A response to Danny Nalliah

(Non-technical post: Fedora folks can skip this if they like, I just feel the need to rant as this offends me deeply)

Context: My city of Brisbane, Australia is currently experiencing the worst floods in the region since 1974; Outlying areas and regional towns and cities are cut off and practically underwater. 9 have died and 72 people unaccounted for in Toowoomba, about 1hr outside of Brisbane.

This evangelical preacher, Pastor Daniel Nalliah of “Catch The Fire” Church believes this is his God’s wrath for an ex-Prime Minister asking the state of Israel to participate in the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty)

Here’s my response: Originally sent as a comment, but posted here for posterity (and because I suspect Pastor Nalliah has the moral courage to approve comments not matching his own viewpoints)

As a Brisbanite currently preparing for the worst of these floods I take extreme offense to this post and the ignorant, spiteful rhetoric you appear to espouse.

To blame natural disasters affecting hundreds of thousands of people on a politician’s failure to back your *political* belief of choice is utterly vile and as un-Christian as a person of sound mind can conceive.

I (as a practicing Zen Buddhist amenable to the core beliefs of other faiths) have been under the impression that Christ and his followers showed compassion to their brothers and sisters, especially in times of hardship? Am I mistaken? Is compassion in your church only applicable to those who follow your beliefs in lock-step fashion?

If you are truly a Christian (or a decent human being of any ethical / moral character irrespective of believe or lack thereof) then you’ll recant your comments and apologize to the people of Brisbane.

If you truly believe in your heart that the people of Brisbane deserve to suffer because a former Prime Minister’s reasonable call for a government to disengage from creation / proliferation of weaponry capable of killing millons – then frankly I pity you and consider you a poor excuse for a human being with no place in providing ethical and moral guidance to anyone and may your God have mercy on *you*.

While I doubt that this comment will be posted to your site at all (as I’m not preaching to the choir :-)) I would be sincerely interested in a considered response. I will also be posting it to my own blog for the consideration of others, even if you fail to publish it.

Gassho,

Michael Fleming

De-stressing

Hey Yaakov, make that four users once I’ve set it up, I certainly do like the looks of it. A good tool that makes any job easier is a winner in my book, and that looks like a good one indeed.

This weekend was a long one in my neck of the woods, being the Labour Day holiday.

Saturday was mostly a relax-around-the-house day, with a fairly quick and painless upgrade of my old doorstop-server (an old PII 233 that graced an ex-employer’s datacentre as it’s first backup server) – I’ve had mainly good experiences doing a  “yum upgrade” between Fedora releases (9 to 10 in this case) and this was even cleaner than last time (just remember to relabel if using SELinux per my last post, mkay? :-P)

The Drupal update for dotprofileconsulting.com went very smoothly too – but some attempts to streamline WordPress for thatfleminggent.com weren’t quite so grand, some of the themes I’d tried didn’t seem to like the 2.6.5 install (any chance of 2.7 for F9/F10?) so I stuck with the tried-and-true, even if it is a little “busy”

It was also the Buddha’s Birthday celebration here, so a stroll down to South Brisbane to see the sangha and what was on offer was in order. I admit not getting to the Zen talks this year but took in the opportunity for some zazen (sitting meditation), some much needed kinhin (walking meditation) as the old legs were a bit too stiff for the full lotus and even a bit of tai-chi (which I’m unused to as part of my practice but can certainly see the benefits of)

It’s a practice worth considering if you’re in a high-stress position (developers and systems people, I’m looking at you..) – even just sitting quietly, counting the breath and letting whatever thoughts come and go is a good start – and not complicated; you “just sit”. Sit often enough and the rest takes care of itself. 🙂

My friends and colleagues are still a bit mystified by a “taught to walk by a bald nun” (the kinhin practice mentioned above) Facebook update but I’ll let them ponder a bit more 🙂

A Koan

A novice once came to a systems software roshi seeking wisdom:

“I am troubled. My project has become large and I am having trouble reproducing the environment across test servers. I have all my sources and I’ve installed them from source in the ways our forefathers have, but some behave in strange ways and clash with other software at odd times. What can I do?”

The older  asked “Find your dependencies and bring them here.”

The novice searched for days amongst his tarballs and local installations, but could only come back with sources, some parchments containing approximate versions, notes and some ldd output.

The master took the notes and the sources, put them in a box, and put the box on the novice’s head.

“In future use these, perhaps build your own – it is not hard. They will manage your installed software better and ease your suffering if you use them wisely and diligently.”

On hearing this the novice was struck with awe.

I’m getting fitter!

As most folks who know me personally know, I’m not exactly a little guy. Not huge (175cm / 95kg or 5’9″ and 205lb in the old money) but not a lightweight either. I used to be even bigger in times past – 110kg at one stage a few years ago. There’s some gallery photos to prove it too, alas.

The ironic thing is that I was a weightlifter as a youngster so should know better. But things are on the up – my darling better half has been feeding me – literally and figuratively – some good advice and ideas for better health. I’ve been mainly-vegetarian for around a year now and have been recently cutting out/down the coffee, junk and even wheat / gluten products.

Of course exercise is also essential – so I’ve been walking to and from work each day for around 3 weeks now and intend to keep going. Not only am I losing the excess weight but it’s cheaper and believe it or not quicker than driving / taking public transport (which is well patronised but slow due to the number of transfers needed to get to work). I start yoga next week and will be going back to the weights soon, even just for nostalgia.

I don’t often plug product either, but I’ve been introduced by my girlfriend to some top notch gluten-free and organic bread from Zehnder out at Maleny. A good mix of various seeds, pumpkin, fennel, cardamon seeds, a touch of cumin among other things – all natural. If you happen to run across it give it a go, it’s a nice change from the overly processed crap from your local supermarket.

Some things have amused me this week. There’s some discussion as to whether then @ohhdl account on Twitter is indeed the official Dalai Lama; I did actually follow him for a very short time but found the update frequency a little overwhelming. As it turns out, the account was suspended at least temporarily for “impersonation” (a no-no for Twitter) but was operational when I last looked

Does it strike anyone as seemingly appropriate that it may/may not be real? How zen. Speaking of which, if you’re Zen and a twitterer, have a look at some of the Zen-related twitterers like @zenhabits or @dailyzen. Other suggestions for people worth following welcomed of course.

Enlightened kids and new toys and spring cleaning..

Posted to the U-Zendo mailing list:

“What A Stupid World”

…even comic characters understand the concept of impermanence 🙂

Me:

I’ve been doing some server infrastructure and web R&D lately; I am a fairly recent convert to the benefits of PowerDNS, especially the recursor, which I’ve now installed on qbert in place of BIND (there’s nothing wrong with BIND per se, each to their own. I just happen to like this app).

I’m also VERY impressed by the Zabbix monitoring system – all the cool things about nagios, with much less hassle, niftier and to-the-point notifications (inbuilt Jabber notifications for a start) and much less noise. I’d recommend systems admins have a good look at it if they haven’t already.

I’ve also been looking into WordPress plugins, and have packaged the OpenID plugin as a starter. I may publish more should the desire to do so take hold 🙂

I am also in a business frame of mind, which is partly driving the above. If you like the idea of integrated messaging systems using open protocols (ie XMPP) then you may be interested in a project I’m thinking up. Watch this space.

Other Minor Bits:

  • Fedora 9 in 2 weeks. I will likely again package stuff for it, but as the distro gets larger there’s less for me to package that isn’t in the main repositories.
  • I’ve also removed all pre Fedora 7 repository data, as it’s a) obsolete and thus b) potentially buggy and insecure. If you haven’t upgraded to at least Fedora 8 yet, do so.
  • Oh, and by the way, if you like my packages and are feeling philanthropic, you can keep me in coffee and hard disk space by donating via PayPal – see my Packages page.
  • I’ve also been tinkering with the blog itself; if you have an OpenID credential you can now login and make comments here using it, no need to explicitly register.
  • I’ve given in to the twitterati – if you want to follow me, I’m thatfleminggent. You can probably see my tweets elsewhere on this page courtesy of Twitter Tools.

A story saved for posterity.

The redesign of the site is progressing well and I would expect it to be essentially complete by the weekend at the latest. I’ve had to make some calls regarding stuff that should stay and go – among the casualties is my old Journal, which will remain but have no links from the main page (as I’ve not used it in months perferring this, however Google still has it ranked highly.

Another is my Zen page, for two reasons. Only the original story made any real sense and I don’t feel the need to jam it (my Zen or Buddhism) down folks’ throats. That’s what this blog is for 😉

However for historical / preservation purposes, here’s the orignal story – yours truly’s first step along the Way, helped by an old friend.

A Light In The Dark
Sozan, a Chinese Zen master, was asked by a student: “What is the most valuable thing in the world?”
The master replied: “The head of a dead cat.”
“Why is the head of a dead cat the most valuable thing in the world?” inquired the student.
Sozan replied: “Because no one can name its price.”

I had, for many years, been a very regular patron at a local pub/club on the inner west side of Brisbane; it had been mentioned to me by a friend at the time, who had gone to work there. As many of my then friends had chosen to drink, socialise and even work there, I too had become a regular patron.
However as time passed, many of these people had moved away. Some had found a great career path; others travel, some study.
Others had become disillusioned however, for many reasons. Many who had come after my friends brought their own foibles – and this served to make matters worse for those remaining. Many more moved on not strictly by choice but circumstance. As I’d developed what I had felt at the time to be strong friendships with many of those coming later, I did not leave. Did I suffer too? Oh yes! I had been given the inevitable undesired, unwanted and inaccurate label of “regular”, a “part of the furniture”
This term “regular” became a millstone around my neck, heavier as time progressed.This went on until recently – myself and one of the original patrons left wondering what had happened to it all. We were treated with “respect” but merely on a superficial level. Truth was hidden behind layers of delusion and faked camaraderie. The local suffering index skyrocketed.
However a most unexpected thing happened. I visited one evening to find an old friend, a young lady who had left for the country many months before. She was visiting for only a fortnight – a working holiday – and had wanted to catch up with a few friends, only to find few still there.
Did this dampen my friend’s spirit? No. She was and remained happy – spending time with myself and our other remaining “originals” for no other reason than our company and friendship. Demands from others – others working there, management and so forth – were of secondary importance.
Saturday would be the last night she was in Brisbane. I’d actually expected her to leave before then, being a fair drive back home. So it was an unexpected pleasure to see her that evening.
Again, we’d chatted, shared some stories and anecdotes between periods of “work” for her (which were punctuated by her checking if I was OK)
As the evening progressed I noticed my friends manner in comparison to many others around her – it was like day and night – only the others were still asleep, not wanting to wake and see the light she brought them.
Many of the other staff and patrons would only grace you for their own reasons – their own desire. Whether to feed their ego, monetary gain or cause offence to disliked colleagues and patrons, a whole rash of lies would be fed to the masses. You’d be called a wonderful fellow by someone who would compare you to the Devil in private – and quite loudly and proudly too so the lie would spread like virus. Compare this to my friend – very quiet, never a harsh word about anyone even those we knew she didn’t think of as a friend. Never expecting nor asking for anything, merely good company which she gave in return to those who stayed with her. She respected in kind those who respected her. Her only worry was that she was leaving soon and would miss her friends up here. I too had the same concerns – I would miss her greatly and possibly not see her again.
In the small hours of Sunday morning we sat down and had a last brief chat – I had need to leave as it was quite late and I was pretty tired; she wouldn’t have been far behind. When it came time to say goodnight, I could not quite find the right words to use. A beautiful young lady, in both heart and appearance, was leaving. What do I say?Then the most extraordinary thing happened. I didn’t say anything, nor did she. I looked at this lovely young face and saw contentment and happiness. No sadness, suffering even though she was travelling far the next day. The hug that followed could have lasted a millenia; it had a feeling of warmth and compassion like no other.
We looked at each other again – I remember saying that while I would be leaving, I would not be leaving alone. A smile crossed her face – she instinctively knew what I had truly meant. I told her to take care and said we’d meet again – which brought a smile to her face too – shook the hands of a couple of others I had known there and took one last look around before leaving.

At that very moment the millstone that had I had carried was gone; the innuendo I had been subjected to over many years no longer troubled me. If the staff wished to treat me as unimportant or irrelevant, it made no difference. I felt no ill will to the rumor-mongers, the covetous hangers-on or the blase “snobs”.
I then left with no desire to return.
Indeed I didn’t leave alone that morning. She’ll always be with me, her gift more valuable than anything I could ever buy.
What was that gift? If you know, you’ll have also met my friend and know her well, as she will have shared her treasures with you too – and would want you to share these with others on your path!

For those that have known me for some years – you’ll know the setting, or even the young lady who gave me that first much appreciated push. I hope you’ve been as good to her as she has been to you!