Monthly Archives: June 2007

Greg Bear’s “Darwin’s Radio”

Vacation time, and I’m — well, never “catching up,” but let’s just say I’m doing more reading than I usually am able to do.

And I just read Greg Bear’s Darwin’s Radio, a horrifying science fiction story about a speciation event in humans. Briefly, the idea is this: mixed in among the “junk DNA” in the human genome are gene-ish blocks of DNA that either prevent or allow large-scale modifications of the genotype; occasionally some set of external conditions trigger the activation of this DNA code; with the result that a (sub-)speciation event occurs. (Picture something of the sort envisioned at the end of the last ice-age when — in this scenario — Neanderthals began to have “deformed” (i.e., cro-magnon) babies.
Continue reading

Ortberg’s “God is Closer Than You Think”

Waiting at the doctor’s office today, I finished reading John Ortberg’s God Is Closer Than You Think. Very good book, with allusions to everyone from Brother Lawrence to the man in black.

Typographically the book is too busy, with subheads and headings and little pull-out quotes in boxes. To its credit, the decisions about what to set off visually were usually the right ones: I didn’t have to underline nearly as many things here as I often do. (Having said that, I still prefer books that aren’t so cluttered-up visually.)

Hebrew vanishing! Corrective action required!

I have been preaching the Gospel text from the revised common lectionary every week so far during year C. That’s all well and good, you say, and, yes, the exegesis has helped my Greek reading skills inordinately.

But! I was just translating Psalm 121 from the ‘brew for an upcoming funeral and whoa! I’ve forgotten all of the 11 Hebrew roots I actually used to know. I knew I was in trouble when I couldn’t remember what SH-M-R meant (“keep”, “observe”, “guard”). Yikes.

(Also, the audioscriptures web site appears to have de-emphasized Hebrew. So to hear someone with a clue read it, I had to go here instead.)

vim has integrated spell-check? d’oh!

I write all my sermons with vim, and I have missed having an integrated spell-checker with an irritating red underline. (On the Mac it’s a dotted red underline. In Word, which so far as I know invented the idea, it’s a wavy red underline, which is cooler. I digress.) Anyway, it turns out that since 7.0 vim has had a spell-checker, but I just didn’t know it. And now it turns out that I can’t use it anyway, because it doesn’t work out-of-box with macvim. I’ll have to investigate, but I’m going to be too busy to do any of that for awhile. So it’s back to using aspell.

(Re) Learning SQL

We have like 12 different databases at work. Most of them are Word documents. I’d like them all to be in (say) Excel files so that we can (for example) easily make mailing address labels. (Our current mailing label database started life that way, I think, but the Excel data has been lost, and the Word document with the mailing labels has been updated by hand ever since.)

This offends me. It drives me nuts. And in my copious spare time I’m trying to get them all into tabular data sets that can be imported into Excel. I’ve done most of that work, courtesy of antiword and a lot of ruby scripting.

Now I just need to merge columns A, C, and G from one file with columns B, T, and Q from another file. Times a dozen files. That, my friend, is a job for a database query language.

Back when I worked for the start-up, I used to know how those work. So now I’m dusting off what little I knew, and creating scripts to convert the tabular data files into SQL update commands I can send to a MySQL database.

Fun. But slow going. I expect to be done in September. November at the latest.

Update. In the ensuing six years, I had forgotten about the LOAD DATA command. Getting the data into tabular format (above) was all I needed to do. Cool.