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Friday, November 25, 2005

The World English Bible

Some people would say there are already enough (or even too many) versions of the Bible. But the World English Bible is an interesting new translation: a totally public domain, modern English translation of the Bible!

I don't want to get involved in the whole "King James vs. New International Version" debate, but I will say that this is a really great project. The idea is excellent, and the translation is based on three public domain texts: the American Standard Version (first written in 1901), the Biblia Hebraica Stutgartensa Old Testament, and the Greek Majority Text New Testament. The primary translation work is done by Michael Paul Johnson, with proofreading by many, many volunteers.

Of course, there's nothing wrong with having copyrighted versions; proceeds from the NIV, for example, help fund further translation of the Bible into new languages. And, of course, the proceeds from all the major modern translations enable scholars to pursue such work as a full-time vocation (which is unbelievably important).

The WEB, on the other hand, is entirely public domain. So authors can quote Scripture extensively in their works; programmers or webmasters can include the entire Bible in a program or website; and individuals or small groups can create their own tracts and literature—all without royalties! It's a great option for small, independent authors and the like, since royalties can be prohibitively expensive for such projects.

The full version of the World English Bible is a work in progress, due out around Christmas, so the verdict is still out. But the motives of the translators are definitely to be praised.


Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Masala Chai

As I said in my last post, my recipe is based on one from The New Guide to Spices. I have altered their (excellent!) recipe (mainly reducing the cinnamon and increasing the water), so here's my version.

Masala Chai
6 cups cold water
1/2 stick cinnamon
3 green cardamoms, whole
4 cloves, whole
2 tea bags pekoe (black) tea (or 2 tsp loose)
1/4 to 1/2 cup sugar (or half sugar, half Splenda)
milk or half and half, to taste (optional)

Add spices to water and bring to a boil. Remove from heat and allow to steep for 10 minutes. Add tea and return to heat. Bring to a boil again, then reduce heat and simmer for 3 minutes. Remove tea bags and sweeten. Add milk or half and half if desired.

I recommend trying it with milk/cream even if you think you won't like it (I was sure I would hate it). If you don't do milk, I've also used Very Vanilla Silk Soy Milk, with surprisingly good results.

I've also experimented with adding a pinch of dried orange peel, or sweetening it with vanilla sugar. Some people use green or oolong tea, or even rooibos ("red tea"). I intend to try all three, as well as black pepper and (maybe) ginger. Go ahead, have fun and experiment.

By the way, a farmer's market or natural foods store will often have spices in bulk packaging. It's much cheaper to purchase them that way! Last time I bought cinnamon sticks, I paid $2 for a good sized container (3.25 oz); McCormick's and other brands usually cost more than that for .75 ounces!


A Chai Primer

This is a very weird entry for my blog, I'll admit, but I get questions about chai every time I make it for someone! So, here we go.

First, a bit of background. "Masala Chai" simply means "spice tea" (so calling Indian tea "chai tea" is redundant; you're saying "tea tea".) In India, it's even more ubiquitous than coffee is here, and just about every household has its own recipe.

Since every hostess has her own recipe, chai is really more of a classification of tea. The main components are tea (traditionally a strong black tea), spice, sweetener (sugar, usually) and a creamer of some sort. (I love half and half; surprisingly, Very Vanilla Silk Soymilk is also good!)

The most common spices in chai are cardamom, cinnamon, cloves, and (surprise!) black pepper. Other traditional spices include nutmeg and ginger, but experimenting is fun. I've used dried orange peel with good results.

By the way, I learned to make Masala Chai in 1998. (My recipe is based on one from The New Guide to Spices, but I have altered it a bit.) The funny thing is, now chai is trendy. I was way ahead here!

I'll post my recipe next. (If anyone cares...)


Friday, November 11, 2005

More on Sony's Rootkit

Some people just can't admit when they're wrong, and apparently some corporations can't either. Like Sony. They have released a patch on their website for the infamous rootkit. Do they apologize for their mistake? No! Does their patch remove the rootkit? No! They deny any wrongdoing, and claim they're only providing a patch to "alleviate concerns." Even when the outcry is so strong that they've had to discontinue its use, they won't admit they were wrong. (Though apparently they were quick to modify their EULA.)

According to Sony, the rootkit "is not malicious and does not compromise security..." Um, how does hiding any file starting with "$sys$" not compromise security? Especially since there is already a trojan making the rounds that exploits the rootkit, disabling your firewall! And if they were so well-intentioned with their rootkit, why didn't they provide full disclosure (or any disclosure)?

Sony's little patch (or "Service Update") doesn't remove the rootkit, or even fix its other problems. The only thing it does, by all accounts, is remove the cloaking. Presumably, uninstalling it the hard way would still disable your CD-ROM drive!

What about the Sony brass? Here's what one Sony exec, Thomas Hesse, had to say to NPR: "Most people, I think, don’t even know what a rootkit is, so why should they care about it?"

Why should we care? Because rootkits can be harmful! Just because I don't know what it is does not mean it's okay to hack my computer! Isn't that like saying it's okay to steal, as long as the victims don't know you're stealing from them? Or that it's okay to slip poison into people's food as long as they don't know it's poison? Hello! How about some logic here? At this point, I would be delighted just to see a shred of common sense!

Oh, and the rootkit "phones home." (See the Sysinternal article again, or this summary on Slashdot.) So far it doesn't seem to send data, just look for a banner related to the album being played. And of course, we can trust Sony to remain honest, right?

By the way, Sony, it's probably not a good thing that you have your own category on Slashdot!


Thursday, November 10, 2005

The Bible on an iPod

I just found a great new way to use my iPod: to listen to and read the Bible! A new company called BiblePlayer has found a way to use the "Notes" feature to deliver both an audio and text version of the Bible!

I just downloaded it fifteen minutes ago, but so far I love it! I'm trying out the freeware version first, but I'll probably buy the Deluxe version. Here's how it works: first, upload the audio files onto your iPod. Next, install everything else into the "Notes" folder (just make sure disk mode is enabled). Now disconnect the iPod and navigate to the Notes section. Wait for the notes to load (it takes a while; even the totally free version contains the full Gospels). Then, choose what you want to do: "Read the Bible", "Hear the Bible", "Bible in a Year", "Devotionals", or "Bible Stories".

The totally free version, "BiblePlayer Lite", contains the full Gospels, "Gospel in a Year" (twice through, I believe), Charles Spurgeon's "Faith's Checkbook" devotionals for January, and fifteen or sixteen Bible stories. There are also three sample audio files: Proverbs 5, in King James, World English, and Reina Valera (which I believe is the Spanish New Testament).

The $5 version contains the full text of the Old and New Testament, complete year of Faith's Checkbook, eight more reading plans, over one hundred Bible stories, and a "God's Promises" module. The deluxe version, which is only $20 this month, contains all that, plus full audio files.

I like that each text file has a link to allow you to listen to the audio for it (for the Deluxe version, of course), without going through Playlists. (Though I would assume you can create playlists with the audio files; after all, to iTunes, they're just mp3 files.)

Only downside: the iPod is limited to one thousand notes, so you can install the Old Testament or the New Testament–but not both. To switch, you must uninstall one before installing the other. (Though it should be no problem to install both sets of audio files, disk space permitting...)

Just for reference, I chose the World English Version: I don't already have it, and no one in my Sunday School class ever has it, so it will be useful for version comparisions. I'll research it more before I buy one, of course, but I can always download the KJV for the freeware, if I want. (My study Bible is a New King James, so it's pretty easy to switch over to KJV. But all the "eth" and "est" and "wherefores" can get tiresome, so I doubt I will. Besides, if I already have my Bible, I don't need to use my iPod!)

I'll post again once I've given BiblePlayer a more thorough trial.


Tuesday, November 08, 2005

Just Say "No!" to Sony!

In case you don't hang around slashdot, let me summarize what's up with Sony: they're scum. That's right, scum. Yes, that Sony!

See, Sony has this wonderful idea for protecting their music from pirates. When you buy one of their "special" digital rights managed (DRM) CDs, they require you to install special player software to access it in a computer. There's an End User License Agreement (EULA), but let's just say it's terribly misleading and leaves out lots of minor details...

Like the fact that it installs some extra special bonus software (it's called a "rootkit") that any hacker would love! And so you're not "bothered" by its presence on your system, it very kindly hides itself. In fact, it hides any file that has a filename starting with "$sys$." Like I said, hackers should love it! (Updated 11-10-2005: there's already at least one trojan making the rounds that exploits this weakness.)

And Sony doesn't see this as a problem, apparently: "The download text claims that the rootkit does not pose any “potential security vulnerabilities,” however it’s obvious that any software that cloaks files, directories and Registry keys beginning with a certain string of characters is a clear security risk." (From a post by Mark at Sysinternals)

And what else does this little bit of software (designed by First 4 Internet, by the way) do? Well, it is quite processor hungry, so it's detrimental to performance. If you are tech savvy enough to decloak all the files and get rid of all its nasty little bits (I wouldn't be, without directions), it disables your CD-ROM drive! (I'm definitely not a good enough geek to figure that one out. Fortunately, there are many people on the web who are.) Oh, and it can lead to a crashed system and data loss-not good.

And uninstalling the disclosed (player) software? (Remember, apparently no mention of the rootkit in the EULA!) It's not at all easy. Mark at Sysinternals (who seems to be the current expert on this piece of garbage) tried to contact Sony about it. They made him jump through hoops and twiddle his thumbs waiting for their response. And the patch? It installed more undisclosed stuff!

By the way, Mac and Linux users appear to be in the clear. Good thing I only listen to music on my PowerBook, not my PC!


Tuesday, November 01, 2005

The Spirit of...Halloween?

I love Halloween! Mostly it's because of the costumes–I freely admit it–but that's not the whole story. Trick-or-treating is great, too, and not just for the candy. As a kid, I loved the candy, but I never finished it all. And I loved the sheer number of people who got to see–and compliment–my costume every year. (In my family we always had really great costumes, or at least distinctive, and practically always handmade. And we didn't stop visiting houses until every house was dark!)

More than any of that, though, there's just such a great spirit to Halloween. There's a sense of community you rarely see; it's even rarer today than when I was a kid. On Halloween, you actually see your neighbors, and they see you. You might even talk to them. (Imagine that!)

And everyone is so generous! It's practically the only time you see people willing to give little gifts to strange people without a major disaster involved. Yes, we give at Christmas, but that's different. It's mainly just to friends and family, or at least people we have some connection to. And yes, most people make an effort to give something to the less fortunate during the holidays. That's admirable.

But Halloween is different. Our world is a scary place; after dark, we usually regard strangers on our doorstep with apprehension, if not outright suspicion or fear. But at Halloween, a complete stranger can come up to your house, knock on your door, and receive...candy. It's a small thing, true, but's its willingly–enthusiastically–given, even if that stranger really does look strange... (Especially if they look strange!) That has to be worth something.

Christmas, Easter, and Thanksgiving are far more important holidays, I would say. But maybe Halloween has something to teach us, too. Maybe we need trick-or-treating. Too bad it's dying out.

Happy Halloween!