Friday, June 19, 2015

Leap Second June 30 2015

Esta entrada del blog está dirigido principalmente a los empollones y extraños que se preocupan por tales cosas.

Un segundo intercalar (segundo bisiesto) es un ajuste de un segundo que se aplica de vez en cuando al Tiempo Universal Coordinado (UTC) con el fin de mantener la hora del día cerca del tiempo solar medio. El vigésimo sexto tal segundo intercalar se aplicará entre 11:59:59 pm UTC el 30 de junio de 2015, y 12:00:00 (medianoche) UTC del 1 de julio El segundo intercalar se aplica en todo el mundo al mismo tiempo. Así que si usted vive, por ejemplo, en CentroAmerica y tienen un reloj UTC, el reloj debe ir de 17:59:59 a 17:59:60 (el extra segundo) y luego a 18:00:00.

Estoy feliz de informarles de que mi página en linea de Calculadoras de Segundos maneja bien los segundos intercalares, incluido el inminente.

This article is directed mostly at nerds and weirdos who care about such things.

A leap second is a one-second adjustment that is occasionally applied to Coordinated Universal Time (UTC) in order to keep its time of day close to the mean solar time. The 26th such leap second is scheduled to be applied between 11:59:59 pm UTC on June 30, 2015, and 12:00:00 (midnight) UTC of July 1. The leap second is applied worldwide simultaneously. So if you live, for example, in the Central time zone of the U.S. and have a UTC clock, your clock should go from 18:59:59 to 18:59:60 (the extra second) and then to 19:00:00.

I am happy to report that my online Seconds Calculators page handles leap seconds, including the imminent one.

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Conversion of Francis (or - Out to Lunch?)

And the Lord said, Simon, Simon, behold, Satan hath desired to have you, that he may sift you as wheat: But I have prayed for thee, that thy faith fail not: and when thou art converted, strengthen thy brethren.
  - Luke 22:31,32 [KJV]

Writing such a blog post has been particularly difficult for this revert to Catholicism.

After many years as a nominal Catholic / practicing Evangelical, I gradually began to realize that Truth must be singular. The false dogma of Sola Scriptura is ever subject to individual interpretation and can therefore never lead to anything like verifiable Truth. Real authority, established by God, must trump personal and subjective interpretation of the Bible. Thus I returned to Catholicism and to the divinely established authority of the Church's Magisterium. It is no accident that 'Catholic' simply means 'Universal'.

It must be acknowledged that the 70s and 80s saw a steady deterioration into what can be called soft heresy. You know what I mean: Discounting or soft-pedaling the seriousness of such things as abortion, contraception and homosexuality. Studiously avoiding certain teachings out of fear of disturbing anyone. Denying or downplaying the hard reality of God's righteousness and the fact of eternal judgment. In lieu of teaching, sanctifying and governing their sheep, pastors increasingly limiting their 'ministry' to consoling, nurturing and affirming. Instead of warning people against the imminent dangers of hell, comforting them on their way thither.

The sad fact that many Catholic 'faithful' and clergy were believing and practicing such soft heresies was troubling, but did not detract seriously from my faith in the aformentioned Church authority. Always needful is a clear distinction between Church teaching and the beliefs and practices of individual 'Catholics', including clergy. The solid teachings remain a sure anchor, and the Magisterium - i.e, the bishops collectively in union with the Pope - could be counted upon to faithfully safeguard and transmit those teachings. I took no small comfort in the fact that while other denominations were altering their doctrines to conform with worldly values and norms, the true Church would never follow suit.

Yet here we are in 2015, and I must declare honestly that what I thought could never happen is in fact happening, has been happening for some time. I first began having some misgivings over 5 years ago, and have seen practically nothing since then to relieve my doubts. To the point where, starting about two years ago, some kind of threshold seems to have been crossed. When the reigning pontiff says he cannot judge homosexual clergy, he is in fact publicly confessing that he is not their pastor. When a majority of bishops, led by the bishop of Rome, meet to discuss the possibility of changing Church teaching on marriage, something is seriously, seriously, seriously amiss.

The gut-wrenching question I find myself asking is: Are these realities reversible? May the devout Catholic pray in good faith for the conversion of Francis, per Jesus' words to Simon Peter? Or has it gone way beyond that? Have the vast majority of the episcopacy left their posts? Have they abdicated their authority as pastors? Are they collectively Out To Lunch, leaving shepherdless the dwindling minority of faithful Catholics? Are those faithful few left as orphans in spiritual exile?

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Goodreads review: Sherlock Holmes

Sherlock Holmes: The Complete Novels and Stories, Volume I by Arthur Conan Doyle

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

That this collection of detective stories is classic fiction is beyond question. Nevertheless, never having read Sherlock Holmes before, at several points I was sorely disappointed. The literary trick of untranslated foreign language quotes almost always aggravates me, and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle sprinkled these quotes around using at least 3 languages that I don't comprehend. But I realize that this is a time-honored technique and so do not seriously criticize his famous work on that account.

Nor would I subtract from its rating because of some serious Mormon bashing in the very first story. I am not familiar enough with the true history of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints to determine whether Doyle's villainous portrayal of them is historically accurate or just an example of the trashing of a religion which one disbelieves. At any rate, let's let that pass as well.

Rather, I give only three stars to Sherlock Holmes, Volume I because of certain flaws of logic, flaws which I deem inexcusable in a work whose appeal rests almost entirely upon analytical reasoning.

For example, in The Adventure of the Blue Carbuncle, Doyle has Holmes deducing a man's intellectual prowess from the size of his hat. Had Holmes never met a stupid man with a large head, or an intelligent one with a relatively small cranium?

Then, in The Adventure of the Priory School, Holmes deduces the direction that a bicycle had been ridden by observing that the rear wheel made a deeper impression in the mud and in places covered over the track of the front wheel. Brilliant. But such would be the case no matter which direction the bicycle was traveling. Duh!

The flaw that irritated me most was found in The Adventure of the Dancing Men. At the core of this story are a series of mysterious messages that I recognized immediately as simple substitution encryption, which assumption Doyle himself later confirms. As a long-time fan of encryption, I set out to decode the messages on my own without reading ahead, and would have succeeded within an hour or so had the messages been properly reproduced. But according to the text, one particular figure in the messages ended up representing two different letters: in one place a 'V' and in two other places a 'P'. Another figure represents both an 'O' and an 'M', while in another place a different figure represents an 'O'. All these are violations of the simple substitution encryption logic which Holmes asserts, and render the messages undecipherable as printed in the book. This flaw is not so much a matter of illogic as of sloppy composition and/or a failure to adequately proofread the encrypted messages.

On a positive note, Sherlock Holmes, Volume I contains plenty of other stories with plots that are both fun and logical. And with over 1000 pages, it provided me with many hours of enjoyable reading, a good buy for the price. Plus, the introduction by Loren D. Estleman is intelligent, informative and entertaining, qualities which one rarely finds in an introduction. All in all, I may very well end up shopping for Volume II as well.


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Goodreads review: The Jaguar Smile

The Jaguar Smile: A Nicaraguan Journey by Salman Rushdie

My rating: 1 of 5 stars

As a U.S. citizen residing in Nicaragua, I expected to find The Jaguar Smile interesting and insightful. But I learned next to nothing and saw little in this book that resembled Nicaragua as I've experienced it.

I must admit Salman Rushdie enjoyed certain advantages over me. I've only lived in Nicaragua for a little over 4 years, most of which time I've spent in a rustic barrio of Jinotega, rubbing elbows with my Jinotegan neighbors. Trips to other parts of the country have been via crowded buses in close quarters with common folk. I've had no guide or translator.

Mr. Rushdie, by contrast, was an invited guest of the Sandinista Association of Cultural Workers. For 3 weeks he was flown and driven around Nicaragua by a select few politicians and journalists eager to impress upon him their own ideological viewpoints. He met and talked (via an interpreter usually) with local folk who were included in the planned agenda. Rushdie freely accepted or rejected at his own discretion the viewpoints he heard, and recorded his thoughts accordingly. He seems to have genuinely thought his experience to be a meaningful one.

So, if you want to learn what these Very Important Nicaraguans - and the Very Important Rushdie - were thinking and doing about 3 decades ago, you may enjoy The Jaguar Smile. I can't guarantee that you'll learn much about the real Nicaragua.

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Saturday, July 19, 2014

Goodreads review: Imitation of Christ

Imitation of ChristImitation of Christ by Thomas à Kempis

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

No accident that Imitation of Christ is, second to the Bible, the most beloved book in Christendom. Filled with sound doctrine and timeless exhortations to religious perfection, it offers no fashionable alternatives nor shortcuts nor culturally correct 'relevance'. It is a work for all seasons and all centuries. Its target audience is the serious Christian, no one else. It simply instructs the reader on the Truth and on how therefore to live. It is to be slowly absorbed, not just read.

This passage, written in the person of Christ, may be the most perfect portrayal of the Cross that I've ever found:
Of my own will did I offer up myself unto God the Father for thy sins. My hands were stretched forth on the cross, and my body laid bare, so that nothing remained in me that was not wholly turned into a sacrifice for the appeasing of the divine majesty. [4th Book, Ch.VIII,1a]

If Imitation of Christ has a flaw, it is that it was intended for monks and hermits. As such, many of its exhortations, such as
Choose therefore a secret place to thyself, love to live alone with thyself, desire the conversation of none; but rather pour out devout prayer unto God, that thou mayest keep thy soul contrite, and thy conscience pure. [3rd Book, Ch.LIII,1c]
can not be literally practiced by, say, a married person or a parish priest, whose vocation necessarily involves contact with people. This caveat, in my opinion, does not detract from the book's profound prophetic worth.

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Monday, August 26, 2013

Goodreads review: Diary of Saint Maria Faustina Kowalska

Diary of Saint Maria Faustina Kowalska: Divine Mercy in My SoulDiary of Saint Maria Faustina Kowalska: Divine Mercy in My Soul by Faustina Kowalska

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Sister Faustina writes her diary as a very frank and open disclosure of visions and locutions which she continually experienced over a period of several years. In it, she reveals her petty grievances and imperfections mixed in with an earnest and wholehearted drive for sanctity. She lived and wrote 100 years ago, having grown up in a typical Polish family, and entering religious life at about 20 years of age. Thanks to a couple of wise confessors, she was encouraged to not only follow the extraordinary visions given her but to write about them, the result being this very book.

Sister Faustina's relationship with her Savior was a spousal one. Jesus was not only her Lord and God but her divine husband. She saw herself as a bride of Christ, and her notes are marked by radical intimacy, devotion, docility and obedience. She is called by Christ to a special mission, that of spreading devotion to His greatest attribute, His mercy.

In some respects, her presentation of Divine Mercy is very much like the Evangelical notion of a simple faith conversion experience. Any soul, especially a hardened sinner, need only put his trust in the Mercy of the Savior, and he can be assured of a place in heaven; all sin is instantly forgiven, obliterated by the justifying sacrifice of Christ on the Cross. But Sister Faustina's experience of Divine Mercy is wholly Catholic in its understanding. Her revelations never consciously strayed from Catholic doctrine, and everything she experienced was subjected to the discernment of her superiors, confessors and spiritual directors.

This Divine Mercy is constantly contrasted with her own unworthiness and with the wrath of God which she and every sinner rightly deserves. It is, moreover, a very costly gift. Sister Faustina's short life was marked by an extraordinary amount of physical, emotional and spiritual suffering, which she came to see as a sharing in Christ's own salvific sufferings. As Christ's bride, it was her duty and high privilege to suffer like and with Him, and for the same purpose - to bring wayward souls to salvation. So much so that she begged Jesus to allow her to drain her cup of suffering to the last dreg. She was granted this request, and, after years of intense suffering, died of tuberculosis at the Christ-like age of 33.

Two quotes from the book:

"Some day, we will know the value of suffering, but then we will no longer be able to suffer." [963]

"If the angels were capable of envy, they would envy us for two things: one is the receiving of Holy Communion, and the other is suffering." [1804]

Let the reader - especially the serious Catholic - beware. This book could change your life.

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Saturday, August 24, 2013

Goodreads review: Healing the Culture

Healing the Culture: A Commonsense Philosophy of Happiness, Freedom, and the Life IssuesHealing the Culture: A Commonsense Philosophy of Happiness, Freedom, and the Life Issues by Robert J. Spitzer

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

The faculty of reason should be seen as the common denominator uniting people of various beliefs and persuasions. As rational beings, we have the privilege and obligation to use the discipline of logic and reason in addressing human difficulties and controversies.

Healing the Culture, by Robert J. Spitzer, S.J., Ph.D., qualifies as a work of reason. Spitzer employs a step-by-step common sense approach to construct a framework of timeless and universal principles, and applies those principles to current cultural crises, especially abortion and euthanasia.

Spitzer begins by defining four levels of happiness. The first level is characterized by immediate gratification, of maximizing pleasure and minimizing pain. The second level is typified by the comparison mentality, of achieving competitive advantage and bolstering one's ego. The third level goes beyond self, toward seeking the good of others. The fourth and highest level of happiness is derived from giving and receiving ultimate or transcendant goodness -- Truth, Love, Justice, Beauty. These four levels move from the immediate to the enduring, from the shallow to the profound.

Next, Spitzer draws connections between one's view of happiness and one's view of other principles: success, self-worth, love, suffering, ethics, freedom, personhood, rights, and the common good. He treats each of these in depth, but perhaps personhood, when looking at abortion and euthanasia, is the critical point.

All too often, the debate over life issues such as abortion and euthanasia are typified on both sides by political posturing, anecdotal arguments, and emotional pleas. Spitzer's reasoned and methodical approach is both refreshing and extremely important. It is an example of good philosophy that is practical, rational, and engaging.

Using rigorous logic, Spitzer examines various criteria for defining who is and is not a person. Reason dictates that such a definition not be tied to accidental, temporary, or non-essential traits, but that it must depend upon inherent powers and essential attributes, regardless of whether those attributes are currently manifest, dormant, or undeveloped. Spitzer concludes, quite reasonably, that every being of human origin should be considered a person. It is important to note that Spitzer does all this in a way that even an unbeliever would find compelling, providing that said unbeliever is honest, willing to think, and is a person of basic good will. It is also important to note the legal and cultural ramifications of these simple but profound ideas.

Pope John-Paul II repeatedly called upon Christians to build a 'culture of life'. Benedict XVI emphasized the importance of using reason in our dealings with the culture. In my opinion, Healing the Culture fulfills both of these mandates, and is well worth reading, digesting, and sharing.

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