Notes from underground

يارب يسوع المسيح ابن اللّه الحيّ إرحمني أنا الخاطئ

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Incommunicado

For more than three weeks we have had a faulty ADSL line, and have been virtually incommunicado.

Every time we tried to connect to a Web page, the following message appeared:

Secure Connection Failed

The connection to notepad-plus-plus.org was interrupted while the page was loading.

The page you are trying to view cannot be shown because the authenticity of the received data could not be verified.
Please contact the website owners to inform them of this problem.

Learn more…

Report errors like this to help Mozilla identify and block malicious sites

Today the problem has been fixed, and we can communicate again.

Instead of reporting it to the Website owners or to Mozilla (how would we do that when we are unable to send e-mail?) we reported it to Telkom. They sent a couple of people round who informed us that our router was at fault and pushed off. We spent R1000 on a new router, and installed it and it had exactly the same problem. So we reported it again to Telkom.

The people came back, restrung the wire between the house and the pole, and tested various other things, but could not solve the problem.

huaweiWe were able to communicate to a limited extent with a mobile WiFi gadget supplied by Telkom, which works on 3G. We’ve previously used it when travelling, but it proved quite useful for emergency use when the ADSL line wasn’t working. Unfortunately, however, it only has 1 Gb a month on our contract, and when that was used up, even our limited emergency access to the Web came to an end. We asked Telkom if we could transfer some of our bandwidth from the ADSL line to the 3G mobile WiFi device until the ADSL line was repaired, but in spite of their advertising such devices in their brochures as “failover”, they said it wasn’t possible. We’d only get another 1Gb at the end of the month. They would give us a credit on our phone bill for the time the line wasn’t working. In the mean time, of course, there is still snail mail.

I’ve actually been able to download most of my e-mail, usually after 5-20 attempts. But none of the queued replies were sent.

 

Telkom subcontractors trying, unsuccessfully, to repair our line

Telkom subcontractors trying, unsuccessfully, to repair our line

I’ve been thinking uncharitable thoughts about who ever it was who invented and recommended outsourcing. On a previous occasion when our phone line was down, we got two different subcontractors, who could not sort out the problem. The third one came in a Telkom van, and fixed it. This time it was the second subcontractor. But outsourcing such things seems to be a remarkably inefficient way to run a telecoms business.

But my main purpose in writing this is not just to complain about Telkom’s rigidity in being unwilling to allow us to use the 3G device while the the ADSL line waa not working (if you ever see this, it will be working again). It is about the bad advice from Mozilla.

Reporting such errors to Website owners or to Mozilla, as the error message suggests, could be not merely misleading but could cause a lot of unneccessary problems. There is nothing a Website owner can do about a line fault, which might be in another country or another continent.

Similarly, the line fault does not necessarily mean that a site is malicious, and so reporting such things to Mozilla could lead to a lot of quite innocuous sites being identified as malicious and blocked.

So I suggest that Mozilla add a line to their error message along the lines of “if this error is reported for several sites, report it to your ISP, as your connection may be faulty”.

 

Expecting the unexpected: UK leaving the EU

For the past few weeks I’ve been reading stuff people have written about the pros and cons of the UK staying in the EU, but I get the impression that few people thought about the real meaning of leaving until it suddenly became a real possibility after the referendum.

I don’t have a dog in this fight, so if I were a Brit voter I would have been undecided, at least on the merits of the question.

On factors quite unrelated to the merits of the question, however, the poisonous rhetoric of the advocates of leaving might have inclined me to the “remain” side. The “leave” advocates seemed to appeal to the worst motives and impulses in human nature.

Not only that, but the “leave” campaign turned out to the thoroughly dishonest, and did their best to mislead the voters with lies, and making promises they had no intention of keeping — this, for example:

A campaign promise that was repudiated the following day as a"mistake"

A campaign promise that was repudiated the following day as a “mistake”

Now that it’s over, I see there might be a possibility for the reunification of Ireland, and for Scotland to apply to rejoin the EU on its own. Perhaps that would mean that the English would need passports to
cross the Tweed. I don’t think anyone expected those as possibilities, but they’ve suddenly appeared, like new islands after a volcanic eruption.

And it seems to me that they are quite positive possibilities.  I suppose that is the result of reading a book about 15 years ago that pointed out that it would make little difference whether Scotland or Wales became independent or remained members of the United Kingdom, because being members of the EU would give them just as many, if not more advantages than belonging to the UK. I can’t remember whether the author envisaged England as not belonging to the EU, but if you are interested, the book is The Isles: a history by Norman Davies.

But that is rather academic and detached; looking at this from 10 000 kilometres away is being hopelessly out of touch. Fifty years ago I went to the UK to study theology at St Chad’s College in Durham. I’m still in touch with some of my friends from there, and I asked some of them for their thoughts on the topic. This is what some of them had to say:

What dark place does Britain for the British take us to?

Catastrophe. Britain has broken apart. An uprising of resentment by the left-behind has torn us in two, a country wrecked by a yawning class divide stretched wider by recession and austerity. Anger against a London establishment was deftly diverted by the Tory right and Ukip towards foreigners – enemies in Brussels and aliens in our midst. Wherever we went, the Guardian reported that same fury among those without education and opportunity, a country served right for its gross inequality. Day after day the Sun, Mail, Express, Sunday Times and Telegraph injected poison into the nation’s bloodstream with tales of foreign criminals, jihadists and scroungers. How Murdoch and Dacre will revel in their power. What of the false hopes raised for poorly paid, insecure, badly housed Brexit voters? Expecting something better, they will get much worse. “Controlling our borders”, they will expect immigrants, new and old, to be gone. They were told more housing, GP appointments and school places would be freed up from migrants. But as treasury receipts fall, there will be less of everything. Will the next call be to expel foreigners already here? What dark place does Britain for the British take us to?

Farage’s victory speech about the decent ordinary people taking back control “without a bullet fired” was unthinkably crass with an MP shot and stabbed to death in the heat of the campaign. Cameron  will no doubt be replaced by worse as the country is taken over by Tory extremists and fantasists, wild free-marketeer romantics experimenting with other people’s lives, alongside Ukip’s pernicious racism.

Ahead lie years of fractious negotiation, turning the EU into Britain’s number one enemy. The more these populist leaders need to prove this wasn’t a fatal error, the more they will blame all home-grown woes on our close neighbours. Britain has turned its back on the world. ~ Polly Toynbee

That from my friend Bob Gallagher, now a retired Anglican priest in Liverpool.

Another college friend, Frank Cranmer, who has spent most of his life in the fields of law and politics, writes:

Whatever the defects of the EU – and they are many – to leave just strikes us as barmy. Apart from anything else, London is the biggest financial centre in Europe, we depend on exporting financial services to balance our visible trade deficit and, once we leave, it’ll be much, much harder for our financial institutions to trade in Europe.

We both think that the vote went the way it did for three reasons. The first is that people outside London (and Scotland, which has its own agenda) simply haven’t experienced much in the way of the perceived economic benefits of EU membership. The second is a desire to kick politicians generally – of whatever party – in the teeth: even dedicated, lifelong Conservative and Labour voters tend increasingly to regard politicians at Westminster of whatever party as a bunch of spoilt, self-interested brats. Thirdly, as was pointed out in a very good editorial in, of all places, the Jewish Chronicle, the EU commissariat is perceived as impossibly arrogant and remote, merely telling people to shut up and take what Brussels reckons is good for them – and we’re afraid that there’s more than a grain of truth in that perception. And it wasn’t helped by a disastrous campaign on both sides. Jeremy Corbyn was particularly useless; and the level of debate rarely rose above the level of a school playground spat.

So here we are, on the way out. The likelihood is that we’ll end up as members of the EEA, still bound by almost all of the existing and future EU Directives but without any influence on their content. Alternatively, we go it alone – doing precisely what, God knows. As to passports on the Tweed, who knows? A much more serious issue is border controls in Ireland, where the border passes through people’s farms in some places.

And for a third view, here’s one from someone born in England but living in another EU country. I’ve never met her face to face, but we’ve been online friends for more than 25 years, half her lifetime and a third of mine. And I strongly recommend that you read it to the end, especially if you’re not in the UK: This is Cyprus…: Cyprus, the EU and Brexit

Well, that’s what some of my English friends think of it. As for me, I’m old enough to remember when the British wanted to join the EU (or the Common Market, as it was in those days), and President Charles de Gaulle of France blackballed them with a resounding “Non!”. This inspired the composition of the song All Gall, which is perhaps particularly poignant right now.

Eyetie, Benelux Germany and me
That’s my market recipe.

As I said, I don’t have a dog in this fight; what the Brits do is their business. Perhaps we might even gain from it, if the British are looking for new markets once Europe is closed to them, they might reinstate the system of Commonwealth preferences, and that could benefit South Africa — our wines could be much more competitive than French or German or Portuguese or Bulgarian ones. We might even be able to sell our sparking wines as champagne and our dessert wines as sherry.

That is, of course, if England doesn’t decide to hold another referendum and leave the Commonwealth as well.

And I’m not sure that Britain has much to market anywhere else since Maggie Thatcher killed their manufacturing industry and turned them into a nation of hairdressers.

 

School suspends pupil for pretending he had hobbit ring of power

A few days ago there was a story being shared on Facebook about a school that had suspended a nine-year-old pupil for pretending that he had the hobbit “ring of power” School Suspends 9-Year-Old For Pretending He Had Hobbit ‘Ring of Power’:

Aiden Steward had just watched the third Hobbit movie with his family and he wanted to pretend that he had a ring that could make people disappear, just like Bilbo Baggins. But when he brought the toy ring to school, it ended up getting him suspended.

The ring he brought may not have been the true ring of power, but the Kermit, Texas, school where he attended said the pretend Tolkien “one ring” was used in a “threat” against a classmate.

I shared the story too, and commented that it seemed to be yet another example of zemblanity in education — zemblanity being the opposity of serendipity. Serendipity is the knack of making happy, fortunate and unexpected discoveries by accident. Zemblanity is the facility for making unhappy, unfortunate and expected discoveries by design, and seems to characterise much education.

aidenA blogging friend, Yvonne Aburrow, commented “I think the kid kind of missed Tolkien’s point about the Ring, though, but to be fair, he is very young, and will probably get it when he reads LoTR.

Now I don’t know about the films, but in the book (The Hobbit) the history of the ring is unknown to Bilbo, and the only properties known to him are that it makes the wearer invisible, and the not fully appreciated one that it makes the holder possessive. So if the kid was pretending to have that ring it did not necessarily mean that he had ambitions to rule the entire world, and so the school was probably overreacting.

oneringAfter his adventure was over, Bilbo used the ring mainly to hide from unwanted and tiresome visitors, until he staged his spectacular disappearing trick on his eleventy-first birthday. And it was only then that Gandalf revealed to Bilbo and Frodo that there was a great deal more to the ring than invisibility.

And, in thinking about this, I think there is more to this story than just zemblanity in education suppressing the imagination of kids.

We are never told exactly what the ring can do, apart from conferring invisibility on the wearer and possessiveness on the holder. But we are told that what the Dark Lord fears is that some mighty one will get hold of it and come wielding the ring to destroy his power and rule in his place, and the last thing that he suspects are that those who have the ring will try to destroy it.

When Aiden told a student that he could make him disappear since the plastic ring was forged in fictional Middle Earth’s Mount Doom, the school accused him of “threats of violence” against classmates.

“It sounded unbelievable,” Aiden’s father, Jason Steward, said in an interview with the Daily News. But Jason said his son “didn’t mean anything by it.”

He explained that their family had just watched “The Hobbit: The Battle of Five Armies” that week, and the elementary school boy was just pretending he had a ring like in the movie.

And then I recalled that when I was 7 years old, I was given a policeman kit for my birthday. I forget what else it contained, but there was a truncheon and a pair of handcuffs. The handcuffs actually worked, after a fashion, and were obviously intended for use in games of cops and crooks.

Steve Hayes aged 7

Steve Hayes aged 7

I was staying with an 8-year-old cousin at the time, and it appeared to us a good idea to make use of the equipment in our games, and to that end we abducted a younger kid, handcuffed him, and told him we were arresting him and taking him to the police station, which was about a mile away down a rural gravel road, and we had got a good way down the road before we took him back home and released him. He told his parents what had happened, and they told our parents, who ticked us off for it. Perhaps if we had been at school we would have more than just a ticking off, we might have got a suspension, and it would have been deserved.

Gollum referred to the ring as his “birthday present”, and my birthday present was a policeman outfit, a symbol of authority. And once in possession of this symbol of authority, my cousin and I behaved in an authoritarian way. We used, or misused, this symbol of authority to terrorise a younger child.

The Greek word for authority is exousia (ἐξουσία), and it appears in the New Testament in several places. Pilate had ἐξουσία to release Jesus or crucify him. Jesus had ἐξουσία to cast out demons. In Ephesians 6:12 St Paul says our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against “principalities and powers” (ἀρχάς, πρὸς τὰς ἐξουσίας), which may also be translated as rulers and authorities.

Rulers and authorities, or, if you prefer, principalities and powers, are among the orders of the celestial hierarchy, the angelic ranks. But power, when misused, becomes demonic and evil. The power bearers, the flesh and blood, can become enslaved to the rule and authority that they bear, as my cousin and I became briefly enslaved to a symbol of power, even though it was merely a child’s toy, and used it as an instrument to enslave another.

Power can be used to enslave or set free, to liberate or to oppress, but the temptation is always to become addicted to power, to seek it for its own sake, and this is what Tolkien’s “ring of power” symbolises.

The action of Kermit Elementary School in suspending a pupil for pretending to have the ring of power may indeed have been an instance of zemblanity in education, but on the other hand, children’s games are not always innocent.

 

 

Cherie’s Place » The Hermann Rorschach Google Doodle

Today Google celebrates the 129th birthday of Rorschach, the Swiss Freudian psychiatrist best known for his inkblot test where people are asked what they see in the inkblot that is shown to them.

via Cherie\’s Place » The Hermann Rorschach Google Doodle.

Well, it was yesterday, actually, but I found it rather interesting.

RorschachSo what does it make you think of?

It took me back 50 years to the passing of the 90-day detention Act, and clearly depicts two Special Branch men taking someone in for 90 days.

 

 

Once there was a cassowary

When we returned from the vet with our dogs yesterday, I told my wife about the vet saying that the animal they had killed sounded, from my description, like a cassowary, whereas I think he meant a capybara.

Cassowary

Cassowary

My wife then cited a half-remembered rhyme from her childhood, that went something like “Once there was a cassowary on the plane to Timbuktu”. I remembered something similar, so I thought I would look it up on the web and try to find the original, an d see who wrote it. It sounded like Edward Lear.

One version is:

Once there was a cassowary
on the plains of Timbuktu
killed and ate a missionary
cassock, bands and hymn book too.

My web search produced several other versions too, and the attributions included Tennyson, Thackeray, Bishop Samuel Wilberforce and several others, so I ended up being none the wiser.

Does anyone know its real origins, or was it the ubiquitous Anon?

Trolley buses

Real Estate Weekly:

After years of neglect and operational sabotage, city bean counters and Edmonton Transit administrators have finally succeeded in their obsessive quest to pull the plug on the city’s 70-year-old trolleybus system. Last month, they finally got a majority on council that was gullible enough to swallow the misinformation that trolleybuses are a technology of the past, not a way to a cleaner and greener future.

While municipalities around the world are expanding their electrically-powered public transit fleets, Edmonton city council voted seven-to-six to begin the process of dismantling the city’s trolleybus network by 2010. Instead, they’ll abandon proven trolley technology and buy 47 diesel hybrid buses that have an uncertain lifespan, burn more fossil fuels and spew more emissions at street level.

Gauteng municipalities made similar short-sighted decisions more than 30 years ago, and both Pretoria and Johannesburg lost their trolley buses.

Technorati tags and the penal substitution atonement

There seems to have been a lot of discussion in the blogosphere about the theory of the atonement recently, so I thought I would throw in my 2c worth, when discussion on other topics seemed to turn to that.

The trouble was that for more than a week I couldn’t remember the “p” word — my memory was turning into a forgettory, and I thought of “praeterist atonement” “praeternatural atonement”, and “preeminent atonement” but the phrase seemed to have slipped my mind entirely.

Then someone made a comment that triggered my rusty synapses, and I posted it on my Khanya blog here. It’s an Orthodox theological response to the theory of the .

Then I thought I’d look on to see what others had been saying about it, and responded:

There are no posts in English tagged penal substitution”

So it seems that didn’t only slip out of my memory for a week or two, it slipped out of Technorati, and maybe out of the blogosphere generally, and maybe out of the universe!

Now there’s a thought!

Time to rename Gauteng?

Yesterday I listened to the news on the car radio, and they were talking about xenophobic violence “that started in Gauteng last weekend in Alexandra” and went on to say that it had since spread to other places.

Gauteng used to be the North Sotho name for Johannesburg, and was given to the rather awkwardly-named PWV province. The trouble is that for many, including the Joburg-based media, “Gauteng” still means Johannesburg and perhaps the Witwatersrand, but not outlying areas like Pretoria and Vereeniging. I once heard one radio announcer refer several times to “The Gauteng phone code 011”.

While Joburg-based journalists write about xenophobia, they seem to suffer from xenoamnesia, and to forget that Tshwane is also a part of Gauteng, and that xenophobic violence occurred here several weeks before it appeared in Alex. But for the chattering classes it was in a foreign country until it appeared south of the Jukskei. Only then did it reach Gauteng.

Perhaps we need another name for Gauteng, one that is not so closely linked with Johannesburg.

London hotel to hold convention for bogus witchdoctors?

The following news clipping about the arrest of some bogus witchdoctors has just attracted a most extraordinary comment:

clipped from www.iol.co.za
Four bogus witchdoctors were arrested in Witbank for allegedly defrauding a man of R48 500, Mpumalanga police said on Thursday.
Spokesperson Captain Leonard Hlathi said the four illegal immigrants were arrested on Wednesday.
“It all started when the complainant picked up a pamphlet from a distributor in town. Amongst other things, it informed the readers about doctors who could assist to cleanse bad luck.”

According to Hlathi the man went to borrow R38 000 from the bank and borrowed R20 000 from his employer and gave the doctors R48 500.
He said the man went back to the doctors who instructed him to put the money in a trunk which was full of R100 notes.
The trunk was found empty and they were charged with fraud, corruption and being in the country illegally. Three were from Uganda and the other was from Kenya.

They will appear in the Witbank magistrate’s court on Friday. –

blog it

And here’s the comment:

Hilton Hotel London Metro Pole.
225 Edgware Road, London, United Kingdom W2 1JU
Tel: 0044 – 703-187-1809.Fax: +44-20-7724 8866.

From Mrs Elaine Mary Hayes, Manager Hilton Hotel Metro pole London.
This Invitation mail is from Hilton Hotel London, Pls Hilton Hotel Needs Men And Women, Who Can Work And Live here In Hilton Hotel London. Hotel Will Pay For Your Ticket And The Visa Fee In Your Country,If You Are Interested kindly Contact Assistant Manager, Sir, Sherard Frank Coles, Via This E-mail Address Bellow;. hiltonhotelslondon022@yahoo.co.uk For More Information.
Cheers, Mrs Mary .E. Hayes General Manager Hilton London Metro pole.
Hours of Operation: 7:00 am – 7:00 pm CST, Monday – Sunday.

At first I thought it must be a bogus hotel (what hotel closes at 7:00 pm?), but it appears that it really exists, or at least it has a web page.

The response seems to be the ulimate non sequitur. Why should a report of bogus witchdoctors in Mpumalanga lead to a call for staff at a London Hotel — unless, perhaps, the hotel is going to be hosting a convention for bogus witchdoctors? After all, the hotel does boast facilities for 40 conferences simultaneously, so a conference for bogus witchdoctors is not beyond the realms of possibility. And, according to the original report, there is a lot of money to be made by being a bogus witchdoctor, so hnaving a bogus witchdoctors’ convention at such a hotel is not quite beyond the realms of possibility, with a lot of imagination.

But the mind still boggles.

Kansas Woman Cut Free After Two Years On The Toilet |Sky News|World News

Kansas Woman Cut Free After Two Years On The Toilet |Sky News|World News:

Police are investigating whether a woman who reportedly sat on her boyfriend’s toilet for two years was mistreated.

The 35-year-old stayed on the lavatory in Ness City, Kansas, so long that her skin had grown round the seat by the time her partner finally called police.

Hat-tip to Juliet Pain.

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