Saturday, January 31, 2009

An update on the now FOUR-blog Empoprises blog empire

Perhaps some of the readers of this blog may know about my side project, Empoprises. In essence, while this blog, mrontemp, is "all-encompassing," the Empoprises blogs are much more vertically-oriented, and only deal with one topic per blog.

In fact, the first two "Empoprises" blogs that I started are VERY vertically-oriented:

Now those two blogs are clearly of limited interest; for example, a French person would have no interest in either of these two blogs, since France is clearly outside of the Inland Empire, and NTN Buzztime has no sites in France.

But then I began thinking about my own personal interests, and began to branch out a bit.

The third Empoprises blog that I started was Empoprise-MU, devoted to music. That blog had a soft introduction on August 6, 2008, and started posting real music stories the next day. Those who have read mrontemp know that I've posted a lot of music items on this blog - over 400, as a matter of fact - so I figured that I've have something to say about music. Plus, if I may say so myself, as the founder of the lastfmfeeds room on FriendFeed (currently with 108 members viewing 50 "recently played tracks" feeds), I've certainly demonstrated my interest in the topic.

But if I've posted over 400 music items in mrontemp, it should also be noted that I've posted over 1200 business items on this blog. And as I found myself writing more and more about subjects such as what Apple should and should not disclose about Steve Jobs' health (sample post here), I began thinking that it was the appropriate time to add a business blog to the Empoprises empire. Again, this blog had a soft launch on Thursday, January 29, with real posts beginning on Friday, January 30.

So, what happens to mrontemp if I start putting all the business and music stuff elsewhere? I can only share my thoughts as of today, and you need to bear in mind that they could very well change tomorrow. (If you had asked me last April whether I would ever start a business or music blog, the answer would have been an emphatic "no.") So, here's my thinking:
  • There will still be business and music posts in mrontemp, as well as some Inland Empire and NTN Buzztime posts also. Obviously there won't be as many, but they'll be there, though the ones that end up here will probably be more personal, such as the wrap-up of the story about my Oracle OpenWorld Unconference presentation.

  • Incidentally, it's very possible that the Empoprise-BI blog may be my main posting ground for Oracle OpenWorld 2009, assuming that I actually go to Oracle OpenWorld 2009. Over the years I've shifted my Oracle OpenWorld posts from blog to blog - for example, my first Oracle OpenWorld posts were in an old blog called the Ontario Technoblog.

  • Which brings me to my next point - if you were to ask me today whether I'll be starting an Empoprises technology blog, my answer would be an emphatic "no." Frankly, there are a ton of tech blogs out there and, other than user experiences, my best contributions to technological blogging are on the business end of things.

  • Let's talk monetization. As you can see, all of the Empoprises blogs contain ads, while the mrontemp blog does not. Presently I plan to keep it that way, since an "all-encompassing" blog doesn't really lend itself to targeted ads. Incidentally, that's also why I haven't started an Empoprises religion blog, despite my clear interest in the topic. At present I feel a little funny making money off of God. Not that I quibble with religious bloggers who do carry advertisements, and it's possible that I may change my mind someday, but not now. (And in case you're wondering, yes I used to have a religion blog also.)

  • So will mrontemp (and, for that matter, the "Ontario Emperor" name) become a mere personal blog/face to the world, with Empoprises becoming less personal? Yes and no. Frankly, I have more fun when I write Empoprises posts from a personal perspective. For better or worse, the Empoprises blogs will focus on my thoughts about business, music, and the like.
Well, that's about it for this point except for the RSS subscription links. Here are the feeds for the four (at present) Empoprises blogs: (Empoprise-BI, business) (Empoprise-IE, Inland Empire) (Empoprise-MU, music) (Empoprise-NTN, NTN Buzztime)

I look forward to your subscriptions, your visits, and your comments.

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Friday, January 30, 2009

No, I won't be "securing the Tampa Convention Center"

This is a semi-amusing little postscript to a story that started several months ago. In fact, it began precisely on Friday, August 22, 2008.

That morning I was sitting in a presentation at a conference in Louisville, Kentucky, performing some free association on a notepad. Specifically, I was thinking about presentations that our company could give at the 2009 conference.

But then I began thinking about a presentation that I could give at the Oracle OpenWorld 2008 Unconference. The idea was that I could give the presentation at Oracle OpenWorld, then adapt it for presentation in 2009. (I'm green, so I believe that recycling presentations is good.)

As readers of this blog know, I eventually came up with a presentation idea for the Oracle OpenWorld 2008 unconference. After that I worked on the associated playlist, found Overlook 3A, went to the overlook, and gave my presentation.

That was 2008. This is 2009...and it's time to figure out how to revamp this presentation for an entirely different audience. As far as I'm concerned, there are two differences between the Oracle OpenWorld Unconference audience and the other audience:

  • The other audience is much more knowledgeable about automated fingerprint identification systems and biometrics. While there are people at Oracle OpenWorld who are knowledgeable about these topics, the vast majority of OpenWorld attendees have other interests. Therefore, my OpenWorld presentation included some basic information about AFIS which the average attendee at the other conference wouldn't need.

  • The organization hosting the other conference has some specific rules about presentations that are not found at the Oracle OpenWorld Unconference. The 2009 conference is dedicated to exploring the scientific disciplines that are followed by the practitioners who attend this conference. Therefore, it is acceptable to talk about ideas in general, but it is not acceptable to promote a particular vendor. If I were to go to the conference and exclusively talk about my product and the Oracle database, one of the conference executives would literally stand up and stop my presentation.
These differences in and of themselves were not a concern, because I figured that my 2009 presentation would be more of a generic look at three types of biometric systems:
  • Biometric systems that are designed to be used for a particular event.

  • Biometric systems that are designed to be used at a particular location (or to secure a particular perimeter).

  • Biometric systems that are designed for both purposes.
Now back in 2008 in San Francisco, I gave several examples of such systems, and concluded with the "what if" question reflected in the title, "Securing the Moscone Center" - or, in other words, using biometrics to control entry and exit to the Moscone Center during Oracle OpenWorld.

For the 2009 presentation (which would be held in Tampa), I would concentrate on real-life examples, such as biometric systems designed for jail entry/exit, systems designed for an election, and other types of systems. Whether the "perimeter" to be protected was the perimeter of a jail, the perimeter of a school lunchroom, or the perimeter of a country (e.g. a biometric-enabled visa/passport), I wanted to explore the commonality between different types of "event-based" and "perimeter-based" systems.

You see, biometric systems are already classified in some traditional ways, the most common of which is to divide them between criminal, civil, and commercial applications. But I was wondering whether, for example, "event-based" systems would have some commonalities regardless of whether or not the system was criminal, civil, or commercial. For example, would a system designed to investigate a crime be similar in any way to a system designed for the World Cup?

So I wrote a title and a synopsis, although I had difficulty with the title. Ordinarily I would have used the word "classification" in the title, but it turns out that classification has a particular meaning in the biometric world, so I had to find an alternate word that wouldn't mislead my audience. I played around with "taxonomy" (which explains my January 21 reading) but eventually decided that I needed a better word.

But before I found a better word, I read the synopsis of my proposed presentation. After reading the synopsis, I asked myself the following question:

So what?

I was forced to conclude that my presentation idea, as then conceived, didn't really benefit the attendees of the Tampa conference. I still think it's a good idea, and may pursue it someday, but with a different audience.

At this point I'm not sure what the takeaway from this is, other than to note that an idea, once conceived, may mutate into something entirely different from what you originally envisioned. Take the church choir singer who didn't realize that the solution to his problem would also solve my later problem about idea brainstorming.

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Thursday, January 29, 2009

I'm talking to you now - the Electronic Biometric Transmission Specification

On Saturday, January 24, I wrote a post entitled Talk to me - barriers to communication affect everybody. As part of that post, I reproduced some of the jargon that I spout every day:

BCA needs ESB support, and since we know this now, we don't need to CCB it in. We can start with FEC and write the appropriate STRQs and MRs to get us to M-11. Of course, we'll follow P_RGP in the SPP to do all this. And of course BCA will need all the ANSI/NIST and EFTS stuff we do - you know, WSQ and all that. But the ADS handles that with no problem, as does the DES, of course.

Now that was probably cruel of me to spout all that stuff and not explain a word of it. Following Elvis Google's mandate of "Don't be cruel," I'm going to be a little less cruel about it. I'm not going to explain every one of those acronyms, many of which are only meaningful in a particular office building in Orange County, but I'm going to take a few minutes to explain the acronym EFTS, and why you should never use it again.

You see, the EFTS is the Electronic Fingerprint Transmission Specification, which has since been superseded by the EBTS, the Electronic Biometric Transmission Specification. Both of these specifications were written by the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation, and (to simplify things) dictate how the FBI's criminal system will receive and transmit biometric data that is used in solving crimes, and for other purposes.

And there's a definite need to receive and transmit biometric data. You see, the FBI isn't the only police unit in the United States. There are state organizations, county organizations, city organizations, and various other kinds of organizations that are all occupied in taking fingerprints, palmprints, facial images, and other types of biometric data. And all of these organizations, or many of them, take all of this biometric data and store it in a biometric system (the common term used is AFIS, or Automated Fingerprint Identification System, although many of the systems store more than fingerprints).

And guess what? There are multiple manufacturers of AFIS (I work for one of them), and the FBI system (currently called IAFIS, or Integrated AFIS) is manufactured by another company.

Let's say that my home city of Ontario, California gets some fingerprints at a crime scene, searches its AFIS (which includes fingerprints from previously arrested criminals), and can't match the crime scene prints to any person's prints. The regular procedure is that Ontario will then submit the prints to the state of California, so that California can search its AFIS. If California can't match the prints, they'll go on to the FBI's system. Well, those three systems are manufactured by three different vendors, and the FBI needed to set some rules to make sure that the systems can communicate with the FBI system, and send the right data in the right format to the FBI system.

Hence we have the standard now known as the Electronic Biometric Transmission Specification, which is available for your reading pleasure at But this web site doesn't only have the EBTS, but also has a lot of related standards from a lot of related agencies. If you want to know how to format XML for fingerprint transmissions, then this is the place to go.

Oh yeah...XML stands for eXtensible Markup Language. But that's a whole other topic...

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Wednesday, January 28, 2009

We're not doing this because we're greedy (the Chicago Bears on leadership)

Even if I weren't trying to become a U.S. Senator from Illinois in 2009 - a goal which has become immeasurably harder to achieve - I would have been attracted to a story shared by Steven Perez Monday - namely, an item from entitled Bears shuffled to lopsided victory in Super Bowl XX.

You see, the title of the item reminded me of this:

And who was the first of the stellar rappers who soloed in this video? The late Walter Payton.

Which got me wondering about something that I may have once known, but have since forgotten - who were the leaders on that Super Bowl-winning Chicago Bears team?

My memory is still alive enough to realize that Refrigerator Perry was probably not the leader of the Bears, but it got me wondering whether DA Bear was the MVP who led off the video, the quarterback Jim McMahon, the coach who didn't appear in the video, or someone else.

The article calls out the defensive leaders - Mike Singletary and Dan Hampton - but does not try to characterize the offensive or overall leadership of the team.

Another article positions Ditka in the leadership position:

There was something in the air in Platteville, WI, in August 1985. Throngs of new tourists suddenly showing up to watch the team practice....Mike Ditka set the tone, as he told the team that this was their year. "Put a chip on your shoulder, and don't let anyone knock it off until we win the super bowl!", became the team's rallying cry.

But there is another candidate whose name is bandied about:

The NFC Championship game featured some high drama of its own in the final seconds. Down 17-0, Los Angeles was desperately trying to put points on the board. As QB Dieter Brock dropped back to pass, he was sacked by Richard Dent, and fumbled the ball. Just as Wilbur Marshall picked up the ball and ran in for a touchdown, it started to snow. Many surmised it was George Halas giving his mark of approval on the team.

And perhaps that's the secret. Perhaps it wasn't Ditka (or Halas) imposing their vision upon the crowd, but the group of people deciding to achieve a common purpose together. In fact, the video itself, with its variety of "stars," musicians, and people dancing in the back, attests to this team togetherness.


In the next 3 games, the Bears were clearly on a roll. They beat up on Detroit, Dallas, and Atlanta by a combined score of 104-3. The pinnacle was a 44-0 defeat of the Cowboys in Dallas, their worst loss at home ever. These 3 losses set up disappointment at Miami on December 2nd. The Dolphins defeated the Bears 38-24, and ensured they would remain the only unbeaten team in the modern era.

Ironically, Bears players gathered the following day to record the "Super Bowl Shuffle" video and single. Some players were invited, but refused to participate.

The article doesn't say why some people refused to participate - perhaps they felt this was inappropriate after a loss - but those non-participants are now the ones who weren't in the video. And, for what it's worth, the Bears performed well after the video was shot:

After the Miami loss, the team did turn it back around, with 3 wins over Indianapolis, the New York Jets and Detroit, to finish the regular season. The playoffs were upon the Bears, and they controlled their destiny with home field advantage throughout the post season.

Incidentally, if you want to practice your wicked rapping skills, the rhymes can be found here. Here are Payton's lines, as recorded at lyricsmode:

Well they call me Sweetness
And I like to dance
Runnin the ball
Is like makin romance
We had the goal
Since training camp
To give Chicago
A Superbowl champ
We're not doing this
Because we're greedy
The Bears are doin it
To feed the needy
We didn't come here
To look for trouble
We just come here
To do the Superbowl Shuffle

P.S. Back in October 2008, I Stumbled Upon a Chicago Tribune article that documented William "Refrigerator" Perry's fight with Guillain-Barré syndrome. A January 25, 2009 Washington Times article offered no update on his condition. Both articles quote him as saying, "I'm doing fine." Hope so.

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Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Oh yeah, that Don Martin takes over the world thingie

You know how you want to blog about something, start collecting material on it, and never get around to it?

You know how you think about all of the previous blog posts you're gonna cite, and then you never search for them?

Well, perhaps some day I'll document several years' worth of blog posts about Los Angeles sports radio station KLAC (what's the frequency, Kenneth?), but for now I'm just gonna do a linkdump of some stuff I shared a week ago.

Let's start with Tom Hoffarth on January 20:

Talking to Vic "The Brick" Jacobs at last night's Lakers-Cavs game, it seemed like something was going down today in the land of KLAC-AM (570). We heard several rumors/reports/more rumors during the day ... phone calls starting as early at 7:30 a.m.

But there was some other event going on in Washington DC, so some people missed what was happening. Sports by Brooks gave the blow-by-blow:

[Fox Sports Radio's] Craig Shemon and James Washington Show (9a-noon ET) show has been dropped. Dan Patrick’s Show will fill the void, now syndicated by Premiere Networks.

FSR’s Andrew Siciliano and Krystal Fernandez Show (7p-10p ET) show has been dropped. Show will be replaced by KLAC’s “PMS” Show (Petros Papadakis and Matt “Money” Smith)

KLAC’s Steve Hartman and Vic Jacobs, formerly the station’s “Loose Cannons”, will now co-host national FSR show with Chris Myers from 3-7p ET. Myers’ former co-host, Sean Farnham, moves to FSR weekends. Mychal Thompson, part of the Loose Cannons L.A. show, has been dropped.

So who was responsible? Hoffarth names Don Martin ("Don Martin has emerged from a merger as head of both KLAC and Fox Sports Radio"), while Brooks goes higher up ("Clear Channel corporate stepped in and forced the merger - and subsequent clearance" [of talent]).

By January 21, Duncan Riley was blogging about the latter:

After days of speculation, America’s largest radio station owner Clear Channel has announced 1,850 jobs will go, or 9% of its total workforce.

And he concluded by noting

If you thought the loss of local content was bad before, you ain’t seen nothing yet.

On the 21st, Hoffarth also tied the radio moves to the problems of the corporate parent, and also added this speculative tidbit:

The Chicago Tribune's Phil Rosenthal even reported that some believe Clear Channel timed it all during President Barack Obama's inauguration "in the hope that the news would be lost in the shuffle."

And frankly, if you live in Los Angeles, the news could very well be lost in the shuffle. The morning programming from 6:00 am to noon is exactly the same as it was previously. The early afternoon show has less of a Bahamas flavor, and the late afternoon show has done away with the advertorials - you know, those uncomfortable radio dialogues where Petros and Matt would suddenly start talking about my boy Barry.

Needless to say, people in other parts of the country have a different perspective:

What will Fox become? The Lakers, Dodgers, and USC network?

And no, I haven't listened to Tony Bruno's replacement yet, but my perspective as someone who watched the Channel 13 sportscaster many years ago is that the true "Brick" is the one with a reduced role on KLAC. Feeling you a bit less.

P.S. If you're interested in my mentions of "KLAC" in the old Ontario Empoblog, here they are.

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It's the publicity, stupid - why any economic stimulus package will target big business

You probably haven't heard the story of the U.S. firm that decimated nearly FIFTY PERCENT of its workforce by a combination of actions:

  • The outright layoff of full-time workers.

  • The outright layoff of part-time workers.

  • The reduction of full-time workers to part-time status.
There are three reasons why you haven't heard the story of this U.S. firm.

First, this U.S. firm is not a publicly traded company, and thus does not fall under SEC disclosure regulations. (If Steve Jobs headed this firm, you'd know less about his health than you do now. This may or may not be a good thing.)

Second, this U.S. firm is actually a non-profit. As far as public perception is concerned, non-profits don't do real work, so when economic devastation hits them it doesn't count.

Third, and most importantly, this U.S. firm is very small, probably no more than a dozen employees. Thus the devastating losses to this firm are easily discounted in the mind, since I'm only talking about a few employees here. And because this firm doesn't have a high-powered marketing department, no one is hearing its story.

So bear this in mind when you think about the carnage of the last few days. The New York Times story that documents the layoffs of 75,000 people at Home Depot, Caterpillar, Sprint Nextel, "and at least eight other companies" was good, as far as it went. But even the Times didn't bother to name eight of the large companies impacted by the layoffs. And New York Times reporter Catherine Rampell, as good of a reporter as she is, doesn't have to document the complete total of economic devastation.

The squeaky wheel gets the grease. General Motors and Chrysler can send their chiefs to Capitol Hill. Even if the head of this non-profit could afford the trip to Washington, the only way that head could get to Capitol Hill would be to join one of the tours for the public. Even Feinstein and Boxer can't get this non-profit head into a hearing.

And it's not just a Democratic thing to satisfy the unions. The Republicans also are only going to listen to the heads of large organizations - organizations whose job losses (and, truth be told, political contributions) are easy to quantify.

So bear in mind that the words being spoken on Capitol Hill and the White House are only part of the story. Save for some numbers that will appear in statistical reports after the fact, the true picture of our economic meltdown is invisible from within the Beltway.

But perhaps we can see it in the world around us.

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On batch processing (still more from David Risley)

Yes, I'm squeezing one more post out of a January 16 David Risley post, in which he said:

I tend to write posts several at a time. It works for me and I find that I can get into a frame of mind for writing and just bust out stuff quickly that way.

Obviously this works best when writing a series of posts with similar content, since you can ensure that the posts are thematically consistent. Perhaps Risley is using this in other instances, when he writes several posts which are not connecting together. I guess that can work, since you get into the writing mood.

Hey, whatever works.

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Monday, January 26, 2009

Wandering WiFi's Proactive Customer Service

A few of you may know that mrontemp is not my only blog. While mrontemp, I actually write several other blogs (under the "Empoprises" banner) that are targeted toward specific topics. For the most part these are niche blogs, and aren't read by a huge number of people (not that mrontemp is read by a huge number of people, but you know what I mean).

One of my blogs targets the Inland Empire of Southern California (the region where the city of Ontario is located), and is called Empoprise-IE. Back on November 2, 2008, I wrote a post about a visit to the Vons in Upland, California. It turns out that the Upland Vons offers free wi-fi for people who are shopping in their stores. When I E Food asked about the point of offering free wi-fi in a grocery store, I replied that this Vons has a seating area near the deli, and that one could conceivably use the service from the chairs there.

But by the time I had responded to I E Food (incidentally, the I E Food blog is here, and it talks, I had an opportunity to try out the service myself - not on a laptop, but on my old Hewlett Packard PDA. I wrote about this on November 18:

I happened to be using my PDA just before I had to go to the Vons in Upland, so I brought it with me to test the "Wandering Wifi" service.

My browser displayed terms of service, and a Login button. I clicked the button and got...a blank screen.

Apparently Wandering Wifi's login process is incompatible with my PDA's browser.

So much for that...

Normally this would be the end of the story. Writer at a small-time blog tries a service, and the service doesn't work.

Fast forward to January 14, 2009, when Robert posted a comment at my second blog entry:

Sorry that you had some issues with our service. There are some occasional quirks with some PDA browsers and the login screen. We can fix that quickly for you with a call to our service department. You are probably not too interested now, just thought I would throw that out there. Our number is 866-926-3374 if you ever need it.

Robert's comment points out the importance of having the full context behind a post, and something that I failed to do when I wrote the post. If Robert had access to my full lifestream of posts over the years, he would have realized a few things:

  • My PDA is an old PDA. How old is it? I first blogged about it in December 2005 (in yet another blog, the Ontario Technoblog).

  • My PDA is even older than my phone, which is itself pretty old and uses the browser equivalent of Internet Explorer 4. When I admitted how untrendy my cell phone's operating system was, Louis Gray was downright embarrassed and wanted to disassociate from me. (Gray was joking...I think...)
So I should have made it clear in my November 18 post that I didn't really blame Wandering WiFi for the failure of the service to work with my older PDA. Heck, if there are companies who won't support Internet Explorer 6, I can't really fault a company for not supporting Internet Explorer 4.

So I figured I'd send some praise in Wandering WiFi's direction. And since my Empoprises empire doesn't have a business blog - yet - I figured I'd put the praise here in mrontemp.

And if you'd like to know more about Wandering WiFi, go to In addition to Safeway (and Vons) locations, Wandering WiFi has also implemented free wi-fi access for customers of Caribou Coffee; WellStar Health Systems, Ardent Health, and Blessing Health System (for hospital patients and visitors); and First Watch Restaurants. They have targeted specific vertical markets, both for solutions for customers and secure solutions for the businesses themselves. Here is what they say about providing Internet access to restaurant customers:

Whether you’re the hottest new restaurant in New York City or a reliable roadside diner, we know you’re always in search of ways to enhance customer service. Reliable Internet access is one amenity to consider....

Some restaurateurs fear however that providing their patrons with high-speed, Internet access will be an expensive proposition as historically, owners had to make significant capital outlays for cabling, computers, space and custom software. This is not the case with a solution from Wandering WiFi. Whether you’re a ‘mom and pop shop’ or a national chain, we can help you develop a HotSpot strategy that fits your needs. Free, free with purchase, limited time sessions or restricted peak hours – whatever model works for you can be worked out by us.

Oh, and Robert...thanks again.

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On idea files (more from David Risley)

Remember that David Risley post that I wrote about a few days in the future - I mean yesterday? He offers another good idea in that post - the idea file:

If you’re anything like me, you probably think up good ideas for blog posts all the time – even when you’re not in “writing mode”. The answer is to keep a list of ideas for future posts.

I keep online idea files in all sorts of places, including my ontarioemperor FriendFeed stream, my ego FriendFeed room, and my two Twitter accounts. For example, this entry in my oemperor FriendFeed room served as partial source material for a series of four posts on marketing techniques by three companies.

Of course, I'm not writing national security classified stuff, so I don't see the need to keep my post ideas secret until I write them.

And, for the record, Shel Israel is crowdsourcing a whole danged book before it's published. Here's his latest entry (well, the latest entry at the time that I'm writing this post, which is January 21 - I need to remember to adjust my style for these scheduled posts).

Well, I need to loot one more idea from Risley, and that will give me a third pre-scheduled post, so I'd better get cracking.

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Sunday, January 25, 2009

Foto Fun Strips Fail

Montclair Plaza, Montclair, California (by Macys).

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Change...23 cents' worth

From Premier Label Water Company,

See followup.

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Proving the point (David Risley's "How to Never Run Out of Content For Your Blog Again")

I've been a huge fan of Blogger's "scheduled post" feature ever since it was introduced. For example, (almost) every Friday at noon I publish an item called Empoprise-NTN High Noon that features one or more locations where you can play NTN Buzztime trivia.

But that's just part of the equation, as David Risley points out in a January 16, 2009 post, although Risley does it a little differently than I do:

I recommend that you have some posts already written which remain in draft on your blog. If something comes up and you are short on content, you can always publish one of your draft posts you had sitting there....

I would recommend having at least 5 good posts in draft so that you can pull them out when time is tight.

Proving the point, I'm writing this post on the evening of January 21, 2009. I still haven't decided when I'm going to schedule this post yet.

David Risley says some other good things in his post, but hey - I still have to come up with four future posts, don't I?

(Incidentally, the one drawback of scheduling a series of posts in Blogger is that you can't pre-establish links between the posts. In Blogger, the link isn't created until the post is actually published.)

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Saturday, January 24, 2009

Anyone seen this movie?

The casting is intriguing...

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Talk to me - barriers to communication affect everybody

I just ran across a podcast, available on Eddie Awad's blog, that was the first part of a discussion between Awad, Bob Rhubart of the Oracle Architect Community, and Jeff Davies, a Senior Principal Product Manager for Oracle. Rhubart moderated the discussion, which focused somewhat on communication between developers and architects. While I can't really comment on that part of the discussion, part of the discussion was more general, and concerned barriers to communication.

Jeff Davies cited an example that he previously blogged about in October 2008:

Last week at Oracle Open World I had the opportunity to meet a number of folks interested in Oracle products in general and SOA in particular. One gentleman that I spoke with was very technical, but asked me to explain what I meant by, “point-to-point integration”. At first, the question surprised me. Then I realized that I use terms like “point-to-point” and, ‘EAI” so often that I’ve simply come to assume that everyone knew what they meant. This is a hazard of specialization in any field: you assume that everyone you speak with not only recognizes your particular jargon, but also that they have the same definition for those terms that you do.

Eddie Awad went farther back, taking an example from 2006 when he had to start a new project and had to learn service-oriented architecture - not just the technical sections, but also the language that was spoken. This proved to be a challenge, even to someone like Awad with extensive technical experience (Awad has been recognized by Oracle as an "ACE Director," or an expert in Oracle technologies):

I have found the tutorial to be very useful and essential to getting started with SOA and especially BPEL and ESB....

Notice that in the short paragraph above, I used three acronyms: SOA, BPEL and ESB. Well, if you want to dive into SOA, you will be swimming in a sea of acronyms.

Both of them used their blogs to communicate some of the terms and acronyms that they had encountered. Hopefully their blog posts have helped others who are faced with the same situation.

Well, I'm not an Oracle developer or architect, but I certainly run across enough acronyms and special terms in my line of business - some from the industry in which our products compete, and some from our internal processes. For example, the following phrase is extremely meaningful to me:

BCA needs ESB support, and since we know this now, we don't need to CCB it in. We can start with FEC and write the appropriate STRQs and MRs to get us to M-11. Of course, we'll follow P_RGP in the SPP to do all this. And of course BCA will need all the ANSI/NIST and EFTS stuff we do - you know, WSQ and all that. But the ADS handles that with no problem, as does the DES, of course.

Of course.

Of the billions of people in the world, there are at most a few dozen people who understand all of the acronyms that I cited. Several of them are industry standard acronyms (I assume more of my more technical readers know that ESB = Enterprise Service Bus), but some of them are very specific to the building in which I work.

And you can't assume anything. I work for a Fortune 500 company that produces many, many products. My particular group writes software, but some of our software runs on other products that the Fortune 500 company produces. One of these products - let's call it the 57CM - was recently featured in the media, and one of our marcom people let everyone know that the 57CM would be featured. He received e-mails from three people, including people with extensive experience in our products and industry, who had never heard of the 57CM. All of us who work with the 57CM just assumed that everyone in our building knew what it was...

...just like I recently assumed that all of you reading this blog post are aware that "marcom" is shorthand for "marketing communications."

When we're writing for others, we need to remember to look at the communication from their eyes and make sure that it's comprehensible.

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Friday, January 23, 2009

Outline skating, cheek by jowl in a riot (lost in translation)

I'm trying to follow the results of the ladies' events in the European Figure Skating championships in Helsinki, but some of the first reports that I saw were in Finnish. I can't read Finnish text, but I can read Finnish numbers.

Taitoluistelun EM-kilpailut, naiset, tilanne lyhytohjelman jälkeen:

1) Laura Lepistö Suomi 56,62
2) Susanna Pöykiö Suomi 56,06
3) Carolina Kostner Italia 51,36
4) Jenna McCorkell Britannia 50,00
5) Katarina Gerboldt Venäjä 48,62
6) Ivana Reitmayerova Slovakia 48,00
7) Kiira Korpi Suomi 47,60
8) Irina Movtshan Ukraina 46,48
9) Tugba Karademir Turkki 46,26
10) Nella Simaova Tshekki 45,24

Since Laura Lepistö is my second favorite Finnish figure skater (you don't know my favorite Finnish figure skater), I'm naturally pleased with the results.

And I was even more pleased when I found an English language account of the short program.

Until I actually read it.

Once you start looking at the account, it's obvious that the account was actually written in another language, then translated to English via automatic translation software. It's pretty obvious that no human reviewed the translation, especially after seeing phrases like this:

HELSINKI, Finland: Laura Lepisto and Susanna Poykio of Finland gave the hometown fans a 1-2 finish Friday in the pointed program, in which case Carolina Kostner indispensably to make a good use of to bring over a third straight denominate at the European outline skating championships....

Later Friday, Russia'session Jana Khokhlova and Sergei Novitski possibility of good to gain over their earliest inscription in ice-cream dandle....

Kostner was heavily favored to make it three European titles in a riot, something that hasn'cheek by jowl been granted since France'session Surya Bonaly won five upright from 1991-95....

Poykio's literary work was a scrap of redemption. Runner-up at the 2005 Europeans, the 26-year-old didn'familiarily on a level contribute the Finnish lot ultimate year. But she looked relaxed and cocksure, and is 4 minutes from some other European medal.

And yes, we laugh at things like this, but it does point out a serious flaw in my eventual plan for world domination (which will occur after I secure the vacant U.S. Senate seat from Illinois). I am reputed to be able to speak English, and I have some very small ability to read Spanish and German, but there are (give or take) 6,912 living languages in the world today. And, as the example above proves, we aren't even able to master a greatly reduced subset of these languages, such as the 34 languages supported by Google Translate.

The ideal solution in the past (and present) has been for everyone to adopt a common, universal language when communicating with people from other parts of the world. As Omniglot notes, previous and current candidates for a universal (or semi-universal) language have included Greek, Latin, French, English, and Chinese. And the Omniglot article didn't even mention everyone's favorite universal language. But even this language has its drawbacks:

(with apologies to The Eagles)

Esperanto, why don't you come to your senses,
Your simplified tenses aren't enough anyhow,
Oh you're a hard one, but I know that you've got your reasons,
The cases that were pleasin' you, accuse you now

Don't you call the queen reg^ino boy, she'll king you if she's able
You know what kind of queen wants a name that ends in -o
Now it seems to me extreme things have been set out in that table,
You should corral your silly schemes, you know

Esperanto, oh, you ain't gettin' no younger,
You age and you hunger, and you're all but unknown,
And English, oh English, well that's just some people talkin'
Your prison is walking through this world all alone

Don't your circumflex now circumscribe
The speed we type and the speed we write,
It's hard to circumcise it either way,
And you're writin' X or H or gripes,
Ain't it ASCII you were plannin' for, I say?

Esperanto, why don't you come to your senses,
Stop manning those fences- open the gate
You may be failing, but there's ways to rearrange you
You'd better let somebody change you,
Let somebody change you
You'd better let somebody change you,
Before it's too late...

Taquito to the person who wrote that song parody.

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Thursday, January 22, 2009

Sharii, won't you draw out tonight?

If you would like to see some wonderful illustrations, visit, the website of Shari Chankhamma.

Born 1980, in Thailand where I currently reside. I have been drawing comics for 10 years, I have worked with publishers from the US, UK and also Thailand

I speak both Thai and English, I’m trying to learn Japanese but that’s going slowly.

I work mostly with sequential art (comics, manga, graphic novel, pick your poison), but also do illustrations, character designs and merchandise designs.

So how did I hear about Shari?

She turned Michael Hanscom into "Valiant Camera Warrior."

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Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Is Twitter the new Apple?

Incidentally, I promise that this post has nothing to do with Steve Jobs' health.

Louis Gray wrote a post which decried Twitter's recent changes to API access. Turns out those changes adversely impact SocialToo, and Gray happens to be an advisor to SocialToo, so he naturally shared his opinion on it.

Dave Winer also caught Gray's post and linked to it via a tweet. But his preface to the link was interesting:

The problem with Twitter is it's both a company and a platform. It can only be both for so long.

Now I realize that conversation is for sissies, but Winer's tweet provoked a thought in my brain.

Name one other Silicon Valley firm which has consistently been a company and a platform. Well, there are probably several, but Apple (formerly Apple Computer) has been well-known (or notorious) for this behavior.

I worked for a developer of Macintosh educational software in the 1980s, so I was around for the first years of Apple and the Macintosh. And, although I had left the company by the early 1990s (ironically, as they began to port their software to Windows), I followed Apple's next steps:

At the shareholder meeting on January 26, 1994, Apple announced that it would license its upcoming Power Macs by the end of the year. Apple had trouble signing up even one licensee. Potential cloners questioned Apple's commitment to long-term licensing. After a number of concessions and much hand wringing, licensees finally came onboard and began selling Mac clones in 1996. Cloners included Umax, Motorola, and Power Computing.

But then Apple acquired NeXT, and Steve Jobs (who had left the company in the 1980s) came back.

When Steve Jobs returned to Apple in 1997, many of the cloners began to worry about their future. During a fireside chat at Apple's Worldwide Developer's Conference (WWDC) on May 16, 1997, Jobs asserted his belief that clone vendors should pay more for the privilege of making Macs. Instead of a flat fee of $50 per unit, the price should be based on the volume and price of computers sold. He referred to cloners as "leeches". It was clear that Jobs was no fan of licensing.

So Apple pulled back from licensing, and because of strong customer sentiment for open systems, Apple died a miserable death.

Not exactly. Apple seems to have done pretty well in the years since Jobs' return, despite releasing other closed products such as the iPod and the iPhone.

So it certainly is possible for a company to be both a company and a platform. And there are advantages to such a strategy, namely the fact that you dominate your sector in the market. And while your sector might be small, Twitter use has been increasing dramatically (nearly 1000% in the last year), so perhaps they can keep things locked up and still survive.

Or Winer (and others) might be right, and Twitter is throttling itself.

What do you think?

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Who should respond to questions about an employee's health?

The whole Steve Jobs/Apple thingie has raised interesting questions about key employee privacy, and whether an employer or the key employee is responsible for providing information about health to the public.

I've talked about Jobs and Apple before; see my posts from 1/5, 1/7, 1/14, and 1/16. The whole episode has now caused someone to initiate an action within the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC). Silicon Alley Insider links to a Bloomberg article:

Apple Inc. faces a government review of its disclosures about Chief Executive Officer Steve Jobs’s health problems to ensure investors weren’t misled, a person familiar with the matter said.

The Securities and Exchange Commission’s review doesn’t mean investigators have seen evidence of wrongdoing, the person said, declining to be identified because the inquiry isn’t public.

So what is the potential nature of the review? Bloomberg reviews the disclosures that were made:

The company’s stock whipsawed this month after Jobs, who battled pancreatic cancer in 2004, said he would remain CEO while seeking a “relatively simple” treatment for a nutritional ailment. Nine days later, Jobs said he would take a five-month medical leave after learning his health issues were “more complex.”

“The good news flipped by the bad news makes one wonder what Apple knew,” said James Cox, a law professor at Duke University in Durham, North Carolina....

To bring any case, the SEC would probably have to show the company tried to benefit by withholding information about an unambiguous diagnosis, said Peter Henning, a former federal prosecutor and SEC lawyer who now teaches at Wayne State University Law School in Detroit.

From the information that we have, it's unclear whether the SEC is only investigating the information that Apple did provide, or is also looking at the information that Apple didn't provide.

Regardless, the issue in general has prompted a couple of FriendFeed threads that have touched on the issue of employee privacy. The most extensive thread is the one that Kevin Fox started last Friday. In this thread, Fox and other FriendFeed users such as Alex Scoble have discussed the corporate obligations, if any, to disclose health issues regarding key employees. Here's a sampling of the discussion:

Medical privacy is our strongest privacy. (Kevin Fox)

Investors have a right to know the health of top execs and other key personnel in a company that they are investing in. When someone takes a position like that, they have no reasonable expectation to privacy in matters that can affect shareholder's investments. (Alex Scoble)

Without knowing about this thread, I started a different thread based upon the Silicon Alley Insider post about the SEC review. Scoble and Fox joined that conversation also, and Kevin Fox made an interesting observation. In response to a statement I made about how Apple could answer the question "Is Steve healthy?" Fox replied:

I think the best answer to the question "Is Steve healthy?" would be "We respect the privacy of all our employees. If you have questions about an employee's health you should direct those questions to the employees personally, though we encourage you to respect their right to privacy as well."

This response interested me, for a couple of reasons:

  • While corporations usually like to control statements about themselves, Fox's formulation means that the health of a key employee (or any employee) is specifically outside of the area of interest of the corporation.

  • It also means that employees, who are usually insulated from the press by a corporation's communications organization, now become responsible for their own communications.
In the FriendFeed thread I cited a theoretical extreme example of how this could be applied.

In the theoretical extreme, reporters could ask every worker entering an auto plant if they have a hangover.

Yes, it's an extreme example, but often the outliers help to illustrate potential ramifications of this proposed policy, both for the employee and for the corporation. On the one hand, the so-called unwashed masses may be inexperienced in dealing with the press, and may respond, "Yeah, I have a hangover, but I just smoked a couple of joints before I got here. Let's build some cars, man!" On the other hand, the corporation, who decided that they didn't want to breach their employees' privacy, suddenly discovers that they are faced with something that IS a corporate issue.

My argument throughout this is that if a key employee is engaged in day-to-day operations, and is unable to perform his/her day-to-day duties, then that is a material issue that should be disclosed. (Therefore, when Jobs was actively engaged in Apple day-to-day issues, his health was an issue; now that he has taken a leave of absence, it is not.)

Then again, why not take my formulation to its theoretical extreme? Let's say that Kevin Fox and Alex Scoble are the co-leaders of a pop band called the FriendFeeders, and that they had a scheduled gig in San Francisco on January 20. They're late to the gig, and the press asks why. Rather than insisting that this is a private matter, Kevin Fox concludes that the late arrival to the gig is a material issue, and he replies, "Well, we would have been on time, but Alex insisted on finishing a game of Fallout 3, which made us late."

Unfortunately, let's say that the FriendFeeders' gig was sponsored by EA, a competitor to Bethesda Softworks (publisher of Fallout 3). The EA rep, angry at the mention of a competitor's product, refuses to book the FriendFeeders ever again. Eventually the band is reduced to performing at kids' birthday parties...all because Rose [WHOOPS, "FOX"] was forced to disclose something that should have been kept private.

OK, so we've explored the outliers, and I've personally concluded that extremism in the defense of a blog topic is no virtue. (Yeah, I stole that from my boy Barry.)

So I'll ask you:

Should questions about a key corporate employee's health be directed to the corporation, or to the employee?

SUBSEQUENT POSTSCRIPT: So I wrote this whole dang thing, and then read something else on FriendFeed:

I'm honored that you confused me with Kevin Rose in that post. :-) - Kevin Fox

Yes, at one point I did type "Rose" instead of "Fox." I've corrected it.

Perhaps before I post this, I'd better scan the post for the word "Robert"...

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Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Rick Warren's prayer - Why should the Muslims have all the good phrases?

Decades and decades ago, Larry Norman released a song "Why Should the Devil Have All the Good Music?" that basically said that yes, Christian music can have loud guitars and stuff. And while there are some pockets of objection, most Christians have agreed that the existence of an amplified musical instrument does not necessarily mean that a Christian is prohibited from using said instrument.

Earlier today Rick Warren spoke a prayer at the inauguration of President Barack Obama. Perpetua of Carthage linked to a YouTube video of the prayer.

While there are some who objected to the presence of anyone praying to God at a state event, and while there are probably some who don't really want to hear the Lord's Prayer, there was another thing that Rick Warren said that angered some.

The Scripture tells us, "Hear, O Israel: the LORD is our God; the LORD is one." And you are the compassionate and merciful one....

Yes, Rick Warren used the "c" and "m" words. John at True Discernment points out the significance of the words:

“The compassionate, the merciful” is, of course, a reference to the invocation at the beginning of every chapter of the Qur’an except one: Bismillah al-Rahman al-Rahim, “In the name of Allah, the compassionate, the merciful.”

Making sure everyone feels included — terrific. But the prayer indicates yet again that there is little general awareness of the reasons why the term “Judeo-Christian-Islamic values” is a misnomer.

John's point, which I believe is valid, is that the Muslim god is in no way to be equated with the Christian God.

And yes, I believe that Warren probably included the words "compassionate" and "merciful" to make the words sound inclusive.

But, in the old Lutheran phrase, "what does this mean?"

Personally, I have no problem using the words "compassionate" and "merciful" in prayers to my God, the Christian God. Just because someone came along a few hundred years later and applied them to his god doesn't mean that I have to quit using them. Or that I have to take verses such as this out of my Bible for fear that Christians may be offended by them:

Exodus 33:19 (New International Version) And the LORD said, "I will cause all my goodness to pass in front of you, and I will proclaim my name, the LORD, in your presence. I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I will have compassion.

Psalm 51:1 (New International Version) Have mercy on me, O God, according to your unfailing love; according to your great compassion blot out my transgressions.

James 5:11 (New International Version) As you know, we consider blessed those who have persevered. You have heard of Job's perseverance and have seen what the Lord finally brought about. The Lord is full of compassion and mercy.

Next thing you know, people are going to complain if Rick Warren uses the term "Christian." "Ah, an obvious attempt to incorporate the philosophy of Mary Baker Eddy," they will proclaim.

Of course, we need to ask the question - where is Rick Warren going? Over the past century, there have been several Christian pastors - Billy Graham and Jerry Falwell come to mind - who have tried to maneuver themselves into the role of "America's pastor." Rick Warren is apparently following in their footsteps. One can ask whether Warren, or Falwell, or Graham, or whoever is doing this to promote the kingdom of God, or to promote the kingdom of America, or perhaps both. I can't read Warren's heart, so I guess we'll have to see.

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Monday, January 19, 2009

25 things (it's a beautiful day in the neighborhood)

To keep things succinct, let's just say that the first 14 items in this post came from three previous posts. But now that FriendFeed has upped the ante and people are posting 25 things about themselves, it looks like the 14 items that I had previously posted were insufficient. So I've taken those 14 items and added 11 more. This allows me to compete with the other 25 things crowd, such as the Bohemian Sparkly Penguin, alphaxion, pea, Helen Sventitsky, and probably everybody else on FriendFeed. Yes, I'm getting to this late. No, I'm not trendy.

Incidentally, I have made minor edits to the original fourteen points (wow, sounds Wilsonian), including combining items 2 and 6 from the first post. And to get the links that I originally embedded in the first 14 items, you have to go back to the original posts; I was too lazy to reproduce them here.

  1. About twenty years before I became "Ontario Emperor," I was hobnobbing with Presidents. Sort of. I didn't tell the whole story when I referenced this back in 2006, so I'll tell it now. During the 1977 Virginia governor's race, the Republican candidate got some heavy hitters at one of his campaign rallies. Not only did he get Bob Dole, U.S. Senator and former Vice Presidential candidate, but he also got former President Gerald Ford. I got a chance to shake Ford's hand that day (left hand, if I remember correctly). Hey, how many Presidents have YOU met?

  2. I was probably using the Internet before Al Gore was. As I've mentioned in a couple of MySpace posts, I had access to Usenet while at Reed College. Reed was one of the pioneers on the Usenet network (scroll down to the summer 1980 map in this article), and Professor Richard Crandall included Pascal and UNIX use in his labs for freshman Physics. I didn't really do a lot of physics work on that DEC PDP-11/70, but I acquired some experience that has stood me in good stead to the present day. And it's been more useful to me than Professor Nicholas Wheeler's lectures on the 17th dimension. While on Usenet, one of my favorite Usenet groups was alt.non.sequitur. A sample post is here (my contribution is at the bottom of the post; true to alt.non.sequitur, it is not a sign). I eventually left Usenet after an unfortunate pizza delivery accident, and have never returned. Paddy O'Furniture is probably sad about my departure.

  3. Let's continue with an explanation of the "audio artist" phrase that I've thrown around here and there. When I started as "Ontario Emperor," I used the name to post various synthetica songs on the web - originally MIDI songs generated on the Mac, then mp3 songs generated on the Mac (and released on CDs via the old, then MIDI songs generated in Windows after I moved away from the Macintosh platform. Since changed formats in December 2003, the only mp3 of mine that remains online is the song "Non Sequitur 15," available here. This song holds the dubious distinction of being the only Ontario Emperor song that is not an instrumental. MIDIs, by the way, can be found here, although since MIDI is (like HTML) dependent upon the presenting device, the MIDIs that were composed on the Macintosh don't sound that good on Windows. (Frankly, the MIDIs composed on Windows may not sound that good on Windows, but that's another matter entirely.)

  4. As my old biography indicates, I have been published in the dinosaur traditional media. This occurred when I wrote something or another to Inland Valley Daily Bulletin columnist David Allen, who proceeded to publish it in his September 13, 1998 column. I'm vague about what was published because I have since forgotten what wise words I provided, the article is no longer available online, and I haven't taken the time to go to the library and look it up in the archives. I'm sure it was fascinating, however.

  5. Ditto with my call to Poorman's "Anti-Radio" show that was referenced in my old biography; can't remember what I said. Jim "Poorman" Trenton originally came to fame by writing "poorman" restaurant reviews. He eventually became a deejay at KROQ, most famous for his participation in the "Loveline" program. He parted with KROQ, not on friendly terms, and has drifted from radio station to radio station since. In 1999 he was championing the idea of a radio show for unsigned bands; the only song that I remember from that show was the classic "I Gotta Poo." He's still around somewhere on local radio or TV, but I'm not sure where.

  6. You may know that mrontemp is not my original blog, and that I've created a number of other blogs since October 2003, most notably the Ontario Empoblog. But did you know that I was a contributor to a blog that was reading through the New Testament? The blog was called Word Search, and although the blog itself no longer survives, the posts are still available as part of A Human Bean's blog. Although the identities of the individual post writers are no longer preserved (we'd rotate amongst ourselves), I found a post that was obviously written by me (it links to a bad joke in one of my old blogs).

  7. I am an actor who regularly appears on stage, performing for thousands. It's true. There is a southern California performing arts organization called Children's Theatre Experience, and after my daughter had performed in several shows with the Claremont group, she let me know that they needed adult men for their production of "Fiddler on the Roof." Apparently a lot of kids approached their fathers, because several of us formally joined the cast at that point. In addition to appearing in "Fiddler on the Roof," I have also appeared in "Big River", "The Music Man", "Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat", and other productions. Our performances are at the Bridges Auditorium in Claremont, California, which does hold well over 2,000 people and has played host to a number of more prominent people than myself.

  8. I have found that once I am at an area, I am just very very happy to stay there and not move at all. I moved into my current home in 1997 and have no desire to leave, but if I do, and I end up in Olten, Switzerland, I'll probably never want to leave there until I have to move and end up in Barrow, Alaska, and I'll never want to leave - I'll just buy bright lights in the winter.

  9. We didn't get our Christmas tree up until mid-December, and wouldn't have done it except for my daughter who just started dragging it out.

  10. Some of you may already know that my employer is selling my division to another company. The potential sale was announced in October, but hasn't happened yet.

  11. I did not attend my usual church right before Christmas. It was still a Lutheran Church Missouri Synod church, but it was a different congregation, a different pastor, and a different type of sermon. I missed my regular pastor, who always makes a great point of having us look at the Bible reading during the sermon itself. This pastor showed a video, and while Charlie Brown is meaningful, it wasn't the same.

  12. Despite my pseudonym, I have not been to Canada in a few years. Previously I would make fairly frequent business trips to Canada - mostly to Ottawa, but I have also been to Toronto, Montreal, and Orillia. Having not been there in a while, Tim Horton's actually sounds like an exotic place. You may laugh now.

  13. My home computer disk was over 90% full, but we've worked on reducing it.

  14. I've mentioned that I didn't avail myself of the chance to see Depeche Mode (and OMD) at the Rose Bowl, but I also missed a chance to see Jonathan Richman, even though I could have seen him for free by taking a thirty-second walk. This is again a Reed College story, but it's outside of the classroom or the lab. Every year Reed closes its spring semester with a Renaissance Fayre which has hardly anything to do with the Renaissance, but it does emphasize the "Fayre" part. One year Jonathan Richman was scheduled to play at the event. This was years after his ground-breaking work, and occurred at about the time he was singing about being a little airplane, but it was certainly a show worth seeing. Unfortunately, there was a Ferris wheel at this Ren Fayre, and after going around the wheel one time...the operator decided to send us around a second time. After that experience I wasn't up to doing anything, so I missed my chance to see Richman.

  15. So how did I get to Reed College? In first class! For some unfathomable reason, when I flew out to Reed College for a campus visit, they flew me out first class. The plane was pretty much a local, because after Minneapolis it stopped in three different cities in Montana (this was the only time I ever visited Bozeman, whose airport is even smaller than the 1980s-era Ontario, California airport).

  16. While that was my most interesting westbound trip, my most interesting eastbound trip was made by train in May of 1980. I left Portland and took the train to Chicago, where I visited my childhood home during a brief layover (I would not return to my boyhood home until the summer of 2008), then took the train from Chicago back to my home, arriving on Saturday. The next day Mt. St. Helens blew up.

  17. I previously mentioned my early involvement in UNIX, but I was a little confused about who did what in the UNIX arena. I was first exposed to the operating system before the AT&T breakup, so the phrase "UNIX is a trademark of Bell Laboratories" was embedded in my brain. However, the ramifications of this didn't penetrate said brain. A few years later, I was at some trade show looking at some UNIX material, and an AT&T salesman walked up. In his salesman-y way, he said something like "I'm from the company that brought you UNIX." A little confused on the concept, and thinking of the PDP-11/70 hardware, I replied, "DEC?"

  18. I mentioned this in a comment to a Queen of Spain blog post, but if I say it again here I'll be one step closer to my 25 items total. My cluelessness about things goes way back. In elementary school, we were given an assignment to interview someone. I (and another girl in my class) hit upon the idea of interviewing President Richard Nixon, who lived a few miles away from us at the time in a white house in the city. I think we seriously believed that the President would sit down and talk to us, but all we got is an official letter of regret from the White House.

  19. My greatest regret in life is that I didn't go to the Depeche Mode/OMD concert at the Rose Bowl (the "101" concert).

  20. I was an active BBS'er in the early 1990s, visiting several Inland Empire blogs such as Deep Thought in Mt. Baldy (the first BBS I ever joined) and the Grotto in Rancho Cucamonga. I've lost touch with Starfish who ran the Grotto, but her daughter is now a webmaster for the union in which her stepfather (Bloose) works. See these posts from 2007 and 2008 for related information.

  21. I have attended United Methodist and Lutheran churches during my adult life, but for a couple of years in college I attended a Pentecostal church known as World Outreach and/or Gospel Outreach. The senior pastoral family, Scott & Ellie Snedeker, had their roots in the Lighthouse Ranch, and have apparently since left Portland and gone to Eureka. The most famous member of the church was former Guatemalan President Efrain Rios Montt, who was either a hero or villain depending upon how you looked at him.

  22. I'm running out of ideas, so I'll close with my attendance at games from the four major American sports. Unless there's a Cubs game in my early childhood that I don't remember, the first major league baseball game that I attended was a Washington Senators game. Frank Howard didn't get a hit.

  23. Not too long after that, I attended a Baltimore Bullets game in Cold Feet House.

  24. It took me a while to make it to a National Hockey League game. In fact, I didn't go to one until 2004, and that was primarily because we were hosting a Finnish exchange student who really liked hockey. The L.A. Kings lost the game.

  25. Which brings me to the NFL. I have never seen a National League Football game live. Of course, I have two excuses: (1) when I was growing up, Redskins games were always sellouts, and (2) the closest NFL team to me is the San Diego Chargers.
Well, there's 25 items (unless I counted wrong). I just hope that nobody comes up with a 50 items meme.

P.S. I'd tell you the story behind the title, but that story really doesn't have to do with me.

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Saturday, January 17, 2009

Here the LCMS stands on Warren, Robinson, etc. Part Three

part one | part two | part three

In the last post I linked to C.F.W. Walther's argument that the Evangelical Lutheran Church, known today as the Lutheran Church Missouri Synod, is the true visible church.

And while Lutherans are fond of asking "What does this mean?" it's also appropriate to ask "What does this not mean?"


[E]ven some Lutheran pastors seem a bit confused...for when they hear that the Lutheran Church alone teaches the Gospel in its truth and purity [which is true!] they assume this must also mean that a person is declaring the Lutheran Chuch to be the alone-saving Church [which is not true!].

Cyberbrethren then quotes guessed it, C.F.W. Walther:

May God keep you from becoming entangled with this false teaching concerning the Church, viz., that the Lutheran Church is the true visible Church of Jesus Christ in the sense that one can be saved only in this Church! The Lutheran Church is indeed the true visible Church; however, only in this sense, that it has the pure, unadulterated truth. As soon as you add the qualification “alone-saving” to the Lutheran Church, you detract from the doctrine of justification by grace through faith in Jesus Christ and confound Law and Gospel.

And if you'd like to read some more about the visible church, here's a post from Don McMaster:

The Church is holy, though some of her members are not. Likewise, the Church is visible...

Ah, the visible church.

...though some who appear to be Catholic are not so in heart and mind.

Wait a minute. Was that a capital C?

A logical fallacy--the "fallacy of composition," if I recall correctly--would be involved in doubting the visibility of the true Church as a whole on the basis that some people who appear to be part of the Church are not truly so in the sight of our Father who sees in secret (while others are).

A further logical fault appears in the effort to establish a real doubt about the visibility of the Church on the basis of merely conjectural doubts about unspecified people who, to all outward appearances, are Catholic. Merely conjectural doubts arise from the fact that we do not know all that God knows about who is a Catholic at heart and who is not. It doesn't follow that there is any real doubt that the Catholic Church is the one, true, visible Church of Christ, for this can be ascertained without knowing all that God knows.

The quote above is taken from the Traditional Catholic Forum, and happens to respond to a question from a Lutheran seminarian (from a discussion over a few drinks; Lutherans and Catholics agree that abstinence is not mandated for all in Scripture). Interestingly enough, later in the thread DJR discusses the concept of the invisible church.

The concept of an "invisible church" is not taught anywhere in Sacred Scripture; therefore, it should be problematic to someone who claims to believe in Sola Scriptura.

Our Lord taught that the Church is quite visible.

DJR then quotes from Daniel 2:44, Matthew 5:14-16, and other verses.

And the argument that the Roman Catholic Church is the true visible church is obviously not unique. Phil Porvaznik:

The resolution I will be defending is "The Roman Catholic Church is the true Church of Jesus Christ according to the Scriptures."...

So in Catholic understanding the Church is a visible society and organization on earth, but has spiritual and heavenly components; she is both hierarchical and the Mystical body of Christ. And according to the Bible, there is only one Church and one Faith (Matt 16:18f; Eph 4:4f), not multiple churches teaching different doctrines and contradictory faiths....

While there are many local churches (e.g. "the church of God in Corinth," 1 Cor 1:2; 2 Cor 1:1; "the churches in Galatia," Gal 1:2; etc), they are united as ONE universal or Catholic Church according to Christ, teaching ONE universal or Catholic Faith (Eph 4:5; Jude 3). That is the Church Christ founded against which He promised the powers of death (or gates of hell) cannot prevail. There are not many Christian "faithS" -- division and schism is sin and utterly intolerable in the universal Church according to the Scriptures (Matt 12:25; John 17:20-23; Acts 4:32; Rom 16:17ff; 1 Cor 1:10ff; 3:3f; 14:33; Gal 5:19ff; Philip 1:27; Titus 3:9f; etc).

Porvaznik was opposed by Jason Engwer:

We're told by Catholic apologists that an oak tree grows from an acorn. Nobody denies that it does. The question with the teachings of Catholicism, in some cases, is whether an oak tree can grow from an apple seed or no seed at all. In other cases, the question is why Catholic apologists are looking for an acorn where the Catholic Church tells us we should see an oak tree.

When we read the Bible, do we find the Roman Catholic Church? Do we find a papacy, private confession of sins to a priest, and a sinless Mary, for example? No, we don't. But the modern Catholic apologist will tell us that such differences between the Bible and Roman Catholicism are consistent with Catholic teaching. We're told that if we can find an acorn, or just something that might be an acorn, then the oak tree of modern Catholicism is thereby justified. If you can't see the alleged acorn, or it looks more like an apple seed to you, you'll be told that you can't trust your own fallible eyesight. You need the hierarchy of the Catholic Church to look into the microscope for you and infallibly assure you that it's an acorn.

And the LCMS obviously does not agree that the Roman Catholic Church is the true visible church.

Unlike the Roman Catholic Church, Lutherans do not believe that the office of the papacy as such has any divine authority, or that Christians need to submit to the Pope's authority to be "true" members of the visible church.

And obviously there are other churches that claim to be the true church. Take this statement:

Why are we members of the only true Church? Even though I cannot answer this question for all 13 million members of the Church, I would like to express from my heart some answers....

The author, Elder Enrique R. Falabella, continues:

Riches were not a part of my childhood. We were a family of five: my father and four siblings. My mother had passed away when I was five years old. My father’s meager income was used to buy our food....

As time went by, a pair of missionaries taught us the riches of the restored gospel, of the doctrine of the plan of salvation, and of eternal families. We were baptized, and when my father began his calling as district president, his first objective was to journey to the temple and receive the blessings which would come because of that sacrifice....

Upon arriving in the city of Mesa, Arizona, we headed down an avenue at the end of which we could see the house of the Lord, gleaming and beautiful. I remember the joy which filled our hearts; we all broke out in songs and praising, and tears ran down the cheeks of many Saints.

Later in the temple, we knelt as a family to hear the beautiful promises about an eternal family, with the certainty that our mother, though absent, was now our mother forever, and we felt the peace which comes from knowing that we are an eternal family.

The promise of life eternal thus gave us the riches of eternity! “Behold, he that hath eternal life is rich” (D&C 6:7).

"D&C," by the way, refers to "Doctrine & Covenants" - which is part of the LCMS issue with the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints:

[T]he official writings of Mormonism deny fundamental teachings of orthodox Christianity. For example, the Nicene Creed confesses the clear biblical truth that Jesus Christ, the second Person of the Trinity, is "of one substance with the Father." This central article of the Christian faith is expressly rejected by Mormon teaching -- thus undermining the very heart of the scriptural Gospel itself. In a chapter titled "Jesus Christ, the Son of God: Are Mormons Christian?" the president of Brigham Young University (Rex Lee, What Do Mormons Believe? [Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1992] summarizes Mormon teaching by stating that the three persons of the Trinity are "not... one being" (21), but are "separate individuals." In addition, the Father is regarded as having a body "of flesh and bone" (22). Such teaching is contrary to the Holy Scriptures....

And then there's Darwin Fish:

If you are involved with the kind of Christianity that views the "church of Christ", or Billy Graham, or Rick Warren, or Joel Osteen, or James Dobson, or Pat Robertson, or John MacArthur, or Tony Evans, or Greg Laurie, or Charles Stanley, or Chuck Smith, or Fred Price, or J. Vernon McGee, or Charles Blake, or Chuck Swindoll, or Gene Scott, or Harold Camping (Family Radio), or John Piper, or T. D. Jakes, or David Jeremiah, or Charles Spurgeon, or Dave Hunt, or David W. Cloud, or Perry F Rockwood, or Neil Anderson, or Robert Schuller, or Jack Hayford, or Benny Hinn, or Miles McPherson, or Ray Comfort, or Jim Cobrae, or Chuck Colson, or C. S. Lewis, or Pope John Paul, or Hank Hanegraaff, or Paul Chappell, or any of the like (or any of the likes on "Christian" TV or radio) as godly men, you are not saved. Why? Because, you are on the broad way (Matthew 7:13; 2 Peter 2:2; 2 Timothy 4:3). You have not the characteristic of Christ's sheep (John 10:5). And, men such as these are wells without water (2 Peter 2:17).

And what's wrong with - well, with everybody? Let's look at a few examples:

Spurgeon lies and speaks the exact opposite of Christ when he says, "the road to heaven may be sufficiently wide to have several different paths in it." Spurgeon believed both Calvinists and Arminians were on this wide path to heaven (see our report Spurgeon, An Ecumenical False Teacher). Jesus says it's narrow. Spurgeon says it's wide. Such teaching is damning....

False teachers...[hold] to some form of creed, creeds, essentials, fundamentals, or core belief that supposedly unifies all true believers. If one stays within the bounds of this central belief, often called "orthodox Christianity," or "historic Christianity" (e.g. Christianity In Crisis, p. 31, 43), then a person is considered to be in the truth. And, other doctrines that the Bible addresses are counted as peripheral issues (or "secondary" or "non-essential") and are perceived as matters that do not pertain to salvation (e.g. ibid., p. 47). As the phrase that's been attributed to the Catholic of old (Augustine) puts it,

"In essentials, unity; in nonessentials, liberty; and in all things, charity. (Christianity In Crisis, by Hank Hanegraaff, copyright 1993, p. 47)"

These words well sum up the broad way (Matthew 7:13).

For what Fish's church does believe, you need to see their statement of faith. For the record, here's what they say about Holy Communion (see my first post):

That's right, there's nothing in their statement of faith about what we are supposed to do in remembrance of Jesus Christ.

For more on Darwin Fish, see my Ontario Empoblog post from July 26, 2005.

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Here the LCMS stands on Warren, Robinson, etc. Part Two

part one | part two | part three

Continued from previous post.

But a more interesting point can be found in the official Lutheran view of the world. To most non-Christians, and in fact to most Christians, Lutherans are considered as the vanguard of the Protestant movement. But we Lutherans consider ourselves unique among Christian groups. Regarding Holy Communion, for example, everybody else is wrong.

The Lutheran church believes, teaches and confesses that the Lord's Supper is the true body and blood of our Lord Jesus Christ, under the bread and wine, given to us Christians to eat and to drink. We hold that the bread and the wine in the Supper are the true body and blood of Christ and that these are given and received into the mouths of all who commune. Those who believe the promise: "Given and shed for you for the forgiveness of sins," receive forgiveness of sins, life and salvation. This promise, along with the bodily eating and drinking, is the main thing in the Sacrament.

The Lutheran church rejects and condemns incorrect understandings of the Lord's Supper, such as the view that the sacrifice of the Mass delivers man from his sins, or that the substance of the consecrated bread and wine is actually changed into the body and blood of Christ. We also reject and condemn the view that in the Lord's Supper the true body and blood of Christ is not received by the mouth of the communicants, under the bread and wine, but is received only spiritually in the heart by faith, or that the bread and wine are only symbols of the far-distant body and blood of our Lord.

In essence, the Lutheran worldview assumes that there are Lutheran, Roman Catholic, and Reformed views about the Lord's Supper, and that the other two views (addressed in the second paragraph above) are wrong.

Not that Lutheran belief can be rightly called consubstantiation. C.F.W. Walther (note: when an LCMS person cites Walther, he or she is supposed to pause and observe a momentary reverent silence):

First of all, what do these terms mean? Consubstantiation, as the word indicates, means a combination of two substances in such a way that by being mixed together they are fused into one substance or mass, consisting of different ingredients. For example, pouring the substances of water and wine together produces a watered wine (Weinwasser); blending honey and water produces mead; mixing meat and flour produces meat pies. Hence, in the Lord’s Supper consubstantiation would involve the concept of a spacial combination, mixture, and fusion of the body and blood of Christ with the consecrated elements as a new dual mass, as Eutyches once asserted the fusion of both natures in Christ into one nature.

Impanation signifies the spacial inclusion, concealment, incapsulation of an item within the bread, as in a capsule containing and enclosing the item. Hence, in the Lord’s Supper impanation would express the idea that the body of Christ, compressed into a very small body, lies concealed under the consecrated bread and is enclosed by it as by its container.

These conceptions of the presence of Christ, that is, of His body and blood, in the Holy Supper are thoroughly unbiblical, materialistic, unworthy, and self-contradictory, and they are equally un-Lutheran and in contradiction to the Confessions of our church....

Our church. This brings us to a Lutheran doctrine, that of the true visible church. Walther (pause) wrote a series of theses that touched upon both the invisible church and the visible church. The invisible church is described in Thesis I:

The one holy Christian Church on earth, or the Church in the proper sense of the word, outside of which there is no salvation, is, according to God's Word, the total of all that truly believe in Christ and are sanctified through this faith.

After discussing various visible churches and their possible beliefs (e.g. churches "erring obstinately in fundamentals"), Walther gets to Thesis VIII:

Though church-writers sometimes call communions holding God's Word essentially true, i. e., real, churches over against non-churches, yet over against erring churches, or sects, a true visible Church in the absolute sense is that only in which God's Word is preached right and the holy Sacraments are administered in accordance with the Gospel.

So which church does C.F.W. Walter, the accepted founder of what became the Lutheran Church Missouri Synod, believe is the true visible church? You could read Theses X through XXV, or you could take a wild guess. Hint: it's not the United Methodists.

So, what does this mean?

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