Oct 29 2007

Stuck in between

Jamie Barrows

Traffic Blur

I’ve been a little depressed lately. And the reason is that I feel stuck. My entire life feels like it is stuck in between being a mature adult, and being an immature young adult who is still trying to find out what to do with his life. And being stuck in between, I don’t feel like I can really relate to the people around me who are in one phase or another.

On one side, I have my mature friends. The people I graduated from college with. I don’t really feel like they are more mature than me, but at the same time I do. The problem is that they are all in a different place in their lives than I am. Most of them are married and well established in their careers. A lot of them even have multiple kids. Whereas I’m not married, and I don’t feel all that well established in my career. While they are all building their families and advancing in their chosen careers, I’m still single and still at the bottom of my chosen career path. And as we all get older, I find that I have less and less in common with most of them.

On the other side I have my relatively immature friends. They are mostly younger than me, and haven’t reached the point where they are really working on their future. Mostly they are single and for the most part are still in college. They live from paycheck to paycheck and don’t really worry too much about what they are going to do with their lives. They aren’t really immature, they just haven’t moved past the college phase yet. And the truth is that I really don’t relate to them either. Because I am past the college phase.

My problem is that I’m stuck in between. I’m past the friends who are still in school and are still finding out who they are, but I’m behind the ones who are out their building their lives. And I feel like I’m stuck. I’m too old to go back, but I somehow can’t go forward either. It’s like my life is in a permanent holding pattern. Since I graduated from college, about 4 years ago, almost nothing has changed in my life. Which is depressing. Mainly because I have no idea what I did wrong to be left behind, and I find I have less and less in common with everyone around me. So, I’m feeling a little down right now.

Oct 27 2007

Does information naturally gravitate towards freedom?

Jamie Barrows

Internet Cafe

There is an old hacker saying, “Information wants to be free.” Now when I say old, I don’t mean old in real world time. I mean old in Internet time. Where if it is older than a year, it is considered ancient. The saying is kind of a cliche, but lately I’ve been wondering if there might be some truth to it.

The question is, does information naturally gravitate towards freedom? In an information based society like ours, the above question is very relevant and rather important. For thousands of years governments, religions, and businesses/trade guilds have used control of information to protect their power and position.

These days all of that is changing. As the information age comes into full swing, control of information is getting harder to maintain. And suppressing unwanted information is nearly impossible. The best anyone can hope for, is that the unwanted info will be forgotten. But you can’t remove it or hide it. So that information will always be there.

Every government, business, and religious group that relies on information control is feeling the effects today. Repressive, and even democratic, governments around the world that try to hide their policies and actions are finding that it is nearly impossible. New scandals and abuses are daily leaked to the Internet and spread far beyond the reach of the governments involved. Religious groups like the Scientologists that rely on secret knowledge for elites, are fighting a losing battle to keep that knowledge off of the Internet. Business models that rely on a monopoly of information are all feeling the pressure of competition from non-experts. Copyrights and patents are becoming increasingly hard to protect.

Basically, if it is information, it will end up on the internet at some point. And once it does, it will be there forever. I’m not sure what that really means for our society. I know that it means a lot of change for a lot of different areas and people.

By the way, here are a couple of video’s that illustrate the point.

The Machine is Us/ing Us

Information R/evolution

Oct 22 2007

Is freedom of religion under attack?

Jamie Barrows

Stained Glass

We have a concept in modern Western culture called “Freedom of religion.” It’s not a concept that has always existed in Western cultures, but rather something that was painfully grafted on. Hundreds of wars have been fought over this concept, and millions of our ancestors have died fighting over it.

It’s one of the most basic freedoms a person can have. The right to decide for yourself what to believe about God. It is not something to be taken lightly. And that right isn’t something that should ever be taken away. But lately some very vocal and highly respected voices are being raised against our freedom.

Today’s attacks on religious freedom aren’t coming from the same groups and areas that they have in the past. Historically, attacks of freedom of religion come from religion itself. Other religions, or sects within a religion will attempt to impose their beliefs on everyone. We are used to that kind of attack and are quick to condemn it. But these attacks aren’t coming from that direction, they are coming from the secular side. The anti-religion groups.

You might say that that is nothing new. After all, secular institutions and organizations have long been against religion. Particularly Christianity. And that is true. Secular Universities and colleges have long taught that religion is outdated and wrong. Atheist organizations have openly attacked religion and a belief in God. Nothing new there. What’s new is that the attack has begun to change from an attack on religion’s tenets and beliefs, to an attack on the right to even believe those believe those things.

Increasingly the message is that tolerating religion in modern society should not be done. And that religion, in any form, is harmful and detrimental to society. Don’t believe me? Take a look at this video of a lecture given by Sam Harris. He is working on a doctorate in neurology at Stanford University and is also the author of a book called “The End of Faith: Religion, Terror, and the Future of Reason.”

The video is kind of long, and a little dry at times, but worth listening through to the end. Here are just a few quotes from the video that jumped out at me.

“Faith is a sign that there is something wrong with your mind. It is a sign that you cannot be trusted”

“They[speaking of Christian beliefs] are really the responses of a madman or an idiot”

The message of his video is that religion should not be tolerated by modern society. His book contains much the same message. If he was just writing a book that said this, or just giving lectures on it, I wouldn’t really pay much attention. After all, lots of people write all kinds of things that aren’t good. Most of them are ignored by the mainstream. But what is scary is that he and others with the same message, are getting a lot of attention and respect in our educational institutions and media.

You say, so what? So what if atheists and agnostics believe that religion is harmful. They don’t believe in God anyway. So it isn’t much of a stretch for them to believe that religion is harmful to society. The problem is that in the past, religious freedom was something they would have fought for just as hard as you and I would. Because it is the right to believe whatever you want to believe that has allowed atheism to be a viable and acceptable world view.

Now, influential atheists like Richard Dawkins and Sam Harris are telling other atheists that tolerance of religion itself should not be tolerated. And people are paying attention. If religion is not to be tolerated, then how much longer will it be before people start calling for laws prohibiting religion. Don’t get me wrong, they aren’t calling for laws against religion now, they are just calling for intolerance of religion. But it does logically follow that if something is harmful and not to be tolerated, then it should be outlawed. That’s why I’m worried.

Is there anything you or I can do about it? Well not much. They have every right to say these things and believe them. Just as you and I have the right to say and believe what we believe. The only thing you and I can do is make sure that the right to believe what we want to believe isn’t taken from us. How do we do that? By exercising our right to vote. And by making sure that those we vote for will support our right to believe what we want to believe. No matter what that is.

Oct 16 2007

Hacking MySpace accounts

Jamie Barrows

Lolcat Hacker

The other day I got an email claiming I had a message from a friend on MySpace. Well, I really don’t like MySpace (More of a FaceBook fan)and I don’t use it much anymore, so I didn’t rush out to go get it. But I did eventually go check it out. As soon as I logged in, I saw that it was nothing but a spam message. So I just deleted it. Since I was on anyway, I thought I would check out the various bulletins that people had posted.

And what do you know! There were 4 bulletins from the person who had sent me the spam message. Three of those bulletins were clearly spam, but the last one was really from her. In that bulletin, she claimed that someone had hacked her account, and to disregard any strange messages that she might have sent before she realized she had been hacked.

Well, I was a little curious about the “hack” and decided to do some investigating to find out how peoples accounts normally get hacked. You see, I’ve had a MySpace account for years and it’s never been hacked. And it’s not like my password is super secure. I wont tell you what it is, but I will say it isn’t one of those extremely long ones with a random conglomeration of letters, numbers, and symbols that security experts say you should have. I’ve also never changed it the entire time I’ve had the account!

So I was really wondering how so many of my friends get there accounts hacked. It turns out that the most common method of getting your account “hacked” is to have the password stolen. That’s right, stolen. Not broken or guessed. No one is running brute force attacks to get your password.
Furthermore, if they did steal your password, it’s probably because you GAVE it to them. That’s right, I said gave. They tricked you into giving them your password, and then they simply logged in to your account.They didn’t hack your MySpace account. They hacked you.

So how do you keep this from happening? Well it’s real simple. Don’t give away your password to anyone. Never enter it into any other site except the MySpace login page. That will take care of most of the methods by which people get your password.
The remaining ways people can get your password are a little trickier, and I have a lot more sympathy for people who fall for these. These methods involve sending you to a page that looks exactly like the MySpace login page, but isn’t. So you think you are logging into MySpace, but actually you are logging into another website that is stealing your password. Still involves you giving them the password, but its a little trickier because you thought you weren’t giving it to anyone but MySpace.

This method is still easy to avoid. Just log in to your account only from the official MySpace.com website. How do you know if the page you are logging into is from the original page? Make sure that the address you typed to get to the page was MySpace.com After that you can click on the login link to be taken to the login page. Just make sure you started at the MySpace.com website and not some other site.

Oh, and this advice goes for my FaceBook friends as well.

Oct 12 2007

Stupid Clowns

Jamie Barrows

Stupid Clowns

Well last night it was pretty interesting. Around midnight, I woke up to some very loud banging and what sounded like jumping on my front porch. Every once in a while, we have a raccoon that will get into a fight with the cats or my little brother’s dog. Usually it ends pretty quick with the dog or the cats running the raccoon off. Last time it happened, they got into it on my front porch. So I didn’t think anything of it. But the banging didn’t go away, in fact it got louder and it sounded like someone was banging on my front door. So after about 5 minutes, I decided to get up and go downstairs and check it out.

As I came down the stairs, I heard movement going down the front steps off the porch and it sounded like something big. So I decided not to open the front door right away. You never know, it might have been a big dog or something. My neighbors two blocks away raise rottweilers. And if those get out, I’m not going to be leaving my house while they are still around. So I looked out the window, but I couldn’t see anything obvious. Then I heard banging on my back door.

My back door has a big window in it. So you can easily see anything that is standing in front of it. When I looked back at it, there were two guys in clown masks standing there banging on the door. I grabbed a pool stick and started walking towards the door. At that point they ran off. Not sure what I would have done if they hadn’t run off. I certainly wasn’t going to open the door. So I guess it’s a good thing they ran off and I didn’t have to decide what to do with my pool stick when I got to the door. :)

I called my Mom right after that. Since my Dad is out of town right now, I didn’t want them to go next door and start banging on her doors. I also wanted to make sure all her doors were locked. She ended up calling the cops. So they came out and looked around the neighborhood. Told us all to keep our doors locked. Not that we weren’t anyway.

So that was my excitement for the week. My brother didn’t wake up until they had already run off. Which is probably a good thing, because he wanted to go out and find them to confront them. So if he had been awake when they were still there, he probably would have been out in the yard chasing them down. Basically I think they were just playing a prank, and probably hit a bunch of houses in the neighborhood before the cops showed up. I know all the dogs in the entire neighborhood were barking.

What gets me is that this is one of the stupidest pranks to play around here. In Florida, if someone is on your property and you feel threatened, you are perfectly justified in shooting them. Just a few years ago, there was a case were a man shot a trespasser and killed him. The trespasser didn’t have any weapons, but the owner of the property said he felt threatened. And he got off with no consequences.

I don’t own a gun, but I know a lot of my neighbors do. So banging on peoples doors in the middle of the night to scare them, could actually end up with you dead or in the emergency room. Not really a “fun” way to end a prank.

Oct 8 2007

Tolerance and love – A few more thoughts

Jamie Barrows

Sand Heart

Why can’t we all just agree to disagree? Why do we have to fight and argue about our beliefs? I’m not asking people to like each other, just that we not fight all the time.

On my other blog, I posted a video demonstrating cymatics. I thought the shapes and patterns generated by the sound waves, were pretty cool. Obviously other people agreed with me because it started getting a lot of hits. And then it got stumbled, and I started getting thousands of hits. That’s a good thing, right?

At some point, someone posted a comment about the wonders of God’s creation. basically praising God and expressing amazement at what He has built into his world. Someone else posted a similar comment. There was no attack, or condemnation of others in either of the posts. Just some simple praise for God.

Shortly after that, the conversation went downhill. Someone else posted a comment attacking the first two. Saying that there was no god, and that the earlier commenter’s were stupid for ascribing to god what was nothing but simple science. I posted a rebuttal to his comment, telling him that everyone has a right to their beliefs, and that there was no cause for attacking them when they were simply expressing their beliefs.

After that, the comments attacking Christianity and anyone who believed in God, got a lot worse. Since it is my blog, I get to moderate the comments. Which is really a good thing. Because I deleted a lot of the comments that were using seriously excessive amounts of language and were saying very nasty things that were just uncalled for. My rule on comments is if they are using excessive language or are comparing other people to various body parts, they get deleted. I also don’t like advertisements, :)

All of this made me feel like the atheists, who were the ones doing most of the attacking, were simply intolerant and very much hypocrites. After all, it is usually atheists in the media and in colleges that are preaching and pushing tolerance. And now here it’s the atheists that are attacking Christians for simply expressing their beliefs.

I was feeling like I was so much better than they were. Saying to myself, “Christians wouldn’t stoop to that level.” But then I realized how stupid that thought was. We Christians aren’t really any better at this than anyone else. We may not preach tolerance, but we do preach love. And what are most of the mainstream Christian groups doing? They are actively hating and attacking anyone who believes differently.

Jesus said that the second greatest commandment, second only to loving God, is to love your neighbor. You’re supposed to love him/her the way you love yourself. How can you show love to a person that you are attacking? God loved us so much that he let us kill his son! And that is the example we are supposed to be following.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m not saying our differences should be ignored. or that they should be glossed over. Beliefs are important, and should not be abandoned in the interest of love or unity. But standing up for what you believe, does not mean you have to attack others. There is nothing wrong with agreeing to disagree. No matter what side you are on and no matter what the belief may be.

Towards the end of the comment thread, many people started posting comments that seemed to echo some of what I’m saying here. We can just agree to disagree, without having to attack each other. I just wish more people had that view.