Posts by Jeff Geerling about life, marriage, religion, philosophy and technology. Formerly titled 'Matthew 12:37 - Blog by a God-fearing Man'.

Windows 8 - A Long Way to Go [Updated]

[Update: I've been playing around with Windows 8 Pro for a few hours since receiving it from Amazon (Win 8 Pro is only $66 on Amazon!), and I have a few more observations:

  • For an IT staffer or someone doing normal Windows configuration—adding printers, changing TCP/IP settings, etc., Windows 8 is almost exactly the same as Windows 7, with some typical version-to-version text and icon arrangement changes.
  • Using gestures with a mouse in a virtualized environment is a pain. Keyboard shortcuts are easier, but require more learning. I'll probably install a start button app.
  • Metro is mostly out of the way, but certain things have to be done through the metro interface, and on a computer with a keyboard and mouse, those things are not immediately intuitive (see notes below).
  • Interface animations and transitions are pretty smooth; still not as unintrusive as iOS, but better than anything else I've seen (including Android).]

I've been playing around with all the Windows 8 preview releases, and reading a bunch of early preview reviews, and current reviews. This review from Ars Technica highlights the highs and lows of Windows 8, but almost all the most annoying aspects of the new version of Windows have to do with the 'desktop' vs 'Metro' ('modern ui') divide. This paragraph summarizes my thoughts exactly:

There is a hard and dividing line between the two worlds. Far from allowing seamless switching between the two environments, they barely even acknowledge the other's existence. It's extremely limited, and it means that as a person who has to use the desktop for some things, I find myself avoiding Metro apps for all things. Bridging the gap is just too painful and annoying.

At this point, I'm still of the opinion that Apple has it right: Full-featured desktop OS optimized for keyboards, mice, and trackpads called Mac OS X, and Full-featured tablet/phone OS optimized for touch called iOS.

I had hoped Windows 8 would be a desktop OS on the desktop (or when you have a mouse/keyboard attached to your Windows tablet), and Metro/modern ui when you're using a tablet. Trying to have both worlds on both platforms feels terrible, especially on the desktop. Instead of feeling like a 'modern' ui, Metro feels like a thorn in Windows' side because of how annoying it can be. Even with all the (hard-to-learn) keyboard shortcuts.

Hopefully Windows 8 will improve it's desktop experience dramatically, or I fear it will be another Windows Vista (maybe worse) in terms of early user acceptance/perception.

Year of Faith - Resources

Tomorrow begins the Year of Faith, when, as Pope Benedict points out, "we must rediscover a taste for feeding ourselves on the word of God, faithfully handed down by the Church, and on the bread of life, offered as sustenance for his disciples."

Stained Glass - Jesus the High Priest

Here are a few resources I'd like to highlight for making the Year of Faith personal:

  • Read the Catechism in a Year - Flocknote (disclaimer: I work there) is offering an email-a-day with one reading from the Catechism. In a year's time, you'll be able to read through the entirety of the Catholic faith (in summary form). Readings are provided through @CatechismAPI
  • The Catholicism Series - A very well-done video series highlighting the Catholic faith, narrated by Fr. Robert Barron and produced by Word on Fire.
  • The Nicene Creed - Try memorizing this creed. You may recite it every Sunday, but have you ever tried repeating it to yourself outside of Mass? This is the summation of all our faith, and it's good to know. If anyone asks you what you believe, start off, "I believe in One God, the Father Almighty..."
  • Get a Plenary Indulgence - Indulgences are real, and they're definitely a helpful tool for your spiritual life. Not quite a 'get into Heaven for free' card, but about as close as you can get, short of martyrdom! :)
  • Vatican Website for the Year of Faith - Lots of resources, news and videos. Well done site, to boot! (Just a little distracting on the home page, imo.)

How are you going to kick off the Year of Faith?

This Changes Nothing (Contraception and Abortion) [Updated]

[Update: An enlightening look at the viability of the study mentioned in this post.]

A recent study supports the popular opinion (used to justify the HHS birth control mandate, among other things) that providing free contraceptives to women reduces the rate of abortion:

Free birth control led to greatly lower rates of abortions and births to teenagers, a large study concludes, offering strong evidence for how a bitterly contested Obama administration policy could benefit women’s health. The two-year project tracked more than 9,000 women in St. Louis, many of them poor or uninsured, who were given their choice of a range of free contraceptives.

– Quote from NYT, based on findings in this study.

People infer that the Catholic Church is 'wrong about contraception' and should accept contraception because free contraceptives are proven to reduce abortions and unwanted pregnancies.

But this view of the Church is wrong. Oh so wrong.

Reality Hits

This may come as a surprise, but Catholics don't actually care whether free contraceptives reduce abortion rates and unwanted pregnancies. Sure, it's interesting to know this fact, but this has no bearing on whether or not we belive artificial contraceptives are morally acceptable.

Catholics believe humans are sexual beings—male and female. We belive that God made us to be united to one another, in loving and sexual relationships. These relationships have two essential characteristics: they must be unitive, and they must be procreative.

"They are no longer two, but one flesh. Therefore, what God has joined together, no human being must separate." (Matthew 19:6)

For every sexual act in a loving, sexual relationship, both characteristics must be present. If one is not, the sexual act is the opposite of love—it is devoid of love. The sin of rape is when someone forces another into a sexual act. The sin of adultery is when a sexual act is committed outside of a loving relationship (marriage), or is committed in a way that divides the love of the couple (as in masturbation). These are sins against the unitive aspect of a sexual relationship.

But the other aspect, that of procreation, is quite simple: don't mess with nature (basically).

When you place a barrier between the male and the female, or make one or the other infertile intentionally, you are destroying the procreative characteristic of sexual love. Therefore, the act is sinful.

Other people can explain this teaching more in depth.

There is no way the Church can ever approve of forms of birth control that destroy human relationships. It is irrational to allow something into a relationship that you know will destroy it.

Family Planning

So, is the Church against family planning? No.

Catholics practice methods of family planning that (a) unite couples, and (b) don't interfere with God's plan for loving sexual relationships. The Catholic Church supports and recommends Natural Family Planning methods (which are more effective, when used correctly, than any form of birth control).

Natural Family Planning uses natural signs of fertility to determine when a couple would likely conceive or not conceive a child as a result of sexual intercourse. Then, the couple chooses whether they will abstain from intercourse (if they wish to not conceive) during times of fertility.

It's an extremely simple method of family planning. It works, it doesn't require any taxpayer funding, or extra materials, or hormone-altering drugs, or possible-side-effect-inducing devices. And it builds character and relationship in two distinct ways:

  1. NFP increases communication. Communication, as Dr. Phil would say, is key to any relationship—especially one so intimate as a married relationship.
  2. Abstinence builds self-control, and makes the relationship more 'we', and less 'me'. Anyone who can't commit to not having sexual intercourse for a week or two is doing no better than a lion in a field. We're not animals on the Discovery Channel.

Most important, and the reason the Church recommends it, is this: NFP is aligned with the Catholic view of wholesome sexual relationships—which are essentially unitive and procreative.

There are other benefits as well, like teaching a woman more about her body, and giving her indications about other potential health and fertility issues, but I'll leave it to the reader to discover them.

So, No Artificial Contraception?

Nope. Not now, not ever. This won't change unless the Church backtracks on its entire understanding of human existence. And that's not gonna happen.

Even if artificial contraception lowers the number of abortions and unwanted pregnancies, it is not allowed in the Catholic worldview. The ends don't justify the means.

Sources and further reading:

'Stir' over Facebook comment caused by breach of privacy [Updated x2]

I was disheartened by the following news story from the St. Louis Post Dispatch: 'Mormons: 1. Indonesians: 0' debate post by STL Catholic exec causes stir.

The story notes that Alderwoman Lyda Krewson, a Democrat in the 28th ward in St. Louis, tweeted a comment made by an employee of the Archdiocese of St. Louis on the employee's personal Facebook wall—which is set to private, and only accessible/visible to the employee's friends. (Note that the same employee has a public Twitter account that she uses for public communications).

Lyda Krewson public tweet about private affairs stltoday

I'm not writing this post about whether it was prudent or imprudent for said employee to have posted such a comment. I'm writing about the incredible violation of privacy committed by an elected official. Ms. Krewson knew that the post she commented on and posted to Twitter was a private post (as someone mentioned in a followup comment on Facebook before the employee's profile was taken down). She even replied to the Facebook comment twice before sharing it with the world on her Twitter profile.

This was a violation of a person's right to privacy. It might have even been illegal. And even if it's not illegal, I would argue it's unethical mudslinging; the high road would be to privately request the employee remove the post, or at least admit that it was unwise to post it. I think Lyda Krewson should publicly apologize to the Archdiocesan employee for violating her privacy rights, and the Post Dispatch should, at a minimum, remove the quote from their story.

(Not to mention, in Krewson's tweet, she uses the hashtag '#notaxbreak', suggesting (though she says otherwise in the Post-Dispatch article) that the Catholic Church should not be considered a non-profit/tax free because one of its employees made a partisan comment in a private conversation...).

Politics seems to bring out the worst in many people. Can't wait until the political season is past us. Back to Hoveround commercials instead of "this person is bad. No, this person is bad..."

[Update] I just noticed that Lyda posted the comment below on the story, soon after its publication. This makes me wonder if she called up Joe Holleman (author of the story) and asked him to publish it. If that were the case, this is doubly wrong—posting it to Twitter is one thing; promoting the story through a newspaper is something else entirely:

Calling Gov Romney by his religious affiliation, and President Obama by an area he lived in as a child, seems disrespectful at best. It appears intolerate, partisan, and is likely inflamatory, especially coming from a high ranking official of the Archdiocese, a religious entity that enjoys tax exempt status. I am sorry this has strained our working relationship, but you know the saying... something like when they come for me who will speak up.... nuf said

...and, looking at Lyda's publicly-accessible Facebook page, it looks like she spread the information there as well (see post and picture). Prudence, please—at least the Archdiocesan employee had the prudence to share her words with her friends only, even if they were wrong and/or hurtful.

[Update 2] The archdiocese posted the following as a press release and in a comment on the news article:

The Archdiocese of St. Louis has learned that a St.Louis city alderman has publicly tweeted content from the personal Facebook page of an archdiocesan employee. When the employee posted content on her personal, privately-set Facebook page last night, she was not acting in her professional capacity for the archdiocese. This content can in no way be attributed to the Archdiocese of St. Louis.

Goodbye, iPhone 4

It was a great run! Now that I have the iPhone 5 (see my iPhone 5 review here), this trusty iPhone 4—which still looks and runs perfect—is going to be passed along to some other owner. What an iconic and well-crafted product:

iPhone 4 Back

Read my review of the iPhone 4, from 2010.

Catholic Memes

I meant to post this sooner, just never had time to get around to it... there's a new Catholic Meme site around, aptly named Catholic Memes. An example of what you'll find browsing the site:

Wonka Meme - Catholic Meme - Church teaching

There's tons more where that came from. The site is a bit like an expanded LOLSaints; whereas centers around the lives of the saints, and incorporates little snippets of info about each saint pictured, Catholic Memes puts the message in the meme. Some may call that a bit more shallow, but I think they're funny nonetheless—with a healthy dose of sarcasm!

I'm not sure who runs Catholic Memes, but it looks like their first post was on August 10, 2012, which is not too long ago.


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