Wednesday, January 31, 2007


Warning: This is a venting post. I try not to do that too often, but I’m doing it now.

Sometimes people really test my patience. Not that I’m very patient in the first place; I freely admit that. But sometimes people do things that I’m sure would tempt even a patient person to impatience.

Some examples:

  • Person A can’t remember anything from one minute to the next. It makes it very hard to get any work done, because I have to keep backtracking and re-explaining things.
  • Person B has a habit of losing emails. Email this person at 10:00 AM, and then refer to that email later in the afternoon, and you’re guaranteed to get the same response: “Um… I can’t find it. Can you re-send it?”
  • Person C has a habit of deflecting responsibility. This is harder to take because it usually gets deflected to the people who are the most productive—and I’m one of them.
    • Person C.1 is similar, but for different reasons; this person isn’t capable of doing anything in a standalone fashion, and requires my help for everything. So any time this person gets assigned some responsibility, I think to myself “Great. There’s one more thing on my plate…”
  • Person D has a Jekyll and Hyde complex; you never know, ahead of time, whether you’ll be speaking to the angry, unreasonable monster, or the friendly, reasonable person.
Unfortunately, some of the people mentioned above are the same person. Also unfortunately, other people above are actually just general categories, rather than actual people; there might be lots of people I work with that fit into some of the characterizations above.

I do thank God for the core group of people I work with, who don’t fit into any of the categories above. It’s really encouraging to be part of a team of people who know what they’re doing, how to do it, and how to do it professionally.

Now if I could just learn to stop venting to them over Messenger, during conference calls, I’d be one step closer to having a Christ-like patience…

Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Book Review: Ender’s Shadow

Author: Orson Scott Card

A while ago I mentioned the book Ender’s Game, by Orson Scott Card. Although, as I mentioned, I’m not a huge SF fan, I enjoyed it very much. So when I was lent the book Ender’s Shadow, I was looking forward to reading it.

Ender’s Shadow takes place at the same time as Ender’s Game—the cover calls it a “parallel novel”—but focuses on a different character, named Bean. Bean had been only a minor character in Ender’s Game, so I was interested to see what this book would be about. It turns out, in this book, that Bean was actually a fairly major character in Ender’s Game—but only behind the scenes. Ender never knew about it, which is why the book Ender’s Game never featured Bean too heavily.

Whenever you take an existing story and then rewrite some of it in a different book, you’re walking a fine line; there is always the danger of rewriting something in such a way that the first book would cease to make sense, or that you would completely change the meaning. On the other hand, if you’re just retelling the story, then there’s no point to having the second book. But Card does a great job of this in Ender’s Shadow. In this book, we learn that Bean had always been a superior tactition to Ender, and, in some ways, better suited to lead the fleet. However, Ender had something that Bean lacked: leadership abilities. The other leaders, who had to be under Ender’s command, respected and loved him, whereas they would never love Bean the same way. (They respected his intelligence, but not to the point where they’d want to be under his command.)

So Bean’s role is now to be Ender’s second-in-command, just in case anything happens to Ender, and to subtly suggest things to Ender when the occasion arises. Ender never figures out what’s going on, so, from his perspective, Bean is still a minor character. I thought this was a brilliant way to take a minor character from a book, and turn him, retrospectively, into the second most important character in the story.

So I recommend this book highly. In the introduction, the author says that you could read this book on its own, even if you haven’t read Ender’s Game. However, even if that is the case—which it is; I’m not disagreeing with him—I still think you’d enjoy the book even more if you read Ender’s Game first.

Friday, January 26, 2007


I saw this article, the other day, and it broke my heart. Toronto Community Housing has decided to start evicting families, if members of the family are suspected of being involved with gang activity. Little Johnny was seen hanging out with some gang members? Sorry, Mom, you’ll have to find somewhere else for the family to live.

There are so many things wrong with this:

  • How is this in Toronto Community Housing’s mandate?!? Their job is to provide housing—gang activity has nothing to do with them.
  • Where are these people supposed to live? These are families that are living in community housing; they don’t have anywhere else to go.
  • Whatever happened to a little thing called “due process”? TCH suspects your son of being in a gang? Well then, he must be guilty! Forget the court system, we’ll dispense justice ourselves! I mean sure, he’s not in jail, so there isn’t actually enough evidence against him for him to be arrested… but details, details. We think he’s guilty, and that’s good enough for us!
Unfortunately, it’s not just a plan, it’s an already active program. According to the article, they’ve evicted 13 families in the past year.

Thursday, January 25, 2007

Changing Comments

I’m fiddling with the blog template, again, to try and get the “show/hide comments” functionality to work like it used to. If there are any weird things happening with the blog today, you can ignore it, as it’s probably just me breaking the template.

I’m a terrible, terrible person

We moved into our townhouse a couple of years ago. Not long after we moved in, we realized that the former occupants hadn’t changed their address—at least, at a lot of places they hadn’t—and neither had they forwarded their mail to the new address. So within days of moving into our home, we had a pile of mail sitting on our counter, for the former occupants.

However, they had left us their new phone number, so we called them, and they came and picked it up. Problem solved. Except that within a week, we already had more mail piling up for them.

We called them again, but this time there was a bit of a delay; I didn’t call them right away. It probably stayed on our counter for a few weeks, before I got around to it.

This might have happened one or two more times—I don’t remember for sure—but eventually, we came to the part I’m ashamed of: There was a period of at least six months, possibly even up to a year, where their mail simply sat on our counter, the pile growing and growing, and I just kept forgetting to call them. Some of it was personal mail, some of it was bills. Some of it was from the government, and had scary messages on it like “final notice”. I couldn’t walk past our kitchen counter without cringing with guilt. Were these people going to end up in jail, simply because I hadn’t forwarded on their mail?

Sometimes we would get home late, and get the mail on the way—which would remind me about their mail—but it would be too late to call them. And other times we would get home at a decent time, and get the mail on the way, but I would know that we wouldn’t be home for the next week, so there was no point in calling them yet. Lots of little reasons, adding up to a long period of guilt.

Finally I called them, and they came and got it. And the mail promptly started building up, again. And then I had a brainstorm: When I was ready to ship off another batch, I called them, and asked them for their address. Then I put it all in a big envelope, and sent it off, neat as you please. It meant I didn’t have to schedule a time for them to come over, but it also meant I didn’t have to face them, because I still felt guilty. I’ve since mailed off a couple of batches of mail. And I think they’ve even changed their address at a number of places, because we get a lot less mail for them than we used to.

Then, last night, Andrea and I were just leaving the house to go to a church business meeting, and somebody pulled up in front of our driveway. (We were both thoroughly annoyed, that they could clearly see we were about to leave, but were blocking our way.) And then someone got out of the car, and approached us, holding what appeared to be a gift bag. And that’s when my guilt became complete:

It was them. They were bringing us a gift, to thank us for mailing them their mail! I couldn’t believe it. They, apparently, had the government chasing them, because we hadn’t sent them their mail for so long, but when we finally did, they wanted to thank us.

So we now have a nice bottle of red wine sitting on our counter. I may never be able to drink it, but maybe some day I’ll have guests over, and make them drink it.

I won’t tell them that they’re drinking my guilt; they might not enjoy it as much if they did.

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Iraq and US Foreign Policy

I found another interesting interview with Noam Chomsky, this time with Peshawa Abdulkhaliq Muhammed from Kurdistani Nwe Newspaper; it took place Dec 25. The interesting thing about this interview is that the interviewer didn’t seem on board with Chomsky’s views; I wouldn’t say he was exactly hostile, but he wasn’t agreeable, either. Unless it was simply a language issue, which is always possible.

Unfortunately, for a number of questions Chomsky had to defer to his previous books Hegemony or Survival, and Failed States, because to answer the question properly would have taken too much time in the interview. e.g. when asked to provide justification for viewpoints he’d expressed in previous interviews, he said that “Interviews do not have footnotes, but the sources are cited in my books Hegemony or Survival (2004) and Failed States (2006).”

On the plus side, however, he provides one of the best arguments for the U.S. withdrawing from Iraq immediately; many say that they can’t just pull out, because it will escalate the violence—a dubious claim, since most experts believe that the U.S. presence is escalating violence, but nevertheless, that’s the argument—but his response points out that even if that were true, it wouldn’t matter:

You and I are entitled to our own opinions as to what the invaders should do. We can even have an academic discussion about the topic. But our opinions mean nothing, just as the opinions of Bush, Blair, Cheney, and others mean nothing. What matters is what Iraqis want the occupying armies to do.

Apologists for Nazi Germany warned that withdrawal from occupied Europe would lead to major atrocities. They were right. In France, for example, thousands if not tens of thousands of collaborators were murdered. There were worse atrocities elsewhere. Were the Nazi apologists justified? Not in my opinion, nor I am sure yours. And for the same reason. The decision to withdraw does not lie in the hands of the invaders. That should be elementary.

Christianity at Work

I was conversing with a colleague over Office Communicator—basically a version of MSN Messenger that’s blessed by the IT department, and integrated into Exchange—and he asked me what church I go to, because he will be moving to Toronto soon, and was looking for suggestions.

The thing is, I don’t think I’ve ever told him that I’m a Christian. So, somehow, he found out from someone else.

“Hey, I’m looking for a good church in Toronto. Do you know of any?”

“No, but why not ask serna? I know he goes to church.”

So I’m thinking to myself: this could either be a good thing, or a bad thing.

It could be a good thing because if it means that my Christian witness is so good that I have a reputation around the office. “That serna; never lies, never cheats, never steals. Always pleasant to be around, and always patient. And it’s because he’s a Christian—he’s different.”

Or it could be a bad thing, if my witness is not good, and yet people still know. “That serna; what a jerk! He’s so judgemental, and impatient. Typical Christian…”

Not that I’m overly worried or anything. I just don’t tend to think about it that much. It’s not like I go around trying to “act” Christian—I pray and read my Bible, and try to become a better Christian, and hope that that will show in my day to day life. So when, out of the blue, I find out that someone knows I’m a Christian, I find myself looking back over our past conversations, and wondering, did I conduct myself as I should have?

A Facebook account, narrowly averted

Little Rabbit Foo Foo says:

sernaferna says:

Little Rabbit Foo Foo says:
How's it hangin'?

sernaferna says:
So far so good...

Little Rabbit Foo Foo says:
I was going to send you a Facebook invite but I thought you might be a little too cool (read: old) for that.

sernaferna says:
hehe I sense some intentional sarcasm happening there.

sernaferna says:
But it's okay. I'm not offended that you're not sending me a facebook invitation.

Little Rabbit Foo Foo says:
Are you sure? I can send you a special one. In fact, you know what, give me 2 seconds.

sernaferna says:
lol Don't bother, I'm not signing up for facebook...

Little Rabbit Foo Foo says:
tooooooo late.

sernaferna says:

Little Rabbit Foo Foo says:
Don't lie. You want to sign up. You want to be my frieeeeeend.

sernaferna says:
I'm not even sure what Facebook IS.

I just know that I don't need it.

sernaferna says:
I don't keep up with the faddish technology.


Little Rabbit Foo Foo says:
Says the 30-something guy on MSN.

sernaferna says:
Wow! You have 10 friends already!

sernaferna says:
Wait... does that "10" include me, who hasn't even signed up?

sernaferna says:
Hey, I do all my work, and only some of my socializing, on .

Little Rabbit Foo Foo says:
Nope. That's 10 independent separate non-serna friends.

sernaferna says:
Wow. If it wasn't just internet friends, I'd be impressed.

Little Rabbit Foo Foo says:

Little Rabbit Foo Foo says:
Serna, why you gotta be a hate-a?

sernaferna says:
(Rats. I was going to ask for permission to post this, and just realized I don't have an icon uploaded to Blogger for the lil' devil emoticon yet... )

sernaferna says:
If you do a bit of research, I think you'll find that ALL 30-something guys who chat on are hatas.

sernaferna says:
Except the ones who maintain blogs about reading the Bible from beginning to end. I think I'm an exception, when you count in that statistic...

sernaferna says:
So I take it your newfound love of facebook means you won't be using your Spaces thing anymore.

Little Rabbit Foo Foo says:
I haven't used my Spaces thing since last June. I'm a little ADD on the Internets. I find a website, it entertains me for 5 minutes, I get excited, then giddy, then bored, then I move on.

Little Rabbit Foo Foo says:
Except for the serna blog and the serna bible blog. I find them both enthralling .

sernaferna says:
Sounds like my life in general.

sernaferna says:
lol AGAIN with the sarcasm.

sernaferna says:
(Do you actually read the Bible blog? I didn't think anyone would.

And, as usual, I don't really want to put up a stats counter or anything...)

Little Rabbit Foo Foo says:
I do from time to time. It's not like the unbaptized sinner baby over here doesn't actually read the bible, y'know.

sernaferna says:
"sinner baby"? lol

Little Rabbit Foo Foo says:
Isn't that what you call us? Unbaptized sinner babies? Like jelly babies, or beanie babies. But less cute and more... burningineternaldamnation.

sernaferna says:
Well, you're entirely correct, except for the "sinner babies" part. I've never heard that term before... hehe

Little Rabbit Foo Foo says:
I think it's what my grandmother used to call me when I was little

sernaferna says:

sernaferna says:
You must have had a wonderful relationship with her.

Little Rabbit Foo Foo says:
Oh for sure. There's no bonding experience quite as special as baking cookies with someone who keeps flicking water at you and muttering in tongues.

sernaferna says:

sernaferna says:
I don't think baptism actually works that way. Are you sure she wasn't Catholic?

Little Rabbit Foo Foo says:
She's anglican.

sernaferna says:
If I remember correctly--which I probably don't--that's similar to Catholic, but not really.

Little Rabbit Foo Foo says:
It doesn't help that she's mildly psycho. And a cat person.

Little Rabbit Foo Foo says:
I find cat people to be the worst types of Catholics.

Little Rabbit Foo Foo says:
Cat-holics, if you will.

sernaferna says:

Little Rabbit Foo Foo says:
(I just realized the cat-holic link as I wrote catholic. Gosh, I'm quick and witty!)

sernaferna says:
OH. I thought you'd already thought that through... lol

Little Rabbit Foo Foo says:
Nope. Just pulled it out of my bum

sernaferna says:

sernaferna says:
Do you mind if I post this conversation?

Little Rabbit Foo Foo says:
You go right ahead

sernaferna says:


I feel like writing an epic-yet-thoughtful, deep-yet-playful, intelligent, well-thought-out blog post.


  1. I don’t have anything to write about
  2. I don’t have the ability to write such a blog post in the first place.

Monday, January 22, 2007

My Teeth

Is anyone else getting grossed out by the fact that I keep writing about my teeth, or is it just me?

I finished the 14 days prescribed to use the whitening strips that I mentioned, and the results are in: It didn’t make a lick of difference. To me, my teeth look exactly as they did 14 days ago. So, naturally, the first thing I did when I got in the office today was stop by Tim’s, and grab a coffee. “Forget this noise!” said I. “I’m drinking coffee again!”

Will I try some type of teeth whitening product again in the future? Yes, I think I will. I used the Life brand this time—from Shopper’s Drug Mart—because it was the cheapest, but next time I’ll use a more expensive kind, and see if that works better. (I did notice manufacturing defects with the Life brand ones, so we’ll see if the more expensive ones are made better.) The other thing I’ll do is try using the strips at night, instead of in the morning; the problem is that I was supposed to leave them in for 30 minutes, but sometimes I was in too much of a rush to get out the door, and had to settle for 25 or even 20 minutes. (Which means that I can’t really blame the product for not working; even with the manufacturing defects, there were numerous days that I didn’t do it for the full 30 minutes, so I should expect the results I got.)

I still don’t want to try again immediately, though; the product says that you can use it every six months, if you want, so I’ll wait before I try another product. I don’t want the crap they put into those strips eating away at my teeth…

Saturday, January 20, 2007

Give War a Chance

As previously mentioned, I recently read a blog post called Give War a Chance. (You can find it here.) As he says himself, in the post: “It‘s a hot topic. Blood pressures rise. Pupils narrow. But, its one we need to discuss—war.” It is, indeed, a hot topic. But with the U.S. fighting a war in Iraq that won’t end any time soon, and Canada fighting the U.S.’ war for them in Afghanistan, it’s probably on a lot of people’s minds, these days. It definitely helped shape the last American election, whether the conservatives would like to admit it or not.

He didn’t word it very strongly, but the author’s view seems to be that sometimes war is necessary. He had a quote, “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing”, which he thought might have come from Winston Churchill. His point, as he stated later: “Is it ethical to have the power to intervene but not intervene when a govt offers no resistance to murderers, criminals, etc.?”

He also mentions that there are various wars in the Old Testament, many of which are directly commanded by God. No Christian can approach the topic of war without keeping this in mind—and the usual conclusion is that wars sometimes are necessary. I think most Christians could agree that God wouldn’t order the Israelites to do something which was sinful.

And finally, he brings about some examples of wars that have benefitted mankind:

The question then is: what about today?

In the USA war brought an end to slavery in the 19th c. and in the 18th c. it took a war to insure our freedom of worship. In the 20th war brought an end to Nazism and checked the spread of communism.

So now, after all of this buildup, how do I feel about war, as a Christian?

First off, I do have to acknowledge that the LORD commanded many of the wars in the Old Testament. When the Israelites entered the Promised Land, they were to completely wipe out the nations already living there; when they didn’t obey God in this, they ended up living side by side with these people, which caused them problems for the rest of their history as a nation (until they were conquered by the Babylonians). And, as stated, God cannot sin, nor can He or would He order someone else to sin. So, ipso facto, these wars must not have been sinful.

However, what about today? Let’s look at some of the examples the author gave, of wars from the 18th, 19th, and 20th centuries.

He claims that war in the 18th century brought freedom of worship to the Americans, but is this so? Is that what the American Revolution was really about? Did they not have freedom of worship before that war? Or was it really a political—and economic—war, in which the Americans were trying to forge their own country, free not just from British rule, but also from British taxation?

And what about the Civil War, in the 19th century? Did that bring an end to slavery? Hardly. In theory, it made certain practices illegal in the Southern states—which were already illegal in the other states—but real freedom for blacks never came until at least the 60s—really, they won’t have real freedom until non-whites have as much power as whites—but the point is, it didn’t come about from war, it came about from non-violent means. Martin Luther King Jr. did more for blacks than Abraham Lincoln did.

I won’t even bother with the author’s claim that “checking the spread of Communism” was a worthwhile endeavor, but let’s look at the most common example that people would cite for a just war: World War II. When we fought the Nazis, and ended the Holocaust. But let’s ask the hard question: What was World War II really about? Aside from all of the rhetoric, what was it about? What it was not about, I’m sad to say, is ending the Holocaust. When word got out that the Jews were being systematically annihilated by the Nazis, there was very little concern about it, in the Allied countries. In fact, even when it became very common knowledge that the Jews were being wiped out, most countries had limits, on how many Jews could immigrate, and they refused to increase those limits. A Wikipedia article on the history of Jews in Canada states:

Despite mass demonstrations throughout the depression and war years, like most other Western nations, Canada denied entrance of Jews to the country. Canada took in proportionately fewer Jews than other western countries before and during the Holocaust. Between 1933 and 1945, only five thousand Jews were allowed into Canada.

This despite the fact that “[a]lmost twenty thousand Jewish Canadians volunteered to fight for Canada during the Second World War.” Policies in America were no better, and neither were policies in any other Allied country (to my knowledge). I don’t think, from this, that we can claim we went into the war to end the holocaust; we didn’t care about the Jews, at the time.

So why did the Allied powers go into World War II? To stop Hitler, but to stop him from what? To stop him from becoming an economic power; a power that would rival England, and the other powerful European states. (Even the U.S. had eyes on Europe, economically, and didn’t want Germany to be too powerful.) It’s quite true that he was a brutal tyrant, but let’s not kid ourselves: England and the States have no compunction whatsoever about supporting, or even installing, brutal dictators, when it suits their needs.

My point is this: no war, in the 20th century, has been fought for altruistic reasons. Although I agree that it’s unethical for a country to stand by when it can stop an atrocity, there are no examples that come to mind of a country that has followed this principle. (Actually, even throughout history, let alone the 20th century, although I’m not a history buff, so there may, in the annals of history, have been occurrences of “altruistic wars”.)

Wars are wrapped in rhetoric, to make them palatable to the public, but the truth is that they are fought out of self interest, not out of a concern for others. Rwanda is only one example of an atrocity we knew was going on, and refused to do anything about; Darfur is another. An especially enlightening example is Kosovo vs. Turkey; Clinton felt free to bomb Kosovo—ostensibly to stop ethnic cleansing, although ethnic cleansing never started until after the bombing—while providing arms to Turkey, which was committing its own war crimes. (But Turkey was an ally, and Serbia was not, so the media chooses their facts when discussing either.)

Since I do it so often, let me quote Chomsky, from Hegemony or Survival, who is himself quoting Andrew Bacevich:

Andrew Bacevich gives an even more cynical interpretation, dismissing all humanitarian motives [for the bombing of Kosovo]. Clinton’s resort to force in Bosnia in 1995 and his bombing of Serbia in 1999 were “not, as claimed, to put a stop to ethnic cleansing or in response to claims of conscience, but to preempt threats to the cohesion of NATO and the credibility of American power.” The plight of the Kosovars, he alleges, was not a concern. The intent of the NATO bombing was “to provide an object lesson to any European state fancying that it was exempt from the rules of the post-Cold War era” established by Washington. What counted was “affirming the dominant position of the United States in a Europe that was unified, integrated, and open.” From the outset, “the war’s architects understood [that] its purpose had been to sustain American supremacy” in Europe and “to forestall the intolerable prospect of Europe’s backsliding,” presumably out of US control.[endnote]

My problem, when we discuss war, is the difference between theory and reality. In theory, we sometimes need to go to war, to prevent the types of things that happened in Rwanda; in reality, the only time we go to war is when its in our own best interests. We have no problem whatsoever supporting the very people who commit atrocities, if they are willing to open their borders for trade. I keep mentioning Saddam Hussein on this blog as an example; as long as he was friendly to the U.S., they provided him with arms, which he used for killing Kurds. As soon as he looked like he was going to stop being friendly to U.S. interests, he became an enemy. (I’m happy Saddam was tried for his crimes, but Donald Rumsfeld should have been on the stand beside him, because Rumsfeld, as Secretary of State at the time, is the one who supplied the arms Saddam used in the crimes he was tried for.)

So, in a nutshell, I believe in the sentiments of the post I read, but I have to remain grounded in reality. As long as powerful countries are willing to start a war simply to drive down the price of oil, I can’t just blindly say that “sometimes war is necessary”. With tens of thousands of dead Iraqis, who died for no reason other than that they happen to live in an oil-rich country, it’s hard to have a purely theoretical discussion about whether war is sometimes necessary. In poll after poll after poll, in Iraq, the Iraqis tell us that they want the American troops out of their country, but too many North Americans ignore their voices, and choose believe that we’re there for their sake. I understand the reasoning; we don’t want to believe that we’re the bad guys. But we have to live in the real world, and that means taking responsibility for our actions—or not acting at all, if we’re not willing to take that responsibility.

I question the “superpowers’” motives in any war, because they always turn out to be economic, rather than humanitarian, and the sad fact is that Canada either follows along, or simply doesn’t do anything to stop them.

To sum up, I will stand behind the sentiment that war is sometimes necessary when countries begin to choose their wars on that basis. In the meantime, people are dying needlessly, and, as a Christian, that breaks my heart.

If we really wanted to put this principle into action, Canada should go to war with America, to stop the war crimes in Iraq. Of course, I don’t expect that to happen—I’m not even calling for it—but if you believe that wars are sometimes necessary; if you believe that “the only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing”; if you believe that it is unethical to have the power to intervene, but do nothing; if you believe all of that, then we have to ask ourselves: Who will stop Washington?

Thursday, January 18, 2007

The Spiritual Life Convention

As mentioned, I went to the Spiritual Life Convention last night, and it went very well. It was a time of fervent prayer, on my part, because I was so nervous, which was answered, because we played/sang well, and I think the congregation enjoyed it. I made some mistakes on the guitar, of course, but I don’t think any of them were noticeable, and even if they were, they weren’t major, so I’m happy.

The speaker last night was good, too. I very much enjoyed his talk. The theme was “Being Like Jesus” or “Becoming Like Jesus” or something along those lines. (I really was paying attention! Honest! I just have a lousy memory.) They recorded the message, and were making copies of it on CD, and I had meant to get a copy, on my way out. Unfortunately, we went out the back door, instead of the front, because we were carrying our instruments out, and I forgot to run out and grab one. (If we’d gone out the front, I would have noticed the people giving out CDs, and remembered.)

The main point of his message was that Christians, when they’re trying to be more like Jesus, try to do it all by their own power, even though it’s an impossible task. There was one thing the speaker said which I especially remember. He was talking about an event he had been to, when he was younger, and it was something like this:

I was at this event, and the speaker said “the Christian life is not easy”, and I thought “amen, brother! This guy understands it!”

And then the speaker said “the Christian life is not hard”, and I thought “this guy doesn’t know what he’s talking about!”

And then the speaker said “the Christian life is impossible”, and that’s when the light came on, and I realized that there were some things I didn’t understand.

I would put more, but I don’t remember a lot; just that he was good, and I enjoyed his talk.

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

One more post for the day, then I’m outta here…

Since I still have 20 minutes to kill, before I leave, I guess I’ll toss off one more blog post, before I hit the open road.

Jehovah Shalom is playing at the People’s Church tonight, as part of the Spiritual Life Convention. Actually, not all of Jehovah Shalom—just some of the musicians, and some of the singers. We’re not performing, just leading the worship for tonight’s seminar(s). I’ve never been to the Spiritual Life Convention, so I’m looking forward to it, but I’m also a bit nervous, because I don’t typically play guitar in front of anyone other than my usual church family. If they don’t like the way we worship, I don’t want to hinder them from worshipping as well as they could. (Where “they” in this case refers to the rest of the congregation.) Sometimes, when you really don’t like the music, it can hamper your ability to worship properly, and I don’t want to be the cause of that!

I read a blot post this afternoon called Give War a Chance and was tempted to post my thoughts on it here, but realized I wouldn’t have time. I have to be at the People’s Church at 6:30—at the latest!—so I don’t want to leave late. (And, of course, I have my pesky job to perform, in between my blog posts. That always tends to slow things down.) I’ll probably write about it tomorrow, if I remember—which is not guaranteed—because it’s an interesting topic.

Why this blog is boring

Well, maybe that title is a bit misleading. There are probably numerous reasons why this blog is boring, and I can’t go through it all. But one reason is that I don’t write about the things that I actually know!

Some examples:

  • I’m a self-proclaimed computer nerd, yet I don’t write about computer stuff. (Most of the reason for this is that I purposely don’t write about work, so there goes a lot of my computer-related material right there.)
  • I play guitar, but I don’t think I’ve ever written about music here. Sure, maybe a post or two about CDs that I liked or disliked, but not really about music.
  • I’m a Christian, which is probably the biggest defining aspect of my life, personality, viewpoint, etc., but I hardly write about religion or religious issues here. (I have the serna Bible Blog, of course, but I don’t write about it much here.)
  • I’m married—the second most important defining aspect of my life, personality, viewpoint, etc.—but I don’t write much about married life, either, because I want to keep our personal life personal.
So what do I end up writing about? I’m left putting up posts about how many blogs are boring, and how I’m not drinking coffee lately, and reviews of Chomsky books—which actually just end up being summaries instead of reviews.

It’s a good thing I’m only posting for my own benefit, and not yours. Otherwise this blog would be a miserable failure…

Reading Blogs != End to Boredom

If you’re not a programmer, the != thing means “not equal to”. In other words, the title of this post could be roughly translated thusly:

If you’re bored, reading blogs is not the way to cure that boredom.

You might be wondering what brought me to that conclusion. However, you needn’t worry: I wouldn’t have bothered typing up this post, if I didn’t have an answer ready for you. And the answer is this: I had a few minutes to kill at work, and nothing to do with those few minutes. So I opened up my blog—the very blog you’re reading right now!—and clicked the Next Blog link at the top, which simply brings you to another random Blogger blog. I would start reading it, get bored, and click its Next Blog link, to find another one. (Warning: If you’re going to do this, be prepared for the fact that some of the blogs out in the blog wide web are adult in nature. As I found out the awkward way. I’m glad nobody was standing behind me.)

I went through about a dozen blogs, in about six minutes. (That’s an average of thirty seconds per blog.) I was able to go through them so quickly because they’re so boring. Just think of the bandwidth that I, and my fellow bloggers, are wasting! Think of the wasted hours! Days, even!

So many very smart people working at Google/Blogger, creating this great service, so that people could write intelligent things like… well, let me pull up a random one, and see what it has to say.

Whoops, that one was in Swedish.

Oh. This one’s not in English, either. (I can’t tell what language it is.) And neither is the third one. Ah, here we go! Blog #4:

I think my 2/3 finished lit essay isn't that good. I'm just listing stuff really. I took a nap at 8 pm, my mum got carried away with the tv and woke me up at 11.30. So now I'm struggling at 4 am and theres fake napfa later. Whatever happens, I luzz.

I have nothing much to say about the golden globes really. Helen Mirren is almost surely gonna hit oscar jackpot for The Queen. But the only one I really bothered to be happy about was Forest Whitaker's Golden Globe for Last King of Scotland. He's a highly underrated actor really. And go watch his acceptance speech on youtube, really nervous and humble.

There. Perfect example. Are you interested? I’m not.

And this is exactly the kind of crap that I write, here on my own blog! Well, my grammar is better, but still. I might not have written about the Golden Globes, but I do post movie reviews, and book reviews. Who am I to put up a movie review?!? What do I know about movies, that qualifies me to recommend a movie for you to watch?

But I digress. Let’s find another one:

Eight months is a long time to go without a job. It is two months longer than unemployment insurance. It is almost long enough to have a baby. And it is long enough to cause many nights filled with self-doubt, stress and visions of financial ruin.

I have not been without a job in over 20 years. I have been the Executive Director of non-profit organizations for the past 13 years. I have served on boards, been heavily involved in politics for the past 15 years and have a national network of friends. In short, I was a professional with a load of professional skills.

The nights and days of self-doubt and the accompanying self-loathing were spawned through unreturned phone calls, horrible interviews, really bad communications from hiring panels and a total lack of response from boatloads of resume submissions.


Rats. That one doesn’t prove my point. It’s not bad at all. I cut it off—it went on for a while from there—but it was interesting to read.

The next two blogs I went to were family blogs, so I don’t have anything to say about them. They’re not meant for anyone other than the family, so there would be no point judging them on how interesting they are—to their target audiences, they’re very interesting. And the next one was a “Raptors Insider” blog, which I can’t judge either. This is a blog with a purpose, unlike mine, so all it has to do is stay true to that purpose, and it serves its user base.

So I didn’t find enough blogs to prove my point. Figures; I went through so many boring ones, and then when I wanted boring ones, I couldn’t find enough examples. I even found—after I’d stopped looking for boring ones—a Christian blog that looked like it might be interesting, which I’ve bookmarked. So… not only did I not prove my point, I proved the opposite!

So I am now changing my position, on the subject: Many, many blogs on the internet—perhaps even most of them—are very boring, and pointless. But if you keep searching, you’ll find some good ones.

So um, yeah… good luck with that.

Coffee, coffee, coffee. Again with the coffee!

Since I stopped drinking coffee, I still haven’t had any. I haven’t “fallen off the wagon”, as it were. I really miss it, but I’m holding strong.

But here’s the thing: as mentioned, the reason I’m giving it up is that I’m trying to whiten my teeth—but it’s not working. It’s been over a week, since I started using the product, and I haven’t noticed any difference. It’s possible that there is some difference, and I just haven’t noticed it from day to day, but the box said that you should notice some results after seven days, and I didn’t.

I was initially planning to do pictures every day, so that I could then compare them. (I might even have thrown them together into a movie, and put it up on YouTube—now that, ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls, would have been the ultimate serna video: gross and boring! Unfortunately, the first day I used the product, when I should have taken the “before” picture, I was in a rush, and was finding it too difficult to take a picture of my own teeth. (Try it sometime; I think you’ll find it’s harder than you might think.)

Oh well. Monday will be the last day I’m using the strips; I’m sure I’ll start drinking coffee again on Tuesday. I’d planned to leave my teeth nice and white and sparkly for a while, before I went back to the coffee, but since it doesn’t look like that will happen, I won’t really have anything to lose, by going back to coffee!

Monday, January 15, 2007

Book Review: Profit Over People

Full Title: Profit Over People: Neoliberalism and Global Order
Author: Noam Chomsky

I’ve finished another Chomsky book, but this time, I wasn’t completely blown away, as I usually am by his work. I had been doing a lot of thinking and discussing lately about “neoliberalism”, so when I was in a book store a few months ago, and saw a book by Chomsky on the subject, I snapped it up. However, the book is a few years old, now, and while it was probably pretty startling at the time, there wasn’t much new for me. It’s taken from a series of essays and speeches Chomsky has given on the subject.

One of the key things Chomsky points out in this book, which isn’t something I’ve given much thought to, is that the rhetoric of a “free market economy” is often different from what actually takes place. Under a free market economy, the government is supposed to get out of the way of business, and let the “invisible hand of the market” take care of everything. If a company is suffering, then it’s probably better to let the company go bankrupt, and let other, more able companies, take its place. In reality, this only takes place when the companies in question are foreign companies; when a local company is having trouble, the government tends to step in, although the form of the government bail-out is often somewhat masked; e.g. if the aircraft industry is having troubles, as they did after WW II, then the government simply steps up military spending for aircraft, which bails out the aircraft industry.

The most important departures from free market doctrine, however, lie elsewhere. One fundamental component of free trade theory is that public subsidies are not allowed. But after World War II, U.S. business leaders expected that the economy would head right back to depression without state intervention. They also insisted that advanced industry—specifically aircraft, though the conclusion was more general—“cannot satisfactorily exist in a pure, competitive, unsubsidized, ‘free enterprise’ economy” and that “the government is their only possible savior.” I am quoting the major business press, which also recognized that the Pentagon system would be the best way to transfer costs to the public. They understood that social spending could play the same stimulative role, but it is not a direct subsidy to the corporate sector, it has democratizing effects, and it is redistributive. Military spending has none of these defects.

It is also easy to sell. President Truman’s Air Force Secretary put the matter simply: we should not use the word “subsidy,” he said, the word we should use is “security.” He made sure that the military budget would “meet the requirements of the aircraft industry,” as he put it. One consequence is that civilian aircraft is now the country’s leading export, and the huge travel and tourism industry, aircraft-based, is the source of major profits.

Thus it is quite appropriate for Clinton to choose Boeing “as a model for companies across America” as he preached his “new vision” of the free market future at the Asia-Pacific Summit in 1993, to much acclaim. A fine example of really existing markets, civilian aircraft production is now mostly in the hands of two firms, Boeing-McDonald and Airbus, each of which owes its existence and success to large-scale public subsidy. The same pattern prevails in computers and electronics generally, automation, biotechnology, communications, in fact just about every dynamic sector of the economy.

There was no need to explain the doctrines of “really existing free market capitalism” to the Reagan Administration. They were masters of the art, extolling the glories of the market to the poor while boasting proudly to the business world that Reagan had “granted more import relief to U.S. industry than any of his predecessors in more than half a century”—which is far too modest; they surpassed all predecessors combined, as they “presided over the greatest swing toward protectionism since the 1930s,” Foreign Affairs commented in a review of the decade. Without these and other extreme measures of market interference, it is doubtful that the steel, automotive, machine tool, or semiconductor industries would have survived Japanese competition, or been able to forge ahead in emerging technologies, with broad effects through the economy. That experience illustrates once again that “the conventional wisdom” is “full of holes,” another review of the Reagan record in Foreign Affairs points out. But the conventional wisdom retains its virtues as an ideological weapon to discipline the defenseless.

The United States and Japan have both just announced major new programs for government funding of advanced technology (aircraft and semiconductors, respectively) to sustain the private industrial sector by public subsidy.

To illustrate “really existing free market theory” with a different measure, an extensive study of transnational corporations (TNCs) by Winfried Ruigrock and Rob van Tulder found that “virtually all of the world’s largest core firms have experienced a decisive influence from government policies and/or trade barriers on their strategy and competitive position,” and “at least twenty companies in the 1993 Fortune 100 would not have survived at all as independent companies, if they had not been saved by their respective governments,” by socializing losses or by simple state takeover when they were in trouble. One is the leading employer in Gingrich’s deeply conservative district, Lockheed, saved from collapse by huge government loan guarantees. The same study points out that government intervention, which has “been the rule rather than the exception over the past two centuries… has played a key role in the development and diffusion of many product and process innovations—particularly in aerospace, electronics, modern agriculture, materials technologies, energy, and transportation technology,” as well as telecommunications and information technologies generally (the Internet and World Wide Web are sriking recent examples), and in earlier days, textiles and steel, and of course, energy. Government policies “have been an overwhelming force in shaping the strategies and competitiveness of the world’s largest firms.” Other technical studies confirm these conclusions.

(from the essay Neoliberalism and Global Order, 1996; pp. 36–38 in my edition of the book)

But the neoliberalists (if I may coin that phrase) aren’t just interested in doing business locally. They’re interested in pushing their agenda globally; the most striking example is Iraq, where they drove into the country in hords, with the express intent of turning Iraq into a free market economy. The problem, however, is that this is never the best way to stimulate a country’s economy; it will push some extra money into the hands of the rich–mostly the Trans-National Corporations—but it will very much hurt the majority of the people. Chomsky compares the theory with Japan’s economic growth, and shows that, again, the rhetoric doesn’t match the reality:

… In the eighteenth century, the differences between the first and third worlds were far less sharp than they are today. Two obvious questions arise:

  1. Which countries developed, and which not?
  2. Can we identify some operative factors?

The answer to the first question is fairly clear: Outside of Western Europe, two major regions developed: the United States and Japan—that is, the two regions that escaped European colonization. Japan’s colonies are another case; though Japan was a brutal colonial power, it did not rob its colonies but developed them, at about the same rate as Japan itself.


A group of prominent Japanese economists recently published a multivolume review of Japan’s programs of economic development since World War II. They point out that Japan rejected the neoliberal doctrines of their U.S. advisers, choosing instead a form of industrial policy that assigned a predominant role to the state. Market mechanisms were gradually introduced by the state bureaucracy and industrial-financial conglomerates as prospects for commercial success increased. The rejection of orthodox economic precepts was a condition for the “Japanese miracle,” the economists conclude. The success is impressive. With virtually no resource base, Japan became the world’s biggest manufacturing economy by the 1990s and the world’s leading source of foreign investment, also accounting for half the world’s net savings and financing U.S. deficits.

As for Japan’s colonies, the major scholarly study of the U.S. Aid mission in Taiwan found that U.S. advisors and Chinese planners disregarded the principles of “Anglo-American economics” and developed a “state-centered strategy,” relying on “the active participation of the government in the economic activites of the island through deliberate plans and its supervision of their execution.” Meanwhile U.S. officials were “advertising Taiwan as a private enterprise success story.”

(from the essay Neoliberalism and Global Order, 1996; pp. 28–31 in my edition of the book)

So, despite the doctrine, Japan had been doing exactly the opposite of what the neoliberals had been preaching, and ended up with a better economy for it, not worse.

My favourite essay from the book was Market Democracy in a Neoliberal Order: Doctrines and Reality. It’s from a speech Chomsky delivered at the University of Cape Town in South Africa, in 1997. I won’t post a long blurb from this one; it would be better if you just read it yourself. It’s online at Chomsky’s website, complete with endnotes. I will, however, post part of his introduction:

I have been asked to speak on some aspects of academic or human freedom, an invitation that offers many choices. I will keep to some simple ones.

Freedom without opportunity is a devil’s gift, and the refusal to provide such opportunities is criminal. The fate of the more vulnerable offers a sharper measure of the distance from here to something that might be called “civilization.” While I am speaking, 1,000 children will die from easily preventable disease, and almost twice that many women will die or suffer serious disability in pregnancy or childbirth for lack of simple remedies, and care.[endnote] UNICEF estimates that to overcome such tragedies, and to ensure universal access to basic social services, would require a quarter of the annual military expenditures of the “developing countries,” about 10 percent of U.S. military spending. It is against the background of such realities as these that any serious discussion of human freedom should proceed.

(from the essay Market Democracy in a Neoliberal Order: Doctrines and Reality, 1997; p. 91 in my edition of the book)

I think I’ve mentioned this before, in a review of a previous Chomsky book or article, but this is one of the reasons I like Chomsky’s analysis: He understands not just the big picture, but also the impact on real human lives. It’s too easy, when talking about “big picture issues”, to forget about the impact on real people. In fact, the government and media rely on this; they don’t want us to think too hard about impacts of policies on real people. If you can turn people into abstractions, then putting 90% of the world’s wealth into the hands of 10% of the world’s people doesn’t seem quite as heinous a crime as it really is. And putting in place policies that help North Americans, but result in the loss of thousands of South American lives, doesn’t seem as real, to us, so we don’t complain about it—or care about it.

Back Up and Running

I’ve finally done it, and updated my blog template. I’m not 100% satisfied with it, but it’s mostly the way it used to be, from what I can tell. (Except that I don’t have the expandable/collapsible comments right now; I’ll need some time to figure out how to do that, which I’ll do later.)

I’m sure there will be minor tweaks, over the next little while, as I fiddle with this and change that, but it’s mostly there.

Testing the new Template

serna Perma Post

After all of the hooplah, I’m finally changing the blog template, to use the new Blogger features. You can ignore this post, as I’m just putting it up to test the different things I need to implement in the new template.

Heading 1

  • I’m a bulleted list
  • I have various bullets
  1. I’m a numbered list.
  2. I also have various bullets.

Heading 2

This paragraph has some italics, and some bold, some code-styled text, a link, and a definition span.

Heading 3

Here’s an MSN conversation:

someone says:
Are you FINALLY changing your blog template?

sernaferna says:
Yes. Yes I am.

And here’s a script—not that I use this very often, but hey, I’d better do it.
  • The Script
  • by sernaferna
  • INT: the office
  • serna is at his keyboard, typing the most pointless blog post ever
  • serna
  • (in annoyance)
  • Why am I bothering to make sure to copy over the “script” styles, when I barely use them?
And here’s a quotation (blockquote):

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, eleifend accumsan massa pellentesque ante justo quisque, varius blandit nascetur dictum. Cras turpis molestie sit, suspendisse et magna massa ipsum. Gravida vivamus a duis id molestie, maecenas at tincidunt ac turpis tempor. Sodales lorem magna, quis erat sit turpis, nulla placerat ipsum ac lorem nec, rutrum commodo massa. Ultricies accumsan dui, in sem non in erat, viverra nulla luctus, sed enim placerat dictumst. Nibh eget scelerisque mauris. Gravida semper vel perferendis vel, volutpat sagittis, aliquam enim lobortis volutpat dolorem vestibulum. Non justo amet amet a, lectus risus euismod sollicitudin fusce, tortor saepe tincidunt vel. Dictumst donec gravida, suspendisse wisi accumsan vel, pharetra dapibus sodales ultrices aenean feugiat sed.

Ante amet neque. Sagittis velit id ornare, sollicitudin gravida morbi sed vel, etiam adipiscing enim, conubia integer aenean. Dis risus, tincidunt nostra risus. Placerat at posuere. Nulla tincidunt diam, auctor posuere wisi nec. Luctus augue, a volutpat ut. Lectus nibh, suspendisse quis varius. Ullamcorper omnis vestibulum quam sed, rhoncus neque ultrices libero euismod nonummy, sit mauris faucibus, ac sapien adipiscing nulla dapibus dolores, ac velit in justo et eleifend. Malesuada tempor pellentesque felis tortor lacus dui. In nec, cursus imperdiet ipsum est porta, mauris elit sit, mauris dolor magnis. Molestie augue mus.

That’s all I can think of. Hopefully this won’t take long—and most people will never bother looking at this post.

Friday, January 12, 2007

Random Thoughts

Some random thoughts:

  • I should really be paying attention on this conference call, but I’m not
  • I’ve updated my Blogger account, to the new version of the service. I’ve also updated to newer templates for the serna Bible Blog, and God in the Driver’s Seat—which isn’t even being used yet.
    • I don’t fully like the new template for the serna Bible Blog, but it’s the best one I could find, for now. I’ll probably end up changing it, at some point in the future. (If you want to weigh in on the decision, leave a comment here.)
    • I haven’t updated this template, yet, but will soon. (Actually, probably Monday.)
  • I could really use a coffee, right now. But so far, I’m doing well at staying away.
  • Youth Group is starting again tonight. (We were shut down for the holidays, and I wasn’t ready to start back up last Friday.) I’m hoping to be able to plan better in 2007 than I did in 2006, but we’ll see how that goes. I love the kids, I love leading the Youth Group, and I love doing the Bible studies, but there is no doubt that there are some administrative and planning skills I lack, that would make the running of the group much smoother.
I don’t know if I’ll post again before the template changes are done on Monday. (Assuming that I’ll have time on Monday, which is not guaranteed.)

Blog out of commission for a while

I found a template that I can use for the serna Bible Blog that isn’t too bad, so I’m going to take the plunge, and upgrade my Blogger account to the new version of the service.

Which means that any and all of my blogs may look or act strange, until I can get everything back up and running the way I want it.

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Upgrading My Blogger Account (cont.)

So I took a closer look at the templates available for the new version of Blogger—all of them—and none of them are anything like the template I’ve been using for the serna Bible Blog. That means that I’ll have to do a lot of work on it, if/when I upgrade.

I could probably take the existing template, that I got from Blogger Templates, and update it to use the new template syntax. However, this would mean learning the new template syntax, and, nerdy as I may be, I don’t have that kind of time, for something that’s a personal project. So, chances are I’ll just end up changing the look of the site altogether, and using a standard Blogger template, maybe with some minor modifications.

Monday, January 08, 2007


For someone who never used to drink much coffee, it’s a bit surprising how many blog posts I write on that topic these days…

I’ve decided—again—to give up coffee for a while. I think it’s making my teeth yellow. (Or, at least helping, anyway.) But now I have a problem: What am I going to drink, in the mornings, when I used to have my morning coffee?

I’m not so much drinking coffee for the caffeine; it’s more of a habit, or a routine. I get in to the office, I fire up the laptop, and I run down to grab a coffee, which I then sip as I read my morning emails, and begin my working day. Even as I type that, it sounds so nice. (I also occasionally grab a coffee in the afternoon, if I have a slow few minutes, but I could easily replace that with a Nestea or something.)

The other problem I might have is addiction; I’ve been averaging two coffees a day, for the last few months, during the week. If I suddenly stop, I may very well start getting headaches or something, until it’s out of my system.

And, now that I think about it, there is a third problem I might have: Isn’t Roll up the Rim season around the corner, for Tim Hortons? Or is that later in the year?

Friday, January 05, 2007

Wasted time

Allow me to take a minute to explain how I can, in the middle of the day, take the time to write a long post like the last one, when most peoples’ blog posts don’t get that long even on a non-working day. How do I find the time?

It’s simple:

  • serna’s RAM
  • by sernaferna
  • with help from: serna’s colleague
  • INT: the office cafeteria, around 9:30AM
  • serna waits in line at Tim’s, for a coffee
  • serna’s colleauge
  • Hey! Remember that extra RAM I promised you for your new laptop? And the installation CD you need, for that extra software? I’ve got it at my desk! I’ll drop it by soon!
  • serna
  • Excellent! I’ll be waiting at my desk, since I can’t do much until I get that memory.
  • time passes
  • serna decides he can’t wait any longer, he needs to grab some lunch. He changes his screensaver, to a message that says “Be Right Back”, and leaves his desk for 5 minutes. Because…
  • serna
  • Surely he’ll be here any minute, right?
  • time passes
  • In order to pass the time, serna begins crafting a blog post, about the fact that he’d like to upgrade his Blogger account, but isn’t quite ready to do so.
  • serna
  • I’m sure I won’t be able to finish it, but at least it’s something to do, while I wait for my colleague to arrive.
  • to serna’s surprise, he actually finishes the post. And posts it. And begins another one.
And that, ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls, is how I sometimes get so much time to craft blog posts. Because I spend much of my time waiting on other people.

In fact, if he doesn’t get back to me soon, I’ll probably even start on a third one. I wonder what it will be about…

New Blogger? Not quite yet, but I’m so tempted…

Warning: This post probably gets a bit too technical, with the ins and outs of blogging with Blogger. If you don’t blog with Blogger, some of this stuff might be greek to you, and even if you do, you probably won’t care.
Today I was toying with the idea, again, of upgrading my Blogger account to use the new Blogger service. There really are some nice features I might be able to make use of, when I do make the switch, but the problem is that they won’t do me any good until I upgrade my templates, too.

But the template I use for the serna Bible Blog is from Blogger Templates—the one called Newsline—and I haven’t found an updated version for the new way of doing things within Blogger. (Maybe it’s time to change the template anyway? Although I like the template overall, I’m not happy with the fact that the text is so small.) And the template I use here is really customized, so I’d have to do that all over again, to get the new template working properly.

But there’s one particular feature that I’m sure will be somewhat handy: They have something called Page Elements, that you can use to create custom sections at the side, top, or bottom of the blog, without having to edit the template. (Common examples would be a list of links, or that kind of thing.) Almost every blog has a list of links, or a “blog roll”, or something similar.)

In other words, they’re finally separating the presentation from the content—making the layout of the blog (the Page Elements) separate from the look and feel (the template). This is a big plus, because it means you can change your blog’s template, and still keep these things. (For my blogs, I’ve had to put everything right into the template, so if I ever switched templates, I’d lose all of the content—except for the actual posts, of course. But I’d have to re-do anything I’ve got along the sides or bottom of the blog.)

In the pop-up above I mentioned thing things on this blog that would become Page Elements, but they’re fairly static. One that would be more useful is in the serna Bible Blog, where I’ve got a section called “Finished Books”: any time I completely finish blogging through a book of the Bible, I create a page with a link to every chapter of that book, and post it, like I did for Genesis. I then have to edit the blog’s template, to add a link to that page to the Finished Books section, so that the list of finished books will always be there for the reader. But with a Page Element, I could simply edit the element, and create a new link there. I would then be more free to change my template, if I ever wanted to.

Aside from all of this, though, there is one feature that will be immediately useful, even if I don’t upgrade the templates: As Blogger works now, when I post an entry, it’s creating static HTML pages, and saving them somewhere. This makes posting a bit of a laborious process, but it is also one of the reasons—I think—for Blogger’s instability. With the new version, the post will be saved to a database, instead. Any time someone goes to my blog, instead of getting a static HTML page, Blogger will dynamically generate the page, based on the contents of the post, my template, my Page Elements, etc. This will make things more quick for posting, and it should make it more stable, too, even for people reading the blog.

(This is also, by the way, how most blogging services already work; it’s why they’re more stable, but also why they have some of the same features that Blogger is just now introducing. Doing things dynamically this way makes some of these features possible.)

All my worries aside, I have been playing with the new version a bit—not for my “real” blogs, but with some fake ones—and I do generally like it. So I’m sure I’ll talk myself into switching soon. I just need to remember not to do it until I have some free time to update the templates, and re-customize all of the customizations I’ve done!

Thursday, January 04, 2007

Minutes nonstop

The title doesn’t mean anything. Don’t try to read into it.

I realize I haven’t been posting with regularity, lately. It’s almost to the point where I’m posting more to the serna Bible Blog than I am here. (That’s an exaggeration. You don’t need to go there and check, and then come back here and comment on how bad my counting skills are.)

I posted a while ago—November, to be exact—about the paper towel dispensers in my bathroom at work. Well, it’s even worse now: they’ve actually removed the old paper towel dispensers. So now we’re forced to use the mechanical ones, that don’t work properly. I was going to put up a picture of the holes in the wall where the old dispensers were, but I haven’t felt like taking out my camera phone in the washroom again.

I’ve begun the process—which will probably be a long process—of investigating hybrid cars, because Andrea and I have decided that we’ve put quite enough carbon monoxide into the air, thank you very much, and we need to start reducing that. However, I haven’t yet found a good source of information, comparing the different hybrids, which is why I’m at square one. (Which is why I’m expecting the information gathering process to be a long one.)

And that’s all for now. Maybe soon my brain will turn back on, and when the thoughts begin to flow once more, I’m sure some of them will end up here.

Tuesday, January 02, 2007

Back to work… soon.

After an exciting couple of weeks, it’s almost time for me to go back to work. Today is my last day off, and tomorrow I go back. So I took my last day off to watch The Constant Gardener, and write a couple of blog entries, after which I’ll go and get some groceries, in preparation for trying to cook something new, tonight. (I’ve cooked the same half dozen dishes over and over and over again, for the last two years; it’s time to try something new.)

There were a few things I did over the holidays that I haven’t written about yet, but nothing too exciting. We spent New Year’s Eve with Jer, T, Alexis, and Buddha Cat.

(I’ve wanted to put up a picture of Jer and T’s cat in his Buddha pose for a long time. I finally got the chance. Actually, I’d planned to take that picture with my camera phone, but I decided to just get Jer to send me a good picture, instead of the blurry monstrosity that would have come from my camera phone.)

As is so often the case, we spent New Year’s Eve watching movies, although this year we watched less movies than last year, and they were, arguably, better movies, too. (We watched Pirates of the Carribean: Dead Man’s Chest, and Superman Returns. Pirates was pretty racist—Andrea pointed out that we’ve watched a lot of racist movies, lately—and Superman was… well, good and bad. Not great, I didn’t think.)

Sorry, got off track there, for a couple of paragraphs.

I’m sort of looking forward to going back to work, tomorrow. As with any holiday I take, I have a mixture of feelings; I’m looking forward to getting back to doing what I’m good at, but at the same time, I feel like there were a bunch of things I didn’t get a chance to do on the holidays. I can’t actually think of what those things might have been, but I always have that feeling when it’s time to go back to work.

I’m also looking forward to starting to post to the serna Bible Blog more often. I’d hoped to do some entries during the holidays, but I didn’t have as much spare time as I’d been thinking I would.

By Friday, I’m sure I’ll be back to the swing of things, and ready for the weekend. What a strange bunch of people we are, in North America—so obsessed with work, and yet even more obsessed with getting away from work. (Was that deep? No? Rats. I thought I was going somewhere good with that, but I guess not.)

Movie Review: The Constant Gardener

Talk to any avid reader, and they’ll tell you the same thing: a movie based on a book is never as good as the book itself. There have been a few exceptions, but it’s usually the case. The problem is that you can’t get the same kind of detail from a movie as you can from a book. This is especially true when the book was written by a really good writer. The Constant Gardener was written by John le Carré, who’s a great writer, so it’s very much true in this case, too.

I had mixed feelings about the movie. All in all, I think it was very good—no surprise there—but not as good as the book—even less surprise there. For the first half of the movie, or so, I didn’t feel too good about it. I thought they’d compromised on some things. But I found out they hadn’t, as the movie went on, which was very good news. They just changed the order of some things, which I understand, because they were trying to squeeze it all in, however they could.

Unfortunately, I can’t say too much about the movie, because I don’t want to give anything away. I will say that I recommend it highly, but I recommend the book even more highly. (Even if you’ve already seen the movie, I still recommend the book.) Like I said, le Carré is a great writer, and he unfolds things better in writing than the director (and screen writer) ever could in a movie. The movie is only two hours long—already a bit long for a movie; North American audiences can only sit through so much—but in order to fit a book into a movie of that length, you have to take some shortcuts.

On the cinematic aspects of the movie, I was very pleased. The choice in actors was perfect; they all suited their characters perfectly. Well, maybe they could have picked someone more enigmatic than Rachel Weisz for Tessa, but still, I thought she did a good job.

(This might be a good part to mention one thing I found very unrealistic, about both the movie and the book: Tessa being married to Justin. Especially in the movie, she was portrayed as a great activist, while he was portrayed as a career diplomat, who didn’t want to get involved. It’s easy to put Andrea in Tessa’s place, or many other people I’ve met who are activists, or in the non-profit sector, but I can’t see any of them marrying someone like Justin. At some point, the politics would always get in the way. But in the movies, when we meet activists, it’s always portrayed like the activism is just part of their personality, and that they can set it aside from time to time. They’re so patient with their significant others, as they try to teach them about their activism; but, from time to time, they can set aside, oh, everything that they believe in, for a cute little love scene. It just doesn’t ring true. I’m not saying that an activist is “on” 24/7, or that they don’t have love lives. They don’t just think about social justice at every moment of their lives. But it doesn’t ring true in the movies when they marry someone who isn’t interested in social justice, and it gets treated like just any other thing that you have to work through in a marriage. “My wife never picks up after herself!” “Oh, I know exactly how you feel! My husband works for a company that’s killing thousands of people in Africa! It’s so annoying!”)

And of course, Ralph Fiennes was perfect to play Justin, as I’m sure everyone has said. He had the perfect mix of qualities to bring le Carré’s character to life. I was also pleasantly surprised by Bill Nighy as Sir Bernard Pellegrin. After seeing him as Slartibartfast in The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, it was strange but fitting to see him in the role of a career diplomat. I thought he was perfect for the role.

The cinematography was beautiful, too, but that was partially because the movie was filmed in Africa. All they had to do was turn on the cameras, and let the beauty of Africa get caught on film, and they had stunning visuals.

After seeing this movie, it reminds me again of the novel I started, which I haven’t done any work on in… well, in much too long. I really need to get back to work on it. I’m not a writer in le Carré’s league, but that doesn’t mean that I don’t want to be a writer at all. There is room in the world for mediocre writers, as much as there is for great writers. (And terrible writers—I hope I’m not one of those. But if it ever gets published, time, my readers, and my critics, will tell.)