Sunday, December 19, 2010

Mind Your Own Business


Scrooge fell upon his knees, and clasped his hands before his face.

“Mercy!” he said. “Dreadful apparition, why do you trouble me?”

“Man of the worldly mind!” replied the Ghost, “do you believe in me or not?”

“I do,” said Scrooge. “I must. But why do spirits walk the earth, and why do they come to me?”

“It is required of every man,” the Ghost returned, “that the spirit within him should walk abroad among his fellowmen, and travel far and wide; and if that spirit goes not forth in life, it is condemned to do so after death. It is doomed to wander through the world—oh, woe is me!—and witness what it cannot share, but might have shared on earth, and turned to happiness!”

Again the spectre raised a cry, and shook its chain and wrung its shadowy hands.

“You are fettered,” said Scrooge, trembling. “Tell me why?”

“I wear the chain I forged in life,” replied the Ghost. “I made it link by link, and yard by yard; I girded it on of my own free will, and of my own free will I wore it. Is its pattern strange to you?

Scrooge trembled more and more.

“Or would you know,” pursued the Ghost, “the weight and length of the strong coil you bear yourself? It was full as heavy and as long as this, seven Christmas Eves ago. You have laboured on it, since. It is a ponderous chain!”

Scrooge glanced about him on the floor, in the expectation of finding himself surrounded by some fifty or sixty fathoms of iron cable: but he could see nothing.

“Jacob,” he said, imploringly. “Old Jacob Marley, tell me more. Speak comfort to me, Jacob!”

“I have none to give,” the Ghost replied. “It comes from other regions, Ebenezer Scrooge, and is conveyed by other ministers, to other kinds of men. Nor can I tell you what I would. A very little more is all permitted to me. I cannot rest, I cannot stay, I cannot linger anywhere. My spirit never walked beyond our counting-house—mark me!—in life my spirit never roved beyond the narrow limits of our money-changing hole; and weary journeys lie before me!”

It was a habit with Scrooge, whenever he became thoughtful, to put his hands in his breeches pockets. Pondering on what the Ghost had said, he did so now, but without lifting up his eyes, or getting off his knees.

“You must have been very slow about it, Jacob,” Scrooge observed, in a business-like manner, though with humility and deference.

“Slow!” the Ghost repeated.

“Seven years dead,” mused Scrooge. “And travelling all the time!”

“The whole time,” said the Ghost. “No rest, no peace. Incessant torture of remorse.”

“You travel fast?” said Scrooge.

“On the wings of the wind,” replied the Ghost.

“You might have got over a great quantity of ground in seven years,” said Scrooge.

The Ghost, on hearing this, set up another cry, and clanked its chain so hideously in the dead silence of the night, that the Ward would have been justified in indicting it for a nuisance.

“Oh! captive, bound, and double-ironed,” cried the phantom, “not to know, that ages of incessant labour by immortal creatures, for this earth must pass into eternity before the good of which it is susceptible is all developed. Not to know that any Christian spirit working kindly in its little sphere, whatever it may be, will find its mortal life too short for its vast means of usefulness. Not to know that no space of regret can make amends for one life’s opportunity misused! Yet such was I! Oh! such was I!”

“But you were always a good man of business, Jacob,” faltered Scrooge, who now began to apply this to himself.

“Business!” cried the Ghost, wringing its hands again. “Mankind was my business. The common welfare was my business; charity, mercy, forbearance, and benevolence, were, all, my business. The dealings of my trade were but a drop of water in the comprehensive ocean of my business!”

It held up its chain at arm’s length, as if that were the cause of all its unavailing grief, and flung it heavily upon the ground again.

“At this time of the rolling year,” the spectre said, “I suffer most. Why did I walk through crowds of fellow-beings with my eyes turned down, and never raise them to that blessed Star which led the Wise Men to a poor abode! Were there no poor homes to which its light would have conducted me!

–From Charles Dickens' A Christmas Carol

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Good Perfectionism and Bad Perfectionism

I believe perfectionism is a form of OCD.  Speaking from personal experience, I define perfectionism as focusing - even fixating - on one thing - a task, a project, a state or condition, or an ideal standard - working insistently that it be raised to a certain level that is acceptable of satisfactory to oneself.  I suppose a certain amount of this can be a good thing, but it so often continues to the point of neglecting one's own wellness and relationships with those around you.  (This is not to say that sacrifice is not necessary.  But it is important to be clear on what is being sacrificed and what is being sacrificed for.)

Perfectionism can be paralyzing.  Sometimes I can't even start doing something for fear that I won't be able to do it as well as I would like to, or feel I need to.

Something worth doing is worth doing badly at first.  Especially if it can benefit the lives of those who mean the most to me.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

A Prophet Says, "Wake Up!"

In our day the dreadful influence of pornography is like unto a plague sweeping across the world, infecting one here and one there, relentlessly trying to invade every home...

We raise an alarm and warn members of the Church to wake up and understand what is going on. Parents, be alert, ever watchful that this wickedness might threaten your family circle.

Boyd K. Packer, LDS Apostle

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Teaching Our Children

What we want [our children] to know five years from now needs to be part of our conversation with them today.

Rosemary M. Wixom, LDS Primary General President

Friday, October 8, 2010

Zentangles with the UCA

Today I had the pleasure of participating in the Utah Calligraphic Artists' all-day workshop on Zentangles, taught by Certified Zentangle Teacher, Marie English.

I spent the entire day on just one 3"x 3" project.  Here it is:


CAVEAT: If you are not familiar with Zentangles, this is not a good example of one!  For the following reasons:

  1. It uses color.

  2. It does not use ANY known Zentangle pattern (called "tangles").

  3. It has an orientation (that is, there is a "right-side up" to it.

But for those of you familiar with Zen, this is what my Buddha-nature wanted to draw today.  What can you say to that?

I cannot close without a link to my favorite Zentangle artist, skinnystraycat.  Here is a sample of her work:


Sunday, September 19, 2010

Television and "The Great and Spacious Building"

Even if you think that religion is a farce, and that the Book of Mormon was brilliantly concocted by Joseph Smith, I think that everyone can benefit from reading the story of the Lehi's dream and the tree of life.


Recently, LDS apostle Boyd K. Packer made this interesting statement:

Largely because of television, instead of looking over into that spacious building, we are, in effect, living inside of it. That is your fate in this generation. You are living in that great and spacious building.

A few nights ago, we let our children ages 5 to 9 stay up and watch some of a TV program with us.  The 5 year old immediately pointed out several things portrayed by the people on the show that were not in harmony with the values we are trying to teach in our home.  I grew concerned about the "double standard" we appear to hold: that it's OK to watch TV with people that don't model our values, but it's not OK to behave like them.  Don't we eventually do the things we spend our time watching and thinking about?  Remember Lot in the Bible?

Abram dwelled in the land of Canaan, and Lot dwelled in the cities of the plain, and pitched his tent toward Sodom.

You'll notice that by the next chapter, Lot is living in Sodom, amidst all its depravity and wickedness.

It is also interesting that when Lot and his family are warned to flee Sodom before God sends fire and brimstone to destroy it, that they are commanded to

look not behind thee, neither stay thou in all the plain.

I suppose one of the lessons here is to watch where we look, and where we have our figurative tents pitched towards.

And what channel the TV is on...?

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Monday, June 21, 2010

Anatomy of a Drive-by Browser Attack

This is a fascinating – if somewhat technical – explanation of a drive-by browser attack:

It goes into detail about a few points we already knew: 1) it totally depends on javascript, 2) it exploits a Microsoft Windows vulnerability that was recently patched, and 3) the source of the attack comes from a .cn Chinese website.

What can you do?

1)      Consider using Firefox with the “NoScript” add-on to enable javascript only from web domains you trust.  Or, if you use another browser, there are ways to classify websites as “Trusted Sites” where javascript is allowed but disabled for all other sites.  (Firefox’s NoScript just makes this process a little easier.)

2)      Keep your Microsoft Windows patched and updated by applying the “Important Updates” Microsoft releases each week through its Windows Update functionality.

3)      Consider blocking all web traffic from .cn and .ru domains.  This requires some technical skill with your router and/or firewall.  I did it using my free OpenDNS account.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Obama, Christianity, and Prayer In Schools

I looked it up.  This is what Obama said:

June 28, 2006 (as delivered): “Whatever we once were, we are no longer a Christian nation – at least, not just. We are also a Jewish nation, a Muslim nation, a Buddhist nation, and a Hindu nation, and a nation of nonbelievers.”

And yes, Obama did cancel the National Day of Prayer service at the White House.

He certainly has set himself up to be hated by a lot of evangelical Christians.  But I want to say, though I am a Christian myself, I shudder to think of what would happen if the U.S. Government endorsed Christianity as the official State or National religion.

Our forefathers came to this country in part to escape religious persecution and to worship as they pleased.  The Founding Fathers strongly believed in the separation of Church and State, since they were familiar with the abuses of the Church of England.

The First Amendment to the Constitution of the United States says:

    “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”

As Christians, we should not force our beliefs on anyone, nor should we demean or belittle anyone who believes differently than we do.  (I speak of the realm of "faith."  But of course people cross the line when they let their "beliefs" motivate them to murder and kill - no religion should have that kind of power or authority).  As I read the Bible, I do not think that Christ tried to force His beliefs on anyone.  "He that hath ears to hear, let him hear," (Matthew 11:15) he said, even though He was the Son of the Almighty God!  Can you imagine the respect Christ has for our individual agency and freedom of belief?

So do I believe in prayer in schools?  Well, that depends.  No public school can constitutionally interfere with my child's right to "peaceably" practice their religion at school, whether this means saying a quiet prayer to himself before a test, or talking with another child at recess about God.  However, no one has the constitutional right to stand up an offer a public prayer at a school-sponsored event.  To do so is to start down the road of State-sponsored religion.  I am a very religious person, but our public schools are not the place for the public practicing of religious rites.  We are to honor the principles on which our Great Nation is founded (though we might call them "Christian" principles), and respect each other's freedoms; and live together in peace and prosperity.  In my private conversations and in my own Church's worship services, I will speak and preach of Christ, and try to persuade others to believe in Him.  But in public, government-related venues, I honor and respect the freedom of everyone to believe (or not to believe) as they see fit.

Joseph Smith said it best:

    “The Saints can testify whether I am willing to lay down my life for my brethren. If it has been demonstrated that I have been willing to die for a ‘Mormon,’ I am bold to declare before Heaven that I am just as ready to die in defending the rights of a Presbyterian, a Baptist, or a good man of any other denomination; for the same principle which would trample upon the rights of the Latter-day Saints would trample upon the rights of the Roman Catholics, or of any other denomination who may be unpopular and too weak to defend themselves.”

Thursday, April 1, 2010

FreeBSD - Mount Windows Share Using mount_smbfs

FreeBSD… I’ve heard so much good about it, but it has its fair share of quirks just like any other OS.

What I like

  1. I like the install process. It is very customizable. I can do a minimal OS install and build on it by installing only those things I want.
  2. The license. FreeBSD’s license is more flexible than the GPL because changes you make do not have to remain open source.
  3. FreeBSD’s reputation.
  4. Its “purist” Unix roots.

What could be improved

  1. Right now I’m using FreeBSD 8.0 RELEASE (released 5 months ago), and I can’t get mpd to run apparently because of proxy arp issues. I expected more from the legendary leader of networking. I suppose I could fix it if I knew enough to apply all the C patches to the source code, and then recompiled my kernel – a very daunting process. My choices are to revert back to 7.2 or wait until 8.1 comes out.
  2. If you post a question to one of the FreeBSD mailing lists or forums, you had better make sure you have read all applicable sections of the online FreeBSD handbook. The problem is, as a newbie I often don’t even know where to begin looking…
  3. In a lot of ways, Linux is more user-friendly. That’s what this post is about.

In recent versions of Linux, I can mount a Windows share just by # mkdir /mnt/win # mount -t cifs -o username= //server/share /mnt/win

or even more simply with ntfs-3g: # ntfs-3g //server/share /mnt/win

I’ve never had problems using my server’s IP address in the previous commands.

However, in FreeBSD, you have to # mount_smbfs //username@servername/share /mnt/win

and you cannot use the server’s IP for <servername>.

Why not?

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Beware: Cyber-danger Ahead!

Recent events have prompted me to review the state of our company's network security.  Apparently, the FDIC insures individual bank accounts up to $250,000, but there is no such insurance in place for businesses.  Therefore computer malware authors are targeting small businesses who use their computers to bank online.  There are some powerful computer viruses circulating that reside quietly on computer until someone logs in to a bank account, and then those viruses spring into action to make fraudulent transfers that are causing some businesses to fail.

How does a computer get infected with a virus?  A few years ago, the most common method was to be tricked into opening a malicious email attachment.  This method is still common, but many people are becoming more savvy to this kind of attack.  Nowadays, the most common method of virus infection is to be tricked into visiting a maliciously crafted website, which then exploits weaknesses in your browser to infect your computer with malware.  Since PDF files and Flash games are also a part of our browsing experience, a computer can also get attacked when a user opens a maliciously crafted PDF file or plays a comprised game online.

However, most of the time we simply click on a link, thinking that is it safe, when actually it is not.  The following story is noteworthy:

Here are some measures I am considering putting in place:

1.       An OpenBSD proxy server

2.       Spam Control with a stock OpenBSD install (click to page 44)

Sunday, February 21, 2010

The Paradoxical Commandments

These "Paradoxical Commandments" are often attributed to Mother Teresa because apparently she had a version of them hanging on the walls of her children's home in Calcutta, but they were actually written in 1968 by a 19-year old Harvard student writing a booklet for student leaders:

People are illogical, unreasonable, and self-centered.
Love them anyway.
If you do good, people will accuse you of selfish ulterior motives.
Do good anyway.
If you are successful, you will win false friends and true enemies.
Succeed anyway.
The good you do today will be forgotten tomorrow.
Do good anyway.
Honesty and frankness make you vulnerable.
Be honest and frank anyway.
The biggest men and women with the biggest ideas can be shot down by the smallest men and women with the smallest minds.
Think big anyway.
People favor underdogs but follow only top dogs.
Fight for a few underdogs anyway.
What you spend years building may be destroyed overnight.
Build anyway.
People really need help but may attack you if you do help them.
Help people anyway.
Give the world the best you have and you [may] get kicked in the teeth.
Give the world the best you have anyway.
[Recently an 11th one was added:]
The world is full of violence, injustice, starvation, disease, and environmental destruction.
Have faith anyway.

These commandments echo the words of Jesus when He said:
But love ye your enemies, and do good, and lend, hoping for nothing again; and your reward shall be great, and ye shall be the children of the Highest: for he is kind unto the unthankful and to the evil (Luke 6:35).
I have to add here, that in admiring or following teachings such as these, we must be careful not to develop a martyr complex – a psychological condition in which pain, misfortune, and mistreatment in the face of "doing good" is somehow made to feed one's ego and make one feel "special."  This is not healthy.  We just need to think more deeply about our reasons for doing things, and realize that we need to do what's right because it is right, even if no one else will recognize or appreciate us for doing it.  What it really important is not so much what we accomplish but what we become by our labors.  Here it is appropriate to add the final words of the Mother Teresa version:
You see, in the final analysis, it is between you and God.
It was never between you and them anyway.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Ezer Kenegdo - a "Helpmeet"

“Rabbinic and Christian commentators alike have taught that the creating of Eve from Adam's rib is a figurative account designed to teach us the proper relationship between man and woman. She is not created from a head bone to rule over him, nor from a foot bone to be beneath him, but rather from his rib to be equal to him, by his side, under his arm for protection, and close to his heart—to truly be an ezer kenegdo.” [Source]

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Windows 7 Start Menu Tips

I'm finally using Windows 7.  I like Windows 7, it's Office 2007 that's hard to get used to.  To me, performance-wise it seems clunkier than Office 2003.

Here are some things about Windows 7 that I have a hard time remembering, so I'm putting them here:

Location of your user-specific Start Menu items:
%APPDATA%MicrosoftWindowsStart MenuPrograms

Location of Start Menu items for all users:
C:ProgramDataMicrosoftWindowsStart MenuPrograms
(C:ProgramData is the same as %ALLUSERSPROFILE% on my computer)

How to add shortcuts as pinned items to the Start Menu:
Create a blank text file on your desktop.  Rename it with an .exe extension.  Right click on it and choose "Pin to Start Menu."  Go to pinned items on Start Menu and right click on your newly pinned item, choose "Properties," and you can now edit the path to any executable you want, with arguments, etc. (even to locations on networked drives).
Additional tip: assign it a shortcut key combination and you can open it from the keyboard at any time!