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J. Daniel Ashton

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Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with all your might, —Ecclesiastes 9:10a NIV
The LORD God has told us what is right and what he demands:
"See that justice is done,
let mercy be your first concern,
and humbly obey your God." —Micah 6:8, CEV
With all your heart you must trust the LORD and not your own judgment.
Always let Him lead you, and He will clear the road for you to follow. —Proverbs 3:5,6 CEV

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Name: Daniel Ashton
Location: Germantown, Maryland, United States

Any links with a dashed underscore probably point to Amazon.com

Sunday, October 29, 2006

Credit-Card Giving

As I was listening to a sermon recently, I realized that credit cards have impacted our ability to understand sacrificial giving.

For sacrificial giving, the general thought pattern is: "I was saving up money to buy X, but I now choose to forgo the pleasures and advantages of owning X, and to give that money instead to God."

But in this age of consumer debt, odds are good that we were not saving money, and probably not even calculating the exact monthly cost of purchasing X on credit. Most foolish consumers were instead (at best) making a rough estimate of the monthly pain incurred by adding the cost to our current debt load, or (at worst) just looking for a credit card with that much room left.

I could suddenly see how God gets edged out. I was never in a mode of saving up for the purchase, so there is no fixed amount of money saved and ready to give. Instead, the best I could do is to estimate how much more I would have paid the credit card company every month, and promise to give that amount to God instead, on a monthly basis. Sound likely to happen?

Friday, October 27, 2006

Seven Blunders

I think I've blogged about this before, but I can't find it, and it's worth reminding ourselves of this list.
Seven blunders of the world that lead to violence:
  1. wealth without work,
  2. pleasure without conscience,
  3. knowledge without character,
  4. commerce without morality,
  5. science without humanity,
  6. worship without sacrifice,
  7. politics without principle.
-Mahatma Gandhi (1869-1948)
Anu Garg writes the A Word A Day mailing list. I read it for his commentary on words, but also for the excellent quotes included in each mailing. This quote was associated with the word pertinacious and came out last Tuesday.

If you're not already receiving A Word A Day, let me know and I'll be glad to give you a gift subscription.

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Universal Upgrade

Here's a strange idea to play with. Suppose that God were to upgrade the universe with greater detail at some point:

New! Universe 3.7
Now with Super Strings!

Would there be any way for us to notice?

A Bird in the Hand

I was touched by this short story to which V i c k i directed me. Thanks, sweetheart!

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

I Am the Pearl of Great Value

“Again, the Kingdom of Heaven is like a merchant on the lookout for choice pearls. When he discovered a pearl of great value, he sold everything he owned and bought it!
Matthew 13:45-46
This is a thought that struck me this morning. I'm accustomed to thinking of the pearl representing heaven, a reward so valuable that I would willingly forsake any- and everything if I could thereby obtain it.

But this parable works the other way too. God, the all-powerful creator, sees me as being so valuable that He made the ultimate exchange in order to obtain my friendship.

I am that valuable pearl. And so are you.

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

What I've Learned

I had reason to think today about how I have benefited from being on my present project. There are a lot of things I've learned and gained experience with. I hope to revise this list as I think of new things.

  1. I see myself as a developer again.

    My stint on the previous project was focused on administering and configuring ClearQuest, although I accomplished little enough of that. I helped several members of the team install the Rational tool suite, and then I spent quite a while working with spreadsheets and databases of résumés. I managed to create a handful of tools using Perl and other less savory technologies, but it was clear that I was not "a developer."

    On CADE, the project that moved me to this part of America, I was in a development position, but accomplished precious little of it. Most of what I can say I did there was learning about the new environment and helping our team get acquainted with it. It was my first experience with a mainframe, with ClearCase and ClearQuest, and with Rational SoDA.

    On this project I have clearly been a Java developer. I've done some serious testing and debugging, developed a portlet and associated servlet, and refactored some code to take advantage of Java's inherent polymorphism. I can be quite confident that I have recently been a developer.

  2. I've used several technologies that I like a lot. I've gotten my hands back into Java, learned Struts, learned portal development concepts and terminology, and become very familiar with Rational Application Developer and the Eclipse 3 way of doing things. I've applied my knowledge of Rational ClearCase and Rational ClearQuest, used VNC and Microsoft's Remote Desktop Client, and gained experience arguing with a Cisco VPN. I spent some time trying to fit Maven 2 into our build cycle (prematurely), and I have a much better idea now of what WebSphere Portal, WebSphere Application Server and Tomcat do, and what servlets, JSPs and portlets are all about.

  3. I've gained some experience with my own lack of ability to start things, and I've had some periods of very good focus and productivity. I realized recently that if I were to find myself mentoring someone new to a given project, I should help them to make a list of the project-related tasks. (In this project, that would be things like creating a design for a DR fix or CR implementation, actually coding the DR or CR, writing unit tests, and so forth.) Then I would make explicit offers to sit with that new programmer as they began each one of those tasks, at least twice. I'm not sure they would need help completing the task, but having someone to help me start each new and unfamiliar task would have been a huge help to me.

  4. I had the opportunity to eat into my utilization backlog. Not enough to meet the company's goals for me, I fear, but my numbers should look better than they did before May.

  5. I know more about the Washington-area public transit system. I've bought monthly passes that get me onto MARC, Metro and other local bus services, and I've corresponded with one of the developers working on the WMATA web-site trip planner. And I've practiced, almost twice daily, commuting while carrying my laptop in such a way that it doesn't get closed. Until just now my laptop has been configured to go into stand-by mode when the lid gets closed. When this happens while I'm dialed in through my Treo using Bluetooth, the machine will be unusable when it wakes up. So I've been seen walking through MARC and Metro stations and riding on the Red Line with my laptop propped against my chest in an effort to make sure the lid doesn't close.

  6. I've switched our family mobile phone service to Verizon. And I have a Treo 700p. Riding on public transit every day has been a strong incentive to get connected while on the move, and (unfortunately, in my opinion) Sprint/Nextel did not have coverage in the Metro tunnels. I can't say I'm happier with Verizon than with Sprint: I'm more certain than before that they're a big company with their own best interests at heart, not mine. And the improving coverage I wrote about earlier has vanished for this week. Now that I think about it, if I were to find myself commuting from Germantown to Columbia more frequently than to Alexandria, I would have to think about switching back to Sprint, because Verizon's coverage along that route seems to be spotty at best.

Monday, October 16, 2006

Dissent is…

Dissent is what rescues democracy from a quiet death behind closed doors.

-Lewis H. Lapham, editor (1935- )

Seen in Anu Garg's A Word A Day mailing for today.

Thursday, October 12, 2006


I recently came across a series of talks that I want to recommend to you. TED is a yearly conference focused on Technology, Entertainment and Design. Attendance is limited, but the speeches have been filmed and are now being released a few at a time.

Most of these speakers are absolute dynamite. For starters, I recommend Majora Carter, who is leading a grassroots effort to revitalize the South Bronx: revitalize is too tame a term for her presentation.

I've already seen the speeches by Malcom Gladwell, Dan Gilbert, David Deutsch, Eve Ensler, Helen Fisher, Mena Trott, Sir Ken Robinson, David Pogue and Hans Rosling. Many of these people speak from a non-Christian perspective, but the facts and figures they present are very motivational. Highly recommended.

These talks are limited to about 20 minutes each. They are available from http://ted.com/tedtalks/. You can watch or listen to them right in your web brower, or as a podcast in iTunes or on other portable video or audio podcast players.

I suggest that you start with the speech by Majora Carter. It's very definitely worth 20 minutes of your attention.

Friday, October 06, 2006

Some Things Do Get Better

Early in September I bought a Palm Treo 700p from Verizon Wireless to test as wireless (1x/EV-DO)/wireless (BlueTooth) modem with my laptop while commuting to work every day. Verizon Wireless gives 15 days to return all equipment for a full refund, so I planned to test for two weeks before making a decision. After the first day or two I had a pretty good picture of where along my commute I was likely to loose signal, and, although the coverage was not perfect, I concluded that it was enough better than with my Sprint PCS AirCard that I should switch.

Late last week I noticed that in the worst blackout area, between the Pentagon Station and National Aiport on the Metro Yellow line, I was now seeing a signal. Last night on my commute home I boarded the Yellow line train at Eisenhower Avenue and connected my laptop to Verizon's network. That signal stayed with me all the way to Rockville. There were some points where it was weak enough to severaly hamper network activity, but it did not disconnect.

At the end of my 15 day testing period I was dealing with a very heavy work-load, so letting my grace period run out was not only what I wanted to do, but also the path of least resistance. However, I did not take time to port our numbers from Sprint PCS until last Sunday evening. Of course, VZW refused to even try to work with Vicki's Sprint PCS phone, so we wound up paying net $30 for a Samsung model, the chief drawbacks being that it doesn't have a penguin or a cute little mouse, as did her older Sanyo MM-7400, and there's still too much red on the screen, thanks I assume to Verizon's customization. But, nonetheless, we are now customers of Verizon Wireless, and bid a fond farewell to Sprint PCS.

I did not want to switch: I have a fairly strong prejudice against Verizon's business policies, and I was quite happy with Sprint. However, the coverage along my commute, and in particular in the Metro tunnels, was a strong enough deciding factor.