Archive for September, 2005

Jehovas witnesses and shocking bits in the bible

Friday, September 30th, 2005

After some recent visits from Jehovas witnesses on sunday mornings, we read a bit of their leaflet so we could tell them why we weren’t interested next time they came. I’m not against other people getting into this stuff – it doesn’t seem to do anything terrible to anyone. It’s just the arrogance of telling people you are the one and only true way and all the others will be destroyed at Armageddon, because it says so in the Bible which is the word of God (even the bits in the old testament – see below). Anyway – a quick investigation turned up some interesting stuff:
How about this (from their leaflet):
“True Christians are safety conscious – they make sure that their cars and their homes are safe”
There doesn’t seem anything too crazy about this. What seemed strange was that a bible reference was given to back it up (Deuteronomy 22). Does the Bible mention car safety? So we checked the quote. It’s based on the following:
Deuteronomy 22:8
“When thou buildest a new house, then thou shalt make a battlement for thy roof, that thou bring not blood upon thine house, if any man fall from thence.” [King James Bible]
But on the very same page, it turns out that although the Word of God is not very keen on mechanical faults in your car, Bigamy is totally fine, as is raping, making war and having your son put to death for getting drunk.
These are all from Deuteronomy, 21 – check it out for yourself if you don’t believe me…
(Raping and war)
“When you wage war against your enemy and the Lord your God delivers them into your hands and you take some of them captive, then if you see a comely woman among the captives and take a liking to her, you may marry her. You shall bring her into your house where she shall shave her head, pare her nails, and discard the clothes which she had when captured [doesn't mention anything about any new clothes]. Then she shall stay in your house and mourn for her father and mother for a full month [did you kill them?]. After that you may have intercourse with her. You shall be her husband and she shall be your wife. But if you no longer find her pleasing, let her go free. You must not sell her, nor treat her harshly since you have had your way with her [Ed - But if you hadn't then that would be OK? This also seems to imply that you can have your way with her before you get married - the King James says "humbled" instead of had your way with... don't know which one is right]”
[New English Bible]
If a man have two wives, one beloved, and another hated, and they have borne him children, both the beloved and the hated; and if the firstborn son be hers that was hated: then it shall be, when he maketh his sons to inherit that which he hath, that he may not make the son of the beloved firstborn before the son of the hated, which is indeed the firstborn: but he shall acknowledge the son of the hated for the firstborn, by giving him a double portion of all that he hath: for he is the beginning of his strength; the right of the firstborn is his.”
[King James Bible]
(Having your son put to death)
“If a man have a stubborn and rebellious son, which will not obey the voice of his father, or the voice of his mother, and that, when they have chastened him, will not hearken unto them:
then shall his father and his mother lay hold on him, and bring him out unto the elders of his city, and unto the gate of his place;
and they shall say unto the elders of his city, This our son is stubborn and rebellious, he will not obey our voice; he is a glutton, and a drunkard.
And all the men of his city shall stone him with stones, that he die: so shalt thou put evil away from among you; and all Israel shall hear, and fear.”

Amazing musicians

Wednesday, September 28th, 2005

So often I watch a concert and I’m blown away by the talent of the people who are playing. It happens most when it’s something where I know how much work it takes to learn something.

This band (Borievka) playing at the Slovakian Dance weekend at the JRC/Giobbia was such an experience. Sorry the video is terrible and it’s in WMV format but I can’t be bothered to spend hours looking for a free way to convert it. In any case it’s the sound that’s interesting although it would have been good to capture the incredible speed and co-ordination of the violinist’s fingers. If you know a little about violin playing, you can hear it in the sound track. I’ve been learning this kind of music since about 1999 now and I just couldn’t stop smiling when I watched them. Fast eddy here is a track that has the same effect on me (esp the clarinet part.

Google Earth

Wednesday, September 21st, 2005

In case you haven’t already tried google earth, you really should.
Unfortunately none of my local spots are in hi-res but I love setting it to fly around Siberia.
It’s also great exploring the wonders of the world and various sites (e.g.) have bookmarks you can use. Here’s one that Luke sent me (you have to have Google earth installed).
—–Begin anti-global-inverse-snobbery rant ———
One interesting question that occurs to me here. What with the recent spate of articles highlighting the meteoric growth of Google and its possible transition from popular garage start-up icon to increasingly MS-like multinational taking over niches right left and centre: will this sort of post be embarassing in 10 years’time? I’ve never subscribed to bashing companies just because they are successful or because they do what any other entity in the competitive capitalist world would do.
—–End anti-global-inverse-snobbery rant ———

EU small claims and the Yuan-Dollar peg

Monday, September 19th, 2005

This (an international small claims procedure), if it works, is going to stir things up a bit. It’s very good news for me as I’ve been wanting to sue my neighbour for a long time for not paying the communal water bills but it would have cost more in Italian solicitor’s bills than we’d collectively gain (about 800 Euro).
And while we’re on boring topics, the abolition of the yuan-dollar peg is very significant and seems not to have been noticed around the world. The trade gap between China and the US (for e.g.) is I believe over 20 billion us$ a month. So if China is really floating the Yuan, this seems like something which will have an incredibly big effect on world economics and power balance. But maybe I just don’t understand economics…

Some great web design from my friend Luke Barlow

Friday, September 9th, 2005 (mouse over the stuff on the background)

Idea for a new more convenient authentication protocol

Thursday, September 8th, 2005

This idea is based on the standard password recovery scenario for web sites. It’s also expanding on a hint given about this by Lorrie Cranor in her keynote at www2005. Most username password authetication systems on web sites just end up with me having to ask for my password to be emailed back to me every time anyway – so why not automate that process.
How about replacing the standard username password login/authentication setup with the following.
1. When I register with a service I register my email address and confirm this in the usual way. Whenever I have to authenticate myself to a server, my browser sends my email address.
2. The server sends an email to my email account with a URL containing some credentials.
3. My email client reads the email automatically and redirects the OS to open up the page I wanted to access, including the authentication credentials. The server checks the credentials against the email address and the email it sent me to see if they match (Only someone who has my email password can know the secret – or someone who has intercepted our communication).
From the user’s point of view, it means no more remembering passwords and basically seamless access.
Problems and responses ():
1. Delay in receiving the email. (mostly only 1 min maximum)
2. The email is plaintext and insecure. (That’s the case in the standard password recovery scenario. I considered sending a public key along with the email address so that the server’s email can be encrypted – and then encrypting the response with the server’s public key. But then I thought that this is equivalent to a plugin which asks the user to sign a credential with his PGP key and then checks against a registered public key. This is nothing new and has well-known problems (Public Key Infrastructure etc….) It’s a possible extension but it should be born in mind that it’s adding more security than we are use normally.
3. You need a plugin in both the email client and the browser and they have to be able to talk to each other. (No problem for standard setups)
4. It’s only as secure as the person’s email un and password (but most web logins don’t require anything more anyway).

Intelligent falling

Wednesday, September 7th, 2005


Friday, September 2nd, 2005

Sometimes I think my cat has been reading Bertrand Russell’s In Praise of Idleness (1932) – he lies like this for hours (I like Russell’s essay a lot, but he was obviously totally unaware of the situation in Russia in the early 1930’s ):

I was also thinking that the word “quite” must be quite difficult for foreigners. Depending on the emphasis you give it, it can have quite the opposite meaning – e.g. – “Well you’ve got it QUITE wrong about me and Giselda” or “I quite like Giselda but I wouldn’t want to marry her”