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Archive for September, 2011

One day, an administrative assistant ordered a meal to accompany a lunch meeting.  She went a little overboard, ordering far more than the team could eat.  When she came by after lunch to check on the crew, she seemed disappointed and remarked “I thought  you would gouge yourselves on that!”  Fortunately, no one had.  😉

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What's Wrong with the WorldWhat’s Wrong with the World by G.K. Chesterton
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

The Times of London once invited a number of well-known authors to write essays on the theme “What’s Wrong With the World?” G.K. Chesterton wrote his reply in the form of a letter. It read “Dear Sirs, I am. Sincerely Yours, G.K. Chesterton.” It is a letter that showcases his genius; humble, honest, humorous, with a profound understanding of the seriousness and far-reaching effects of individual sin. Apparently, though, Chesterton was not satisfied with just that letter, for he went on to write a book dedicated to the topic of what is wrong with the world.

His answer to that question is not immediately clear. It unfolds slowly, and even obliquely because his answer, by itself, makes no sense. Chesterton argues, in short, that what is wrong with the world is that the world is always trying to solve the most basic problems by treating only the symptoms. In other words, he says, we are always starting at the wrong end. The most startling example he cites in support of his argument is a movement among the intelligentsia of his time to eradicate an infestation of lice among the poor by shaving the heads of the children. Yes, Chesterton acknowledges, that would alleviate the symptom of the lice, but it does nothing to address the ultimate cause: that people are living in conditions of abject poverty that are conducive to the spread of lice. Address the issue of poverty and the symptom of lice will take care of itself.

Chesterton illustrates his argument by examining the mistakes society makes about men, women, children and their proper place in the world and in relationship with each other. He repeatedly shows how those in power nearly always mistake a symptom for the problem, and frequently make things worse when they start “helping”. His observations are profound and incisive, in the most literal sense of the word. They cut into the reader who, if honest, sees his or her own folly reflected back from the pages.

Overall, this is a good book and one worth reading. I must admit, however, that some parts seem dated. Chesterton addresses issues that are specific to his time and place in history. Some of the evils he cites are no longer going concerns. Having said that, the general principles remain relevant, and we ignore him at the risk of committing what he referred to as “chronological snobbery.” There is much to be learned from Mr. Chesterton, and we would all do well to allow him to educate us. The sooner, the better.

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The Ballad of the White HorseThe Ballad of the White Horse by G.K. Chesterton
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Once upon a time there was a king who ruled a small country. He was a good king who loved his people, his country, and God. But he was beset with enemies on every side. He fought and lost many battles against these enemies and was on the brink of absolute defeat. Then one day, as he walked through the woods, a vision appeared to him of a beautiful woman. She encouraged him to take heart and go into battle once more. She did not promise him victory, but her appearance filled him with hope, and he knew he must obey. Gathering his remaining friends around him, they engaged in one last, desperate battle. The king and his friends rose up and killed many of the enemy, but each of his friends fell, until he alone was left to lead the army. In his wrath, he took up his sword against the foe with such fury that they fell away before him, and the enemy king surrendered and became his prisoner. The good king brought peace to his kingdom, his people flourished, and they called him Great for the mighty deliverance he worked for them, and for the prosperity they enjoyed under his reign.

It sounds like a fairy tale, but it is the story of Alfred the Great, king of Wessex and the Anglo-Saxons in the ninth century. “The Ballad of the White Horse” is G.K. Chesterton’s magnificent epic poem based on King Alfred’s climactic victory over the Danish Vikings at the battle of Ethendun. Stirring and bold, it is one of Chesterton’s best works, showing him to be a master of verse as well as prose. It functions not only as the story of Alfred’s victory over the heathen Danes, but also as an allegory of the ongoing war between Christianity and paganism. Chesterton writes of the Danes with their Norse gods:

Their souls were drifting as the sea,
And all good towns and lands,
They only saw with heavy eyes,
And broke with heavy hands.

Their gods were sadder than the sea,
Gods of a wandering will,
Who cried for blood like beasts at night,
Sadly, from hill to hill

The Danes are the pagans of old with gods of death who, even in victory, give no hope or help:

They seemed as trees walking the earth,
As witless and as tall,
Yet they took hold upon the heavens
And no help came at all.

The White Horse of the title is the ancient White Horse of Uffington, a giant horse cut into the chalk of the hillside sometime during the bronze age. Chesterton sets Alfred’s battle in the White Horse vale, for the horse represents both England and the Church. At the beginning of the poem, the horse is grey, overgrown with weeds that threaten to cover and obscure it forever. It is his job to cleanse it, to expel the Danes from England, the pagans from the Church. He is to fight for the purity of both, whether he succeeds or not. Of course, that leaves the Saxons as representative of Christianity, perpetually fighting a terrifying enemy, always seeming on the brink of defeat, but always surviving to glorify God.

“The Ballad of the White Horse” is not just excellent literature. It is Chesterton’s call to the Church; an alarm and a rallying cry. The Church is to be ever on the watch for the invasion of paganism, ever ready to take up arms against its influence to keep it from corrupting and obscuring the beauty and glory it reflects as an image of God. He makes this abundantly clear in a striking passage where Chesterton describes the paganism of his own time directly. Alfred, near the end of his life, prophesies about the enemies that the Church will face in years to come:

They shall not come in war-ships,
They shall not waste with brands,
But books be all their eating,
And ink be on their hands.

Not with the humour of hunters,
Or savage skill in war,
But ordering all things with dead words,
Strings shall they make of beasts and birds,
And wheels of wind and star.

They shall come mild as a monkish clerk,
With many a scroll and pen,
And backward shall ye wonder and gaze,
Desiring one of Alfred’s days,
When pagans still were men.

These are the pagans that Chesterton fought, and that the Church still faces today. There is a distinct note of longing here. Chesterton is nostalgic for a past when one could meet the enemy openly, clearly in pitched battle. That same nostalgia resonates deeply with me. If it were only as simple as taking up a sword against a flesh and blood enemy, and not having to sift through twisted words and tortured reasoning to reach to the heart of the enemy. There is no guarantee of victory in either case, but on a physical battlefield, you know who the enemy is.

Filled with Chesterton’s trademark wit and wordplay, “The Ballad of the White Horse” is a thrilling read that tells the story of the ancient battle between God’s people and their enemy in the heroic rhythms to which a man’s heart beats. It is the type of poem that all boys should grow up reading until they are men as an example of what true manhood looks like. As men, they should keep reading it as a reminder that they have a responsibility to scour the horse, to keep it white and pure, to engage their enemy until they hear the words “well done, thou good and faithful servant. Enter thou into the joy of thy lord.”

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This is simply a list of handy commands that can be run from the terminal of a Mac and will save you (and me) a few mouse clicks.  Note: It may be necessary to run most of these commands with sudo.  Feel free to make suggestions for inclusion.

dhclient -r – This will release your DHCP obtained IP address

dhclient – This will request a new IP address from a DHCP server

ifconfig <interface> <ip address> netmask <mask> – This will manually set your IP address on the specified interface

The following commands will disable the firewall:

launchctl unload /System/Library/LaunchAgents/com.apple.alf.useragent.plist
launchctl unload /System/Library/LaunchDaemons/com.apple.alf.agent.plist

The following commands will re-enable the firewall:

launchctl load /System/Library/LaunchDaemons/com.apple.alf.agent.plist
launchctl load /System/Library/LaunchAgents/com.apple.alf.useragent.plist

id – This simple command will display your user ID and the IDs of all the groups to which your account belongs

groups – This command will display the group names to which your account belongs

sudo launchctl list – This command will list the services that are running on the machine

route add -n <network/mask> <gateway> – This command will temporarily add a static route to the machine

/bin/launchctl load -w /System/Library/LaunchDaemons/ftp.plist – Will turn on the FTP server if it is not already running.

/bin/launchctl unload -w /System/Library/LaunchDaemons/ftp.plist – Will turn off the FTP server

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Why Study The Past?: The Quest For The Historical ChurchWhy Study The Past?: The Quest For The Historical Church by Rowan Williams
My rating: 1 of 5 stars

This is a bad book from almost every perspective. First, it is poorly written. Williams’ style is as dry as Death Valley and he goes out of his way to write in the most obscure fashion possible. For example, in addressing the Arian heresy, he writes:
“Arius’ theory is probably the best attempt that could have been made to settle the issue of Jesus’ holiness without some basic revision of the very word ‘God’. It proposed that the eternal word embodied in Jesus was the primary recipient of God’s revelation and God’s glory and power, but also the primary worshipper of God.” (page 43)
He might just as simply have stated that Arius denied the co-eternal nature of Christ.

Worse than the writing, though, is the thought behind it. Williams ostensibly wrote “Why Study the Past” in order to answer the questions “What is the Church? How can we recognize it, and how do we recognize those people of whom the Church is constituted?” These are good questions and worthy of serious thought and discussion. Williams proposes that one place to look for an answer is in the past, hence the book’s title. He looks to the great chroniclers of the Church, Eusebius, Augustine, Bede and others to find clues to the answer.

No sooner does he make this proposal, htough, than he undermines it by calling the reliability of the chroniclers into question. According to Williams, Eusebius’ definition of the Church is frequently based on the evidence of martyrdom. The faith of those who recanted to save their lives is suspect in the eyes of Eusebius and he makes no bones about it. Eusebius also saw the history of the Church in cycles of temptation, fall, discipline in the form of persecution, followed by rest in the form of exaltation. Williams takes issue with the way in which Eusebius interprets the constituents of the Church and its historic cycles and dismisses most of it as biased and incomplete. He does this with nearly all of the historians he mentions; examining their claims, searching for weakness in the form of bias, and dismissing their claims when he finds any. He particularly finds fault when a historian makes a moral judgment of an historical event. Apparently he does not realize that, in doing so, he, as an historian, is making a moral judgment of an historical event.

History, then, is mostly unreliable, so it cannot answer his questions about the identity of the Church. Williams grudgingly concedes that there is some truth to be found, but he provides us no tools to assist us in the task of sifting historical truth from the error of the chroniclers, no rock on which to secure our anchor as we look for answers to the questions he raises. So where can we turn to find answers to his questions? It is at this point that the book begins to fall apart. Williams rambles from topic to topic in a tangential fashion looking for a peg on which to hang his hat but never finding one.

Sadly, Williams does not mention Scripture as a place to go to understand who the Church is and what it should look like. The reason for this may have to do with the fact that he does not take a very high view of the authority or authenticity of Scripture. On page 29, he writes: “we do not know in what sense we can begin to see Abraham as a historical person, we do not know whether we see the shadow of a remote but real patriarch or simply the brilliant but God-directed literary creation of a personality by the storytellers of a later age.” If we cannot view Abraham as historical, how can we view any other individual in Scripture, including Christ, as historical? How can we accept as authoritative anything in Scripture?

Williams cannot bring himself to look to Scripture to resolve any question. With regard to his own identity as a Christian he writes: “Who I am as a Christian is something which, in theological terms, I could only answer fully on the impossible supposition that I could see and grasp how all other Christian lives had shaped mine and, more specifically, shaped it toward the likeness of Christ.” (page 27) When discussing controversies and potential heresies in the modern Church, the best he can come up with is: “confronted with dispute over controversial novelty, the sort of question that the believer needs to consider is how far a particular option in the debate or a particular innovation tends to obscure the transparency of the Church to God’s action.” (page 105) Without the absolute standards provided by the Bible, it is no wonder that the Anglican Church is in such a state of disarray.

The only definitive statement Williams is able to make regarding Church identity is on page 85: “we affirm the crucial element of an authentic identity as Church – that is, the abiding act of God, and the givenness of baptism.” If he would only open his Bible, he might begin to find answers to the questions he raises; answers that would provide form to the admittedly flawed efforts of fallen human beings to chronicle the history of the Bride of Christ. Christ, Himself, says that the world will know Christians by the love they have for one another and the fruit of the Spirit that they bear. That seems like a very good starting point for discovering who and what the Church is, and has been through history.

As an investigation into the identity and history of the Church, “Why Study the Past” is a failure. Anyone interested in a good book on those topics would do well to read any of the following:
1. Church History in Plain Language, by Bruce Shelley
2. Ye are the Body, by Bonnell Spencer
3. The History of the Church, by Eusebius
4. The Ecclesiastical History of the English People, by Bede

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Political Games

One of the many things I find frustrating in today’s political arena is the one-sided nature of a number of the President’s comments.  For example, one of his recurring themes is that those in congress, specifically Republicans, need to set aside politics and partisanship in order to move our country forward.  Why is it that only the Republicans need to set aside partisanship?  Why are they the ones accused of playing political games?  Understand that I am not saying that the Republicans have not done these things, only that the comments are directed only at Republicans.

Even more frustrating is the fact that those comments, coming from the President, are an example of playing partisan political games, making him guilty of hypocrisy.

On a side note, who do you think has done more to try and promote job/economic growth over the past two-and-a-half years?  The following comes courtesy of HotAir.com:

 

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Here is a little something that I have found helpful when troubleshooting network problems; a chart that shows the order in which a packet is processed on an interface of a Cisco router/firewall.  For example, it can be handy to know that NAT is applied outbound prior to hitting an output ACL.  As usual, it is kind of difficult to locate this on the Cisco documentation website, so I include it here for those who, like me, want a quick way to find it in a pinch.

Inside-to-Outside (LAN to WAN)

  • If IPSec then check input access list
  • decryption – for CET (Cisco Encryption Technology) or IPSec
  • check input access list
  • check input rate limits
  • input accounting
  • policy routing
  • routing
  • redirect to web cache
  • WAAS application optimization
  • NAT inside to outside (local to global translation)
  • crypto (check map and mark for encryption)
  • check output access list
  • inspect (Context-based Access Control (CBAC))
  • TCP intercept
  • encryption
  • Queueing
  • MPLS VRF tunneling (if MPLS WAN deployed)

Outside-to-Inside (WAN to LAN)

  • MPLS tunneling (if MPLS WAN deployed)
  • decryption – for CET or IPSec
  • check input access list
  • check input rate limits
  • input accounting
  • NAT outside to inside (global to local translation)
  • policy routing
  • routing
  • redirect to web cache
  • WAAS application optimization
  • crypto (check map and mark for encryption)
  • check output access list
  • inspect CBAC
  • TCP intercept
  • encryption
  • Queueing

 

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