28 February 2007

Abe and Sarah

I'm teaching Sunday School. Here's the assignment for Sunday:

Read Genesis 11:27 - 12:20; 17 - 18; 20:1 - 21:7; 22 - 23. What do you notice as you read that you had not noticed in earlier readings? What questions do these texts raise for you? Why are these stories important?

Sarah is also mentioned in Romans 9, Hebrews 11, and I Peter 3. Do these texts note the same points you did?

Wonder whether that'll generate any discussion...

26 February 2007


Hmmm, where to start.

Friday, 23 Feb 2007: Updated Raisers Edge to version 7.8ish. Part of that update required updating from MSDE to SQL Server 2005 Express. But it seemed work smoothly.

Monday, 26 Feb 2007, 8:00AM: Discovered that Friday evening's system backup failed. Some investigation into the logs and some help from my good friend Google (GFG) revealed that something between Volume Shadow Service and SQL Express 2005 was broken. Some more help from GFG handed me a nifty page that indicated which .dlls to re-register manually. After completing that, the backup seemed to work fine.

Monday, 26 Feb 2007, 9:00AM: Discovered that re-registering the .dlls caused problems for Education Edge. Apparently the MSDE instance had disappeared. So, I thought, maybe I'll just run a quick backup, and attach the database to the existing SQL Express instance. As you might imagine, hilarity ensued.

Monday, 26 Feb 2007, 5:45PM: After a day of trying diligently to follow all the advice in all the KB articles I could find, I am currently on hold with Blackbaud. Surely they'll be able to get me out of the pickle, yes?

Monday, 26 Feb 2007, 6:11PM: Yes.

24 February 2007

172 Hrs, 16 Minutes

... and counting that AMBS has been cleared from Spamhaus. I'm still holding my breath.

23 February 2007


Whatever in the world does "add flavor to taste" mean? Is there any possible non-nonsensical interpretation?

21 February 2007


After my bit in a Biblical Storytelling Festival on Sunday, one of those in attendance asked, "What's the point of humor?" My answer? "Well, it just sort of happened." That does not seem like an answer adequately considered. So here's a further effort.
  1. "It just sort of happened."

    This can be made a fuller answer than it was when given. The script, if you'll notice, does not actually "read funny." So some of the humor to which the questioner referred came from the performance: both the interpretation of the performer and the reaction of the audience. I was a little chagrined, for example, when the line I thought was a setup generated considerable response (fortunately, the punchline also generated considerable response), and equally chagrined when the comments I thought were funny were greeted with silence. But mostly I was troubled when the comments I intended to be serious were also taken as funny. In this sense, the humor "just sort of happened."

    Additionally, in this case, writing the story demanded that I come to think of Abram/Abraham as something of a real person as opposed to a mythic figure. While there are a few humorless people about, most people, to varying degrees, have a sense of humor. So if A/A is indeed to be considered a real person, it seems reasonable to think that he, in relating his story, may find some parts of his life amusing. At the very least, he was capable of laughter (though it is odd that Sarai/Sarah gets chided for laughing at the prospect of bearing a child while A/A does not). In that sense as well, the humor "just sort of happened."

  2. "It's funny because it's not me ..."

    We laugh at misfortune to others. And we laugh when people who have had the misfortune laugh at themselves -- people respond favorably when Al Gore cracks some joke about having almost been president. Some people (I presume) watch America's Funniest Home Videos. Toddler fall down go boom? Funny. Homer Simpson straddles mogul after mogul? Funny. Ben Stiller embarrassing himself? Funny.

  3. " ... oh, wait, yes it is me."

    Humor takes the edge off of truth. This is commonly cited as a reason for the use of humor, and is why, I think, we tend to laugh hardest at things that, given thought, cut closest to our nature. We laugh before we think. And we laugh harder because, subconsciously, we know already. So when A/A says something about most of his life's awkward situations coming about because of "just this sort of thing" [arguing with God (spouse, friend, pet)], people laugh because they can relate -- even if not right in the moment.
So, an answer no more profound, but better organized.

20 February 2007

67 Hours

... and still not re-listed. We're approaching record territory here. Though, apparently, we're no longer able to search the University of Notre Dame library catalog. That should probably be addressed.

19 February 2007


Obviously the U.S. tax system, as it currently exists in my experience, relies heavily on the honesty of those who file. This seems hopelessly naïve -- don't we commonly assume people are not worth trusting? We lock our doors, walk faster at night (if we walk at all), assume the world is pretty dog-eat-dog, etc. On the other hand, though, don't most tax cheaters attempt to do so legally via loopholes instead of outright lying? Even though the penalties may not be particularly severe? So isn't the IRS ultimately correct to assume that people will be honest? John David?

17 February 2007

Thank You #2

Again, TurboTax. Federal Income Tax filed: 07 Feb. Refund deposited: 16 Feb. Hoorah.

15 February 2007

Thank You #1

TurboTax. Completed taxes: 07 Feb. State refund deposited: 14 Feb. Sweet.

14 February 2007

Found 'Em

Discovered a lovely log on the server today while trying to tighten up e-mail a little. One of those strange coincidences whereby attempting to fix one problem led to an interesting discovery of another. Made for some fascinating reading.

Apparently "Administrator" attempted to access the server about once every second in the wee hours of February 14, and for several days prior. This is strange as I have no recollection of being awake in the wee hours, and I'm nearly certain that I was not being not awake in India. And, when "Administrator" was taking it easy, it looks like all twelve apostles attempted to get access (well, at least "peter," "andrew," and "paul," the latter of which is only an apostle late-born).

So now another port in the firewall (no, I'm not saying which) is disabled, and, unless I am grossly mistaken, I would expect that the issue of us being continually listed at spamhaus is nearing its end.

Little buggers.

13 February 2007

Less Interesting, More Troubling

Merrily was I traveling over to lunch today, planning on a quick pit stop to assist someone with accessing their e-mail remotely, when just in passing that person mentioned that they had received a delivery failure on a message they had just sent.

*heart sinking*

Uh-oh. About, nay, precisely, two weeks ago we found ourselves listed on spamhaus.org. At the time, acting on a tip, I made an assumption that the problem was originating from a student computer. So I began a series of treks over to the apartments to sit myself physically at each computer and run a spyware scan. Subsequently I disabled automatic e-mail forwarding (what comes to the student server stays there unless a student manually forwards a message), tightened the firewall to allow only traffic from a legit server through, and added some logging to the firewall so I could see from whence rejected packets came. Surely, thought I, this should greatly reduce our chances of sending spam. So by Monday last (Feb 5) I had petitioned to have us removed from spamhaus.org. Yea and verily, all seemed well. Until ...

Apparently we were re-listed this morning at 7:15AM (+/- 30 minutes). At this point I know that wherever the spam is coming from, it is being sent via a legitimate server. It struck me about mid-afternoon that today is Tuesday. January 30 was also a Tuesday. Hmmm...

So now I think it likely that the culprit computer likely belongs to a commuter who arrives on campus perhaps as early as Monday evening, connects to the network, fires up the bugger, and proceeds to send spam. Presumably unawares. Feh.

Seems like tomorrow may be another looooooooooong day. Or perhaps the problem will magically resolve itself overnight. Until next Tuesday, perhaps.

12 February 2007


My alarm goes off at 5:30. Why? It used to be a bit earlier, so I could make it to work by 6:00. Now I'm not so sure, though on my good days I make an effort to prevent a little of the German I learned last semester from disappearing altogether (like my Spanish, Greek, and Hebrew seem to have done, in roughly that order). Besides which, this is my third attempt at learning enough German to be able to read it and I figured I should do something to make it stick.

So I've translated the "Aufgabenstellung" portion of this, most of this (though the last half or so is particularly sloppy), and am working a little on Über Gewissheit (Wittgenstein).

You thought it was so I could blog? Ha. But that's sure a fine way to avoid German, as it turns out.

Oh, and I also shoveled the walks.

10 February 2007

Six (Seven?) Words

Wired Magazine (14.11) had a series of "short stories" (sci-fi) of six words each. Since I'd been contemplating the patriarchs, I was inspired:
I don't wrestle with God, anymore.
Yes, that seems more like the first or last line of a much longer story than a complete story in itself. So did many of those in Wired.

09 February 2007


Subject heading from a bit of spam in my quarantine this morning: "pedagogical ringworm."


Thought I should see what all the rage (of three years ago) was about. For starters, here's a 10-minute exercise in biblical storytelling that some people seem to appreciate. A note on pronunciation: as hebraic as you know how. So "Ab" sounds roughly like "Ahv."


My friends call me‭ "‬Ab.‭"

"Ab.‭" ‬Can you believe it‭?

My name is Abram,
‭ ‬son of Terah,
‭ ‬Nahor,
‭ ‬Serug,
‭ ‬Reu,
‭ ‬Peleg,
‭ ‬Eber,
‭ ‬Shelah,
‭ ‬Arpachshad,
‭ ‬Shem,
‭ ‬Noah,
‭ ‬Lamech‭ (‬no,‭ ‬not‭ ‬that Lamech‭)‬,
‭ ‬Methuselah,
‭ ‬Enoch,
‭ ‬Jared,
‭ ‬Mahalel,
‭ ‬Kenan,
‭ ‬Enosh,
‭ ‬Seth,
‭ ‬Adam and Eve,
‭ ‬made by God.

I bet you can't trace your ancestry back to the creator of the universe.‭ ‬Oh,‭ ‬sure,‭ "‬knit me together in my mother's womb,‭" ‬we're all children of God, and so forth,‭ ‬but,‭ ‬still,‭ ‬to name all the generations between yourself and God‭? ‬God,‭ ‬the High One,‭ ‬the eternal.‭ ‬El.‭ ‬The name be praised.

It's a lot to live down.‭ ‬Or up to,‭ ‬depending on your perspective.‭ ‬And it's not like my human lineage is full of nobodies,‭ ‬either.‭

Even pagans have heard of Noah,‭ ‬who crafted a boat on dry land,‭ ‬watched the sea rise up around him,‭ ‬and saved humanity.

Of Methuselah,‭ ‬blessed with long life even by the standards of those days,‭ ‬who would probably be living still but for the flood.

Of Enoch,‭ ‬who walked with God,‭ ‬and was taken.

Of Seth,‭ ‬conceived as a substitute for Abel,‭ ‬whose offering so pleased God and so angered his brother.

And,‭ ‬just in case simply having those people as my ancestors was not enough for me to take note,‭ ‬my father,‭ ‬Terah,‭ ‬bless his heart,‭ ‬cleverly named me Abram.‭ ‬Ab‭ ‬-‭ ‬ram.‭ ‬The father is great.‭

Thanks,‭ pop.‭ ‬It's not like I was going to forget.

The weight of living up to that name.‭ ‬Oy.‭ ‬For‭ ‬70‭ ‬years I did what any rational person,‭ ‬given a name of that magnitude might do.

I tried to avoid it.

That seemed to work pretty well,‭ ‬and I thought‭ ‬...‭ ‬30‭ ‬years ago I was certain‭ ‬...‭ ‬I had a co-conspirator in El,‭ ‬the name be praised.‭ ‬Nearly‭ ‬30‭ ‬years ago,‭ ‬I had a vision.

I'm not normally one to put much store in visions,‭ ‬but there are things even cynics take seriously.‭ ‬Thirty years ago,‭ ‬El,‭ ‬the name be praised,‭ ‬showed up,‭ ‬and told me just what I wanted to hear.

‭"‬Go from your country and your kindred and your father's house to the land that I will show you.‭"

There may have been some other things in that vision,‭ ‬but,‭ ‬truth be told,‭ ‬I heard nothing beyond that first sentence.

Finally,‭ ‬an excuse to extract myself from my ancestry.‭ ‬To shrug-off the burden of my name.‭ ‬To leave that place where everyone knew me,‭ ‬knew my parents,‭ ‬knew my grandparents,‭ ‬knew where I came from,‭ ‬and regarded me with worth because of my ancestors.‭ ‬This was a chance to start afresh.

I grabbed it.

But El,‭ ‬the name be praised,‭ ‬is sly.‭ ‬So it happened that in leaving and wandering and sojourning in lands not my own I discovered something about myself.‭ ‬Something I suspect El,‭ ‬the name be praised,‭ ‬was aware I would discover.‭ ‬I discovered that my name mattered to me.

In my wanderings,‭ ‬I was willing to do stupid things to survive.‭ ‬I lied about Sarai and called her my sister.‭ ‬I do not believe she has ever completely forgiven me for that.‭ ‬I attempted to establish my line through Sarai's handmaid Hagar.‭ ‬I might have gotten away with that‭ ‬...‭ ‬except it worked.‭ ‬Neither Sarai,‭ ‬nor Hagar,‭ ‬nor Ishmael,‭ ‬nor Isaac have forgiven me that episode.‭

But despite my sometimes desperate circumstances,‭ ‬and despite my appalling lack of judgment in those circumstances,‭ ‬I never once,‭ ‬even for a moment,‭ ‬considered discarding my name.‭ ‬Never once did I lie about my identity.‭ ‬I discovered that my name became much more significant to me than it had been when I was living in my own country with my own people.‭

I was Abram,‭ ‬son of Terah,‭ ‬son of Nahor.‭ ‬Somehow my ancestry ceased to be cause for discomfort,‭ ‬a burden I had to bear.‭ ‬It became a point of pride.

Thus it was,‭ ‬twenty-five years after that first vision,‭ ‬at about the time I had finally and fully come to terms with my identity,‭ ‬had finally reconciled my name with my ancestry,‭ ‬that El,‭ ‬the name be praised,‭ ‬showed up.‭ ‬Again.

‭"‬I am El Shaddai.‭ ‬Walk before me,‭ ‬and be blameless.‭ ‬And I will make my covenant with you,‭ ‬and will make you exceedingly numerous.‭ ‬No longer shall your name be Abram,‭ ‬but your name shall be Abraham‭; ‬for I have made you the ancestor of a multitude of nations.‭ ‬And Sarai shall no longer be called Sarai,‭ ‬but Sarah will be her name.‭"

What‭? ‬What‭?!‬ You can't be serious.‭ ‬C'mon,‭ ‬El.‭ ‬You ripped me from my family and country,‭ ‬dragged me into this forsaken place,‭ ‬drove me as a stranger through other lands,‭ ‬and now,‭ ‬just as I was finally claiming my name,‭ ‬the name given me by my father,‭ ‬the name that traces back to you,‭ ‬now,‭ ‬now,‭ ‬you tell me to change it‭?

And why was it exactly,‭ ‬that you did not do this back when I was in my home country‭? ‬Back when it was what I wanted‭? ‬I cannot believe this.

And you think Sarai,‭ ‬after all I've put her through,‭ ‬is actually going to take this word from me as your word‭? ‬And what kind of names are these anyway‭? ‬Sarah,‭ ‬seed-bearer,‭ ‬and Abraham,‭ ‬father of a multitu‭ ‬...‭

My life's most awkward situations have come about because of just this thing‭ ‬--‭ ‬I tend to speak before I've thought.‭ ‬Sarah tells me my mouth is nomadic but my brain's in the tent.

In that moment I realized two things.‭ ‬One,‭ ‬I had not claimed my name as fully as I was making out,‭ ‬and two,‭ ‬my name was not actually mine to claim.

Ab‭ ‬-‭ ‬raham.‭ ‬Father of a multitude.‭ ‬Abraham.‭ ‬Shaped by my ancestors,‭ ‬but not defined by them.‭ ‬Abraham.‭ ‬Named by the Eternal Name.‭ ‬The name be praised.

And my friends call me‭ "‬Ab.‭"

Can you believe it‭?

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