Thursday, March 22, 2012

The King is dead! Long live the King!

For one day, Chrome was the most-used browser, dethroning Internet Explorer.

The most interesting factoid to me, and one discussed briefly in the article, is that Chrome usage goes up on the weekends. One inference is that IE is becoming more and more a workplace browser, and individuals use so-called alternative browsers at home or where they have a choice.

Personally, I only use IE at work, because it just integrates better with some of our toolsets. On my work PC, I have all of the major browsers installed (IE, Chrome, Firefox, Safari, and Opera) for cross-browser functionality testing. IE is my default browser due to corporate AD GPOs, but my personal go-to browser is currently Chrome.

I've vacillated between Chrome and Firefox over the years, but Chrome wins for now. I guess I've been captured by the GoogleBorg.

QotD - Stepping on your Spiritual Toes Edition

Over on Facebook, John Piper posted an interesting thought:
Doing things in secret that you are ashamed for others to know is practical atheism. God's knowing doesn't count?
 Is he calling into question our salvation? Not at all. But how many of us have a secret sin, some foible that we are embarrassed about?

How often do we justify some activity by saying something like "Well, no one else knows" or "I'm not hurting anyone" or, even worse, twisting Scripture to our own ends to justify an activity ("It said not to drink to excess. 6 beers isn't excessive for me!").

Piper's point here is that yes, someone else knows. We are effectively denying God's existence by pretending He doesn't know what we're doing. It is practical atheism, as our practices and activities are denying the reality of God.

I don't know about you, but I didn't put on my steel-toed shoes this morning, and that one left a mark.

Dear Barnes & Noble - FIX THE NOOK COLOR!!!

I got a Nook Color for Christmas several years ago. I LOVE the thing, and I haven't even rooted it yet. With the wifi support, I can jump online just about anywhere. It has Flash support, which gives me a bit more flexibility and control than Apple products do (even though I loathe Flash). It has support for apps, though I don't like that I'm locked into B&N's app store, and don't have access to either the Android Marketplace or the Amazon store (and yes, I know if I root it it solves those issues, but that's beside the point).

But there is one thing about the device I DO NOT like, at all, period, end of story.

There is a software issue around battery life.

How do I know it's a software issue? Because a hard reset to factory defaults resolves the problem.

So, what's the problem with the battery? Well, occasionally the device will stop going into sleep or hibernate modes, even though the screen blanks out. This means battery consumption is going on at full tilt in the background, even though you think you shut it down. 8 hours or so later, you have a dead Nook. Recharge, wash, rinse, repeat. The only way to "fix" the problem is to do a hard reset to factory defaults.

Once you do that, say goodbye to your background, your desktop settings, basically any customizations you've made to your setup. You get to do all that again, and it can be a pain.

I had hoped the last OS patch would fix the problem, but evidently not, since it just happened to me again. At least this time, I've figured out the common cause, and least for every time I've experienced the issue.


Every time I've had the problem, it's after I've allowed the battery to run flat. Keep it charged up, and it keeps trucking. If a reset to factory defaults resolves the problem, then there must be a software fix that will resolve the problem.

B&N Engineering and Development and R&D, I'm looking at you guys. I've diagnosed it for you (but I'm going to guess you're already aware of it). Now reproduce the problem (won't take you more than 10 hours or so) and fix it.

I am waiting not-so-patiently.

Edited to add: The @NOOK_Care twitter feed provided me an email address to someone at B&N, and asked me to send them an email. I have done so, and will post any updates or replies that I receive.

Limber up your ankles. . . . . .

. . . . . .because this will get your toes to tapping.

If it doesn't, you might want Dr. J over at the Gormogons to use his force lighting to restart your heart.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Making government smaller

How do we make government smaller? Is it simply a matter of putting it on a diet or a budget? If we enforce laws that limit expenditures and growth, will that be enough?

I don't think so. I think we are getting exactly the government we deserve. Self-sufficiency and community have gone the way of the dodo bird. Instead of looking to friends, families and neighbors for a helping hand, we look to the State House or Washington instead.

And it's worse than that. Friends, families and neighbors frequently aren't there to help. How many of your neighbors do you know in a 2 block radius? There are ~60 families in our subdivision, and I know less than half of them. I know more people at my office than I do in my subdivision. As a society, we have crawled into holes and then pulled them in after us. We have rolled up our sidewalks, not just after 10:00 PM but all day long.

What happened to community block parties? What happened to gaggles of kids chasing each other throughout the neighborhood all day long? What happened to the days of getting home from school, dropping the backpack just inside the door and disappearing until mom called you in for dinner (and by called, I mean literally hollered from the front porch, not sent you an SMS)?

If we want to make government smaller, I think we have to make society bigger, and especially our churches. While government does overreach and inject itself where it's not needed, a lot of the intrusions start innocently, because there is a need to fill. Naturally, government thinks it can fill that need best. But what if the need was already being met, was not going unfulfilled? Then there is no impetus for government to act.

So, to make government smaller, we have to remove the need for government to act. How do we do that? We meet the needs of those around us, both physically and spiritually. Get involved in community outreach through your church. Donate food to the food bank and articles of clothing to the clothing closet. Volunteer in a soup kitchen. Get involved in clean-up teams.

And guess what? The size of the church doesn't determine how big it is. A 4,000 member megachurch that never steps outside its walls is a hovel. The 200 year old church with 50 faithful attenders that runs a soup kitchen is like a mansion. The size of the church doesn't matter as to its impact. And churches can partner together in ministry, even across denominational lines.

In short, we cannot in good conscience complain about the size and reach of the government when we ourselves are not doing everything we can to remove the need for their involvement. Hilary Clinton was right all those years ago. It does take a village. But it takes a village free of government intrusion and control.

To make the government smaller, we have to get up off our couches, get into our community, and get involved. Not because the government has told us to, but because it's what we should do as friends and neighbors, as members of a community. Because it's what God has called us to do.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Thoughts on Binding Signage

One big area of discussion and even sometimes dissension within the gunnie community is around so-called "binding signage". For those that don't know, in some states and localities where the carriage of weapons is allowed (whether open or concealed), businesses are legally authorized to post signage banning weapons on their premises. Frequently, the formatting and textual content of the signs are regulated by statute.
Ohio Binding Signage
There are some gunnies that maintain that binding signage should be illegal, contending that it's an infringement on their right to keep and bear arms. I have heard others say something along the lines of "I don't care if they post or not. My gun's concealed, and they won't know if I'm carrying or not."

As much as I support the 2A and gun rights, I can't support this particular stance. What we're running into here is a collision or conflict of rights. I personally feel that a business owner should be able to set reasonable restrictions on his patrons, whether they are on attire, behavior or almost anything else. Freedom of Association and Freedom of Contract come into play here.

As gunnies, we absolutely have the right to protest, to send letters, to refuse to do business, and to encourage businesses to change their policies. What we don't have the right to do is ignore lawfully posted signage. We cannot, in good faith, argue that our rights should be respected while at the same time ignoring the rights of others.

Now, I think governmental entities should NOT be allowed to post binding signage. The Second Amendment, and similar state statutory and constitutional guarantees, are supposed to be checks on governmental overreach. Based on that, I don't think the government should be able to restrict the lawful carry of weapons on its properties.

The stickier proposition for me has to do with non-binding signage. They do not have legal force, but they are obviously expressing the proprietor's intentions. For example, in Kentucky the binding signage laws apply to concealed carry only. Theoretically, even if signage is posted, open carry is still permissible (the Commonwealth has constitutionally-protected open carry with full state preemption). That being said, if you open carry in there, you should be fully prepared to leave when asked. If you refuse to leave, you are now subject to criminal trespass statutes.

Here is my personal position on non-binding signage. I think gunnies should respect those signs. A business should be free to do business with whomever they desire, and should not have to do business with those they'd rather not. Obviously, if "no guns allowed" signs are actively proscribed by law, then that's a whole different scenario. But where the law is silent, we should be respectful of one another's positions.

Advocate for a business to change? Absolutely.

Completely ignore their wishes? Not so much.

We have other battles we should be fighting instead.

What should Christianity look like?

The economy in Greece is tanking (or has completely tanked, depending on your perspective). According to various accounts, the government makes it almost impossible for small businesses and entrepreneurs to start new ventures. The number of regulatory hoops that have to be negotiated is mind boggling.

Things have become so bad, small communities are returning to barter systems. According to this story from the Guardian, some are even creating their own electronic currency that are usable just within the co-op.

So, what does this have to do with Christianity? The Bible frequently admonishes us to take care of widows and orphans, to help each other. The Apostles pooled all their resources and lived communally.

So, what should Christianity look like? This:
"You are not poor when you have no money," she said, "you are poor when you have nothing to offer – except for the elderly and the sick, to whom we should all be offering." (emphasis mine)
Here is someone in the midst of a very trying economic time. The country they love is in turmoil. The world as they knew it has been turned on its head. They are trying to survive as best they can, yet they still feel an obligation to support the downtrodden.

That is the very picture of Christian compassion.

(h/t to Rod Dreher for the lead)

Monday, March 19, 2012

The problem with surveillance cameras

They see things that cannot be unseen.

Evidence for the prosecution:

I can neither confirm nor deny the existence of Storm Trooper armor at my domicile
(h/t to my friend Techie)

Did I sleep through a few months?

It's the middle of March. Why is the high for today supposed to be 80°?

I actually did my annual PM on the lawn mower this past weekend. I changed the spark plug, oil and air filter and sharpened the blade (note to self: it has some bad nicks, probably need to replace it next year).

I am actively planning on mowing the yard next weekend.

In March.

In Northern Kentucky.

Please tell me I slept through a few months and it's actually mid-May instead. Then this would all make sense.

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Lessons in Perspective

Today's lesson comes courtesy of some friends. Our friends have choir practice for the Passion Play this morning. Because it's a Saturday, the church is not providing child care/babysitting/whatever your want to call it.

Since our kids and their kids are such good friends, it was a no-brainer for us to invite them over for a mid-morning play date. 5 minutes after the number of children in the house doubled, I just started laughing. My wife looked at me and asked what was so funny.

I told her "Most people look at us and say 'Oh my! You have four kids?!?!?' At this moment, I'm thankful we ONLY have four kids."

Perspective, it's good to have some.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

By the power of. . . .what, exactly?

Society tells us that if we want to do something, if we want to accomplish something, if we want to be something, we must apply ourselves. Our success or failure is determined by our mindset, and by the power of our will.

Dan Millman, a self-help author, sums up this attitude:
"Willpower is the key to success. Successful people strive no matter what they feel by applying their will to overcome apathy, doubt or fear."
Marilyn Manson epitomizes this philosophy:
"I think every man and woman is a star. It's just a matter of realizing and becoming it. It's all a matter of willpower. The world is just how you see it. If you want to have other people tell you how to see it, then you can. But if you want to look at it differently, then it's limitless what you can do. That's why I don't feel the need to be one person. I can be as many people as I like."
As Christians though, we have to recognize this as a failed philosophy. We do all things through Christ who strengthens us (Philippians 4:13), and outside of Him we will fail. In Psalm 143:10, David appeals to God:
Teach me to do your will, for you are my God! Let your good Spirit lead me on level ground!
 Notice the critical difference. It is not our will that is important; it's God's will. True willpower is not exerting our own mind over our individual matter. Rather, it is learning to rely on God's will, to trust in His teachings, to trust in His will. After all, God tells us in Jeremiah 29:11:
For I know the plans I have for you, [...] plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.
If we learn to submit to His will, if we answer the question by claiming the power of the blood of Christ, then our paths will be made straight (Proverbs 3:6). After all, as Paul reminds us in Philippians 1:6, the good work begun in us by God will surely be completed. We need to "trust in the Lord with all [our] heart, and do not lean on [our] own understanding."

Otherwise, we're reduced to pulling out our magic sword, declaiming our special incantation, and waiting for our trusty pet Cringer to be transformed into a fearless Battle Cat.

Well, hello there!

(h/t to the Gormogons)

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

I guess I should "pin" all my hopes on humour posts

I've noticed in the last few weeks that my daily traffic has seen a bit of an uptick.

Now, this is a very low-rent blog, and I don't get a lot of traffic (guess I should post more, huh?), so even a small increase in hits is noticeable.

Digging through my sitemeter logs, I noticed lots of hits were going to this old post about Jesus and one set of footprints.

At first, I couldn't quite figure out what was drawing everybody over, but then I stumbled across one entry in the logs. Apparently, someone found the picture, liked it, and added it to one of their pinterest boards. From there, it's apparently been re-pinned several times.

I wish I could even claim credit for the pic, but I can't.

Overheard in the office

PM: The new servers are ready!
Me: c:\ping server1
Computer: Request timed out
Me: Hey PM, I can't ping the new servers.
PM: Hold on a sec. . .
PM: Um, yeah, they just told me they're not in DNS yet
Me: Then they're not "ready" are they?


No wonder my task list doesn't get any shorter.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Servant Leadership

This past Sunday, my church underwent a change in leadership. Our pastor of 27 years retired, and the new Senior Pastor was installed. The outgoing pastor brought a message exhorting the new pastor in his duties, based on 1 Peter 5:1 - 4. The text says
1 So I exhort the elders among you, as a fellow elder and a witness of the sufferings of Christ, as well as a partaker in the glory that is going to be revealed: 2 shepherd the flock of God that is among you, exercising oversight,not under compulsion, but willingly, as God would have you;not for shameful gain, but eagerly; 3 not domineering over those in your charge, but being examples to the flock. 4 And when the chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the unfading crown of glory. (ESV)
As I was reading the study notes on these verses, it occurred to me that not only does this scripture apply to  pastors (the meaning of 'elders' as used in this context), but it also applies to anyone in a servant leadership role. Throughout the rest of this post, I'll be referring to leaders instead of pastors.

The study notes in my bible indicate the versus 2 - 4 are an exhortation to leaders. In this exhortation, Peter calls out 3 warnings for leaders. In vs. 2, he says that leaders serve "not under compulsion, but willingly." Leaders should not be lazy in their tasks. They should not have to be forced to do anything, but they should willingly be doing the work to which they are called.

His second warning is also found in vs 2. Leaders should not be working "for shameful gain, but eagerly." There is nothing wrong with being well compensated for your work. However, that should not be your primary motivation. If you're just in it for the money, then you are not exhibiting true servant leadership, and your ministry will be hindered. Another aspect of this is shams and charlatans, those who are using their position of influence to unduly take property and possessions from others. For me, this brings to mind the worst excesses of the televangelists, and the scandals surrounding numerous ministries there.

Finally, Peter brings his final warning in vs 3, that leaders should not be domineering. Abusing your position to get control of a situation or person is not effective leadership. If you have to dishonestly manipulate your followers, you are not being an effective leader.

Why should servant leaders care about their leadership style? Why should they guard against these three temptations? Peter gives us the good news in vs. 4.
And when the chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the unfading crown of glory.
This primarily applies to pastors, who have been given stewardship over a portion of God's flock here on earth. Yet the Bible tells us frequently that our rewards are stored up in Heaven, that our eternal treasures are not here on earth. We are to be rewarded at the Judgement Seat of Christ.

How are being a leader wherever God has put you?

I dub thee. . . .

. . . . the Hydra of Lerna.

My task list at work, that is. It seems that no matter how many items I complete in a day and clear off, even more items are added.

I consider it a good week if I can just tread water, and keep it from growing more than 10%.

I know I should be thankful for the job security, but sometimes I wonder if we ever actually complete a project.

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Restoring my faith in humanity

Articles like this one make you think there's hope for this world after all.

A young child suffered a rude shock when her stuff was stolen:
A fundraiser that was supposed to help the family with Avery's medical bills turned into a nightmare when thieves stole the family's possessions out of their car.
 But then, a local businessman decided he could do something about it:
Blackwell — with the help of his employees — decided to not only replace Angie's iPad, but everything else that was stolen.
Thank you, sir, for the kind gesture of you and your employees.

Friday, March 9, 2012

What is your spiritual DNA?

I subscribe to Max Lucado's weekly devotional series, UpWords. The other week, his message was titled "Take Up Your Cross".

In that message, he introduced me to the concept of spiritual DNA. To determine your spiritual DNA, you need to answer three questions:
In what directions has God taken you?
What needs has God revealed to you?
What abilities has God given to you?
The answers to these questions define Direction, Needs, and Abilities, your spiritual DNA.

What is God calling you to do today? Are you listening? What do you need to change?

Tough questions, and the answers can be tougher.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Day 2

Day 2 of work crew volunteering. Did 3 jobs yesterday, and started a 4th. Going back to the 4th site today to finish it up, and they have a 5th already lined up. Some of the devastation I've seen is just mind-boggling. You look down in a hollow, and you see trees snapped like toothpicks 30 feet of the ground. Trunks splintered as if explosives went off in the middle. Debris is scattered everywhere. One house had the roof shifted almost completely off to one side. I saw piles of rubble that used to be barns and out-buildings. Probably the worst were the empty slabs or open basements. The houses were just GONE!

One praise is the area that was hit. This is a rural area, where most everyone is on acreage. Most of the property damage is trees, barns and outbuildings. Not as many houses as if it had hit a suburban development. The other big praise is the number of friends, families, and volunteers you see out there helping. A friend said he drove by a house Saturday that had lost its roof. There were 30 or 40 cars in the driveway, and by 2:00PM the roof was already back on.

The biggest blessing for me personally happened with one car. We were taking a break, having just finished up site #3, and getting ready to head to site #4. Some random car stops across the street from us, the driver rolls down his window, and he says "Thank you guys. Thank you for everything you're doing for this family, and for our community." Must have gotten some sawdust or something in my eye right about then.

Monday, March 5, 2012

Being a good neighbor

A community about 20 miles south of us got whacked pretty hard by the tornadoes last Friday. National Guardsmen were deployed, and a number of the roads are still closed to all but residents and work crews.

Our church, in conjunction with the local Baptist Association, is having a work day today, to help the town clean up from the wrack and ruin. I just finished lacing up my boots, and I'm about to head out the door to meet up with everyone.

Prayers for safety are much appreciated today!

Saturday, March 3, 2012


Peter over at Bayou Renaissance Man alerts us to experiments harvesting electricity from cockroaches.

His initial reactions are slightly different than mine:

I've already seen that movie, thank you very much
(picture source)
Seriously though, the tech looks pretty interesting. I don't have the background to determine the efficiencies of the process, but I wonder if that reaction chain could be replicated, instead of having to rely on the cockroaches themselves.

Friday, March 2, 2012

Bad news, good news, bad news

Bad news: tornado warnings in the area
Good news: they closed the office early
Bad news: my bus doesn't come for 10 more minutes

Problems With The National Popular Vote Act

I really wasn't planning on getting into the National Popular Vote Act. My intent yesterday was merely to highlight similarities in though processes in very different political arenas. However, a comment was left defending it yesterday, and I wanted to highlight some of the misapprehensions.

Before starting, though, I do want to reiterate that the Constitution grants states the power to determine how they will choose their electors. So, there are no direct Constitutional concerns with the NPVA. That being said, our system of electing the President is not one of direct election. We have the electoral college. When a citizen casts a vote, it is only nominally for the candidate. In reality, it is for an elector pledged to that candidate. The NPVA is trying to do an end-run on the electoral college system. If you want direct elections of the president, then amend the Constitution. But keep in mind that the United States was intended to be an amalgamation of states with loose federal control. The House of Representatives provides proportional membership, to keep the more populous states from running roughshod over everyone else, and the Electoral College provided the same protections for the electorate.

Now, let's start taking a look at the comment that was left.
Under National Popular Vote, every vote, everywhere, would be politically relevant and equal in every presidential election. Every vote would be included in the state counts and national count. No voter is disenfranchised. The candidate with the most popular votes in all 50 states and DC would get the 270+ electoral votes from the enacting states. That majority of electoral votes guarantees the candidate with the most popular votes in all 50 states and DC wins the presidency.
Every vote, everywhere today is politically relevant. Again, each STATE is electing a slate of electors that then vote for the President. We do not have direct elections. If you feel that voters are being disenfranchised under the current system, then propose that states adopt a proportional allocation of electors instead of using a "first past the post" all-or-nothing allocation. Further, from what I can see, the NPVA does not require a majority the popular vote, merely a plurality. So even if a candidate only receives 40% of the popular vote, with two other candidates each receiving 30%, the NPVA guarantees that he will win a majority of the electoral votes. Talk about the ultimate in disenfranchisement.
National Popular Vote would give a voice to the minority party voters in each state. Now their votes are counted only for the candidate they did not vote for. Now they don't matter to their candidate. Talk about disenfranchisement.
NPVA merely stands this argument on its head, potentially taking the voice away from the majority party voters in a state, by allocating their votes to the "national winner", even if he was different than the state winner. That's the travesty of NPVA. Again, the better way to fix this is to encourage states to adopt a proportional elector allocation. This would most likely achieve the goals of the NPVA (to guarantee that the electoral college winner and the national popular vote winner are the same) while still retaining the veracity of local votes.
In Gallup polls since 1944, only about 20% of the public has supported the current system of awarding all of a state's electoral votes to the presidential candidate who receives the most votes in each separate state (with about 70% opposed and about 10% undecided).
This does not mean that the NPVA is the answer. Again, not to flagellate a deceased equine or anything, but it seems the problem is more with a first past the post, winner takes all allocation of electoral votes. Fix that instead of telling me that my vote vote for a slate of electors (see, I'm not voting for the candidate, I'm voting for electors) could be rendered meaningless by a high-population state.

I will have more to say about some of their numbers-based arguments once I have a chance to pull together some statistics. But, work calls and I have to pay the bills first.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Whither Democracy?

According to Wikipedia, 8 states and the District of Columbia have signed on to the National Popular Vote Interstate Compact. The gist of this compact is that ALL of the electoral votes for participating states will be given to the candidate that receives the most popular votes nationally. Granted, states are free to allocate their electoral votes as they see fit, under Article II, Section I of the United States Constitution.

I have no issue with the legality of this Compact.  What bothers me is that it has the potential to invalidate the decision of that state's electorate. Your state voted for the Vesuvian candidate, but the Martian candidate won the most popular votes? Too bad, so sad. The State is going to stand for the Martian. Talk about the ultimate in voter disenfranchisement. Yet all the Right Thinking People hold this up as the ultimate in direct democracy.

Over in California, an experiment in direct democracy resulted in the passage of Proposition 8, which reserved the use of the term "married" for the union of 1 man and 1 woman. Setting aside any personal feelings about who should or should not be allowed to marry (or use the adjective 'married'), the people spoke, with 52% supporting amending the state constitution.

Yet Right Thinking People everywhere decried the result as a miscarriage of justice, and it was overturned in the courts.

Once again, we see that the will of the people is only to be respected when it aligns with the Correct Results®.