September 2, 2015

Thoughts on County Clerk Kim Davis


My patience with elected Rowan County, Kentucky, clerk Kim Davis ran out long ago. She has refused to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples and has defied a federal court order to do so. Her legal options have pretty much run out, the Supreme Court having refused to stay the order of the lower court. Davis claims that her Christianity demands that she not participate in same-sex marriage. Yet she has issued marriage licenses to divorced people (and has been divorced multiple times herself), which seems more clearly to violate the Christian principles she so boldly proclaims.

Davis will be in federal court tomorrow, and, one hopes, will face fines or jail time for contempt of court. She surely has shown contempt for the courts and our system of government. Personally, I believe she should go to jail, as members of the “Christian” right will, no doubt, send Davis money to pay any fine that might be assessed; they cannot get her out of jail.

The bizarre case of Kim Davis was inevitable. The ill-conceived Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA), which basically privileges religious rights above all other civil rights and even above the government’s ability to enact reasonable neutral laws, has allowed the religious right to methodically gain special privileges for religious extremists, culminating in the ludicrous Burwell v. Hobby Lobby decision.

The free exercise of religion should not empower religious people to impose their beliefs on others. Nor should it allow them to refuse to perform their jobs merely because they don’t approve of doing what their jobs require. Davis is required to apply the law, not to decide what the law should be, which is, as they say, above her pay grade. She has protested that the understanding of marriage has changed since she took office. Well, duh. The law changes, and county clerks are required to apply the law as it is, not as it was or as they want it to be.

If Kim Davis cannot perform her duties as clerk, she should resign and find employment that does not offend her religious sensibilities. Perhaps a hefty fine or jail time will change her tune, though I doubt it. Davis wants to be a martyr, no doubt encouraged by Liberty Counsel, which is representing her. (The Liberty Counsel agenda is made clear on its Web site: “Restoring the Culture by Advancing Religious Freedom, the Sanctity of Human Life, and the Family.)

If Kim Davis wants to be a martyr, we should accommodate her. She will become a heroine of the lunatic right, but reasonable people, including mainstream Christians, will be happy to see the body politic reclaim its right to the rule of law.

August 27, 2015

Customer Service from Acronis

Last month, my computer developed a serious hard drive problem. I was planning on buying a new computer anyway, so I did that and have been working at copying files and re-installing programs that were on my old machine. This has been a royal pain, but it has given me an excuse to do some reorganizing and pruning. Not every program installed on my old computer proved to be useful, for example, so I haven’t bothered to install all my old programs on my new computer.

I have always been concerned about being able to recover from hard drive failures, and have had to deal with such an event more than once. The first Windows PC I ever owned was equipped with a tape drive on which I backed up my system every night. Backups have become more difficult as hard drives grew in capacity, however. I now have three external hard drives and still may not have found the perfect software to protect my files.

My latest external hard drive is from Western Digital. It came with a WD software package that seems so-so at best, as well as a stripped-down version of Acronis’s True Image. True Image seemed very promising, so I decided to purchase the full version. Because I had the WD version of True Image, I was able to purchase True Image 2015 at a discounted price of about $30.

Acronis logo
Of course, when I abandoned my old computer, I needed to install True Image on my new one. This seemed straightforward, as I had the installation file that had been downloaded on the old computer and the serial number (i.e., product code) obtained from my old Outlook file. When I tried to install True Image 2015 and entered the serial number, however, I was told that this was an “upgrade” serial number and that I would need the serial number from the software that qualified me for the upgrade.

I hadn’t anticipated this problem, so I uninstalled the program I had just installed and proceeded to execute the installation program for the WD version of True Image. The installation failed with a cryptic error indication that gave me no clue as to what to do next. Perplexed, I went to the Acronis Web site and initiated a chat session with tech support. I began by writing a description of how I tried to install the software and how I had been unable to complete installation of the WD version after I deleted the full, but un-activated, version. Here is a transcript of my chat session:
Dillu: Hello! Thank you for contacting Acronis Customer Central. My name is Dillu and I will be glad to assist you. Please allow me 3-4 minutes to review your message. If you already have an existing case number on this issue, please let me know. Otherwise, I will create a new case and provide you the case number.
Dillu: Thank you for your patience.
Dillu: The case number for your reference is 02525117.
You: OK
Dillu: You are unable to install Acronis True Image 2015 upgrade as due to no base version available. Am I correct?
You: Right. And when I try to install the base version, the installation fails. I have the screen open asking for the old s/n.
Dillu: Since, the key purchased is an upgrade you will not be able to complete the installation process.
Dillu: You will have to install WD version on the PC first and then install Acronis True Image 2015.
You: OK, why can't I do that. [sic] I am beginning to feel cheated out of my money here.
Dillu: Do not misunderstand. You were offered an upgrade price and allowed to install Acronis True Image 2015 Upgrade because you had WD version of Acronis app running on the PC.
Dillu: You may again install WD version if you are using a WD drive on the PC now and continue installation.
You: But the installation program FAILS.
Dillu: I would like to draw your attention to one of our support policies.  Technical Support is only free for the first 30 days from the date of purchase/registration through "Email" and "Chat" media only. Post which support is a paid service.
I can troubleshoot and help you. However, you will have will need an incident ($20.00).
Dillu: Your license has expired the initial 30 days free technical support period.
You: Never mind. I will remember never to recommend your software to my IT clients.
Dillu: I am sorry, Lionel.
Dillu: You may refer to the link below to purchase Pay Per Incident for further assistance:
http://kb.acronis.com/content/2703
You: Go to hell.
Dillu: My apologies again.
Dillu: Thank you for contacting Acronis Customer Central. You have a blessed ahead.

This interchange occurred on August 25. I had registered the software on June 26. The next day, I received the following e-mail message:

*** Please do not change the subject line of this email; otherwise, your response will not be received. ***  
Hello Lionel,
Thank you for contacting Acronis Customer Central. My name is Dillu. 
This is a follow-up email post chat conversation we had earlier today.
You were unable to install Acronis True Image 2015 upgrade as due to no base version available. My sincere apologies as I could not assist when contacted due to support limitations. 
As informed, Technical Support is only free for the first 30 days from the date of purchase/registration through "Email" and "Chat" media only. Post which support is a paid service. 
Your license had exceeded 30 days. You may contact WD to get the latest installer (if using a WD disk on the PC) install it and then using Acronis True Image 2015. You may refer to the link below to purchase Pay Per Incident ($20.00) for further assistance: 
http://kb.acronis.com/content/2703  
This case is closed. You may also visit (www.kb.acronis.com) for any product based articles search and (www.acronis.com) to check out our latest releases.
--
Best regards,
Dillu Singh
Support Engineer
Acronis Customer Central 
For common issues with known solutions please refer to our Knowledge Base at http://kb.acronis.com 

You can always find the latest status of this case in your account at https://www.acronis.com/my/cases 

Our mission is to create Customer success. Our Management Team welcomes your feedback on how we can improve the overall support we provide to you. Please send your comments, suggestions, or concerns to managers@acronis.com
ref:_00D30Zcb._50050gu7as:ref
Two things were galling about this interchange. First, if I were going to be charged for support, why wasn’t I told that at the beginning of the chat. Had I known immediately that any actual assistance was going to cost $20, I would have ended the conversation and continued on my own. More irritating, however, was the fact that Acronis would not help with a simple installation problem occasioned by a change of computers, something that I’m sure happens all the time. Acronis’s attitude was in contrast to other companies (e.g., Core FTP and MakeMusic, Inc.) that cheerfully provided me with missing product codes for software I purchased years ago.

Having received no help at all from Acronis, I searched through the True Image help file. This seemed promising, as it explained how to transfer the software license from one computer to another. The instructions were rather elliptical, however, but they gave me hope that, if I installed the software on another computer, I could transfer the license to my new machine. By this time, I realized that I had to install the WD version before installing the full version. I did this on another computer and, sure enough, I was not asked for an earlier serial number. I was told that I had exceeded the number of licenses I had purchased (i.e., one) and allowed me to move the license from my old (dead) computer to the one on which I just installed True Image. So far so good.

Alas, there seemed to be no way to initiate such a license transfer from my new computer. It was time to look for not-so-simple solutions. Almost certainly, I could not install the WD version of the Acronis software because of entries in the Windows Registry. I uninstalled the full version of True Image and took a look at the Registry. True Image had left a lot of junk in the Registry, and it wasn’t clear what needed to be removed to allow me to install the WD version. The most likely culprit seemed to be HKEY_CURRENT_USER\SOFTWARE\Acronis. I exported that for safekeeping and deleted the key. The trick worked. I installed the WD version, then the full version, and entered the serial number. I was then able to transfer the single license to my new computer from the one on which I had earlier installed True Image.

Doing this myself cost me many hours, but I saved $20 and my dignity and sense of consumer justice. Actually, I am not sure that Dillu was going to solve my problem anyway.

I had noticed that my version of True Image 2015 had been replaced with True Image 2016. When I checked the Acronis Web site, however, I discovered that I had to have purchased my software on July 9 or later, but I had registered my copy on June 26. Screwed again by Acronis. Of course, it wasn’t clear that the 2016 software was a major improvement over the previous version. The Web site does not really explain why one might prefer the new version.

So, is True Image any good? Actually, I have no idea. I only created a backup once and was unable to retrieve it. Customer and technical reviews seem very positive. Unfortunately, customer support is, at best, heartless, however.

August 17, 2015

A Quecreek Excursion

Readers who are not too terribly young are likely to remember the mine accident that occurred at the Quecreek Mine in the summer of 2002. Nine miners were ultimately rescued through a shaft drilled into an underground refuge where the miners had been trapped for several days. The attempted, and finally successful, rescue was covered by news media all over the world. I was particularly struck by the drama of the situation and wrote a poem telling the story of the accident and rescue. (You can read my poem, “The Quecreek Mine Disaster,” here. I consider it one of my better efforts.)

I have been meaning to visit the site of the rescue for years, but had not gotten around to doing so until two days ago. I had hoped to see not only the place where the rescue took place but also the “Educational Visitors Center” that supposedly exhibits, inter alia, the rescue cage that brought the miners to the surface. Although the Visitors Center claims to be open on Saturday, phone calls to it were answered only by a recording, and the door of the center was locked when I arrived at the nascent museum.

Fortunately, most of what I most wanted to see was out in the open and unobstructed by barriers. What I was able to view is documented below. (Click on images for a larger view.)

Historical marker
An historical marker stands at the entrance to the rescue site.
Miner statue (front)
Miner statue at the start of the path to the rescue site
Detail of miner statue
Detail of miner statue
Miner statue (rear)
Rear of miner statue
Path to rescue site
View of the rescue site from the brick path that leads to it
Air shaft
An air shaft was drilled where it was thought the miners might be.
Heated compressed air was then pumped into the narrow shaft.
Rescue shaft
Rescue shaft from which miners were lifted one-by-one in a rescue capsule
Monument to Rescue Shaft Driller
The rescue shaft was drilled by rig #18 of Gene D. Yost & Son, Inc., a fact memorialized on this stone.
The drill used by Yost was described as a “super drill.”
Abanded rescue shaft 2
When the bit broke as the rescue shaft was being drilled, another hole was started.
It was abandoned when work resumed on the first shaft.
Unused air lock
This air lock proved to be unnecessary and was never used.
Unused Air Lock
Another view of the air lock
Monument for Life plaque
Monument for Life plaque referring to the red oak and nine evergreens beyond it.
Memorial grove
Monument for Life plaque with red oak and nine evergreens representing the nine rescued miners.
Sipesville Volunteer Fire Company
Sipesville Volunteer Fire Company. This is just down the road from the rescue site. Families
of the miners were assembled here awaiting news of the rescue.
Monument at fire company
Monument to miners at Sipesville Volunteer Fire Company.
Its location can be seen in the previous photograph.

August 12, 2015

Wine Rack Obtained

I picked up my wine rack from Walmart and assembled it today. (See “Wine Rack.”) It is what I had hoped it would be, which is more substantial than the picture on the Walmart Web site suggested.

The unit was made in China (where else?) and came with assembly instructions that were, at best, elliptical. (On the other hand, more hardware than I actually needed was provided, including some items that seemed of no use whatsoever.) The lack of critical details led to some assembly and dis-assembly, but, in the end, I had the sort of wine rack I was looking for. In case I go on a wine buying spree, I can even stack another rack atop this one.

Pictures of my new wine rack are below.

Front of wine rack

Top of wine rack

August 6, 2015

Wine Rack

I was shopping for a wine rack yesterday but having little success in the quest. I love wine, but I am mostly a drink-as-you-go consumer. I’m too old to be laying down French wines that I intend to drink 20 years from now. It is comforting, however, to know that, if I want a bottle of wine with dinner, I have reasonable choices on hand, whether my entrée is steak or shrimp.

I actually own a small wine rack made from wood blocks and galvanized steel. It’s pretty much what I would like to be using. Unfortunately, it’s in storage somewhere, and I can’t put my hands on it. I thought it unlikely that I could find an exact duplicate, but I hoped to encounter some interesting choices. When I was younger, wine racks seemed easily come by and were priced for the young baby boomer who was probably drinking Blue Nun and Lake Country Red. Today, apparently, not so much. (I suspect that a lot of those baby boomers are now buying built-in wine refrigerators.)

I checked several bargain stores, a department story, a kitchen store, Walmart, K-Mart, and Big Lots. I found one wine rack. It was at Big Lots for $25 and was cute, rather than utilitarian. It held only six bottles. The kitchen store referred me to a store of a local winery in the same mall. The wine store had lots of wine racks, each one cuter than the next, and many of which seemed wildly impractical. Prices ranged from about $35 to over $200. Irrespective of price, I found nothing I liked.

It seemed as though I was going to have to order from the Web. In fact, I had already checked Walmart’s offerings the Web. There were lots of racks available there, many of which seemed eminently practical without being precious. Thus, after my shopping misadventure, I returned to the Web. I didn’t confine my search to Walmart, but I did end up buying a rack from the nation’s largest retailer. I still spent $25, but I’m getting a rack that holds 12 bottles in no-nonsense practicality. I pick up the zinc-plated steel rack at the store next Wednesday.

Wine rack
My new wine rack (image from the Walmart Web site)


July 4, 2015

A Triumph of Clericalism

I thought one of the better and less controversial ideas floated by those who would reform the structures of The Episcopal Church was to make the office of President of the House of Deputies (PHoD) a paying position. This office is increasingly important and the office holder, by canon, plays a significant role in the church. Alas, the 78th General Convention, largely because of the House of Bishops, did not agree to giving a stipend to the PHoD. Surely, this was not simply an economy measure.

An Episcopal News Service story published today reviews the process of amending and adopting Substitute Resolution D013. The story makes it clear that the House of Deputies and House of Bishops had very different ideas about paying the PHoD for his or her work on behalf of the church. The story includes this paragraph:
“When someone volunteers to do a job, it is not an injustice not to pay them,” said Diocese of Milwaukee Bishop Steven Miller during debate in the House of Bishops on July 3.
One might argue that the President of the United States and, indeed, all bishops of The Episcopal Church, have stood for election in the same fashion as the PHoD. In other words, this is a stupid and self-serving argument.

As it happens, I was watching the debate in the House of Bishops when the matter of a stipend for the PHoD was being discussed. Because I was actually interested in Resolution A019, which was on the day’s consent calendar, I was not taking notes. I do remember, however, that one of the bishops expressed the concern that the PHoD was accumulating too much power.

I think that clericalism is the real reason the bishops do not want to pay the PHoD. Simply put, bishops do not want to cede too much power to a layperson or even a priest or deacon who might be PHoD. (Perhaps the real problem is episcopalism.) Frankly, we give bishops too much power in the church and ordinary clergy, and especially laypeople, too little.

I hope that, at the 79th General Convention, the House of Deputies will insist that their leader be paid.

July 3, 2015

Covenant? What Covenant?

Earlier this month, I wrote an essay titled “Time for a Definitive Response to the Anglican Covenant,” which called on the General Convention to hold an unambiguous vote on the Anglican Communion Covenant. I wrote, “This year we must provide a definitive response to the invitation to adopt the Anglican Covenant, and that response should be ‘thank you, no.’”

Well, the General Convention works in mysterious ways. In its collective wisdom, it has decided neither to say “thank you” nor to say “no.” Let me explain.

The two resolutions on the Anglican Covenant, A040 and D022, were assigned to the Governance and Structure Legislative Committee. Resolution A040 originated with the Executive Council. Although it would not have adopted the Covenant, it offered approval of most of the document. It also directed the church’s members of the Anglican Consultative Council “to express our appreciation to the 16th meeting of the Anglican Consultative Council (ACC16, Lusaka 2016) for the gift of inter-Anglican conversation and mutuality in God’s mission engendered by the Anglican Communion Covenant process.” Resolution D022, submitted by deputy Lisa Fox, differed from A040 only in that it denied that the Covenant captured our church’s present relationship to the Communion or any desired future relationship.

Even before the June 26 hearing on the two resolutions, it was obvious that there was little fondness for the Covenant among members of the Governance and Structure Committee. At the hearing itself, six speakers addressed the Covenant resolutions. Two, including Bishop Ian Douglas, who was a member of the Executive Council Task Force on the Anglican Covenant, supported A040. The Rev. Mark Harris, who is not a deputy this year, also spoke. According to one observer, “Mark Harris didn’t like anything but thought we needed to figure out a plausible answer.” The two endorsers of D022, Mary Roehrich and the Rev. Canon Scott Quinn, spoke in favor of their resolution. Also speaking in favor of D022 was Michael Booker, a deputy from the Diocese of Missouri recruited to address D022 by proposer Lisa Fox, who was prevented by sickness from attending the convention as a Missouri deputy.

I was surprised and confused when both A040 and D022 were marked on the General Convention Web site as “HoD acted to Discharge - Already acted on at this convention.” It took some time to figure out what action was being referred to. It turns out that Resolution A019 was repurposed by the legislative committee as a substitute for either A040 or D022. Resolution A019, which was proposed by Executive Council began as follows:
A019: Affirm the Inter-Anglican Secretariat

Resolved, the House of _______ concurring, That through our funding and active participation, this Church continues to bear witness to this Church’s ongoing commitment to the Anglican Communion and the work of the Inter-Anglican Secretariat.
Essentially, this resolution declared that we intended to remain in the Anglican Communion and to continue paying for much of its administration.

The resolution that was sent to the House of Deputies and approved by it on June 28 was this:
A019: Affirm the Inter-Anglican Secretariat

Resolved, the House of Bishops concurring, That the 78th General Convention of The Episcopal Church affirm our common identity and membership in the Anglican Communion; and be it further

Resolved, That the 78th General Convention direct The Episcopal Church's members of the Anglican Consultative Council to express our appreciation to the 16th meeting of the Anglican Consultative Council (ACC16, Lusaka 2016) for the gift of Inter-Anglican conversation and partnership in God's mission; and be it further

Resolved, That The Episcopal Church affirm its ongoing commitment to the Anglican Communion and the work of the Inter-Anglican Secretariat through our funding and active participation.
The final resolve is a minor rephrasing of the single clause of the original Resolution A019. Prefixed to this are provisions derived from A040/D022. The first resolve reproduces the text common to A040 and D022. Nothing is said about specific parts of the Covenant or, in fact, about the Covenant at all! The second resolve is nearly the same as the second resolve of A040 and D022. Here are the subtle changes seen in A019:
  1. “Inter-Anglican” has replaced “inter-Anglican.”
  2. The amended A019 substitutes “partnership in Godֹֹ’s mission” for “mutuality in God’s mission.”
  3. The amended A019 drops “engendered by the Anglican Communion Covenant process.”
Not until July 3, the last day of the General Convention, did Resolution A019 appear on the consent calendar of the House of Bishops with the recommendation that the bishops concur with the decision of the House of Deputies. The consent calendar was approved by the bishops, who thereby concurred with the House of Deputies in passing Resolution A019.

Analysis

What has The Episcopal Church done here?

In the final resolve, we have yet again affirmed our commitment to and support of the Anglican Communion.

Implicitly, in the second resolve, we are grateful for conversation within the Communion, though not specifically (or perhaps at all) for conversation related to the Anglican Communion Covenant. Moreover, in speaking of “partnership in God’s mission” rather than “mutuality in God’s mission,” the church emphasizes its autonomy rather than its “interdependence” with respect to other Communion churches.

The first resolve declares that The Episcopal Church recognizes its common identity and membership in the Anglican Communion without reference to the Anglican Communion Covenant.

It is especially important that we have not suggested that, for example, we are bound by Section Three of the Covenant. That section demands shared discernment regarding difficult issues. We have not consulted the Communion and asked if we can proceed to marry same-sex couples. To have asserted Section Three as part of our Anglican identity and to have taken the actions the 78th General Convention took would have been the height of cynicism and insincerity.

I argued that the 78th General Convention needed to accept or reject the Anglican Covenant. The convention found a third way, a way that avoids the embarrassment of explicit rejection while making it clear that we want nothing to do with the Covenant.

In the end, The Episcopal Church decided not to adopt the Covenant, not to reject the Covenant, but to ignore it to death. It is to be hoped that the churches of the Communion recognize that the Covenant project has failed and that the Communion can only survive by partnering in mission wherever possible and agreeing to disagree wherever conflicts are, for now, irresolvable.

No doubt, the Anglican Communion office will conclude that The Episcopal Church is still in the process of receiving the Covenant. It isn’t, and the General Convention has made no provision to consider the Covenant further.

Thanks be to God.

No Anglican Covenant logo