Galatians 5:19-25 GNT

What human nature does is quite plain. It shows itself in immoral, filthy, and indecent actions; in worship of idols and witchcraft. People become enemies and they fight; they become jealous, angry, and ambitious. They separate into parties and groups; they are envious, get drunk, have orgies, and do other things like these. I warn you now as I have before: those who do these things will not possess the Kingdom of God.
But the Spirit produces love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, humility, and self-control. There is no law against such things as these. And those who belong to Christ Jesus have put to death their human nature with all its passions and desires. The Spirit has given us life; he must also control our lives.

Quotable Monday: Conformity

“He who joyfully marches to music in rank and file has already earned my contempt. He has been given a large brain by mistake, since for him the spinal cord would suffice.” — Albert Einstein

This also references my earlier Quotable Monday entry on blind faith. I always have trouble when I run into people who, when asked questions about things, just speak information they don’t understand.

I ran into this issue on IRC not too long ago, when talking to someone who was making the absolute federal minimum wage of $2.16 (or whatever it is) an hour while driving for a pizza company. When asked about what they made, they referenced Florida as being “under maritime law.” This didn’t make any sense to me, as I assumed that I would have known something along this line a long time ago, and so I went for a talk with my buddy Google.

I confess that in this talk I did learn things – mostly related to the exception to the $7.55/hr federal minimum wage (as it applies to people who normally receive tips in their line of work), but at no point did I find any reference to the State of Florida combined with Maritime Law.

So I challenged the individual, and asked plainly: Is that just what you’ve been told it is? And the answer came back with a resounding “Yes.”

My problem isn’t with people who conform by their own choice, my problem is those who fail to consider the options, or make their decisions without making so much as an attempt to think for themselves. Letting other people think for you is, in my mind, an assault to the freedom of choice that you were given. This also applies to the “non-conformists” who have chosen their path simply because it’s not what other people are doing. Believe it or not, you’ve let other people think for you by rebelling against them.

If you are in the military because you considered your options and it was what you decided to do, that’s awesome. If you are in the military because you were told to, or it was expected of you, and you just accepted it, not so cool. And the same applies to other fields too. It’s totally fine for a feminist to decide to stay home and be a housewife. It doesn’t go against the core principles of feminism which (as I understand them) are about giving women the right to choose. If you’re staying home and being a housewife because you wanted to, go right ahead. If it’s merely because it is the socially accepted thing to do, maybe you should reevaluate what it is you want from life.

I’m not going to apply this to every person in every religion or social setting, I’ll leave that to you to consider.

Quotable Monday: Christianity without Christ

“In answer to your inquiry, I consider that the chief dangers which confront the coming century will be religion without the Holy Ghost, Christianity without Christ, forgiveness without repentance, salvation without regeneration, politics without God, and heaven without hell.” — William Booth

This is something that has bothered me for a long time. I think it is one of the things that leaves me questioning my beliefs in “Common Christianity” and puts me outside my circle of friends a lot.

We like the idea that if we say a prayer and ask forgiveness, our sin doesn’t matter anymore. While in a sense this is true, it’s not that simple. It’s not OK to say “Yes, God, I know I did this bad thing, but I’m sorry and I ask you to forgive me,” as we get ready, walk out the door and do whatever it was all over again. It’s not OK to claim Christianity while ignoring the parts of the bible you don’t like, whether it is to love everyone equally, or to give to the poor, or other more controversial things.

It’s OK to accept anyone into the church, but it’s not OK to allow them to serve in ministry when they have sin they refuse to acknowledge or address. It’s OK to teach about the wonder of heaven, but it has to go hand in hand with the risks of the other option.

Security: We’re Doing It Wrong

Don’t worry, this won’t be a long post.

I have long been of the belief that we are going about password security all wrong, and XKCD have successfully visualized it. A few months ago I saw an excellent post somewhere (of course, now I can’t find it) about the basic methods used to crack passwords and how to derive a secure but memorable password that will defeat most of them for long enough between change cycles.

Basically it boils down to brute force, and dictionary attacks. There are also hybrids, but they are essentially combinations of the two. Social engineering, while valid, doesn’t really apply to this argument.

With a dictionary attack, a hacker or script kiddie will have a long list of words that may be commonly used for passwords that they will run through attempting to gain access. So if you use a word like “banana” or “elephant” as your password, it probably wouldn’t take long to be compromised.

With a brute force attack, a hacker or script kiddie will use a system that tries to guess your password by cycling through every possibility and hopes that he eventually lands the right one.

More common are hybrid systems which take words or phrases and use them as the core of a brute force attack, making the attack more intelligent, if you will.

The problem is that deriving a good secure password (as we’ve been taught is secure, at least) can result in a password that is difficult to remember. Personal anecdote time. A couple of companies I have worked for in the past had password systems in place that required a password at least 8 characters long, and that had upper and lowercase characters as well as at least one number. It also had to be changed every month, I believe, and it wasn’t possible to use any password that had been used in the last 12 months.

Most people will agree this is a good idea. Passwords should be regularly changed for various reasons, but having those kinds of requirements starts to become silly and LEADS to insecurity. I reached the point where I had to use an insecure password system (though I wouldn’t tell anyone what it actually was) just so that remembering it wouldn’t be an issue.

The other issue arises when someone needs 3 or 4 passwords to go about their daily business (I have 4, that I can think of that I use regularly) but there is no interconnection between the two. Even worse, there may be different requirements for technical or security reasons. “No numbers” or “cannot start with a number” are occasionally issues. This ultimately leads to people writing their passwords down, which is just not a good idea. Whether it’s in a file on your computer, a note in your notebook, or even worse a post-it taped to your desk, keyboard or even monitor, chances are good someone will find it and utilize it.

Simple rule: keep it simple, make it long, use some form of obscurity. Ideally find a password that will suit all the systems you use so you can keep it in sync, and find a way to juggle it around in a way you’ll remember every time that window pops up saying “your password will expire in 12 days, would you like to change it now? Yes, No”

Dear McDonalds..

Thank you for putting onions on my burger, when I specifically requested no onions.

I also note how you put a note on the box saying “No Sliv O[nions]” to indicate that there are none in the burger.

Fortunately, I checked, and it is a preference – not an allergy. This does, however, happen fairly regularly.. I fear it happens to people who do have such allergies.

Love,

zEkE.

Photos from Winter Jam

Here are the photos I took at the Winter Jam concert on Friday night. Below are brief descriptions and military times from my phone of when they were taken. I apologize for the quality of the photos, I used the camera in my phone having (intentionally) left my digital in Harrisonburg.

From what I am told, the crowds started arriving at 3pm, doors opened at 6pm and the show started at 7.

16:51 – Eating Pizza at Lil’ Cucci’s Pizzeria in Daleville, VA. Good pizza, but a bad decision.

18:17 – A sign at the Roanoke Civic Center. This wasn’t for our event, looked like a trade show or something inside.

18:19 – We see the crowds outside. At this point the venue was declared full, and the doors were blocked with no more allowed in.

18:48 – Show starts in ~ 12 minutes, and the line has shrunk. From what I heard, they opened the area behind the stage and allowed another 300 people in, but that wasn’t enough to get us through the doors.

18:56 – They haven’t played inside yet, but the Sidewalk prophets came and gave an acoustic performance for those of us stuck outside. Great guys, great music. They all signed the copy of their CD I bought, and the singer recognized me after the show when I went to get his, having missed it earlier.

18:57 – I took a few photos before my phone battery started saying it was low.

20:31 – This is the first photo I took after getting inside, so we got in at about 8:30pm, an hour and a half late.

20:32 – David Crowder Band is finishing up their set.

20:33 – A slightly better shot, David Crowder Band

20:39 – Crowd blinders came up, this is my view for the first few minutes from behind the stage.

20:48 – This was our seated view behind the stage before moving, this guy was talking about orphans and the sponsoring thereof, I believe.

21:16 – KJ-52 performing while the final details are put on the Kutless set.

21:29 – Kutless!

21:57 – Newsboys entrance. Closest is the guitarist, farther away is the keyboardist, both on platforms above the crowd on the floor.

21:58 – My last photo of the night before I ran out of room on my phone, the Newsboys stage.

Winter Jam 2011, Roanoke

It was a Friday, just like any other Friday, except that it involved music. Lots of music, loud music, good music (in my opinion!).

It was a Friday full of disappointment, as well as great enjoyment and miscellaneous good times.

It really started earlier in the week – the band I work with (Chasing Grace) had elected to make a group trip to Roanoke to see the Winter Jam featuring RED, KJ-52, Kutless, David Crowder Band and the Newsboys, among others. The rest of the group were leaving at 1:30, would have got them to Roanoke around 3:30 or 4. However, I accepted an offer to leave at 2 – a decision I now realize was not the wisest – although the question remains how different it would have been.

So we left at 2, and had to pause in Harrisonburg briefly before we got going. We were making good time when it is decided we need to stop and get food – this seems fine, we’ll stop, get food, and eat in the car on the way. No, this is not a good plan, there’s plenty of time, we can sit down and eat and then carry on. Another unwise decision.

Eventually we reach Roanoke and see the Civic Center, where the event was held. Hordes of people surround the building, and my nervous level rises even further. “Don’t worry” I was told, “It seats 10,000” and “I doubt there’ll be 6 or 7 thousand.” He was right, there weren’t 7,000, not even 10,000. However many people the building could seat, there were more people trying to get in, and we were at the back of the queue. For around 2 hours we stood in line after being told that no more could be let in – they promised that as people left they could let just as many people in.

As “consolation” the Sidewalk Prophets came out and did an acoustic set on the sidewalk for us, before having to pack up and run inside to play for the crowds in there. Then after playing inside Jason Castro (of American Idol fame) came out and played for us. He was really cool, being his first tour he was excited to play but felt really nervous being so close to his audience and being able to see and connect so easily. He played a couple of songs and then like the Sidewalk Prophets did, sold CDs and signed along with photos for anyone outside who wanted them.

While waiting in line I met a nice couple from Harrisonburg. They had seen the show in Charleston WV and were just great to be with. We talked a little after spending 45 minutes or an hour standing at the very front of our line – able to touch the door, but not able to open it and walk in.

At around 8:45 – 9 we got in (for free!). I followed them and we ended up behind the stage. The couple (who are remaining nameless!) I came with got in a few minutes later, and they found the rest of our band (in much better seats, and with room for me and the couple I found to join them).

I got in just in time to see the end of the David Crowder Band set – I Saw The Light was amazing. I was a little sad I didn’t get to see the rest of it, but that was fine – I was more disappointed that I didn’t get to see RED play (one of the three I came to see). Out came KJ-52 to do I think two songs before leaving the stage. Then Kutless came out (two of the three) and started with It Is Well before several other songs. Chris August played a song, and Tony Nolan kept going on about things that are now about normal for a Christian event. Finally out came the Newsboys who put on a rocking show.

Michael Tait can not be faulted on a lack of energy, that is one thing that is certain. He was almost constantly moving, either it was around the stage or up and down the catwalk making contact with his fans. He held the hand of a little girl briefly while singing a verse and then kissed it before moving on. Having never really seen the Newsboys before I can’t speak for how much they have changed over time but he definitely did a great job as a frontman, albeit not being Peter Furler.

It seems that the Newsboys a) have too much money and b) have a fascination for moving things. All four of them had platforms that moved in one way or another. Michael Tait had a straight up-and-down platform about 2/3s of the way out the catwalk, the guitarist and the keyboardist both had moving platforms on arms that would allow them to be raised up and moved around over the audience, and the drummer had a tilting/turning platform (readily found on Youtube) used during the finale.

I got three CDs for $5 each (the Newsboys CD was $10, but they did a 2-for-1 deal and I went halves with a friend). Newsboys, Kutless and Sidewalk Prophets – all signed by the band members.

So it was not an altogether bad experience. I met a couple of great people, heard of a couple of great restaurants in Harrisonburg that I’d never heard of, heard 2 of the 3 bands that I’d come to see, and got 3 new CDs that I wanted, all of which were signed by the artists that recorded them. And had a great Pizza in Troutville.