Tue, August 31, 2004

Animated PNG?

Two Mozilla hackers, Vladimir Vukićević and Stuart “Pavlov” Parmenter, have put together a spec for an animated PNG (aPNG) format. Wait a second, isn’t there already a format for animated PNG called MNG? Yes. Yes, there is.

Background

Up to version 1.4, Mozilla and browsers based on it such as Netscape 6 and 7 supported MNG. MNG support was removed from Mozilla for a number of reasons, many of which were disputed at the time. Among the reasons were a large file size and a lack of a Mozilla maintainer for the code. Work has continued on the code and if it were included in Mozilla again now, it would be significantly smaller than what shipped with Mozilla 1.4. But it seems to not be enough. Back in Aug 2003, Stuart Parmeter dictated what it would take for MNG to be restored. We’re closer, but I wonder whether the requirements were realistic.

What Now?

So where’s that leave us? The problem with the removal of MNG is that there is no other graphics format that can completely replace it. MNG provided all the beauty of PNG — a full range of transparency, true color support, etc. — as well as animation. In addition, the subformat of MNG, JNG, supported embedding JPEG images for better compression of photographic content while also allowing a full range of transparency. Mozilla practically needs something like MNG for internal use in skins and themes. Indeed, when MNG was removed, a number of themes needed to be updated with GIF-replacements that were larger in size and didn’t look as clean due to the limited color palette of GIF.

If all that was needed was something for Mozilla themes, I’d question the need for revising the PNG file format; it’s clear that MNG/JNG would do what we need today. But I believe the Mozilla drivers are looking to create something that is backward compatible and usable on the web now. It seems that the primary advantage to aPNG is that they are trying to design it so that it will at worst show up as a static PNG image in apps that do not support animation. In real terms this means that IE users as well as web development tools such as Dreamweaver would at least see a PNG image. Another benefit of aPNG over MNG is that it should be a minor change to the PNG library and therefore easier to maintain.

It’s exciting to see Mozilla developers working with the original authors of the PNG specification. Thomas Boutell, the instigator and original editor of the PNG spec writes MNG is dead, long live APNG. Calling the Mozilla pair “young turks”, he speaks positively about their efforts to work with the “old-timers” to create a simple animated PNG format. He says “I could not be more pleased with this development.”

Once the format is defined tools need to support it. At the moment I can create a MNG simply by saving my animation in Jasc Paint Shop Pro. How long before I can do the same with aPNG?

Sat, August 28, 2004

Transcript of Our Mission on the Radio

As I mentioned earlier, Father David spoke about our mission on the Come Receive the Light Radio program in July. Here’s a transcript of the segment (from 2:36 to 8:36 in the program) that featured Saint Athanasius Orthodox Church:

“The Orthodox church is to us the last hope for Americans who hunger for classical Christianity in all of its power and all of its fullness.”


Announcer: Reverend David Rucker is the priest in charge at a relatively new church planted just outside Lexington, Kentucky in Nicholasville and, as the directions on their website say, only a couple of blocks from the Dairy Queen. [chuckles] Sounds nice to me. Church growth is a primary emphasis for the Orthodox church in the twenty-first century and Father Rucker shared his passion for expanding the church in a phone conversation recently with Emmy.


Host Emmy Louvaris: What was the motivation for planting an Orthodox church in Nicholasville, Kentucky?


Father David: Ah, well, Emmy, first of all we didn’t plan on planting that first OCA parish in Kentucky. The work here was a surprise to us. I think it was the fruit of what God was doing in our own personal lives. We were on a pilgrimage and we found out where we were going and then we stubbornly stuck to it and others seemed to appear almost out of nowhere who decided that they wanted to go there too. The Orthodox church is to us the last hope for Americans who hunger for classical Christianity in all of its power and all of its fullness.

I’m reminded of this every week by those learning the faith in our parish—the catechumens or inquirers who visit our services:

One Sunday a man came up to me after the Sunday morning liturgy and he began to interrogate me in the back of the church in the narthex. He said “How long has the Orthodox church existed?”

I told him that this was the church of the apostles and it went all the back to the book of Acts.

He looked at me sternly and he said “Well, how long has the Orthodox church been in America?”

I said, “Well, the first missionaries came to Alaska in the late 1700s.” And then I began to really get nervous because as a missionary my instincts were kicking in and I thought I knew where he might be going.

And then he asked, “Well, would you please explain to me why this is the first time I have ever had the opportunity to hear what I’ve heard this morning about God. This news about the incarnation, the death, the resurrection, and the ascension, all that God has done to have communion with me.” He said, “I’m over 50 years old. Why hasn’t anyone told me this before?”

[Sighs] I have to say that my answers were pretty lame. And really I, I just, made some excuses that morning and then I went back to my study and I sat for a long time.

You know, this is why we’re planting a mission church. In fact, we’ve just welcomed back our first short term missionary from Romania even though our parish is just two years old as an OCA parish. We’re committed not only to being a mission but to being missionaries—the entire church. And this is the nature of the church. As Archbishop Anastasios likes to say this is the very DNA of what it means to be church.


Emmy: So tell us about your vision for the mission.


Father David: We’re not interested in building a mega church. We like being a local community and even a walking distance church, if possible. And so our vision is not only to plant the mission here just south of Lexington in the heart of the bluegrass, but already on a map in back of my desk we have pinpoints, and we’d like to work with all of the Orthodox churches — the other four orthodox churches, we only have five in the whole state of Kentucky serving nearly 3 million people — our hope is to work with our other churches and to plant new churches in other parts of the state and we have our eyes on those areas.

And then, aside from numerical growth and all of that, which is good and a healthy sign of a healthy and a growing church, we’re really committed to the spiritual formation and serving in the lives of each one of our families and our people. We have wonderful foundation stones here at Saint Athanasius Orthodox church. Of course that’s what it’s about: the priest can’t do anything alone. The priest and the people along with their bishop form the orchestra that plays the music of God. So we have a grand vision here — nothing which could be accomplished in our lifetime, [chuckles] but I don’t guess anything worth doing could ever be accomplished in one lifetime.


Emmy: Well, thank you so much. Thank you for all that great information.


Father David: Yes, Emmy, please pray for our work here in Kentucky. And we ask all of your listeners to, too, for the work, this work. Please visit us, if you can. We’re in the heart of the bluegrass of Kentucky just south of Lexington in Nicholasville. To find out more you can call us at (859) 881-8144 or visit our website at AthanasiusOCA.org. We have a very full schedule of weekly services, and we have guests at every service. All are welcome, especially Orthodox Christians who visit us—they’re a tremendous encouragement to mission work. So plan your vacations and that sort of thing to stop in and encourage a mission in your area.


Announcer: That’s a great recommendation. Again, that was Reverend David Rucker of Saint Athanasius Church in Nicholasville, Kentucky and their website is AthanasiusOCA.org. And the phone number once more is (859) 881-8144.

Mon, August 16, 2004

Kentucky Abandoned Railbeds

During the Kentucky Rails to Trails Council (KRTC) meeting tomorrow (Tuesday) at 6:30pm, Lisa Brownell will do a presentation on her work on the Kentucky Abandoned Railroad Corridor Inventory. She will describe abandonments that have good potential to become rail-trails. Lisa is a gifted presenter and this should be a informative and enjoyable talk.

KRTC meetings are open to all KRTC members and interested rail-trail supporters. Meetings are held at the Lexington Fayette Co. Urban Co. Government Building at the corner of Main St. and Martin Luther King Blvd. (next to the Kentucky Theater) in Lexington, Kentucky. Parking is available across the M.L. King viaduct behind the Police and Driver’s Registration.

Thu, August 12, 2004

A Church on a Hill

After prayerful consideration, the members of Saint Athanasius Orthodox Church agreed to pursue purchasing property in Jessamine County. We plan to buy at least 7 acres of a large hill that is about 5 miles southeast of Nicholasville near Chrisman Mill Vineyards. I put together a page with lots of pictures of the hill if you want to look at it.

When I first heard about the property I was somewhat skeptical. I guess I always thought our church would move to somewhere in the city near a major road when we were large enough. I never pictured going to church out in the country on small roads. The idea of a church within walking distance of our homes has also been a dream of many of us and this seemed a step away from that.

Under the appropriate direction of our mission council, we spent the Fast of the Apostles in prayer about the land. I drove past the hill several times and had the chance to stand on top of it near the cemetery and watch the sun set. I began to get excited — I could see a church there.

So many different things changed my mind about the hill that it’s hard to identify all of them. I had been looking at pictures of Orthodox churches in Alaska and noticing that while some of them were not much to look at on the outside, they were all obviously Orthodox and many had cemeteries next to them. The Saint Alexander Nevsky Chapel is a typical picture. Father David explained that prayers take on a whole new dimension when you have a cemetery. Father Theodore mentioned that it’s a russian tradition to build churches on hills.

The hill itself is beautiful and deceptively large. Walking around on it, I got a strange sense of it being a special place. The current owner says he treats it like holy ground—God’s land. It certainly makes an impression on you. After being shown the land, someone from the UK school of architecture commented to Father David “if you’re going to travel to church, it should be to a spirtual place” and that visiting the hill had been that, even without a church there.

I think what really sold me was the realization that it wasn’t really far from Nicholasville, only 5 or 10 minutes. I used to drive all the way into Lexington to go to church; I’m sure I can drive a few miles into the country.