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Aug 122018
 

Within the atheist community, the attitude towards the catholic church can sometimes verge on the old-fashioned protestant style anti-catholic bigotry. That isn’t to say that the RCC doesn’t deserve its fair share of criticism – in particular women’s rights and reproductive rights.

But some of the anti-catholicism can be a little extreme.

The Crusades

But that was centuries ago! Were the crusades evil? Of course they were.

But take a look at what other organisations were up to at the same time – secular rulers were doing pretty much the same thing (usually at a smaller scale).

If you look at secular rulers of the early mediæval era, a good proportion of them qualify under modern standards of behaviour as psychopaths. Most “noble” families started off as successful raiders and war bands whose winning strategy at accumulating wealth was to find those with some wealth and extract it from them with force.

And the church leaders? Many of them were from those families and so it is not surprising that the mediæval church had its own psychopaths.

Take the Cathar Crusade in southern France as an example. It was the source of the phrase “Kill them all; God will know his own”. The catholic church spent nearly 100 years trying to convert them peacefully, and it was only after a papal legate was killed that the crusade began.

And this is all ancient history – when was the last catholic crusade?

“Pædophile” Priests

So every priest is a pædophile? Not even close – the proportion of child abusers within the church is probably much the same as the proportion of child abusers within any other organisation with power over children. See https://www.newsweek.com/priests-commit-no-more-abuse-other-males-70625; one interesting datum from that article is that the insurance industry rates for sex abuse insurance are the same for catholic churches as for any other denomination. 

And insurance companies hold no truck with religious morals; they deal with hard statistics and probabilities. 

Institutional Secrecy

The RCC can be quite reasonably criticised for past crimes in concealing child abusers, and suspicion over how they will treat future crimes is not unreasonable.

But I don’t see them reacting differently to every kind of organisation which reacts to protect the name of the organisation. Protecting child sex abuse is an extreme example of this, but has still occurred in many different kinds of organisations.

The RCC is also a bit of a special case in that it predates nation states in existence today (the oldest state is Iceland which was formed in the 9th century) and has a long tradition of managing itself independent of secular authorities. 

In a sense, the RCC thinks of itself as the authority in charge of the hierarchy and wouldn’t think of informing secular authorities of issues. This may be changing.

Final Word

This might come across as a bit of a white-wash of the RCC, but it is not intended as such. It is merely intended to point out that the RCC is no more culpable to child sex abuse cases than many other organisations which have had similar incidents.

One thing that may be commonly overlooked is just how large the RCC is. There are approximately 2.4 billion christians around the world; of whom nearly 1.3 billion are catholic. You can take every single baptist out there (up to 100 million) and they will amount to no more than the error bars on the estimate of the number of catholics. No wonder that nearly every other week there is a new catholic scandal.

Aug 092018
 

Well that was a weird error; I recently discovered that ntpd had mysteriously stopped working; specifically it was not able to resolve NTP “pool” names :-

ntpd: error resolving pool europe.pool.ntp.org: Name or service not known (-2)

After some time spent blundering around down dead ends with the help of an appropriate search engine, I ended up resorting to strace. This is a tool most commonly used by developers but can be surprisingly useful for diagnosing system problems too.

As long as you can look past all the inscrutable output!

The strace tool runs a command and records every system call that the command calls together with the results. And of course most commands make zillions of system calls so you’re likely to end up with a huge output file.

To generate the output file, I ran the modern equivalent of ntpdate (ntpd -d) which tries to do the same thing using the actual NTP daemon. Usefully in this case because the command starts, configures itself (which is where the error occurs), and then exits (unlike the normal dæmon). It is important to redirect the output to have a file to trawl through later :-

strace ntpd -d > /var/tmp/ntpd.strace 2>&1

Once the output was generated, it was necessary to trawl through it to look for clues. The first thing was to search for “europe” (as I use europe.pool.ntp.org as one of my NTP servers). The first occurrence was the error claiming that the name didn’t exist :-

write(2, "error resolving pool europe.pool"..., 73error resolving pool europe.pool.ntp.org: Name or service not known (-2)

Which was somewhat odd because you would expect the string “europe” to occur within an instructable attempt resolve the name. Yet it appears as though the error occurs without any attempt to resolve the name!

As a bit of a guess I searched for “resolv.conf” which revealed :-

stat("/etc/resolv.conf", {st_mode=S_IFREG|0644, st_size=362, ...}) = 0
openat(AT_FDCWD, "/etc/resolv.conf", O_RDONLY|O_CLOEXEC) = -1 EACCES (Permission denied)

Apparently ntpd is unable to open the file due to a permissions problem!

Looking at my /etc/resolv.conf revealed an oddity dating back to when I tried configuring /etc/resolv.conf as a symbolic link to a file on a separate file system. The file itself was a symbolic link to /etc/resolv.conf.file.

For some reason ntpd didn’t like the symbolic link, which is a bit odd but changing it to an ordinary file fixed the problem.

Aug 042018
 

There is now in the USA a bunch of conspiracy theory nuts called QAnon who are followers of the fictional mole within the “Deep State” called “Q”. They are of course all followers of Trump, and are all too quick to believe in some of the most inane political conspiracy theories :-

  1. The “Deep State” is planning a coup to unseat Trump.
  2. North Korea is a puppet state controlled by the CIA.
  3. Certain members of the Democrat party have hired MS13 to murder rivals within the Democratic party.
  4. The Mueller investigation is actually on Trump’s side and is secretly investigating child sex rings within the Democratic party.
  5. Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton and George Soros are trafficking children and are also planning a coup.
  6. J.P. Morgan sank the Titanic.

They also believe that their source Q will eventually reveal the secrets of the universe.

It is clear that QAnon are deeply stupid and deeply ignorant people; in fact dangerously stupid and ignorant. One supporter when asked if they had any evidence that Q was for real, answered with a No, but added there was also no evidence that Q wasn’t real.

Which is itself evidence that at least one Q believer is dangerously stupid and ignorant. And it probably goes for the whole crew – after all believing the partial list of ridiculous conspiracy theories is evidence enough of stupidity.

And of course they’re all Trump supporters – you would have to be stupid to vote for someone against your own interests.

Of course Q is just a troll to expose just how stupid some Trump voters are, which I know because I taught Q everything they know; I’m P.

Jul 302018
 

Alternatively, why does Windows use drive letters? Because if you are coming from an old unix background, drive letters are just as weird as the lack of them if you are coming from a Windows background.

I mean, why is Windows installed on drive C? What ever happened to drives A and B?

Technically Linux does have the equivalent of drive letters but they are rarely used directly (unless you’re weird like I am). For example I currently have an SD card plugged into my desktop system, and it has the path /dev/disk/by-label/EOS_DIGITAL (or /dev/sdo1).

Historically, Unix (which is loosely the predecessor of Linux) ran on large minicomputers where system administrators would decide what disks were “mounted” where.  The Linux equivalent of drive C is effectively “/” (root), and you can attach (or “mount”) disks at any point underneath that – for example /home.

This allowed people to use an old Unix machine without worrying where this disks were; and allowed system administrators to add and remove disks as and where they were needed. These days we are all system administrators as well as users – that little voice you hear from time to time saying things like “When would be a good time to update the operating system?” and “I must clean up those temporary files all over the place” are your inner system administrator speaking up.

And if you don’t hear that inner voice, cultivate it!

With device paths, Linux has the opportunity to create sensible friendly names for disks, but a historical accident has resulted in almost every kind of disk being identified as a SCSI disk – SATA disks (a normal hard disk), SAS disks (server hard disks), Fiber Channel disks (SAN hard disks), and even USB storage devices all use SCSI commands.

So nearly all Linux disks are identified as /dev/sd followed by a letter (a “drive letter” – we can’t get away from them) and a number indicating the partition. Fortunately there is also the relatively new /dev/disks directory that has slightly friendlier names for disk devices. If you are getting into low-level disk management, learn these directories; in particular if you are looking into enterprise disk management look at WWNs (each disk has a unique “world-wide-number”).

Now back to Windows. Windows is the descendent of DOS, which goes back to the time when PCs may not have had hard disks and by default would have booted off a floppy disk in drive A with a data disk in drive B. Later PCs came with hard disks which used drive C on the assumption that you would have one or two floppy drives.

Windows has been updated over the years and there is a great deal of sophistication under the surface, but it does act a bit conservatively when it comes to drive letters – A and B are by default reserved for floppy drives even though I haven’t seen one of those on an ordinary system for years. You can use A and B for other purposes such as mapping network drives – A makes a good drive for a NAS drive.

If we get away from the terminology of “drive letters” and “device paths” and instead refer to them as “storage device names”, both Linux and Windows have “storage device names” but Linux prefers to hide that level of detail.

Personally I prefer the Linux way, but whatever floats your boat.

Jul 292018
 

Second Best Bench

What seems like a long time ago (2006), I picked up a cheap Canon DSLR for a bit of fun, and surprisingly enough found it fun. What was even more surprising was that this picture was the first that indicated that perhaps some of the images I made were not entirely bad. And I have just heard that Getty have picked this image up (via EyeEm) to sell.

Jul 242018
 

As someone who has spent far too much time dealing with the Domain Name System, I get kind of miffed when people insist on creating names that conflict with the DNS ordering. You see the DNS naming works from right-to-left (the wrong way around if you’re reading this in English).

Take the name for this site – really.zonky.org – which is admittedly a rather quirky name. The most significant part of the name is at the right (org – and yes I’m ignoring the really significant and invisible “dot”). The next most significant part (zonky) specifies what organisation has registered the site (me), and the least significant part (really) points to one service at that organisation.

So when people ask for names that break that ordering it is ever so slightly irritating – for example if you have a service called mail.zonky.org and wanted a test service you might request mail-test.zonky.org which breaks the ordering of things. As an alternative, test.mail.zonky.org doesn’t break the naming, looks a bit nicer, and ultimately more reasonably flexible.

Let us look at a slightly more complex example; let’s assume that we have a domain called db.zonky.org and want to register a service name for each database. We could register names such as db-addresses.zonky.org, and db-orders.zonky.org, or we could register them instead as addresses.db.zonky.org and orders.db.zonky.org. In the later case, I can very quickly write a firewall rule that allows access to *.db.zonky.org (whereas db-*.zonky.org would not work).

Ultimately suggest names in DNS naming order unless you can justify why it is not suitable.

 

Jul 142018
 

Liam Fox has claimed that Trump protesters have “embarassed” themselves by protesting Trump’s visit to the UK. He claims that we have a tradition of being polite to guests (at least until they throw up on the carpet, piss in the wine, and try to have sex with the host).

Well, I didn’t invite that jumped up rancid little toad who is Putin’s lickspittle and quite possibly the closest thing we’ve seen to a major free world leader being a Nazi. So I am under no obligation to be polite to the bankrupt crook.

Besides which, with his unreasonable and unhinged attack on NATO, Trump has been pissing in the wine, so it would not be unreasonable to slam the door in his face. Of course I’m not being “diplomatic” but I’m not a politician so I’m not being paid to be polite to the kind of person resembling that which you instinctively scrape off your shoe.

To USians who might feel a bit insulted by how their president is being treated; well if you did your job properly and didn’t elect someone with the brains of a pea-sized petrified panda turd who separates children and puts them in concentration camps then we might treat them with a bit more respect.

Jul 112018
 

Well that was an interesting day in politics!

Trump has arrived in Europe and immediately tried to insert both feet into his mouth – he insults the other members of NATO by openly criticising them for not meeting their commitment to military spending, and claims that NATO owes money to the USA for protection.

Now there used to be some grounds for criticising the European members of NATO for not spending enough on their military, but the spending has been going up in recent years (despite austerity). You don’t criticise someone for being overweight when they’re on a diet and have lost half their flab!

And Trump claimed that Germany is under the control of Russia because of Germany buying natural gas from Russia! First of all, the figures he were using were wrong, and when you boil it down Germany’s energy needs are very rapidly being switched to renewable energy sources – on some days all of Germany’s energy is supplied by renewable energy sources.

Trump exhibits the diplomatic skills of a rabid dog.

European nations aren’t dumb – we watched Russia blackmail Ukraine over gas supplies in winter and know that we need to wean ourselves off Russian gas. And we know that the US has sent us a self-destructive idiot to deal with; those meeting with Trump will be gritting their teeth and putting on their most diplomatic face.

The other interesting thing is the effect Trump’s attack on NATO has had on the US Senate; they’ve basically passed a resolution (passed 97-2) saying in a long-winded way: “Ignore that idiot Trump, we’re fully behind NATO”.

There are those in the US media saying that Trump is Putin’s biggest ally on all of this – he apparently would rather do a deal with the Russians than with the traditional allies of the US. Is Trump actually an FSB agent?

No. The Russians might well make use of Trump and drop him an advantage or two, but they’re not so dumb as to employ an idiot like Trump.

Trump is a clear and present danger to the interests of the US; not the stuff like treating immigrants like criminals (although that is bad enough) but the big stuff; stuff that will encourage Republicans to turn on Trump – National Security and the economy.

 

Jun 232018
 

On any number of occasions, you encounter the first half of a quote from 1 Corinthians 7:1-16 from feminists determined to show that christian marriage is no more than sexual slavery for women :-

For the wife does not have authority over her own body, but the husband does.

However the full quote makes it sound a little bit different :-

For the wife does not have authority over her own body, but the husband does. Likewise the husband does not have authority over his own body, but the wife does.

Do not deprive one another, except perhaps by agreement for a limited time, that you may devote yourselves to prayer; but then come together again.

Not quite the same. Perhaps not at modern levels of political correctness, but neither is it at quite the level that the feminists will portray it as.

Now there are other bible verses on marriage; some good (from today’s perspective) and some bad. If you take all the bad bits, it makes it sound like women were repressed to the point of being ground into the ground. If you take all the good bits, it makes it sound like early christian marriage was a perfect equal partnership of a type that wouldn’t look totally wrong even to today’s standards.

The truth lies somewhere in between.

If I move onto mediæval marriage, there is often a mistaken belief that an arranged marriage was a forced marriage, and that arranged marriages were always young girls being married to lecherous old men. There is always the assumption that the men were always happy about the arrangement whilst the women were always unhappy.

In other words, it wasn’t just women “persuaded” into an arranged marriage.

As for young girls being married off to old lecherous men, there are a few exceptions :-

  1. Henry II may have been “old enough” when he was married to Eleanor of Aquitane, but she was 11 years his senior.
  2. David II was just under 5 years old when he was married.
  3. Henry IV was probably 14 when he was first married.

Obviously not conclusive, and it is still possible that the overwhelming majority were lecherous old men marrying young girls. But we don’t really know.

As to women being forced into arranged marriages, it certainly happened from time to time, but there were usually plenty of opportunities for the victim (whichever one) to escape :-

  1. The church was opposed to forced marriage, and it is possible that they would assist those forced into a marriage to get an annulment (although a peasant might find this trickier).
  2. There are plenty of cases where women who were opposed to an arranged marriage would run off to a convent for temporary (or permanent) refuge.
  3. The church would recognise any “informal” marriage as a valid marriage blocking any further marriages. So anyone with a problem with a proposed arranged marriage could simply run off and get married to someone else. Which would instantly block any arranged marriage.

One indication that forced marriage wasn’t generally accepted is that the Magna Carta contains a provision to block the king from forcing his wards into arranged marriages. So the barons who forced the king into accepting the Magna Carta were annoyed by the king forcing their female relatives into marriage.

Property rights are a similar area where the law is misunderstood; married women could not own property in their own right. True enough, but there are two aspects that are overlooked :-

  1. Dowry was an arrangement by which a woman’s family or the woman herself could take property into a marriage with the expectation that on the death of the husband that the property would be returned to her. It was an arrangement to ensure that the woman had the resources to maintain herself after the marriage died. And whilst this was open to abuse, there are plenty of legal cases to show that a woman could (and usually succeeded) take a case to court and get the dowry returned.
  2. In some cases women could get a declaration of femme solo to go into business on her own account, own property, and be responsible for her own debts independent of her husband.

Does this mean that everything was equal and fair? Of course not, but equality wasn’t an important concept to the mediæval society – and that applied to men just as much as women. But neither was it quite as bad as portrayed; indeed there are plenty of indications that conditions for women got worse as the mediæval era ended and the modern era began.

One concrete indication of that was the 1834 reform act which for the first time explicitly removed the vote from women; before that date women could and did qualify for a vote under the regulations for their constituency. Although social pressure to not vote increased towards 1834.

Early Morning Seatrip

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