Son of Devil's Advocate, February 2003

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Son of Devil's Advocate

Stan Kelly-Bootle


Picture of Stan Kelly-Bootle

On The Way Back

Rushing as ever, in vain, to catch up on lost columns, I'm reminded of Louis McNiece's chilling "O let not Time deceive you; you cannot conquer Time." I was there at the Picton Library, Liverpool, way back beyond when, to hear this live from Big Louis himself. As a snotty-nosed Scouser, yearning for the post-neo- avant-garde (whatever), I soaked up all the poetic clues, never thinking that some sixty years later the lines would come back to haunt me. Together with D. H. Lawrence's "Have you built your ship of Death?"

Yes, it's time for me to play the NDE (Near Death Experience) Card, surely the least refutable excuse for DOC (Delay of Column).

It transpired (damn near expired) thus: midnight Christmas Day found me gasping for breath but lucky enough to be able to crawl to a nearby red-alert button. There's one such in each room of my Valley Orchards Active Retirement Home, if you'll pardon the quasi-oxymoron. Quick as a JIT (Just in Time) Java compiler, the Petaluma Life-Support crew rushed to me to the Intensive Care Cardiac ward. The next 8 days are still rather fuzzy, apart from the bleeps of the on-line devices monitoring my hopefully-vital signs. And endless Florence Nightingales waking me up for my sleeping pills and diverse medications.

My feverish background musing was that to die over the holidays would be most inconsiderate to my family and/or loved ones. And neither did I want to please my sole enemy (name witheld pro- tem).

Anyroad, Drs Jewel and Gaston (whom may the Gods preserve), straight out of a Flaubert novel, restored my wellness, as they say. Well, as well as possible considering my long, wicked lifestyles. "If you don't give up the nicotine and booze," warned Dr Gaston, "I'll kill you myself!"

Sex was not mentioned, so I thought "two-out-of-three vices ain't that cruel to eschew?"

I've since found that Ste Pauli's non-alcoholic beer provides a healthy buzz in moderation, and the occasional nip of Skoal lets me chew un peu while es-chewing the deep-satisfying, sorely- missed smoke. The Skoal tin, remarkably ad-wise, says "Now! 20% MORE tobacco!" More than what, we ask? More than's good for your tender gums? But hard to resist the clever claim: "Always there in a pinch!"

One cynical epistemologist told me she preferred me smoking to chewing. Sez she, "I can see your teeth but I can't see your lungs."

Then, again, as O. Wilde (or was it W. C. Fields?), once said "Clean living doesn't make you live longer; it only seems longer."

Still, subject to the caveats, Gaston gives me another ten years, surely time enough to pay his bills (quite modest, in fact, considering the fiscal miracle of Medicare).

Patristic Promises

Based on this prognostication I have ordered the wondrous ACCS ("Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture," Ed. Thomas C. Oden & Christopher A. Hall, InterVarsity Press, 1998.)

It comes in 28 volumes, one to be delivered every 3 or 4 months, a tour-de-force covering all the Church Fathers' commentaries on both the Hebrew and Christian Testaments plus all known Apocryphoi (Apocryphae? Sod them: Apochryphas?).

The sources run historically from Clement of Rome (fl. c. 80 CE) to John of Damascus (c. 645-749 CE) via my favorites: Origen of Alexandria (fl. c. 200-254 CE) and Augustine of Hippo (fl. 387- 430 CE). Much of the text appears in modern English translations for the first time.

I've just received the first issued volume devoted to Mark's Gospel. Note: they are not coming out in any "strict biblical" order. I'm overwhelmed and hope to outlive the complete canon.

The editors admit that the ACCS project would have been impossible without advanced multi-lingual databases and cunning search algorithms. BUT, have I, the dreaded doryphore, hit on a typo? The Appendix (page 257) discussing the overall methodology says:

"By using Boulean [sic] word search techniques we searched for Greek and Latin words in all the ancient Christian writers..."

A footnote explains "Boulean" as

"Specifying this and/or that selection of words, but excluding others."

Hope I'm wrong, but if George Boole were [subjunctive] dead, he'ld be tossing in his grave?

Have I overlooked some recent usage that validates "Boulean?"

Could it be a new Carollian portmanteau based, fat chance, on Boule de Soif?

The Gospels are nonetheless inerrant, n'est-ce-pas?

By the way, Augustine is brilliant discussing Mark 16:19-20:

"So then the Lord Jesus, after he had spoken to them, was taken up to heaven, and sat down at the right hand of God."

Well, deep debates persist by Irenaeus et al whether this "long" version of Mark is valid (the earliest texts end at 16:9-13), but Augustine is anxious to clarify whether "right hand" is to be taken literally? If so, then the Father would seem to sit at Jesus' left hand!

Discuss.

Books Go-Leor

But enough of my self-inflicted maladies.

How are youse all, my dear, patient fans?

A special thanks to El Don Winterhalter and his Sarcheck crew.

Picture of Shannan and Stan Having fitfully survived congestive attacks, I'm back Waiting for God, under the loving care of nurses from St Joseph, and soothing visitations from Shannan Hobbs (seen here beating me at SETS, a fiendish card game with Goedellian overtones), Mark Compton, Prof. Andrew Goodwin, Maria (pant, pant) & Andrew Hibben, and beyond all, my French-Polish Iwonka (here jpegged with moi, at the Panama Hotel. I'm the one doing the Hemingway thingy).

Picture of Iwonka Picture of Stan Hemingway

All set to do some Jolt Judging. This is my 13th year as a Joltish discriminator. New readers may need to know that Larry O'Brien launched a sort-of Academy Awards for computing achievements back in 1990, a joint effort, with the usual, ever- expanding Oscar-type categories, by Software Development Magazine and the Jolt Cola company (the preferred hi-caffeine drink that keeps programmers Agile and Extreme).

Only joking: a proposed prize for the best Test-based Enterprise Architecture by a female Albanian unijamb.

I can't yet divulge the final qualifiers. We've reduced some 3000 IT books published in 2002 to 12 fighting for gold/silver/bronze in each of the Technical and General categories.

Not easy since we personally know most of the authors.

Next month: if such there be -- What was the speed of light during the first second of the Universe?


Stan's bio:

Liverpool-born Stan Kelly-Bootle has been exposed to computing, on and off and vice-versa, since 1953 when, after graduating in Pure Mathematics at Cambridge University, he switched to impure post-grad work on the wondrous EDSAC I. After some trenching with IBM and Univac in the 1960s and 70s, Stan opted for self-employment as a consultant, writer, folk-song revivalist, after-dinner entertainer, and cunning linguist.

His monthly DA ("Devil's Advocate") column ran and ran in UNIX Review (aka Performance Computing) from 1984 until January 2000 (a date that will live in infamy) but lives on as SODA ("Son of DA") via www.sarcheck.com the homepage devoted to UNIX performance.

The latest of his umpteen books are "The Computer Contradictionary" (MIT Press) and "UNIX Complete" (Sybex). More on his biblio- and disco-graphy can be found on http://www.feniks.com/skb/ soon due for its millennial update.

Stan welcomes reader reaction: skb@atdial.net

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Portions © copyright Stan Kelly-Bootle 2002.
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This column is sponsored by Aptitune Corporation, makers of SarCheck. The opinions of Stan Kelly-Bootle are his own and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of Aptitune Corporation. Other products and companies referred to herein are trademarks or registered trademarks of their respective companies or mark holders.