Wednesday, June 22, 2005

Solar-powered sail spacecraft

Thinking about sail in space brings to mind the image of the ship from that sci-fi modern remake cartoon of RL Stevenson's Treasure Island. Can't wait for this to happen, hopefully in my lifetime :)

Two articles from Wired:
Launching solar-powered sail

Solar sail Lost in space?

Tuesday, June 21, 2005

Praying for a Patron Saint

In some Catholic blogs I visited, there is a nearly daily discourse on the saints (whether saint of the day, or of the occasion). Last Monday (June 13th) was the feast day of St. Anthony of Padua. Lots of bloggers wrote a post in his honor. When I think about St. Anthony, my namesake, sometimes I wonder whether he is my patron saint, or another St. Anthony, or another saint.

When I was baptized, I had no idea what name to choose. The priest just told each of my family members (we were baptized as a family) to pick up a Christian name, and I chose Antonia after St. Anthony (I can't remember why exactly). I still did not know enough about the Catholic faith by the time I got confirmed. A few years ago, through Enbrethiliel, I found out that there is such a thing as patron saint, and that there is such thing as a patron saint received during Communion! (Such was the depth of my ignorance!) Like her, I don't recall when I was confirmed, much less when I was baptized. No family member was present to take photographs.

Anyway, I've decided to search for my patron saint. This time I said "search" and not "choose", again taking inspiration from Enbrethiliel, who wrote:

So much is made of choosing the right patron saint for oneself, but hardly anyone stops to think that patron saints can do some choosing of their own. It's almost as if we see the Communion of Saints as completely indifferent to the Church Militant until they are asked to intercede--or completely powerless until they are invoked below.

I have a few 'favorite' saints, but I'm not sure whether they're also 'patron saints.' After all, I like too few of them because there are too few of them whose stories of life I know beyond popular facts (and whose virtues in my vanity I might compare myself to... *bow head*), and aren't patron saints to be prayed to for their constant intercessions and auspices? A very POD blogger whose blog I chanced upon a long long time ago, wrote a short prayer to his patron saint in his very first post, asking that writing a blog may profit the soul of his and others :) Perhaps I have come to this time in my life where one realizes the need to rely more and more on prayers and less on one's own folly.

Searching "finding patron saint" in Google turn up a few advice; sound ones include lots of prayer and reflecting on which saint has what kind of virtues one likes to mirror, what kind of struggles in life that the saint could help with and so on. Perhaps the problem is lack of time (or more precisely, discipline) on my part to reflect on these issues. I hope that nearly ten years after my confirmation, I can still find my confirmation patron saint. I'm going to pray, that my patron saint(s) would choose me and promptly let me know who s/he is (or who they are!) and pray for me!

(If anyone has a similar story/advice to tell, do write me!)

Sunday, June 19, 2005

In the field of the Lord

The readings from the 12th Ordinary and last week's 11th Ordinary Sunday constitutes a special call for me, in particular because of the circumstances I find myself in. Last week, Jesus called his twelve disciples and sent them to reap the plentiful harvest. Fr. Adrian Yeo, who led in the prayer meeting reflection some two weeks back said that this passage gave great testimony to Jesus' universal call to all men and women. For the apostles were but simple men, sinners and even he who would betray Jesus. All are called to follow Him.

Often the thought of our unworthiness came up as an excuse not to serve. I, for one, am thoroughly familiar with passing on opportunities to serve in the Church because of 'lack of catechization' (my favorite escape), and 'lack of time & commitment to a particular place' (having moved to many places & parishes over the years). It betrays a deep fear of failure, and a less than trusting nature on God's providence. For no one will ever be "worthy" to gaze at God's face if not for the grace of Christ His son. Often I might think that a few more years of 'experience' would make me more suitable to serve, yet this short 'growing-up' while has proven otherwise, for I am now busier and no more wiser to serve than before. If anything, it might make me (mistakenly) believe that I can rely on my own strength rather than ask for His guidance.

So last Sunday's Gospel called out more strongly, this time Jesus said (three times!) "Do not be afraid!" Yes, what is there to be afraid of when God is there for us?

"I burn with zeal for Thy House" (Psalm 69:9)
This inscription is engraved onto a memorial plaque for a caretaker of the Cathedral of Good Shepherd. I see it each time I walk down the aisle, and sometimes I wonder what would it take to find and cultivate that kind of love that translates into fruitful service. The example of the late Pope JPII came to mind, and more recently, from a homily given by Fr. Frans De Ridder, of a Chinese seminarian he taught in Heilongjiang, who told him that he wants to experience how Christ lived in his earthly body.

"Do not be afraid."
Again, Jesus' voice echoed. Fr. De Ridder said that we have better things to do than to sin. Many, much better things, to do in the field of the Lord. I hear my name being called, not a shout above the din, but a persistent whisper and tugging: the CHOICE ministry has called again for renewal of zeal. Last year I failed to heed a call to be a RCIA sponsor, this year I am going to commit myself to this ministry as a humbler person, always remembering I am nothing without Him and that His will may be done through me.

Wednesday, June 15, 2005

On the Languor of Youth

Some weeks ago, I wrote I was in the midst of reading Evelyn Waugh's Brideshead Revisited, and in particular, quoted his memorable phrase "The Languor of Youth". I have since finished reading the book once, and I don't know what to feel about it. On one side, I am happy for the Flytes, that having gone through their life trials, they find solace in the Church again. On another side, Waugh painted a very bleak picture of pre- and post-WWII England.

I was browsing the old posts of Enbrethiliel's blog, and found a post on how the infamous gay-icon poster-child literary-genius Oscar Wilde was Catholic. No, I'm not trying to claim any famous persona for the Church; rather I was inspired reading a story of his lifelong relationship with the Church. Death-bed conversions have long fascinated and touched me, God literally snatched them from the jaws of hell! As I read the account of Wilde's last days, I could imagine the desperation and the depth of remorse from one who had wasted an entire lifetime not being in communion.

When my grandmother came to visit me for two weeks, slowed down by high blood pressure, high blood triglycerine, and once fractured hip, I observed how much her life has changed. I began to look at my own life, sometimes moments wasted in languor, taking for granted that tomorrow will come, and tomorrow my task will get done. When youth is gone, to see the sun rising tomorrow is no longer a guarantee. Each task carries an urgency that had nothing to do with its own nature, but an urgency that is borne out of perceived limited time one has to carry it out. Isn't our life too short to be wasted in youthful languor?

Tomorrow is a brand new day, and working in the field of the Lord, there is not a moment to lose!

"Hashing exploit threatens digital security"

From New Scientist: Hashing exploit threatens digital security

The affected algorithms potentially are MD-5 and SHA-1. This'd up the ante for the game of patch-and-hack... which reminds me of the rootkit episode!

When I wrote last week about getting rootkit-ed, I didn't mention that it was md5sum that helped me detect the changes made to the sshd binary. The attacker left a backdoor (/etc/; creates a /tmp/ that returns 0 when login/ssh daemon tries to look up a user's UID. It was admittedly, not a very deep attack (it was not even a Loadable Module Kernel-style attack), and the attacker did not even attempt to erase his footprint.

(More description can be found here)

Yet, it is a disturbing discovery that requires yet more vigilance on the defender's part. That's one tool less to fight attackers out there.

Sunday, June 12, 2005

Catholic Art: in tribute to the gift of the senses

From Fr. Jim Tucker's blog, there are 2 links to websites that host Catholic Line Art images. Simple and yet beautiful:

Two weeks ago, in a garage sale, I found a book titled "Evangelical is Not Enough" by Thomas Howard. Although I find that the book does not so much reflect on his reasoning process than describe the actual journey itself. (I found myself flipping back to the beginning of some chapters to see where and when the author had crossed the Tiber). In any case, I share his general view on the Form and Fabric of worship, or worshipful acts. Howard started describing Church buildings thus:

"[The] structure is tall and slender and graceful, made of gray stone in the 'gothic' tradition. [It] spoke clearly, simply and eloquently of the gospel mysteries in all of its design and its furnishings. ... Although I myself had always loved the great cathedrals of Europe, as most tourists try to do, I looked on them as enormous monuments to understanding. ... Those people should have been building with gold, silver and previous stones in their hearts, not in their cities. It should have been their hearts, not the ribbed vaulting, rising to God."

Like most conversion stories, he discovered the other side of the story:

"What I had missed was that one does not cancel the other. Faith, at least as I had conceived of it, was so exclusively a matter of the inner man that it could not possibly be given a shape in the physical world except perhaps by acts of charity, although I greatly distrusted any talk of good works since that seemed somehow to controvert the doctrine of grace. All was to be unseen. Once more, my outlook was unwittingly Buddhist or Manichean. ... To anyone who was swept away by the great cathedrals I would have pointed out crisply that Jesus built no such edifices. In so doing, I would have ignored the overwhelming fact that while He built no such edifices, He spoke words of such power and glory that they burned into the hearts of men and kindled all the skill and creativeness that was in them. ... They roused and vivified us and set us free to do all of our work for the glory of God"

Well well, I'm rambling away... What I'm trying to say is, we're creatures of the flesh. When we worship God, inevitably we worship Him with our physical form, whether in singing or in joyful tears. When we receive Jesus, inevitably we receive Him on the tongue, and not just spiritually. Just as there is a visible element to our worship, so are we stimulated and invited to the Faith through a physical channel, one of which is in the form of Art.

Without its symbolic elements, many would not have found the path of the Faith that easily. Once again I must dig up some memory of my convent school days. The Sisters of Our Lady of Sacred Heart ran the school I attended, Bunda Hati Kudus (literally translated: Mother of the Sacred Heart). Although in terms of administration, there was a lot to be desired, they continually amazed me with their faithfulness in their commitment to teach Catholic values and practices. If it weren't for the statues of Jesus, Mary and Joseph, the prayers before and after school, and the weekly masses in the Church adjoining the school building, I'd have never "seen" the Faith.

And speaking of Catholic Art, There is an upcoming exhibition of Vatican Artifacts coming to Singapore soon, between June 18th til September 2005. Don't miss it if you're in town!

Friday, June 10, 2005

MS: $1 for pirated Windows?


Microsoft has reached a deal with the Indonesian government on pirated software - which is believed to affect around 50,000 government PCs. Under the deal, Indonesia will pay $1 per copy and agree to buy legally in the future. Indonesia's information minister, Sofyan Djalil, said, "Microsoft is being realistic. They can't force developing countries like us to solely use legal software since we can't afford it. They want us to gradually reduce our use of it."

In Indonesia, I grew up on IBM PC-AT, first with MS-DOS (pirated), and later on MS-Windows 3.1 (also pirated). <sarcastic-mode>I suppose I have them to thank </end-of-sarcastic-mode>

From what little I know about my friends and fellow CS graduates, Open Source is thriving in Indonesia! Amongst the techies or semi-techies, Linux is one of the fastest growing OS-es and Indonesia even had a few of its own Linux distributions!

Why is the government bowing to M$? And Mr. Djalil gave a ridiculous statement.. "They can't force us to use solely legal software since we can't afford it." What is this?! Last time I checked, stealing is still illegal even in Indonesia! Go use Open Source!

Monday, June 06, 2005


My machine has been rootkit-ed!

Spent the entire day fixing it.
2nd lesson this year: take care of your old user accounts! :-(

Friday, June 03, 2005

Feast of the Sacred Heart of Jesus

Give us a heart of flesh, and make it Thine!
God is love, and he who abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him.