

This is why it's so dangerous to offer estimates to managers, because once they've heard a date inside the timeframe they wanted to hear, they stick to it like the proverbial limpet. I know that I've offered estimates to managers and have had the number halved right in front of me. Usually they say something to the effect that they had to do that as their manager wouldn't accept an estimate that large.

So with the Time aspect being cast in concrete and the Scope staying still at best and increasing under normal conditions, the only other aspect left that can vary is Quality. And the universal observation is that Quality will always very downwards. This fits with the law of conservation of energy. If Time is fixed and Scope tends to increase, then the only direction that Quality can go is down.

This concept does not seem to fit with the worldview of the average Information Technology manager. Funnily enough, everyone else seems to get it. I particularly like the way that the U.S. Navy SEALS express it: "Fast is slow. Slow is fast." When everything is melting down around you and you need something done right, then slow down, deliberately slow down and concentrate on doing the action slowly and correctly the way you would have done it in training and let the muscle memory take over. It will be done right (for whatever your definition of "it" is).

Information Technology managers are the reverse of the SEALS. When a problem occurs they switch into panic mode. Everyone is expected to stay late. Senior managers tend to start hovering outside the cubicles of those performing the fixes. Hourly status meetings get called and are conducted in stand-up fashion outside the fixer's cube.


I'm going to wrap up with an example currently being worked on by others while I relax at my local Starbucks and enjoy a cup of coffee. The core pricing module for our widgets is broken for the introduction of a new widget. It is blowing up when pricing is requested for that widget. I'm in the process of coming up to speed on this module myself and so I know that there are zero unit tests in the code base. I have written tests for all of the code in the area that I'm working on, but these have not been promoted into the main code base yet. The lack of unit tests means that there are no areas that can be considered as bug free. So the bug could be anywhere. (Where there are good unit tests, there can be no bugs!)

It would seem that the problem involves a NullPointerError, so the chances are good that some domain object is being incorrectly initialized. Unfortunately no one knows which one it is because none of our domain objects have any kind of guard conditions for their input values. Any of our domain objects can be in any condition. There are no guarantees that they are ever in a valid state.

The decisions to have no tests and no guard conditions to force data integrity are the result of previous bad decisions motivated by the desire to get stuff done quickly. These decisions have consequences, we know these as Technical Debt, and those consequences have grown large teeth and claws and have developed a taste for untested code. In this core pricing module the untested code stretches as far as the eye can see.

Bon Appetite Mr. Consequence!

Saturday, July 26, 2008

The Fastest Guys on the Block

A classic of the Internet. I was reminded of this one the other day. Read and enjoy! :-)

There were a lot of things we couldn't do in an SR-71, but we were the fastest guys on the block and loved reminding our fellow aviators of this fact. People often asked us if, because of this fact, it was fun to fly the jet. Fun would not be the first word I would use to describe flying this plane. Intense, maybe. Even cerebral. But there was one day in our Sled experience when we would have to say that it was pure fun to be the fastest guys out there, at least for a moment.

It occurred when Walt and I were flying our final training sortie. We needed 100 hours in the jet to complete our training and attain Mission Ready status. Somewhere over Colorado we had passed the century mark. We had made the turn in Arizona and the jet was performing flawlessly. My gauges were wired in the front seat and we were starting to feel pretty good about ourselves, not only because we would soon be flying real missions but because we had gained a great deal of confidence in the plane in the past ten months. Ripping across the barren deserts 80,000 feet below us, I could already see the coast of California from the Arizona border. I was, finally, after many humbling months of simulators and study, ahead of the jet.

I was beginning to feel a bit sorry for Walter in the back seat. There he was, with no really good view of the incredible sights before us, tasked with monitoring four different radios. This was good practice for him for when we began flying real missions, when a priority transmission from headquarters could be vital. It had been difficult, too, for me to relinquish control of the radios, as during my entire flying career I had controlled my own transmissions. But it was part of the division of duties in this plane and I had adjusted to it. I still insisted on talking on the radio while we were on the ground, however. Walt was so good at many things, but he couldn't match my expertise at sounding smooth on the radios, a skill that had been honed sharply with years in fighter squadrons where the slightest radio miscue was grounds for beheading. He understood that and allowed me that luxury. Just to get a sense of what Walt had to contend with, I pulled the radio toggle switches and monitored the frequencies along with him. The predominant radio chatter was from Los Angeles Center, far below us, controlling daily traffic in their sector. While they had us on their scope (albeit briefly), we were in uncontrolled airspace and normally would not talk to them unless we needed to descend into their airspace.

We listened as the shaky voice of a lone Cessna pilot asked Center for a readout of his ground speed.

Center replied: "November Charlie 175, I'm showing you at ninety knots on the ground."

Now the thing to understand about Center controllers, was that whether they were talking to a rookie pilot in a Cessna, or to Air Force One, they always spoke in the exact same, calm, deep, professional, tone that made one feel important. I referred to it as the "HoustonCenterVoice." I have always felt that after years of seeing documentaries on this country's space program and listening to the calm and distinct voice of the HoustonCenterControllers, that all other controllers since then wanted to sound like that... and that they basically did. And it didn't matter what sector of the country we would be flying in, it always seemed like the same guy was talking. Over the years that tone of voice had become somewhat of a comforting sound to pilots everywhere. Conversely, over the years, pilots always wanted to ensure that, when transmitting, they sounded like Chuck Yeager, or at least like John Wayne. Better to die than sound bad on the radios.

Just moments after the Cessna's inquiry, a Twin Beech piped up on frequency, in a rather superior tone, asking for his ground speed.

"Ah, Twin Beach: I have you at one hundred and twenty-five knots of ground speed."

Boy, I thought, the Beechcraft really must think he is dazzling his Cessna brethren.

Then out of the blue, a Navy F-18 pilot out of NAS Lemoore came up on frequency. You knew right away it was a Navy jock because he sounded very cool on the radios.

"Center, Dusty 52 ground speed check."

Before Center could reply, I'm thinking to myself, hey, Dusty 52 has a ground speed indicator in that million dollar cockpit, so why is he asking Center for a readout? Then I got it -- ol' Dusty here is making sure that every bug smasher from Mount Whitney to the Mojave knows what true speed is. He's the fastest dude in the valley today, and he just wants everyone to know how much fun he is having in his new Hornet.

And the reply, always with that same, calm, voice, with more distinct alliteration than emotion:

"Dusty 52, Center, we have you at 620 on the ground."

And I thought to myself, is this a ripe situation, or what? As my hand instinctively reached for the mic button, I had to remind myself that Walt was in control of the radios. Still, I thought, it must be done -- in mere seconds we'll be out of the sector and the opportunity will be lost. That Hornet must die, and die now.

I thought about all of our Sim training and how important it was that we developed well as a crew and knew that to jump in on the radios now would destroy the integrity of all that we had worked toward becoming. I was torn. Somewhere, 13 miles above Arizona, there was a pilot screaming inside his space helmet.

Then, I heard it. The click of the mic button from the back seat. That was the very moment that I knew Walter and I had become a crew. Very professionally, and with no emotion, Walter spoke:

"Los Angeles Center, Aspen 20, can you give us a ground speed check?"

There was no hesitation, and the reply came as if was an everyday request:

"Aspen 20, I show you at one thousand eight hundred and forty-two knots, across the ground."

I think it was the forty-two knots that I liked the best, so accurate and proud was Center to deliver that information without hesitation, and you just knew he was smiling. But the precise point at which I knew that Walt and I were going to be really good friends for a long time was when he keyed the mic once again to say, in his most fighter-pilot-like voice:

"Ah, Center, much thanks. We're showing closer to nineteen hundred on the money."

For a moment Walter was a god. And we finally heard a little crack in the armor of the HoustonCentervoice, when L.A. came back with,

"Roger that Aspen, Your equipment is probably more accurate than ours. You boys have a good one."

It all had lasted for just moments, but in that short, memorable sprint across the southwest, the Navy had been flamed, all mortal airplanes on freq were forced to bow before the King of Speed, and more importantly, Walter and I had crossed the threshold of being a crew. A fine day's work.

We never heard another transmission on that frequency all the way to the coast. For just one day, it truly was fun being the fastest guys out there.

Monday, July 21, 2008

Cute kitten story

LawDog seems cured of his writers block. And with a cat story to rank among the classics. Now I'll have to dust off some of my cat stories. Having previously been blessed by seven (sometimes eight) cats in a previous chapter of my life, I have a tale or two of my own.