Grab bag: learning from users and victims

Vadala follow-up: untangling the issues

It’s been an interesting few days. While I was tied up at work, home, and a class, a lot of debate raged about my open letter to Peter Vadala, both here and where it was replicated on Facebook. (Side note: the major difference between this blog and Facebook was that here a bunch of total strangers were arguing theology with me and each other, where on Facebook it was all my friends. Vive le network socíale.)

Part of the debate was spurred by the abruptness of the letter, in which I reacted to a complex situation in a brief and simple way. As a result, I simultaneously accused Vadala of uncharity and was myself highly uncharitable.

But part of it is that it’s a complex situation. In the comments thread around the post on Facebook (you have to be my friend there to see the link), we discussed employment law, courtesy, theology, gay marriage, prejudice against homosexuality generally, free speech and the heckler’s veto, the Great Commission of Christianity, Biblical interpretation, queer deportment, and behavior in a pluralistic society. On this blog, there was some name calling and a lot of Scripture verses, which were somewhat to the point.

So many angles. Where to begin? I think, perhaps, with an acknowledgment that my knee-jerk response to a perceived injustice overlooked a lot of complexity.

I still feel that MassResistance’s use of Vadala’s firing to protest gay marriage is, as the Tin Man has put it, completely beside the point. This discussion would have come up without Massachusetts legalizing gay marriage–Vadala would have told the manager how much he disapproved of homosexuality regardless. But my response lacked, ironically enough, a certain charity. Perhaps I should have tried to remove the beam in my eye first.

The central question is still unanswered: what did I mean when I accused Vadala of a lack of charity? What do I mean when I acknowledge my own lack? I’m not talking about tax deductions, but the Christian concept of unconditional love for others, or caritas as it’s expressed in the Latin.

Caritas is one of the core virtues; not accidentally, the liturgical poem “Ubi Caritas” states that “where there is charity and love there is God.” The Greek translation agapē may be closer to the mark, describing God’s response to man through the gift of his Son. I like Thomas Jay Oord’s (uncited) quotation in the Wikipedia article: “an intentional response to promote well-being when responding to that which has generated ill-being.”

So let’s break it down: was the manager charitable in (allegedly) continuing to talk about her upcoming wedding after noting that it made Vadala uncomfortable? No.

Did Vadala show charity by telling her that he thought homosexuality was wrong? Depends–he may have thought he was witnessing to her, but it was certainly not promoting well-being to pour disapproval on her love for her partner.

Did the manager show charity by reporting him to HR? Probably not. We don’t have the context to know whether she wanted or expected him to be fired. (But he was certainly at this point in violation of his employment agreement; see Tin Man’s assessment above.)

Did Vadala and MassResistance show charity by using Vadala’s case to sow fear about gay marriage laws? I’d argue not; they responded to ill-being by trying to use it to generate more ill-being.

Did I show charity in the open letter? No. I kneejerked, almost never a charitable move.

Right now the only charity has been with my friends who have helped turn my kneejerk into a serious discussion, for which I’m grateful.

But, and let me return one last time to my point about this whole thing: the use by MassResistance of Vadala’s faith-based objections to bludgeon the happiness of others is an act of supreme uncharity, and unbecoming to their cause.

Grab bag: PM, perspective, parsnips, PV

Open letter to Peter Vadala

Please also see the follow-up to this post.

I was watching the evening news tonight, something I do rarely, when my attention was caught by a local item about a man named Peter Vadala being fired from his job because he “expressed his opinions” about gay marriage.

The story went on to clarify: a coworker mentioned that she was getting married to another woman, he apparently told her at length how wrong he thought gay marriage was. She complained to HR and he got the sack. The termination letter was then described, in which the company essentially said, you’re welcome to your beliefs but don’t use them to make other people uncomfortable in the workplace. Now he’s on telling people in other states that if their state legalizes gay marriage, they too could be fired.

The real lesson of Peter Vadala, though, is that if you can’t keep from using your beliefs as a bludgeon, you can be fired. And rightfully so.

Here’s the letter I wrote to him through MassResistance:

I’m sorry for Peter Vedala that he hasn’t learned an important professional lesson: don’t impose your beliefs on others.

I’m also sorry that he hasn’t learned about Christian charity.

I was further sorry to see him digging himself in further in continuing to claim that he is being persecuted for his faith. If I were his manager, I would have terminated him in a heartbeat for creating a hostile work environment, and I would have had cause.

Grab bag: iPhone worms, toddler fingers

Grab bag: Post-B9

Grab bag: Beethoven 9 blues

Beethoven 9 with Lorin Maazel

It wasn’t supposed to be this way. This was supposed to be Maestro Levine’s first complete Beethoven symphony cycle (he’s never conducted the 4th). But he ruptured a disc, is still out following surgery, and so the entire cycle has been taken by guest conductors. For the orchestra, it’s been a high profile opportunity to show their musicianship under a variety of batons. For me, I’m getting used to Lorin Maazel‘s style and getting ready to head into our last rehearsal prior to tonight’s performance.

He’s got an interesting style. During last night’s piano rehearsal, he put us on our toes by asking for adjusted dynamics, entrances, pronunciation, and balance in a number of sections. I think some of the chorus, who sing this work every summer at Tanglewood, were surprised. I’ve only sung it once before and was more or less rolling with the punches. After the orchestra rehearsal following, he turned to the basses and said, “You sang that part better than I’ve ever heard it sung”–high praise indeed.

The whole run is sold out, but it should be on Boston area radio on Saturday night.

Grab bag: persistence of IE6, post-election blues

LongURL Mobile Expander slows me down

A reminder that addons, extensions, and other bolt-on software capabilities aren’t free:

It was a maddening bug. On my machine, and mine alone, our web based application slowed to a crawl when I chose a particular option. No one else could recreate the bug.

As I was showing the bug to the developer, we had a hunch, checked my add-ons, and turned off about half of them. The problem went away. Now I had a hunch about where the problem was. I turned on all the add-ons except LongURL Mobile Expander. The web application was working properly again, and I had my culprit.

I’m not a JavaScript developer so I’m not sure, even looking at the source code, why there was a problem. I wonder whether the issue was the fetch of the list of supported services, which seems to happen on every onload() event — possibly on our Ajaxy web app, the lookup was firing more than once per page? (Update: No See below.) All I know is that it’s turned off for good for me.

It’s kind of a shame, because LongURL performed a useful function: with it installed, when you hover over a link to, or one of the other URL shortening services, it looks up the link and shows you the destination in a tooltip–so you can tell if you’re going to get RickRolled, essentially. Useful, but not at the cost.

Update: the developer who looked at the issue with me does speak JavaScript, and he says the issue is not the fetching of supported services (happens once, then cached). Instead, the real issue is that the script re-parses the web page’s document object model each time a new node is added. This is what just about every AJAX app does all the time, which explains why the problem is only visible on apps like ours–or Facebook, as one rater of the add-on points out.