About That “House” Banner

You may recall that I sent mail to the church in Ireland that put up the banner shown here, and caused a fair amount of consternation. Today, I got the following reply:

Hi Andrew,

Thanks for taking the time to notice the sign and sorry I didn’t get back to you sooner as we received your mail during the week of prayer. I was surprised how fast the poster circulated on the net as we hadn’t put it on the web. This poster generated some discussion with strong views on both sides – Most really liked it as it generated discussion if read with the irony that was intended – others did not as they hold that is stating that there is no rational people in the Church – It is just one of a series of posters that was used to advertise a week of prayer in the parish between the 15th – 21st Oct and the intention was not to offend but to at least generate a discussion that would encourage people to come and find out for themselves!

I can assure you that the person who designed the poster was familiar with both the character, the series and also the sentiments that the character attached to the quote. Some who commented went as far to say that it “
was serving to make a mockery of the Christian faith”
as unfortunately the sentiment that is behind the quote is a real view that some people have of the Church and “religious” people. I do understand the characters beliefs although I would think that most that hold this view seem to do so without actual experience of
a faith community.

So the poster was an invitation to people to come and see for yourself if this is the case, a point that was not been lost on a number of others who commented on it.

Thanks again for your comments and the week of prayer was a terrific success, and a real experience of community, with a number of people (of all ages) coming along for the first time. Maybe the poster prompted a few to come along that may have never thought of coming?

Kind regards and God Bless

Frank Brown

So meh, decent idea, poor execution. Maybe the problem is that for a concept like this to work, the message should either explicitly say something like “Is this true? Come to our event and find out!”, or else it should be clearly wrong, like Thomas Friedman’s book The World Is Flat: clearly he doesn’t mean that the planet Earth is pizza-shaped, so you have to read the book to find out what he means.

But in this case, the idea that people are religious for irrational reasons is not only plausible, it has been propounded by Christians like Ray Comfort (granted, not the best proponent of any idea, but still). So I’m putting this under “decent idea, poor execution”.

GDMF Exchange!

Yet more reason to hate MS Exchange. Here are the relevant headers and MIME lines from a meeting notification I got recently:


Subject: XXX Staff Meeting
Content-Type: multipart/alternative;
MIME-Version: 1.0


Content-Type: text/plain; charset="utf-8"
Content-Transfer-Encoding: base64

Content-Type: text/html; charset="utf-8"
Content-Transfer-Encoding: base64

Content-Type: text/calendar; charset="utf-8"; method=REQUEST
Content-Transfer-Encoding: base64



At first glance, all might look normal: there’s a calendar entry with a note attached.

So first we have the plain text version of the note, followed by the HTML version of the note, followed by the vCalendar file describing the meeting itself.

But a closer look at the header shows that the message as a whole has Content-Type: multipart/alternative.

RFC 1521 says:

The multipart/alternative type is syntactically identical to multipart/mixed, but the semantics are different. In particular, each of the parts is an “alternative” version of the same information.

Systems should recognize that the content of the various parts are interchangeable. Systems should choose the “best” type based on the local environment and preferences, in some cases even through user interaction.

In other words, any standards-compliant mail reader should see those three MIME chunks as three different versions of the same information. So if it decides to (or you tell it to) display the HTML version of the note, it shouldn’t display the calendar file. And if it displays the calendar entry, it shouldn’t show the attached note.

Clearly somebody at Microsoft needs to be slapped. Hard.

(And in case you’re wondering, the proper way to do what they’re trying to do would be for the message as a whole to be multipart/mixed with a multipart/alternative chunk for the note, and a text/calendar chunk for the calendar entry. The note chunk would be further subdivided into a text/plain chunk and a text/html chunk.)

I think that when people are first told that Exchange is both a mail server and a calendar server, they think it’s kind of like a goose — something that can competently walk, swim, and fly, even though it may not excel at any of those — but in reality, it’s more like a crocoduck: massive fail at every level, no matter how you look at it.

Another Useful Keybinding

I just found out that the mutt mailreader accepts ~Lexpr in searches. This matches messages where expr appears either as a sender or as a recipient.

Every so often, I need to look for a mail exchange I’ve had with a particular person, or where two people have corresponded and Cc-ed me. So I’d limit to

~farensb ~C(pat|chris) || ~f(pat|chris) ~Carensb

(messages (from arensb and (to or cc-ed) to (pat or chris)) or from (pat or chris) and (to or cc-ed) to arensb, for those who don’t speak mutt-regex).

Now that I know about ~L, the above can be simplified down to

~Larensb ~L(pat|chris)

(messages (from or to or cc-ed to) arensb and (from or to or cc-ed to) (pat or chris)).

My tunnelled carpals thank you, Mutt developers!