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# Friday, 02 June 2006

I recently ordered an audiobook on CD from Recorded Books, mainly because it was only available there from what I could find.  The book is Baudolino (great medieval fiction, BTW; I’ve listened to it from libraries 2x already).  Anyways, I was suprised when they charged me sales tax because they’re based in MD not NJ, so I wrote to ask them about it.  This is their response:

The state of New Jersey Department of Revenue now requires Recorded Books to collect sales tax on orders from residents of New Jersey.  They base the demand on the fact that outstanding rental audiobooks (in the hands of New Jersey residents) gives Recorded Books a "physical presence" in the State and therefore we are compelled by law to collect sales tax on all orders from New Jersey.

Before I moved up here, I knew that property taxes were high and that they have state income tax (unlike Florida), but since I’ve been here, I’ve heard other amazing stories about the ridiculous ways in which the state taxes its residents.  This has got to be one of the more creative ones, though.  They sure are creative bloodsuckers; I’ll give them that!

Friday, 02 June 2006 12:49:25 (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #    Disclaimer  |  Comments [2]  | 
# Tuesday, 30 May 2006

I just ran across a rather interesting article while doing some book research for my upcoming book, The Contemporary Patriarch.  Of course, I'm kidding about the book; Mrs. dotNetTemplar has, tongue in cheek, suggested I write it a few times if for no other reason than that I might get an interview on The Colbert Report.

So, I was doing some searching to see what the competition is for my book, and I came across this article, which just happens to be on a site that appears to be about Catholic culture.  The excerpt is from something written by Christopher Dawson in 1933.  Remarkably, most of it is still quite relevant.  The only thing that seemed obviously dated, sadly, is the claim that "marriage is still the only form of sexual union which is openly tolerated by society."  Other than that it is an interesting read that considers the impact of marrital structures on broader society through history.  I recommend it.

In a related note, I found this quote quite telling (from this article on Newsweek):  "All my friends are having kids," says Penny Stohn, 33, a director for the New Jersey Department of Higher Education."They tell me how glamorous my life is but I just sit there and envy them their kids."  I find the frank admittance of the value of marriage and the family by career-minded, single women quite notable given what still seems to be the popular sentiment about full-time wives and mothers, which is that it is still somewhat looked down upon.  Motherhood is, to the contrary, probably the most intrinsically valuable career a person could have, and these single women attest that this is still the unspoken truth.

Tuesday, 30 May 2006 21:05:34 (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #    Disclaimer  |  Comments [0]  | 
# Thursday, 25 May 2006

I'm not usually one to bring my political views to bear, chiefly because they have changed a lot over the last 10 years. In some ways, I could sympathize with Kerry in his being labeled a flip-flopper simply because I try to have an open mind, see issues from as many sides as are presented to me, and try to choose what seems to be the most viable given the current data and my presuppositions. I'm not one to doggedly cling to an idea just because it is the one I previously selected as my own (or at least I try not to); if new data is presented or new arguments that make an alternative seem to be better, I'm not so intellectually inert that I won't ever change.

Unfortunately, I guess that approach to life can make one a flip-flopper, but I’d say in that respect, being a flip-flopper is a good thing to be.  Changing my views (or at least my professed views) based on popular winds of opinion or the advice of my campaign managers, however, is not a good reason to be a flip-flopper, and that’s where Kerry and I differed, or so it seemed to me.

All that said, I find myself wanting to say something about this post over on the Future of Freedom Foundation.  Personally, thanks to a very persistent Libertarian boss I once had, I’ve flirted with Libertarianism.  It certainly has its appeal, especially in this relativistic age.  I think Mr. Hornberger, though, is painting conservatives with too broad a brush (what else is new?).  In that vein, I’d say that we can sum up Libertarianism with the old dictum of “live and let live.”  It takes freedom to an extreme, such that it becomes the core tenet of their political creed.  

Unfortunately, it leaves out the central good of government, which is to promote the common good.  Certainly freedom is one of the chief goods that we have as humans, but it is not the only one.  It seems to me that government must also take action to promote the common good, which includes other goods such as public decency, protection of innocents, affordable transportation, and care for the poor, to name a few.  And it is precisely in these other areas that the Libertarian and I differ. 

While they might agree that these are common goods, they would argue (or have with me at least) that all these can and should be promoted through private organizations and peer pressure, not the government.  But as I see it, such an argument is flawed in that government, in a very basic sense, is just such a social organization, particularly a democratic republic such as our own.  Libertarians speak of taxes being akin to stealing and government being the modern day Robin Hood, but that would only be true if we were governed by a non-representative government.  It is this point, in fact, that catalyzed our founders to form this new republic.

As I see it, Libertarianism is the rich person’s religion.  It shares many similarities with feudalism.  In fact, if Libertarianism were fully applied today, I think we’d see just such a social structure emerge—those who can afford to fund their liberties would have them; the rest of us would have to attach ourselves to one such lord or another in order to ensure, as much as is possible under such a social organization, some subset of the liberties we have today.  Maybe the lords would be corporations, maybe they’d be individuals, but when you privatize every common good that is provided by government, that’s what you end up with.

It is, in fact, Libertarianisms failure to account for the common good that I find myself unable to attach myself to that party, despite its superficial appeal.  Of course, I don’t find myself able to attach myself to any of the current parties in our system, which is why I’m registered as an Independent.  Each of the parties have compellingly good platforms on different things, but none fully aligns with what seems to me to be the best approach to government.  Sadly, our mostly bipartisan system is just woefully inadequate.  And painting folks with broad brushes such as conservatives and liberals just doesn’t work; somehow I just don’t think I’m alone in feeling this way.

Thursday, 25 May 2006 09:00:09 (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #    Disclaimer  |  Comments [1]  | 
# Tuesday, 23 May 2006

Well, for those of you anxiously awaiting (ha ha) this post since my last on the subject.  We’re finally all settled in up here in New Jersey.  The movers returned on Sunday, the 8th, and loaded up all of our stuff (except for the little bit we were taking to survive on until they came).  The trip up was uneventful (thankfully), and we arrived as planned in the afternoon on Wednesday.

We absolutely love the area; we’re in north Princeton (technically in Montgomery Twp).  Most every road is two lanes, and many of them cut through wooded areas and farmlands.  My drive to work consists of about 10 minutes of wood-lined drives and 10 minutes of farm-lined drives, and, apart from crossing US 1, there is very little traffic to speak of, even during rush hour, so much nicer than the urban, perpetual six-laned, traffic (and traffic-light) bloated roads I took to work in Tampa

The weather here has been lovely as well, at least as far as I’m concerned—I love cool weather.  It’s been lows in the 50s and highs no more than mid-70s, perfect, in other words.   With the occasional cool, rainy day, I don’t think I could order nicer weather.  Different strokes for different folks, I guess, but I much prefer this to the already sultry Tampa weather we were having when we left.

Our place is nice, too.  It’s a duplex townhouse backed by greenery and a babbling brook, nestled off a little road, just south of Rocky Hill.  The floorplan is very different from what we came from, this being a two-story townhouse and our prior being a one-story house, but with the huge attic and large, accessible crawl space, we’ve managed to make everything fit rather nicely.  Just last night I finished hooking up my desktop, which was the last bit of settling in really.

The job is great, too, better than I expected.  Of course, I’ve learned you gotta work at a place for at least 3, if not 6 or more, months to really get a feel for it.  But, especially compared to my last full-time gig, the overall atmosphere at Infragistics is superlative.  We’ve got a lot of work to do, but it is exciting.

All in all, I feel this has been a really great move for me and for my family.  Making cross-country moves with a family is a big deal, and I’m very glad this one seems to have worked out very positively.  We’re looking forward to our next N years here.

Tuesday, 23 May 2006 09:53:07 (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #    Disclaimer  |  Comments [1]  | 
# Tuesday, 09 May 2006

Just doing my part to spread the good word:

http://weblogs.asp.net/scottgu/archive/2006/05/08/445742.aspx

Tuesday, 09 May 2006 16:59:25 (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #    Disclaimer  |  Comments [0]  | 
# Saturday, 06 May 2006

I hope I'm not the only one who starts grooving to techno memories when I read "it has begun!"  Ah.. Mortal Kombat....

What has begun?  The move, the move to New Jersey.  Today the packers came (no, not Green Bay--you'd be surprised the looks you get when you say "the packers are coming to my house.").  They said they'd be here at 8a, so I was surprised when Mrs. dotNetTemplar yelled "I think they're here!" at me as I was in the shower at 7:40.  What a start, but it was a mostly uneventful and good day.

They packed for a solid seven hours, the two of them, and now, as I sit here amidst the walls of boxes and barren walls surrounding them, I think I should feel or think something great or deep.  Mostly I just feel relieved.  It's been more than six weeks since I decided to join Infragistics, but due to prior commitments, I've had to put off the move.  Of course, the wise angel on my shoulder tells me that it was good that I had so long to prepare, but I'm the kind of guy that wants to act right away when I make a decision to make it real.

But now it's here.  The move is upon us.  Tomorrow the movers (formerly known as the packers) return to pick up all our stuff and take off with it to various and sundry other cities across the eastern US to pick up others' belongings before they'll show up on our doorstep in a week or so. 

In the meantime, the fam and I will be leaving Monday morning for a three-day-tour of our own, overnighting in the well-known towns of St. George, SC and Colonial Heights, VA before finally arriving in our new home in Princeton, NJ on Wednesday, assuming all goes according to plan.  Traveling with two small children, a cat, and a bun in the oven should make it.. interesting, but we'll make it.  Fun fun fun!

Saturday, 06 May 2006 22:14:15 (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #    Disclaimer  |  Comments [4]  | 
# Wednesday, 03 May 2006

Just thought I'd stick these out there for anyone else who might run across them.  Those of us reared under the friendly wing of SQL Server are in for regular surprises when interacting with Oracle...  But hey, what doesn't drive you mad makes you stronger, right?

1. Using a DDL statement inside a transaction automatically commits any outstanding DML statements.  I ran into this the other day when I was trying to have a transaction that added a row to a table and added a trigger (dependent on that row) to another table.  (This is actually part of my implementation of an OracleCacheDependency, which I intend to share in an article at some point.)  If you stepped through the code, everything appeared to function as expected, the exception would be thrown on the add trigger statement, RollBack would be called on the OracleTransaction, and... the new row would remain in the database.

It was actually driving me buggy.  I was beginning to wonder if Oracle supported ADO.NET transactions at all because every example (all two of them) that I could find looked just like my implementation.  I even tried both the System.Data.OracleClient and the Oracle.DataAccess.Client, which, by the way, require different implementations as the Transaction property on the Oracle-provided provider is read only (you have to create the commands from the connection after starting the transaction, which is, umm, inconvenient in some scenarios).

So I was pulling my hair out, about to give up, when I ran across a single line in the help docs that says "The execution of a DDL statement in the context of a transaction is not recommended since it results in an implicit commit that is not reflected in the state of the OracleTransaction object."

Okay, I guess I'm just spoiled by Microsoft (yes, I am), but I would expect an EXCEPTION to be thrown if I try to do this and not have the code happily carry on as if everything was hunky dory.  You'd think that a database that is picky enough to be case sensitive might be picky enough to not let you accidentally commit transactions.  And that leads in my #2 gotcha for the day.

2. Oracle is case sensitive when comparing strings.  Let me say that again (so I'll remember it).  Oracle is case sensitive when comparing strings.  Now this point, in itself, is not particularly gotchaful; however, when coupled with a red herring bug report, it can really sneak up on ya and bite ya in the booty.  This is just one of those things that you need to keep in the upper buffers when debugging an app with Oracle.

3. (This one is just for good measure; I ran into it a while back.)  Oracle 10 no longer uses the old Oracle names resolution service.  This means that if you try to use the nifty Visual Studio Add-in and your organization is still using the old Oracle names resolution, you'll have to create manual entries in your tnsnames.ora file(s) just so that you can connect.  Even when you do this, it has to be just so or it won't work. 

I've had it where you can connect in the net manager but can't connect in the Oracle Explorer using the connections, which is sees and reads from the tnsnames file.  In particular, if I removed the DNS suffix from the name of the connection (to make it pretty), it wouldn't work.  It'd see the connection but not be able to connect.

4. (Another oldie, but importantie.)  Oracle, as of now, does not support ADO.NET 2 System.Transactions at all, if you use the Oracle-provided provider.  From what I could tell, although I wasn't able to test successfully, the Microsoft-provided one looks like it should, at least it should use DTC, but the jury is out.  Feel free to post if you've gotten it to work.

5. There is no ELMAH provider for Oracle.  I implemented one, though, and will be sharing in an article at some point.  Feel free to email me for it in the meantime.

6. There is no Oracle cache dependency.  See #5.

7. There is no Oracle roles, membership, etc. provider.  Sorry, I've not done that yet.

There are other bumps and bruises that you will get when dealing with Oracle if your main experience is SQL Server.  Many of them are just due to lack of familiarity, but there are some issues that I think truly make it a less desirable environment to work with.  So I thought I'd just share a few of them here for others who might find themselves in similar binds and need the help, which is so hard to find for Oracle.

Wednesday, 03 May 2006 14:34:41 (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #    Disclaimer  |  Comments [0]  | 
# Sunday, 30 April 2006

Commenting on a recent entry, Stanley asked me about why the Catholic Church has historically used censorship, citing the case of the naming of the canon of Scripture (as specifically excluding other books, such as the so-called Gospel of Judas and others that did not make it into the canon). 

The New Testament canon is, remarkably, something that Protestants and Catholics agree upon.  Its formation is outlined here in more detail than I am qualified to provide.  The council that most cite is either that of Hippo (393) or Carthage (397) as the official formation of the canon, but, as the referenced artice makes clear, the canon was more or less formed long before that.  The Gospels, in particular, were settled long before then; as the article puts it, "the patristic testimonies have brought us step by step to a Divine inviolable fourfold Gospel existing in the closing years of the Apostolic Era."

That quote hints at the Catholic principle on the formation of the canon of Scripture, namely, the doctrinal witness of Tradition, which is the deposit of the faith left to us by Jesus and his Apostles, passed on through history by the witness of their successors, the bishops of the Church.  This is why I just laugh (and am bothered) when the TV shows make inflammatory statements about "new gospels" that "will change Christianity forever."  I just don't get it.  These "new gospels" were around back then (and in greater numbers than are extant today) and did not make it into the canon then, so while I value their historical significance, that's all it is, historical (not spiritual or religious).

Perhaps the reason that they're seen as so potentially important, revolutionary, or threatening is that there is a perception that censorship in the Church was done by power-and-money-seeking hierarchs, as is constantly suggested by the popular media in movies such as the recent movie The Order, in which the "gospel of Jesus" is rediscovered as well as the centuries old plot to conceal it because it offers credence to the popular notion that organized religion is unnecessary.

This and virtually all other recent flicks that involve the Catholic hierarchy paint them as the most nefarious powergrubbing politicians ever to walk the earth.  And this, of course, is why the Church had the Index of forbidden books and supposedly suppressed the reading of Scripture, much less the gnostic gospels.  These are the same reasons that the Church at times tries to conceal the weakness of its leaders, or so the implications go.  Of course, The Da Vinci Code is just one more in a long line of such fiction to impugn the reputation of the Catholic Church.

While I certainly don't view the history of the Church through rose colored glasses--I am fully ready to see and admit the many failings of Christian leaders through the ages, including St. Peter himself who denied Jesus three times--I also certainly don't see the entire (or even majority of) Catholic hierarchy as corrupt as they are so often painted.  My personal experience, my studies, and my watching of current events teach me that the vast majority are more or less (usually more) good men who are living their vocation to lead the Church as well as they are able.  And without a doubt they have the best intentions (as a whole) of the Church at heart.

And it is this, in fact, that is and has been the primary motivation behind the various attempts in Church history to smooth over the rough spots where it can and to even censor.  Namely, it is out of a care for souls, which is their vocation.  The bishops and priests are (and see themselves as, one hopes) our spiritual fathers.  That's why we call them father.  As such, they are bound to protect us in as much as they can in paternal care. 

As my children grow older (my oldest is five now), I increasingly gain a sense of this paternal instinct and care, particularly in relation to what my children are exposed to.  How many of us would defend the "right" of our children to view pornography, senseless, graphic, and brutal violence, profanity, or anything else that we think would be damaging to them?  Even our secular nation has an enforced rating system that prevents just this thing.  Is that not censorship?  It is, but we do it for a good reason.

This is precisely the same motivation behind censorship and "cover-ups" by the Catholic Church.  We may disagree with the principal that they are our spiritual fathers (and all that it implies), but that doesn't change the truth that this is how they and we (should) perceive their vocation.  The desire to avoid scandal is the same.  True, there are cases where individuals have probably let their own pride be a more motivating factor than care, but overall, the principal is sound.  This has been proven to be true in the fallout from the recent sex scandals.  There has been a dramatic damage to the faith of many. 

There are many these days, many Catholics and even bishops included, who now seem to think that people have a "right" to know everything, that somehow this helps them.  The popularity of shows like Dateline further emphasize this--people think they need to be informed of everything that could potentially affect them.

In truth, I would argue that this is not the case and rather that you can indeed know too much.  There is a line between wisdom and paranoia, and the more that you feed your mind with worrisome "threats" that might affect you, the more paranoid and disfunctional you can become.  Some people can deal with it; others can't.  But I digress.

The point is simply that it is out of a care of souls, a desire that faith and hope not be damaged due to either the weakness of others or of the individuals themselves, that is the primary motivator for such actions.  Most people do not in fact take sufficient time to form their conscience to make the right decisions, and even when we do, we have many non-rational implulses that pull us away from the truth.

For better or worse, we are now living in a society where such pastoral control is really not possible.  The Church can still try to avoid scandal, but it is much harder due to the exponential growth in the freedom of information provided by the mass media and the internet.  Now, in fact, it would almost be unwise to try to conceal potentially scandalous facts because their latter revelation, coupled with their attempts at concealment, only make the scandal worse. 

This is why, I think, the bishops have adopted a much more transparent stance in the wake of the sex scandals.  The fact that sex abuse was kept in house, so to speak, is not really that impactful on the reality of the sex abuse problem--there are many, far more influential factors that allowed it to become the immense issue that it became.  But it is evident that in these post-post-modern days, any attempt at pastorally motivated shielding from scandal will likely only lead to greater scandal because the popular sentiment is that such covering up of sin can only be for bad reasons, which is, in my opinion, manifestly not the case.

So the change in approach is, as I see it, not guilty political maneuvering but rather a frank realization that it is more pastorally wise to do so.  And that is why I think the Church has acted in the way it did in the past and why it has changed the way it acts to meet the changing nature of the society in which it is a part.

Sunday, 30 April 2006 20:54:55 (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #    Disclaimer  |  Comments [3]  | 

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