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Late Night Haiku XLVI

By Tim Butler | Posted at 12:40 AM

CXXXI. The Lightning flashes
Like a giant firefly,
The dark wood watches.

CXXXII. Light, but no thunder —
A fury held back by space,
As plants strain to reach.

CXXXIII. I thought it was so,
He said, head resting in hands.
He strain'd in silence.

How Do We Pray?

By Tim Butler | Posted at 1:15 AM

It is so easy for us to become wrapped up in how we pray — an emphasis on our own “prayer skills” — that we can come to believe that our act of praying, our choice of words and our “faith” is what really matters. Karl Barth addresses this misunderstanding nicely:

Grace itself is the answer to this question. When we are comforted by the grace of God, we being to pray with or without words.

How wonderful it is when we see that prayer is not ultimately bounded by our foundation but God's grace!

Late Night Haiku XLV

By Tim Butler | Posted at 11:45 PM

CXXVIII. Crickets chirp softly.
The warm summer air flows 'bout
Their mournful old tune.

CXXIX. What is their secret?
E'ery summer, they chirp anew,
The old melody.

CXXX. Tell me now what is —
I only wish to understand —
What lingers. Again.

Petition the President on the TSA

By Tim Butler | Posted at 12:30 AM

A We the People Petition on the White House web site aims to involve the president in the debate around the TSA's full body scanners. The petition reads:

In July 2011, a federal appeals court ruled that the Transportation Security Administration had to conduct a notice-and-comment rulemaking on its policy of using “Advanced Imaging Technology” for primary screening at airports. TSA was supposed to publish the policy in the Federal Register, take comments from the public, and justify its policy based on public input. The court told TSA to do all this “promptly.” A year later, TSA has not even started that public process. Defying the court, the TSA has not satisfied public concerns about privacy, about costs and delays, security weaknesses, and the potential health effects of these machines. If the government is going to “body-scan” Americans at U.S. airports, President Obama should force the TSA to begin the public process the court ordered.

Since I signed earlier today, I've seen several thousand more signatures go on the record. We need 17,331 more to “require” the president to respond to this petition.

Spider Elimination

By Tim Butler | Posted at 11:39 PM

This is one of the strangest news stories I've seen in a long time:

An attempt to remove spider webs ended with a charred home at about 1 p.m. Saturday.

Eiliya Maida used a propane blowtorch to clear cobwebs in the backyard of his 811 Coit Tower Way home before dry plants ignited and started an attic fire, said George Basbous, Maida's brother-in-law. While Maida went into the front yard unaware, Basbous noticed smoke rising from the top of the house.

HT: Mark Ryan.

Acquainted with the Night

By Tim Butler | Posted at 2:01 AM

A bit of Frost for the night:

I have been one acquainted with the night.
I have walked out in rain—and back in rain.
I have outwalked the furthest city light.

I have looked down the saddest city lane.
I have passed by the watchman on his beat
And dropped my eyes, unwilling to explain.

I have stood still and stopped the sound of feet
When far away an interrupted cry
Came over houses from another street,

But not to call me back or say good-bye;
And further still at an unearthly height,
One luminary clock against the sky

Proclaimed the time was neither wrong nor right
I have been one acquainted with the night.

Navsop

By Tim Butler | Posted at 1:04 AM

An intriguing developing technology:

Unlike GPS, Navsop doesn't need satellites once it's got going, so it doesn't rely on a signal coming from the sky. That means it can be used indoors and even underground, both places that GPS can't go because the signals are too weak, having journeyed all the way from space. By contrast, radio, TV and mobile signals are much stronger.

Most cell phones already use EGPS, which works in a similar way, but this sounds like a significant expansion of that concept.

Too Small

By Tim Butler | Posted at 1:20 AM

There is not an inch in the entire domain of our human life of which Christ, who is sovereign of all, does not proclaim 'Mine!'”

We often think of redeeming society in too small of terms. That is the beauty of Kuyper's famous statement: he points us towards how big the scope of God's plan was.

Off the Record with Scientology

By Tim Butler | Posted at 1:36 AM

A few months ago, I was reading a journal article on Scientology which noted a conversation with a spokesperson for the group who answered some questions and then (presumably after talking to his superiors) became unhelpful and refused to go on the record any further. It seems like an odd pattern to intentionally follow, but as I read a story about the latest Scientology campaign aimed at silencing its critics, I noted the spokeswoman who was interviewed played that same game:

She goes on to write that “Marty Rathbun is a defrocked apostate removed from any position in the Church for malfeasance nearly eight years ago and has no firsthand knowledge of its activities.”

Contacted by phone later, Pouw declined to comment further and would not speak on the record about the Office of Special Affairs or other details mentioned in the email Rathbun references.

Perhaps this is because they have only a few, prewritten responses and when those run out the spokespeople do not have anything they are able to say?

Patent Reform

By Tim Butler | Posted at 1:51 AM

Thom Holwerda over at OSNews is bit overzealous in his campaign against patent enforcement — he'll defend companies that are blatantly and directly copying Apple in ways that are totally unnecessary — but his list of suggested patent reforms has a lot of good ideas. Most notably, this:

Patent applications must be accompanied by a working prototype that must be presented, in person, by the inventor listed on the application, to the patent office. This makes it impossible to file patents on ideas that have not yet been implemented or productised, and will serve to greatly reduce the number of vague and/or bogus applications.

The payoff is clear: so-called “patent trolls,” whose main business is extorting money out of actually productive companies by patenting often obvious ideas and then waiting to find someone to sue, would have to either start being productive themselves or move on. In some sense I can see a working prototype requirement as being too steep for high tech patents, after all, an inventor may wish to have the protection of a patent before seeking manufacturing partners. On the other hand, perhaps a compromise would be to require those requesting a patent to produce a working prototype within a certain probationary patent window or face loss of the patent.

Similarly, Thom is right that software patents can be stunningly vague and that such overly broad patents should be rejected. Nonetheless, I do not think the solution is to eliminate software patents entirely, but require them to be restricted to a particular implementation of an idea, not a broad concept that can be achieved via many different methods.

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