Tuesday, July 31, 2007

The exodus reverses itself

We've watched Canadians move SOTB for many, many years. We've seen our dollar valued less than Canadian Tire money. We've seen towns like Messina and Kittery do quite well in cross-border shopping despite the appalling exchange rates.
Now, the dollar is up. And the Yanks are coming up North in a Guns for Healtcare exchange program.

American moves to Canada reach record high
The number of Americans admitted to Canada last year reached a 30-year high, with a 20 per cent increase over the previous year and nearly double the number that arrived in 2000.

Who's coming and where are they going?
"When looking at the differences over the past few years in the real numbers between the two countries, Canada is undoubtedly narrowing the brain drain," the study said.

The most educated immigrant group comes from the U.S, with nearly half possessing a bachelor's degree or higher, the study found.

Ontario was the most popular destination for Americans, followed by B.C and Quebec.

Wonder why they're leaving...

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And now answering the question...

...is that all it took to get the impeachment process started? More criminalizing of political amnesia. A new low for the secular progressives. Now, excuse me, I have to go pray.

Crooks and Liars » BREAKING: House Democrats Introducing Bill To Investigate Impeachment Of Alberto Gonzales
MSNBC just reported that Rep. Jay Inslee (D-WA) announced he will be introducing a bill tomorrow that would require the House Judiciary Committee to begin an impeachment investigation of Attorney General Alberto Gonzales. At the beginning of the report MSNBC’s Chris Jansing says this bill was being presented by a group of House Democrats, but Inslee is the only one mentioned. More details to come…

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Monday, July 30, 2007

Rocket Man

The reason to read this article in Reason Magazine isn't that it touches on drunk astronauts; it's the 3 versions of Rocket Man by Mr Wm Shatner.

Reason Magazine - Hit & Run > NASA's Rocket Men Really Were High as a Kite...

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If it's drug hysteria, it must be Friday.

We can't let the party really get started on Fridays without a press release from the Ministry of Buzzkill, So here's a thought: let's see what they have to say.

Experts dismiss case for cannabis reclassification | Special reports | Guardian Unlimited
Drug experts today said there was still insufficient evidence to reclassify cannabis, after a report suggested the drug could increase the risk of schizophrenia by at least 40%.
The Labour MP Brian Iddon and Professor Robin Murray, of the Institute of Psychiatry, said there would be no benefit gained by restoring cannabis to a class B drug.

I would consider that to be a self-evident point. Still, this idea of a lot of people developing schizophrenia because of dope seems like a nasty point. How bad is it anyway?
Prof Murray said: "Individuals who - perhaps with some mild predisposition - would not otherwise have developed schizophrenia will do so because of taking cannabis. It's a bit like how people with only a minimal predisposition to diabetes will develop it if they eat too much."

I guess it's time to make Galaxy bars a class B drug.
Net result:
The MP, who is also a member of the science and technology select committee, said there was a danger of criminalising "hundreds of thousands of young people" if the status of the drug was changed.

"If Gordon Brown changes the class of the drug, it won't be evidence-based but for political reasons," he said.

"Since we reduced the classification of cannabis from B to C the usage is going down, so what's the point of muddying the debate again by this yo-yo political policy?"

For some reason no-one seems to be that impressed with this study's conclusions. Why is that?
The study, which is an analysis of previous research, estimated that 14% of 15-34-year-olds currently suffering from schizophrenia were ill because they smoked cannabis.
[emphasis added]
Ah, meta-studies. Take the results of a dozen badly done studies and average the results on the presumption that the total of bad data equals good data. These tend to be the same people who don't seem to understand why you can't average averages and get a result.
Further question: is anyone else noticing that one little key phrase in the article.

Bad Science » Blah blah cannabis blah blah blah
You know when cannabis hits the news you’re in for a bit of fun, and this week’s story about cannabis causing psychosis was no exception. The paper was a systematic review and then a “meta-analysis” of the data which has already been collected, looking at whether people who smoke cannabis are subsequently more likely to have symptoms of “psychosis” or diagnoses of schizophrenia. Meta-analysis is, simply, where you gather together all of the numbers from all the studies you can find into one big spreadsheet, and do one big calculation on all of them at once, to get the most statistically powerful result possible.

Yes you do, assuming good content. Much like in logic, if you have false premises you have false conclusions. Meta analysis isn't worthless, any more than historiography is worthless, but you do have to be have to be careful with the results. Goldacre continues:
Now I don’t like to carp, but it’s interesting that the
Daily Mail got even these basics wrong, under their headline
“Smoking just one cannabis joint raises danger of mental illness
by 40%”. Firstly “the researchers, from four British
universities, analysed the results of 35 studies into cannabis use from
around the world. This suggested that trying cannabis only once was
enough to raise the risk of schizophrenia by 41%.”

Oops. That wasn't careful, was it. No it wasn't, thanks for asking.
And craziest of all is the fantasy that reclassifying cannabis will
stop six million people smoking it, and so eradicate those 800 extra
cases of psychosis. If anything, for all drugs, increased prohibition
may create market conditions where more concentrated and dangerous
forms are more commercially viable.
And that may also be the point. I like to think back to the 1930s and how prohibition cured all alcoholism. Ahh, good times.

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Can we have our planet back? Redux

Apparently Marcus Brigstocke's rant last week brought about a few letters and emails. And his retort is well worth it.
At One Good Move

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Sunday, July 29, 2007

What's with the Red A on the side of the page?

Well, it's a small gesture to make atheism a bit more public. Not that I wasn't public. But now I have something I could put on a headband.
Anyway, PZ Myers has more: Pharyngula: Come out!

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How logical are you?

Your Score: Very Logical

You are 100 % Logical.

Excellent! You rival Spock in Spockiness. Live long and prosper.

Link: The How Logical Are You Test written by masterfiremaam on OkCupid Free Online Dating, home of the The Dating Persona Test
--  From: 	The Eternal Gaijin 	Lost Somewhere in Kobe, Japan 	"Words Cannot Describe What I Am About To Tell You."

Are you an Atheist?

You Are An Atheist
God? No thanks. You're not buying into any religion. They're all bunk to you. You rather focus on what you know is true. You may be a passive non-believer or a rabid atheist activist. But one thing is for sure... no one's going to make you go to church!
--  From: 	The Eternal Gaijin 	Lost Somewhere in Kobe, Japan 	"Words Cannot Describe What I Am About To Tell You."

Friday, July 27, 2007

What is it about Harry Potter?

'Tis the season to be Potter, tra la la la la, la la la la.
I haven't read the books and I didn't like the first two movies so I may not actually be an expert. I might see the new movie. What is interesting is that the Xtians get their thongs in a bunch over Harry Potter. There's all the huing and crying about witchcraft and devil worship and such. I never understand the panic.
Jon Stewart would say it's just mean-spirited dickery.
To me it's always been a touchstone for the lack of reality in the fundie camp. To not know that Harry Potter isn't real seems plausible for people who only ever read one book. And it's a book filled with magic anyway, so maybe Hagrid really did rescue Harry from wicked step-parents.
Sara over at Orcinus has a really good essay which takes the idea to a deeper level that I ever did.

But once you've rejected the reality-based world in favor of a mythic worldview, you are -- by definition -- building your life on an epistemology that has no verifiable support structure. Which means there are always going to be moments when faith dissipates just long enough to admit a quiet, nagging doubt about the foundations of your reality. It also means that you're going to regard any and all competing myth systems -- no matter how fantastic -- as a serious existential threat that stands in direct competition to your own (equally fantastic) myth system. They have to be treated as equivalent, because they're all made of the same flimsy stuff.

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Thursday, July 26, 2007

According to Legend...

...a TV network executive once said that no-one ever went broke underestimating the taste of the American public.
Given the last 6 years of politics, abuses of power and this article, I would add intelligence as well.
Creationism museum attracts big crowds - Focus on Faith - MSNBC.com
Less than two months after opening, a northern Kentucky museum dedicated to promoting creationism has drawn 100,000 visitors, causing some growing pains, museum officials said.

The milestone visit — the honor went to a Buffalo, N.Y., family — means the $27 million museum is on pace to easily shatter the first-year attendance projection of 250,000 visits, officials said.

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And this is why we have to ask nasty questions

I've liked Stephen Pinker since former co-worker SK introduced me to The Language Instinct. And he's one of the few public intellectuals who's an atheist and not constantly under fire for being so. (Witness Hitchens' series of ass-handing-tos debates with mail-order Rev. Al Sharpton or anything Richard Dawkins says)

In defense of dangerous ideas :: CHICAGO SUN-TIMES :: Other Views
Do women, on average, have a different profile of aptitudes and emotions than men?
Were the events in the Bible fictitious -- not just the miracles, but those involving kings and empires?
Has the state of the environment improved in the last 50 years?
Do most victims of sexual abuse suffer no lifelong damage?
Did Native Americans engage in genocide and despoil the landscape?
Do men have an innate tendency to rape?
Did the crime rate go down in the 1990s because two decades earlier poor women aborted children who would have been prone to violence?
Are suicide terrorists well-educated, mentally healthy and morally driven?
Would the incidence of rape go down if prostitution were legalized?
Do African-American men have higher levels of testosterone, on average, than white men?
Is morality just a product of the evolution of our brains, with no inherent reality?
Would society be better off if heroin and cocaine were legalized?
Is homosexuality the symptom of an infectious disease?
Would it be consistent with our moral principles to give parents the option of euthanizing newborns with birth defects that would consign them to a life of pain and disability?
Do parents have any effect on the character or intelligence of their children?
Have religions killed a greater proportion of people than Nazism?
Would damage from terrorism be reduced if the police could torture suspects in special circumstances?
Would Africa have a better chance of rising out of poverty if it hosted more polluting industries or accepted Europe's nuclear waste?
Is the average intelligence of Western nations declining because duller people are having more children than smarter people?
Would unwanted children be better off if there were a market in adoption rights, with babies going to the highest bidder?
Would lives be saved if we instituted a free market in organs for transplantation?
Should people have the right to clone themselves, or enhance the genetic traits of their children?

The question is: should you be allowed to ask?
My answer is yes. Sometimes we have to overturn conventional wisdom and received knowledge to get ahead. Sometimes it means we were right the first time around. Sometimes we have to take a long hard look at ourselves.
And we have to debate these things. And whatever policy or social consequences that may or may not flow from them.
Tragically, there are few signs that the debates will happen in the place where we might most expect it: academia. Though academics owe the extraordinary perquisite of tenure to the ideal of encouraging free inquiry and the evaluation of unpopular ideas, all too often academics are the first to try to quash them. The most famous recent example is the outburst of fury and disinformation that resulted when Harvard president Lawrence Summers gave a measured analysis of the multiple causes of women's underrepresentation in science and math departments in elite universities and tentatively broached the possibility that discrimination and hidden barriers were not the only cause.
But intolerance of unpopular ideas among academics is an old story. Books like Morton Hunt's The New Know-Nothings and Alan Kors and Harvey Silverglate's The Shadow University have depressingly shown that universities cannot be counted on to defend the rights of their own heretics and that it's often the court system or the press that has to drag them into policies of tolerance. In government, the intolerance is even more frightening, because the ideas considered there are not just matters of intellectual sport but have immediate and sweeping consequences. Chris Mooney, in The Republican War on Science, joins Hunt in showing how corrupt and demagogic legislators are increasingly stifling research findings they find inconvenient to their interests.

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Gonzo news

Is it even possible to get to law school, let alone through it, being so blissfully unaware of the function of WRITING?
Tip to Republicans: Paper is not like Microsoft Word. If you fold the paper before you finish the memo the words are still there.

Crooks and Liars » BREAKING: Documents Contradict Gonzales’ testimony

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Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Great rant: We'd like our planet back.

I've been a fan of Marcus Brigstocke for a while. It started with "We are History," a brilliant satirical take on "Time Team." (And that's my shout out to the British fans) and his attempts to learn and perform in French for a reality TV show. On the BBC's The Now Show he delivers some great material and this little rant is one of the best. Esp for someone who keeps going to visit our buddies at XtianGov't.ca. (Aren't I due for another trip? Sheesh.)

onegoodmove: Petulant Pricks
Petulant Pricks Well done. Marcus Brigstocke on the BBC's Now Show delivered a lovely rant directed at the people of the book, could we please have our planet back. It does sound like he's been reading Richard Dawkins book the The God Delusion and now you can pre-order the paperback edition.

P.S. As a counter point, Pharyngula has a link to the benefits for teachers of religious edumacation in Kansas.

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Ignorance of the Law is No Excuse

Boing Boing has one of the great Catch-22 stories:
Boing Boing: Secret list of buildings you can't photograph
Secret list of buildings you can't photograph

The DHS says that it's against the law to photograph "sensitive" government buildings, but they won't publish a list of these buildings, so it's impossible to comply with the law. The rub is that if you get caught breaking the law, you'll get shaken down, have your name and personal information taken, and go into a file, presumably forever.

The bottom line is that McCammon was caught in a classic logical trap. If he had only known the building was off-limits to photographers, he would have avoided it. But he was not allowed to know that fact. "Reasonable, law-abiding people tend to avoid these types of things when it can be helped," McCammon wrote. "Thus, my request for a list of locations within Arlington County that are unmarked, but at which photography is either prohibited or discouraged according to some (public or private) policy. Of course, such a list does not exist. Catch-22."

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Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Farting Preacher Video

I've got a Japanese exam to run off to today so I won't be doing much of a post.Still, thanks to Dispatches from the Culture War, I've got this video for people.It's a religious Blazing Saddles campfire scene. Low, low, low brow.

Via Dispatches

Saturday, July 21, 2007

Nice and simple

It's not just a theory. Get over it. Stop using the argument.

Evolution is Not Just a Theory: home
You've been told that "evolution is just a theory", a guess, a hunch, and not a fact, not proven. You've been misled. Keep reading, and in less than two minutes from now you'll know that you've been misinformed. We're not going to try and change your mind about evolution. We just want to point out that "it's just a theory" is not a valid argument.
HT to Bad Astonomy

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Friday, July 20, 2007

Just a couple of links before I head out the door

Heading out soon and don't feel like doing a real post.
BBC NEWS | Science/Nature | Computers crack famous board game
Christopher Hitchens - An Atheist Responds - washingtonpost.com
A Blog from Hell: Informed bigotry versus Ignorant tolerance
Meta and Meta: Next Question
Journal Entry
denialism blog : Why do people believe in conspiracy theories?
The Bronze Blog: Twoof is Wewative
The Bronze Blog: The 9/11 Twoofer Credo
And a quick thought:
Dispatches from the Culture Wars: Quote of the Day: Pascal
Men never do evil so cheerfully and so completely as when they do so from religious conviction.
Blaise Pascal
And one more:
onegoodmove: Lost and Found
Lost and Found
I recall the story of the philosopher and the theologian. The two were engaged in disputation and the theologian used the old quip about a philosopher being like a blind man, in a dark room, looking for a black cat—which wasn't there. "That may be," said the philosopher; "but a theologian would have found it."
—Julian Huxley

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Personality Defect

Your Score: Spiteful Loner

You are 71% Rational, 28% Extroverted, 71% Brutal, and 28% Arrogant.

You are the Spiteful Loner, the personality type that is most likely to go on a shooting rampage. In high school, you were probably that kid who wore all black and who sat alone in a corner of the lunch room, drawing pictures of dead babies. You are a rational person and tend to hold emotions in very low-esteem; not only that, but you are also rather introverted, meaning you probably bury any emotions you feel deep inside yourself, like all of the bodies in your backyard. Combine these traits with your dislike of others and your brutality, and it seems that you would be quite likely to shoot innocent people in a rampage. Most likely, you also have low self-esteem. Hell, I get low self-esteem just looking at you. This is only yet one more incentive to go on a shooting rampage, because you wouldn't care if you died as a result. Granted, you probably haven't gone on a shooting rampage and probably never will, but all the motivations are there. All you need is for someone to push you over the edge, calling you names and belittling you. Like me. But don't shoot me. I have a 101 mile-long knife, you know. In conclusion, your personality is defective because you are too introverted, brutal, insecure, and rather unemotional. No wonder no one hangs around you, you morbid, cold-hearted freak!

To put it less negatively:

1. You are more RATIONAL than intuitive.

2. You are more INTROVERTED than extroverted.

3. You are more BRUTAL than gentle.

4. You are more HUMBLE than arrogant.


Your exact opposite is the Televangelist.

Other personalities you would probably get along with are the Capitalist Pig, the Smartass, and the Sociopath.



If you scored near fifty percent for a certain trait (42%-58%), you could very well go either way. For example, someone with 42% Extroversion is slightly leaning towards being an introvert, but is close enough to being an extrovert to be classified that way as well. Below is a list of the other personality types so that you can determine which other possible categories you may fill if you scored near fifty percent for certain traits.

The other personality types:

The Emo Kid: Intuitive, Introverted, Gentle, Humble.

The Starving Artist: Intuitive, Introverted, Gentle, Arrogant.

The Bitch-Slap: Intuitive, Introverted, Brutal, Humble.

The Brute: Intuitive, Introverted, Brutal, Arrogant.

The Hippie: Intuitive, Extroverted, Gentle, Humble.

The Televangelist: Intuitive, Extroverted, Gentle, Arrogant.

The Schoolyard Bully: Intuitive, Extroverted, Brutal, Humble.

The Class Clown: Intuitive, Extroverted, Brutal, Arrogant.

The Robot: Rational, Introverted, Gentle, Humble.

The Haughty Intellectual: Rational, Introverted, Gentle, Arrogant.

The Spiteful Loner: Rational, Introverted, Brutal, Humble.

The Sociopath: Rational, Introverted, Brutal, Arrogant.

The Hand-Raiser: Rational, Extroverted, Gentle, Humble.

The Braggart: Rational, Extroverted, Gentle, Arrogant.

The Capitalist Pig: Rational, Extroverted, Brutal, Humble.

The Smartass: Rational, Extroverted, Brutal, Arrogant.

Be sure to take my Sublime Philosophical Crap Test if you are interested in taking a slightly more intellectual test that has just as many insane ramblings as this one does!

About Saint_Gasoline

I am a self-proclaimed pseudo-intellectual who loves dashes. I enjoy science, philosophy, and fart jokes and water balloons, not necessarily in that order. I spend 95% of my time online, and the other 5% of my time in the bathroom, longing to get back on the computer. If, God forbid, you somehow find me amusing instead of crass and annoying, be sure to check out my blog and my webcomic at SaintGasoline.com.

Link: The Personality Defect Test written by saint_gasoline on OkCupid, home of the The Dating Persona Test

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There's no lie too old to retire

I skulk around Bad Astronomy fairly frequently. Phil Plait is a writer with a conversational style and clear vision.
And he drops both of them like a hammer on another pack of creationist crud.
Read on:

Bad Astronomy Blog » Another passel of creationist lies
Usually, when someone spouts creationist garbage, it’s because they’ve been misled. We have a case of this, in spades, in the Evansville (Indiana) Courier Press, where a highly deluded creationist has written an editorial so full of crap I’m tempted to call a septic cleaning crew.

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Thursday, July 19, 2007

Some more newsletter joy...

I wonder what's happening with our friends over at the Theocratic Authoritarian Christiangouvernement page?
Christian Government - Timothy Bloedow
Ooo, another newsletter. Seems hot on the heels of the last one I chewed on. Shouldn't sit on them so long in the future.
So, what we got this time? (Please remember I do this so you don't have to.)

Media coverage and promotion for “State vs. Church”
My two recent U.S. media interviews took place as planned. Thank you for praying for these opportunities.

Praying got you the spots. Should get a better agent. Might get you on a big network, not just a couple of Xtian ones.

If you type "Christian government" into the Google search engine, our website is right at the top of page 1 of the websites listed by Google.

We more reality based types have to get Fuck Christian Government further up the list.

Other websites, both friendly and hostile, continue to discover our website, which expands the influence of our Biblical message of Christian government, a message of victory and hope.

Hey, you've been helping me out. Making some bloggy friends out there.
Anyway there's just more self promotion and exhortations to buy the book.

Commentary - Canada's Barbarian Playground?
The only way to terminate tyranny is to establish Christian government - a cultural Judaeo-Christian ethic that transforms the nature and operation of the civil government (as well as our broader approach to government).

2 points:

  1. If I grant your point of view that Canada is a tyranny (and I don't), you're not terminating tyranny; you're changing tyrannies.

  2. Judeo-Christian. Where does this bullshit come from? You're all jewey-christy until a Jew pops his head up and says, "You lost me at Jesus." Then we'll see how Judeo the Christian is.

Religiously, that means that we worship the God of the Bible, not the gods of the Secular Humanists, which are sex and the state. Sex and the state have their place, but their place is not as objects of worship by barbarians and freedom-haters.

2 points:

  1. I don't know if I'm a secular humanist or not. I don't claim to have mastered the ins and outs of their philosophy. I can tell you this: you know less about it than I do. The main thrust of it is not worshipping, not god, not sex, not the state. A secular humanist wants a government available to all, that is fair and even handed, and based in our world. Conflating the two things you hate (sex and the state) and projecting them outwards will not, can not make others worship them as gods no matter what you assert. Is there anything in your world that can't be seen as worship, because there sure as shit is in ours.

  2. Freedom is obviously a relative thing. In my world there's a lot more freedom than there is in yours. In mine you can say what you like and push for whatever kind of government you like and me, I can mouth off and you and try to convince people that you're wrong. And we can yell and scream back and forth. Somewhere in the car crash that is this exchange parts of the truth may drop out onto the road. And I can drop random obscenities here and there just for the hell of it.

More blather about the misbehavings of Liberals and NDPers. What about the Tories? Or do I detect something here?

Give me a bar of soap to wash out the mouths of the boars (with apologies to the boars for the comparison) who produced and authorized that kind of language and who, by doing so, dragged the politics and governance of this country through the sewer. We live in a vulgar age of knuckle-draggers and bottom-feeders in leadership.

One points: I live with boars in this neighbourhood and they're offended to be compared to politicians. And more so to be invoked by theocrats.

More ranting about the decline of morals and how creation science (as if that expression even makes sense) is being censored. There's a nice little follow up quote that makes me laugh.

Censorship is what intellectually barren people do.

Mmm, like churches you mean.
Exhortations to action.
Next section is a plug for Citizen Impact, a group of Christers who espouse a bunch of crud.
Here's the list.

Mission Statement
Citizen Impact is dedicated to equipping Canadians for the effective expression of a biblical worldview in the public square.
1. To educate people of faith on the relevance of their moral convictions to the maintenance of a civil society.
2. To motivate people of faith to participate in the democratic process.
3. To articulate pro-family and pro-life principles before the media, in public square and before local, provincial, and federal legislative, administrative and judicial bodies.
4. To equip our members with the information necessary for effective and meaningful participation in public policy debate and discourse, by evaluating public policy positions and existing or proposed legislation.
5. To train leaders for effective and peaceful political action.
6. To protect and defend the free expression of religious belief in the public square.
Please don't join them.
And then there's the standard pithy quotes from all sort of folks. And in the double-edged sword category falls this one:
"Nearly all men can stand adversity, but if you want to test a man's character, give him power." - Abraham Lincoln
And finally a few culture war editorials including how there's a lesbian author!. And she got a prize! Oh fuck!
Please note the presence of a really weak WorldNutDaily editorial defending Bill O'Falafel on the whole Dyke Gangs! Taking Over! Not On Video! Pink Guns! fiasco.
Payback for exposé on 'dyke' gang rapes
WorldNetDaily.com - July 9, 2007
By Bob Unruh
Now, pass the brian bleach.

Neo-con joke

Via Uncredible Hallq

The Uncredible Hallq: Classic neocon joke
Q. How many neocons does it take to screw in a light bulb?

A. That's an interesting question, one that I'm sure future historians will investigate in detail. Look, let me address this issue up front: I don't know who's been installing light bulbs or who hasn't. That's none of my business. There's a lot of different views, there's a range of views, and a lot of concerns, and we are working to accommodate those concerns. We know at this point that we still have some work to do and we are working very hard to address these issues. We're not making estimates. At this point what you've had are some fairly -- you had some dramatic testimony and comments -- by the way, you can expect people to be ventilating these differing points of views in coming days. Our view is you have to have a resolution that offers a solution. And you're going to have people -- there is sometimes, you'll be surprised to hear, a disparity between comments made in public for domestic audiences around the world, and comments made in private, as well. In short, we don't want to comment on an ongoing investigation.

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The Onion is always at the leading edge of scientifical research...

Study: Multiple Stab Wounds May Be Harmful To Monkeys
--  From: 	The Eternal Gaijin 	Lost Somewhere in Kobe, Japan 	"Words Cannot Describe What I Am About To Tell You."

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Finally, some good news

Nutritionally speaking this is a god-send to me and my wife.

Curry may combat Alzheimer's | The Register
US researchers have isolated a compound in turmeric - commonly used in the UK's national dish chicken tikka masala and other more deadly curry concoctions - which "may help stimulate immune system cells that gobble up the brain-clogging proteins that mark Alzheimer's disease", Reuters reports.

Dr Milan Fiala of the University of California Los Angeles and colleagues note in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences that they'd already shown that curcumin "may affect the brain cells of Alzheimer's patients", but wanted to pinpoint the "precise factor" responsible.
Click here to find out more!

They eventually fingered bisdemethoxycurcumin, and blood samples from Alzheimer's patients demonstrated that it "boosted immune cells called macrophages to clear a protein called amyloid beta, which clogs the brains of Alzheimer's patients and kills brain cells".

This is almost as good as when Scientific American Mind ran an article about how smoking pot mimics the effect of Alzheimer's drugs.
Stoned and eating curry for my mental health.
God, it's good to be a Canuck.

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Nobody could have predicted...

An increase in terrorist threat due to the Iraq War.

The bad news in the National Intelligence Estimate. - By Fred Kaplan - Slate Magazine
The National Intelligence Estimate that was released today—titled "The Terrorist Threat to the Homeland"—amounts to a devastating critique of the Bush administration's policies on Iraq, Iran, and the terrorist threat itself.

Its main point is that the threat—after having greatly receded over the past five years—is back in full force. Al-Qaida has "protected or regenerated key elements" of its ability to attack the United States. It has a "safe haven" in Pakistan. Its "top leadership" and "operational lieutenants" are intact. It is cooperating more with "regional terrorist groups."

And there are hints that the swarm organization that is talked about at Global Guerillas all the time is seeping into the consciousness of the intelligence community in the US.
One major reason for al-Qaida's resurgence, according to the report, is its "association with" al-Qaida in Iraq. (Note, by the way, that these two organizations are said to be "associated" or "affiliated" with each other; contrary to what Bush has said in recent speeches, they are not the same entity.) This affiliation "helps al-Qaida to energize the broader Sunni extremist community, raise resources, and to recruit and indoctrinate operatives, including for Homeland attacks." (Italics added.)

Fred Kaplan has tackled this follow us home stuff before.
And so has Keith Olbermann:

Crooks and Liars » Countdown: al Qaeda Reality Check
Keith Olbermann and terrorism analyst Roger Cressey knocks down the lies and spin of Bush’s increasingly delusional assertions of al Qaeda in Iraq.
…it’s completely misleading. The organization that attacked us on 9/11 is still trying to attack us. That is the group that is primarily on the Afghan/Pakistan border that you’ve seen all the intelligence community assessments about in the past few days. The group inside Iraq is very indigenous. It’s a function of what happened in Iraq after Saddam was overthrown. In effect, we’ve actually helped create the conditions that allowed al Qaeda to take root in Iraq. It’s clear that al Qaeda in Iraq has ideological sympathies with al Qaeda Central that clued there’s been some communication between the two, but it is false and misleading for the president to make that direct linkage that he did.

For Christ's sake, Bush, join the Reality Based Community, will ya?

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And now from the Department of Saw That One Coming

Cast a wide net and see what you get. Works for the dolphin fishermen.
BBC NEWS | UK | Half of terror suspects released
Half of terror suspects released
More than half of those arrested in the UK on suspicion of terrorism since September 2001 have been released without charge, according to figures.
Home Office statistics show 669 of the 1,228 people arrested in terrorist investigations were later freed.

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Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Looks like Hakuho is still doing really well in the Sumo .

Hakuho, Kotomitsuki overpower opponents | The Japan Times Online
Hakuho, Kotomitsuki overpower opponents

NAGOYA (Kyodo) Newly promoted grand champion Hakuho and promotion-chasing sekiwake Kotomitsuki stayed firmly in the lead with undefeated records, overpowering their respective opponents on the ninth day of action at the Nagoya Grand Sumo Tournament on Monday.

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Tell me how it works out for you. I'll be over here watching

Just cause Iraq worked out so well, here we go with part two of the story.
Cheney pushes Bush to act on Iran | Special reports | Guardian Unlimited
The balance in the internal White House debate over Iran has shifted back in favour of military action before President George Bush leaves office in 18 months, the Guardian has learned.

The shift follows an internal review involving the White House, the Pentagon and the state department over the last month. Although the Bush administration is in deep trouble over Iraq, it remains focused on Iran. A well-placed source in Washington said: "Bush is not going to leave office with Iran still in limbo."

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Of Course They Don't

Via One Good Move

onegoodmove: Evolution - Creationism
More Americans accept theory of creationism than evolution <

Only 14% of those who said they didn't believe in evolution cited a lack of scientific evidence as the reason, and that's why they call it faith.

Or blind ignorance.
Christ! Theory of Creationism. It's like the Theory of the Brontosaurus.
What's the theory? Ummm, I dunno. God, I guess. [Resumes scratching ass and sighing]

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Ooo, stalkers. I feels so alive...

jj over at unrepentant old hippie has noticed a few odd referrals in the comments. And they come from... the Christy gov't types.
unrepentant old hippie: They're stalking us
The article that ran in the Christian government newsletter a few weeks ago, "Secular Humanists Have Discovered Christian Government.ca!!!", is running again this week as an opinion piece on something called the "Christian Civic League Record", another chock-fulla-nuts fundie site (I perused it a little and probably lost about 10 IQ points in the process). Our offensive blogs are linked, with appropriately dire warnings about profanity and blasphemy. No doubt lured by the promise of evil, wicked, bad craziness, a couple of these folks have dropped in here already. *waves* They like us, they really really like us...
So, in deference to the visitors, let's keep the fucking profanity to a minimum, eh? Hahahaha!

I'll have to start checking my own referrals. It's like blind dating for the schizoid-autocrat.
Don't worry, jj, I'll keep the profanity to a minimum.

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Now they bring in the experts

Psychic, cops . . . all clueless | The Japan Times Online
On March 27, the naked corpse of Lindsay Ann Hawker, a 22-year-old conversation-school instructor from England, was found buried in a sand-filled bathtub on an apartment veranda in Ichikawa City, Chiba Prefecture.

Tatsuya Ichihashi, age 28, occupant of the apartment, is wanted in connection with the slaying. His whereabouts remain unknown.

Yeah, the guy snuck out of a room full of cops and got away. But what can they do about it. 120 some million people in the country, how do you find a fugitive. Well you could try police work but that's hard. I know lets bring in a pro:
The bizarre aspects of the slaying continue to provide grist for the media mill. In the June 30 installment of its "Tokuso! Terebi no Chikara Special," TV Asahi brought in a celebrated British psychic, "Dream Detective" Chris Robinson, to "assist" the police in tracking down the culprit.

Oh, for fuck sake people. Have you never even heard of Penn and Teller? Or James Randi?
There's a lot of credulity in Japan (just google blood type astrology to get a taste) and there's shitty television galore, but come on:
Promising "new revelations" from a closed circuit recording of the suspect, show hosts Hideki Takahashi and Chizuru Azuma issued a string of unsubstantiated claims, to the effect that Ichihashi is alive, probably still in Chiba and was likely to be even watching the program at that very moment. With Lindsay's parents shown looking on, the program also broadcast a tasteless melodramatic re-enactment of the crime, showing the suspect assaulting his victim and stripping her body.

I feel like I'm in the McCarthy hearings. Have you no shame. At long last, have you no shame?
So how's that psychic thing working out?
The National Police Agency, meanwhile, appealed to the public on June 28 with the offer of up to 1 million yen in rewards for information related to the Hawker murder and four other cases.

What, no clues? But you brought in a psychic!
I can understand how people get desperate for closure in the death or disappearance of a loved one. The pain of losing their daughter, especially at such a young age, is something I try not to imagine. Desperation will push people to do most anything to get results and as time moves on and the trail gets cold, they'll start reaching for further and thinner straws. My heart goes out to them.
What I don't understand, and maybe refuse to, is how these people can be paraded around on TV to have the scab on their emotions picked at in such a way. And I will not understand how a fuckball psychic can look in the mirror in the morning after doing such a low fucking thing.

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Saturday, July 14, 2007

And now today's contrast in policy approach

Judge rules Canada's pot possession laws unconstitutional
A Toronto judge has ruled that Canada's pot possession laws are unconstitutional after a man argued the country's medicinal marijuana regulations are flawed.

cannabisnews.com: Drug Czar Gives Warning
The nation's top anti-drug official said people need to overcome their "reefer blindness" and see that illicit marijuana gardens are a terrorist threat to the public's health and safety, as well as to the environment.

John P. Walters, President Bush's drug czar, said the people who plant and tend the gardens are terrorists who wouldn't hesitate to help other terrorists get into the country with the aim of causing mass casualties. Walters made the comments at a Thursday press conference that provided an update on the "Operation Alesia" marijuana-eradication effort.

Thus Spake the Gaijin.

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I have a personality?

Your Personality is Very Rare (INTP)

Your personality type is goofy, imaginative, relaxed, and brilliant.

Only about 4% of all people have your personality, including 2% of all women and 6% of all men
You are Introverted, Intuitive, Thinking, and Perceiving.

From: The Eternal Gaijin Lost Somewhere in Kobe, Japan "Words Cannot Describe What I Am About To Tell You."

A joy to behold

Nice to see the Freudian slip and the slapdown that it brings.
onegoodmove: The Constitution
A Presidential flunky, Sara Taylor, shows an appalling lack of knowledge about government service and the constitution. Patrick Leahy gives her a well deserved upbraiding. “I know that the president refers to the government being his government — it’s not” — Patrick Leahy (tip to Eric)

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Friday, July 13, 2007

It never even occurred to me that..

..all the time I used to spend as a kid stealing butter tarts out of the freezer between baking weekend and Christmas I was doing something totally Canadian.

CANOE -- JAM! Books: How many Canadianisms do you know?
Katherine Barber has two words for Canadians who don't know their own lexicon: butter tart

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Politically Incorrect Human Nature

Politically incorrect. Why is it always a smoke screen for factually incorrect? Or rude as fuck?  That's all people mean when the say politically incorrect.
So what does that have to do with Psychology Today? Glad you asked.
Psychology Today: Ten Politically Incorrect Truths About Human Nature
Human behavior is a product both of our innate human nature and of our individual experience and environment. In this article, however, we emphasize biological influences on human behavior, because most social scientists explain human behavior as if evolution stops at the neck and as if our behavior is a product almost entirely of environment and socialization. In contrast, evolutionary psychologists see human nature as a collection of psychological adaptations that often operate beneath conscious thinking to solve problems of survival and reproduction by predisposing us to think or feel in certain ways. Our preference for sweets and fats is an evolved psychological mechanism. We do not consciously choose to like sweets and fats; they just taste good to us.

Yeah, yeah, yeah. We like candy. Big fraking shock. What's the list?
  1. Men like blond bombshells (and women want to look like them)
  2. Humans are naturally polygamous
  3. Most women benefit from polygyny, while most men benefit from monogamy
  4. Most suicide bombers are Muslim
  5. Having sons reduces the likelihood of divorce
  6. Beautiful people have more daughters
  7. What Bill Gates and Paul McCartney have in common with criminals
  8. The midlife crisis is a myth—sort of
  9. It's natural for politicians to risk everything for an affair (but only if they're male)
  10. Men sexually harass women because they are not sexist

I can't comment in too much depth on most of them, but here's a few comments:
1. I'm not that fond of them. The main point of attractiveness is the bonds you make with faces as a child. My own wife is shortish and brunette.
7. They're over their prime by their mid-30's. Look, rock and roll is a young man's game. Iconoclastic folks are always going to skew younger; but master craftsmen, they're older and more mature. Might want to check out some ideas on later borns vs first borns and that sort of stuff.
2., 3., 9., 10. Yeah, yeah, yeah. Sex affects what we do. Big whoop. You wanna fight about it. If you've read anything about evolution at this point you know there is a bit of game theory that goes on in sexual pairings. We're only somewhat polygamous. Also, men don't benefit most from monogamy, in a genetic sense they benefit from monogamy with copious cheating that they don't get caught at. As long as no-one else does it on them. All of this is a gross oversimplification of principles with a pastiche of cruddy stereotypes mind-melding a few pub jokes..
These are looked at by better than I here, here, and here.
Whoa. Number 4 jumps out at me. The majority of suicide bombers are Muslim. Sure I believe that. I mean who flew the planes into the World Trade Centre? Uneducated, oppressed, Iraqi Islamofascists, that's who. [muffled speaking off stage] No? They were what? They were Muslim, right? I can leave that in?
Okay, so are the majority of suicide bombers Muslims.
Let's check in with Dr Robert Pape of the University of Chicago, author of Dying to Win:
2006 AFA Air & Space Conference - Dr. Robert Pape
Over the last few years I’ve compiled the first complete database of every suicide terrorist attack around the world from 1980 to early 2004, and then I’ve recently updated that database for the crucial case of Iraq through the end of 2005. I defined suicide terrorism in the classic sense that you would expect of an attacker killing himself or herself in the course of a mission to kill others. The core database includes 315 completed suicide terrorist attacks by 462 suicide terrorists who actually killed themselves. There’s more terrorists than attacks because many of the attacks were team attacks.

The data shows that Islamic Fundamentalism is not as closely associated with suicide terrorism as many people think. Overall during this period there were 315 completed suicide terrorist attacks worldwide. The world leader is the Tamil Tigers in Sri Lanka. They’re not an Islamic group at all. They’re a Marxist group, a secular group, a Hindu group. The Tamil Tigers in Sri Lanka have done more suicide terrorists attacks than Hammas or Islamic Jihad. Further, at least 30 percent of Muslim suicide attacks are by secular groups such as the PKK in Turkey. Overall at least 50 percent of suicide attacks are not associated with Islamic Fundamentalism.
Instead of religion what nearly all suicide terrorists attacks have in common is a specific secular and strategic goal, to compel a democratic state to withdraw combat forces – I don’t mean advisors with side arms, I mean tanks, fighter aircraft and armored vehicles – from territory the terrorists consider to be their homeland or prize greatly. From Lebanon to the West Bank to Sri Lanka to Chechnya to Kashmir, every suicide terrorist campaign since 1980 has been waged by terrorist groups whose main goal has been to establish self determination for territory they prize.

Is there a pattern to the data, Doctor?
Three general patterns in the data support my conclusions. The first concerns the timing of suicide terrorist attacks. Suicide terrorism rarely occurs as an isolated, scattered or random event as it would if it were merely the product of religious fanaticism or any ideology independent of a circumstance. Instead, the attacks tend to occur in clusters that look very much like campaigns. And specifically, 301 of the 315 attacks occur in coherent, organized strategic campaigns the terrorist groups design for specific, mainly political goals. Only five percent of the attacks are random or isolated.
To be clear, I’m not suggesting I can explain every suicide attack, but I am suggesting that the patterns I’m about to show you do account for 95 percent of all suicide attacks.

Got anything else? Thanks for asking. I have dug up a couple of things:
Probing the Minds of the Bombers
Professor Robert A. Pape who teaches international relations at the University of Chicago carried out a research study on what the US State Department calls ‘Suicide Terrorism’ for two years between 2003 and 2005. Pape headed the ‘Chicago Project on Suicide Terrorism’ as its director.

Regions studied
Palestine/Israel, Lebanon, entire Middle East, Iraq, Afghanistan, Chechnya, Kashmir, Sri Lanka,
Size of the Study, age, ideology and gender of the bombers:
* Pape established 462 individuals in his “universe” of suicide terrorists available for analytical purposes.
* Hezbollah suicide bombers in the period 1982-1986 were 71% Christian, 21% Communist/Socialist, 8% Islamist.
* In general, the study says, suicide terrorists are in their early 20s. Females are fewer in Islamist groups: “Islamist fundamentalism may actually reduce the number of suicide terrorists by discouraging certain categories of individuals”. Female suicide terrorists tend to be older than male.
* The survey in Lebanon identified 38 of the 41 attackers. Thirty of them were affiliated to groups opposed to Islamic fundamentalism. Three were not clearly associated with ideology. All 38 were native Lebanese. The book contains pictures of four women suicide attackers; all are dressed in Western clothes with stylish haircuts and even make-up.
* There is no documented mental illness in any case of suicide terrorism, though there are 16 cases of personal trauma (e.g. the loss of a loved one). Arab suicide terrorists are in general better educated than average and are from the working or middle classes. “They resemble the kind of politically conscious individuals who might join a grassroots movement more than they do wayward adolescents or religious fanatics”
Pape’s statistics “definitively show that people are attacked by suicide car bombs not because of who they are or what they believe, as Presidents Clinton and Bush have been saying to the American people.” Instead, “people use car bombs to attack occupying powers. This war is about what we do in the world, not who we are.”
Motivation for the suicide bombers:
The study says ‘the taproot of suicide terrorism is nationalism’ and “at bottom suicide terrorism is a strategy for national liberation from foreign occupation by a democratic state”. In 1978 the United Nations General Assembly recognised “the legitimacy of the struggle of peoples for independence ... from ... foreign occupation by all available means, particularly armed struggle”

And an NPR story on the same thing here.
And some info on the book Dying to Win here.
Oh, and the Economist had this to say.
If this is a campaign and isn't Islam based, then No. 4 is basically bunkum without explanatory power, or at least can't tell us more than some of the influences on someone who agrees to join one campaign in one part of the world. Well I guess that's that then.
This is what reality looks like. Deal.

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Canada Haven for Pirates

Arrgh. Ahoy mateys. Actually, I should stop that as apparently it's not completely true.
Check out the evidence:

From: Link via Boing Boing
Now to the various American lobbies putting pressure on Canada in these areas:
Got it?

Thursday, July 12, 2007

The Secrets of Scientology

It's NOT an antidote to the South Park episode. It just takes it further, but without the Tom Cruise jokes.

Secrets of Scientology
The Secrets of Scientology The Church of Scientology is a rich and vengeful religious cult, or as one critic puts it, "a cross between the Moonies and the Mafia." But it would be a mistake to dismiss its underlying technology as harmless or ineffective. Scientologists know a great deal about thought control, social control, rhetorical judo (defeat by misdirection, deft use of logical fallacies) and high pressure sales, though as victims of their own technology, they wouldn't characterize it that way.

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So what's going on over at Christian Govenment this week

Oooh, there's a newsletter from the 30th of June.

Christian Government - Timothy Bloedow
Today I want to continue my response to Redeemer University professor David Koyzis' critical review of "State vs. Church" in the ChristianWeek newspaper. This is a short commentary, but it would be too long if I included my final point, so I will wrap up this response to Koyzis' review in a 3rd commentary next week.

Might be interesting...
I am also hoping to write soon about the U.S. Supreme Court's recent decision against the left's use of racism to exploit ethnic minorities. Let's keep rooting for the complete annihilation of that wicked and dehumanizing notion of affirmative action (and related state-ist, group rights concepts). (You can learn more about the serious thinking of conservative blacks by visiting websites on my links page under the sub-title, "Introducing Canada to "Black" conservatism."

Eh, American court decisions and stuff. Maybe not that interesting.
What else you got?
In his third point of criticism, Koyzis said that I showed "little recognition of what Abraham Kuyper called 'common grace' - namely, that there is no human effort, however sinful, that does not in some way manifest God's grace. We can be thankful that this grace allows points of contact with opponents, making possible, if not inevitable, fruitful dialogue with unbelievers."
This is too big an issue to address comprehensively here. A couple of points, though, are worth making. Let's use an extreme example. If someone breaks into your home and steals from you, is it evidence of God's grace in any way that is relevant that he committed this crime clothed rather than naked? Or, using another illustration, should we give a murderer a lighter sentence because he killed his victim quickly instead of making her suffer? My point is that the context of a particular event or situation must determine the relative value given to the various details. The "gracious" details are not always very pertinent. Hence, Koyzis' criticism about not acknowledging "common grace" is not particularly helpful as a general and sweeping statement.

Hmm, if god is too big to understand then who are we to judge the value of actions he promotes or creates. If it's apparent to even us that some actions may be bad, then where is god in this?
To borrow from Epicurus:
“Is God willing to prevent evil, but not able?
Then he is not omnipotent.
Is he able, but not willing?
Then he is malevolent.
Is he both able and willing?
Then whence cometh evil?
Is he neither able nor willing?
Then why call him God?”

If it's the devil making people do it, then how did god make such a mistake as to create a being of equi-omni-potence?
Sorry, distracted rant. Hmm, what else?
The fact is, however, that the principle of cause and effect is real. It doesn't
matter whether or not one intends to kill someone by holding their head under
water for 10 minutes, the outcome will be the same. Ideas have consequences. In
a pastoral context, it might be important in many cases to consider a person's
motives for their behaviour, but not every context is a pastoral context. It
would be nice if less Christians were this one-dimensional in their
Doesn't that mean that what you believe is less important than what you do? But isn't Christianity all about what you believe? Especially for the theocracy-types?
Anyway, the response to criticism will continue next newsletter. Looking forward to it.
And then?
Plug for, but not an endorsement of, The Institute for Canadian Values.
Some minor quotes nominally about the need to be vigilant in the face of secular-homonist -athiestical-badman opposition.
I do like this one:
"Be more concerned about what's right rather than who's right." - Brian Tracy
Should actually be on my side of this particular culture war.
And the inevitable collection of links to all sorts of ill thought out crap.
Love this headline, as an example.
Public gagged at city's homosex-fest
WorldNetDaily.com - June 29, 2007
Ball gag, anyone? There are your typical link-throughs to "Well, you're not talking about my god.." articles and oppression of Xtian articles and, waaah, wanna cookie type rants.
Can't wait to see what else they offer in the next newsletter.

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Now that's settled can we get back to the real work?

Sun did not cause recent climate change: U.K. study
Solar radiation is not the cause of recent global warming, two scientists say in a report published by Britain's Royal Society, the country's science organization.

The study was undertaken partly to rebut a TV documentary that argued natural solar radiation, not human activity, is the cause of global warming, the BBC reported.

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And this is a diagram of how it doesn't work...

Boing Boing: Exploded view of Steorn's perpetual motion device
Exploded view of Steorn's perpetual motion device

Based on the published photos of Orbo (Steorn's perpetual motion device that didn't work when it was demonstrated for the first time in public on July, 2007), a fellow named Axle has drawn an exploded view of the gizmo.

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Wednesday, July 11, 2007

This Week in God. Well, our god. You don't have one.

Ever since Friend SRGN gave me a Latin copy of How the Grinch Stole Christmas, I've kinda wondered if there's been a Latin revival brewing. It appears that the number of people crying out for more public Latin has hit the critical mass needed to push the Catholic Church into one of it's boldest modernizing moves in years: the re-introduction of the Latin Mass.
BBC NEWS | Europe | Pope ends Latin Mass restriction
Pope Benedict has lifted restrictions on celebrating the Latin Tridentine Mass, pleasing some traditionalists.

Traditionalists in the Mel Gibson mode.
The late Pope John Paul II partially relaxed the prohibition in the 1980s, allowing bishops discretionary powers to let priests celebrate Mass in Latin if members of the congregation asked for it.
The Pope wanted to heal a rift with ultra-traditionalists who rebelled against Second Vatican Council changes.

Traditionalists like Mel Gibson.
Surely this will heal all those nasty rifts within the church. And between churches as well. Good for world.

Pope's move on Latin mass 'a blow to Jews' | World | The Observer
Jewish leaders and community groups criticised Pope Benedict XVI strongly yesterday after the head of the Roman Catholic Church formally removed restrictions on celebrating an old form of the Latin mass which includes prayers calling for the Jews to 'be delivered from their darkness' and converted to Catholicism.

Okay, maybe not that rift. If you're including a prayer that calls for another religion to be converted you're building bridges, but then putting up a troll booth under them.
However, the older rite's prayers calling on God to 'lift the veil from the eyes' of the Jews and to end 'the blindness of that people so that they may acknowledge the light of your truth, which is Christ' - used just once a year during the Good Friday service - have sparked outrage.

Yesterday the Anti-Defamation League, the American-based Jewish advocacy group, called the papal decision a 'body blow to Catholic-Jewish relations'.
'We are extremely disappointed and deeply offended that nearly 40 years after the Vatican rightly removed insulting anti-Jewish language from the Good Friday mass, it would now permit Catholics to utter such hurtful and insulting words by praying for Jews to be converted,' said Abraham Foxman, the group's national director, in Rome. 'It is the wrong decision at the wrong time. It appears the Vatican has chosen to satisfy a right-wing faction in the church that rejects change and reconciliation.'

Okay, so it will be interesting to see how this attitude is translated into action given the UK's new laws banning incitement to religious hatred and intolerance. Calling for the spiritual end to another religious faction is probably noteworthy in a legal sense. [Pulls up lawn chair and opens a beer] In some way watching Moses-Jesus-Muhammad fights is like watching Trekkies argue Kirk vs. Picard. Guys, I'm glad you have an opinion but they are both fictional.
Okay, if it's not about language and not about building bridges but just about appeasing traditionalists (i.e. Mel Gibson. Hmmm, no matter how much I beat it, the horse won't run. Odd that.)
Still this is a good move that Catholics have to be crying out for, right?

Pope Benedict XVI brings back the old Latin Mass—but will Catholics embrace it? - By Andrew Santella - Slate Magazine
The shift away from services in Latin was just the most visible of the many changes that swept the church in the 1960s. As my liturgically clueless classmates and I were told, before the Second Vatican Council, Masses were celebrated in Latin by a priest who faced the altar, his back to the congregation. After Vatican II, Masses were in the vernacular, and priests faced their flocks. Many of the post-council reforms were meant to encourage the congregation to feel more involved with the ceremony.
Traditionalists prefer the power of Latin to what they see as the banality of the liturgy in English. And many Catholics associate the Latin Mass with the church's glorious heritage of ancient music and solemnity in worship—a heritage some say has been lost in the liturgical changes that have been enacted over the last few decades.
But for some progressive Catholics, even a limited comeback for the Latin Mass would spell a disturbing retreat to the inflexible hierarchies and what they see as the anachronistic services of the old pre-Vatican II church.
But ideological debates aside, perhaps the most practical—and unanswered—question is this: For four decades, Latin was largely neglected in the church (and in Catholic schools). How many Catholic priests—many of them, like me, having come of age after the reforms of the 1960s—could muster enough Latin to offer a convincing Tridentine service?

Okay, that's the problem. There's likely to be a dearth of people who speak Latin. While there's some point to the symbolism of the priest facing the altar as a metaphor for leading the congregation towards god, there's the counter symbolism of speaking an indecipherable language (possibly badly) and turning your back on the people you're supposed to be there for.
Okay, all that aside, there's not much else that Pope Bene could say that would get to people. He's not going to try to undo the bridge building and reconciliation of the last guy. Hunh? Okay, more trolls under the bridges.
Catholic Church only true church, Vatican says
The Vatican issued a document Tuesday restating its belief that the Catholic Church is the only true church of Jesus Christ.

The 16-page document was prepared by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, a doctrinal watchdog that Pope Benedict used to head.

Oh, for fuck's sake, can't you people pretend to get along with each other. Turn the fucking other cheek already.
It says although Orthodox churches are true churches, they are defective because they do not recognize the primacy of the Pope.
"It follows that these separated churches and communities, though we believe they suffer from defects, are deprived neither of significance nor importance in the mystery of salvation," it said.

Defective? The orthodox churches? I'd like to welcome our debate guests to the show. Messrs Pot and Kettle. Now gentlemen, what would your positions be on today's debate topic of 'colours.'
For Christ's sake, wasn't this shit all over the reigns of Justinian and Zeno?
Now with all that 'judeo-christian' bullshit in the States today, how do you think this will affect the Protestants?
The document adds that Protestant denominations — called Christian Communities born out of the Reformation — are not true churches, but ecclesial communities.
"These ecclesial communities which, specifically because of the absence of the sacramental priesthood … cannot, according to Catholic doctrine, be called 'churches' in the proper sense," it said.
The document is similar to one written in 2000 by the Pope — who was Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger at the time — that sparked an angry reaction from Protestant groups.

You know, the tacit treaty holding together all those whack-a-doodles in the US is probably going to eat itself from the feet up.

Dismay and anger as Pope declares Protestants cannot have churches | Special reports | Guardian Unlimited
Protestant churches yesterday reacted with dismay to a new declaration approved by Pope Benedict XVI insisting they were mere "ecclesial communities" and their ministers effectively phonies with no right to give communion.
However, other Christians saw the latest document as another retreat from the spirit of openness generated by the Council, which laid the basis for talks on Christian unity. Bishop Wolfgang Huber, head of the Protestant umbrella group Evangelical Church in Germany, said: "The hope for a change in the ecumenical situation has been pushed further away by the document published today."
He said the new pronouncement repeated "offensive statements" in the 2000 document and was a "missed opportunity" to improve relations with Protestants. The president of the Federation of Evangelical Churches in Italy, pastor Domenico Maselli, called it a "huge step backwards in relations between the Roman Catholic church and other Christian communities".
A statement from the French Protestant Federation warned that the internal document would have "external repercussions".

Oops, started already.
Oh and the Galloping Beaver has a bit to say on this topic as well.

The Galloping Beaver: Here endeth the lesson...
This will help cement relations among the faithful.

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Sumo again

Looks like Hakuho is doing well in his yokozuna debut.
Hakuho retains share of lead | The Japan Times Online
Mongolian grand champion Hakuho churned out another convincing win with a demolition of Wakanosato, while yokozuna Asashoryu disposed of Dejima to stay one off the pace at the Nagoya Grand Sumo Tournament on Tuesday.

In the day's penultimate bout at Aichi Prefectural Gymnasium, Hakuho was never in trouble as he calmly put his opponent in an armlock after a short exchange following the face-off and tugged the winless No. 2 maegashira to the dirt to keep a perfect 3-0 record.

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Scary Development in the Culture Wars

The Panda's Thumb has a quick blurb about recent 'suspicious packages' left at a biology department in the States. The Evolution Creationism Bullshit debate has hit a new low.
And people wonder why there's a backlash against the anti-science crusaders.
The Panda's Thumb: Creato-Terrorism
It was only a matter of time. The creationists, frustrated at continued legal losses and the complete lack of respect they receive from scientists, have finally past the threshold from trying to distort science in schools to attacking science in a more direct fashion. Today’s Denver Post contains a very short piece about an unnamed “religious group” leaving threatening packages at the CU Boulder ecology and evolutionary biology department, just up the road from where I work. (I’m a little disappointed that our campus didn’t receive this honor – but then again I could do without security crawling all over the place, making sure we have our ID badges displayed properly, etc.) The messages included the name of a religious-themed group and addressed the debate between evolution and creationism, CU police Cmdr. Brad Wiesley said. Wiesley would not identify the group named because police are still investigating. “There were no overt threats to anybody specifically by name,” Wiesley said. “It basically said anybody who doesn’t believe in our religious belief is wrong and should be taken care of.” The first threat was e-mailed to the labs - part of CU’s ecology and evolutionary biology department housed in the Ramaley Biology building - on Friday. Wiesley said Monday that morning staff members found envelopes with the threatening documents slipped under the lab doors. Unfortunately, the article is short on details. More about this as it develops.

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I was wondering why I can never get a donut at Tim's after 11

Canada tokes at 4 times world average: UN
Canadians use marijuana at four times the world average, making Canada the leader of the industrialized world in cannabis consumption, a recent United Nations report found.

My wife is very anti-drugs and will definitely have a lot to say about this. Me, I don't use but I don't care much about drugs.
I do care about rational public policy and as such I think we should tear down the existing policies and redraw them around a minimal harm and medical rehabilitation framework.
That's why my wife and I don't talk about these things much.
And for the British Tory point of view:
Tories highlight cannabis dangers in drug blueprint | Politics | The Observer
The health risks of cannabis are so great that it should now be reclassified as a class B drug, carrying much greater penalties for possession and trafficking, says David Cameron's new blueprint for dealing with Britain's growing addiction problems.

Meaning it should be reclassified much with the harder drugs, especially because:
He added: 'The real effect is on young kids who take it. We regularly have kids who take it at the age of 11 or 12. If your brain is growing, you can kiss goodbye to that - by the time you are 16 or 17 you will be in a psychotic state. It is an enormously dangerous drug, but a lot of middle-class families don't see that.'

Just go read this, okay?
Medical Information on Hemp / Marijuana
Medical Information on Marijuana

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Tuesday, July 10, 2007

How the lawbreaking coming along then?

Thanks to Boing Boing for following up on this. Click through for the video. It's great.

Boing Boing: Video of Steorn CEO explaining why its perpetual motion device failed at demo
Excuses, excuses. Watch Steorn's CEO explain why his perpetual motion gizmo, Orbo, failed to work as hoped when it was unveiled at a gallery in London last week.

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Terror, Gay Marriage, Global Warming, Fundamentalism...Nope! I got the important stuff right here.

PS3 is coming down in price.

BBC NEWS | Business | Sony cuts Playstation price in US
Sony is slashing the price of its PlayStation 3 games console by 17% or $100 in the US to boost sales.

As a result the PS3 will now cost $500 (£249), between $100 and $200 more than versions of the Microsoft Xbox 360 and twice as much as the Nintendo Wii.

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Happy Birthday to the Greatest Cartoon.

It is a glorious romp.

TheStar.com - entertainment - 50 glorious years of 'kill da wabbit'
At any other time, the film would not have been made. Imagine the pitch: "Let's steal time and funding from our other projects so we can go way over budget making a cartoon with no jokes, and no real gags. The score will be a German opera. Kids won't get it. Most adults won't get it, but I don't care because I think it's funny."

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Monday, July 09, 2007

Sumo is back

I love sumo. It's a great sport to watch and a great experience if you go to the stadiums and watch all day. It has hit on harder times recently. Freakanomics explores collusion and cheating in sumo. Attendance is down; gaijin rikishi are up. I don't think the gaijin thing is helping attract Japanese viewers -- too likely to be seen as a foreign invasion.
Because of this, and despite the foreigner thing, there are a lot of hopes that Hakuho's promotion to yokozuna will bring a bit of life back to the ol' girl yet. Adding an extra yokozuna who will provide a challenge to Asashoryu's dominance of the last few years may ratchet up the tension and with that the excitement.

All eyes on Hakuho in debut as yokozuna | The Japan Times Online
Newly promoted Mongolian yokozuna Hakuho will be looking to pull sumo out of the doldrums and prove his elevation to its top rank was no fluke when the Nagoya Grand Sumo Tournament starts Sunday.

Japan's national sport hit a new low last week when the Japan Sumo Association revealed that no one applied for the tests for new recruits for the first time ever.

I hope sumo recovers and regains its lustre.

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Thermodynamics and Free Energy Show Up Again

Friend DEG apparently studied the Laws of Thermodynamics from the same Professor of Quipology as Mark Frauenfelder:
Mark Frauenfelder: You Can't Beat the Odds at the Entropy Casino - Business on The Huffington Post
1. You can't win. (You can't create or destroy energy in a closed system.)
2. You can't break even. (You can't convert one form of energy to another with 100% efficiency.)
3. You can't get out of the game. (You can only achieve 100% efficiency at absolute zero, but it's impossible to cool anything down to absolute zero.)

Friend DEG put it this way on his first trip back to Ottawa on his winter break from U of Guelph (Go Griffins!) and it's stuck with me since.
Now, how's this come up today? We'll there's more and more about Ye Olde Free Energie Machine that failed in the UK recently. And if anything tells you you don't get something for nothing (TANSTAAFL, boys and girls) it's the first law.
Anyone designing a car engine or a power generator can either try their best to engineer a efficient system within the limitations of the three laws, or they can choose to ignore these axioms and attempt to beat the odds at the Entropy Casino.
Most engineers pick door number one. These people are the ones who have designed every motor, engine, and power-producing system on the planet. Those who've thought they could break the laws of thermodynamics have designed and built thousands of non-functioning perpetual motion devices dating back to antiquity. Not one of these devices has ever been able to run indefinitely on its own power, much less produce additional energy.
With a track record of zero, you would think the perpetual motion school of applied phyics would have shut down long ago. Not so. Today, there's a company in Dublin, Ireland, called Steorn, which claims to have developed a device, called Orbo, which violates, or at least effectively skirts around, the laws of thermodynamics. They say once the technology -- which allegedly exploits hitherto unknown properties of magnets to generate free energy from nothing, is refined -- it can be used to power cars, electronics, and just about anything that needs energy to make it run.

Unless what needs to be powered is near studio lights. What is it with these woo-dudes that they love to blame the lights.
Wait there's more -- the GOD Intelligent Design crowd are stepping up to bat for the Perpetual Motion folks. Now there's a marriage made in...some place shitty.

Boing Boing: Intelligent design proponents champion Steorn's perpetual motion device
Over at ScienceBlogs, Orac reports that creationists are pointing to Steorn's alleged free energy device (which failed at its public unveiling two days ago, incidentally) as proof that "ultra-materialists scientists" are wrong about the laws of thermodynamics.
Full Article at Repsectful Insolence.
And Bad Science has an article:

Bad Science » Perpetual truths
I was looking forward to it. At first device was supposed to lift a weight, but then they announced that it would simply rotate. Steorn’s chief executive Sean McCarthy said that the company “decided against using the technology to illuminate a light-bulb, because the use of wires would attract further suspicion from a scientific community that has denounced the invention as heretical.”

Now if I can just put my withering voice on for one moment, let’s be clear: this invention is not heretical, it’s just highly improbable (although I recognise that heresy is an important part of the branding, because even if it’s a thermodynamic one, there’s still something attractively transgressive about getting one over on the law. Very Billy Idol. Very Guns ‘n’ Roses.)

Go read and see what you think. Is the battery life in my iPod about to get a whole lot better?
Listen to that. It's the sound of breath not being held.

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