Monday, May 30, 2005

Corpus Christi

In this year of the Eucharist, on the feast day of Corpus Christi, I found myself reflecting once again on the Body and Blood of Christ. This subject never ceases to amaze me, so great a mystery, yet so central to our Christian faith.

I was enrolled at a convent school until the 7th grade. Catholic Religious Education was enforced strongly, and I marveled (and still do!) at the overflowing grace that has been given to my family—my sisters and I in particular—that beckons us to embrace the Catholic faith long after we left the school, despite the heavily theoretical catechical lessons and corrupt nepotist practices abound.

It is in a crowded classroom of forty, under the guidance of an eccentric religious education teacher, that I first was taught what the Eucharist is: that it is Christ's own body and blood visible to the mortal eyes as bread and wine. We learned the facts of the Catholic teachings by rote, often not understanding the meaning of this doctrine, frustrated at this teacher's peculiar answer, and finally, resigning to the fact that either we must think with two minds—one for faith and one for the world, or to the conclusion that this is a mystery that my huble mind cannot fathom. Many many years later, upon hindsight, it was an occasion of grace. It marked the beginning of cultivation of my eyes of faith.

Year after year, in my journey the meaning of Eucharist was revealed to me bit by bit, splendor by splendor. I recall listening to a homily some years back, about the Mother Church knowing what is best for her children—that despite not understanding how the Eucharist truly came to be—it is necessary to attend Mass. There was a time when I went to Mass out of obedience, trusting that the Eucharist, born out of a sheer act of total love, feeds us during our spiritual journey, and that without this supernatural nourishment we can never hope to reach home safely.

Eyes of faith led me to 'discover' adoration; only eyes of faith could assert that truly, contemplating the Eucharist is the closest we could get to contemplating His Face while still one earth. Eyes of faith led me to seek what it means to be in Communion with the Body of Christ: (and I quote St. Thomas Aquinas the Poet)

A sumente non concisus,
Non confractus, non divisus
Integer accipitur.
Sumit unus, sumunt mille;
Quantum isti, tantum ille:
Nec sumptus consumitur.

They too who of Him partake
Sever not, nor rend, nor break,
But entire their Lord receive.
Whether one or thousands eat,
All receive the selfsame meat,
Nor the less for others leave.
Lauda, Sion

The Eucharist led me to re-discover Sacrament of Penance:

Sorte tamen inaequali,
Vitae vel interitus.
Mors est malis, vita bonis:
Vide, paris sumptionis
Quam sit dispar exitus.

Both the wicked and the good
Eat of this celestial Food;
But with ends how opposite!
Here 'tis life; and there 'tis death;
The same, yet issuing to each
In a difference infinite.
Lauda, Sion

And finally, when everything has been said,

Credo quidquid dixit Dei Filius:
Nil hoc verbo Veritatis verius.
In cruce latebat sola Deitas,
At hic latet simul et humanitas;
Ambo tamen credens atque confitens,
Peto quod petivit latro paenitens.

What God's Son has told me, take for truth I do;
Truth himself speaks truly or there's nothing true.
On the cross thy godhead made no sign to men,
Here thy very manhood steals from human ken:
Both are my confession, both are my belief,
And I pray the prayer of the dying thief.
Adoro Te Devote

Deus, qui nobis sub Sacraménto mirábili passiónis tuae memóriam reliquísti:
tríbue, quaésumus, ita nos Córporis et Sánguinis tui sacra mystéria venerári,
ut redémptionis tuae fructum in nobis iúgiter sentiámus
Qui vivis et regnas cum Deo Patre, in unitáte Spíritus Sancti, Deus per ómnia saécula saeculórum. Amen.

O God, who in this wonderful sacrament hast left us a memorial of Thy passion, grant us, we beseech Thee, so to venerate the sacred mysteries of Thy Body and Blood, that we may ever perceive within us the fruit of Thy redemption. Who livest and reignest with God the Father, in the unity of the Holy Ghost. World without end.

Truly, it is the Source and the Summit of our life!

Thursday, May 26, 2005

BitKeeper is out..

BitKeeper is a 'source-code management tool'— a sort of industrial-strength CVS-like tool that is used in Linux OS development. The Linux developers have been using it for free, and BitKeeper's creator has decided to withdraw its support. Costs $500,000 to run every year!

He said: "Let me know when your rent and college tuition are free, when gas and groceries are free, and when your girlfriend decides that you having no money is a great idea. When all that is true I'll get on the bandwagon, too."

I'm a benefactor of Open Source movement, yet i can accept that not everything comes free. I understand Linus Torvald's objection to paying for BitKeeper though. An Open Source effort should not have to pay for its development tool!

Full article from Forbes

Monday, May 23, 2005

Books galore!

Last week has been a biblio-philic week for me, I read 5 books!
Right now I'm reading Evelyn Waugh's Brideshead Revisited, having encountered its mention in some blogs recently and finding it available at a local library.

I don't have anything to say about Brideshead yet, having made it only a third of it, but I did find something interesting in Chapter IV:

The languor of Youth — how unique and quintessential it is! How quickly, how irrecoverably, lost! The zest, the generous affections, the illusions, the despair, all the traditional attributes of Youth — all save this — come and go with use through life. These things are a part of life itself; but languor — the relaxation of yet unwearied sinews, the mind sequestered and self-regarding — that belongs to Youth alone and dies with it.

Speaking of languor, it reminds me of all the time I have sequestered reading those many books I read last week:
GK Chesterton's St Thomas Aquinas, Patrick O'Brian's Master and Commander, Far Side of the World, and Reverse of the Medal, and Gayle Lynds' Masquerade.

Back to work!

World Youth Day, I'm coming!

Did I say i volunteered for WYD '05 in Cologne? They called me up! Yay, yay, yay!
I'm in the midst of preparing for it, although I am not sure what exactly I should prepare for. Lots of prayer, definitely.

If anyone is reading this, and can recommend any resources, please do drop a line or two.

Thursday, May 19, 2005

The future of personal computers? (Part 1)

In the past few days at the office, there has been a few computer-related troubles. So what's new, some may wonder? Well, considering we're a bunch of very techie geeks here, the frustration is more like that of a doctor knowing that his patient has a particularly troublesome ailment that he cannot do anything about. Like migraine. In one of the cases, it turns out that a hardware component is causing the computer to reboot repeatedly. In the other case, it's plain ole' Windoze problem. The second problem is more likely (and some say, more justified) to rant about, because there are numerous alternatives to toss around.

At home, I run a Linux distribution on a plain vanilla PC. No troubles so far. No complaints of it being slow, nor viruses nor trojans nor spywares napping at its heels. Our servers at the office run Linux too, naturally. It is the workstation PCs that are giving woes, and one of the interesting ideas that have come up, is to rely less on the buggy OS, and run mini-apps or utilities on top of a platform running on virtual-machine. I refer, in this case, to the Eclipse IDE.

IBM 'donated' the Eclipse project to the open source movement, making it essentially free for anyone to use, and most importantly, to develop applications/plug-ins for it. Such is the level of community involvement that Eclipse could be used, reasonably well, for development of nearly any project in nearly any language. Some people have recently come up with non-development plug-ins that made Eclipse look like, well, a virtual computer running on top of the native OS.

Imagine this scenario: a barebone PC, running a barebone kernel, very tight and efficient ship, and Eclipse is running on top. Everything a serious user could conceivably want to do, or need to do, could be supplied by Eclipse, and a web browser of course (which can be invoked from Eclipse too, or made into an Eclipse plugin). That and good access to Google and we're ready to rock!

Critics may rightly point out that such a system appeals mostly to techies who, if they know what's good for development, would most likely be running Linux anyway. This therefore, doesn't solve the problem for the masses who use Windoze.

It seems like technology will divide the users into niches, and I have some idea what the PC for the majority of the users would look like, 5-10 years later. To be continued...

Monday, May 16, 2005

Fear of God—beginning of Wisdom

Last Sunday was the Feast of Pentecost. For the first time in many years, thanks to Angry Twins, I found out about the Novena to the Holy Spirit for the Seven Gifts.

I am not one who is familiar with Novenas, not having grown up steeped in Catholic tradition, and everyday it never ceases to amaze me to learn how rich is the Catholic worship tradition. EWTN explains that this Novena to the Holy Spirit is the 'oldest of all novenas' since it was first made at the direction of Our Lord Himself when He sent His apostles back to Jerusalem to await the coming of the Holy Spirit on the first Pentecost. It is also still the only novena officially prescribed by the Church. Encouraged by such devotion of two thousand years, I took up the nine-day prayers.

Looking at the 'table of content', I saw that the novena first begins with a prayer to the Spirit of Fear (of God), and ends with a prayer to the Spirit of Wisdom. Forgive my naivete, for this is the first time I learned of this novena, and I think it is very, very "POD" to start such devotion rooted in the fear of God, and leading all the way to Wisdom.

"Fear of God": Fear of God is truly the beginning of our road back to Heaven, for why are we endeavoring to avoid sin and grow to know, serve, and love God, if we are not afraid of Him? Afraid of displeasing Him? Him who is all Goodness?
"Piety": St. Francis de Sales wrote that devotion to God made the martyrs of age embrace pain and torture. Piety sweetens and perfects our affection in service to God.
"Fortitude": The spirit of fortitude strengthens in times of trials and gave us courage to continue carrying our crosses after our Lord.
"Knowledge": The spirit of knowledge reveals to us the Ultimate Knowledge—that is the Truth Himself, above all the vainglory pursuit of worldly knowledge.
"Understanding": Enlightenment by the spirit of understanding nourishes our faith as we grasp the meaning of the Truth revealed to us.
"Counsel": The gift of supernatural counsel, the compass of Truth, may you always guide me to do Thy will.
"Wisdom": The gift of gifts, the apple of King Solomon's eye, wisdom reveals the mystery of the divine, increases our knowledge and love, fills our heart with joy as we strive to be united eternally with the Holy Spirit in the love of the Father and the Son.

Veni, Sancte Spiritus, veni!

Wednesday, May 11, 2005

Scientism masquerading as scientific thinking

An article I read off NewScientist magazine is titled "Pheromone attracts straight women and gay men."

To start with, I am weary of such pronouncements, and this one reeked of gay rights activism. Sure one can argue that the scientists are merely looking for proofs whether homosexuality is due to 'nature' or 'nurture'. The Catholic Church itself never claimed to know exhaustively what gives rise to this phenomenon of homosexuality, and consulted 'experts' (to disastrous result!) on its scientific nature. What is troubling is the use of the seeming pattern of 'nature'-oriented 'scientific' studies results to justify the promotion and endorsement of gay lifestyle.

Looking at the article itself, I am shocked to see that this pronouncement is made on the basis of observing 36 (yes, that's only thirty-six) people! 36 people, to represent 6+ billions of people on Earth. Perhaps the scientists have somehow defended their thesis in the actual journal publication Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, but the general tone of the article reflects a decline of true scientific attitude and a rise of scientism. (I hesitate to put a link to this word; for I believe the source to be biased, but you can see for yourself—third definition)

St. Thomas Aquinas, whose short hagiography by the ever-witty GK Chesterton I am currently reading (again!), is known for his scientific methods and philosophy. He did away with the heresy that a man may have two minds—one to believe and one to disbelieve: 'that Christianity is all nonsense when being naturalists and that Christianity is all true when we are being Christian.' In his time, such false thinking is quickly pointed out as heresy, while today we live in a world where scientism masquerades as scientific thinking.

Wednesday, May 04, 2005

Automatic detection of pornographic images....

Via #!/bin/ubergoonz -x

I saw this patent filing referenced by the above blog, of an automatic way to detect pornographic images..

While technology comes with its own problems, it also tries to solve its own problems =) A few short comments on the techniques described in the patent claim:
1. I could think of many other images that qualify as pornographic that will not satisfy the criteria listed in the claim (eg: 'skin' areas detected, body shape, possible genitalia shape match, or even *shudder* 'erotic positions'!)
2. Human ingenuinity may test the bound of this flimsy heuristic. One of my computer science professors remarked once that computers/AI of today cannot even recognize whether the object in an image is wet! There is so much capability of our God-given 'wetware brain' that we take for granted, or thought trivial to reproduce/replace by a computer.
3. Most university lab-produced AI system I know so far have only been tested against a small (but academically respectable) number of subjects. Against millions of porn images out there, one may spend ages wading through false positives and false negatives...

This kind of initiative, I suspect, will be a handy first-level 'defence' against pornographic entries that XShare might receive, yet I doubt this algorithm would give satisfactory enough level of accuracy.