Archive for March, 2004

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A Devil’s Chaplain

March 28, 2004

I just finished a terrific book by evolutionary biologist Richard Dawkins called A Devil’s Chaplain: Reflections on Hope, Lies, Science, and Love. The book is an edited collection of his popular writings. That is to say, it’s not his scientific papers we’re talking about here. It’s articles for the general public, eulogies for friends, letters, book chapters written for a general audience and the like. And it’s pretty good stuff. You may remember that I have talked about him before in these pages. His views on religion are among the most refreshing, bold and inspiring I have ever read.

I’ve had this book on my wish list for months, in fact. My local library doesn’t have it. At least not yet. Then one day at work last week I suddenly realized I work in a library. (I have had this sudden realization twice now. Maybe soon it’ll sink in permanently.) The book was on a shelf not 100 yards from where I had been sitting.

In any case, his book was great and I higlhy recommend it. In fact if I were to make a short list of my living heroes, he’d be on it.

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A Most Interesting Letter

March 28, 2004

County of Los Angeles
Department of Adoptions
Walter A. Heath, Director
Elizabeth I. Lynch, Deputy Director
2550 W. Olympic Blvd.
Los Angeles, California 90006
381-2761

April 22, 1970

Dear Mr. and Mrs. Feldstein:

We are sharing the following information with you regarding the natural or biological family of your son Scott. This will enable you to discuss it with him when he is older and wishes to know something about them.

Scott was born October 4, 1968 at 6:26 pm

He will be placed with you on April 24, 1970 and named Scott Richard Feldstein.

The natural or biological mother (n/m) of Scott was acaucasian [sic] girl of 16 years of German and English descent not very religious [and] a H.S. Student.

Physical description:

The n/m was 5’6″ tall, weighted 120 lbs had large hazel eyes and lite [sic] brown hair. She was fair of complexion slender of body build and long bone structure with very good health.
She has lovely features and is quite attractive.

Interests:

The n/m’s interests were reading, history, sociology and psychology. She was a good student but had not decided to continue her education. However she did return to school after we had returned the baby to her in 12/68.

The n/m returned to the Dept. in Dec. 1969 to again discuss adoption planning for her son. She returned after having a year to think over what she felt was best for the child rather than what her parent wanted.
She also felt that she wanted to leave the mothers home and did not want to leave her son there.

The child appeared very well cared for and in good health.

At this time it was obvious that the n/m and her mother were not on the best of terms and that it was the plan of the n/m to remove the child from her care.

After some work with us the n/m reached the decision to relinquish the child and did so freely of her own volition.

The n/m is the oldest of 4 children in her family having 1 full brother and 2 half siblings a brother and a sister.

Her mother is a woman in her middle 30’s who has married at least wice [sic] since the death of the n/m’s father in Korea. It appears that the step fathers were not to happy with the older children.

There are not hereditary illnesses in the n/m’s family except that her mat g/p’s had asthma in their later years.

Her only brother likes swimming and all sports activities. The n/m also voiced an interest in some sports events as a spectator.

She was about to graduate from H.S. and was planning on entering college in the spring.

She was hopeful that the family who adopted her son would not be an actively religious family but one that had some desire to see a child achieve academically if he had the potential to do so.

******************

The natural of [sic] biological father of your son was a caucasian young man of 17 years who was Scotch – Irish in descent not religious also a H.S. student.

Physical description:

He is described as being 6’2″ tall and weighing about 140 lbs; he has blue eyes and lite [sic] brown hair is freckled very slim or slender of build and good health. The n/m describes him as being good looking, intelligent and good company.

Interests:

The n/f plays the guitar likes to sail boats go surfing and is fond of skin diving.

The n/f is the older of 3 boys, his father is a doctor and his mother is a housewife who is taking some creative art courses in college. His parents are above average height have blue eyes and lite [sic] brown hair and are fair complected. His father is a yachtman and specializes in anesthiology [sic]. Both brothers are in school and show good potential.

He participated with the n/m in making this plan for the baby.

We hope that you like Scott and find that he can be your very own.

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Under God

March 25, 2004

Congratulations to Michael Newdow who brilliantly argued his case before the Supreme Court yesterday. I think he will lose. But I think he is right.

Frankly, I think pledges of allegiance are a little creepy outside of government or military service. Especially creepy that mainly it’s kids who end up reciting them. Aren’t pledges of allegiance for countries where alegience can’t be counted on? Places where people would like to rebel but can’t? The kind of places where they don’t have the basic freedoms that we have here in the United States?

But at the very least, Newdow is right. Having a government employee in a public school lead children in an affirmation of the existence of God is unconstitutional.

The fact that it’s not a prayer is irrelevant.

The idea that it’s “so watered down as to not be offensive to anyone” is ridiculous. God means God and the last time I checked that is still a religious concept. And one that does not include the views of a lot of Americans.

The idea that school aged children can “opt out” isn’t good enough. Having your teacher lead it amounts to coercion.

In fact, I’m very hard pressed to come up with a single argument in favor of the constitutionality of children reciting the pledge in public school. Anyone else have one? A real argument that, you know, makes sense and stands up to scrutiny?

I guess I’ll be able to hear the best possible argument for the constitutionality of it when the majority (or unanimous) opinion comes down in a few months.

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I’ll Never Wash This Blog Again

March 24, 2004

OBEY WWdN

Okay, I admit it. I’m a big pathetic nerd. And I’m also a hero worshipper and a – dare I admit this? – a bit of a celebrity hound. Who would have thought it? But it’s the truth. Wil Wheaton left a comment on my blog and I think that’s just too cool. Embarassing but true.

This reminds me of the time cowboyneal stopped by to correct me. I was pretty jazzed about that, too. And yes, I do realize nobody this side of a pocket protector knows who the hell cowboyneal is. Nor would they care if they did. But I know. I care.

I came home the other day and explained my excitement to the kids. “Wil Wheaton left a comment on my blog!” I said. “Cool!” they replied. Then my son added “Who’s Wil Wheaton?”

And that comment prompted me to go straight to Blockbuster and rent Stand By Me. Great movie. And the kids hadn’t seen it. It turned into a pretty decent family movie night. Thanks, Wil!

Now, if only I could acquire the comments of some other nerdy celebs… Okay, if you’re a celebrity and you read this blog* then please leave a comment. Bonus if you’re a somewhat obscure celeb that you have to be cool to appreciate, and extra points for celebs that are in good with the techie set. You know who you are. No imposters.

* Well someone has to be reading this damned thing. My log shows an average of almost 200 visits a day!

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Music Bridges The Generation Gap

March 18, 2004

Parents and their children. Soemtimes the distance between their worldviews seems immense. Facing each other across a distance that cannot be jumped, we can only wave at each other from a afar. This is true even for a young father like myself, who often has the benefit of being “cool” even in the eyes of kids my daughter’s age. Communication is difficult across that gap. Understanding cannot always be counted on. But sometimes the distance isn’t so great. And occasionally it disappears entirely.

After having read Sting’s recent memior, Broken Music, I found myself wanting to have a listen to some of his early music. Alas, even though I’ve been a fan since the Police first hit the big time, I have no collection to speak of. Cassette tapes lose their fidelity. They wear out. They get eaten by unruly car audio systems. LPs scratch. Thus, today I have nothing but a few recent CDs of Sting’s solo career to my name.

But what to do? I found myself shopping iTunes music store for old Police records. Which one should I buy? Hmm. But wait! Why should I have to buy them at all? I paid for the right to listen to the music once already. All I want is to restore my copy so I can continue to do so. With that in mind, a friend hooked me up with their greatest hits CD, Every Breath You Take – The Classics. I burned myself a copy and let the retro-styled enjoyment commence.

It’s amazing how well even the oldest of their material holds up today. Roxanne still makes me want to sing along mournfully (be thankful you don’t have to listen!). Every Little Thing She Does Is Magic makes me drive erratically. And more to the point, the production values, the sounds used on these old songs still work. (Except the ’86 remix of Don’t Stand So Close To Me. Gak.) But it’s probably just because they’re songs I grew up with. When I was a middle teen, these were my songs. People of other generations probably don’t hear what I hear.

So imagine my surprise when my 13-year-old daughter, Paige, asked me to burn her a copy of the record. “I really like it!” she proclaimed. Somewhere overhead clouds parted and sunbeams stabbed earthward dramatically. A choir of 80’s British punk invasion singers serenaded me. Suddenly that daunting distance, that insurmountable obstacle between generational points of view, was laid low. By music. Go figure.

I don’t suppose Paige will ever been the kind of Police fan I was. Probably she and I will both soon tire of playing this new CD. For different reasons. I will weary of the nostalgia, she will move on to something else. For those her age there is always something new to discover. But for a brief time she and I have the same favorite CD. Something that I listened to when I was her age. Imagine that.

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More Passion

March 16, 2004

The whole Passion movie / Mel Gibson thing has me feeling like I need a shower. The movie itself, the maddening debates on Orkut and elsewhere…the embarassing fact that I bashed it before having seen it. Everything about the whole thing makes me feel dirty as hell. I want to see the end of the controversy. I want to move on. But before I do I want to make a few simple points that I think a lot of fans of this movie may not be aware of. (Much of what follows is from a post I wrote at Orkut.)

1. The very nice Christian theological point that “nobody” or “all of us” are responsible for Jesus’ death may be quite right. Unfortunately this subtle point has failed to adequately impress a whole lot of Christians over a whole lot of years who have done a whole lot of nasty things to Jewish people. Thinking that this point of theology is going to protect Jews today is ridiculous. It never did before. Ditto to the very interesting point that Jesus himself was a jew or that all his followers were jews. Somehow this fascinating fact didn’t stop the Inquisition or the Holocaust or the centuries of ghettoization and prejudice and murder since the inception of Christianity. Anyone who suggests that it’s going to now has a whole lot more faith in human nature than I do. Unfortunately, history is on my side in this.

2. It’s probably historically inaccurate that Pilate gave Jesus’ fate to the Jews. This part of the narrative almost certainly came about because the gospel writers wished to get along with and evangelize the Romans. It obviously wouldn’t do to go at them with the story of how they killed God. So they selected a common enemy: the Jews. Nobody is saying that the Jewish authority liked Jesus. That would be unlikely indeed. But it simply strains credulity to suggest that someone like Pilate (who historians regard as a mass-murderer) would suddenly turn to the mob and say “I don’t want any part of it, you decide!”

3. This isn’t Mel Gibson’s fault. If he had stuck to the bible as written I would find no anti-Semitism in his movie. But the fact is, he chose to embellish and expand and mercilessly belabor the idea well beyond what is written in the bible. That is what I fault him for. Nowhere in the bible does it indicate, for example, that Pilate’s wife sought out Mary to comfort her. Nowhere does it relate how Pilate and his wife had a heartfelt, soul-searching discussion about how to save Jesus from the bloodthirsty Jews. Those are just two obvious examples.

But am I the only one who thinks so? As I said before, Andy Rooney thinks Gibson is a “wacko” but what about other folks? Is it just me and Andy?

Here’s a little reading material you might find interesting.

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The Godaddy Saga Continues

March 16, 2004

The godaddy.com saga has taken a few lurching steps toward resolution. It all started last Tuesday night when my domain name suddenly stopped resolving to the IP address of my server. Pagiefeldstein.net, also on the same server, continued to resolve properly. I hadn’t visited the godaddy web site in months. I hadn’t changed a thing in the configuration of my account. It just stopped working.

After verifying that my web server was working correctly, I sent godaddy an email explaining the problem. Then while I was at their site I noticed that my contact information was incorrect. It had been so long since I’d been there that the contact info for both domains had the scottfeldstein@mac.com email address instead of scott@scottfeldstein.net. I quickly updated it.

The next day I hadn’t gotten a response yet. I thought maybe it’s because the email I sent them via their web page had been tied to the old address. I sent a second email explaing the problem again and also explaining my updated contact information in case it had prevented them from getting in contact with me.

Then I checked my scott@scottfeldstein.net email and realized that the non-resolving domain was also preventing me from getting any email to that account. Duh. First thing I think of is that they’re still not going to be able to get a hold of me, so I send them a third email from my work email account explaining everything yet again.

It’s now Thursday. I recieve an email from godaddy telling me that the situation is “being looked at.”

On Friday I call on the phone. I tell them my web site and email has been down for three days. They are duly impressed but offer no solutions. I am told that my case has been “escalated to engineering.” I’m told that there’s a chance that they could get to it today.

The weekend passes. Nothing changes. Nothing works.

On Monday I call again. I’m told that the engineers referred to on Friday have it on their queue for today. But I’m also told that these things take 48 hours. After it has been escalated. Not counting weekends.

Tuesday (today) arrives. Nothing has changed, nothing works, I haven’t recieved any solution from godaddy. I call them up. The guy who answers the phone doesn’t know what the engineers are up to, but he wonders why I dont’ just delete my DNS records and just “set up forwarding” to my IP address. I’m not a DNS server administrator, nor am I a network admin. I say sure, let’s try it. So with this guy’s help I delete the DNS record and set up forwarding.

Two hours later my domain starts working. Sort of. When you type scottfeldstein.net into your browser it goes to my web site, but it shows my IP address in the location field rather than my domain. And my email still doesn’t work. I call back. “Well you didn’t set up masking,” I’m told. Go figure. So I do as they say.

A short time later I type scottfeldstein.net into my browser and it loads my index page. The location bar shows the correct address. I try going to /log/. PAGE NOT FOUND. I try going anywhere in my web site other than the index page. PAGE NOT FOUND. My email, however, starts working.

I call again. I’m irate by now. I impress upon the poor woman who answers the phone that my domain hasn’t worked properly for a freakin’ week and that I have had no explanation as to what the problem is, nor have I recieved adequate resolution. All I’ve gotten is a half-assed workaround that doesn’t really work all the way around.

“Hold on please.” She goes to consult with someone (an engineer?). “Why don’t you set up an A record instead of forwarding?” Well, that’s how it was set up before. “Oh. Well why dont you just put it back the way it was, then?” Because it stopped working last Tuesday, remember? Is there some reason to think that it will work now if I set it up again that way? “Hang on.” She goes for more consultation. “It should work now.” What? You mean someone found the original problem? “Yeah, it should work now.”

So I put my DNS stuff back the way it was before all of this happened and waited. A couple of hours later I can see my web site again. My email works again too. Things look good.

Ah, but there’s always something. I notice that if I try to load a permalink page or an archive page it looks really funny. It looks funny because it’s not loading the stylesheet. W. T. F.?

I’m just going to pretend that it’s going to start working correctly overnight. Woe to the person staffing the phone tomorrow at godaddy if it doesn’t.

Update: It was just browser cache from when the site wasn’t working. Boy, I can tell I’m really rattled to be set off by a lousy cache issue. I need to chill. Everything works.