VOIP ‘n’ stuff

This Kerry Garrison tells how to build a full-featured PBX for less than $20 using rubber bands and other things you already have laying around the house. There is also a nice list of free office software. I noticed this Ultra@VNC because I keep telling myself that I need to use VNC, since there is still a Windows box in the house. But it’s easier just to ignore it and wait for it to go away. (From the free office apps it was only a click and a jump to MacMP3Gain, which looks so useful that I think I’ll actually give it a try.)

ruby or java?

Decisions, decisions. I’m trying to write a small program to help my son learn to do subtraction. (His problem–today–is borrowing, which these days is called “regrouping.”) It is a trivial sort of GUI program and I’m trying to decide whether to learn Java UI programming with Swing, or Ruby/Tk. Swing has the advantage of including anything I could ever possibly need and working out of box. Ruby/Tk isn’t nearly as all-encompassing … but … let’s face it: Ruby is 10x the language that Java will ever be. (Hence groovy.)

Update: I never got around to this and he figured out how to subtract. Sort of. But it’s interesting to see all the hype about Ruby (due to Rails) and watch the Java types freak out about it.

Social Democracy with a human face

Now this story is something to keep in mind the next time someone tells you about the advantages of the European-style social democracies…

A 25-year-old waitress who turned down a job providing “sexual services” at a brothel in Berlin faces possible cuts to her unemployment benefit under laws introduced this year.

(Kudus to Pejman.)

UPDATE: apparently this story is fake but accurate. (1 Mar 2005)

Garage Band

I’m building a case for us to buy a Mac Mini so I can fool around with Garage Band. I was talking to someone here who (unlike me) actually has a clue about music about Garage Band. He’s enthusiastic, of couse, but since I’m clueless he wondered what I would do with it. That led me into a discussion of Lileks’ bleatophany. The Star Trek tunes are the. Best. Tunes. Ever.

(Of course, the case I’m building doesn’t mention GarageBand. It focuses on how we could use iMovie to make iDVDs of our wonderful kids for distribution to assorted friends and family. Duh.)

How Nerdy Am I?

Not even two standard deviations! Woo-HOOO!

I am nerdier than 88% of all people. Are you nerdier? Click here to find out!

(Kudus to Bates Line)

Update: it occurs to me that 50% might not be the mean, nor that the percentage distribution tracks a normal curve. D’oh!

video mini-review: X-Men 2 United.

I do 30 minutes on the elliptical trainer every night, watching something or other I got from the library. The past couple of days it has been X-Men 2. Now, I was never a fan of the X-Men, or for that matter, Marvel comics. I was always a DC-type of guy and Batman was my favorite. The Batman movies weren’t all that great, and they got worse with time. But I liked the Spider-Man movies okay.

Anway, the X-Men wasn’t operating that level. It was okay to watch. I especially liked the scene where one of the characters pilots the advanced jet through about 20 tornadoes caused by the character “Storm”. CGI forever! But beyond that, whatever. I give it 2 stars (out of 4).

growing up Catholic

I grew up as a Roman Catholic. I started out going to Immaculate Conception church, but for whatever reason (I wasn’t consulted) my mother switched us to St. Jude’s Mission. The priest at St. Jude’s was Father Diamond, but he was assisted by Father Holley, who I remember today only as a producer of apalling sermons. (I specifically recall one whose central illustration was evidently adapted from Tony Orlando and Dawn’s Tie a Yellow Ribbon… quite closely adapted, right down to the bus driver and the hundred ribbons tied to the old oak tree. The only worse sermon illustration I ever heard was from a Presbyterian pastor, who talked about the boy with no ears. Which might have been the inspiration for this story.)

My guardian angels must have been working overtime, because that’s all I remember about Father Holley. But some people have other memories of him. In fact, he is a “textbook case” of how the Church covered up priest abuse. I only just learned all this when Google found me this story about what he’s been doing lately.

Bitter America

I saw a flyer for Church Folks for a Better America at school today. The web site doesn’t say how many people belong to the organization. From its name to the omni-present plural in its statements, it suggests but never says that there are more than just its leader. I have some familiarity with him and with others who (judging from the flyer) are affiliated with him. To be honest, it looks to me like some kind of interlocking directorate:

A project of the Peace Action Education Fund, educational arm of the Coalition for Peace Action

Anyway, from their purpose statement, I surmise that a better America is one that works for peace. Or at least ends its military involvement in Iraq. Which is to say, this is just one more anti-war group pretending to have a broad agenda of betterment for America. It also suggests that their vision for a better America is theologically informed, these being Church folks. But note the articles linked from the front page, and, especially, the “Analysts We Like” page. How many of them advance theological positions against the war? Several appear to be generic left-wingers (Molly Ivins, WaPo editorials, …) opposed to the war on ideological grounds?

Note that a letter by religious leaders begins with a theological argument but quickly transitions to more worldly concerns:

disregard for international laws against torture, for the legal rights of suspected “enemy combatants,” and for the adverse consequences your decisions have had at home and abroad

What specific expertise do religious leaders bring to a discussion of international laws, legal rights, and adverse consequences? Don’t get me wrong: many of the names on the list belong to people I know and respect. But while their motivations for signing this letter may be theologically informed (and I would note, looking at the diversity of faith traditions the signatories represent, it would be a very generic theology) the argument advanced by the letter is not. Certainly church folks should be concerned with these issues. But their contribution to the discussion ought to be theological rather than an echo of what worldly leftists think.