Monday, January 31, 2005

Nofollow And Links

Just one thing this morning. I have some work to do.

I've been meaning to get around to something for a while. It has been announced that Google and a number of other major search sites are going to be supporting a new attribute on html link tags, and it looks like this:


I'm sure you all know, but let me explain something to you anyway. Search engine ranking is often determined largely by how many people are linking to you. So if you have a thousand links to you, and someone else has ten, you're probably going to show up higher in the result set for searches. What this means is that if you link to something and critique it, you are actually increasing its search engine ranking. Adding this tag allows you to link to stuff you think is bad and not help them all at the same time.

Yes, I know some don't like the idea. But I do. The simple reason why is that it gives me more control over the effect that I have on the web. Yes, I know, I don't have much affect at all. But at least it gives me a little power!

Anyway, I heard about this through the Scobleizer. And he has some discussion there, as well as a link to a critique of the concept.

Sunday, January 30, 2005

This Is Just Pitiful

My brother sent me this link. I, frankly, find this to just be pitiful. Imagine you lose your job. Then someone calls you and offers you a job as a prostitute. And then, what if they took away your unemployment benefits if you refused to do the work? This article is saying that this is happening in Germany. Just sick.

Gilgamesh? That's a Surprise

Jim has pointed out a very surprising find. Have they found the tomb of Gilgamesh? You know, the one who stars in the epic. That is an incredibly old find, about 4500 years. I hope that's true. It would just be ultra cool. If you're not familiar with him, check out this summary at Wikipedia.

[Update: Oops. Mispoke. Gilgamesh may not have written the epic about him. Corrected above.]

Brazilian Anti-Microsoft Folks

The Four Questions pointed out a pretty interesting article. The gist of it is, well, that Brazil (and other countries) pay too much for Windows software when they could get away with much less if they go open source. I few thoughts were sparked by this and one by Joshua's comment.

1. For Joshua, I don't think the article was really about the open source communities views the Bush administration. I got the impression it was more about leftist groups and poorer countries like Brazil. Now, granted, I have noticed that there is a preponderance of non-Bush fans among programmers, OS and otherwise. I haven't figured out why yet, though. But I don't think that is the phenomenon you're really seeing in the article. But, then again, it doesn't really say who the "Leftists" are in the article. I could be wrong.

2. I find the guilt by association very interesting. I'm not sure what connection there is between Bush and Gates. Do they just represent the man who is against the poor and downtrodden to them? Dunno. It is really unnecessary to do this. But it's smart. Just associate Gates with someone people hate, like Bush, and you've got an automatic argument against Gates and Windows. It's not that I agree (I like Bush and Microsoft a great deal, even though I don't agree with what either do all the time); it's that it is terrific rhetoric and manipulation.

3. One place that the open-source community, I think, does shy away from (and if they're smart, do shy away from) is capitalism bashing. The article mentions them being against "unbridled capitalism," as if Microsoft is truly unbridled (yes, I'm sure they may not be bridled enough...). But this is not really a smart way to go. Several thoughts here. There's way too much of open source that IS built upon capitalistic principles/practices. Also, American capitalists open-source dudes need to remember it is capitalism that pays them. And finally, I bet if the other companies that complain now were in Microsoft's position, they probably wouldn't be complaining so much. Sure, I don't like everything they do. But they are brilliant businessmen. And if Sun, Apple, etc. had the success Microsoft has had, because they probably have some smart businessmen on their side, they would behave in some ways similarly. Sure, this is about "unbridled capitalism", but you get my meaning. Capitalism is not evil.

4. I think that Linux vs Windows is a significant issue in American business, and it needs to be handled on a case-by-case basis. Tell me that Microsoft should be done away with and only the Linux flavors should rule and I'll tell you that you underestimate how much Windows has Linux on useability, ease of maintenance and upgrade, backwards compatibility, etc. when it comes to the average dude out there. If you tell me Linux an open source should be done away with, I'll say that you don't see how vitally important it is for the American economy and technological progress that Windows has a competitor.

Now, that being said, I think it would be easier to make a case for making Linux the foundation of your enterprise in countries that aren't as developed, and here's my assumptions (though many would challenge some of them, I'm sure) which I will build my argument on in a moment:
a) I really think Windows is at least a little easier to use.
b) The main cost in America is the cost of employing people.
c) The main cost in developing countries in a business would more likely be software than it would be employment costs.

If these are true, as I think they are, a case can be made in American business because of a) and b) that Windows is a better solution a lot of the time. That is, actually, one of Microsoft's marketing strategies in this regard. But in the case of a developing country, it is probably c) that is true, not b). In such a case it will much more often be more beneficial in terms of cost-benefit analysis to go with Linux and other open-source solutions. If it takes longer to deploy, fine. You're labor is cheaper, and you can more likely afford it. Have the employees learn Linux, even if it takes longer, because the cost of the longer training may easily offset the costs of higher priced software.

My two cents.

Saturday, January 29, 2005

Bloggers and Blog Places of Interest

I've recently ran across a few blogs that I thought some of you might be interested in.

World Events

The blog site "Friends of Democracy" is run by some folks who live in Iraq. Over the last week or so they've been reporting on thoughts re: the upcoming election among the general Iraqi public. Interesting stuff.


If you live in a major city, you might find this useful. A friend pointed out to me. The nifty thing about it is that they publish an rss feed for traffic reports. And since they've got one for Dallas, that's really convenient for me! So, if you live in a big city, yours might be on the list. Check it out.

Code Monkeys

For all you code monkeys out there, let me draw your attention to two sites. First is the blog of a friend and fellow .NET coder, Chris Hockenberry. His blog is called Darth Coder. Lately he's been posting about the new versions of Sql Server and Visual Studio that are coming out soon. Cool stuff.

Also, note the blogs. It's pretty obvious what that's all about. It's a bunch of coders.

Well...there you go...

Tuesday, January 25, 2005

Yushchenko's Inaugural Address

I just ran across of a translation of Yushchenko's inaugural address as the President of Ukraine (Thanks Le Sabot Post-Moderne). I found it to be inspiring. Freedom is spreading.

On a Good Xml Format, ZHubert, and Webservices

As I've said before, I am very glad to see that Zack Hubert is making his data available through Xml. The inevitable question comes when you're dealing with Xml, what schema will you follow? That's a good question...

But first, let me back up. Why should data be made available though Xml webservices? First, this means I can use your data and you can use mine, and I don't have to go to the trouble of installing it first on my server. That's convenience. Second, if I want to use your data, and I have a copy of your data on my server, if you change your data, mine doesn't get updated. But if I get your data via webservices, then when you change your data I get all the latest and greatest immediately. Third, we get platform independence. Zack wrote his site in PHP. I just wrote a library for getting Zack's data that parses it and creates nice little objects for me to use in a .NET application. I wrote this in C# (and if anyone wants the library, just ask; I'll put it up on the web at some point for download, but I can email it before then). It just doesn't matter that we're writing our stuff on different platforms. Xml helps solve the platform proliferation issue.

So I think this is a really good thing what Zack is doing. But now we have to deal with the whole schema issue. Zack had two comments on his blog entry on this issue. First, someone mentioned using a TEI standard for the format. I've only looked at the TEI stuff for a minute, but I didn't really see anything that fit. But, I'm going to email the author of the comment right after I do this to see if he sees something that I don't. I will, of course, let everyone know if something can be found. Another recommendation was OSIS. Now, I really like OSIS quite a bit, but I don't think their schema handles morphological data. It's a very rich schema for marking up texts, but it's not for this kind of data (unless I'm missing something). I would not be surprised if they extended it or came up with a different schema for that. I had a brief discussion with Lowery on the issue at SBL last year, and he said they're working on schemas for syntactical markup, so I imagine they would cover this kind of data as well. But, for the moment, I'm not sure they have anything that fits.

But also note that, ultimately, we don't have to pick a particular schema. If there were multiple standards that would work well, then our projects could target all of them. It means more development time, but there's really no reason to choose one over another necessarily.

So what do we do? I'm open to other suggestions, but in lieu of such a standard we'll have to come up with one. As much as possible, though, I would say that we stick with OSIS practices. For example, let's do stuff like use their abbreviations for books (under "Normative Abbreviations for canonical and deuterocanonical books" in their manual) and follow camel casing for multi word elements ("thisisanelementname" vs. "thisIsAnElementName").

But, as I said, I'm open for suggestions. And due to the nature of the beast, this is something that should be decided in community. So, all you techies out there, speak up!

Monday, January 24, 2005

Always Glad to Hear...

...that alchohol in moderation is good for the body and brain. Ran across this sometime today:

Meet the Co-Creator of Firefox

So, for all you Firefox fans out there (and may you increase!), did you know your favorite browser was co-created by a 19 year old? Slashdot points to an article about Key Biscayne, this obviously talented young fellow. I wish I had started programming at his age...

Another Sowell Responds

My brother took the time to write a letter to the editor of the Herald Mail Online publisher and quoted the thing in full in the comments on my Fundamentalism and the Dark Ages post. Since I liked it so much, and since a lot of people don't read comments on other people's blogs, I decided to post the thing in full.


[Below is my letter to the editor response to the article in the Herald-Mail Oline.]

After reading Allan Powell's Jan. 23 article, Fundamentalism: A return to Dark Ages, my impression was that Mr. Powell is a liberal in desperate need of a liberal education. I would like to make a few points:

One, Powell's perception of those he calls "fundamentalists" is a caricature. There are a very large number of people who are Christians and who voted for Bush and who agree with fundamentalists on a number of issues who are not fundamentalists, either because they don't believe in creationism (which I reject myself), or don't accept fundamentalism's first principles (e.g. its rejection of the role of tradition). He repeatedly argues that reason and empirical science should trump those who disagree with him, amazingly unaware that many who do are themselves hard-core empiricists. Few people who voted for Bush fit Powell's description.

Nor does Powell accurately describe the political agenda of those with whom he disagrees. On the issue of public schools, for example, the problem is that the current educational system subjects students to a holistic, Christianity-free process which monopolizes tax money and time that parents cannot effectively counteract. Leveling the playing field, not abolishing public schools, is what evangelicals seek. Powell should read more widely on a subject matter before his mischaracterizes the beliefs of others.

Two, Powell, like Bishop Spong, misuses the word "literal" when applying it to Biblical interpretation. Whether a specific passage in any text, including the Bible, is to be taken literally or metaphorically depends on context. There are many Biblical passages which are obviously to be taken as metaphors or allegories. There is therefore no such thing as a "literal" or "non-literal" interpretation of the Bible as such.

Three, Powell mocks a 9-year-old girl for believing in something because her parents taught it to her. He should consider the importance of tradition in society (as should fundamentalists). Were it not for tradition - normative conventions accepted based upon communal authority - then no society could function as every generation would have to reinvent civilization. Tradition can, of course, be wrong, and must be tempered with reason. Yet tradition at least is based on the accumulated experience of multitudes, and should be given due weight against the radical visions of avant-garde theorists who envision a different society.

Kirk H. Sowell

This Just In: Blogging Decreases Productivity

Actually, not necessarily. I guess it just depends on what you call productivity. I was actually indending to get a lot done this morning, but I spent all morning either reading blogs or typing one big entry.

Also, I want to comfort my readers. I realized after I made this morning's post that, given it and my long SBL resolution post, I will likely be viewed from now on as a right-wing nut job. Well, I asked my carpooling buddy Mike C. to see if I was one. He said I wasn't, so take comfort.

Also, I find this to be an interesting trend. All my time in seminary, it seems, I found myself constantly critiquing evangelicalism and especially old-school dispensational thinking. Now I find myself defending evangelicalism (but not dispensationalism). Odd. Now, to work.

Fundamentalism and the Dark Ages

Jim West noted an article (by Allan Powell) about fundamentalism and evangelicalism yesterday that basically expresses the idea that evangelicalism/fundamentalism is a return to the Dark Ages. I must say that I, in general, agree with Michael Pahl's critique, though I do want to add some thoughts, some different but some similar to Pahl's (though I'm sure he won't agree with everything I say). And I'll try not to make this a rant.

But before I say my thoughts, I'll briefly mention my perspective so you'll know where I am coming from. I come from evangelical roots (grew up Southern Baptist, went to a SBC university). I went to an evangelical seminary (DTS). I think I know evangelicals pretty well. But at the same time I'm not completely comfortable with American evangelicalism, but mostly because of differences in understanding regarding the nature of Scripture. By many American evangelicals I wouldn't be considered very evangelical at all, though I get along just fine with evangelicals who aren't so uptight in that regard. I do agree with most evangelicals to a large degree on issues in the realm of both politics and theology, though I wouldn't feel comfortable with how they formulate their thinking in lots of areas. So that let's you see my own presuppositions.

According to the article, evangelicals/fundamentalists are a brash and haughty bunch. That is sometimes true. But, personally, if I were to find a fault with evangelicalism it would be the "anti-intellectual, anti-rational and anti-science" bit that the author spoke about. Evangelicalism is often (though certainly not always) too anti-intellectual. As for haughtiness, I find it to be as much of an issue amongst the enlightened liberals like Powell than I do with evangelicals, though continuing in these broad strokes will really do no one any good at all. The reason evangelicals look more haughty than they are, I think, is a misunderstanding of how their thinking really works.

For example, the author assumes that a move toward exclusivism is necesarily a move toward being filled with hubris. Let's take a step back for a second and look at a hypothetical situation. First, let's assume for the sake of argument that naturalism may not be true (as the author would seem to be assuming) and that God exists. Second, let's say that an individual is given a particularly convincing sign from God that he exists, and that all other faith paths outside of faith in Jesus Christ are all futile. Third, we'll assume such a person believes the message.

Now, in this example, is that person filled with hubris? I really don't think so. "But you're making all sorts of assumptions, and this is a completely different case than what Powell is talking about" says the antagonist. Yes, I am making assumptions, but no more so than the author. But, and this is the point I'm trying to get at, this is NOT a completely different case. Evangelicals today probably haven't themselves received a sign from God personally (like I have not), but are quite convinced that some people did 2000 years ago. And some believe that not only because they look at historical and logical arguments to say that happened (and many evangelicals or like-minded do think through history, logic, science, etc.), but because they too think that God speaks to them through His Spirit. I, for example, believe that Christ is the only way to a right standing in God's plan. I do it for intellectual reasons. I also do it for subjective reasons. Because of this, it's not always a case of pure pride that leads evangelicals and those like them to be as fervent as they are. It may just be some convincing intellectual arguments stacked on top of a relationship that we think we have with the creator.

Now, the antagonist will want to attack such a worldview in a number of places. Go ahead. But once you start doing so, I think you're going to have to assume that evangelicals are more complex than Powell is assuming. It's not just intellectual pride that drives them.

Now back to exclusivism. As said above, I don't think exclusivism is necessarily a sign of haughtiness. It can have its roots in something else entirely, that is, the belief that God has revealed himself through a particular revelation (like that found in the Bible). And it doesn't have to breed incurable disharmony among people of different faiths. For example, two friends of mine (both "evangelicals" who were not seminary trained) and I attended meetings with some Muslim folks for over a year to talk about the differences between the two faiths. All three of us were convinced, and remain convinced, that if they do not repent they will fall under the judgment of God. And they thought similarly. Were their tense times? Yes. Were we able to have good discussions for a long time? Yes. Are we the only evangelicals/like-minded folks who can do that? Of course not.

And what about the child? Well, I intend to teach my son and my soon-to-be-born daughter that no one can come to God except through Christ. Will I teach them this based on creating a huge foundation of intellectual arguments? Of course not, because they won't be able to handle that when they're young. I'll train them up in what I think is true hoping that when the time comes they will embrace it themselves. What is the alternative. Not let my child make any statements about God till he's out of college or something? That's a good plan if you assume faith should only be based on intellectual arguments. If you think it can be based on an encounter with God through His Spirit, then you realize that this kind of faith can happen long before a child can wrestle with the historical, scientific, and logical issues that arise when thinking about faith. But, then again, I don't assume naturalism as does the author of the article.

Okay, I'm going to start being really brief. So, science and theories of creation should not be in the realm of religion in any way. Creationism has no place in science? Recently Flew, a rather ardent atheist, decided that the intelligent design folks weren't so wrong. Maybe there is a place for other theories, other than evolution, in the nation's classrooms.

And finally, this is just the thing that makes me think that the real hubris is in Powell. "Thinking will cure evangelicalism." Is this conclusion obvious to anybody but myself? Granted, more different thinking will help evangelicals tremendously. I can't tell you how many times in seminary that I wanted to yell out "that's the dumbest argument I've ever heard" to an evangelical professor or student. I disagree with a great deal of evangelical thinking. But to say that the difference resides mainly on the level of thinking is just plain wrong. I've met a lot of them. There are a lot of evangelicals who are really good thinkers, professors and regular church-goers. The difference is primarily a difference of starting points and assumptions. Granted, there are a lot of evangelicals who don't think very deeply. But there are a lot of non-evangelicals who don't either.

Well, I need to go to work. In summary, I'll say this: either Powell is painting in such broad strokes that he is making me think that he doesn't understand evangelicalism, or he doesn't understand it in reality. I get the impression that it is the latter.

Sorry about the wordy post. Comments are welcome.

Friday, January 21, 2005

Updated "Feed Readers" Post

Based on some recommendations for feed readers I updated my post on the topic. Thanks, guys.

James Ossuary Forger Indictment

It's good to see the actual text of the indictment (here at Ralph the Sacred River) regarding the forgery of the Ossuary of James.

Free Culture by Lessig

Listened to a presentation from OSCON 2002 by Lawrence Lessig about free culture, something recommended by Miguel de Icaza on his blog. I do recommend it as just about everything in it is applicable to copyright discussions on any subject, be it code, publishing, music, etc.

I'm still trying to think through the best way to present my own views on the subject. In the case of code, some would push towards complete openness. Some are completely closed source. Many are a combination of the two. In regard to data, some are open, some are completely restrictive, some are a mix. What is the best way? I tend to think it depends on multiple factors. One day I'll solidify my thoughts on this more and post about it. Until the presentation!

Tuesday, January 18, 2005

FWDNUG Mono Presentation

Tonight I had one of those I-wish-I-could-spend-more-time-playing-with-Mono moments. Paco Martinez (his blog is here), a Mono contributor, gave a very interesting presentation to FWDNUG tonight (on Mono, of course). It was an hour and a half drive for me, but it was worth it.

Highlights? Here are a few. First, he explained how the two stacks of Mono. As any of you who are familiar with the project know, Mono is built off of the .NET standards submitted to ECMA. Everything there is free for them to implement with no real fear of possible lawsuit. On top of that, though, they have two different "stacks", or library sets. The first set includes Windows Forms, ASP.NET, and ADO.NET. The other set includes libraries from the non-Microsoft world (GTK, a Novell library, etc.). This is to protect them in the case of someone raising the issues of legality. If such appears, they would have a large set of libraries to use that could not be affected. Smart thinking.

Second, I really enjoyed how he showed us that code compiled on Windows ran on Linux. Mono/Microsoft .NET code (C#, VB.NET, whatever) is compiled to IL (Intermediate Language). The Mono and Microsoft compilers output compatible IL, which means that an exe or dll compiled on Windows can be brought directly into the Linux environment and ran, without any extra compilation. I really thought that was cool. He said he was going to bring a Mac to the PDNUG meeting in March. I'm looking forward to that.

Third, I'm just glad I got to meet him. I really enjoy meeting people in the blogosphere, especially when they work on such cool stuff! Enjoyed it and looking forward to March.

For all you programmers out there, here's a good solution for cross-platform development. Here's a good solution for programming in general. You should take a look at it.

Monday, January 17, 2005

Woohoo! Zhubert Has a Webservice!

This just makes me incredibly happy. And yes, this shows you that I'm still way behind on my blogging.

Zhubert is now making his data available as xml. See his post to get more details. I'll definitely be doing this for the NET GEMS project when we go public with our data. And I want to see others do it as well. Major, major, major kudos for Zhubert. Now, two thoughts...

Ultimately, the goal is that resources need to be accessible programmatically on the web in a structured format, and xml is a great way to do it. Most webservices out there user SOAP as their method of building webservices. That's what .NET 1.1 seems to do by default, and I've heard it's a little of a hassle to do otherwise. The webservices I've done have all been .NET to .NET, and it has worked great and is very simple. Zhubert's doesn't use SOAP, but that's just fine. I can use it as is, and will hopefully be able to do so sooner rather than later. And I'm not sure there is any real advantage in this case for you to mess with SOAP.

Also, what shall we standardize for passing this data back and forth? That is a good question. The first comment on your entry (by Anonymous) mentions OSIS. There is a lot of great stuff about OSIS. It's a good standard. And it's a standard, which is always good to have. I plan on outputing NET GEMS data in an OSIS format if one exists for the data (which is not the case at the moment, I do not believe -- no syntactical markup standards are available to my knowledge). But, I think Zhubert is right. There is a lot of overhead there. I would suggest making the data available in both OSIS format and a simpler format as well. That's my plan.

New Blogs and Stuff

Though I am refraining from commenting at the moment (though thanks to those who still encourage me to do so - you make me feel good), Goodacre has weighed in with his opinion.

Also, there are some new blogs afoot that are of interest. The first two don't really look new, but they're new to me. They actually come from Goodacre's post, one is Canonist and another, which is from the Canonist blog is Apikorsus. Hopefully they'll have some entertaining and educational things to say to the world.

I am most excited to hear of the new Macbiblioblog. In his scope post he mentions what he is most interested in blogging about, and I am interested to hear what he has to say in all cases (except maybe Applescript...). It is also good to see another DFW biblioblogger. It seems we have a growing number. What's wrong with the rest of the world? :) Good to have you online, Joe.

New .NET MySql Connection Library

For all you .NET/MySql folks out there, apparently MySql has come out with a new version of their .NET library last month for connecting to their database. I've been using their older library, so this is nice to see.

Thanks, Paul, for the link.

Feed Readers

This post is a continuation of a series that I started, well, not long after I started blogging. That was a little while ago. The series is "Into to Blogs and Blogging." If you are new to blogs and blogging, I recommend it. It only has four short entries now (as of this posting), but it is a start.

This is about Feed Readers (also called aggregators). When I say "feed reader", I'm talking about a program that you can use to be automatically reminded when a site changes. Some sites publish, or make available for feed readers, notifications about their content. News organizations, blogs, regular old sites, etc., use feeds to alert their fans when something new is available. These feeds are normally done by using either RSS or ATOM.

How do feed readers do this? They subscribe (I'm sure that you see the similarity with how newspapers work). A site makes its content, or announcements of its content, available in a feed. You come along with your feed reader and get the web address of that feed, give that to your feed reader, and voila! If you open up your feed reader, you'll be alerted if something has changed on the site. Cool, huh?

Another nice feature of feed readers is that they will often occassionally poll the site/blog to see if they have updated their content. My feed reader checks my feeds once every hour. So if I have my feed reader on, I get notified every hour of new stuff. That's pretty cool.

But why would you want this?

First, obviously, it is convenient. Let's say you have five sites that you like to keep up with, and all of these sites publish feeds of some sort. If you don't have a feed reader of some sort you'll have to actually visit all of these sites to see if something new has shown up. But if you have a feed reader,

Second, it is a huge time-saver if you have a lot of sites you like to check. I have almost a hundred feeds that I'm currently subscribed to. I just don't have time to go to all of those sites every day to see if they have new content. But with a feed reader, I don't have to.

Third, most of them should keep track of what you've read. The one I use collects the feeds for me and keeps track of which announcements I have read and haven't read. That's very convenient. When I want to make and entry in my blog about one, I just be sure to keep it in the feed reader. When I've blogged it, I delete it from the program. It is a great organizational tool.

Fourth, often it turns out to be a one-stop-shop for your content. Most blogs publish their entire entries in their feeds. That means you not only get the announcement; you get the content. 99% of the blogs I read, I read in my feed reader. Generally, this is not the case for non-blogs. The websites I subscribe to don't generally have full content announcements because the content is full-length articles. But when this is the case you'll generally have a link to click on to get the real deal.

What feed readers would I recommend? I user SharpReader. It works very well for me and I like it a lot. Other's I've heard of are Newsgator and Bloglines. The first two are windows applications you download and install on your computer. The latter is a web-based feed reader. Whatever your preference, both are available.

The only negative thing about feed readers is you get less exposure to the artistic merit that some blogs possess. Mine, well, is quite ugly and boring. But a lot of people put quite a bit of work into making their blogs look nice. You don't generally get this in feed readers. But, if you have to either look at their artwork or be able to read their content, then the latter is the obvious choice.

[UPDATE 1/21/2005]
A couple of you gave some recommendations for feed readers. Thanks.

toph.thoughts, a reader from Germany, recommended both Sage and Live Bookmarks. Both are add-ins to my favorite browser, Firefox.

Doug Chaplin also recommended FeedDemon (not free).

I've used Sage before, but not the other two. I'll be sure to check them out. Thanks.

Sunday, January 16, 2005

Darth Tater

Thanks to my bud Kris Pate for this link. Very funny.

Split Up Iraq?

I'd never thought of splitting up Iraq among ethnic lines until just the other day. So, I decided to ask my own personal expert in middle-eastern culture, language, and history -- my brother. He graciously blogged about it. I recommend his blog for all those who are interested in what's going on in the Middle East.

As it turns out, I guess it's a bad idea to split it up. Thanks, Kirk.


I, once again, had the pleasure of going to Saltgrass. I love Saltgrass. The best steak I've ever had was from Pappas Bros, but this is no doubt the best steak house I go to regularly. If I go, I always get the Pat's Ribeye or the Prime Rib. The last several times I've gotten the prime rib. Definitely the best prime rib I've ever had (though, admittedly, I haven't had all that much -- usually a ribeye kinda guy).

Anyway, I learned something very useful. My dad asked about their seasoning. Now, my favorite seasoning is that produced by Texjoy. Conceivably, this steak seasoning could endanger Texjoy's rank as the greatest of all steak seasoning companies. But, when we looked on the label, we found that Texjoy mixes Saltgrass' "Seven Spice" steak seasoning for them. So, Texjoy still rules the world, as far as I am concerned. If you haven't had Texjoy, and you grill steaks, you must try it. It is the best.

I also learned a little bit about how they prepare the prime rib. But, maybe later...

Mono Comes to North Dallas

I've read some very good news for you Mono-types out there who live in North Dallas. Paco Martinez (his blog is here) will be giving a Mono presentation at the Fort Worth .NET Users Group Meeting this week (see details here). I'm planning on taking a road trip over there with two buds. If anyone is going to be there that I might know, i.e., any of you bloggers out there that read this blog, be sure to tell me. I'd like to meet you.

Also, Paco will be doing a presentation at the Plano DNUG meeting in March (keep your eyes on this site for details). I'm so happy.

Friday, January 14, 2005

The Coming Silence on the SBL Memo

Well, it appears that someone, and it is probably I, has bothered Jim of the Biblical Theology blog about commenting on the SBL note without being a member. I guess, since I was a member, and continue to go to the meetings even though I'm not currently a member, it felt natural to comment. But I think he has a point. If it is not yet meant for public announcement, I don't need to be commenting on it (unless I go ahead and cough up the funds to rejoin). So, I'll hold myself back unless something changes (it goes public or I renew my membership). Sorry for perturbing anyone.


I think the concept of a wiki is a really good one. I dig it. So, I decided to look into using a wiki to start creating documentation for the NET GEMS project.

And just because I'm a .NET guy and naturally biased to a certain degree to things written in .NET, I decided to try out FlexWiki. Installation was simple. I just downloaded the pre-built distribution, put it in a directory, setup that directory in IIS as a virtual directory, and voila! It worked. Good stuff. You can also download the code itself, which I will probably do. But it is simple to setup if you just get the pre-built distribution.

I also really dig the feature that lets me use my rss feed reader to keep up with changes. I totally dig that...

Religious Politics, Part 2

Okay, so I've had a night to cool off from my last rant. Cool down. I had two thoughts this morning.

It doesn't bother me so much that they disagree with me. On the contrary, that's what I look for in a professional society of thinkers. I will not grow as a thinking individual if I just sit around with people who always nod their heads and say "Yes, Eric, of course you're right." Wrong. I NEED people disagreeing with me. What I don't like are false assumptions and blanket statements about me and those like me that basically state my ideas are probably rooted in falsehood of some sort. This goes back to the "don't insult me; talk to me" thing.

Second, I just find it highly ironic that the society would pick this to unite on and not, say, something like the belief in the existence of God. Of course they CAN'T unite on that, just like they can't truly unite on politics (though they can apparently get a majority). The society is a loosely coupled group of scholars who meet to discuss, not canonize, points in regard to the Bible and related literature. And it needs to stay that way. And I need something like SBL. I couldn't sign ETS' doctrinal statement, so I don't have the option of making it my society of choice.

I would voice my response directly, but I have let my membership lapse. Not for political or religious reasons, but just because I've needed to save money. This year I was able to get into the annual meeting as an exhibitor with the NET Bible folks, so I wasn't required to sign up to get in. But, I've been meaning to renew. And I'm not going to let something like this stop me.

Thursday, January 13, 2005

Religious Politics

Ed Cook posted a very disturbing survey. According to Ed, SBL has come out with a survey that I find annoying. Please read it before you read on.

I'm sorry, but whoever came up with this survey needs to be flogged severely. This survey is just wrong on so many levels.

1. They apparently wanted to trump Dan Rather on coming out with biased content. Are they unaware that a large number of their membership (surely a minority, but not a really small number I'm sure) probably agree that abortion is wrong and that gay marriage should not be allowed? This survey just seems to assume that this isn't the case, because it so slanted it basically says "those red state people are right-wing nut jobs, right?". Many of those in SBL would agree, but this is not a good assumption.

2. You know, we will often think "such and such a position on some topic is just plain stupid" but we won't generally say it that way in public, especially in officially sanctioned institutional documents or something like it. It doesn't paint you in a good light, and doesn't foster discussion. But the tone, the slant, in this case sounds completely elitest. "All those backwards folks who voted for Bush are homophobes and misogynists." You might as well just be casting insults at those who disagree with you.

3. Like Ed said, what in the world are you doing in politics? Don't you have enough to talk about at SBL? Sure, religion and politics intersect. Shouldn't SBL be a forum for discussing how the Bible affects religion, not one that assumes that one political viewpoint is wrong? That's not encouraging discussions; it is the picking of a fight.

If you were to reword it and pass it around SBL, turn the tables on who is getting slammed, I doubt it would be receieved happily. Are we not interested in discussion? Are we just wanting to insult those who aren't as "enlightened" as we are? I guess a lot of people are happy as long as they aren't the ones being called "homophobe." This annoys me greatly. Don't insult me; talk to me. I'd rant more and check my coherency if I didn't want to go to bed.

Tuesday, January 11, 2005

A Couple of Notes

Just a couple of notes this morning.

Thanks to those who sent me emails about wine recommendations. I'd still like others, if you have a favorite.

Looks like the makings of a nice book, .NET in Samples. Found it here. Downloadable version of the book available online.

I also dealt with Excel xml output yesterday for the first time. I actually expected it to be much more bloated than it was. I found it to be more readable than Word's html output for the most part.

Sunday, January 09, 2005

Wine Recommendations, Please

I'm about to finish my current bottle of wine, and would like to get suggestions. I'm currently having a French wine called "Chateau de Campuget", 2000 (it's actually not that great; I'm getting tired of it). And by currently, I mean that. I've got it here with my bread and swiss cheese. I'm practically French. "Ton poulet est grande." See, I told you (note: the spelling on that might just be completely wrong; I had French in High School and haven't touched it since).

Anyway, I like red wines and I can't do a wine that is incredibly expensive. I'm not rich, you know...

Any suggestions are welcome.
eric.sowell a t gmail d o t com

Now it is time for bed.

Another Way To Express MetaCatholic's Trickle Down Note

One of the newer blogs in the biblioblogosphere is MetaCatholic, which I'm sure a lot of you know by now (that is, those that try to keep up with it...). He posted an entry called "Blogs and trickle-down knowledge" which is quite good. If you haven't read it, do so, and read on.

That the trickle exists, and is slow, is both correct and sad. And it exists in probably most that goes on in the sphere of church thinking (if we want to go really broadly), unless the subject is one of those annoying, fad-ish ones that don't generally have any substance. You mention specifically historical knowledge, though you could really lump a lot more into the category of that which doesn't trickle quickly. Advances in Greek syntax trickle very slowly. Theology trickles pretty slowly as well, though not as much. I think that the one that I find most annoying is the same one you point out: historical knowledge. For another example, the "New Perspective on Paul" has been all the rage in Pauline studies for a while now, and practically no-one outside of academia has heard of it. I think that is unfortunate.

Blogs will help alleviate this. I agree. This blog thing seems to be taking off :)

In general, I've come to a conclusion that I think is a very good conclusion to come to. I've decided, when I teach sunday school, teach Bible studies, blog, etc., to not treat people like their idiots and can't handle real data. There have been times when I've been afraid of data overload or creating significant offense, and sometimes that can be a problem (though I used to be way too reticent). But, as a general rule, I assume that those listening are not complete idiots and that I don't have to completely dumb down real issues for them to understand them. If we do that, as many of the blogs do, we'll be doing a world of good.

Video of Anders Hejlsberg on the C# Language

Watched a very interesting video interview of Anders Hejlsberg, the chief designer of the C# language, at Thanks to Eric Gunnerson for the link.

The video basically revolved around design choices, asking lots of "why" questions of Anders about the nature of the language. If you're a C#'er, I recommend it.

PDNUG Response About Mono

In this post I commented on why Microsoft, and especially their user groups, should like Mono and have them come give a lesson. I made a comment on the Mono blog I was responding to, and sent emails to the Plano Dot NET User Group (PDNUG) leaders to say "hey, I want Mono at PDNUG", essentially.

And Paco from Mono, as well as Wade Wright and Jason Alexander all responded. In short, apparently they are working on getting a Mono session and have been doing so. That's great to hear. I'm very excited. Thanks Paco, Wade, and Jason for your emails. And let me reiterate -- I really enjoy the PDNUG meetings. Thanks, guys, for all your work in making that happen.

So, here's a question: Is there enough people to form a Mono user group in the Dallas area. I would love to have one of those. I enjoy the PDNUG meeting so much, I can't think of any reason why I would want to be in two! If, by some miracle, there are any Mono users in the Dallas area that actually read this blog, send me an email about what you think.

Thursday, January 06, 2005

What Mono Can Do For .NET Dudes

I'm still trying to catch up on blog postings around the world. This morning I read one from the Mono crew (Paco Martinez) that's now two weeks old. Here is the post. The post is about presenting Mono in .NET User Groups and even mentions a Mono developer who lives here in North Texas like myself. He says this about presenting:

"I have become somewhat discouraged from actively pursuing this because I have perceived a certain discomfort coming from the folks responsible for scheduling and organizing these events."

He then goes on to explain why. As an active attendee of the Plano .NET User's Group, I would LOVE to see a Mono meeting. Here's why. Here's my argument from an avid .NET programmer's perspective. Just for organization's sake, I'll number my points. And I'm sorry, this is going to be a very long post.

1. No Excuse To Leave Platform -- For Microsoft, it is in your best interest to accept and appreciate Mono, because if it is as good as it seems to be, it gives me no excuse to leave .NET behind. I have written Winform programs in .NET and C#. I have written ASP.NET websites with .NET and C#. I have written webservices with .NET and C#. I love the fact that I can do that. There is only one thing that I cannot do that I want to be able to do with .NET: I want to be able to write native GUI programs that are cross-platform. I need to be able to. One area I am very interested in (biblical studies and research) needs cross-platform applications, because there are lots of Mac users in the field. I still have the idea to do this using C# and .NET, and it is not because of Microsoft; it is because of Mono. If Mono did not exists, I would have NO CHOICE except to go to a different programming API, like Java or wxWindows.

Sure, Microsoft probably doesn't really care if programs run on Mac or Linux. But here's one thing that I'm quite sure Microsoft believes in: developers. I think they know that the best platform is going to probably be the one that has the most and the best developers. That's probably why they make VS.NET as awesome as it is. That's why they give conferences, support user groups, and give away free training (I went to one such class at the Irving campus a few weeks ago). If Mono is a success, it gives me no reason to learn some other programming platform. It gives me no reason to jump ship. It keeps at least one more person among the happy ranks of .NET programmers, me.

That's one reason why I think it would be great, for all involved, if Mono was given time at .NET User Groups.

2. Makes MS Look Good to Non-MS People -- If Mono succeeds and MS doesn't do something stupid like sue them or anything, this is going to do two good things for MS.

First, it is going to make MS look better as far as techie morals are concerned. I've met a number of developers who don't like using MS technology at all because they think MS is evil. So, they go open source. If Mono, an open-source project, succeeds and is not looked on by MS as a wicked step-child, this will help (to some degree, though it won't solve the problem) MS reputation with programmers. MS would have lots more programmers if the ethical issues didn't exist. How about trying to get rid of those issues? Here's one thing that will help.

Secondly, I think Mono's existence is just about the biggest compliment MS could get from the open-source community. If it thrives, .NET has a thriving, living, developer community in the open-source world that is constantly saying ".NET doesn't suck." Wouldn't that be good for Microsoft?

Yet one more reason to have more Mono-centered .NET User Group meetings.

3. Makes MS Developers More Accepting of Open-Source -- Mono helps soften the conflict between Pro-MS-Technology people versus all things open-source. This is similar to the last point, except the reverse.

I know some MS technology programmers who look down on open-source technologies. I've seen a number of bad open-source projects (mostly smaller ones), so I understand where the feeling comes from. But I think there are also some really good open-source projects (obviously...this is a post about Mono). Anyway, Mono helps remove, or at least soften, a bias there in the minds of Pro-MS-Technology people. And this is good for the .NET community, because more and more open-source .NET projects are being started.

This is more of a side-benefit than a reason for having Mono-centered .NET User Group meetings, but I think it needs to be said anyway.

4. .NET User Are Truly Interested in Mono -- No doubt. I've met developers who are skeptical, but once I explained Mono to them I've never heard anyone say "That's the stupidest thing I've ever heard of." I guess some people will, but I would argue that they would be a minority.

What is it that so many .NET programmers find interesting about Mono? Part of it is the general curiosity that 99% of all good programmers naturally have. Part of it is the dream of having a good cross-platform programming stack. Lots of .NET programmers use Linux and Mac at times, so they find this kind of project very interesting.

So, I think another reason to have Mono-centered .NET User Group meetings would be good because it gives MS developer's what they want. I bet that if you give them what they want, they'll appreciate your User Group meetings even more. I bet they'll think more highly of you because of your openness and because of your desire to give them information that they really need and want.

So, that's why I think Mono should be featured in User Groups. How do we make this happen? I'm unsure. But I'll do whatever I can. Plano .NET User Group leaders, I have thoroughly enjoyed going to the meetings. I expect them to continue to be great. Having a Mono meeting would make it even better.

I actually think that it is in the best interest of MS do do more than just tolerate Mono. They get so much out of its existence, and could get a lot more, if they praised it more. Who knows? What would happen if they ever donated money for development, no strings attached? Will we ever find out?

Wishing I Could Contribute... the whole idictment-Golan-archaeology discussion that's going around right now. So, I'll give you everything I've got:

This whole forgery thing is a bummer.

Yep, that's it. Move along...there's nothing to see here...

Wednesday, January 05, 2005

Thinking about Hirschfeld Still

No, I'm not being sentimental...I don't know the guy. Having read his article (see first post on the article), I'm still trying to think of possible provenances for the scrolls. Here are the unorganized thoughts running through my head on the matter:

1. Whatever their source, we need to come up with an explanation of why there were so many scrolls. Bringing them from Jerusalem makes sense; they would have a lot. Having them produced by a sectarian community makes sense, if it was around long enough (though Hirschfeld argues against this understanding of Qumran). Whoever did this had lots of manpower/scribepower and lots of parchment, and that wouldn't be cheap. So any theory has to keep this in mind: you need a group big enough to pull off something like this.

2. Do the scrolls not "seem sectarian" to anyone else? Yes, that was perhaps the most subjective thing I've ever said, but others have noted the same. If they are "sectarian", why would they be from Jerusalem? Sure, the library there would probably have works in it that didn't fit the mainstream of the sect rulership, but is the collection too sectarian?

3. I really want the answer to be "Yes, they are from Jerusalem." It is of much more historical value (to me) to have writings from the mainstream, since we really don't have enough yet. Unfortunately, archaeological truth does not bow to my whim (maybe I could make by forging something...just kidding). But Hirschfeld's thesis would be great if it were true (and may be).

4. If you do separate the DSS from the Essenes, who do you attach them to? Were they produced by any particular sect? No, yes? Which one? This would be significant.

5. There is a large proportion of non-Hebrew Bible scrolls to Hebrew Bible scrolls. One professor in seminary (who is in general a very intelligent fellow) called the Pseudepigrapha the tabloid literature of the Second Temple Period. If the DSS scrolls are not indicative of a single sect, then such a position would be terribly difficult to hold. I don't really buy it anyway, but such would be even harder to hold given Hirschfeld's thesis.

Those are all my thoughts for now, which is good, because I have to go to work!

New Blogs (At Least To Me)

I've been increasing my feed count recently, which is kindof bad due to my overabundance of them right now.

A new blog was just started, as mentioned by Goodacre, called MetaCatholic. So, Doug...the pressures on...say something smart! :)

Also, as noted by Paleojudaica, there is a bibloblog aggregator out there now called BiblioBlog. Aggregators are always nice to have around. Though my RSS reader (Sharpreader) will aggregate for me, this would be very handy to have on trips when you're not with all your feeds at home.

A few other blogs have come into being recently as well, though most of you probably know about them by now. Check their announcers here (Michael Pahl) and here (Serving the Word).

More Links (Tech and Game Stuff)

I saw some interesting things yesterday.

Article mentioned on Slashdot about things that make a software project crash.

Also, Ensemble Studios posted some new screenshots of Age of Empires III yesterday on their site. I know a guy who works there and, unfortunately, he hadn't been able to say anything about it till the day before yesterday. I even had lunch with him that day and he couldn't say anything till that afternoon, when an article was published online about the game. But now, finally, the shroud of secrecy around the game is starting to come down. I'm sure there's tons of stuff he can't tell me yet, but having screenshots is a nice start. If you do visit, though, you might get lots of lag time. They were getting absolutely hammered yesterday. Took a long time to download the pics.

The Land Promise As Parable

I was reading something in the Epistle of Barnabas today that struck me as particularly interesting. It is the best parallel that I've seen to the basic thought behind Hebrews 4:1-13. In that passage the author is basically saying that the Sabbath rest the people of God were looking for in the times of Joshua has actually been fulfilled now in Christ. So it is an allegorization of sorts, a redefining of earlier promises in light of the new revelation of Christ.

You get a similar thing in Ep Barn 6:10
"What, therefore, does 'into the good land, a land flowing with milk and honey' mean? Blessed is our Lord, brothers, who endowed us with wisdom and understanding of his secrets. For the prophet speaks a parable concerning the Lord; who can understand it, except one who is wise and discerning and loves the Lord?"

He then starts linking this promise with the promise of the New Covenant, specifically quoting Ezek 11:19 about the removal of the stony heart. Then he says, in vv. 16-17:
"...Therefore we are the ones whom he brought into the good land. So why, then, does he mnetion the 'milk and honey'? Because the infant is first nourished with honey, and then with mulk. So in a similar manner we too, being nourished by faith in the promise and by the word, will live and rule over the earth."

The author sees the promise of this in the present, though also as something to be fully realized in the future, when "we ourselves have been made perfect, and so become heirs of the Lord's covenant." (v. 19).

The author of Hebrew's focus is different, focusing on this as an exhortation to not apostotize: if you continue in disobedience, you will not enter God's Sabbath rest, Christ. Here the focus isn't on apostasy, but on Christology and fulfillment of OT prophecy. But the underlying thought seems very similar. I guess this is particularly significant since the land promise is very rarely talked about specifically in the NT. If it were common, then I don't think this would have caught my eye the way it did. It is nice to find parallels.

Tuesday, January 04, 2005

A New Word

I'm always happy to learn a new word. This time it came from Nickelsburg and VanderKam's translation of 1 Enoch.

"And to Gabriel he said, 'Go, Gabriel, to the bastards, to the half-breeds, to the sons of miscegenation...'"

Miscegenation, if you didn't already know, is "a mixture of races; especially : marriage, cohabitation, or sexual intercourse between a white person and a member of another race" according to Mirriam Webster.

Your task: try to use this in a sentence today :)

A Couple of Links

A couple of links for those who are interested in such things...

Ensemble Studios has just announced that it is working of Age of Empires III.

Also, nice little article on .NET and Mono

Sunday, January 02, 2005

Back in Dallas

Well, I'm back from vacation (again), and back to regular blogging (again, I hope). Enjoyed the trip quite a bit. Didn't get much work done at all, though it was fun.

I did get a chance to start reading two books. One was from SBL, and is Neckelsburg and VanderKam's new translation of 1 Enoch. The other is Inside CentCom by Michael DeLong, which was a Christmas present from my brother. Not work related by any stretch of the imagination, but interesting reading nonetheless.

It is good to be back, even though that means I have to go to work tomorrow.