Friday, 31 August 2012

South Africa: Plus Ça Change

George Orwell had it right:
The creatures outside looked from pig to man, and from man to pig, and from pig to man again; but already it was impossible to say which was which.
Or, if you prefer your cultural references musical:
Meet the new boss
Same as the old boss
Earlier this month South African police shot at a group of striking mineworkers, killing 34 and creating comparisons with the apartheid era. Yesterday, the South African prosecutors reinforced those comparisons by charging 270 of the surviving protesters with murder, using an old apartheid-era 'common purpose' law - a law which the ANC once campaigned against as unjust. That was before they got their own hands on power, of course.

Once it was a white minority enriching themselves at the expense of the (mostly black) South African people. Now, in the post-apartheid era, there is a wealthy (mostly black) minority doing exactly the same. As they say, colour is only skin deep.

Tuesday, 28 August 2012

Framing Scripture I - The Road To Jericho

I do get frustrated when people rip bits out of the Bible and try to justify or make arguments with them without considering their context. At its worst this is simple 'proof-texting' - essentially taking an opinion then trying to claim that "God agrees with me and here's the proof". But even fuller consideration of a passage can completely miss the point if done without looking at its proper framing.

For example (from Luke 10:30-35):
A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, when he was attacked by robbers. They stripped him of his clothes, beat him and went away, leaving him half dead. A priest happened to be going down the same road, and when he saw the man, he passed by on the other side. So too, a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. But a Samaritan, as he travelled, came where the man was; and when he saw him, he took pity on him. He went to him and bandaged his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he put the man on his own donkey, brought him to an inn and took care of him. The next day he took out two denarii and gave them to the innkeeper. ‘Look after him,’ he said, ‘and when I return, I will reimburse you for any extra expense you may have.’
What is this? It looks like a news report of a mugging and its aftermath. There are those who want to treat the entire Bible as a combination of news report, science manual, and rulebook, yet most Scripture is so much richer than that.

To understand this story we need to look at its frame, the text before and after:
On one occasion an expert in the law stood up to test Jesus. “Teacher,” he asked, “what must I do to inherit eternal life?”
“What is written in the Law?” he replied. “How do you read it?”
He answered, “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind’; and, ‘Love your neighbour as yourself.’”
“You have answered correctly,” Jesus replied. “Do this and you will live.”
But he wanted to justify himself, so he asked Jesus, “And who is my neighbour?”
In reply Jesus said:


“Which of these three do you think was a neighbour to the man who fell into the hands of robbers?”
The expert in the law replied, “The one who had mercy on him.”
Jesus told him, “Go and do likewise."
Clearly it is a teaching story, about loving your neighbour, not a factual news report. That's what the story frame tells us.

In the wider context of our knowledge of the prejudices of the time, we know that Samaritans were scorned by many Jews, which gives the story its punch. But we can also read Luke's writings more broadly and see the emphasis on Jesus' acceptance of those who were, for various reasons, seen as 'outsiders' and scorned, and their inclusion into the early church. There is even a context in Jewish history where something very similar to this story - although on a larger scale - actually happened following a battle between Judea and Samaria (see 2 Chronicles 28:10-15).

Context and framing matter for anyone who truly wants to understand the Scriptures, or even to avoid being misled about what the Bible says.

Actually, there is a much bigger frame - or more accurately two frames - which go around the whole of Bible itself. Just as you cannot expect anyone to understand Luke's story of a mugging victim without seeing the story frame that fits around it, so you need to recognise the overall framing narrative of the whole Bible to gain a proper perspective on all it tells us.
To be continued ...

Wednesday, 8 August 2012

Windows 7 Gets The Black Screen Of Death Too!

Well, probably.

In this case it was a Vista laptop which the supplier had upgraded in-place to Windows 7 before supplying it (which seems dubious to me) and then the owner had upgraded again to Windows 7 Professional. So it is still just possible that a clean Windows 7 installation is a little more robust than Vista to these extremely aggravating KSODs (blacK Screens Of Death).

I wrote about KSODs in Vista way back, here and here. Essentially there are two flavours, both showing the characteristic black screen with just a white mouse pointer moving around it. The important difference between the two is that one occurs before you log into Windows, the other after. If the black screen occurs after you log on, you have a fighting chance (although it may still be difficult to fix). If the black screen is before you log in then you are in trouble: basically all of Windows' security is aimed at stopping you from changing anything.

In the case of the Vista KSOD-before-login linked above, I never actually managed to fix it - which was deeply frustrating. So this time, when I got a Windows 7 KSOD-before-login I was concerned, but hopeful that I could find a way around it this time.

I did eventually get Windows to boot ... unfortunately not until I had essentially given up, so I ended up trying several things at once and it's not clear which made the difference. And I certainly don't plan to try to recreate the KSOD again just to check them out.

But if you have a KSOD yourself, Vista or Win7, then hopefully some of this may help you do things a little more systematically and find a consistent solution.

IMPORTANT: do not do any of this unless you really know what you are doing in the technical nitty-gritty of a Windows 7 computer and unless you recognise that is you mess anything up it is entirely your own responsibility.

The least damaging of these possible fixes is simply to repair the partition boot sector (I suggest you refrain from fixing the MBR unless you really have to, as many manufacturers put special code in there for recovery partitions and the like). From the W7 repair console this is simply a matter of typing:
Bootrec /Fixboot
Reboot and see if this has helped. This is such a simple thing that it is probably the best first thing to try. Then try the fixes in my earlier post, linked to above, in case one of those helps you. If not, the other thing I did was much more drastic: I opened up file permissions to everyone in the Windows and root folders. This will make a mess of Windows and you will need to do a repair installation to (maybe) fix it - so it is very much a last resort.

First, try:-
 ICACLS C:\ /grant "Everyone":F
Then, from the root directory:-
ICACLS *.* /grant "Everyone":F
And finally, from the \Windows directory:-
ICACLS *.* /grant "Everyone":F /t /c
It is unlikely that you need all of these so try them one at a time and see if one of them does the trick.

If you do find a solution to the pre-login KSOD please leave a comment to let me, and others, know how worked for you.