OYB May 21

Filed in ReligionTags: Christianity, Devotions, One Year Bible

Today´s reading:
OT: I Samuel 29-31
NT: John 11:55-57, John 12:1-12
Ps: Psalm 118:1-18
Pr: Proverbs 15:24-26

Gospel Thread - OT:

No direct gospel references in today's OT reading.

Gospel Thread - NT:

13 They took palm branches and went out to meet him, shouting, "Hosanna!" "Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!" "Blessed is the King of Israel!" 14 Jesus found a young donkey and sat upon it, as it is written, 15 "Do not be afraid, O Daughter of Zion; see, your king is coming, seated on a donkey's colt." 16 At first his disciples did not understand all this. Only after Jesus was glorified did they realize that these things had been written about him and that they had done these things to him.

John 12:13-16 (NIV)

Per the NIV footnotes, see Psalm 118:25-26 and Zechariah 9:9.

Gospel Thread - Psalms/Proverbs:

The LORD is my strength and my song; he has become my salvation.

Psalm 118:14 (NIV)

This chapter will more directly relate to Messiah as it continues.

The One Year Bible Blog´s comments for today.

OYB May 20

Filed in ReligionTags: Christianity, Devotions, One Year Bible

Today´s reading:
OT: I Samuel 26-28
NT: John 11:1-54
Ps: Psalm 117
Pr: Proverbs 15:22-23

The One Year Bible Blog´s comments for today.

OYB May 19

Filed in ReligionTags: Christianity, Devotions, One Year Bible

Today´s reading:
OT: I Samuel 24-25
NT: John 10:22-42
Ps: Psalm 116
Pr: Proverbs 15:20-21

Gospel Thread - OT, NT, Psalms/Proverbs:

There are some gospel references in today's readings, but I am too exhausted to type them today...

The One Year Bible Blog´s comments for today.

WebNursery is Up

Filed in PersonalTags: Family, Fatherhood, Photos

Just a quick note to let everyone know that Lily's WebNursery is up, with the photos visible. It seems that only two of the poses are showing; I'm working on that.

Lily is still up to her adorable ways. Last night she took a nap on my chest (I was somewhat shy of full consciousness, myself), and Princess decided that she wanted to join us, too:

Lillian Newborn 104

Sleeping with two Princesses
Photo © Chip Bennett, all rights reserved.

(Princess has been doing so well with Lily being here. She is sometimes curious of the new, little creature living with her; but for the most part, she ignores her. It is obvious that she misses getting the majority of the attention, but she still gets enough to know that we still love her.)

I can't get over how precious Lily is when she is asleep. Her sleep poses just fascinate me. Here are two from today:

Lillian Newborn 109

Lillian Newborn 112

Lily is cute even while sleeping
Photo © Chip Bennett, all rights reserved.

OYB May 18

Filed in ReligionTags: Christianity, Devotions, One Year Bible

Today´s reading:
OT: I Samuel 22-23
NT: John 10:1-21
Ps: Psalm 115
Pr: Proverbs 15:18-19

Gospel Thread - OT:

No direct gospel reference in today's OT reading.

Gospel Thread - NT:

14 "I am the good shepherd; I know my sheep and my sheep know me— 15 just as the Father knows me and I know the Father—and I lay down my life for the sheep. 16 I have other sheep that are not of this sheep pen. I must bring them also. They too will listen to my voice, and there shall be one flock and one shepherd. 17 The reason my Father loves me is that I lay down my life—only to take it up again. 18 No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have authority to lay it down and authority to take it up again. This command I received from my Father."

John 10:14-18 (NIV)

Jesus' metaphor speaks for itself.

Gospel Thread - Psalms/Proverbs:

No direct gospel reference in today's Psalms/Proverbs reading.

The One Year Bible Blog´s comments for today.

Lillian’s First Foto Prints

Filed in PersonalTags: Family, Fatherhood, Photos

Today Lillian's First Foto prints came in the mail. Here are a couple of my favorites. First, the most adorable picture, ever:

Lillian First Foto 004

Next, a picture I'm quickly falling in love with - Lily laying on my hand:

Lillian First Foto 002

Lillian's First Foto poses. See the entire set.
Photo © Chip Bennett, all rights reserved.

OYB May 17

Filed in ReligionTags: Christianity, Devotions, One Year Bible

Today´s reading:
OT: I Samuel 20-21
NT: John 9
Ps: Psalm 113-114
Pr: Proverbs 15:15-17

Gospel Thread - OT:

No direct gospel reference in today's OT reading.

Gospel Thread - NT:

4 "As long as it is day, we must do the work of him who sent me. Night is coming, when no one can work. 5 While I am in the world, I am the light of the world."

John 9:4-5 (NIV)

 

Gospel Thread - Psalms/Proverbs:

From the rising of the sun to the place where it sets, the name of the LORD is to be praised.

Psalm 113:3 (NIV)

 

The One Year Bible Blog´s comments for today.

Follow-Up to Matt Franck Anti-Cloning Measure Article

Filed in Politics, Science, Social IssuesTags: Clone The Truth, Cloning, Media Bias, Missouri, Sanctity of Life, Stem Cells

About a week ago, I wrote about this Post-Dispatch article, written by Matt Franck. I discussed the perceived bias in the article with respect to Amendment 2 and the efforts of supporters of the HJR11 anti-cloning measure the article discussed.

As I try to do whenever I discuss someone's writing, I emailed the author to let him know of my blog post, and to allow (and to solicit) a response. To my pleasant surprise, Mr. Franck responded to my email. In the interest of fairness, based upon his response, I would like to re-visit the question of bias in his reporting of the Amendment 2 issue.

Mr. Franck responds:

My ability to respond to your email in detail is limited by time. But let me reply in brief. The stated aim of lawmakers who support HJR11 and its Senate counterparts is to essentially negate Amendment 2. Yes, I understand that the proposal doesn't mention the amendment. But the fact remains, it would make SCNT illegal -- something specifically protected under Amendment 2, and a procedure at the heart of the push to pass the ballot measure.

Here, I agree with Mr. Franck that part of the underlying intent of HJR11 was to overturn parts of Amendment 2; however, the further intent of HJR11 was to expose the intentional deception and hypocrisy of Amendment 2 and that of its supporters and their $30 million propaganda campaign.

The Coalition for Lifesaving Cures states "Fact #3" on their "Fact Sheet" that "Amendment 2 clearly and strictly bans any attempt to clone a human being.":

Amendment 2 bans human cloning and makes any attempt to clone a human being a felony crime. Opponents of stem cell research claim that making stem cells in a lab dish is the same thing as "human cloning." Medical experts and most other people disagree with that view and understand that "human cloning" means creating a duplicate human being – not making stem cells in a lab dish.

The truth of the matter - as exposed by Amendment 2 supporters' objections to HJR11 - is that, currently, (embryonic) stem cells cannot be made "in a lab dish"; they must be harvested from an embryo. To date, stem cells must be harvested from embryos resulting from natural or in vitro conception. The comment about "making stem cells in a lab dish" is in reference to embryos produced via Somatic Cell Nuclear Transfer (SCNT) - or, in other words: cloning.

The issue centers around the correct identification of the entity produced by SCNT. Biologically and genetically, that entity is an embryo, genetically identical to the donor of the somatic cell from whom the clone was produced. In fact, for the purposes of harvesting stem cells from the entity resulting from SCNT, that entity must prove to be a viable embryo that undergoes self-directed development from the initial single-celled zygote into a 5-7 day-old embryo at the blastocyst stage.

The Coalition continues to divert this issue by intentionally mis-identifying this entity as a "clump of cells", a "ball of cells", or other similar terms. Doing so provides a means to avoid the reality that SCNT produces a cloned embryo. Thus, they are able to ignore the biological and genetic reality, and claim some arbitrary "birth of a cloned human" as the "cloning" that is "strictly" banned.

The media coverage - for whatever reason - has tended to favor the Coalition's position with respect to terminology. It is the reason that many of us make a concerted effort to find and correct this misinformation wherever it is propagated in the news media. Thus, in response to Mr. Franck's article, I wrote in my email to him:

Second, you state:

"Opponents of Amendment 2 had wanted lawmakers to send a ballot measure
to voters in November 2008. The proposed amendment would have asked the
public to ban all forms of human cloning, including when the research is
used solely to produce embryonic stem cells. Voters specifically
protected that form of research by passing Amendment 2 last year."

This statement is inaccurate. The result of of human cloning is NEVER
"solely...embryonic stem cells". This research - somatic cell nuclear
transfer - ALWAYS results in the production of a living embryo of the
same species as that of the gamete and somatic cell from which the
embryo was produced. Should SCNT of a human egg and somatic cell nucleus
ever succeed, the result will be a human embryo. Any stem cells
resulting from this process will and must come from the destruction of
that embryo. They cannot be produced apart from the embryo using SCNT.

On that point, Mr. Franck responds in his email:

On your second point -- yes, I know and agree that SCNT produces an embryo [which] is then harvested for stem cells. I think you misread my use of the word solely. I did not mean to imply that all that is produced are stem cells.

I appreciate Mr. Franck clarifying this point in his response. He goes on to address the question of his personal bias in regard to the Amendment 2 issue:

There are limits to the territory that I can cover in a 350-word story. In lengthier stories -- of which I have written several -- I deal with these issues more thoroughly. Even so, I stand by my story.

...For three years, I have strived to cover this issue with detachment and fairness. And I believe that if you ask around, I have a good track record in this regard.

While I certainly infer a bias in the end result of the article in question, I want to be fair in asserting the source of that bias. To that end, I did my best to research Mr. Franck's past articles. He was kind enough to send me the copy of a rather lengthy piece he wrote, and of which I found a copy at the Center for Genetics and Society website. I also found recent Post-Dispatch articles here and here, as well as a copy of an article reposted here.

After reading this broader sample of Mr. Franck's writing on the Amendment 2 issue, I believe that he is correct in his assertion that he has made every effort to deal with the issue with detachment and fairness. While I disagree with repeated use of incorrect and/or potentially misleading terminology (such as referring to an embryo as a "ball of cells" or "clump of cells" or "cluster of cells"), an overall reading of his articles lends me to believe that he has attempted to present each side of the issue fairly.

I believe any overt bias inferred from these articles - and in particular, the article I originally critiqued - results from the limited scope of a shorter article and, more importantly, the editorial bias of the Post-Dispatch.

Finally, I would like to thank Mr. Franck for taking the time to respond to my email. Not many reporters would take the time to do so - especially to respond to someone being critical of that reporter's work.

Sitemeter: Scandalous Site Statistics Systems

Filed in Web DevelopmentTags: Internet, Web Site

When I made my first web page, well over ten years ago, site statistics-gathering was limited to a very basic pageload counter (want to see "You are number 100 to visit this page"? Load the page and refresh 99 times; see also: how a college nerd spends his free time).

Now, however, site statistics-gathering has become much more sophisticated and elaborate. I have used SiteMeter for years to track my site's statistics, and I am able to know, for example, what search-engine search strings lead people to my web site, the entry and exit pages, duration of a visit, and what link a visitor clicks to leave my web site.

Unfortunately, it has come to my attention that SiteMeter is now pushing spyware browser cookies (specifically, the specificclick.net and variant tracking cookies) on unsuspecting visitors to members' web sites.

Therefore, I will be in the process of phasing out sitemeter, and in its place I am experimenting with both StatCounter and Google Analytics.

Bloggers are furious, and by all accounts are leaving sitemeter in droves. For the sitemeter-specificclick.net saga, see Eric Odom's coverage here, here, here, and here. See also Debbie's Blatherings, Progressive Gold, Phantom Scribbler, NetWizard (with follow-up), Small But Disorganized, and Geek News Central.

Thus far, SiteMeter's response has been one of damage control and implicit confession of the change, under the guise of a "feature" being passed on to SiteMeter member websites. To date, no response has been forthcoming on the company's official blog, but several email responses and blog comments have surfaced. The following is representative:

To be clear, SiteMeter fully vets out all potential 3rd parties that we work with to make sure that they are reputable companies that are completely above board and are industry leaders. In keeping with this, we did extensive due diligence on Specific Media and found them to be a trustworthy and reputable company. In fact, Specific Media is a board member of the Network Advertising Initiative (NAI) (one of 10 companies) which is tasked with the protection of consumer privacy on the Internet and related legislative issues. We found that Specific Media’s technology completely protects consumer privacy and also allows users to permanently opt out of the cookie if they so choose to do so via the NAI website, which was a big factor in us choosing Specific Media. In addition, many of the Internet’s biggest web publishers utilize Specific Media’s technology including Foxnews, CBS, NBC and Time.com. These companies utilize this technology in the same way that we are using it, to provide useful information about the users who visit their websites so that they can create relevant content on their websites. The only difference is that SiteMeter, which is primarily a free service, has licensed the technology and are passing it onto our customers.

The specificclick.net cookie is being inaccurately characterized as Spyware, as it is only a cookie and does NOT install any software. The specificclick.net cookie is NOT spyware. The specificclick.net cookie performs no such activities that can be construed as spyware. We cannot control the fact that anti-spyware software companies incorrectly mark cookies as spyware. However, the specificclick.net cookie IS a cookie that enables SiteMeter to accurately provide true unique user counts, user demographics, content interests, heat mapping and other useful information about your website’s visitors, see a full list here.

SiteMeter is a community driven company and we would never do anything that would compromise the integrity of our customers or their users’ privacy. All of our customers can opt out by requesting that we move them to a separate server that does not include the specificclick.net cookie or you can simply begin using the HTML version of our code which does not include the specificclick.net cookie. We have also posted a survey on our homepage where customers can vote if they think this type of information is useful. As previously stated, we are a community driven company, the SiteMeter community is what drives our innovation and development. We feel that this information will help our customers attract more users to their site and keep them engaged in relevant content offerings. If our customers vote on the site that they do not think that certain information is useful, then we will not provide that information.

We hope that clearly defines our use of the specificclick.net cookie and that SiteMeter has in no way sold out to Spyware, nor would we engage in any such activities. We are strictly committed to providing the best service to possible to our customers. We hope that this will help earn your trust and that we may be able to have you as a customer again.

Thus, sitemeter's response/defense is two-fold: 1) we're not doing anything wrong, because a third-party tracking cookie isn't "spyware" and doesn't compromise privacy, and 2) it's okay to use a tracking cookie because big-name websites use them and because we are providing a service/feature to our members. The former point uses semantics to avoid the issue, and the latter point is almost Orwellian in its spin.

First, on sitemeter's assertion that the specificclick.net cookie is not spyware:

The specificclick.net cookie is being inaccurately characterized as Spyware, as it is only a cookie and does NOT install any software. The specificclick.net cookie is NOT spyware. The specificclick.net cookie performs no such activities that can be construed as spyware.

This argument is purely semantic. According to strict definition, "spyware" refers to installed applications on one's computer, while a "cookie" is a snippet of HTML code contained in a web page served to a browser. Regardless, when the cookie in question is a third-party tracking cookie, the purpose of both spyware and the cookie is indistinguishable - to collect information about the user in question, to report that information, and to do so without disclosing its activity.

While third-party tracking cookies may not meet the strict definition of spyware, nevertheless, their purpose is considered to be an invasion of privacy equal to that of spyware. In the Web 2.0 website-as-application world of today, the argument that a tracking cookie doesn't meet the strict definition of "spyware" becomes ever weaker as the line between website and installed application becomes blurred almost to the point of imperceptibility.

On the company's assertion that their use of the specificclick.net cookie doesn't compromise security, sitemeter is on shaky ground at best with this claim. True, their use of the cookie conforms with their own privacy policy in that the cookie doesn't collect any personally identifiable information, as defined by that policy:

Site Meter may from time to time also authorize and facilitate the use of cookies from trusted third party business partners to gather and aggregate additional, anonymous, and non-Personal Information data from general internet visitors for the purpose of providing our customers with additional information about their viewing audience.

I challenge this assertion on at least two counts: 1) the nature of the information gathered by the specificclick cookie can be considered personal information, and 2) sitemeter cannot guarantee or ensure that such information cannot be correlated with truly personally identifiable information; therefore, this information cannot be guaranteed to be anonymous.

Sitemeter details what information is collected by this cookie when the company touts what information will be available to members due to use of the cookie. This information includes (but is not necessarily limited to) demographic information and information about visitors' interests. (Note that Specific Media advertises that it provides - or will soon provide - such information as age/gender/income/education demographic information, behavioral information, and country/state/DMA/city/ZIP geographic information. Many - if not most - people would consider such information to be personal, even if, without correlating information, it is not explicitly "personally identifiable."

First-party cookies can gather quite a bit of information; however, this information is limited to what is gathered/used on the site in question. It cannot be correlated with a visitor's other information gathered/used on a different web site. Therefore, the user in question has a reasonable expectation that he will remain as anonymous on any given web site as the information explicitly given to that site.

However, with third-party cookies, the same user has no such expectation of anonymity. Since multiple web sites can use the same cookie, the information gathered by that cookie on one web site can be correlated with the information gathered by that cookie on a different web site. This information can all be maintained in a database, resulting in a complete loss of anonymity across all sites. Consider the "big name" web sites using the specificclick cookie, indicated in sitemeter's response above:

In addition, many of the Internet’s biggest web publishers utilize Specific Media’s technology including Foxnews, CBS, NBC and Time.com.

Note that most/all of these web sites utilize some form of registration process that gathers a great deal of demographic and personally identifying information (including name, address, phone number, etc.), and realize that every site that you visit that uses this cookie now potentially has access to this information.

Therefore, sitemeter implicitly violates its own privacy policy, since it cannot ensure that it does not gather or use information about web site visitors that is not anonymous and non-personal.

On sitemeter's latter contention that the use of the specificclick cookie is an added "feature" for members:

These companies utilize this technology in the same way that we are using it, to provide useful information about the users who visit their websites so that they can create relevant content on their websites. The only difference is that SiteMeter, which is primarily a free service, has licensed the technology and are passing it onto our customers.

Instituting the use of a third-party tracking cookie on my web site and without my knowledge or consent, thereby making me an unwitting accomplice in the invasion of the privacy of visitors to my web site, is not something I consider a "feature" or an "added benefit" to my use of the sitemeter service. If this addition were such a beneficial added feature, why were sitemeter members not made aware of the specific nature of this "feature" prior to its implementation? Why is any reference to Specific Media in particular, or third-party tracking cookies in general, conspicuously absent from the sitemeter blog, privacy policy, and general correspondence with the company's users?

I do not buy sitemeter's justification for the use of third-party tracking cookies, and I cannot in good conscience partner with a company with either such a lack of understanding of the issues of internet security and privacy, or else such a lack of respect for the privacy rights of visitors to my web site and also such disregard for the trust relationship between those visitors and me.

The change will mean a loss of two years' worth of statistical information on the web site, but it will also mean that I will no longer be an unwitting pawn in the invastion of my site visitors' privacy.

Thanks, Richard from GoStats, for your clarifying email. P.S. - to the GoStats people who are comment-spamming every other sitemeter-related blog post in the 'sphere: please refrain from doing so here. This post is not an open invitation for you to advertise, especially when doing so under the surreptitious guise of a non-affiliated blogger/commenter. Thanks.

Lily’s First Pediatrician Appointment

Filed in PersonalTags: Family, Fatherhood, Photos

This morning, after her feeding, Lily and I got ready to go in for her first pediatrician appointment. She was wide awake after being fed and changed:

Lillian Newborn 093

But by the time I had her all covered up, she was sleeping comfortably:

Lillian Newborn 098

Getting ready to ride in the car for her first pediatrician appointment
Photo © Chip Bennett, all rights reserved.

Her appointment went really well. She was in the 50th percentile for her weight, height, and head circumference; and everything looked great: her cord, skin tone, alertness, scare response, head/muscle control, and everything else.

Probably most encouraging, she weighed in at 7 lbs 14 oz, which means that she has gained 7oz since leaving the hospital two days ago, when she weighed 7 lbs 7 oz!

Stephanie is doing well, if still tired. Lily fed once last night, sleeping four hours on either side of that feeding, so we were able to get a little longer sleep. Steph wasn't feeling up to dealing with the stairs this morning, so she stayed home while I took Lily in for her appointment. Otherwise, she seems to be doing well. Her pain meds are keeping her mostly comfortable, though she has a couple periods through the day when she is less comfortable. Fortunately, she's been able to nap between feedings, so each day gets a little bit better.