Friday, July 29, 2011

Friday chuckle

There we are, problem solved...

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Trust me I'm a Bishop..

Love this little story, televangelist billionaire Bishop Edir Macedo, head of the Universal Church of the Kingdom of God (a rather ambitious title if ever I heard one!) has instructed his 8 million followers to take a three week "secular media" fast, i.e. don't read the papers, watch TV or do Facebook for 3 weeks, apparently because it's good for their soul. What the good Bishop has neglected to mention in his communication is that this abstinence is likely to neatly correspond to a scandal involving him and his money grabbing cult church, just as his previous two "media fasts" have.

In a statement Macedo says,

"It will be a fast from each and every kind of secular information: TV, internet, newspapers, magazines, radios … from everything that is not Godly"

Also neglecting to remind readers that he personally owns the third biggest television network in Brazil.

It's hard for a rationalist like me to look at this story and not conclude that those 8 million people must be a bunch of feckless imbeciles were it not for the myriad dumb things that humans of all strokes get caught up in. If only we had a general rule of thumb we could follow to avoid being duped, conned and encouraged to be delusional... here's a thought, how about if we avoid believing things that have absolutely no evidence for them being true, ESPECIALLY when they require us to give cash to people that have a vested interest in us believing.

- too complicated?

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Home sweet home

Not many posts lately, been on holiday sans WiFi (a lot of the time) back home now and thinking about where to start, so much going on at the moment. We had a wonderful time in Canada (which is where I've been) on the Western Pacific coast (Vancouver/Vancouver Island) the place was beautiful but the weather not so great, the summer hadn't quite arrived yet but I can't complain too much everything else more than compensated for a bit of drizzle, in fact it was just like a typical English summer!

Back in sunny Berkshire now, the sky seems so much smaller, oh well there's always work to look forward to (sigh...)

PS. the little black bear in the picture was one of natural highlights of the trip, that part of the world has such impressive wildlife.

Friday, July 15, 2011

British airways

I had the misfortune to travel British airways recently (long haul) and it was painful; the marketing encouraged me to check in on the WEB site, but upon visiting the site it wouldn't allow me to complete the process, claiming that certain passport information was missing (my passport number), then when I tried to enter that information the page just puked putting me into an endless loop (technically the page state was incorrectly set to update mode when I wasn't in update mode, i.e. it thought I was changing existing data when in fact I was entering new data, a corruption of view-state). Now I would be more sympathetic if I weren't a long standing 20+ year member of their executive club (where you pre-register all your passport details), and over the years have probably chalked up more than five hundred long haul flights with that particular airline.

This time I was travelling with my family and the default seat allocation had us all over the cabin, when I tried to change the seating on-line it first told me the cost would be £25 per change (since when did that happen?) and then when I actually tried to change anything it put me back into the endless loop previously mentioned - I gave up with the WEB site, checking in the old fashioned way without incident on the day of travel. On the plane I didn't do much better, my AV system was completely buggered (a technical term), the volume altered itself randomly and the overhead light kept flicking on and off, obviously a short circuit somewhere, the cabin staff could not help having tried to reset the system several times we eventually gave up and switched it all off; I resigned myself to reading a book for 10 hours.

This is all a great shame, a superficial comparison between now and a couple of years ago when I used to do a couple of long haul trips a month would suggest to me that this is a company is in decline; when you start charging for things that don't actually cost you anything that's a big red flag in my book; when your key systems are simply broken another red flag, when you forget about loyal customers who have lots of choices that's the final nail in your coffin; Virgin do it better.

Here's a photo from my apartment balcony, see if you can figure out where I was...

Friday, July 08, 2011

Weekly round up

Well it's Friday, nearly time to kick back and start shopping! (yawn) it's been an interesting week, the last ever space shuttle launch (see above) and the end of the News of the World newspaper, I'm pretty sure I know which humanity will miss most.

In other news the Dutch parliament has decided that it will outlaw the religious practice of slaughtering animals by cutting their throats and letting them bleed to death without stunning the poor beasts first. In a textbook example of Godwin's law, some Jewish commentators were sufficiently outraged (what's new) to liken the Dutch government to the Nazi's, apparently they should be free to inflict pain and suffering onto hapless creatures because that's what their dusty old books say that the creator of the universe demands, this seems highly unlikely to me since there are other equally certain religions that forbid the consumption of meat acquired by such means because it is cruel; any rational person would simply conclude from this that these apparently arbitrary rules are obviously man made, not God made. I applaud the Dutch move, anything that reduces the special privileges religious sects get to cause suffering just because they demand it is progress in my book; shame our UK government would never have the balls to do it here.

Professor Richard Wiseman launched a new book in the USA this week called Paranormality, its essentially about waving a shitty stick at everything paranormal, ghosts, psychic experiences, superhuman powers and all of that, it presents a scientific view of these topics and guess what there is no evidence for any of them. The funny thing is that after publishing the same book all around the world he was unable to secure a US publisher; it would seem that publishers in the USA feel that the American public don't actually want to be disavowed of their delusions, or even risk such a thing. Wiseman is publishing the book himself, I guess that some people are quite dogmatic about their belief in belief.

Michele Bachmann, the scary right wing Bible thumping presidential candidate who denies evolution has signed a pledge created by the Family Leader a group of Christian conservatives in Iowa USA. The list of 14 bullet points includes such enlightened items as,

- Marriage is only valid between a male and a female
- Homosexuality is a choice
- Homosexuality is a public health risk (on a par with second-hand smoking)
- All forms of pornography should be banned
- Sharia law should be outlawed

This woman is clearly as mad as a box of frogs but no doubt millions will love and vote for her regardless. It must be intensely frustrating for rational Americans to present rational, evidence based arguments against this kind of stuff to people who don't value evidence, I can only hope she has some unpopular liberal skeletons in her closet, fortunately such people usually do.

Thursday, July 07, 2011

Blonds in space

For all those blond people who aren't entirely "natural" fear not, another potential career path opened up to you today with the announcement that scientists have discovered a source of Hydrogen Peroxide in space! Yes it will be possible to travel 400 million light years through space and remain confident that unsightly roots can be avoided. All we need now is to discover an interstellar source of turkey twizzlers and a way to transmit the X-factor faster than the speed of light and humans will have everything they need to explore the outer reaches of the universe.

Wednesday, July 06, 2011

Stews of the world

So the News of the World is in a pickle, it seems that every hour fresh accusations are emerging of people employed by News International hacking into the mobile phones of disabled children and sweet old ladies in order to satisfy their depraved desires for money and sex (well maybe not sex but hey, sex sells!). Lynch them I say, no wait better still, deny Rupert Murdoch the opportunity to acquire 40% of the entire media infrastructure of our country, he clearly can't use it responsibly.

Monday, July 04, 2011

The inappropriate behaviour delusion?

For those interested in such things, Richard Dawkins is stirring up a bit of a shit storm over at Pharyngula (like he needs the traffic..)

It all started after Rebecca Watson of Skepchick  posted a little video recounting an "incident" at a recent atheist conference in Dublin. She says that at around 4am after a long session of setting the world to rights at the bar of the hotel she decided to retire to bed, apparently a male conference attendee sharing the lift with her asked if she would like to continue the conversation over coffee in his room. Now, for those of us that have been around on this planet for a while and understand a few things about male-female interaction (especially in hotels) this kind of thing happens a lot with varying degrees of subtlety, ranging from zero through to highly elaborate involving food, drink, helpers and sometimes audio-visual aids. In terms of where this particular effort fits you could say it seems more toward the "hopelessly unsubtle" end of the spectrum, but then I wasn't there and context is king in these things. In her video Watson complains about this behaviour, calling it "creepy", although she doesn't name the person nor did she claim that anything illegal or unsavoury happened, broadly she made a case that the behaviour was "inappropriate". Enter Dawkins, who posted the following comment on the Pharyngula site in the discussion of the aforementioned video:

Dear Muslima,

Stop whining, will you. Yes, yes, I know you had your genitals mutilated with a razor blade, and . . . yawn . . . don't tell me yet again, I know you aren't allowed to drive a car, and you can't leave the house without a male relative, and your husband is allowed to beat you, and you'll be stoned to death if you commit adultery. But stop whining, will you. Think of the suffering your poor American sisters have to put up with.

Only this week I heard of one, she calls herself Skep"chick", and do you know what happened to her? A man in a hotel elevator invited her back to his room for coffee. I am not exaggerating. He really did. He invited her back to his room for coffee. Of course she said no, and of course he didn't lay a finger on her, but even so . . .

And you, Muslima, think you have misogyny to complain about! For goodness sake grow up, or at least grow a thicker skin.


The sentiment is clear, Dawkins thinks the whole thing is a storm in a teacup especially within the context of some rather nastier physical and mental abuse of women in other cultures and religious systems etc. This comment caused a surge of both criticism and support necessitating new posts being created on the site just to handle the volume of comments, clearly nerves were touched. I can see both sides of it, I understand what Dawkins is trying to say, and in his usual style he is being ultra-precise filling in no gaps, i.e. if the guy was asking for a coffee then we assume that's all he wanted. I suspect most people wouldn't be like that; they would take a more "organic" view and slant their comments one way or another, at least read between the gaps according to their preconceived views, i.e. if the guy is asking a women for coffee at 4am in a hotel lift then he's really asking for sex. There is also something about the fact that the elevator is a confined space from which it's hard to escape, I suppose so but for me that says more about the insecurities of the woman than the insensitivities of the man, maybe I'm missing something there.

If I knew how to do one of those on-line poll widgets then this would be a good one, i.e. "Is it OK for a man to ask a women he doesn't know back to his room for coffee in a hotel elevator or not?" As always with matters pertaining to sexuality, I suspect the answer is "it depends" but then there are plenty of people commenting, male and female, that feel the answer is more clear cut.

My own approach is more basic, just don't talk to strangers in trains, planes or lifts, and if possible don't even make eye contact with them, life is so much simpler that way...