July 19, 2014

Visitors

I get information concerning where visitors to my blog are located. Not surprisingly, more visitors are from the United States than from anywhere else. Because many of my posts involve Anglicanism, I might have expected that lots of visitors would be from Canada and the U.K. Not so.

Looking at visitors since my blog premiered in 2002, the top sources of traffic other than the U.S. have been China, Ukraine, Russia, U.K., France, Germany, Poland, Canada, and Sweden. It was 4½ years before I wrote a church-related post, so Anglicans may not have contributed significantly to the numbers in the early years. Visitors from China, Ukraine, and Russia were responsible for 30% as many page views as were U.S. visitors. Go figure. Corresponding numbers for the U.K. and Canada were 4.6% and 1.9%, respectively.

Considering visitors in only the last month, the top traffic sources have been the U.S., France, Ukraine, Taiwan, Russia, China, Turkey, Germany, U.K., and Poland. France contributed 29.7% as many page views as did U.S. visitors. Who knows what the French were interested in! I am disappointed that few members of the Church of England seem to be reading Lionel Deimel’s Web Log. The U.K. accounted for only 3.8% as many page views as did the U.S. My U.K. audience seems to be decreasing. Sigh! I don’t know anything about Canadian visitors, but they viewed fewer pages than did the Poles.

Of course, all these numbers must be taken with a grain of salt. No doubt, many find my blog without finding anything they were looking for. I have serious doubts that I have many fans in Ukraine.

July 18, 2014

Terrorism

Since September 11, 2001, any instance of violence we don’t like is called terrorism. This practice is manipulative, but it has become the 21st century’s propaganda weapon of choice. This unfortunate trend seems to have been started by the United States, but the technique has been adopted by friends and foes alike.

In Syria, for example, we viewed the insurgents, even when we didn’t like all of them, as revolutionaries or freedom-fighters. The Syrian government, however, repeated called the fighters terrorists. The U.S. government saw this charge as ridiculous, but it was merely reaping the rhetorical harvest of the propaganda seeds it had sown.

I write this now because some people in and out of government are calling the downing of a commercial airliner over Ukraine an act of terrorism. To begin with, the circumstances of the disaster are not yet clear, so the conclusion—any conclusion—is premature. More significantly, however, it is unlikely that anyone had a motive to bring down the plane. The most likely explanation is that Russians or pro-Russian rebels downed the aircraft with a Russian missile, having mistaken it for a Ukrainian military transport. That is, the incident is linkly collateral damage resulting from ongoing warfare.

“Terrorism” has become an epithet used without careful thinking and without integrity. It’s time to become more careful in our use of the term

July 14, 2014

Nuance Power PDF Advanced Bug Fixed

The bug I discovered after I installed Nuance Power PDF Advanced on my computer appears to have been fixed.  I reported in an earlier post that PDF files created by the new software often, though not always, put a watermark on pages indicated that the file was produced by a trial version of the program, even though the program was registered and activated.

I have been documenting my interaction with the technical support people at Nuance in my original post. Readers of that post who have not been reading my updates but who are interested in my experience may want to return to that post and read about my experience.

I am inclined to believe that Power PDF Advanced is an excellent program for creating and manipulating PDF files, but I have not systematically examined all its features. Certainly, the software embodies some design decisions different from those I would have made. In any case, Nuance offers a free trial, as well as a money-back guarantee.

July 13, 2014

The South Carolina Amnesia

A severe outbreak of amnesia has struck the southeastern portion of South Carolina. Epidemiologists have observed that the disorder seems to have affected only former Episcopalians who followed deposed bishop Mark Lawrence out of The Episcopal Church. Continuing Episcopalians are apparently unaffected, and it is unclear whether all erstwhile Episcopalians are vulnerable to the spreading epidemic. The rate of affliction among diocesan and parish leaders, however, is virtually 100 percent.

Evidence of the epidemic is found exclusively in the town of St. George, South Carolina. In particular, the outbreak is observable in the Dorchester County Courthouse, specifically, in the courtroom in which Judge Diane S. Goodstein is presiding over the trial brought against South Carolina Episcopalians by the aforementioned deposed bishop and the congregations that departed The Episcopal Church with him.

Observers have noted that witnesses called by the plaintiffs—clergy and lay leaders of congregations claiming to have left The Episcopal Church and taken real and personal parish property with them—have apparently forgotten that their parishes were once part of the general church and not simply a part of the Episcopal Diocese of South Carolina. Various witnesses, for example, have claimed that “Episcopal” in parish names and on identifying signs did not refer to The Episcopal Church, but only to the fact that their parishes were under the supervision of a bishop. Moreover, these witnesses have forgotten that, in the very recent past and for some time previous, they had exhibited extreme and righteous hostility toward The Episcopal Church because they believed that the church had departed from biblical truth, of which they were in exclusive possession.

The South Carolina amnesia presents with concomitant paranoia. Victims of the affliction have testified that they engaged in various legal maneuvers to “protect” their parishes from the depredations of The Episcopal Church, yet they offer no justification for their fear other than what they view as the undeserved persecution of the former Bishop of South Carolina.

Although there is some disagreement regarding the etiology of the South Carolina epidemic, the consensus epidemiological opinion is that the observed aberrant behavior is the result of the realization that acknowledging that the dispute between Episcopalians and former Episcopalians is theological in nature will result in the civil courts recusing themselves from jurisdiction and deferring to the leadership of The Episcopal Church to resolve the property issues. Thus, the afflicted victims have been driven to the delusional notion that what is at issue is purely a matter of secular property law.

There is some question as to whether Judge Goodstein is also a victim of the epidemic, as she has seemingly forgotten that there might be a more obvious reason for the behavior of the witnesses and that that reason might involve considerations of theology. Perhaps she has only forgotten that judges are supposed to be impartial.

Epidemiologists are hopeful that the South Carolina epidemic will be contained when the defense is allowed to present its case in Judge Goodstein’s courtroom. Not all the observers of the epidemic are so sanguine as to the ultimate outcome, however.

July 7, 2014

Quinn Out as Canon, In as Interim Cathedral Dean

I was surprised to see this listing in the new directory from the Episcopal Diocese of Pittsburgh:


Apparently, as of July 1, 2014, the Rev. Canon Scott Quinn is no longer Canon to the Ordinary, and the Rev. Tim Hushion, Jr., is no longer Priest-in-Charge at Trinity Cathedral. Quinn, in addition to his long-time position as Rector at Church of the Nativity in Crafton, Pennsylvania, is now Interim Dean of Pittsburgh’s Trinity Cathedral.

To date, there appears to have been no notification by the diocese of this personnel change, not even to Pittsburgh clergy. Yesterday, the cathedral posted a welcome note on its Facebook page, but, as of today, there is no mention of Quinn on the cathedral’s Web site, and Hushion is still listed as Priest-in-Charge.

The health of Trinity Cathedral has been of grave concern to the people of the diocese, particularly in light of the cathedral’s near loss to the schismatic Anglican Diocese of Pittsburgh. Why is this change seemingly being made under the radar? Personnel changes, particularly one so important, deserve to put publicized. Alas, communication from the diocese continues to be desultory.

The Quinn appointment is particularly interesting from a number of points of view. There has been much dissatisfaction with the fact that the Pittsburgh diocese, which is facing financial difficulties, has been supporting three canons. There has also been dissatisfaction among progressives that all three canons are conservative. Quinn’s performance as Canon to the Ordinary has not always been considered stellar. The move to the cathedral looks like an acknowledgement of the fact. Quinn has spent virtually his entire career in Crafton, something of a suburban backwater. He is hardly an obvious pick for a struggling urban parish.

Bob Duncan had installed the Rev. Cathy Brall at Trinity, probably because he thought she could be coerced into following his lead. He gave her the title of Provost, however, rather than the more conventional title of Dean, a move widely considered a slight. Even after Duncan’s departure, the succession of bishops in Pittsburgh failed to undo the slight. And, particularly after the cathedral dumped its untenable two-diocese experiment, it was assumed that Trinity could not support a dean with a track record suggesting that he or she could make Trinity a going concern. Does the fact that Trinity now has an interim dean mean that it will be looking for a permanent dean, or is the change just about finding a place for Quinn?

Brall, of course, was removed from the cathedral to become Canon Missioner for the diocese. Will she also take on some of the duties of which Scott Quinn has now been relieved?

Stay tuned.


July 4, 2014

Pittsburgh Bishop OKs Priests Officiating at Same-Sex Marriages

Rings on rainbow background
After some delay—see “Bishop Answers Questions, Explains Same-Sex Marriage Delay”—Dorsey McConnell, bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Pittsburgh, wrote a letter yesterday, July 3, 2014, explaining that priests in the diocese may now officiate at same-sex weddings. His earlier permission to use the Provisional Rite for the Blessing of a Lifelong Covenant authorized by the 2012 General Convention via Resolution A049 has been modified in light of the legalization of same-sex marriage in Pennsylvania resulting from a recent court decision. (The bishop’s revised guidelines are here.)

What held up Bishop McConnell’s pronouncement about same-sex marriage was his concerns—or his chancellor’s concerns—about the legality and canonicality of allowing Pittsburgh priests to marry same-sex couples in church. I didn’t quite understand what the problem or problems were when Andy Roman, the diocesan chancellor, explained the delay at the June meeting of Progressive Episcopalians of Pittsburgh. Everything became clear, however, in the letter from the chancellor that the bishop released along with his letter and guidelines.

The chancellor offered the bishop answers to three questions (quoting from the aforementioned letter):
  1. What is the source of the civil law authority granted to priests of the Diocese to solemnize a marriage for civil law purposes, and does that source require the marriage to be solemnized using the rite of Holy Matrimony contained in the Book of Common Prayer?
  2. Would the use of the Provisional Rite, “I Will Bless You and You Will Be a Blessing,” without modification, in conjunction with execution of the civil law marriage certificate by the priest, serve to solemnize the marriage of a same-sex couple for civil law purposes in Pennsylvania?
  3. If you as Bishop Diocesan authorize priests of the Diocese to use their civil law authority to solemnize same-sex marriages for civil law purposes using the Provisional Rite, are you upholding the Doctrine, Discipline, and Worship of the Episcopal Church?
Notice that answers to these questions turn both on canon law and civil law in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. The answers, then, cannot be universal for Episcopal Church dioceses. Nonetheless, I do think Andy Roman’s analysis is of general interest.

As it happens, Pennsylvania law provides two descriptions of who can perform a marriage and does not specify the exact form of the ceremony. A “general rule” allows “a minister, priest or rabbi of a regularly established church or congregation” to do the job. (What about imams? Who knows.) A separate provision provides that
Every religious society, religious institution or religious organization in this Commonwealth may join persons together in marriage when at least one of the persons is a member of the society, institution or organization, according to the rules and customs of the society, institution or organization.
Perhaps this second provision exists to make it easier from a religious institution to refuse to perform a marriage. If it were the only source of authority for performing a civil same-sex marriage, it would be problematic for Episcopalians, as both the prayer book and Canon I.18 “define Holy Matrimony as between ‘a man and a woman.’” Given the general rule, however, we can forget about this latter provision. An Episcopal priest can perform a same-sex marriage, but it cannot be Holy Matrimony as The Episcopal Church now defines it.

The chancellor’s answer to the second question is lengthy—Andy Roman is very thorough—but he concludes that the use of the provisional rite, without modification, and a marriage license are  pretty much all a priest needs to satisfy both canon and civil law with respect to a (civil) same-sex marriage.

The third question is really whether Bishop McConnell will get into trouble with the church for allowing same-sex marriages to be performed in Pittsburgh churches. This seems a reasonable concern. Resolution A049 clearly anticipated the use of the provisional rite in states where same-sex marriage is legal, and the chancellor concludes, without too much trouble, that the bishop will be on solid ground if he approves same-sex weddings in Episcopal churches.

So, based on the advice of his chancellor, Bishop McConnell will allow diocesan priests to use the provisional rite. The couple, however, must have earlier been married in a civil ceremony or must have a valid marriage license. The provisional rite must be used without modification, except as provided in it own rubrics.

A ceremony following the guidelines provided by Bishop McConnell, then, will certainly effect the marriage of two women or two men. The Commonwealth of Pennsylvania and the United States government will consider them married. (Louisiana and some other states, not so much.) Technically, the church will not consider the couple married in the traditional sense. In practice, I doubt this will make much difference. The couple is blessed in the provisional rite, and that’s about the only benefit of substance a heterosexual couple gets out of a church wedding anyway.

The same-sex couple will not be pronounced—what should they be pronounced, anyway?—husband and wife or married or whatever. But the Pronouncement from the provisional rite should seem just fine:
Inasmuch as N. and N. have exchanged vows of love and fidelity in the presence of God and the Church, I now pronounce that they are bound to one another in a holy covenant,
as long as they both shall live. Amen.

July 3, 2014

Nuance Screws Up Big Time

I have been using PDF Converter Professional 8 from Nuance Communications, Inc., to create and modify PDF files. Functionally, the program is nearly equivalent to Adobe Acrobat, and the price was considerably more attractive. Recently, Nuance began advertising their latest PDF product, Power PDF Advanced, claiming that it is a significant advance over the earlier product. In large measure, PDF Converter Professional 8 was meeting my needs, but the new product did offer some capabilities that seemed like they might occasionally be useful. With some reservations, I decided to order the new software.

Power PDF Advanced retail package
I chose to receive the software on CD, and I was pleased that it arrived quickly via UPS. When I installed the software, I was asked if I wanted to remove PDF Converter Professional 8. With at least a touch of anxiety, I answered that I did. The installation did not go smoothly, and I found my myself having to kill certain running processes manually to complete the process successfully. (Installation was not for the computer novice. Maybe that’s why “Advanced” is part of the program’s name.)

In due time, the program was installed and, seemingly, registered and activated. It appeared to be working fine, though I was having trouble locating functions I regularly used in PDF Converter Professional 8. Then I used Power PDF Advanced to change document properties of a PDF file produced by Word 2010. I was shocked to discover that the file now contained a watermark indicating that it had been produced by a trial version of the software. My immediate thought was that activation had not been done properly, but the About window showed my name and product serial number. I quickly realized that I did not know what the problem was. Moreover, the time was about 7:45 PM, and Nuance technical support closed up shop at 8:00 PM.

I made a telephone call to Nuance in the hope of solving my problem before the Fourth of July holiday and weekend. Thinking that my problem was an activation problem, I pressed the appropriate buttons on my telephone to indicate that to the phone system. Instead of technical support, I reached customer support. That office was closed, but I did get to talk to a real person. I described my problem and was told that it was a known problem. The real person suggested I call the technical support number—that was the actual number I did call—and explained that I should press “1,” rather than “2” at the initial prompt. I did that, and in fact reached someone in technical support.

The technical support person—for convenience, I’ll call him Bob—was also aware of the problem. He first checked registration and activation. Apparently, the product was not properly registered or activated, but Bob was able to fix this once I gave him the product’s serial number. This did not fix my problem, however. We proceeded to apply a workaround intended to fix the problem. It didn’t work.  Forty-five minutes later, having used the Windows Task Manager a couple of times  and rebooted the computer, the problem remained.

I suggested that a product should never have been let out the door with a problem like the one I was encountering; Power PDF Advanced is unusable. I asked, “Do you test your software? Does technical support have to deal with this problem with every user?” Bob assured that not everyone had the problem and that the software people were working on a fix. Apparently, however, Nuance has no idea what is causing the problem. I was asked to download the Microsoft Process Monitor and upload a log file to Nuance. I countered that I should be paid for debugging their software.

Stay tuned. I’ll report how this turns out. Meanwhile, if you’re considering buying Power PDF Advanced, I’d hold off for now.

Update, 7/4/2014, 9:10 AM. After I wrote the above, I thought that perhaps the problem had gone away. Unfortunately, that was not the case. The offending watermark appears in some circumstances but not in others. I have not figured out which is which.

Update, 7/4/2014, 11:45 AM. I downloaded Process Monitor and started it, reproduced the problem, stopped the Process Monitor, saved the log file, compressed the log file, renamed it, uploaded it to an ftp site, and sent e-mail to Nuance. We’ll see what happens next. This isn’t exactly how I meant to spend Independence Day.

Update, 7/4/2014, 12:37 PM. I received a request from Nuance a little while ago for information about my system from the System Information application. That has now been sent. Back to waiting for a fix. Actually, I have to be impressed that someone is working on my problem on July 4.

Update, 7/7/2014, 12:51 PM. Nuance sent e-mail saying they are still working on the problem and asking if I had any more information. I tried creating PDF files various ways with the software and did not see the offending watermark. I wrote back
I now seem unable to reproduce the problem. I tried creating PDF files from various sources. In particular, using the Nuance Create PDF Word Addin does not yield a document with the offending watermark. I am reluctant to conclude that the problem has gone away. What has changed? Any ideas?
Update, 7/8/2014, 2:26 PM. I received another message like the last one: “We are continuing to work on your issue. If you have more information, update your question here:” (This whole sentence was a link.) Nuance also sent a Word file explaining how to remove a Trial watermark. This document ended with this depressing piece of information: “Unfortunately, this is a page by page process, so to clean up a large document you have to do this on every page to clean up an entire document.” Happily, I have not created any long documents with the offending watermark.

Update, 7/11/2014, 4:00 PM. I haven’t heard anything more from Nuance. After I rebooted my computer today, however, I saw a window requesting that I register the software. When I logged into the Nuance site, I found that it already listed my software as registered. (Note that I redacted the serial numbers in the image using a feature of Power PDF Advanced.) Anyway, I reported the anomaly to Nuance.

Update, 7/14/2014, 9:18 AM. Although I thought that the watermark problem might have gone away, it showed up on a page printed from Chrome this morning. I created a PDF file using the Print This button at the bottom of this page. (You can see the resulting file here.) I wrote Nuance about this. I haven’t heard from Nuance since 7/6.

Update, 7/14/2014, 9:32 AM. Just after I wrote Nuance, a popup window informed me of an update to Power PDF Advanced. I installed the hotfix and tried to recreate the problem noted above. The watermark did not appear. I have now written Nuance to ask if the hotfix is intended as a total fix for the problem.

Update, 7/14/2014, 11:09 AM. I received e-mail from Nuance stating that the hotfix is supposed to resolve the problem of the errant watermarks. Nuance has closed the incident. From all I can tell, the bug in Nuance Power PDF Advanced has indeed been fixed, eleven days after I reported it. Clearly, however, I was not the first to notice the problem, so I don’t know just how long it took Nuance to track down and fix the bug.