Monday, October 31, 2011

Damned if you do...

I see in the news today that the Dean of St. Paul's is to resign his position after the row over the last couple of weeks about the removal (or otherwise) of protesters outside the Cathedral. I'm not really qualified to talk about the politics of employees of that particular organisation or the individuals concerned, but it did strike me as an interesting situation with respect to the idea that Britain is a secular country (or not). Clearly the Church, or at least some members of it are in a position where their ethics may well be at odds with their organisation's legal standing; essentially the Church needs to decide whether it's inside or outside the establishment.

Of course any religion in a properly secular and tolerant country would not have this problem; the members of that organisation would be free to support any legal position and truly follow their conscience, to me the Church of England in this case seems to be suffering from a case of wanting their cake and eating it. Their political privilege and proximity to power is clearly intoxicating (and useful) for them but by accepting the "King's shilling", members shouldn't really feel surprised when their independence is compromised.

Friday, October 28, 2011

Friday smirk

Incisive from xkcd as usual, anyone who has filled in a WEB form will understand this...

Thursday, October 27, 2011

More of this please..

This is Sally Morgan, psychic superstar, TV star and confidante to Princess Diana (apparently!) - at this point you may be wondering why the title of this post asks for more, more psychic'ness? No, I want more of this!

A group of sceptics including Simon Singh and James Randy have challenged Sally to prove her psychic abilities beyond doubt in a specially organised test in Liverpool on Halloween. The test was arranged after one particular show Sally did in Dublin last month where audience members apparently heard someone at the back of the stage passing information to her via a radio link (this is an old trick).

I wonder if she will rise to the challenge? as TV magician Derren Brown points out,

"It's a great way of anyone making amazing claims to show that they hold up and are not just a result of trickery or self-deception. The test should be both scientifically rigorous and yet fair to the psychic: it would show, if the psychic is successful, that what he or she does is real"

Somehow I doubt she'll show, but if she does my own psychic powers predict a sudden and unexplained non-appearance of her psychic powers, we shall see.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Friday, October 21, 2011

New rapture?

So, Harold Camping has predicted (again) that today is the day when the Christian faithful will be swept up to join Christ in his eternal dominion, leaving the heathen hordes (that's you, and me) to do battle with Satan and his host, condemned to become food for the crows that will scour a godless and forsaken land?

So, does this mean that God will also take all the fuel, food and ammo? will all those right wing Christians in America demand the right to pack automatic weaponry in Heaven? Seems unlikely so I'm not sure why the forsaken people left behind can't just re-organise society without that particular God and just carry on as normal, shooting the crows (or indeed any Corvidae) that dares to take Alfred Hitchcock too seriously. I suppose that for some of us infidels Camping's prediction will be uncomfortably literal, Col. Gaddaffi for example seems to have timed his demise to fit in with Yahweh's plan quite nicely!

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Another one bites the dust

We hear today that the last dictator (with God on his side) of the 60s has been killed. From the video I watched of his last moments it would appear that it was not a dignified death, that's a shame, it denies all those families who suffered under him a chance for their story to be told in a court of law and to participate in a justice process, however it was an understandable conclusion to 40 years of tyranny. As for the other bloke in this photo, he has God on his side too, I can't help but think it means as just much in his case as it did in Gaddaffi's.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

How low can you go?

So, I read that the Catholic Church is in trouble again for making judgements about people's character and morality without their consent and essentially if they didn't pass then lie to them and steal their new born babies to sell. The latest scandal centres on baby-trafficking by Church, government officials and clinics in Spain over several decades. As many as 300,000 babies may have been the victims of a practise that saw infants taken from “morally or economically deficit” parents and sold to couples deemed more acceptable.

Come on folks, what does it take to reach the point where it's clear to everyone that this is a morally bankrupt and fundamentally flawed organisation that has no privileged position with regard to morality and certainly no special place legally in any society especially the ones where it has a majority following. Seriously, does the Pope have to set up a snipers rifle in St. Peter's square and shoot disabled kids and kittens in the head before some government somewhere takes appropriate and just action against these parasites.

Friday, October 14, 2011

rm -r /usr/dennis/richie

It is with sadness that I learnt today of the death of one of Computer Sciences iconic figures. Dennis Richie (seen in the photo wearing the stripy sweater) was pivotal in the development of two important elements of the modern computing landscape back in the 70s, the C programming language and the UNIX operating system.

Back in 1980, I remember endlessly studying the famous "white book", Kernighan & Richie's "The C programming language" in my first programming job, learning about curly brackets, null terminated strings, stacks, heaps and pointers (concepts programmers these days typically don't have to worry about!) Published in 1978, that book introduced something that is now part of our lingua-franca the idea of the "hello world" program, copied in pretty much every book and article about programming written ever since. The core of the UNIX operating system, that quintessential hackers paradise, was written in the C language and a lot of the utilities and shell environments also used C-like conventions. Not many people program in C these days it was largely superseded by it's object oriented descendent C++ however the legacy of Richie's work remains strong in millions of servers used by billions of people throughout the world and of course, in the memories of old hacks like me.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Binge thinking..

Here is Christopher Hitchens at a recent free-thought conference in Texas receiving an award in recognition of his sterling contributions to the various causes of his non-believing "comrades". His acceptance speech is touching because it's obvious from the images that his cancer is advancing and he is dying, well I suppose technically we're all dying, but in his case he's leaving the party before he really should (and before the rest of us want him to!)

As many more serious thinkers than me have already said, we hope the best is yet to come.

Thursday, October 06, 2011

Where were you..

I heard Steve Jobs died this morning, he was an interesting individual, focused and driven; someone who always knew what they wanted and had the intelligence and skill to make it happen; one of the wealthiest men at the head of the wealthiest company of our era. I listened to him live in California once in conversation with some other industry people at a little venue in Palo Alto. When we got an occasional glimpse through the usual opaque layers of corporate happy talk, he did seem to have something about him.

I'm not really into deifying people (as you probably know) and I'm sure Jobs had his share of good and bad attributes just like any other person. I think he was an Atheist (rumoured) so he probably wouldn't appreciate it anyway, however I think it is worth reflecting that tens of millions of people will learn of his death on some device that he significantly helped to create and which has impacted their lives in tangible ways, that's quite an achievement.