Tuesday, 31 January 2012

Terrified by Batch Files

Recently several emails have not reached their destinations, though they were sent to valid addresses, and I received no error messages.

All the messages had a particular attachment, consisting of a file created by zipping a folder containing instructions for connecting to a web site that I manage. There were three files in the folder. A batch file that opened a DOS window to make an ftp connection to the site, a text file that contained information required by the batch file, and another text file giving instructions. I needed to send all that to other officers of the association that owns the web site so they can operate it in the event of my sudden demise.

Other emails, including ones in which I assured intended recipients that I’d sent the information, were delivered promptly, but the messages with that attachment disappeared without trace; they weren’t even in the recipients' spam traps.

The destination addresses unable to receive the emails in question were on either Google, or ntl. When I sent a copy of the problem message to my icuknet mail box it arrived safely.

Eventually I renamed the batch file by changing its extension to ‘txt’ and changed the instructions to include a specification that the name should be changed back again before use, and the message was safely delivered with its attachment.

Google and ntl seem so terrified of batch files that they are even peering inside zipped folders in case one should be lurking there, and they hide the evidence afterwards.

Monday, 30 January 2012

Faith and its Consequences

The Archbishop of York recently objected to proposals to allow marriage between people of the same gender.

As reported in the media, his argument stressed the linguistic impropriety of using the word ‘marriage’ in a different sense from the customary one, but I suspect that his objection was not primarily a defence of linguistic usage. It is in some places the custom for one man to have several wives, so there is an established use of ‘marriage’ in which it does not imply the monogamy that I’m sure the Archbishop favours.

I think his primary grounds for objecting are religious. That raises the question of the grounds for religious belief.

It is common for religious people to say that religious belief should not be assessed according to the same criteria we apply to other beliefs. Faith, they say, is at least as important as evidence. It is common for religious people to extol as a virtue having faith in what cannot be justified by evidence.

Insofar as religious faith reflects a personal choice of a world view that someone finds reassuring, that is all very well, until that world view affects the way the people of faith deal with others who don’t share their faith.

The Archbishop was not just advising members of his flock not to marry partners of the same gender, he was objecting to anyone at all contracting such a marriage, whatever their faith or lack of faith.

That is an example of a systematic intellectual dishonesty found in much religious thought. The evidence put forward to support belief is weak, but once the belief is considered to be established it is used to justify conclusions much stronger than the original evidence justifies. Thus can an personal whim be magnified into a moral imperative.

Saturday, 28 January 2012

Temperature Inversion

While I was in town this morning, it seemed very cold, but when I returned home it seemed relatively mild, suggesting that the City centre was colder than the Eastern suburbs - quite the opposite of what one would expect.

Tuesday, 24 January 2012

More early flowers

I spotted some crocuses in flower today, they looked as though they'd been out for several days but they were in a tub tucked away behind a shrub where they weren't easily spotted during my brief January incursions into the garden.

I wonder why 'crocuses' doesn't have a double 's'.

Thursday, 12 January 2012

Why doesn't God hold a Press Conference?

It suddenly struck me that if there were a God, he'd have no need to communicate indirectly through the ambiguous words of ancient revelations, but could just call a press conference.

As there's no divine press conference, there is no God. All the poring over sacred texts, and puzzling over metaphysical arguments, are quite useless except perhaps as exercises in linguistics and logic.

Sunday, 1 January 2012

Noisy Celebration of an Abstraction

I awoke in the middle of the night to the sound of fireworks, and noticed it was 4:20 am.

I thought it strange that people should show such enthusiasm for celebrating nothing in particular. That a new year begins today is a mater of convention, an artefact of our measuring system. I don't find it at all exciting.

It makes sense to have a few parties to relieve the gloom of the long nights and short days, but we had parties for Christmas. Another set a week later is excessive. The second lot of celebrations would do us more good around the end of January, when the effects of Christmas euphoria have warn off.