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.