Friday, November 29, 2013

Oort humour

We've been following the fate of comet ISON with much interest in our family. Last night was the climax of the event as the comet slingshot around the Sun at a million km/hour. From first reports it looks like poor little ISON got beat up pretty bad, extreme temperature and gravity can be mean to ice and rocks. Hopefully there will be something left to see next week as the remnants make their way back towards us, we'll be looking out for it and I'll be doing my best to stimulate the empty space in some little minds here on Earth.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

I predict death in my future

Well known American author (#1 Times best seller) and professional psychic Sylvia Brown died yesterday, whilst death itself has the air of certainty about it for all of us, the precise timing of the event usually isn't clear. Brown made her money (easily in the $millions) from convincing people that she could talk to dead people and predict the future, it's ironic in the extreme then that she once made a prediction about her own demise live on the Larry King show, she claimed to know when she was going to die, "aged 88" she asserted to her audience, unfortunately her actual age yesterday was only 77. Brown was also criticised for making several claims about missing persons that turned out to be completely wrong, most notably kidnapped children Shawn Hornbeck and Amanda Berry.

So much for psychics.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Pets in the modern world

Imagine if you could text with your pet dog...

Christian parenting

Here's a really good response to some Christian Woman in the USA writing to a magazine agony column complaining about her gay son, here's the complaint..

Dear Amy:

I recently discovered that my son, who is 17, is a homosexual.

We are part of a church group and I fear that if people in that group find out they will make fun of me for having a gay child.

He won’t listen to reason, and he will not stop being gay. I feel as if he is doing this just to get back at me for forgetting his birthday for the past three years - I have a busy work schedule. Please help him make the right choice in life by not being gay. He won’t listen to me, so maybe he will listen to you.

- Feeling Betrayed

And now the response from the editor of the column (Amy)..

Dear Betrayed:

You could teach your son an important lesson by changing your sexuality to show him how easy it is. Try it for the next year or so: Stop being a heterosexual to demonstrate to your son that a person’s sexuality is a matter of choice – to be dictated by one’s parents, the parents’ church and social pressure. 

I assume that my suggestion will evoke a reaction that your sexuality is at the core of who you are. The same is true for your son. He has a right to be accepted by his parents for being exactly who he is. When you ‘forget’ a child’s birthday, you are basically negating him as a person. It is as if your saying that you have forgotten his presence in the world. How very sad for him.

Pressuring your son to change his sexuality is wrong.

If you cannot learn to accept him as he is, it might be safest for him to live elsewhere.
A group that could help you and your family figure out how to navigate this is This organization is founded for parents, families, friends and allies of LGBT people, and has helped countless families through this challenge. Please research and connect with a local chapter.

- Amy

Monday, November 18, 2013

Starting new traditions

I could definitely get all dewy eyed about an advent calendar like this one!

Snuff movies

I noticed the other day that Russell Crow is starring in a new movie about a very old story!

Noah, the ultimate snuff movie, where not just the guy wearing the red tunic gets taken out but our whole planet and every single creature in it! That's right, were're talking major extinction event and the only way life on Earth is going to survive is by some bloke in a frock building an infeasibly large wooden boat and loading it with every creature and plant there is (yeah, yeah I know, the cynics out there are thinking, what, including blue whales, giant redwoods and 400,000 different species of beetles?). I don't need to dwell on the vapidity of the plot, it always was a ridiculous story and no matter how much CGI is thrown in it's still going to be nonsense.

What would have made the whole thing much more interesting would have been to introduce some new characters, like an evil overlord from the future (played by Mike Myers) who is remains hidden in orbit but mischievously beams ridiculous commands (i.e. stone naughty children to death) into the minds of people for maximum sadistic laughs, thereby causing violence and mayhem for millennia. All this just so he can watch the primitive monkey-men run around sucking up to invisible beings and killing each other for believing in the wrong imaginary man in the sky. You could also have one of those brain-bending circular time paradoxes where the evil overlord turns out to be some future political leader called Maximus Yahweh, who's setting the whole thing up to ensure that his ancestors (the Yahweh believing ones) are the ones who seize power and thrive eventually begating the evil Yahweh himself.. hold on a minute!

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Simple answers

Often, (most usually when I'm down the pub with friends) the subject of technology comes up and as the token "technologist" in the group I will be consulted regarding the relative merits (or otherwise) of whatever it is. Like the Oracle of Delphi (or should that be TVP?) I receive questions from the less technically au-fait among them and like the Oracle of Delphi my wisdom is imaginary. However, being in the technology business I feel a certain responsibility to provide objective and positive responses to such questions even though they tend to be quite barbed!. Being a bunch of curmudgeonly old gits and set in their ways my friends pose questions that frequently fall into repeated forms, usually along the lines of "that's ridiculous, who could possibly need that?"

I've often been tempted to pre-compile a list of stock answers that can simply be referred to in a kind of "self-help" way but the clever people at beat me to it - here's their solution (it made me smile)..

Knickers to clerics

I saw this rather odd story on the wire today, it's about a group of religious "clerics" in Saudi Arabia who are threatening to pray for a member of the government to "get cancer" if he doesn't stop women getting jobs in (female) underwear shops. I suppose it's fairly predictable that a bunch of misogynous fundamentalist males would object to females doing anything remotely related to biology but the unanswered question that  fascinates me more is who they think *should* work in women's underwear shops? pubescent males? can you imagine the amount of shop soiled stock that would involve! The other fascinating thing about this story is what the name of God (praise be upon his boxers) are "prayers for cancer", isn't this the same as voodoo? I thought witch-craft was punishable by death in Saudi Arabia!

The whole thing is pants if you ask me...

Friday, November 01, 2013

Family values

One of the soap box subjects that you often hear conservative Christians banging on about is "family values", you know, protecting the nuclear family of a man, a women and 2.5 children against the temptations and informalities of a secular world. A reasonable aspiration you may think until that is you look at the rate at which these same people seem to contradict themselves and break up nuclear families by getting a divorce! It would seem that breaking up families has little to do with God and much more to do with cultural trends and modern expectations, particularly of better educated Women. Unfortunately for the Christians who so frequently use this rather blunt intellectual club to batter secularists on matters of legal reform, the rate of divorce among atheists is less, you could say that being an atheist is better for the family!

It seems obvious to objective observers that on the whole humans are pretty much the same and influenced by pretty much the same hopes and desires, why atheist marriages are more successful who knows, perhaps having a perspective that gender role models aren't handed down from on high by some supernatural deity helps to more fairly negotiate who's doing the washing up!