26 April 2004

Getting back soon

I’ve been busy of late, getting ready to move (I’m moving in with BF on
May 1) and trying to get some work done.  But I should be back
somewhat more next week.

I entered the last year of my 20s since I last wrote, so the big 3-0 is now less than a year away.

Posted in Day2Day on 26 April 2004 at 10:50 am by Nate
13 April 2004

A reasoned response to the Kerry Communion thing

Senator Kerry showed up at BF’s parish on Sunday morning.  We knew
in advance (how good it is to know the priests!), so we stayed away
from a potential circus.

Melissa Henneberger has a very excellent piece on this in the electronic version of Newsweek.  A couple of quotes:

…it was a relief to hear Cardinal Theodore McCarrick of Washington
respond with a pastoral voice on the Kerry issue. McCarrick is heading
a U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops task force on how to handle
Catholic politicians who support abortion rights. In an empty meeting
room at St. Matthew’s in downtown D.C., where the cardinal led a prayer
service last Wednesday, he pulled a couple of dusty folding chairs down
from a stack so we’d have someplace to sit while we talked. When I
asked about Kerry’s standing, he seemed pained by the idea of turning
him, or anyone else, away. “I would find it hard to use the Eucharist
as a sanction,” he said gently. “You don’t know what’s in anyone’s
heart when they come before you. It’s important that everyone know what
our principles are, but you’d have to be very sure someone had a
malicious intent [before denying him communion.]” McCarrick is
surprisingly humble, and a reluctant judge. “It’s between the person
and God,’’ he said….

Though this attitude is sure to be criticized as more watered-down
Catholicism Lite, I don’t see it that way. At a less orthodox time in
my own Catholic life, a nun in my parish in Northern California
improved my understanding and appreciation of the sacraments through
the underused—and doubtless desperate—strategy of working with me
instead of turning me away. I had agreed to teach a parish Sunday
school class for second-graders preparing to make their first
communion—until it dawned on me that I would also be expected to
instruct them on the sacrament formerly known as confession. “I haven’t
been in a while myself,” I told her. “That’s fine,’’ she said briskly.
“Maybe you’ll go now.’’ Like her, McCarrick seems to feel that we only
get better if we stick around and practice.

Posted in Politicks on 13 April 2004 at 10:50 am by Nate

Vigil service

Here’s a nice description of what the Easter Vigil service can feel like.

Here’s how we Episcopalians do the Easter Vigil, and it’s pretty much the same as what Roman Catholics do.

Posted in Rayleejun on 13 April 2004 at 10:44 am by Nate
12 April 2004

Seven weeks of feasting

Χριστος Ανεστη! (Christ Is Risen!)

Αληθως Ανεστη! (He Is Risen Indeed!)

After six-and-a-half weeks of a fast, there’s seven weeks of feasting….

Yesterday was wonderful and bittersweet all at once.  I may fill in the details later.

A Happy Eastertide to you!

Posted in Rayleejun on 12 April 2004 at 12:23 pm by Nate
10 April 2004

The junior senator from Massachusetts…

…might be attending BF’s church for Easter, as reported by the Times.

That’ll create a media circus, to say the least.  And I’ll bet
there will be Opus Dei-type protestors who think that Kerry should be
denied the Sacrament because he won’t vote pro-life (as if the entire
Roman Catholic social and ethical teaching came down to this one

Two things that Christ said that I think are in relation to controversies like this:

“Let anyone among you who is without sin cast the first stone.”

“How can you say to your neighbor, ‘Let me take the speck out of your
eye,’ while the log is in your own eye?  You hypocrite, first take
the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the
speck out fo your neighbor’s eye.”

And from the Epistle of James:
“For whoever keeps the whole law but fails in one point has become accountable for all of it.”

My point?  Let’s not hold people to standard that we ourselves do not measure up to.

Posted in Politicks on 10 April 2004 at 1:36 pm by Nate

Caffeine in academia

Ryan blogged about caffeine in academia, as reported by the Chronicle of Higher Education.

I drink a cup of tea in the morning, followed by a couple of cups of
morning coffee (usually a 16 oz. Starbucks, as it’s on the way to work,
sometimes full-caf, sometimes half-caf).  Then there’s probably a
coffee aftert lunch sometime, sometimes leaded and sometimes not (but
since it’s from Peet’s, it’s damn strong).  Then, if I’m out in
the evening, another coffee beverage, like an espresso or small strong

Posted in RmAuNsDiOnMg on 10 April 2004 at 1:22 pm by Nate
8 April 2004

My status confirmed

Just in case you wanted to know….

Grammar God!
You are a GRAMMAR GOD!

If your mission in life is not already to
preserve the English tongue, it should be.
Congratulations and thank you!

How grammatically sound are you?
brought to you by Quizilla

Posted in RmAuNsDiOnMg on 8 April 2004 at 6:48 pm by Nate
5 April 2004

Subway maps

I found two very interesting sites today, on subways.  The first
is a map showing the London Underground and how the map relates to the
reality of the street.  Check it out.  The next compares the size and density of various major transport systems worldwide.  It’s here.

Another site I found previously tries to fit the NYC MTA into the Tube’s design.  You’ll see what I mean when you check it out.

Posted in OnTheWeb on 5 April 2004 at 2:27 pm by Nate

Open Source conflict

This is probably below the radar for lots of you, but there’s a good
little discussion going on in the open source software world about user
interface and usability.  In regular people’s words, how easy does
the software make it for the user to do what s/he wants?  Can the
user figure out with ease how to get from A to C?

Eric Raymond, one of the high priests of open source, an expert of experts, couldn’t figure out how to use his own printerJohn Gruber, of Daring Fireball, notes

Raymond is ignoring the actual depth of the
problem. It’s easy to say, The open source community needs to do
better, we need to create software Aunt Tillie can use.
[emph. in original] But they’re so far
away from this right now that even an expert like Eric Raymond can’t
figure out how to use their software.

The “I thought I was the only one” letters that Raymond found so
interesting aren’t coming from the A.T.-set; they’re coming from Linux
geeks who read essays written by Eric Raymond. And they’re frustrated by
open source software’s terrible usability. The problem isn’t just that
dear old A.T. can’t use desktop Linux — the problem is that even Linux
geeks have trouble figuring it out.

Another perspective comes from mpt, on “why free software usability tends to suck.”

So why do I care?  Well, because the statistical software that I
use is open source (as per the trend at Harvard to push the open-source
software over commercially available alternatives with user interface
that make is easier for the novice to get up and running with his or
her data analysis), and its user interface sucks.  Yes, it’s very
powerful; yes, it’s customizable; yes, it has more flexibility than a
number of the commercial products, especially when you get to the
advanced level and need to program your own models.  But that’s
not very likely in the sort of research that most of us in political
science do.  The existing models are quite adequate, especially in
light of the fact that when one deals with social phenomena, you can
get very precise, but probably not very accurate.

But everyone here wants to see us use R (a variant of the S language),
rather than Stata or SPSS, or even SAS
So we’re all being turned
into open sourcers, whether we want to or not.  But the problem
comes when you decide, “Oh, I want to run X type of analysis.” 
You know the statistics that you want to do, but the damn interface
gets in the way of doing that without some significant programming, on
a steep learning curved.  It
takes quite a while to figure out how to get that analysis loaded, how
to run it, and how to get some results to come back to you.  Much
time than I remember it taking with the commercial software projects.

Posted in OnTheWeb on 5 April 2004 at 11:29 am by Nate