Thursday, April 28, 2005

Did the former Cardinal Ratzinger (now Pope Benedict) criticize Harry Potter?

There's been a rather alarming rumor spreading that newly-elected Pope Benedict XVI once blasted J.K. Rowling's Harry Potter books by claiming that they undermine the soul of Christianity. According to the rumor, the pope said this back when he was still Cardinal Ratzinger, while praising an anti-Potter book entitled "Harry Potter: Good or Bad" by Gabriele Kuby. Here's the supposed quote taken from Hollywood.com:

"It is good that you explain the facts of Harry Potter, because this is a subtle seduction, which has deeply unnoticed and direct effects in undermining the soul of Christianity before it can really grow properly."
Hmmm...let's see. If this "report" isn't just another lie to make the new pope look bad, this Google search would show results, wouldn't it?

Isn't it interesting that what such a famous person said supposedly two years ago conveniently appeared just now, just when his critics are looking for ways to discredit him?

Embarrassing Update: It seems that the Pope did write this back when he was cardinal. He wrote it to Kuby in a letter written in German, so that's probably why the above Google search didn't work (try this one). Instead of repeating my mistake of forming conclusions before obtaining all the facts, I'm just gonna let this issue lie in the back of my mind and shut my mouth for now, at least until we hear something Potter-related from the Pope as pope.

Edit: BTW, I still think that this act of fishing up something "bad" from the pope's past is just plain wrong. In any case, a whole bunch of good and wholesome literature can be used to undermine the souls of weak Christians. Many atheists could even use the Bible itself to scandalize people. The former cardinal could have very well been affirming the fact that the Harry Potter books *could* make certain kinds of people spiritually weaker (especially those who are already drawn to rebellion or to the occult). He might have just been conceding the fact that Kuby has point, but that doesn't mean that the former cardinal believed it was the only point, or that Harry Potter ought to be banned by the Church. I mean, he headed the Congregation for the Doctrine of Faith! Harry Potter would have been banned faster than one could say "Wingardium Leviosa!" if the former Cardinal Ratzinger wanted to. Making people doubt the fairness of the pope (forgetting that the infallibility doctrine makes it irrelevant) just because he decided to praise a fellow defender of the Faith a few years ago is therefore in my opinion nothing less than malicious.

Wednesday, April 27, 2005

SNAil-based data transfer Protocol (SNAP)

Studies have shown that Giant African snails could outperform the top data transfer protocols on the market. Okaaay...

System architecture: the system is constructed of a back end - a carriage, Ben-Hur movie style, which is made of a yoke made of light Balsa, and outfitted with two huge wheels - 2 DVD wheels, 4.7 Giga each. The front end, to which the carriage is harnessed consist of a Giant snail (Achatina fulica), known also as Giant African Snail.


Related escargot jokes here.

Tuesday, April 26, 2005

Chesterton on The Meaning of Progress

"Progress should mean that we are always changing the world to fit the vision, instead we are always changing the vision." - Orthodoxy, 1908

Monday, April 25, 2005

Uganda, AIDS, and abstinence

Last January, I wrote about the use of condoms for STD-prevention, and why I thought it was unnecessary. My main argument was that people who are knowledgeable about HIV and are afraid of it will not risk imprudent sexual activities. The corollary is that only the ignorant, (and obviously, the intoxicated and the suicidal) will have the guts to fornicate unsafely. Thus, proper education and awareness is the key to AIDS prevention, not condoms. In other words, if you have knowledge, abstinence is enough.

Well, theorizing and arguing's all good, but I wished there was concrete evidence supporting my opinion. And as luck would have it, I recently found out about the country of Uganda and its successful battle against the African AIDS epidemic. While other condom-centered African governments have not been successful, Uganda's education, abstinence, and fidelity strategy decreased the percentage of AIDS victims in the country down to 6%. Of course, the liberalists are still stubbornly clinging on to their great fornication excuse that is the condom, but that's to be expected. How else could they continue being the promiscuous dogs that they are?

Here are some links:

The "Social Vaccine"
HIV and AIDS in Uganda
Condom Lobby Drives AIDS Debate Besides Abstinence Success in Africa

Sunday, April 24, 2005

Mozilla developing experimental keyboard navigation for Firefox

From InternetWeek.com:

Experimental builds of Firefox Web browser are trying out a new keystroke navigation system for skipping through links on a page, the Mozilla Foundation said Tuesday.

Rather than point and click with the mouse, these Firefox builds let users apply the Shift and Alt keys, then one of the four cursor keys, to move to a nearby link on a Web page.

Although that idea is far from new, the spin here is that the keystroke combinations take users to the next link by visual position, not its place in the HTML source code. To move to a link immediately to the right of the current link, users would press Shift-Alt-right arrow.

Read the rest of the article here.
Download the new experimental Firefox build featuring the "spatial navigation system" here.


Friday, April 22, 2005

Better MSN Toolbar coming soon

Neowin reports that an upcoming upgrade to Microsoft's MSN Toolbar Suite will include a tabbed-browsing implementation for Internet Explorer 6 (see screenshot). This will allow users who won't upgrade to IE 7 (also upcoming) to use the highly-praised feature found in other popular browsers. For the non-geek IE slaves, tabbed-browsing is the ability to view two or more web pages in a single browser window by creating a tab for each page.

Well, unless this new feature doesn't require the MSN Toolbar to actually be shown (and I highly doubt it), I'll probably just upgrade to IE7. But then, I already use Firefox...

Thursday, April 21, 2005

Ahhh...the wonders of Technorati...

Someone from the Boylston Chess Club read about my chess variant and linked it on their blog. Thanks guys!

I wouldn't have known it if not for Technorati.com, which is a sort of blogger search engine. I simply checked out who's linked to my blog (mostly my friends), and there it was.

I do hope people would use the trackback link, though. But then, I've only seen three blogs from strangers linking to me, so I'm not complaining. :-)

Wednesday, April 20, 2005

Google Maps could now see the UK

Google Maps for the UK (no Satellite feature yet, though).

Gaaah! The suspense is killing me. When will the rest of the world (like, you know, the Philippines) appear on Google Maps? *wishes*

Some more chess blabber

I just found a minor flaw in Chess 960. In some initial positions of the game, one or two of a player's pawns are initially unprotected (in most initial positions, including the normal chess one, all the pawns are protected at the start of the game). It's caused by the weird range of movement of the knight pieces, such that they don't protect the pawns in front of them. This gives white a very slight additional advantage over black. In normal chess, white already has the advantage of moving first, giving him the initiative at first. This flaw in Bobby Fischer's invention gives white the extra advantage of potentially being able to attack the unprotected pawns first. I'm still figuring out whether this flaw is worth addressing. And if it is, what's the most elegant way of addressing it?

Now on to other news. You might have read about my new chess variant. Or maybe not. Anyway, to recap, I created a game almost exactly like chess, but with one exception: when and only if a king is in check, the existing knights of the defending player could move to any square [n,n-1] away from their current position to remove the checking threat (note that the normal knight moves in a [2,1] fashion). I call this event in the game "la croisade" (meaning, "The Crusade"). I've been studying it for a while now, and I found that contrary to my previous thought, there is a way for la croisade to be used for checkmating. This can be done with two steps: (1) Place the knight such that it would threaten the opponent's king once a la croisade happens. (2) Check the king (with a different piece, of course) such that the only way to escape the check is by checking the other king. Here's a sample game (see the final position here):

1. d4 d6 2. c4 e5 3. Nf3 Qe7 4. a4 Na6 5. g3 Bg4 6. Bg2 exd4 7. Nxd4 c5 8. Nb5 Qxe2++

In the final position, the black queen makes the check. The king can't capture the queen because of the bishop on g4 protecting it. But if the white queen captures the black queen, the white queen would be checking the black king (which is conveniently positioned behind the black queen), thus allowing the knight on a6 to check the white king (this is what I call the "Crusader discovered check"), and thus, checkmate.

Notice that it is technically the queen that made the mating move, not the knight, so fears of unfair knight advantage is still quite unfounded. One would think that people playing my chess variant (which I'm temporarily calling "Crusader Chess") would be far more aggressive against knights than in normal chess, but really, it isn't such a big deal. I predict that the defensive role of la croisade would be a lot more prevalent in Crusade Chess games than the mating role, and that mates involving the augmented knight would be far less common than even en passant moves (which is pretty rare).

Lastly, I just recently discovered the site ChessGames.com, which has a titanic searchable database of recorded games as well as player info (here's the page for the current youngest grandmaster, Magnus Carlsen). You could discuss individual chess games via the kibitz forums, and even answer regular chess problems. Enjoy. :-)

Habemus Papam

“Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock." (Matthew 7:24-25)

I was a bit surprized that my little hunch that Cardinal Ratzinger would be elected as the successor of the late Pope John Paul II would be correct. But amazingly, that's what happened. Pope Benedict XVI's papacy shall formally begin on Sunday, April 24, 2005. Long live the pope.

What's funny about this election is that it's sort of a Divine joke on the critics of John Paul II. More than a few journalists have voiced out their fears of a "conservative" pope being elected because of the huge number of cardinals the late pope ordained. It's as if they're blaming him of making sure his successor will be one of his. Well, the cardinals did end up electing a "conservative," alright. Funny thing is, he wasn't a JPII cardinal.

It's a lesson as well as a joke. What the critics still don't get is that God will not allow a pope to teach fallacious "liberal" teachings. It's called the infallibility doctrine. Even the most foolish and most sinful of popes (and there were quite a few of them) were incapable of changing dogmatic teachings. The question is not whether the heretics' kind of pope will be elected in the future. The question is whether or not the heretics will stop wishing for their kind of pope to be elected everytime a Conclave is held, because their wish will never come true. Thank God for that.

News reports say that a lot of American Catholics were disappointed that Ratzinger was chosen. They say that this might cause the division between liberal and traditionalist Catholics to worsen. They fear that the great number of Catholics turning to other religions every year might increase. But the Church is not here to appease the people. Christ did not compromise the truth of his teachings just to have many followers. Jesus didn't soften his language when he taught his followers about eating his flesh and blood. And when the great majority of those followers left him disgusted, he even challenged the rest to see if they would leave, too. Christ even went as far as saying "Not everyone who calls me 'Lord, Lord' shall enter the kingdom of heaven" (a lesson that Protestants still fail to understand). And this Messianic characteristic of being firm in Truth in the face of being reviled by the world has been manifested time after time in the Church's history. When Rome was ordering Her to follow polytheism, the Church chose martyrdom, instead. When even Her own theologians started preferring the simpler theology of the heretic Arius, the Church held on to the truth of Christ's Nature. Time after time the world was pressuring the Church to adopt this or that heresy, making Herself unpopular for not doing so. Yet She held on. The world kept changing from one blundering philosophy to another, yet the Church stayed immovable upon her beliefs. Now the world has turned to abortion, divorce, contraception, homosexuality, moral and theological relativism, and demanding the Church to follow suit. And what did She do? She chose among the cardinals a staunch defender of Orthodoxy, a "Watchdog of the Faith", one who condemned publicly the very things that the liberalists were demanding, and the Church made him Vicar of Christ in defiance and mockery of the popular demand.

The Church has not compromised. The House built upon Rock still stands.

Saturday, April 16, 2005

Gmail Feed Reading

Could this be real? Nathan Weinberg received a report that Google might be starting to roll out a new feature for Gmail: an XML feed reader of sorts that sits on top of the page. Check InsideGoogle for more details.

Update: Google already posted an article in the Gmail Help Center about the "Web Clips" feature. Weird thing is, it seems to be taking longer for them to roll-out this new feature than those before. Hopefully I'll have it by next week. Can't wait! :-)

Tuesday, April 12, 2005

On the Mythology of Naturalism

"...for some time the philosophers who did not believe in God, whom they regarded as a myth, managed to believe in Nature without realising that she is a metaphor..." -G.K. Chesterton, The Common Man


Probably the simplest objection to rationalistic atheism is that it is futile. It has central in itself the false assumption that freedom from God is freedom from religious irrationality. Just a few days ago, I've been reading about the eminent biologist Richard Dawkins and his ideas about genetics and culture. According to the atheistic scientist, all living organisms are mere tools for the propagation of individual genes, and all intelligent beings are likewise vessels for the spread of "memes" (the basic units of knowledge; anything that is learned or recorded). We humans are therefore pawns and minions of the Gene and the Meme.

I wonder, though: why don't I care?

I suppose this isn't anything new, as the so-called "liberalists" have given us other rulers before. If they are to be believed, we are also slaves of Progress and Evolution, of Nature and the Elements, of Time and Space. They believe in this so fervently, as if it was so clear and obvious, and as if they are utterly oblivious of the phrase "figure of speech" and of the word "personification." Of course, we all know that characteristics and knowledge can be passed from one thing to another, but it's rather quite a stretch to claim that such abstract notions have "evolutionary goals," or that they are therefore our masters. Genes and memes (and Progress and the rest of the atheist deities) do not have personhood, and any notion of them literally striving for something would hark from the days of the superstitious nature-worshiping myth-making heathens. One might imagine an atheist offering blood sacrifices on the altar of the god Spacetime, which might be located next to the altar of the twin-gods Gene and Meme (where a toga-clad Richard Dawkins might be burning incense) in the Temple of Liberty From All Superstitions.

Religious emancipation my ass.

In any case, my genes and my memes (all of which being inanimate, abstract, and rather incapable of action) don't seem to be in any position to defend any claim of superiority or dominance over me at the moment, so methinks I'll just let them go on their metaphorical evolutionary journey, while I myself continue on my own (rather more pressing) journey towards salvation.

A final Chesterton quote might be allowed. This one's from the chapter Escape from Paganism, in the book The Everlasting Man:

"There will be no end to the weary debates about liberalising theology, until people face the fact that the only liberal part of it is really the dogmatic part. What the denouncer of dogma really means is not that dogma is bad; but rather that dogma is too good to be true. That is, he means that dogma is too liberal to be likely. Dogma gives man too much freedom when it permits him to fall. Dogma gives even God too much freedom when it permits him to die. It is like believing in men with wings to entertain the fancy of men with wills. It is like accepting a fable about a squirrel in conversation with a mountain to believe in a man who is free to ask or a God who is free to answer. But I decline to show any respect for those who first of all clip the wings and cage the squirrel, rivet the chains and refuse the freedom, close all the doors of the cosmic prison on us with a clang of eternal iron, tell us that our emancipation is a dream and our dungeon a necessity; and then calmly turn round and tell us they have a freer thought and a more liberal theology."

Wednesday, April 06, 2005

Google Updates

Yes, yes, these're a bit late. Now let me address the majority.


  • Yahoo tried to catch up with Google by offering 1 Gb of mail storage, but Google was just too quick for them. Gmail's first anniversary was marked by what seemed to be an April Fool's joke (complete with a silly chart) that turned out to be more-or-less real: Gmail is increasing its storage capacity to more than 2 Gigs (it's already 2066 Megs the last time I checked).
  • Google Maps and Local now offers satellite-photos of various locations up to street-level. All thanks to the newly acquired Keyhole software. I've just spent an hour exploring New York City in high resolution (locating the Statue of Liberty was sooo fun!). Currently for U.S. and Canada only. Bah.
  • Google Definitions is now multilingual. Use the define: keyword to get definitions of words in various languages. Not very interesting. But it's good they're updating Google Definitions, since it's one of my most oft-used Google feature.

Sunday, April 03, 2005

Pope John Paul II: May 18, 1920 - April 02, 2005

The third longest-reigning pope ever, the man who was once Karol Wojtyla died at the age of 84 today (9:37 PM April 2 in Rome, about 3:00 AM April 3 Philippine Time). Pope John Paul II served as an outstanding successor of Peter for almost thirty years. May the next pope (who hopefully will be elected by the end of the month) be just as great.



On to a related rant. Reading an article in Time.com about who might be the next pope, I'm angered that the non-Catholic media still has this irritating habit of using terms like "liberal Catholic." This evil euphemism is offensive in a lot of ways. First, it deadens the guilt that all heretics ought to have for disobeying Christ's Church, as if it doesn't matter ("Oh, I'm a liberal Catholic, so it's okay for me to kill my baby."). Second, "liberal Catholic" implies that such heretics are somehow still in communion with the Church. For example, the article mentions "liberal factions" in the Church. There are no liberal factions in the Church. The liberal factions are outside the Church, automatically excommunicated by their own loss of faith.

Third, calling someone liberal implies that he has some sort of freedom. But being free from one's nature is no freedom at all. "Do not go about as a demagogue, encouraging triangles to break out of the prison of their three sides," Chesterton once said. "If a triangle breaks out of its three sides, its life comes to a lamentable end." And this is what happens when a person becomes "free from dogma" (which is what liberal Catholics supposedly are). To reject the very Thing that gives nourishment to your immortal soul (i.e. the teachings of Christ himself) is nothing but suicide. There is no freedom in it. Freedom requires Life.

Whoever the next pope will be, the notion of him being "liberal" is nothing short of a total nightmare. But we can all rest assured that this will not happen, because Christ won't let it: "Thou are Peter, and upon this Rock I shall build my Church, and the gates of Hell shall not prevail against it."

May the soul of Pope John Paul II rest in peace. Long live the next pope.

Saturday, April 02, 2005

My Very Own Chess Variant

Yesterday, I was thinking about a very unique kind of chess piece: the knight. Technically, the knight is a (2,1) leaper, meaning, it moves two squares orthogonally, then one square in a perpendicular direction (see black dots in picture); and it can "leap" over pieces. So, as I was saying, I was thinking about the knight, then I suddenly had the urge to improve it (or to use the chess variation lingo, "augment it"). What if, I asked myself, there was a chess variant where the knight is an (n, n-1) leaper? It could still move like the orthodox knight (i.e. n = 2), but it would be far more powerful.

(The knight as an (n, n-1) leaper.)

Powerful. That's the word. I realized that such a piece was simply too powerful for serious players to like. Imagine a piece that could leap over any number of pieces to land on almost the opposite side of the board, attacking at a maximum of 24 squares (near the center) and a minimum of 14 (on an edge). Then imagine four of those pieces on a single chessboard. The words "cheap" and "overkill" come to mind. Basically, the only way for my idea to be acceptable is to limit this augmented knight somehow...But what would be an elegant way of doing this?

Before I could answer that question, I decided to map out the theoretical knight's moves on a chessboard first (see picture above). That's when I noticed the crossed diagonal pattern, obviously reminding me of the bishop. I decided that whatever I name this new piece, it will have to be something that combines religion (bishop) and war (knight). Then it struck me: the crusader! Crusaders were medieval knights who went to lands that were once Christian to try and free them from Muslim conquerors.

And just like that, my dilemma is solved. I finally had a way to make my theoretical improved knight work in real chess games. And the answer is: la croisade.

The obvious answer to the problem of unfair advantage is some sort of promotion mechanism (like that of the pawn), such that the knight will retain its normal moves until it is promoted. I devised a way such that the knight could be promoted as a very powerful piece, but only temporarily. This is how it goes: Once a king is checked, an event that I call la croisade (French for "the crusade") shall occur, whereby the threatened party's knights shall temporarily become "crusaders", which are (n,n-1) leapers, for as long as the king is in check. Only the threatened party's knights are promoted; the attacker's knights stay the same. La croisade ceases the moment the threat passes, after which the knights revert to their original selves.

There are a few interesting things I noticed about this rule. First, a new kind of discovered check is formed. If a checking move involves the attacker's own king being threatened by a crusader, it is a discovered check by that crusader. Note that the crusader can only perform a discovered check, never an actual legal check.

The la croisade is either useful or embarrassingly useless. Imagine having a piece arguably more powerful than the Queen, but is unfortunately out of range to help a king, rendering it incapable of doing its only job. Like the historical Crusades, the la croisade is only a reaction to a threat, never an initiative. So the seemingly unfair range of moves of the crusader isn't really unfair at all. Problem solved.

Here are a couple of incomplete sample games featuring la croisade:

  • 1. e4 e5 2. Nf3 f6 3. Nxe5 fxe5 4. Qh5+ g6 5. Qxe5+ (In orthodox chess, this would guarantee the capture of the Black Rook at 6. Qxh8; but now 5. ...Nxe5!! captures the White Queen, giving great advantage to Black.)
  • 1. e3 Nf6 2. Qf3 g6 3. Bc4 Nh5 (4. Qxf7 would normally result in a variation of the Scholar's Mate, but in this case, it would result in a discovered check, so 4. Qxf7 would be illegal.)

Incidentally, the Fool's Mate (1. f3 e6 2. g4 Qh4++) still works even with la croisade. (So...it really IS a fool's mate! :-P)

I have seen a few fairy chess pieces that augment the knight. The ones most similar to the Crusader are the Griffon and the Paladin. The griffon is interesting (and shockingly similar to the crusader), but I wanted something that's as close to the knight as possible, and one of the knight's characteristics is that it moves to squares of the opposite color to it's current position (if it's on a black square, it moves to a white square, and vice versa). Also, the griffon isn't a leaper, so that sucks. The paladin (which can move both as a knight and a bishop), on the other hand, is simply too messy and schizophrenic; most compound fairy chess pieces are. In my opinion, my crusader is the most elegant augmented knight idea that I've ever seen. But that's just me. What do you think?

A final note: I used the french "la croisade" instead of "the crusade" because I wanted it to have a "professional chess" kind of feel to it (think en passant), partially because I dream that the Fédération International des Échecs might like it (I know, "dream on!")...and because I'm just that kind of person. ^_^


--
Update:
Other posts I made related to Crusader Chess:

Friday, April 01, 2005

Happy April Fool's Day!

So how many April Fool's jokes did you see today? After falling for one of Mugglenet's little tricks, I suddenly remembered that today's everybody's favorite day for pranks and tomfoolery. I wasn't able to find Google's joke for this year on their home page (remember last year's Copernicus Center?), but InsideGoogle's done it for me. Check out the all new Google Gulp Beta (Complete with AuthoDrink...get it? :-P)!

Update: Mugglenet reports that J.K. Rowling's website has an update. Namely, that today is Fred and George Weasley's birthday. What a coincidence!

Update: Might as well join the pack. MSN Search's April Fool's feature allows you to make spoofed search results for persons. Here are the results of an MSN Spoof Search for Francis Ocoma.

Gmail: Just Plain Text no more

Frankly, I'm not a big fan of HTML email messages, as my inbox is already full of irritating multi-colored text, big ugly font sizes, and corny cartoon smilies. But being able to put hyperlinks in your message can be useful at times. So I'm glad Gmail has finally added a toolbar for making HTML-formatted emails.

Come to think of it, this new feature means the Mail-to-Blogger feature of Blogger is now much more practical for Gmail users. There's still no way to put images in your email, though, so Mail-to-Blogger is still useless for photo-blogging. I suggest they make Blogger capable of recognizing image attachments...that would be so cool! :-)

Theresa Marie Schindler-Schiavo Murdered By Husband and U.S. Judges Today

From the Terri Schindler-Schiavo Foundation website:

Terri's struggle for life has ended this
morning.

December 3, 1963 - March 31, 2005
At last, Michael could now get his inheritance money and continue with his adulterous relationship. Good for him. Not.

Now, before you go on quoting section 2278 of the Catechism of the Catholic Church (which allows the discontinuation of "medical procedures that are burdensome, dangerous, extraordinary, or disproportionate to the expected outcome"), you might want to read some of the links above. There is nothing burdensome, dangerous, extraordinary, or disproportionate about a simple feeding tube, and Terri certainly would have had at least partial recovery through therapy if her husband wasn't such a greedy homicidal git.

Michael's main defence is that he's protected by his right to privacy to decide what happens to his supposedly comatose wife (who is now dead because of him). Right to privacy my ass. The guy wanted to kill his wife, and the courts allowed him to. Satan triumphed once again in a United States court of law. That is the bottom line.