Now that I’m living in a foreign country, I’ll have to be careful about visiting the United States.

Names part 2

April 25, 2009

I wrote a complete post on this earlier this week, but when I pressed the publish button it all vanished except the first line. I hope it works this time.

So now we come to boys. As I said in the earlier post, Julia picked the boys’ names.

She wanted our first boy’s name to be similar to mine, but not identical, so she picked Christopher Gerald. (Gerald is my middle name and my father’s name.) Christopher means “bearing Christ” so that seemed like a good name to me. Gerald means “sword wielder.”

I don’t remember why Julia picked Daniel for our second boy. I think this is when I started suggesting “Moroni” for the middle name, but Julia would never agree to that. Instead she chose “James”. Daniel means “God is my judge” and James is an anglicized version of Jacob, who was also named Israel. So we could stretch things a little and say “Daniel James” means “God is my judge, oh Israel.”

Samuel means “name of God” or “God has heard.” I know I tried to get Julia to use Moroni for Sam’s middle name. In the end, we went with Conrad because it was a family name on both sides: it’s my brother Hans’ middle name and Conrad Kleinman was one of the original pioneers to reach the Salt Lake valley, while Conrad Mund was the first one in Julia’s family to come to Texas from Germany. Conrad means “wise in counsel.”

On marriage

April 23, 2009

This time I won’t just link, I’ll comment:

Let Gays Have Marriage; We’re Not Using It.

The point here (which I agree with) is that we wouldn’t be hearing all this stuff about same sex marriage if our society didn’t already have incorrect ideas about marriage. We have to get the real thing right if we’re going to defend it against the fakes.

The Men Have Muffed It: How Men’s Misunderstanding of the Telos of Marriage Imperils Its Future

Sis. Smith linked to this approvingly, but the more I think about it the more I can’t go along with it. If marriage has a unique telos (why can’t it have multiple purposes?) it’s to help us become like our heavenly parents. The quotes from general authorities on equality in marriage never say that’s the purpose (or even a purpose) of marriage, just a necessity if you’re going to do it correctly. If we’re looking for a purpose for marriage, “unity from complementary opposites” comes closer than “gender equality.”

Procreation is an important purpose of marriage too, but arguments about who is fertile and so on miss the point. Humans are not just biological organisms, we’re cultural and social and emotional and spiritual beings too. It’s fairly obvious that marriage is not required for mere biological reproduction; but the universal experience of the human race is that it provides the environment most likely to produce fully realized human beings. Childless couples contribute to this purpose by helping establish marriage as a cultural norm.

I have yet to see an argument for same sex marriage that was not totally focused on the “rights” of the people entering into the relationship, ignoring the way marriage creates ties, obligations, and responsibilities to many other people and to society as a whole. When Julia and I married I became related to her family and vice versa, and I committed to accepting responsibility for her and for them and for any children we might have. One of the reasons marriage has become such a weak institution is our selfish focus on what we get out of it.

So that’s the main thing I wanted to say. A few side notes:

She asked the great scholar why women should support traditional marriage when its history has been the oppression, in general, of women.

This question fails to distinguish use from misuse. It’s almost like asking “why should I keep matches in my house when they’ve been used so often to commit arson?” I see no reason to believe that women would be oppressed any less if we didn’t have marriage, and I believe the history of oppression of women would have been much worse without it.

And because I’m the kind of person who cares about such things, I have to say that whoever designed the markup for that Square Two site needs to learn some things about HTML. A good starting point would be A Dao of Web Design by John Allsopp, or reading Designing with Web Standards by Jeffrey Zeldman.

The fourth republic

April 21, 2009

Another interesting (though long) link I saw on Instapundit:
The Coming of the Fourth American Republic. Its thesis is that while we’ve had the same Constitution for over 230 years, we’ve actually had three different governments: the one before the Civil War, the one between the Civil War and the New Deal, and our present government that started with the New Deal, which the author calls the Special Interest State. Furthermore, our current government is rapidly becoming unsustainable and will have to be replaced soon. Well worth reading and pondering.

Python’s urllib2

April 20, 2009

I know it’s mostly my family that reads this and most of them won’t care about this, but I need to say some things about urllib2 in Python.

One of my responsibilities at work is to administer our Tamino databases. Tamino comes with APIs for Java and C# (and a really low-level one for C) and there are unsupported libraries for JavaScript and Perl. But I don’t want to use those languages; I want to use Ruby or Python. Well, it turns out that Tamino access is all built on HTTP and the underlying interface is really well documented, so I decided to write my own libraries.

I wrote the Ruby one a while back. It uses the standard Ruby Net::HTTP library to manage the protocol. A few weeks back I started on Python, and decided to use the standard urllib2 library in that language.

At first I was pretty impressed with the architecture of urllib2. The way it has a generic “opener” object with handlers for different protocols and errors is pretty slick. As I got further in, though, it became clear that it was written by looking at what browsers do and not by reading RFC 2616 and actually following the standard.

  • By default, it only does GET and POST. Yes, that’s all that browsers do, but HTTP has other methods. I found the workaround on Stack Overflow and it’s not too unreasonable, but I still prefer the way Ruby’s Net::HTTP has a different subclass of Request for each method. (Net::HTTP even has subclasses for WebDAV.)
  • The big thing was when I did a POST and urllib2 threw an exception because the status code was 201, not 200! The RFC specifically says that by default all codes from 200 to 299 should be treated the same as 200, so this violates the RFC. It turns out that this has been fixed in Python 2.6, but our production environment will be Python 2.5, so I still need a workaround.

The workaround I came up with is to create a subclass of urllib2.HTTPErrorProcessor that has the code from the Python 2.6 version, and pass it to urllib2.build_opener() if the version of Python is less than 2.6. (I was already building an opener object so things like authorization and cookies would be database-specific.)

But I still think that people who are writing libraries around a published specification should actually read the specification and follow it in the first place.

Great satire

April 15, 2009

The Onion is often vulgar and almost always juvenile, but when they’re on they’re really on: Media Having Trouble Finding Right Angle On Obama’s Double-Homicide.

Maybe tomorrow I’ll have time to post something other than a link.

Followed this link on Instapundit and thought I’d share it: Don’t Be Preedy. It asks why we have a word for wanting lots of money and don’t have one for wanting lots of power, and answers that people who seek power tend to kill those who don’t agree with them. It’s very well written.

Names part 1

April 13, 2009

Since my sister Annette posted about how she named her babies a while back I thought I should do the same. I’ll spread it out over more than a single post, though.

The basic agreement we had was that, while we would both consult on the names, Julia would pick the boy names and I would pick the girl names. If we’d known how many of each we would end up with we might have done things differently, but of course before we had any we didn’t know we would have so many boys.

One of my favorite scriptures is Isaiah 8:18:

Behold, I and the children the Lord hath given me are for signs and for wonders in Israel from the Lord of hosts, which dwelleth in mount Zion.

So while I didn’t consider naming any of them Maher-shalal-hash-baz or Shear-jashub (or even Isaiah) I did think it would be good to have names that actually mean something. I also thought I would like names that also belonged to ancestors or spiritual leaders. So I tried to pick names (and encourage Julia to pick names) that had a spiritual meaning or tied them to an ancestor or prophet or, if possible, both.

So we come to our first child, a girl, and here is the story of her name.

One semester at BYU I took Pearl of Great Price from Hugh Nibley. His pedagogical style was completely traditional: he lectured all semester and then at the end of the year had a final exam, all essay questions, that was the sole determiner of your grade. He also didn’t cover the whole Pearl of Great Price in one semester; fall semesters he taught the Book of Moses, and spring semesters he taught the Book of Abraham. I took the class in Spring, so I got the Book of Abraham.

As I was going through the test, one of the questions was “What do bees have to do with the Book of Abraham?” I decided to skip that question and come back to it after answering the others, but when I got to the end I forgot to go back and turned in the test without answering it. (It’s been so long now I’m not sure what I might have said, but I do remember that the bee was a royal symbol in Egypt, and he told us a legend about bees building a honeycomb in Asenath’s mouth to purify her before she married Joseph. And of course there’s the part about Deseret in the Book of Ether.) Well, not answering that question doesn’t seem to have affected my grade, but it still bothered me. Now, one of my great-great-great-grandmothers was named Sarah Melissa Holman Johnson, and Sarah was the name of Abraham’s wife (it means “princess”) and Melissa means “honeybee”, so I decided if I ever had a daughter I would name her Sarah Melissa. And that’s how our first child got her name.


April 12, 2009

Well, it’s not too late so I’ll go ahead with one of the posts I’ve been thinking about. This one is prompted by this post that was linked from (and is about people associated with) Times and Seasons where Sis. Smith blogs. Although what I have to say is pretty much a tangent.

Anyway, I don’t think that terms like “orthodox” and “heterodox” really apply in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. There’s a good reason why we always say “active” or “inactive”—the church is ultimately more about what we do than what we believe. If you can honestly pass a temple recommend interview it doesn’t matter what else you believe. (I say ”what else” because a few of the questions are about belief. You really should believe in God and Jesus and that Joseph Smith was a prophet if you want to be a member.)

I’ve read that once in the early days of the church a member was excommunicated for telling about some outlandish beliefs he held. He appealed to Joseph Smith, and Joseph overturned the excommunication. Someone asked if the things the guy had said were true, then, and Joseph replied that they were utter nonsense but he had never read in the scriptures of anyone being condemned for his beliefs, only for unbelief.

I’ve read several times in church history where Joseph talked about creeds (he was “agin‘ ‘em,”*) and I wonder what he would have said about the way we use the Articles of Faith. But actually teaching them in Primary and memorizing them and such is probably consistent with what he taught as long as we use them as a foundation from which to build rather than as a limitation or constraint on our beliefs.

And as long as we’re talking about the Articles of Faith:

We believe all that God has revealed, all that He does now reveal, and we believe that He will yet reveal many great and important things pertaining to the Kingdom of God.

The last phrase implies that there are many “great and important things” that we don’t know yet, because God has not yet revealed them, so we shouldn’t get too cocky about thinking we understand the gospel.

* We have a tradition in our family of everyone reporting what they learned at church during Sunday dinner. And I have kind of a joke that when someone just says something like “repentence” or “faith” I’ll ask, “were they fur it or agin’ it?”

Happy Easter

April 12, 2009

I know it’s been a while since I blogged. I have several things I’ve been thinking about posting, but I’m not sure I’m ready yet, especially when it always seems to be so late at night when I get a chance. I have a doctor’s appointment tomorrow so I’m not going to work; maybe I’ll get around to some of it then.

It’s been quite a busy weekend. Sarah came home Friday night and Ben drove up from Houston with Jessie and Brennan. (Dee was with her ward’s Young Women on a camp out.) Friday was Julia’s birthday so we had her open her presents and ate ice cream. (She decided she didn’t want any cake.)

Saturday we all went to my mother-in-law’s for the traditional egg hunt. Unfortunately, Julia and I had to leave them all there to attend the funeral of Carl Johnson, a member of our ward who died on Wednesday. Sam actually spent all this time with some other young men at Sis. Johnson’s house so no one would break in during the funeral; apparently there are people who read obituaries in the paper and then target the deceased’s home for burglary. Ben and kids went home yesterday evening and Sarah just left a little while ago.