Not a scrap of Turkey, but plenty of thanks.

On this Thanksgiving Day, I find myself alone. And sick. The litany of ailments which plagues my body this week is almost comical. I am too weak to write this post at a computer and so I peck it out on my phone. Making for myself a cup of instant chicken soup (and keeping it down) is my big accomplishment over yesterday.

And yet I am profoundly thankful.

I think the worst of my fever is past, although I may still be delusional. I’m quite sure some may write me off as raving when they hear what I am too say.

A few weeks ago, under no virus induced delerium, I posted on Twitter a thought which I think bears repeating in light of this day.

This thought was not the utterance of an armchair. These words were not formed while staring listlessly into a fire dreaming about how life should be. They were a cry from the trenches; hue from the battle. I was under pressure and I didn’t know how much more I could handle. “My last breath” was less a poetic construct than it was the flavor in my mouth.

And I meant it.

There weariness of the last few months, esp the last several weeks of crisis management, and constant knowledge of all the needs I was unable to attend to, undoubtedly contributed to how hard this illness has hit me now.

And yet I do not regret the expenditure.

It is truly better too give than to receive. And more importantly, I know who I am thankful to. It is not for health nor wealth nor fame nor any other pleasure that I am thankful for. I am not an asceticist that I take no pleasures in the beauties that do exist even in our fallen world, yet it is not for them that I live or die – and die I will soon enough. It is for my master and His bidding that I yet live. It is He who gives me each breath – and allows both health and sickness for my good in their seasons – and it is He who will one day cease to grant me breath because my work on earth is done.

On this Thanksgiving, it is far less about what I am thankful for than who I am thankful to.

Now to him who is able to keep you from stumbling and to present you blameless before the presence of his glory with great joy, to the only God, our Savior, through Jesus Christ our Lord, be glory, majesty, dominion, and authority, before all time and now and forever. Amen. — Jude 1:24-25 ESV

Beauty: a revealer of truth and disguiser of lies.

The other day I was reflecting on the writings of one of my all time favorite authors, George McDonald. His writings are inspirational. His prose have a flair of the heavenly about them while the subjects are down to earth. Just reading him makes you want to believe that the pictures he paints are true. Most of them are. Yet while many of the ideas behind even his fiction are sound and true, one major idea heretical to orthodox Christianity runs through all of his work. It isn’t named or specifically endorsed, but you hear it’s echos in nearly every scene.

I ended up posting this thought on Facebook (to which this post is the back-story):

Some men have such a gift for expression that we revel in their words, marveling as truth and beauty are inextricably woven together before our very eyes. Yet this gift is also dangerous, as the same skill that wakes our sleeping souls to glory, if not indeed moored to truth, cannot fail but weave a veil which blinds us to the rubbish behind the pretty shroud.

Cut the flowery language, and my point was simple: Just because something is well said doesn’t make it true.

Later the same week, I ended up watching several sessions of the Mormon General Conference. So many articulate men and an elaborately beautiful presentation … and yet so wrong! One sentence is true, the next utter rubbish. One phrase from heaven followed by one perversion from hell – yet so seamless you hardly notice where one leaves off and the other commences – and both dressed up in such fine trappings.

See to it that no one takes you captive by philosophy and empty deceit, according to human tradition, according to the elemental spirits of the world, and not according to Christ. — (Colossians 2:8 ESV)

Redacted roads

It’s always a little disappointing to see backwards progress. In the last few months quite a number of ambitious mappers have gotten on board and have started to flesh out the roads of Izmir on Open Street Map. Unfortunately, it seems at least one major contributor from the past failed to convert their contributions to the new licencing and their efforts have been redacted from the map. The following ways have recently been removed from the OSM database entirely.

Redacted ways

This is an unfortunate loss of a large number of contributions. Without them, the stats now have me as the largest contributor of ways in the Izmir area. Considering I only contribute as a sporadic hobby when I’m bored (never) or frustrated with normal pursuits (more often), that’s not a very promising statistic.

Contributors to the Izmir map

If you enjoy (or want to learn) about cartography, feel free to sign up and contribute to the Izmir map!

Easter Refractions

Paskalya’yı aniden algılayamıyorum ben. Yüreğim sağır mıdır ki bir gün yetmiyor? Resmi olarak kutladığımız gün bitmek üzereyken gözü dalıp günün önemini düşünüyordum. Ancak o zaman gözyaşı dökmeye başladım. İnsanlar metroda ağlayan bir yabancıyı görünce ne düşünmüşlerse benim umurumda değil. Ben ölmeye hak ederken yerimde bir kurban kesildi. Fakat o kurban mezara tutsak kalmadı. O nasıl dirildiyse ben de O’nunla dirildim. Ancak buna layık değilim. Sabahtan beri O’nu düşünüp kutladığım halde bugün içerisinde O’nun güzel adını sayısızca lekelemiş oldum. Yaşamasını kutlarken ölmesinin sebebi olmaya devam ettim. “Ne zavallı insanım! Ölüme götüren bu bedenden beni kim kurtaracak? Rabbimiz İsa Mesih aracılığıyla Tanrı’ya şükürler olsun!” Her pazar günü resmi kutlamamız devam edecektir ta ki kutladığımız kurtarıcı dönene kadar. “İşte, dünyanın günahını ortadan kaldıran Tanrı Kuzusu!”

I am unable to comprehend Easter in a moment. Is my heart deaf that one day is not enough? As the day in which we officially celebrate was almost at a close, I was staring into space and reflecting on the importance of the day. It was only then that my tears began to flow. It matters not to me what people must have thought to see a foreigner crying on the metro. While I deserved death a sacrifice was made in my place. However that sacrifice did not stay entrapped in the grave. As he rose to life so I have been made alive with him. Yet I am not worthy of this. Though I have thought on and celebrated Him since the morning, I have brought countless stains upon his beautiful name. Even while celebrating His life I have continued to be the cause of his death. “Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord!” Our official celebration will continue every Sunday until the day when the savior we commemorate returns. “Behold, the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world!

Do all roads lead to Rome?

The legions of men who blithely assert that all religions lead to God in the end are right in this: that the many varied roads mapped and traveled by men in their attempt to reach God merely merge into one wide way. The exception invariably overlooked is Christ: the narrow road that God mapped and traveled to reach lost men.

Dinlerin hepsini zaten Tanrı’ya ulaşır diye israr eden insanların tasasız kalabalıkları yalnız şunda doğrulardır: Tanrı’ya ulaşmaya girişimde bulunan insanların çok çeşitli çizdiği ve seyahat ettiği yoların tümü ancak geniş bir yol oluşturmak üzere birleşir. Devamlı gözden kaçan istisna, Mesih’tir: Tanrı’nın, kaybolan insanlara ulaşmak üzere çizdiği ve seyahat ettiği dar yolu.

Dear Mr. Bell

Dear Mr. Bell,

I was saddened to learn this evening, through various members of the body, that you have chosen not to believe in truth as laid out by our Maker. I realize that I am drawing many conclusions based on very short statements in a film clip promoting your upcoming book, but to my ears you were very clear in marking out the ground on which you stood. If you feel your meaning has been mis-read, I beg you to stand up and clarify what you really mean. Otherwise, the lines between yourself and Christianity have been drawn. Like my other brothers, I appreciate your clarity. It makes you easy to approach respectfully even if I could not disagree more strongly.

Perfect honesty would compel me to state that I am not surprised. Having read some of your previous works, I knew you were playing with fire, chasing after how things feel more than how they are. However I am still both saddened and shocked.

It is not shocking to me that somebody would draw the conclusions you have drawn. Very many people in this world do; although few express them as succinctly as you have. What shocks me is you seem to have grasped the core issue and yet not seen the beauty in the Truth.

Of course I am sad that you are not walking on the narrow way and as a fellow human invite you to investigate again the man who claimed to be God. Yet beyond this, I was saddened by your commentary on the whole of Christianity. Apparently, we are not doing our job!

I take from your words a challenge. You make this statement:

“…what gets subtly sort of caught and taught is that Jesus rescues you from God…”

You are very perceptive in identifying that detail as one of the core teachings of Christianity, buried deep in the heart of our doctrine. What makes me sad is that you perceive this truth as being taught “subtly”. We must be proclaiming this from the rooftops! I myself have taught this truth many times … and yet not enough. It was this truth that compelled me in desperation to first pray the sinners prayer (even if that’s not exactly how things work); and it was this truth again that later set me free to serve a new master. It was to pronounce this truth that I chose to live in a strange land and learn a strange tongue. Just as Christ lived among us and spoke our language that He might proclaim the good news that He would take the wrath of God against sinners on His own shoulders and that in following Him we would be rescued from that fate, so I pray my life among and speech with those still under that curse would point them towards Him.

My allegiance lies with the God who saved me from himself for himself. Thank you for the challenge to make this truth less subtle through every breath I take. I humbly invite you to examine the Gospel again. It is the LEGENDARY GOOD news that we have been presented a solution to the EPICALLY BAD news.


P.S. You ask, “How could that god be good; how could that god ever be trusted?” I answer, because He gave up the life of His own Son as a propitiation. If that’s not worth trusting…

The second Adam / İkinci Adem

From the day Adam donned the first rags to hide his shame so has every man ever sought to guise his depravity. History is littered with tales of meanest peasant and richest king who but scraped together the means to salvage their own honor by bartering another’s shame. All but one man. The second Adam willingly shed His perfect covering of glory that hid no fault so we might behold Him. And because our wretched states cannot abide such perfection we cast Him out and crucified Him. Yet by His death the veil between heaven and earth was torn asunder and The Way for our redemption was revealed. Come sinner! Cast aside your rags, take up your cross and follow Jesus.

Adem utancını gizlemek için ilk paçavra giyindiği günden beri soyundan gelen her adam günahkarlığını saklamaya çabalar. Tarih, kendi onuru kaybetmemek amacıyla başkasının utancını takas eden mahrum köylülerin ve zengin kralların hikâyeleriyle doludur. Tek bir adam hariç. İkinci Adem, biz kendini görebilelim diye gönül rızasıyla hiç bir kusuru kaplanmayan mükemmel görkem örtüsünü bıraktı. Biz ise, sefil günahkâr halimizin O’nun mükemmelliğine katlanamadığından dolayı O’nu dışlanıp çarmıha gerdik. Fakat O’nun ölmesiyle cennet ile dünya arasındaki peçe yırtıldı ve kurtuluşumuzun Yol’u açığa vuruldu. Gel günahkâr! Paçavralarını terk edin ve çarmıhını yüklenip İsa’yı izleyin!

1 day of sickness cures 3 years of silence

This afternoon I decided to attend to some house cleaning and repair tasks that have been outstanding for longer than I would like to admit, but the previous post date on this blog probably gives me away. As a programmer, it seems the most neglected code is always my own. In the course of several server changes in recent years, the software powering my personal site got pretty out of whack.

Yesterday I was quite sick and didn’t get anything done. Today I was still feeling sick enough to not want to work on anything that was actually work. As a result, I poked around at my own stuff and got some of it wired back together again. The archives still need a bit of work, but the upshot of the change today is that comments should finally be usable.

Besides the blog, several other things got cleaned up on my home page so that it’s actually a useful place to point people towards again. I will continue to use this as a central place to organize my presence on the web.

Consider it Jousting

Having a good round of “jousting” with a friend who knows you well enough to make fun of you but loves you enough not to actually break anything can be a fun and stimulating experience. As long as the parties are considerate of each-other, even sarcasm can be fair game.

Now switch mental gears for a minute and consider criticism.

Our society is fairly accepting of the concept of constructive criticism. Done in the right manor, it is possible to make observations about other people that encourage them to change for the better. This is effective only to the point where the parties trust each other.

Now mix the two. (insert explosion here)

My experience says that there needs to be a very distinct separation between these two operations. As long as you can trust a friend to pull you aside and be intentional and loving with real criticism, the jousting can be a blast.

I recently felt the need to make an apology to a relative that I had been jousting with for several days. We had given each other considerable amounts of grief in a humorous sort of way and to a point, I was confident that it was all in the spirit of fun. That “point” came when I said something a little to close to being a real put down.

Although I did not intend it derogatorily, something told me that the comment was inappropriate and so I brought it up the next day and asked forgiveness. Thankfully no inferences had been made, but the mistake got me really thinking about what things are safe topics for jest.

In the pleasant conversation that ensued with this individual, I found out that I was not the only one to have jousted with them and hit the same unsafe topic. Unfortunately the other party had long since crossed the line and was mixing real criticism with the humorous comments. The effect was devastating.

The moral of the story? If you are going to seek this kind of fun, please make the extra effort to ensure that your engaging in considerate jousting. Save any topic even remotely close to real criticism for a real “in love” discussion, and make sure this is well understood in the relationship!

No browser left behind

Warning! This is a geek rant. If you don’t care, save your sanity and skip to the next post.

The more I have learned about developing for the web, the more I have become and advocate of accessibility. The whole point of the World Wide Web has been to get as much information out to as many people as possible in a cost effective manor.

For a website creator, this means a never ending basket of headaches as browsers and standards come and go. One of my favorite banner adds of all time was put out a few years ago by WaSP and goes something like this. “Your boss wants a website. He asks if you know the standards. You do. All 37 of them.”

Somewhere along the line a thought was introduced in the world of the web that accessibility meant that developers should insure that all browsers show their users the same thing. I believe this concept to be patently false. I do not have a perfect definition, but I think a better one would revolve around the concept that any user, no matter what their resources, should have some form of access to your content. “Pixel Perfect Design” is a nice idea, but first make sure people can get the info if they need to.

Their resources may be an old Windows 95 based PC laptop, a cell phone, or the latest Power Book from apple. I do not think the users preference in browser or phobia towards software updates should be considered “resources”.

A user of mine recently provided a case-in-point for this concept. While they had a spiffy new Windows-XP machine capable of running the latest versions of Internet Explorer, Firefox or Opera, their browser of choice was Netscape 6. Point Oh. Point Oh. Even better, a copy of Netscape 4.x was kept around for handy reference. To complete the menagerie, their IE had never been patched or updated.

The result was a machine that almost completely failed to display anything useful when pointed to a site of mine that uses CSS for layout, Dojo for Ajax-ness, and Google’s javascript map API for a good portion of it’s content. The broken version of IE displayed a large what nothing; the Netscape – a few broken boxes and a javascript error. Curiously enough, the oldest browser proved the most useful. Since it completely ignored the style sheets and active components, it was able to display a simply formatted version of the page content including useful pieces of information such as the business phone number. It was unable to use the map, but as the map was more of an accessory to the main focus of getting people to call and make reservations, it was not the end of the world.

In a positive example, I have always been amused by the nVidia driver download page. While the site typically relies on interactive javascript menus, one of the first elements on the page is a text link to UNIX video drivers so that browsers such as lynx (text console based) are able to access drivers. Since this needs to be done on most UNIX systems before you get a graphical environment in which a good browser will run, this was a smart move. I think there are much more elegant ways of formatting “degradable” content, this is still accessibility.

I still go to considerable effort to support some old browsers, This is because in some cases, old browsers are the latest thing available on a platform. The world of Mac OS9 is one example. IE 5.5 mac seems to be the latest and greatest that these people have access too, so I do my best to make content available to it. I whine and gripe and fuss, but I usually do it.

The very first release of IE6 is another story. Since there are so many service packs and patches available for this that everyone SHOULD have anyway, I never spend any time supporting it. The same goes for any version of Netscape. If your phobia against upgrading makes you want to avoid versions 7 and 8, at least get the latest build of 6! It is no accident that vendors release dozens if not hundreds of patches and updates to browsers (and other software) along it’s life span.

The other half to this argument involves the cost-benefit analysis. At some point, some older browsers represent such small market share and large cost of development, that supporting them makes no financial sense. Again, the goal of the WWW is to get as much information out to as many people as you can in a cost effective manor, not to get the information out to everyone at any expense.

If another 5 hours of development time can make your content and the users experience better for 95% of your audience, why spent 5 hours making sure .2% are getting equal share. This is most obvious when you realize that the .2% can probably fix their own problem anyway.

Consider the analogous situation of the minority of users that cannot dial long distance or even 800 numbers from their phones. Instead of all the big companies getting local numbers in every calling zone in the US so they don’t leave anyone behind, it is more cost effective for them to make an 800 number available and put the saved money into advertising to pick up more of the customers that CAN place the call.