Wednesday, December 7, 2011

www.MarchForLife.Net

A few years back, I was at the March For Life and I was really frustrated by the completely biased news coverage.  So, I tried to buy one of the March for Life domain names.  Well, today, the transaction was completed and I am now the owner of www.MarchForLife.net.  Actually, it did not expect this at all.  Life is full of surprises!

This is exciting for me, because it is an opportunity to create a record of undeniable facts about the massive size of the March For Life and the tremendous youthfulness of the pro-life movement.  It's amazing every year to see the pictures of others when I cannot make it and to see the march itself when I can make it.  Every religion (plus I absolutely love the Atheists For Life who are always at the march).  Every skin color.  More women than men, which just blows away the stereotype that its a bunch of men trying to control women.  And, more young people than ever before.

Having 5 young boys, I am walking that fine line.  Don't want to turn them off to something by being too pushy, you know.  I brought my oldest son Billy about 4 years ago, and he didn't want to go to the march since then.  I think it was mostly all the walking involved.  So, I'm not always able to be at the march even though I wish I could be there.

My plan for the website.  We'll I supposed I should pray about it, right?  Originally, my idea was to create a way for people to submit photos, videos, links to blogs, news articles, and YouTube videos.  A way to categorize by year and march (because, there is now more than one March For Life.  They are all over the country).  Ask me if I remembered to pray about this in a couple days...

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Healing

I've been moving into "healing" over the past 4 years.  Focused on Jesus Christ as healer.  Not yoga or transcendental meditation.  I've been fascinating by the work being done in the theophostic movement (http://www.theophostic.com/) and Dr. Lehman's Immanuel apporach to healing (kclehman.com), both very Christ-centered.  And, I'm just wondering, is anybody out there who reads this blog -- and I know there are at least 2 or 3 of you -- anybody interested in emotional healing?

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Unofficial Bound Brook Election Results

Mayor
Carey Pilato (R) 784
Anthony Pranzatelli (D) 759

Borough Council
John Miller (R) 802
John-Paul Levin (R) 758
Hal Dietrich (D) 735
Vinnie Petti (D) 726


Congratulations to Carey Pilato, John Miller, and John-Paul Levin!

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Atlantic Imaging Group

I am excited to announce my new employer: Atlantic Imaging Group, located in Cedar Knolls, NJ.  Atlantic Imaging Group is a Diagnostic Radiology Network primarily servicing the Personal Injury and Workers Compensation market and is THE ONLY COMPANY IN THE COUNTRY TO PRE-FUND ITS CLAIMS WITHIN 72 HOURS OF RECEIPT OF THE CLAIM.

This is a great privately owned small business with a strong business plan.  I am part of a team of 5 in the Information Technology group, and we are HIRING!  This is a great opportunity for the right person.  AIG is becoming a victim of her own success and her software platform is in need of a re-write allow her to continue to grow the volume and further increase profitability.

We need strong C# developers to join the team.  Check out our ad on stack overflow and if you think you might be the right person, then please send along your resume!

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Added Mild.MembershipProvider to GitHub


Tonight, I added Mild.MembershipProvider to GitHub.  This is a work in progress, but I got a new job and I probably won't have a chance to continue working on it for a while, so I'm posting it to Github in the hopes that maybe someone else will take an interest and continue the labor of love. 

It's a re-write of the old Microsoft membership provider. I started with the ScottGu's link to the source: http://download.microsoft.com/download/a/b/3/ab3c284b-dc9a-473d-b7e3-33bacfcc8e98/ProviderToolkitSamples.msi. Then, I did a lot of ReSharper to it. Finally, I began the process of applying the Dependency Injection pattern to the ADO.NET portions of the code. My plan was to re-write the ADO.NET portions with Linq-To-Sql. Now, I'm thinking maybe I should add a version of the code with Massive.

The idea is that we should be able to use any data source we want easily without having to worry about sacrificing all the functionality built-in to the ASP.NET 2.0 Providers. I know that Microsoft is re-writing their Providers anyway to work well with the new compact and express versions of SQL Server, but they did not release the source of that yet (as far as I know), so we can't really do much with that in the open source community. So, I used the old ASP.NET Provider source code as my starting point.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Minimal Flooding

Great news!  Article say the downtown ended up getting only a few feet of water: http://www.mycentraljersey.com/article/20110830/NJNEWS/308300020/Bound-Brook-crediting-flood-controls-minimizing-Irene-damage?odyssey=nav|head.

That is stunning.  Basically, we got another 500 year flood similar to Tropical Storm Floyd, and there was only a few feet of water.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Probably my last Hurricane Irene post

Tomorrow, I am going to work at the new job I just started last week.  So, this is my last Hurricane Irene post.

Listening to Somerset County and Central Jersey Public Safety Live Audio feed from www.radioreference.com.  It sounds like Bound Brook is using police boats and checking on various calls.  It also sounds like there are posts and checkpoints, which makes a lot of sense to prevent looters.  There is a 7PM curfew.  The boats are responding to a bunch of false alarms going off at various places in the downtown of Bound Brook.  I would imagine that water is setting off a lot of false alarms.  There is a water victim who is being transferred via ambulance from the lost valley to Manville High School.  Then, a helicopter is going to Medivac the person to Somerset Hospital.  Sounds like there is more activity in Manville.  But, I also hear a constant helicopter flying sound coming from downtown Bound Brook.

National Weather Service updated the crest to be 41.8 feet at 2AM tonight, just slightly under Tropical Storm Floyd.  Hoping that the flood levies combined with the pumps will at least reduce the level of flooding.

With gratitude to PSE&G, National Guard, Police, Fire, OEM, Maintenance Department, Red Cross, divers, pilots, Council, Mayor and anyone else for all their hard work over this weekend and to come.  Readers, keep your eyes on www.boundbrookoem.org for updates.

What was supposed to happen



These pictures are now out of date.  They were taken around noon today.  The levy breached.  I just got electricity back on the north side of town, or I would have posted them sooner.  These pictures are from prior to 2 PM today. I don't know any details of what is happening now and I can only conjecture based upon my past experience.

I was really excited to see the flood gate working and my heart is broken to hear about the breach.  It saddens me to think about all the people who are being forced from their homes by nature.  It breaks my heart to see the national guard have to go in there to protect from looters.

From the bottom of my heart, thanks to all the different individuals and organizations working together to protect, save lives, and take care of the flood victims.













Saturday, August 27, 2011

Reminiscing on Hurricane Floyd

Sitting here streaming The Weather Channel.  About 7 years ago, we moved from West Main Street on the south side of Bound Brook across the tracks to the north side of town.  We lived on West Main Street during Hurricane Floyd.  There's a Tornado Watch right now and the rain is pounding on the roof of the sun porch where I am sitting typing this.  I'm also listening to these gusts of wind increasing.  We miss the excitement of the south side of town.  I feel separated from the action.  Why did we move?  We wanted more space, and the homes on the south side of Bound Brook are mostly 2, 3 and 4 bedroom houses.  And, we prayed about it and felt that the Lord wanted us to move closer to her family.

That was a great photo of the closing of the flood gate going from Bound Brook to South Bound Brook on the OEM blog.  They would not be closing that unless they believed that perhaps it could help the downtown.  Hopefully, with the new pumps working, the flooding can be a few feet lower than it otherwise would be.  Time will tell.  Two of the deaths during Hurricane Floydd in 1999 were in Bound Brook.  During Floydd, some homes actually flooded into their second floors and an elderly couple could not get out of their homes and they drowned.  Their daughter attended our parish.

Tonight, I filled my tub with water just in case.  There is a Tornado Watch in effect.  All kinds of things go on in our town like Bound Brook when a Hurricane like this comes.  During Floyd, we stayed... something just hit the roof, a small branch or something... we stayed through the flood... one and a half basements steps short of the first floor.  Yep, we had 6 feet of water in our basement.  Lesson learned: don't leave paint in the basement.  It was yucky cleanup, but others suffered so much more than we did.  It was vigilante justice that first night.  There we were on West Main Street and the first night, there was no military presence or police protection.  Some of my neighbors had guns and I'm glad they did, because there were looters and there was no other protection.  The next night, the military and the state police came in force.  We were caught by surprise and my wife and I were escorted out of the "Flood Zone" by the national guard in a Humvee.  If we refused, we would have been arrested.  The next day, we snuck back in along the river, walking through a lot of oily toxic sludge probably shortened out lives by 5 years doing that.  The downtime has at least 3 superfund sites nearby so when there is a flood, there is risk of toxic sludge mixing in with the flood waters.  Lots of memories which I wouldn't trade for the world.

The Office of Emergency Management is much more organized and efficient these days.  This time around, they initiated the curfew even before the flooding started.  We just got a reverse-911 recorded phone call warning us that as of 9PM tonight a curfew is now in effect.  I have a deep respect for the work done by all those volunteers and for how much more organized everything has become since Hurricane Floyd.  There will be lots of volunteers staffing make-shift Red Cross shelters in churches or schools.  The is almost always a fire somewhere due to a gas explosion during one of these Hurricanes in our town.  And, we have a great volunteer fire department which, in addition to putting out fires, drives around in the flood zone warning everyone of the impending flood and advising evacuation.  We have our council and mayor, making decisions and doing whatever needs to be done.  And, then, after the flood is over, during the recovery, they will take all kinds of flack from some residents who are going to wine and complain about everything.

During Hurricane Floyd in 1999, a few council members decided that this might be an opportunity to declare almost the whole flood zone a Redevelopment Area.  Among other things, they wanted to tear down West Main Street and replace our residential neighborhood with an office complex.  They were unsuccessful.  Many in the downtown feared a racist motive to remove our Latino contingent.  I was on the redevelopment advisory committee and I brought this concern to the committee.  I used the word "ethnic cleansing" which got a lot of white people in town upset with me.  In hindsight, I wish I had not used that word.  It was overly polemic.  On the other hand, if the concern was baseless, then I wonder why all those white people got so upset with me (disclaimer: I am a white person)?  Yet, there was eventually a DOJ settlement over that whole thing and the borough had to hire a Spanish speaking employee to help act as a liaison.  You would thing we would learn a thing or two.  Unfortunately, today's reverse-911 phone calls were all completely in English with no option for Spanish.  I hope all those Latino businesses on main street were warned that there could be 8 feet of water in their stores tomorrow.

When the flood waters went up in '99, there was a dog who was stuck in the basement across the street from us.  A neighbor went down and set him free from his leash so he could escape.  That dog knew that she saved his life.  Our part of West Main Street literally became an Island.  And, as the waters receded, that same neighbor decided to leave our Island on a rescue boat.  The dog tried to swim after her.  He loved her for saving his life.  We got to know our neighbors so well.  There is nothing like a flood to make you grow close to your neighbors.  My heart goes out to the good people who live in my old stomping grounds.

6 to 7 Feet Predicted in parts of downtown Bound Brook

National Weather Service has revised its water level estimates for Raritan River.  They are predicting a 37.5 foot crest, which implies 6 to 7 feet of water in the downtown around 8:45PM Sunday evening, which is the estimated crest.

National Weather Service predicting Flood conditions for Bound Brook

Oh no, hear we go again.  Right now, national weather service is predicting a crest of AT LEAST 34.8 feet at the Raritan River. Downtown floods around 30.5 or 31.5 feet (I'm trying to remember exactly, anyone feel free to e-mail me to correct me).  So, its preducted to be at least 3 or 4 feet of water in down town as of 7PM on Sunday.  I write "AT LEAST", because the chart hasn't flattened out.  I guess they only try to preduct 36 hours in advance.

Bound Brook residents should keep an eye on the blog at http://www.boundbrookoem.org/ for local updates.  Bound Brook OEM is reporting that Somerset County will be closing the flood gates at 6PM today.  The flood control project here is Bound Brook is so close to being completed, but it is not completed.  So, at the very last, from my own limited understanding, there is no gate over the tracks leaving Bound Brook going toward Bridgewater.  So, water can get in there essentially limiting the effectiveness of the flood control for this hurricane.

My heart goes out to everyone affected.

Friday, August 19, 2011

New Job and www.Mild.Net is now in MVC 3!

I am really exciting to be starting Monday a new contracting opportunity which will soon convert to full-time employment.  Presently, I am contractually bound as an employee of Robert Half Technology not to disclose the client.  However, once I convert from contractor to employee, I hope to share exciting details about the company where I start Monday.

I am hoping to get a chance to do some MVC work at this new company.  And, to celebrate this, I have already started my foray into this new (actually, it's really old) technology.  I have been pouring over the MVC videos over at www.tekpub.com, where I have purchased an annual subscription.  I highly recommend them.  You can check out some of their videos for free.

And, I have re-written my flagship website, www.Mild.Net completely in MVC!  If I have some time, I hope to share two of the hurdles I had to overcome to make this work.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Infragistics, XAML, jQuery and a job offer

Finished reading Eloquent Javascript and I also read CLR via C#, which I recommend highly to all C# developers.  A lot of job interviews and recruiter calls come and go.  But, I want to memorialize one in particular.

Todd Snyder from Infragistics e-mailed me and invited me to apply for a consultant position over there.  Infragistics is a .NET UI custom control vendor and they have a consulting group which travels all over the place helping customers to implement great front-ends with the Infragistics toolset.  I was nervous about the 50% travel part, but it was a unique opportunity to possibly work with bleeding edge developers and meet fascinating people in my travels.  I was excited about the opportunity.  They asked me up front about my salary requirements which I communicated to them.  After that, I had 3 phone interviews and an onsite interview, followed by a job offer -- more than 25% below my salary requirement,  because, they said, I don't know XAML.  So, I was talking to my nephew who works at Microsoft and I said to him, "How long would it take me to learn XAML?"  And he said that when he was a teaching assistant at Brown University, he covered it in about 3 hours.  Anyway, I went back to Infragistics and tried to work out an agreement that once I learned XAML, could I get an earlier review and a bump in salary at that point?  They refused to consider this.  So, on Wednesday, I declined the offer.

I was very sad for the past two days, constantly second guessing myself, questioning the opportunities I might have passed up.  It was a big decision and there was a lot in balance.  On the positive side, it was an opportunity for great growth professionally and personally, working with smart individuals who are passionate about their code.  I really enjoyed the tech interview with Todd and I would have loved to have worked with him.  On the negative side, I would be away from my family much longer than ever before and they tried to low-ball me on the salary.  And the reason?  That I didn't know XAML?  That cannot be the true reason.

So, I said to my nephew, "Benjamin, do you think its worth learning XAML?"  And he said to me exactly what I was thinking, "Nah, I think you'd do better investing in MVC."  Hmmm, yeah....  Infragistics is heavily invested in Silverlight and XAML.  They made a bet on that technology alongside Microsoft and, if Infragistics is wrong, Infragistics is going to have to do a lot of catch up, because their MVC and jQuery toolset is very limited at this point.  These are reasons I tell myself that I made the right decision.

A job description came into my inbox yesterday.  The job was in NYC, but the description captured my eye.  It said "searching for a senior-level front end web developer with extensive experience coding in Javascript, with a focus on using data-driven plugins from the jQuery library."  It called for "mastery of front-end web development in HTML and CSS, with a strong knowledge of Javascript coding and use of the jQuery library to interface with web services and implement large data retrieval and display capabilities."  Ahh, yes. A front-end that consumes web services via JSON using jQuery.  The future is here.  I said I was interested, if only they would consider a 50/50 onsite / work from home scenario.  Never heard back.

In honor of that job description, I am announcing that I have rewritten the part of my www.Mild.net homepage that displays the 5 latest blog summaries.  I threw out the server-side ListView that was populating my blog posts and I replaced it with a jQuery.ajax call to blogger via JSON populating the webpage via Microsoft's templating contribution to jQuery.  So, I am now consuming this blog on my homepage completely on the client-side.  I have made lemonade out of lemons.  Three cheers for jQuery and AJAX.  Hip, Hip, Horray!

And, on the job front, there are still four irons in the fire.  Hopefully, one of them will pan out and I will announce when I have some news to share.  Until then, back to the membership provider project.  Or maybe, I will take a side trip, and rewrite www.Mild.Net using MVC.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

July 2011 Update

I am continuing down the road of finding my next paying opportunity.  Yet, I have sensed a peace from the Lord about my present unemployment.  I probably apply for about 8 or 9 jobs each week.  I have a phone interview tomorrow morning for one potential match.

I finished reading the Design Patterns book.  It turned out to be quite a challenging read, mostly because all of the examples were in C++.  I am now reading Eloquent JavaScript, which feels like quite a relief from the last book.  It reads so much faster!  It's a good JavaScript review in the context of great coding advice.

I've continued work on the new Membership Provider.  I have gone through the code and cleaned it up from the perspective of ReSharper.  I have also abstracted out the data layer code into a dependency injection pattern (using Ninject).  Next, I will be going into the stored procedures and re-writing it as LINQ code.

We were approved for an $18,000 forgivable loan from the government to bring our house up to code.  This afternoon, a general contractor will be coming over to look at the work to be done in the house and bid on the project.  After the work gets done, the loan will be forgiven once we live in our home for another 10 years.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Khan Academy

Check out Khan Academy.  This can help kids that are behind in math.  They are looking for pilot school districts to try it out in their classes.  I think this could drastically improve productivity in the Bound Brook Schools (public, private, catholic, whatever): http://www.khanacademy.org/about/blog/post/5238524833/next-wave-of-school-pilots.

We are going to try out Khan Academy with Billy for his math over the remainder of this summer (we homeschool our boys).

Thursday, June 30, 2011

If A, Then B?

Rob Conery, whose blog I subscribe to and whose tekpub service I subscribe to, wrote a logical fallacy on his blog.

He said (http://wekeroad.com/post/6969274028/thats-really-what-that-means-she-said-it) a certain premise leads to a certain conclusion (if A, then B).

A: Regarding her decision to run for President of the United States, Michele Bachmann said: "That's really what that means. It means that -- that I have a sense of assurance about the direction I think that God is speaking into my heart that I should go."

B: God has chosen Michele Bachmann to be President of the United States.

It just doesn't follow.  For example, about 16 years ago, God called me to apply to be a seminarian.  I am now, by God's plan, a married man.  In retrospect, he called me to be a seminarian and study for be a celibate catholic priest as preparation for my calling to be a married man.  God often leads people down certain roads for reasons that cannot assertained until much later.

Therefore, just because God calls Michele Bachmann to run for office, it does not logically follow that he is calling her to become the President of the United States.

I'm not sure why I'm even blogging this.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

June 2011 Update

About 2 weeks ago, my latest contract through Robert Half Technology ended.  I've been ramping up for the next gig.  Watched a bunch of tekpub.com videos, honing my C# 4.0 skills, learning about Ninject (an IoC solution), Nuget, NHibernate, Specflow, Entity Framework, and going deeper into MVC.

I have to say, there are some consulting companies that are quite excellent and earn their referral fees with sweat equity.  Robert Half Technology and TEK Systems are two such companies which have impressed me greatly.

Also, upgraded my smart phone to the Nexus S 4G with Google.  It has full integration with Google Voice, which I really like.  And the phone itself is sleek.

I'm now halfway done reading Design Patterns: Elements of Reusable Object-Oriented Software. The last job was quite a personal milestone for me.  I am definitely reinventing my coding style and am grateful that I read Clean Code which, along with the other book, has really improved the readability of the code that I write.

I've been playing around trying to re-write the old Microsoft Membership provider to have a more readable codebase and build off Entity Framework, instead of all those SPROCs.  We'll see if I get anywhere before I'm working full time somewhere hopefully soon.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Mark 1:2

The purpose of the last two blog posts, was to relate the hope which I experienced from the Lord as I was reading the beginning of the Gospel of Mark, after my good friends Barbara and Jay visited our home. I frequently experience a profound absence of Christ in the local catholic parishes. And, it grieves me, and persuades me that the Lord abandons this particular Church community here in the Diocese of Metuchen, except for the remnant.  I have also noticed that many catholics have become deeply wounded and the attack of Satan has been very effective in neutralizing many efforts to bring renewal to the Diocese of Metuchen. Many priests seem to be unable to preach the Word of God and our lay leaders, including myself, have also been rendered largely ineffective for the Kingdom of God. Some have no expectation that any thing should be any different, for they are blinded and deaf and dumb. Others feel the bondage and deep pain crying out to God for mercy.

I have had this feeling of hopelessness that this is never going to change, and while in my mind, I know this is a lie straight from the pit of hell, yet, it has continued to persist in my heart as something that felt very true, largely until the night after Barbara and Jay left and then, I sat with the Word of God, and the Lord eradicated this feeling of hopelessness through His Word.  Yet, there is still pain and sadness at the bankruptcy of our particular Church of Metuchen, but now with hope!  Let's finish up this reflection on Mark 1:1.

So, we have seen in Mark 1:1, how Mark used the word "gospel" which is drawn from Isaiah 52:7. And we saw how the sin of Israel led God to sell them for nothing so that, after repentance and also making payment for their sins, God also promised to redeem them without money, which indeed he does through the shed blood and the sufferings of Jesus Christ. And we have drawn the parallel to our own day, and placed our hope in Jesus Christ, that perhaps, God withdraws even now from many of our particular Churches to bring them to repentance so that these Churches can be redeemed once again through Jesus Christ.  And, even if they do not repent, and even if the Lord Jesus must turn against a particular Church because she foolishly attacks the remnant of the Lord, even so, after our Lord snuffs out that particular Church, there will be new missionaries that will come from neighboring particular Churches to preach the Gospel.  And, even if the particular Churches in an area are unfaithful together, the Lord raises up prophets and evangelists and whole evangelical Christian communities of believers who are invisibly in communion with the Catholic Church through faith in Jesus Christ, through the power of the Holy Spirit, through Baptism and through Holy Matrimony for the proclamation of the Gospel.

So, since, it is apparent that Mark had one eye on Isaiah as be began writing his Gospel, it would seem logical he might continue in the same strain of thought. And, indeed he does in verse 2-3: As it is written in Isaiah the prophet, "Behold, I send my messenger before thy face, who shall prepare thy way; the voice of one crying in the wilderness: Prepare the way of the Lord, make his maths straight--" Mark is conjoining three different Old Testament passages, namely: Exodus 23:20, Isaiah 40:3, and Malachi 3:1, and if you want to explore the relation, then go buy this study Bible. In this space, I will focus solely upon how I saw the text last Sunday evening, in the light of Isaiah.

The background context of Isaiah 40:3, is Isaiah 36 through 40, which itself is a very long (almost?) verbatim quotation of 2 Kings 18:13- 20:19, regarding the reign of King Hezekiah. Now prior to Hezekiah there were a slew of bad kings who led Israel into deep sin. While Hezekiah was devoted to the Lord, nevertheless, at this point the judgment of God is at the doorsteps of Jerusalem. According of Isaiah 36:2, Sennacherib King of Assyria came up against all the fortified cities of Judah and took them. And the king of Assyria sent the Rabshakeh from Lachish to King Hezekiah at Jerusalem, with a great army. The Rabshakeh is basically the number two guy after the King of Assyria. So, the Rabshakeh makes a really arrogant speech mocking God and God protects Israel and defeats the King of Assyria. Then the King of Babylon send envoys to Jerusalem with letters and a present to Hezekiah, for he heard that he had been sick and had recovered. And Hezekiah welcomed them; and he showed them his treasure house, the silver, the gold, the spices, the precious oil, his whole armory, all that was found in his storehouses. There was nothing in his house or in all his realm that Hezekiah did not show them. (Isaiah 39:1). And, Isaiah says to Hezekiah, "Behold, the days are coming, when all that is in your house, and that which your father have stored up till this day, shall be carried to Babylon, nothing shall be left, says the Lord. And some of your own sons, who are born to you, shall be taken away; and they shall be eunuchs in the palace of the king of Babylon." (Isaiah 39:6-7) And, this is what happens. They go into exile and, starting with Isaiah 40 and onward, are the words of God spoken to them by the prophet Isaiah.

Certainly, the particular Churches in the West have no concept of physical exile. Yet, some particular Churches outside of our Western civilization know persecution. In the West, the experience of exile is still only spiritual, the withdraw of the experience of God, His power and His love. It is the lack of the operation of the gifts of the Holy Spirit and the lack of knowledge of the Word of God, which leads to despair, hopelessness, and a sense of no purpose for existence. And, yet, is it not clear as day, that if the Churches of the West do not repent, God is raising up nations which will punish the West and thrust her dead unrepentant Churches into exile once again?

Isaiah 40:1 Comfort, comfort my people, says your God. Speak tenderly to Jerusalem, and cry to her that her warfare is ended, that her iniquity is pardoned, that she has received from the Lord's hand double for all her sins. The Lord speaks these words to those in exile after the People of God receive from the Lord's hand double for all her sins. Indeed, it is Jesus Christ who pays that ransom. But, to the man who knows His own sin, but has not yet encountered the remedy in Jesus Christ, these words feel like mockery, like placing salt into the wound to make it hurt even more: "Lord, you speak these words to me, but you do nothing. What comfort?" And, what a sorry state is the soul of the man who believes with his mind the things of God, yet his heart is dead. The only remedy is repentance, surrender, and honesty about the state of ones own soul. That man must acknowledge the debt of sin which he cannot pay, and the hypocrisy of his life up until now, and let go of any sense of self, any lie that perhaps he can save himself through his knowledge of God or his good works. He must place his trust completely in Jesus Christ for salvation, and all others things must be accounted as worthless, not that they are, but so that God can re-order man's life, and give them worth through His grace and love. Indeed, once our free will is received as the gift of God, it then has value in Him. And, once the sacraments of the Church are received as the gift of God, then they, too, have value in Him. However, to the self-righteous Christian, the sacraments of the Church can bring death. Let a man examine himself, and so eat of the bread and drink of the cup. For any one who eats and drinks without discerning the body and eats and drinks judgment upon himself. That is why many of you are weak and ill, and some have died (I Corinthians 11:28-30) The self-righteous Christian reads this verse and says it is about transubstantiation (which I accept as a true doctrine). However, the true believer reads the same verse and says it is about experiencing being spoken to tenderly by the the living God that her warfare is ended, that her iniquity is pardoned, that she has received from the Lord's hand double for all her sins.

Verse 3-4: In the wilderness prepare the way of the Lord, make straight in the desert a highway for our God. Every valley shall be lifted up, and every mountain and hill be made low; the uneven ground shall become level, and the rough places a plain. Here we have the New Exodus. In the original exodus, the way of the Lord brought Israel out of Egypt by way of a highway through the Red Sea, out of slavery and into freedom. Now, the way of the Lord brings Israel out of all the nations to whom Israel has been scattered, especially Assyria, through the desert and back to Jerusalem. This is the promise of the restoration of the Twelve Tribes under a shepherd who will gather the lambs in his arms (verse 11), Jesus Christ. It is the redemption of the People of God from slavery into freedom. And, Christ is at work, even now, continuing this work, bringing those who reject him to repentance, and then to restoration.

And so, in Mark 1:2-3, this is the backdrop. Jesus Christ is the shepherd King, the son of David, who will gather together the scattered sheep of Israel into the Kingdom. Jesus Christ, the new Moses, makes straight in the desert a highway for our God, to bring a remnant of Israel from the slavery of exile, along the way of the Lord, back into the freedom of the promised land.  And so, he will bring a remnant out of  our dead Church if there is repentance, or else judgment.

And then, I jumped down to Mark 1:11: and a voice came from heaven, "Thou art my beloved Son; with thee I am well pleased", which is an echo of Isaiah 42:1.

Isaiah 42:1 Behold my servant, who I uphold, in whom my soul delights; I have put my Spirit upon him, he will bring forth justice to the nations. He will not cry or lift up his voice, or make is heard in the street; a bruised reed he will not break, and a dimly burning wick he will not quench; he will faithfully bring forth justice. He will not fail or be discouraged till he has established justice in the earth; and the coastlands with for his law.

God brings forth justice to the nations, but he starts with the Church, for the time has come for judgment to begin with the household of God; and if it begins with us, what will be the end of those who do not obey the gospel of God? And "If the righteous man is scarcely saved, where will the impious and sinner appear?" (I Peter 4:17-18) He fights fiercely to set us free and bring us into his law of love.   He will fight for every particular Church to bring Her into the fullness of His Body and He will spare no expense for her.  Yet, if any particular Church becomes the enemy to the remnant of the Lord, even the Lord will turn against that particular Church and cut her off from the universal Church.  He will bring judgment and baptize with the Holy Spirit and with fire. And, yet he is so gentle, especially to the bruised reed and the dimly burning wick. The Lord does not count our wounds or weaknesses against us. The Lord is not slow about his promise as some count slowness, but is forbearing toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance. (2 Peter 3:9)  This brings hope to my heart, that the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God are deep and furthermore that his judgments are unsearchable and his ways are inscrutable (Romans 11:33).

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Mark 1:1 Part 2

When you see the word gospel in the New Testament, always read it in the context of Isaiah 52:7.

There are two points which I wish to highlight before leaving the first verse of the Gospel of Mark. The first point is that good news presupposes bad news, which is revealed in the context of Isaiah previous to the feet of him who brings good tidings. The second point is that it is the suffering of Jesus Christ's which redeems us, revealed in the context of Isaiah after the feet of him who brings good tidings.

In the last blog post, we looked at Isaiah 52:1-19, which is the immediate context of the Isaiah reference to the gospel. Now, we will look at the larger context of Isaiah prior Isaiah 52. We ask the question, why does God comfort Israel in Isaiah 52? What happened prior that caused Israel to be seeking comfort. We find the immediate answer in Isaiah 51:17: Rouse yourself, rouse yourself, stand up, O Jerusalem, you who have drunk at the hand of the Lord, the cup of his wrath, who have drunk to the dregs the bowl of staggering. They were being punished by God, but why? For sin, but we have to cut this off for now. Maybe sometime we can look at the nature of the sins of Israel, and draw comparisons to our own day. Indeed, we too are punished, not arbitrarily by an angry God, but as children beloved of the Father.

Verse 18: There is none to guide her among all the sons she has borne; there is none to take her by the hand among all the sons she has brought up. It is a Biblical principle that when God punishes a Church, she lacks guides among her sons. This sad situation, we see today in spades in the particular Churches which are even now under the wrath of God. Lay ministers, Deacons, Priests, and Bishops unable to guide the sons and daughter of those particular Churches.

Verse 19: These two things have befallen you -- who will condole with you? -- devastation and destruction, famine and sword; who will comfort you? While there is no doubt that eventually, sin will lead to famine and sword, nevertheless, what we see in our western civilization is more of a spiritual famine and sword. Our spiritual leads are unable to feed the flock with the Word of God which they themselves -- to their shame -- rarely study, which results in sacraments bestowing curses upon the faithless. This is the famine, the lack of spiritual food and drink which comes from faith which comes from hearing which comes from preaching (Romans 10:14-15). The spiritual sword is the free reign which the demons have some particular Churches because the spiritual fathers have forfeited their authority. Christians are dominated by pride, self-righteousness, lust, anger, and every form of ungodliness.

Verse 20: Your sons have fainted, they lie at the head of every street like an antelope in a net; they are full of the wrath of the Lord, the rebuke of your God. Another Biblical principle is that God's wrath results in a forfeiture of masculine protection and strength. The enemy targets the men and emasculates us with the permission of God.

Verse 21: Therefore hear this, you who are afflicted, who are drunk, but not with wine: namely, drunk with the wrath of God.

Verse 22: Thus says your Lord, the Lord, your God who leads the cause of his people: Behold, I have taken from your hand the cup of staggering: the bowl of my wrath: you shall drink no more. When we have paid justly for our sins, such that we become like the prodigal son in the pigsty, when we have come to our senses, then -- and only then -- does the Lord speak to us again.

Verse 23: and I will put it into the hand of your tormentors, who have said to you, 'Bow down, that we may pass over'; and you have made your back like the ground and like the street for them to passover. Once God has had mercy upon us and restored the dignity of our sonship, he then begins the process with our enemies who have oppressed us. He pours his wrath upon our enemies, because they are His children, too, and he wants to bring them to repentance so that he can bestow the blessing upon them, also.

This the nature of the bad news, the wrath of God, which prepares the ground so that He can eventually offer comfort and restoration, namely, the person of Jesus Christ. Now, if we look at the verses of Isaiah which follow closely upon the heals of the announcement of the beautiful feet of him who brings good tidings, we discover the method of our redemption.

Isaiah 52:13 Behold, my servant shall prosper, he shall be exalted and lifted up and shall be very high. Jesus alludes to this verse when he says, and I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all men to myself (John 12:32) He speaks of the manner of His death, crucifixion. Jesus further confirms his own awareness of the poignant context of his own words when -- only a few verses later -- he proceeds to quote Isaiah 53:1, Lord, who has believed our report, and to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed.

Verse 14: As many were astonished at him -- his appearance was so marred beyond human semblance, and his form beyond that of the sons of men -- He was so brutally beaten and whipped by the Roman guards prior to his crucifixion, that he almost did not appear human.

Verse 15: so shall he startle many nations; kings shall shut their mouths because of him; Startle is a mistranslation. It should read, "so shall he sprinkle many nations," alluding to baptism. Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, so that as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life (Romans 6:3-4).

Verse 15b: for that which has not been told them they shall see, and that which they have not heard they shall understand. When you see the word, for, you must always ask what is is therefore. The nations first hear the gospel proclaimed so that they can see, hear, and understand. Then, and only, then can they be baptized, without prejudice to the ancient practice of infant baptism when both parents are believers in Christ.

Note the circular pattern of the text as a whole. First, the People of God sin. Second, they loose the favor of God. Third, God uses the nations to punish them. Fourth, they repent and are received into full communion with God. Fifth, God punishes the nations. Sixth, the nations hear the gospel, see, and understand. Seventh, after they believe in Christ, they are baptized into the People of God. Then, the patterns repeats until the full number which are to be saved.

Isaiah 53:1 Who has believed what we have heard? And to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed? Yet, what comes next is most difficult to believe, and yet, it is the cornerstone of our faith. And, this too, all of this, is part of the contextual background of the word gospel in Mark 1:1, and elsewhere in the New Testament.

Verse 2 For he grew up before him like a young plant, and like a root out of the dry ground; he had no form or comeliness that we should look at him, and no beauty that we should desire him. When we are in our sin, we have no desire at all for Jesus. When a particular Church is under the wrath of God, her children do not see any reason to want to know Jesus, who seems to embrace weakness and powerlessness.

And now, the rest of Isaish 53. I make my comment now, because nothing can follow these prophetic words. I just want to emphasize the context. This account of the suffering of Jesus Christ, prophesied hundreds of years earlier by Isaiah, is the gospel. It is beautiful good news upon the mountains, and in the faithful Churches where the Holy Spirit is poured out, we hear our priests proclaim this good news at each and every homily.

Verse 3-12: He was despised and rejected by men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief; and as one from whom men hide their faces he was despised, and we esteemed him not. Surely he has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; yet we esteemed him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted. But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that made us whole, and with his stripes we are healed. All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way; and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all. He was oppressed, and he was afflicted, yet he opened not his mouth; like a lamb that is led to the slaughter, and like a sheep that before its shearers is dumb, so he opened not his mouth. By oppression and judgment he was taken away; and as for his generation, who considered that he was cut off out of the land of the living, stricken for the transgression of my people? And they made his grave with the wicked as with a rich man in his death although he had done no violence, and there was no deceit in his mouth. Yet it was the will of the Lord to bruise him; he has put him to grief; when he makes himself an offering for sin, he shall see his offspring, he shall prolong his days; the will of the Lord shall prosper in his hand; he shall see the fruit of the travail of his soul and be satisfied; by his knowledge shall the righteous one, my servant, make many to be accounted righteous; and he shall bear their iniquities. Therefore I will divide him a portion with the great, and he shall divide the spoil with the strong; because he poured out his soul to death, and was numbered with the transgressors; yet he bore the sin of many, and made intercession for the transgressors.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Mark 1:1

For the past month, I have felt very hopeless. Yesterday, my good friends Barbara and Jay Seidle, along with their awesome children Abigail, Caleb, and Joel, visited our home. When they left, perhaps a few of the host of angels which they brought into our home stayed, because I spent a little time the beginning of the first chapter of Mark, and the hopeless feeling departed.

The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God. Mark 1:1

This is the beginning of a whole book which is the "gospel," which refers to Isaiah 52:7: How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of him who brings good tidings, who publishes peace, who brings good tiding of good, who publishes salvation, who says to Zion, "Your God reigns."

Good tidings can be translated good news or gospel. He who brings this good news is Jesus. We see from Isaiah that Jesus has beautiful feet. The context around this verse in Isaiah enters into Mark 1:1. So, let us just look a little bit a some of that context.

Isaiah 52:1 Awake, awake, put on your strength, o Zion; put on your beautiful garments, O Jerusalem, the holy city; for there shall no more come into you the uncircumcised and the unclean.

Here the Lord speaks the exiles of Judah, the people of God who are particularly connected to the King David, the Temple, and the Holy of Holies, which has been desecrated and destroyed by the Babylonians. They are feeling hopeless and the Lord wakes them up and speaks words of encouragement, telling them to "be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might. Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. For we are not contending against flesh and blood, but against the principalities, against the powers, against the world rulers of this present darkness, against the spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places. Therefore take on the whole armor of God that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand. Stand therefore having girded your loins with truth, and having put on the breastplate of righteousness, and having shod you feet with the equipment of the gospel of peace; above all taking the shield of faith with which you can quench all the flaming darts of the evil one." (Ephesians 6:10-16)

For there shall no more come into you the uncircumcised and the unclean which, allegorically, refer to those principalities, powers, world rulers of this present darkness, and the spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places. These shall no longer come into us. How is this? Who is going to set us free from our bondage?

Verse 2: Shake yourself from the dust, arise, O captive Jerusalem, loose the bonds from your neck, O captive daughter of Zion. How am I to do this, Oh Lord? You are telling me to do this myself? I have not the power.

Verse 3: For thus says the Lord: You were sold for nothing, and you shall be redeemed without money. Jerusalem sinned gravely and for her justice, God sold her for nothing into captivity to the Babylonians. She was not redeemed by money, but rather by the Blood of Christ. Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. He destined us in love to be his sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will, to the praise of his glorious grace which he freely bestowed on us in the Beloved. In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses , according to the riches of his grace which he lavished upon us. Ephesians 1:3-9

Verse 4: For thus says the Lord God: My people went down at the first into Egypt to sojourn there, and the Assyrian oppressed them for nothing refers back to the 400 years of slavery at the hand of Egyptian pharaoh and later, to the Assyrian exile of the northern tribes of Israel, both of which occurred within the bounds of divine providence, to teach a lesson to His children and prepare them for good news. Indeed, the exiles of our lives are to prepare our hearts to welcome Jesus.

Verse 5: Now therefore what have I here, says the Lord, seeing that my people are taken away for nothing? Their rulers wail, says the Lord, and continually all the day my name is despised. I have been guilty of this, wailing and blaming the Lord for exile in my life which prepares the way for my redemption. And, many laity and priests, pastors and prophets, we are all guilty. Lord, forgive us for wailing, and mumbling. We must not put the Lord to the test, as some of them did and were destroyed by serpents; nor grumble, as some of them did, and were destroyed by the Destroyer. Now these things happened to them as a warning, but they were written down for our instruction, upon whom the end of the ages has come. Therefore let any one who thinks that he stand take heed lest he fall. I Corinthians 10:9-13

Verse 6: Therefore my people shall know my name; therefore in that day they shall know that it is I who speak; here am I. And Jesus said, I am the good shepherd; I know my own andmy own know me, as the Father knows me and I know the Father; and I lay down lmy life for the sheep. John 10:14-15

Verse 7: How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of him who brings good tidings, who publishes peace, who brings good tiding of good, who publishes salvation, who says to Zion, "Your God reigns." These are indeed the feet of Jesus, but they are also the feet of anyone who puts on those beautiful garments spoken about in verse 1, by preaching Christ according to Romans 10:15-17. The sacraments of the Church are the written text become living Word in the lives who us who receive the power of Christ. Yet, where the gospel is not preached, the sacraments of the Church quickly become the works of the law which bring death to us who do not have living faith in Jesus Christ, indeed they can bring the curses of the law upon individuals and upon an entire particular Church, by which I refer to a local Church under the authority of their proper Bishop. And where a particular Church does not preach Christ, Jesus removes the lamp stand (Revelation 2:5), selling them for nothing.

Verse 8: Hark, your watchmen lift up their voice, together they sing for joy; for eye to eye they see the return of the Lord to Zion. When I repent of unbelief, that is, when I no longer place my trust in my own works, no longer trusting in my own righteousness, then the Lord will return to me. And the same Church, once she repents, will hear the watchmen singing for joy, proclaiming her redemption without money, that is, by the blood of Christ.

Verse 9: Break forth together into singing, you waste places of Jerusalem; for the Lord has comforted his people, he has redeemed Jerusalem. Without Jesus, our hearts and our churches become waste places. His very presence fades and we are left with ourselves in our wretched sinful state. When Jesus returns, He comforts us and redeems us, paying for our sins, as individuals and as Jerusalem, as the people of God, as His Church. We who were Not His People, once again become His People.

Verse 10: The Lord has bared his holy arm before the eyes of all the nations; and all the ends of the earth shall see the salvation of our God. Indeed, this is how the Lord brings good out of our evil. As His People, individually and collectively, when we sin, we are sold to the nations, so that, after repentance, when we are redeemed, God by redeeming us in the midst of the nations, shows his salvation to the ends of the earth. We can see by this, that even in the unfaithfulness of the Church, God will show himself faithful.

Enough context, back to Mark 1:1: The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ. So, this good news is about how a particular Church, even in her unfaithfulness, becomes a vehicle of God's mercy to those who do not know God. Cardinal Ratzinger -- now Pope Benedict XVI -- taught that it is unhistorical to say that Jesus founded a Church (Seven Thesis on Christology and the Hermeneutic of Faith: http://scotthahn.com/download/attachment/2637). Rather, the Church is the People of God through out the ages, from Adam right down to the present age. In Ratzinger's own words: Jesus made the old People of God into a new People by adopting those who believe in him into the community of his own self (of his “Body”). Even a particular Church, when she ceases to know God, herself becomes the object of God's mercy as His glory departs so that His Bride, the Church become harlot, can find repentance and rediscover her lover. So, I wonder if we could begin to think of the Jews through the lense of a particular Church with their own Bishop. In this light, when Paul says, And so all Israel shall be saved (Romans 11:26), he alludes to the restoration of the lamp stand to the particular Church of Israel. Israel will be bought without money, with the blood of Christ. Indeed, they have insofar as some Jews have believed in Christ, but I am speaking now of the restoration of old People of God as a particular Church.

The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God. Ah, it is so easy for me to just want to gloss over these words of God, saying that this refers to the divinity of Christ, which is true, yet there is so much more. It refers to the promise of God through the prophet Nathan: He shall build a house for my name, and I will establish the throne of his kingdom for ever. I will be his father, and he shall be my son. 2 Samual 7:13-14. It is the promise of God to David that his son shall be the Son of God. This is provisionally fulfilled when Solomon becomes King, as revealed from his coronation psalm. I will tell of the decree of the Lord: He said to me, You are my son, today I have begotten you. Psalm 2:7 Yet, it is Solomon who through his sin, looses the kingdom, and so the prophets look forward to another who will fulfill this promise of Nathan. This person is called the Messiah, which in Greek means, Christ. Christ is not the last name of Jesus, rather it indicates that he is the promised Messiah, who will establish the throne of the Kingdom of David forever, who shall be called God's Son.

And, so, Mark proclaims Jesus to be this Son of God, the one spoken of in 2 Samuel 7:13-14. The gospel obviously refers to so much more than this. It refers to his work of redemption on the Cross. It refers to his mission to set captives free, give sight to the blind, and it refers to the very person of Jesus Christ.

So, after reflecting upon verse 1, next, I started looking at verse 2. But, I must get some sleep now.

Monday, May 2, 2011

New Sewer Charge for Bound Brook Residents???

What's this new Sewer Charge for Bound Brook, NJ, residents??? If anyone knows please post in the comments of my blog. Thanks!

Friday, April 15, 2011

Starting an Eight Week Contract thorugh Robert Half Technology

On Monday, I'll be starting an eight week contract with a company in Morristown through Robert Half Technology. This means I'm off the market for a while and we can improve the cash flow around here a little bit.
Today, I'm just paying some bills and winding things up, getting ready for the big change on Monday.

Friday, April 8, 2011

That was fun!

Well, my one week job lasted 11 hours.  It was fun -- html and css stuff.  But, I was a very efficient programming ninja and, so, it did not last long.

A lot of the sample code on the Silverlignt 4 Training Kit does not seem to work, so I switched over to improving my design patterns and, especially MVC.  I started reading the Gang of Four.  And, I also started pouring over the code for the Orchard Project, which makes heavy usage of Dependency Injection, Unit Testing, and Integration Testing -- all areas where I want to improve my skill set.  I submitted a bug fix to the Orchard Project yesterday: https://hg01.codeplex.com/forks/wmild/17119, which gave me an excuse to dig into the code a little bit.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

One week of work starting tomorrow

Starting tomorrow I'll be starting a one week position at [confidential] helping them to integrate their [confidential] with their [confidential].  I'm really excited about this.  The stinky thing is I'm only getting a few hundred dollars more than I would already be getting from the unemployment office.  It's nice to get some of the many years I have paid into unemployment.  And, of course, it's only fair that I should work for hire when an opportunity comes.  Although, it doesn't involve any new technologies that I'm interested in, but who knows what other doors may open as a result of this.  And, I really enjoy these short gigs.  They let me dabble in some things, get paid for it, and get a change of scenery.

Also, I recently finished reading Clean Code: A Handbook of Agile Software Craftsmanship.  It was a pretty good read.

The problem going through these recruiters is, well, there is more than one problem.  First problem, they make you sign all these confidentiality things so you can't actually say much about what you are doing.  Second problem, they add $$ to your hourly rate so that you end up costing more to the customer than you actually charge.  But, it seems that employers like them because they do some technical interviews and give you a test to filter out people who really know absolutely nothing about such and such a technology.

So, I'm just continuing to work through the Silverlight 4 training kit from Microsoft. Then, I'll work on improving my design pattern skills more.  Then, if I still don't have a contract, maybe I'll build one or two quick demo website in MVC or Silverlight to showcase new skill areas.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Looking for my Next Paying Website Opportunity

I am looking for my next paying website opportunity.  I've recently started getting myself trained up on Silverlight 4 technologies.

About 2 weeks ago, I had an interview for a ".NET Guru" position where I was carefully screened and I had all the skillsets that this potential client said he was looking for.  So, I get to the onsite interview and the interviewer was not there.  He is on the conference phone from Florida, and they start asking me all these Design Pattern questions, which no one mentioned previously as a job requirement.  Now, admittedly, I'm weak on design patterns and also admittedly, I need to really get hard core into that stuff because it will only improve my deliverables to my clients.  I have a strong familiarity with the Singleton Pattern and also Dependency Injection (thank you Anselmo at my previous contract position!).  They are asking me about the Command Pattern, which I remembered reading about in Head First Design Patterns, but alas, never used the pattern and so the details were forgotten.  I was able to give a good answer to their question on composition versus inheritance.

Alas, it was not good enough.  After about 30 minutes, the guy on the conference phone from Florida say, "Bill, it is clear to us that you are not the .NET Guru or Senior Developer that we are looking for.  I don't want to waste your time or my time, so let's just end this interview now."  Ouch!

I said, "Good luck on your job search!"  and I walked out.  Now, for the record, I think, after 13 years of .NET Development, I'm not at all uncomfortable applying for contract positions which call for a .NET Guru.  I am confident that I will find the right match, a place with a mix of great people and great technology.  And, I'm glad that I'm not going to be working for that guy!