Steve Jobs, RIP

October 6th, 2011

Considering I’m closer to an anti-Apple guy than an Apple booster, Steve Jobs death yesterday hit me harder than I expected.

I’m most definitely a PC guy. My phone runs Android. I was pulling for the HP Touchpad for more reasons than because I work for HP. I have bought (and still own) exactly one Apple product: a 10 year old 32 GB, 3rd gen, hard-drive based iPod (one of the early video editions). I’ve never bought anything from iTunes. I don’t like Apple’s closed architecture model. The fact that they’ve never released an “i” product with a flash slot really gets under my skin (BTW, one of the HUGE, HUGE, HUGE mistakes of the Touchpad: they followed Apple’s lead in this regard).

I bring this up not to spit on the grave of Steve Jobs, but to make it clear I’ve got no special love for his company nor the products his company has made. But here’s what I do know…

Steve Jobs was a visionary who believed in some core principles that have propelled the electronics industry to greatness. He believed that regular people deserve access to the same great technology that techies used. He believed that research and development were cornerstones of a great technology company, not just slapping together components from other companies. He believed that the key to success was making great products that people wanted to buy.

Whether or not you liked his particular products is not really relevant. How he pushed the industry forward affected the products I bought as well. The PC and Windows wouldn’t be what it is today without Steve Jobs. There wouldn’t be Android as it exists today without Steve Jobs. Even when he wasn’t the innovator, he embraced the great innovations and built upon them. He wasn’t the first on the frontier of the Internet, but his more recent products embraced it and took it to a new level. Frankly, the world owes him a debt of gratitude. There will be a big hole in Apple now that will be nearly impossible to fill.

I know all too well the hole a founding father of a company can leave. I joined HP during its last few years before it abandoned its founding principles. What occurred to me was that when I joined the company, Bill and Dave hadn’t bee actively involved in at least a decade. So what was it that changed a few years after I joined? At which point I came to this fact: On January 12th, 2001 William Hewlett died, the last of the two founders. Carly had already been CEO for over a year but she couldn’t shake the presence of the founders. Even though it was never stated, it’s plainly obvious to me that the moves she made after his death (she initiated the Compaq merger about a year later) reflected a CEO freed from the restraint and wisdom of the founder.

So while most people point to the moment a founding CEO steps down as the key moment, it was in a moment of clarity today that it occurred to me that a founder’s impact and influence will stay with the company long after that. It’s not really until their death that the ship loses its anchor.

To use another example, Microsoft will be responsible to Bill Gates as long as he’s alive, even though he hasn’t been CEO for a long time. Similarly HP was still the company that embodied The HP Way when I joined in the late 90’s. It wasn’t until William Hewlett died that HP lost its compass.

For a technology company that is embodied by its founder’s greatness, it’s a bit like the impact one’s parents have. We worry about what our parents will think as long as they’re alive, and that affects our decisions in ways we couldn’t possibly detangle from what we truly want. They have a presence that can’t be ignored. We will be judged by them and our decisions reflect that reality down to our subconscious. But when our parents finally die, that awareness, that concern, leaves us. We now are unleashed from that concern and we operate more freely in ways we couldn’t possibly have anticipated.

In the case of one’s parents, sometimes that freedom is exactly what we need and can lead to much better things. Some people even manage to escape from this impact before a parent’s physical death, often trying to get away from some destructive influence.

But with a great founder, as with a great parent, it will not be escaped until they die. Similarly, what is “escaped” is really something lost, something that in rare instances can be substituted, but can never be matched.

So today I mourn for Steve Jobs. I mourn for the HP that was lost when William Hewlett died. I mourn for the loss of Dave Packard, a man who’s philosophy for business was unparalleled. I mourn for myself, for what I’ve lost now working for a company that has lost the soul of its founders. It’s a company I consciously decided to work for, turning down more lucrative offers, offers for jobs closer to the technologies I wanted to develop. I mourn for all those who work for Apple, from it’s CEO down to the janitor who have lost the compass that Steve Jobs gave them, that for some mystical reason, can not survive death. I feel I have an insight to what was lost for them, even more so than they can now yet realize, but which will be more clear in the years to come. Finally, I mourn for the entire technology industry that has lost that challenging influence that made it strive to compete with the innovations with Apple.

Rest in peace, Steve Jobs.

Satan’s switch and trap

September 18th, 2011

I just finish watching the movie ‘The Switch’. It’s about a man and a woman who are friends, and are very honest with one another. She decides she can’t wait to find the right guy and is going to be artificially inseminated. He objects, both because he knows that it’s just not the right way to go and because deep down inside he loves her. Long story short (too late!), he switches his semen for the donors while in a very drunk state and doesn’t remember that he did it. Flash forward 7 years and he’s reunited with his friend and the child that is his son and he pieces it back together because the boy is so like him. There’s a key scene where he tells the son that he is proud of him and it really got to me.

Part of it was that longing that every boy has for his father to be proud of him. Having a relationship that is strained by differences in faith makes that hard. Part of it was wanting to make sure my boys knew how proud I am of them. I’m a pretty demanding father, so I worry that I don’t tell them enough how proud I am.

And it got me to thinking, why do we crave that approval?

I think it’s because we desire to overcome our weaknesses and our failures, and our father’s approval helps us to know that at least on some level, we have. But we have another Father who is always ready to forgive us. Our Father in heaven, one that I’ve been having a hard time lately admitting to that I’ve sinned.

I know I’m a sinful man and I know I fail. But sometimes it’s hard to walk into that confessional and admit it. I don’t want Him to be ashamed. I want Him to be proud. I think it’s particularly important to me because as a person who’s very vocal about my faith, the charge of being a hypocrite is something I want to avoid. And as stupid as it is, if I can bury my sins instead of asking forgiveness for them, somehow I convince myself into thinking I can avoid the charge of hypocrite.

And this is the devil’s greatest bait and switch. It is the trap he hopes we will all fall for. He tries to get us to make a choice between two false options. Society is quickly buying into the denial of sin option. There is no such thing as sin. It can be ignored. It can be, to use my earlier word, buried. But when we do that, we give up our right to proclaim truth and the devil has won. Which reveals the other choice, we can be hypocrites. Since we all inevitably fail, we can proclaim truth and fall short of that truth and thus be hypocrites.

It’s no surprise that the charge leveled at the disgraced Christian who’s sins have been revealed is that of hypocrite. Society can’t charge them with sin, because we deny the concept of sin. But it is wrong for the disgraced because they’ve preached against it. They are the hypocrite and they can be disgraced and thus ignored.

These are the two choices the devil gives: deny sin or be a hypocrite. But there is a third option, one the devil will never admit to. It is the one that Christ came to this earth to give us all: To be forgiven.

This is why we long to hear our Father say that He’s proud of us. It’s why we want to tell our children that we are proud of them. It’s not based on some cosmic desire to deny that we’ve failed or to deny the weakness and failings of our children. It’s because we believe deep in our hearts in the power of forgiveness. We know it is possible despite our failings for our Father to be proud of us. To be forgiven.

God in Heaven, I’m a sinful man. Forgive me my sins. Help me to find the nearest confessional to to receive your forgiveness in the healing Sacrament of Reconciliation. It has been far too long. I repent of all that I have done and ask your forgiveness. I promise to strive to sin no more and to be your servant here on earth.

Who are we kidding

January 5th, 2011

I used to be for the death penalty, but when I became Catholic, I changed my mind. I’ll be honest, it’s one Church teaching I have a hard time with. On one level, the consistency of the life ethic makes it easy for me to accept Church teaching, but I can’t deny that I have an instinctive reaction when I hear of what these people have done and desire retribution.

In the end I submit to the teaching authority of the Church and go with the life consistency.

But at some level, it becomes easier and easier for me when I see the statistics on how things work out in practice. Take this data from the state of California:

Since 1978 when the death penalty was reenacted in California, a total of 89 people have died on death row. Yet only 14 of them, FOURTEEN, were actually executed. The rest died of natural causes, suicide or a number of other means:

-Natural causes: 52
-Suicide: 18
-Executed: 14
-Killed: 2 (not clear if the killing was done by guards or other inmates)
-Drug overdose: 2
-Pepper spray induced heart attack: 1

To put those numbers in perspective, looking into the future, there are 720 people currently on death row in California, the youngest of which are about 20. Since people only live to about 80, AT BEST, only 100 or so of the 720 will actually be executed, if we return to our peak rate of about 2 executions a year (from 1999 to 2001, 5 people were executed, our fastest stretch in modern state history).

Forget for a moment the politics or the justice issues… seriously, who are we kidding? The vast majority of people on “death row” are really on life imprisonment without the possibility of parole.

Why 2008 did not go to the “moral majority”

December 13th, 2010

I was listening to an interview on Catholic radio this morning from a very insightful guy (sorry, I didn’t catch his name). He was talking about how if we frame the conversation correctly, a lot more people agree with Catholic positions than we think. By the way of example, he mentioned how, while about 50% of people are pro-choice and vote that way, when you ask them detailed questions on what they’d like to limit abortion to, most of them favor policies that could only be the case if Roe v. Wade is thrown out. Yet those same people will protect Roe v. Wade. About this, I completely agree. Getting the information out there and framing the conversation in a positive light can do wonders for political clout and progress.

But where he went amazingly wrong was when the host asked him about why so many people voted for politicians who held moral positions they didn’t back in 2008 and there he went tremendously wrong.

He tried to pin it to the above issues of awareness and conversation framing. He couldn’t be more wrong.

The reality is that 2008 was all about both the ineffectiveness of the Bush administration to deliver on their stated goals and going into areas that made people concerned. Bush claimed to be all about fiscal responsibility… he didn’t act like it. Bush claimed to be about moral rectitude… but it doesn’t help when you’re torturing people, and continuing the loss of life in two very unpopular wars that one wonders while we’re there in the first place.

There’s a reason all Obama had to do was say the word “Change” repeatedly for 10 months to win the election. It’s also the same reason that Obama has been somewhat surprised by the lack of positive reception to his actions. The reality is his campaign was so tepid about laying out his agenda (they didn’t have to do more), that lots of people voted for him less because of the actual agenda but more because he didn’t reflect the problems that the Bush administration was doing. Once the rubber started hitting the road, it wasn’t exactly what people thought.

The other side of the same coin is that people don’t want to talk morals in down economic times. People have a hard time getting worked up about embryonic stem cell research when they’re out of work. At that point they just want things changed so they can get back to work.

But make no mistake, the 2008 election wasn’t about a rejection of the moral principles that Republicans used to stand for. And part of framing the conversation for the future, is to not tie those moral issues to one party, so that when that party messes everything else up, the moral issues don’t take a beating with the economic ones.

Quick hitters – Taxes, the DMV and hell

December 10th, 2010

Today’s quick hitters:

  • This whole brouhaha about the Bush tax cuts is fascinating to me. I never thought I’d see the Democratic base turn so quickly on Obama like they have over this. He’s even had to call in former President Clinton to his defense. For what it’s worth, this is an area where I see both sides. I see our deficit and wonder if we can afford to keep taxes so low (and the wealthy are more able to take that hit). On the other hand, the income tax code is already HORRIFICALLY biased towards taking taxes from the wealthy. What I pay in taxes now with 3 kids a big mortgage an only 1 income is less than a tenth, yes you read that right, 10%, of what I paid 10 years ago without the kids and two incomes that was only 50% more than I make today. Heck, I’ll give you round number specifics: I paid around $2k in taxes for 2009 on about $50k of post deduction income ($80k pre-deductions). In 2001, I paid around $30k in taxes on $120k of income (and we had no deductions). An additional $28k in taxes for $40k in increased income!?! Something’s not right with that.
  • There’s a story in today’s Chronicle about a transgender person who’s ticked off because the DMV person who took their gender re-assignment paperwork, took their address and started soliciting them with religious material. Let me go on record as saying it was highly inappropriate of the DMV worker to do that. When it’s your job to preserve someone’s private information for the government (and anyone who takes an address down is), you’ve got to do their job, no matter how deplorable the actions of the person are. The transgender person is absolutely right to object to that.
  • That said, it’s just baffling to me that our society allows people to “change their gender”. What does that even mean? We define sex by our chromosomes… and those can’t be changed. Sure, you can slice off the penis, drill a hole in their pelvis, put breast implants in their chest, and give them hormone injections, but the chromosomes don’t change. At some level I understand why because of our noble insistence on liberty in the US we allow the surgery to go forward (although I can make a compelling argument why our liberties end before that). But there’s no reason why someone’s birth certificate/driver’s license should be able to be changed. Those surgeries didn’t change their fundamentals. While it wasn’t right for the DMV worker to take advantage of their role to notify this person of their perversion, the perversion of the nature of our humanity is quite real, as is the associated risk of hell that goes along with it.

Expect more posts…

December 9th, 2010

The fall is a VERY busy time for me. I usually try to limit myself to three hobbies at a time:


  • RCIA
  • Religions ed (2nd grade this year)
  • Catholic blogging


  • RCIA
  • Religions ed
  • Catholic blogging


  • RCIA
  • Sailing
  • Catholic blogging
  • But fall, I bust my limit:

    • RCIA
    • Religions ed
    • Cal football
    • Catholic blogging

    The result is that something falls off the radar and it’s often the Catholic blogging. Add to this that this year I’m taking a all-day Saturday class once a month and I definitely busted my limit this fall, so the blog has been entirely stagnant.

    In any case, now that football season is over, sadly too soon with no bowl game, but that’s a post for my other blog, it’s time for me to pick this back up. Here’s some of what you can expect:

    • Chapter by Chapter review/rebuttal of Hitchen’s “God is NOT great”
    • Daily ‘quick hitters’ like before
    • Reflections on politics
    • Reflections on the global Church

    Please keep tuned in!

    Disgusted with politics after the election

    November 3rd, 2010

    I’ve always thought that politics was a nasty business, but I never thought it could be as bad as it was this year. I’ve never seen so many attack ads. I’ve never seen so many distortions of the truth. Wait a minute, not just distortions, completely disingenuous crud. Pro-choice candidates sending me mailers telling me not to vote for the other guy because he’s pro-choice. Candidates criticizing other candidates for votes for which they also made. Criticizing both the cuts to services and that they voted for new taxes, not recognizing that you have to do one or the other, or both, when there’s a deficit.

    Just absolutely ridiculous stuff.

    And here’s the worst part: It’s merely a reflection of where our electorate has gone. When reading message boards amongst voters, the shear nastiness of the attacks is SO disheartening. The “you can leave California” gloating (which is just a response to Republicans who did it in previous cycles). The treating other voters as if they’re stupid.

    The worst part is there seems to be no attempt to understand the other sides motivations and attitudes. I mean, I get why someone would want single-payer health care. I disagree, but I can see why someone might feel that way. I understand why people are for gay marriage, legalization of marijuana, and legal abortion… I completely disagree, but I understand their perspective. And while I’m sure there are people out there who look at my views with a similar amount of understanding, that’s not the feeling one gets when the publicly state those views (and in fairness, I’m sure it feels the same on the other side).

    And it’s just really distressing to me. I’m not sure a republic can withstand this sort of hate-filled division. There has to be a way out of this sort of divisive politics.

    Policy for those who disagree

    August 26th, 2010

    In a comment recently someone mentioned a concern about being welcome here as someone who disagrees with me. I want to make it clear that everyone is welcome here, both to read and to comment. In fact, I really have no interest in keeping this blog just to discuss matters with those who already agree with me. What’s the point of that?

    My sincere hope, and the whole reason I keep this blog, is that I want to provide an insight to how an intellectual Catholic thinks and believes for those who do not have a lot of exposure to a person like that. That includes responding to comments and criticisms. So whether you got here from (my college football blog) or from a link from a atheist website or what have you, know that your comments are welcome.

    All I ask is that you keep your comments respectful in the sense that you’re making arguments about my posts and not just attacking me personally. Please also abstain from profanity. I promise to respond in kind.

    Thoughts on Prop. 8/Gay Marriage ruling

    August 5th, 2010

    I could just write a screed here against Judge Walker and all the things he did wrong today, but in the end, it would just be a stupid post that wouldn’t convince anyone of anything. Those who agree with me would agree and those who don’t, who see the world entirely differently, wouldn’t agree and there would be little point of trying to convince them.

    I’ve also given up hope in trying to explain in a forum like this how to see the world through the lens that an understanding Catholic does. People have such strong opinions and won’t spend the time to challenge their preconceptions, not even to change their mind, but even to appreciate seeing the world in a very different way. Again, it wouldn’t accomplish anything.

    So what I hope to do in this post is make an admission: We’ve lost the battle.

    It’s not the gay marriage battle we’ve lost. That’s just the tail of the dog. What we’ve lost is the argument of what sex is about. We lost it 50 years ago when contraception became socially accepted and the implications of that loss continues to haunt us. Most people who embraced contraception didn’t realize what they were really embracing and so many of them to this day do not realize why others, who have embraced the fullness of what contraception means, are pushing for things they find reprehensible.

    But in the end, I can’t argue against gay marriage without going back to the fundamentals: Sex is about procreation. Any sexual act that is not open to procreation resulting, is a disordered sexual act. There’s a ton of objections that will be raised at this point and there’s no way I can address them all in a post or two. But that’s kinda the point. We’re SOOOOO far past arguing about this fundamental premise about the nature of sex, that one can’t even advance the point, even with people who otherwise embrace a Christian worldview, without thousands of words defending the premise.

    So I’m writing today not to those who are all for gay marriage. I’m writing today to those who are baffled and upset by the decision, yet embrace contraception. And here’s what I have to say to you:

    The battle was lost when you embraced contraception. Once you separated procreation from the sexual act, then obviously, sex not oriented towards procreation was acceptable. Once that sort of sex was acceptable, it was just a matter of time until alternate ways to indulge yourself sexually, from homosexual acts to masturbation, were the next logical step. Once that was acceptable, the lifelong sexual union (aka marriage) was going to be opened to those who had found other ways to sexually gratify themselves.

    Sure, it took 50 years for it to happen, but it nevertheless did happen.

    So, while I see the world through a very different lens, one where sex is bound to procreation, the reality is that over 90% of my fellow citizens disagree. And since the underpinnings of my argument rest on sex bound to procreation, I can not deny that only 10%, if that, of American citizens embrace the underpinnings of marriage being between a man and a woman. I can not deny that in the way the vast majority of Americans view the world, the gay marriage proponents are right, that in the way society views the world, their unions are not that different from everyone elses.

    I refuse to buy into that view, so I will continue to fight against not just gay marriage, but against the idea that procreation and sex can be separated. Whenever that battle is won, we won’t need to fight against “gay marriage”, because “gay marriage” just won’t make any sense, it’ll be as obvious as it was in 1950, when someone who suggested “there’s no tie between marriage and procreation” would be laughed out of court, out of office and out of about any social group. It was as obvious as night and day.

    Today it apparently is not so obvious and there’s only one reason: the prevalence of contraception. So I say to all of you who reject gay marriage and wonder how we got here yet embrace contraception: It’s time for you to look in the mirror.

    What I learned from my Grandfather

    July 19th, 2010

    My Grandfather Newt died a year ago today and in some sort of divine happenstance, I literally just came across the notes I took before I said a few words about him at his memorial on the back of a sticky that had addresses for trophy places. I thought those notes were worth memorializing:

    Ten things I learned from my grandfather:

    1. Always bring a joke: My grandfather always had a joke for whenever we got together. Some of them were corny; Some of them were hilarious. But it always set the right mood to have a joke to tell. Even when he had prostate cancer, he couldn’t help himself from humorously asking his doctor before deciding on whether to undergo radiation or chemo “Doesn’t radiation CAUSE cancer!?!”
    2. Learn from others: My grandfather was a big proponent of learning from others. He always wanted to share his knowledge and he always had questions for others when he met them. It didn’t matter if it was some engineering or technical question for someone like me or if it was a language question for my wife, he always wanted to learn more.
    3. There’s nothing wrong with a unique look: My grandfather spent most of his adult life with a curled mustache and a generally jovial look. He also had the sort of personality that no one would ever think to criticize his unique look. He had a quiet confidence and a light-hearted attitude that said, “This is what I want to look like, I think it’s fun and I even enjoy that you think it’s a bit odd.”
    4. There’s nothing wrong with a unique collection: My grandfather collected hats. LOTS of hats. I ended up with the bulk of them. I’ve got 58 brimmed hats and 117 baseball caps from his collection, which I’ve got mounted in a ring around the wall in my study. I’m missing another 57 that other family members took as their favorites to remember him by. Yes, you did the math right, 232 total hats in his collection. And it’s got everything from formal military hats, to dual beer-can drinking hats, to umbrella hats, to golf hats, to sports hats, to straw hats, to just about anything you could think of.
    5. Give your wife a caddy: My grandfather wasn’t very wealthy when he was young, but the company he, my grandmother and my uncle founded made him quite wealthy. He didn’t live a lavish life, but he always made sure my grandmother was very well taken care of, including the bright red Cadillac that she drives. Always take care of your wife.
    6. In-laws are family: My grandfather isn’t even my biological grandfather. My grandmother was married briefly to my biological grandfather and they had my dad before religious differences in the family split them up. But my grandfather was MY grandfather just as much as he was my Dad’s dad. We were no less family than his three biological children, so much so that when on a family reunion trip about 10 years ago, it was a surprise to my cousin that my Dad was not her dad’s full brother. That sort of “everyone’s family” attitude was obvious in how he treated everyone from my wife to my step-sister.
    7. There’s no such thing as a “step”: This is the other half of the previous one. My step-sister was not a “step” anything. She was another grand-daughter.
    8. The past is in the past: I can’t think of a time I heard my grandfather bring up something negative from the past. I also didn’t hear him endlessly relive some sort of glory days from the past. That was the past and he lived life moving forward. Right up until the day he died, he was always looking forward to the future and making the most of it.
    9. The head of the table is important: My grandfather’s humor was always a bit self-deprecating, so hopefully this joke he used to tell comes across right: “When I married your grandmother, I sat her down and said, ‘Look, I love you, but I’m the man of this family, so when it comes to any big decision, I have to make it. But since I love you, I’ll let you make all the little decisions.’ And you know what? In 60 years of marriage, there hasn’t been a big decision yet.” While he was never a man to lord his role over anyone, you knew who was the patriarch of the family and he took that responsibility (and yes, it’s a responsibility, not a privilege) seriously.
    10. Life is worth living: As I briefly mentioned earlier, my grandfather had prostate cancer about 10 years ago and the doctor honestly told him that it wasn’t very far along and it would probably take another 10 years to kill him. Considering he was already in his mid-70’s it might be wiser to just let it take its course because the treatment often takes more years off ones life than the cancer will. But there was no doubt in my grandfather’s mind that treatment was the way to go. Life was worth living and he’d fight on. That radiation treatment took a lot out of him, but he never lost his zest for life.

    I miss you grandpa.