Monday, June 30, 2008

Are you smarter than a 7 year old? UK edition.

Smarter. More Smarter? Much more smarter. Yeah, that's us, ennit?
Walter Shakespeare?! How only one in 20 Brits score top marks in tests designed for seven-year-olds | Mail Online
But the number of adults who struggled with the answers paints a disturbing picture of a nation of dunces.

In a test carried out for an information website, many were unable to answer questions aimed at children as young as seven.

And some were guilty of the most appalling howlers, including giving Shakespeare's first name as Walter, the capital of Sweden as Oslo, and the cube of 2 as 24.

Final Thoughts on TAM

A couple of odd thoughts that struck me:

  • What is the sugar content of the average skeptic's diet? I'm guessing that this is the only case of giving 110%.
  • Is bald and beard an actual uniform or just a peer-pressure thing? I didn't know. I've just grown my hair back after a decade of shaving my head. Well, I didn't grow back the front, but that's not my fault.
  • When ever stuck for words or in a conversational cul-de-sac, make a Trek, Firefly or Dr. Who reference. That'll paper over any problem.


A: How can you support the invasion of Iraq?

B: The problem was putting the Packlids in charge.

A: Heh, that was a good episode.

  • There's a strong libertarian bent in the room. Go on. Pick a fight. Say something like: "I like what Obama has to say about wealth redistribution." Or: "Gay rights? I don't support rights for anyone not recognized in 1776. Freedom for the already free!"

Anyway that's TAM until I have something else to say...

Yeah it's old.

Somewhere between the outrage of torture and the creepiness of the Scientology navy comes this little number:
Reason Magazine - Hit & Run > The Death Ship

Have they given up trying? Is there any way that this could be justified?
"Well, we don't have a law banning floating prison torture ships if they're blue."

Saturday, June 28, 2008

Rain makes me so lazy...

I'm just going to give you a link and say "me too."
Bronze Dog devotes attention to a jackass here.
Do they just cut and paste from each others' emails or what? I mean, Darwin's deathbed conversion? Is jackass serious?

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Friday, June 27, 2008

And now a torture thought from a Marine in Iraq

Is torture effective?

From Andrew Sullivan:

I applaud you for standing up on this torture principle.


[The incident detailed in the snip] brought to mind the training I had received on POW handling a decade before as a 2ndLt in Quantico . We were told not to torture because (1) it was wrong and (2) it didn't work.  I remember our instructors noting that even the Soviets didn't torture for information. because it didn't yield reliable information.  The Soviets tortured for retribution, to make an example, maybe just for kicks, but not for information.  That contention was borne out for me on the streets of Fallujah. 

Torture doesn't work.  In fact, in a counterinsurgency it works against you because it turns the locals against you.  That is why the Marines took that guy back to his house.  Because they knew we were trying to win that neighborhood's trust, and torturing one of their own was not the way to do it, even if he was working with the Muj.  Kill him in open battle, sure, they would understand that, but not torture.  It backfires on you everytime.  Every story about our hapless spook operators torturing some terror suspect makes every Marine and soldier patrolling through the streets of Iraq and Afghanistan less safe.

Vegas, baby. TAM 6 - pt 2


Saturday's commute went a bit better; I arrived and registered fairly easily, got my breakfast and sat with Friend DEG again.

Michael Shermer's talk basically covered a few of the ways that thinking goes wrong especially with regards to the idea of agency in happenings. Apparently some of the work Sam Harris has been doing in neuroscience has shown that credulity is a default position for the human brain. We'll take what we hear at face value and to not believe it takes a bit more work.  Bad news for fighting the various folk beliefs in astronomy, biology, psychology, economics, politics, conspiracy theory, et cetera, that we need to.


Susan Begley gave an excellent informative talk that strayed close to a depressing talk. The upshot it that in the fight against creationism and pseudo-science we can't count on the media. it would be a mistake to think that the role of the press is education, and as such it's important to know they're not our ally in the fight against ignorance in the American (and other) public.

Some of the stats illustrating said ignorance were laugh/cry inducing. How can a population that has such a high percentage of post-secondary educated citizens not have a majority of people who know why a year is a year or that an atom isn't bigger than a molecule?

Great talk. Can't dispute the conclusions. Don't like 'em much.


Derek and Swoopy of Skepticality spoke briefly about podcasting but I didn't really take notes. Sorry, guys. My bad.


Steven Novella gave a great talk about dualism versus materialism in neuroscience. In short, there's no ghost, homunculus or soul in the brain. His argument was that consciousness is an emergent property of the brain.

Since my niece's brain cancer we've had ample evidence that the wiring is everything in the brain and personality. Everything. My niece has been less patient, more prone to temper tantrums, and slower of speech since her surgery almost 2 years ago. When my aunt died last year of Alzhiemer's she couldn't recognize her own children, her brother (my dad), nor did she know that she wasn't in nor had she been in Newfoundland for years. Personality, memory and person erased by a disease whose toll on the victim and the family is near incalculable.


Phil Plait took us on a tour of the solar system stopping at one weird feature at each major way point along the way.

Some highlights:

Venus: What caused the runaway greehouse effect? We don't know.

Mars: Why is Phobos backwards? We don't know.

Jupiter: How can a red spot hurricane large enough to keep dumping Earths into last for all of recorded history? We don't know.

Neptune: Why is Neptune so hot? We don't know.

Pluto: Not a planet, so we don't care (cue geek fueled laughter)

The conclusion was two-fold. First: The universe is a fucked up place. (decensored by me) Second: without being able to say that we don't know there's no science and no research.

Science isn't about having all the answers. It's about finding the questions that we don't have them for, and going to work there.


Adam Savage gave a 400 km/h talk about his efforts to make the world's most accurate replica of the Maltese Falcon. It was both a look into his techniques of modelling and his mind, both of which are complicated.


Mark Chapman, co-incidentally Darwin's great-grandson, spoke about his efforts to get a presidential science debate going.


Richard Wiseman gave a hell of a talk (are the British just funnier?) and led the group in the world's largest spoon bending demonstration after having Teller give a talk on using misdirection to set up the trick.

Spoon bending consists of prepping (pre-stressing) a spoon then the following 4 stages: Slap, Hold, Wiggle and Drop. Not only a great mnemonic, but also a great innuendo.


No picture or notes from the panel discussion.

One great quote: The panel was asked what hope there was in fighting against the forces of endarkenment? Can we win? Phil Plait replied that we'll come out on top, "because we're right and they're wrong." Simple and sweet.

Oh and although I didn't get to the Sylvia Browne show, some folks did go. Fun here. Oddly enough, John Edward took June off from his shows at the Flamingo.

If you get the chance, get to a TAM. Number 7 is coming up July 9-12 2009 at the Southpoint Casino. And there looks to be efforts to get a EuroTAM going next year or the year after.

Opportunities abound.

This may be the best way possible to keep 10K

Vegas, baby. TAM edition.

So on Friday and Saturday I attended The Amazing Meeting 6 in Las Vegas. Originally I was going to attend merely the Friday, but it turned out that my wife got bored of listening to me talk about it and sent me back for the second day so she could relax on her own.

Vegas, it seems is designed intentionally to make sure you don't actually get anywhere, as this would allow you out of the casino. A few times on the way to the Flamingo this became intensely, frustratingly apparent. The Luxor with its size, floor plan, and emergency lack of tram service to the nearest monorail station seemed to be actively conspiring to keep me where I was. And let's not even try to discuss the idea of cashing a traveller's cheque with a Japanese driving license. So my Tilley adventure clothing started to come in handy, as I was going to be safari-ing my way to the TAM venue, almost a full kilometre away.

Meeting up with Friend DEG (man the bridges, brave Horatius) I took my seat two-thirds of the way to the back of the room and got ready. So here in a mix of coherent and stream of consciousness are my impressions. Everything comes with a grainy photo that was taken with a weak flash and full telephoto from my seat. Quality.



Hal Bidlack was the MC/host and got things rolling. To me, being at my first TAM, the most important thing he said was that everyone was friends. If they're wearing a name badge, they're approachable. Given my inactive schmooze gene, this gave me a the nuts to actually walk up to George Hrab and talk to him about the tequila bit on his podcast, Penn Jillette about the psychic bit in his show, Lori Lipman Brown about her secular advocacy, or Michael Shermer about nothing worthwhile at all.

James Randi welcomed everyone and wanted everyone to speak to him at least once during the meeting. As always he was the stern, witty grandfatherly presence. He also struck an emotional note on Saturday when reaching out to CSICOP to repair the rift that's been sitting between them.


Ben Goldacre of the Guardian gave a talk on homoeopathy, familiar to anyone who listens to the Guardian science podcast or reads his blog, but welcome none the less. Rhetorically asking why bother with something so silly on its face at the start of the talk he gave 3 reasons: a) claims are just interesting to investigate b) homoeopathy supporters habitually undermine the idea of evidence c) homoeopathy actually presents a public danger.

His talk was informative, dryly amusing and a really good start to the meeting.


Neil deGrasse Tyson gave the keynote for the meeting and it was a barnburner. Tyson clarified that he considered himself a scientist, not a skeptic but kept coming up against unskeptical, unscientific questions from audience members when he gives talks or from his correspondence.

During his talk, entitled Brain Droppings (which I'm sure was also a George Carlin book), he covered a range of topics from UFOs, alien abductions, conspiracy theories, astrology, full moons, bean based levitation (don't ask), moon hoax and many, many more. Tyson's delivery is smooth, enthusiastic and energetic and had the audience from word one. When he stating that he'd run over time and was going to leave the talk incomplete he was cheered into finishing no matter the time.


As a first time TAMmer I couldn't have started on a higher note than these two presenters.

Alec Jason gave a look into forensics by going through the methodology of three cases, including the Peter Popoff case he assisted Randi with.

Penn and Teller did a Q&A with the audience and showed a satirical video called The Cold Reader. It's a great story of a shifty psychic and lovely takedown of the whole business.

By the way, Teller spoke a fair amount, but let's be honest, there's a reason he's the silent partner of the duo.


George Hrab performed God is Not Great and Skeptic. I'm not convinced that the singalong was ever going to be successful in this crowd.


P.Zed Myers gave a talk about bat genes. A lot of it slid past me although the gist stuck. Essentially when moving a bat gene associated with fore-limb development to a mouse, the mouse fore-limbs tend to be about 6% longer than the standard mouse. What does this reveal?  One: redundancy. It's not a single gene that runs most things. Understanding development will come from understanding more about how many genes are involved in a feature and how the genes are regulated. Two: any research in genetic engineering will have to take this into account. Three: creationism is aided by this by [crickets chirping]. Hunh. Look at that. Any other points didn't make it into my notebook.

Aside from the playful baiting of Phil Plait a couple of things came through. Myers is an amusing, soft-spoken man, different from his firebrand image on his blog. Clearly when writing for Pharyngula he's fed up with bullshit, but his written tone and spoken tone almost seem like they're from different people.


Richard Saunders gave a divining demonstration used to show the value of the double blind study to school kids. Maybe pitching a bit low for the age of the group, but very enjoyable.


And of course the panel discussion that I didn't take many notes about.


And a couple of Random Photos:

DSC00184 DSC00185 DSC00186  DSC00187DSC00188  DSC00189

Comedy just says it better.

All the facts in the world don't amount to a hill of metaphors when it comes to influencing people. Comedians often understand this. The funnies and best comedy exists at the edge of taste and acceptance because through comedy we can look back on ourselves and reflect in a way that you can't with fact.
Comedians can truly get to the point with a quip in a way that no-one else can.
You've often heard 'it's funny because it's true.'
Follow the link for 7 great moments in creationism critique through comedy:
Top Te... er, Seven Comedians on Evolution vs. Creationism | The Lay Scientist

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Thursday, June 26, 2008

Vegas, baby. Pt 1

With the exception of the Carlin announcement I haven't been near a computer since we left last Friday. And so much has happened.

All trips are different; they all begin the same way. There's little to distinguish the runaround, the last minute cramming in the suitcase, the run down the hill, the stress of catching the airport bus, that esprit-de-l'escalier making you wonder "Did I actually pack my passport..." It's the same beginning everytime.

For this trip, all that took place and lead me out to Kanku (Kansai Kokusai Kuko -  and no, I'm not translitterating the long vowels.) Kanku is a new, clean airport, with little to recommend it over any other new, clean airport.  It is offers little in the way of amusement when waiting for Mrs Gaijin to show up, outside of Eikokuya or Starbucks coffee shops. Needless to say, I had a seat with a tall honjitsu no kohii and waited.

When the wife arrived she and I checked in and began our own personal Trail of Tears, but with MEC backpacks. It's only about an hour and a half from Kanku to Seoul's Inchon Airport. Inchon differs little from Kanku except in the choice of food and the types of errors in English (notice the Udon called "Udong" and the coffee stir sticks called "muddlers.") Also, it is interesting to note that no number of Japanese lessons helps you read Korean. 

It is about 11 and a half hours between Seoul and Las Vegas. If you sleep very little on aeroplanes, as I do, you arrive in a brand new world that is filled with lights and music and parties and life, and all you want is real food and a nap. We were staying at the top of the strip at Circus Circus, which was oddly enough circus themed. Funny that. After check in we wandered around the big top-shaped indoor amusement park at the back of the hotel, billed as America's largest. Who the hell knows about these things?

Tired and hungry, we wandered down to the steakhouse just off the casino. It was, creatively enough, called THE Steakhouse and had several signs announcing that they'd been voted best steakhouse in Vegas 20 years in a row. That notwithstanding, Mrs Gaijin and I found ourselves trading quips about the chutzpah it takes to call yourself THE Steakhouse in the States, and Vegas in particular; the steak is a way of life there. After our porterhouse steaks we found ourselves wondering if it's really chutzpah if you're being completely accurate.

Day 2:

Three main notes from the day.

1) Star Trek: The Experience at the Hilton Hotel.

I managed to keep myself from being dragged into Barry Manilow: the Experience.

At one time I imagine the Star Trek stuff once played really well in Vegas. The Future History Musuem (basically an attempt to merge and make sense of the self-contradictory timelines of the various Trek incarnations) has a good display of the props from almost all of the Trek shows and movies. In addition, there are two 'attractions,' attractions being code for a ride that doesn't actually go anywhere. The Borg Invasion one featured great 3-d (4-d if you count the jabs in the back and puffs of air in your face) marred only by the appearance of Voyageur and its associated characters. The ST:TNG themed one was a good motion simulator.

That part of the day was true nerdgasm.

When I say that it used to play well, I kind of mean that. The whole thing never had more than 20 people in it, and Quark's bar, another spot of trekkie central, didn't have the clients running around that it should have until the end activities after TAM. It's been a few years since there was a current Star Trek on the telly and after the last movie it's taken a while to get the franchise rebooted. There are rumours that the Hilton will be closing and changing out the attraction. Maybe it will hold on until to the new movie comes out and get revamped. But with the number of changes happening in Vegas all the time, with the volume of teardowns and new builds on the strip, I doubt it.

2) Drinks at Napoleon's in Paris.

Paris, Vegas. I'm sure it's not in the same league authenticity-wise as Paris, France or even Paris, Texas, but it's a nice cobblestone floored hotel with a replica of the Eiffel Tower  sticking up out of it. Kinda neat. Reminds one of a lot of things seen from the Yamanote Line between Ueno and Nippori.

Several of our mutual friends were over from the UK for 40th birthdays. Both the now officially middle aged and the others just celebrating with them had a fair amount of drink, more than I can handle, or even pretend to from behind the safety of my keyboard.

3) The Bellagio

The buffet at the Bellagio is absolutely wonderful. The food is good. (Try the lamb.) If there's one test of the hotel-casino complex you're in, it's the buffet. And the Bellagio is a top place. (The Imperial Palace is pretty low on the list of places to grab a buffet, and by extension, do anything.)

Day 3

1) Champagne brunch at Paris.

Did I mention Paris already? Oh, yeah. Same group, big buffet. By the way Paris, on the buffet scale, rates. Highly.

Did I mention that it was a champagne buffet. Nice.

2) Caesar's Palace

What a strange place.

For one thing it's absolutely sprawling, even on the Vegas scale of things. There have been expansions over the years that make Caesar's unfathomably huge.

There is a grand indoor mini-village and high-end shopping arcade called the Forum Shops. Along the walking route, let's face it you don't need to actually buy any thing, there are statues, fountains and eventually a fish tank.

For the performers working there (Seinfeld, Cher, Midler, etc) the owners of Caesar's have built a scaled down version of the Colliseum and attached it to the complex. Is there even a joke there?


3) Penn and Teller

If you don't know them, you'll never understand. If you do, suffice it to say that their show is great and they do seem to love their fans, standing in the lobby after the show signing autographs for anyone who wants one. Bril. Teller even talks to you out there.

Day 4-6

In no particular order

Antelope Canyon, Arizona

Zion National Park

Grand Canyon

Horseshoe Bend

Bryce Canyon

Monument Valley

and to go with that here are some pics:


GrandCanyon GrandCanyon2

MonumentValley MonumentValley

BryceCanyon BryceCanyon

Sweet, eh?

Returning to Vegas we got in a bit of shooting with Friend DEG who was down for TAM. The Gun Store in Las Vegas has a hell of a range of weapons and as a Canadian a slightly creepy atmosphere. There's more than a hint of fetishism, despite the amialble chattiness of the staff.

Mrs Gaijin used a police sniper rifle and with 5 bullseyes has convinced me that we need not keep a gun in the house if I'm going to continue going to pubs.

The Amazing Meeting (Friday and Saturday.)

Separate post


We had been staying at the Luxor for a few days and checked out. The Luxor is another of these huge complexes based on a theme, in this case Stargate Egyptian. The centrepiece is the huge pyramid in the middle of the lot, you know the one with the spotlight shining upwards that can be seen from the Shuttle. Seriously, the fucking shuttle. That is unnecessary, but really cool.

The rumours are that the Luxor will be losing its Egyptian theme, leaving everyone wondering what you'll do with a bit fucking pyramid a the southend of Vegas strip. Most likely it'll be imploded and replaced in that kind of building churn that characterizes Vegas and Singapore.

Next, the TAM stories...

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

No! No, no, no, no, no, no, no.

Good-bye, George.
You will be missed.
George Carlin dies at age 71 | Reuters
Comedian George Carlin, a counter-culture hero famed for his routines about drugs, dirty words and the demise of humanity, died of heart failure at a Los Angeles-area hospital on Sunday. He was 71.

Friday, June 13, 2008

Vegas, Baby.

See everybody in a week, then.

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

Ah, British service at its best.

Shorter BT: Pay me 90 quid and I'll try to get you the service you've subscribed to already.
BBC NEWS | Technology | BT offers to 'speed up broadband'

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Cause your kids are bastards, that's why.

Slowly it dawns on the Brits what their kids are like.
Law creates underclass of child criminals - Times Online
Britain has been condemned as a bleak place for children, where thousands are needlessly criminalised for misdemeanours and where the gap between the education and health of the rich and poor is growing.
The number of crimes committed by children fell between 2002 and 2006, but, according to research cited by the report, convictions rose by 26 per cent, leading to fears that a young criminal underclass is building. In the past misdemeanours were dealt with by cautions; the trend now is for police to bring charges.
Britain detains more children than any other country in Western Europe, with 2,900 under18s locked up in the past year. Thirty children have died in custody since 1990, yet there has never been a public inquiry into conditions in youth detention centres.
I love the commentators idea that more jail will solve the problem with the youth in the UK. In a culture that glorifies jail time and treats a kid without an ASBO like he runs the projector in science class. Good luck with that.

Allowing terror doesn't help anyone...

Indonesia, as you know is the worlds largest Muslim country. It's easy to forget that this regional religion of the Arab peninsula has shifted it's centre population-wise, what with all the concern about Iraq, Iran, Irag, Irat, Irax, and every other Ira+letter combination that the western world (read: US) will be needlessly invading over the next few years.
Indonesia has a reputation as a fairly relaxed place for Muslims to be and live. A calmer, more cosmopolitan version of the religion if you will.
Until recently:
Sect in Indonesia fears attacks on its members - International Herald Tribune
Nearly 100 police officers guarded the road leading to this quiet, well-kept village in West Java on Tuesday to protect residents from possible attacks by hard-line Muslims.

More than 70 percent of the village's 4,000 people are members of Ahmadiyah, a Muslim sect that fundamentalists have denounced as heretical. Villagers have been attacked at least three times in the past, and on Tuesday, a day after Indonesia's government called on Ahmadiyah members to cease practicing their faith or face arrest, rumors swept through Manis Lor and surrounding towns that hard-line Muslim groups were planning protests, demonstrations or possibly an assault.
Indonesia is, after all, an officially Muslim country. This means that there is an official circle inside of which is recognized as legally Muslim and outside of which is fair game.
Moderates in this country, which is overwhelmingly Muslim but which guarantees religious freedom, argued that Ahmadiyah should be left alone. The hard-liners, many of whom are campaigning to turn Indonesia into an Islamic state, were pressing for an all-out ban and dissolution of Ahmadiyah.
The issue has gripped Indonesia. Television news stations play
continuous footage of extremists beating people at that rally with
sticks and screaming into cameras their demands that Ahmadiyah be
banned or face more attacks. The word "jihad" has been
repeatedly invoked.
I don't see that freedom of conscience cannot truly survive in such a situation. Not when the bigger goat crowd starts making noise.
I am, you may not have realized, no supporter of religion. I'm quite happy to watch it wither on the vine until it becomes some kind of eccentric little hobby for the spare-time endowed socially awkward, like tarot cards, dyed-pink chihuahuas or blogging.
Now in all the talk about Sunnis and Shi'as and Sufis you may be wondering how you've not heard of Ahmadiyah. It's simple, they're not well known. Hope that clears it up.
The Ahmadiyah Movement in Islam started at the tail end of the 19th Century in the borderlands between India and Pakistan. Mirza Ghulam Ahmad arose as a messianic figure preaching a completed vision of Islam. This is the first of the ways that the Ahmadiyah sect deviates from mainline Islamic teaching.
The second is organization. There is an ultimate authority in the sect, the Khalifatul, where mainline Islam is quite decentralized.
The Ahmadi are extremely pacifistic, and don't proselytize much, following the Koranic admonitions that there is no compulsion in religion. As a result they have been deafeningly, overwhelmingly ignored by the Blair/Brown outreach programs that have sought to build ties with the Muslim community.
When in London, Mrs Gaijin and I live next to the Ahmadiyya mosque and headquarters. The members of the community, other than filling all the parking five times a day, are the best neighbours.
They are polite to a person, community oriented, and seem to like our dog. All of this gives them bonus points to me. Let's face it: London is only tolerable because of the foreigners.
A number of the community is professional; a number is refugees escaping the inevitable persecution they face in Pakistan, Afghanistan and soon Indonesia, where they are considered apostates or heretics.
So now you know.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

If that's logic give me a ... I got nothin'

You know, if you use the words logic and proof in the title of your column you can also forgive me for expecting either of them.
CFP: Logical Proof of the Existence of a Divine Creator, Why Atheism is Not Logically Sound
HT to
So what does the unlikely fellow with the unlikely name Yomin Postelnik think? God is a great answer to everything. It's like a shield you can use to avoid all incoming facts.
One of the beautiful aspects of self evident truths is that they can be proven on both the simplest and the most complex of levels. By contrast, to make an argument for what is in fact an illogical fallacy, one must use plenty of skill, sophistry and remain beholden to a dogmatic protection of what is really an illogical position.
I agree. Generally they break down to the following lines: reality-based and god-botherers.
Yet even after a detailed case is made for the illogical side of the argument, it can instantly be deflated like a balloon with the simplest poke of clear logic. It can also be attacked piece by piece with even greater skill and logic, stemming from a steadfast pursuit of the truth.

Again, that's what I'd call an argument from our side of the the table.
Nowhere does the above hold more true than with regard to the existence of a Divine Creator.

At the risk of repeating myself, that's what we keep saying.
Proof of a conscious Creator is readily available.

Ding, ding, ding. Sorry, this is my stop. Lovely travelling with you this far; shame we must part company.
The simplest proof (yet one that no atheist has ever been able to counter effectively) is that a universe of this size and magnitude does not somehow build itself, just as a set of encyclopedias doesn’t write itself or form randomly from the spill of a massive inkblot.

Wow, can anyone else spot the false analogy here? Just curious.
The atheist, on the other hand, needs to build a plausible case for this irrational scenario.
Oddly, no. Atheism is the lack of belief in a god or gods. Although unusual and improbable you could be fully an atheist and believe in, oh I don't know, the Force.
But here's the point: being an atheist doesn't actually positively endorse any particular scientific case. I'm an atheist. I don't believe in gods, any of them.
I also don't believe in paranormal powers like ESP or telekinesis, etc. But that's not atheism.
I'm a great supporter of science, though strictly as a consumer of popular science books and blogs. But that's not atheism.
I have a history degree and an avid interest in military and Byzantine histories. But that's not atheism.
I vaguely believe that there are some interesting medical discoveries that can come out of traditional herbal medicines. But that's not atheism.
I don't believe that moxibustion or acupuncture can do a damn thing for your health. But that's not atheism.
Do you see the pattern? Must I continue to belabour this point? No. Good.
Here is what is true about the science-atheism nexus: it's hard to be a fulfilled atheist without science.
But first, let’s examine how irrational it is:
Mr. Kettle? It's Mr Pot here. Have you been on vacation? You look like you've picked up a tan.
No one in their right mind would claim that 10,000 hundred story buildings built themselves from randomness, even over time. Yet those who doubt the existence of a Creator believe that an entire universe, containing all of the billions of elements necessary for life to form, may have come about without a builder. As such, they give credence to billions of times more coincidences to having come about.
The first half of the paragraph is okay. No one in their right mind would believe that. You know why? Because we watch them going up all the time. We talk to construction workers when we're walking the dog. We can study of architecture if we want.
Can you show your work about the universe, please? Otherwise, false analogy.
They believe that not only did whole planets appear spontaneously [No -EG], but also believe that the fact that these planets do not collide as meteors do [No!], that they have gravity [Okay, we believe that], that they contain the proper atmospheric conditions for life to take hold and contain sustenance to sustain this life all happened by mere fluke [No]. Yet the same people would (rightly) denounce as preposterous the notion that the Egyptian pyramids built themselves [Again, plans and builders]. They would point to the structure and detailed design of these impressive inanimate objects [and the tools, stone quarries and pay record]. Yet they outrageously chalk up to coincidence billions upon billions of times more detail and design in all parts of life found in this universe [you might want to separate the universe-life thing. I smell someone conflating of cosmology and evolution].
To be sure, someone can build sandcastles in the sky on how the spontaneous coming together of molecules, then turning into bricks, changing further into buildings, culminating in 10,000 perfectly aligned skyscrapers all built with no builder is a plausible scenario. They can form intricate arguments to support this theory. But in the end, the entire proposition remains offensive to logic itself.
People could build that scenario, you'd be surprised how fast they get made fun of here.
While there are complex proofs of the Divine,
This should be fun.
some dating back to the philosophical writings of Plato and others using modern science, the most clearly logical concepts are all readily apparent and simple. An entire world does not create itself.
Note the word create. This is called begging the question or tautology. That is to say, the answer is assumed in the question. The concept of create begins by assuming creator and creation to be separate from each other and continues that the creator intentionally fashions the creation.
Furthermore, proof of a Divine creator can be seen more readily in the small and intricate details of the universe than by considering the enormity of the universe as a whole.
Please don't say cosmological constants. You're drifting into Dinesh D'Souza territory.
Consider the following:

Even if all the planets somehow formed themselves, all somehow staying in perfect orbit and possessing gravity, even take for granted that all the chemicals needed for life were so how there as well, by sheer happenstance, would it then be possible for billions of species to spontaneously come about, each with a male and female of each kind so that they could exist in the long run?
You know it's funny but this is the first time that I've heard of anyone implying that gravity is something planets just happen to have. Is he implying that given their mass and properties they shouldn't. Not to mention that their orbits are perfect. It's a little Panglossian for my tastes.
It does imply that our gentle columnist doesn't know where the NASA website is, or how to find Bad Astronomy, cause he'd know what a wonderful, wonderful mess the universe can be.

Even if this were possible, would the simplest of animals have been able to survive were it missing even one essential organ? Would human beings survive if one organ or cavity was missing or displaced, even after somehow being otherwise perfectly formed with no designer? The simple fact is that even if humans were so perfectly formed, if food, water, sunlight or any one of a host of details necessary for life to exist were somehow missing, human life would have lasted on this planet for a maximum of a few days.
Skip this bit. It's like a 76pt font confession that he's never read anything about evolution.
The contention of atheists, that life simply adapted to the conditions it found itself in is also irrational, as were this to be the case we’d have animals that could solely subsist on snow and ice in some regions. By contrast, the ability to adapt to small conditional changes is also a fascinating aspect of the body, one that shows that much detail was put into its design.
As a Canadian I can testify to the caloric and vitamin content of snow and ice. Fuck all calories with a side of jack shit vitamins. With a bit of none-what-so-fucking-ever protein. Good for the hunger that ails you.
The central point of the atheist, that all somehow came about randomly through evolution, does not help them either. While a separate column will deal with the scientific arguments for creationism and evolution, the topic is not germane here. Going back to the example of a set of encyclopedias, a set of Britannicas does not write itself, not from one massive ink blot and not starting out as dots, which form letters, which align into perfect phrases, paragraphs, books and sets. In fact, it’s even more incredulous to say that they aligned so perfectly, step by step and dot by dot than it is to say that all appeared at once. Yet that’s what the atheist contends when he chalks up life’s existence to gradual and detailed formation with no Creator at the helm.
Okay I will say this one time only: evolution is not random. Inherent in the concept of selection is selecting which is non-random. Good. Let's stop hearing that.
However, despite the fact that even after much debate on the issue I have yet to meet an atheist who can make even a feeble argument to counter any of these points, they often feel that such grounded proofs aren’t complicated enough. Just as a man who spends years coming up with a thousand reasons why an elephant is really a duck will not be persuaded of his error without first addressing all of his complicated fallacies, so too the atheist’s contentions must be addressed in detail. For this reason, we will also address some of the more detailed proofs of the existence of the Divine.
I don have to say that this paragraph reeks of projection. It seems to me that it's the religious that are impervious to evidence.
Of the many philosophic and scientific arguments brought forth for the existence of the Divine, three stand out. The anthropic argument contends that the universe is too complex to have no Creator. This is in effect the central point of this column, although explained in a more common manner. The cosmological argument maintains that finite matter (original matter, which was clearly finite) cannot create a universe that is greater than itself. Especially compelling is the teleological argument, that the existence of a Creator can be seen from the fact that the universe works in perfect harmony, as would a giant machine. Gravity, orbits, chemical atmospheres and all other ingredients needed for life to exist come together in unison to allow such existence to happen. An enormous machine that works like clockwork needs to have a Creator.

Wow. That's just some serious bullshit. Looks like my basil's going to do well this year when I spread this around.
The atheist would also do well to read Anthony Flew’s latest book, “There is a God: How the World’s Most Notorious Atheist Changed His Mind.” For decades, Flew was one of the leading proponents of atheism. But he eventually decided to give everything a second look and found that all he’d believed and so vociferously advocated for so long was wrong. Upon real analysis, he found that there is, in fact, proof of the Divine.
But all of these reasons, in reality, are unnecessary. The youngest school child can tell you that a building does not build itself and that, by extension, neither does a universe. And this is the beauty of self evident truths. After all the proofs and reasoning in the world, they remain just as self evident, just as they are also, on the deepest levels, thoroughly profound. Here too, all that is needed to demonstrate proof of a Creator is that the world doesn’t create itself, not instantly and not over time. All other issues can then be examined in that light.

The youngest child can tell you that a panda is a bear. But it's not. That's why we go to school. To learn the shit that the youngest child gets wrong. Otherwise that's who we'd be turning to for all our answers.

However, we must realize that while the sophistry it takes to purport a falsehood can be easily countered, the person who has upheld such notions for decades must have each of his or her counterpoints addressed. This is able to be done smoothly, in light of the inherent logic that necessitates the existence of a conscious Creator, but it must be done thoroughly.

Sophistry? How long have people argued that the gods are not a solid foundation?

Encouraging atheists to open their minds to pure logic and to possibilities that they hitherto only sought to counter or to avoid on any pretext also involves an emotional challenge for them, as they must open themselves to the possibility of having to shed preconceived notions that they’ve held firm for decades. And that, rather than facts, is the primary challenge to exposing them to insightful logic. However, if they are willing to address the issue honestly, a search for the truth should be of paramount importance and enough reason for them to take an open look.

I'm pretty sure that if proof of a god was reliable and available, I'd give in to reality. The fact that the god concept is logically inconsistent is not a plus factor.

Scientists as a whole are increasingly open to the idea of a conscious Creator. They realize that science points to the complexity of the universe, a complexity that dictates the inevitability of a Creator. However, some stick to old ways and old dogmas. A question that arises is why these seemingly logical people possess such illogical beliefs. This fact alone has prevented many from considering the existence of a Creator. But when we understand the reason for their animus to belief, their bias comes to the forefront as opposed to any reasoned argument.

You keep using this word logic. I do not think it means what you think it means.

Throughout the 20th century, many scientists were enthralled with the progress that science had made. They mistakenly believed that the physical universe, instead of being a creation, contained all answers in and of itself. Any questions would be resolved by science. To look beyond that was viewed in disdain. The fact that logic necessitates that physical matter must have originated at some point and that a formed universe cannot emerge without a designer was overlooked in the hope that physical science would prove the impossible.

Look carefully. Can you spot an unsupported assertion.

Other scientists, today a greater number than the more dogmatic former group, conceded that there may well be a Creator. But they were wholly disinterested in the subject. They too did not realize that our physical universe points to the fact that it was consciously designed. And many of them had the same rigid disdain for religion as the former.

Wanna back that up with some survey data? Name a name. Otherwise there's that herb garden fertilizer smell drifting by again.

What’s true of both groups is that they refused to consider the subject. As such, their rejection of a Creator does not stem from some well reasoned research or thought, but rather from the absence of such reasoning. Their knowledge of religion and philosophy was on par with their knowledge of economics or any other subject that they had never studied. They knew as much about religion as they knew how to paint a house, the only difference between the two being that had they delved into the former instead of reflexively dismissing it, they would have found it to be of profound logic and give depth to their other areas of study.

Unlike your detailed treatise here on cosmology? Please.

But these scientists did not give religious or philosophical questions a moment’s notice. And what becomes abundantly clear from their statements on the issue is that they have grave misconceptions about religion, misconceptions that stem from their lack of interest. And while it is their right to do so, reflexively and often emotionally dismissing a belief without giving it a moment’s thought isn’t logic, but rather the opposite of logic.

To be sure, these scientists are indeed very logical and analytical within their main doctrine. It’s just that they refuse to examine that which transcends it. As such, anyone who gives credence their views on this issue should beware, as their opinions do not stem from logic. Scientists who have thought over the issue are generally in agreement on this as well.

Sorry. What were you babbling on about? My eyes glazed over.

One cannot conclude a column like this without mentioning philosophical and logical proofs of the Divinity of the Bible, the Torah. To begin with, the Bible is the only book in the history of mankind to make the claim that part of it was given by the Creator in front of an entire nation (of 600,000 families, totaling a few million people).
Of course we can't go without mentioning the Torah. Unlike the New Testament, the old one bears all the hallmarks of God sitting down at a desk with a quill.
If someone were to come along today with a book, claiming that its Divine transmission had been witnessed by millions of people, they’d be laughed out of the room. One cannot convince an entire nation, including its greatest analytical thinkers and its most ardent skeptics, that such a transmission occurred and had been witnessed by them when it hadn’t. To those who would counter “What if the Bible came along a few hundred years later?” (claiming to have been witnessed a few hundred years back), such a claim would have been met with equal ridicule, just as a book claiming to have been given by the Creator, as witnessed by millions in the 1700s would be met with ridicule today. There would have been a well known history of such a happening. Simply put, a book that claims to have been Divinely given to millions cannot take hold on a widespread level if it is not true.
If someone tells you the same story but moves the date back 4000 years, that's a whole different story. By the same logic Scientology must be true, because there's no way for a sci-fi writer to make something up and then convert people to his religion and spread it out to so many countries in less than a century if it weren't true. (By the way, that's a pretty tight analogy. Unlike the encyclopaedia/ink blot bullshit running around this guy's column)
That’s a basic philosophical case. There are also more hard physical reasons that point to the Bible’s Divinity. The Bible states in Genesis and in Jeremiah that the stars of the heaven cannot be counted. Scientists believed that the number of stars were only 1,100, those which could readily be seen. The Bible was way ahead of the time it was given and showed knowledge of that which could not have been known or seen by man.
Dude, that's weak tea.
The Bible also attested to the laws of thermodynamics, a field that science only hammered out thousands of years later. The first law of thermodynamics is that the total sum of matter and energy in the universe can never change. Energy can change into matter and vice versa, but their combined sum is always constant. Until this discovery, the Bible’s statement that “there is nothing new under sun” seemed like a statement that was ready to be disproven. Reasoning went that somewhere in the universe there must be new energy or matter developing. But there wasn’t. Universally accepted science showed us that less than 200 years ago. The Bible told us that about 3,000 years before.
Oddly enough, for 3000 years that's been taken to mean that all the new ideas that men come up with, all the political machinations, all the schemes and nobility have antecedents. I defy you to go from "there's nothing new under the sun" to the First Law of Thermodynamics without first knowing the fucking First Law of Thermodynamics.
Is this what you're trying to push as logic?
More compelling is the Bible’s clear attestation to the second law of thermodynamics (which was originally the first principle of this field, formulated by Sadi Carnot in 1824). This is that physicality becomes increasingly random and broken apart. Psalm 102 speaks of the heavens and the earth perishing and clearly implies a gradual decay, telling us this law well before it was discovered.
Psalm 102?
This Psalm?
1 The prayer of one afflicted and wasting away whose anguish is poured out before the LORD.
LORD, hear my prayer; let my cry come to you.
Do not hide your face from me now that I am in distress. Turn your ear to me; when I call, answer me quickly.
For my days vanish like smoke; my bones burn away as in a furnace.
I am withered, dried up like grass, too wasted to eat my food.
From my loud groaning I become just skin and bones.
I am like a desert owl, like an owl among the ruins.
I lie awake and moan, like a lone sparrow on the roof.
2 All day long my enemies taunt me; in their rage, they make my name a curse.
I eat ashes like bread, mingle my drink with tears.
Because of your furious wrath, you lifted me up just to cast me down.
My days are like a lengthening shadow; I wither like the grass.
But you, LORD, are enthroned forever; your renown is for all generations.
You will again show mercy to Zion; now is the time for pity; the appointed time has come.
Its stones are dear to your servants; its dust moves them to pity.
The nations shall revere your name, LORD, all the kings of the earth, your glory,
Once the LORD has rebuilt Zion and appeared in glory,
Heeding the plea of the lowly, not scorning their prayer.
Let this be written for the next generation, for a people not yet born, that they may praise the LORD:
3 "The LORD looked down from the holy heights, viewed the earth from heaven,
To attend to the groaning of the prisoners, to release those doomed to die."
Then the LORD'S name will be declared on Zion, the praise of God in Jerusalem,
When all peoples and kingdoms gather to worship the LORD.
God has shattered my strength in mid-course, has cut short my days.
4 I plead, O my God, do not take me in the midst of my days. Your years last through all generations.
Of old you laid the earth's foundations; the heavens are the work of your hands.
They perish, but you remain; they all wear out like a garment; Like clothing you change them and they are changed,
but you are the same, your years have no end.
May the children of your servants live on; may their descendants live in your presence.
You're fucking joking if you think Thermodynamics is in there.
It should be noted here, at least for the sake of accuracy, that the Bible also speaks of a new heaven and earth, meaning a newly fortified one, after the Divine presence is revealed. Such a heaven and earth will exist continuously according to most Biblical commentary, but will reveal their Divine Creator within them. Eventual perfection of the world, after we’ve been given a chance to do our part, is a key tenet of most religion and is the only logical explanation for the Creation of a world in need of perfection. Such an advent also seems closer than ever according to any study of what the Bible says about its occurrence, especially in view of the rapid and radical changes the world has undergone in the last few decades alone. However, the physical universe as it stands now is in a slow state of decay (before it is refortified), a fact that only the Bible knew for thousands of years.
Are you still reading this, gentle reader. Because I'm not sure I am.
It should be noted that although this column is comparatively lengthy, it is still only a column and barely scratches the surface of the clear proofs that evidence the existence of the Divine and the Divine nature of the Bible, the Torah. The reader is encouraged to study further and to ask questions.

No further questions needed. We've seen all we need to see.
Complex proofs of god. Check.
Divinity of the Bible. Check.
Science. The more we find out the less we know. Check.
My brain hurts. My eyes are glassy and I can't take reading this shit.

So what's wrong with "Alternate Ways of Knowing?"

This. This is what's wrong with bullshit Alternate Ways of Knowing.
Go on, woo-boys. Defend this.
'Albinos, Long Shunned, Face Threat in Tanzania' by New York Times -
Discrimination against albinos is a serious problem throughout sub-Saharan Africa, but recently in Tanzania it has taken a wicked twist: at least 19 albinos, including children, have been killed and mutilated in the past year, victims of what Tanzanian officials say is a growing criminal trade in albino body parts.

Many people in Tanzania — and across Africa, for that matter — believe albinos have magical powers. They stand out, often the lone white face in a black crowd, a result of a genetic condition that impairs normal skin pigmentation and strikes about 1 in 3,000 people here. Tanzanian officials say witch doctors are now marketing albino skin, bones and hair as ingredients in potions that are promised to make people rich.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

And now a Japan moment

I've now lived in Japan a full quarter of my life, well a quarter and a smidge. (For those of you who study math in the UK that's 15%) I've always enjoyed it although there've been a lot of times that it's pissed me off to no end.

I think it's telling that I've not been able to generate the same passion about London that I have for Tokyo. Or even Kobe now.

So when this thought came to me today I thought I'd fire a few photos up celebrating some of the bits and pieces of Japan over the last year.

First up, Kiyomizudera in Kyoto.


Next: Last year's Luminarie, a commemorative display in honour of the victims of the Kobe earthquake in 1995.

Japan 007

I know it's a moving van and he's lifting something, but I'm sure that Doraemon is mooning me here.

Japan 021

Things the Japanese Like: Episode 4

Taking pictures of stuff with their keitai denwa (cell phones)


Things the Japanese Like: Episode 50

Small dogs dressed in twee outfits


One of the small number of Japanese Christians. The sign says to the effect that God loves the world and forgives sins. Outside JR Osaka station.


Kuidaore is a landmark in Osaka's Dotembori nightlife area. The drumming robot has been in front of the izakaya for ever and ever. Both will disappear at the end of July.


The hot food menu on the ferry to Awaji. Hot Chicken and Chips. 


Finally, Kinkakuji in Kyoto.


Well, that was fun. We'll do it again soon.


Do you really need a religious leader to tell you that terrorism is wrong?
Seems like you should already know that.
New Humanist Blog: Ultra-orthodox Islamic seminary issues fatwa against terrorism
The Darul-Uloom Deoband, the Islamic madrassa in rural India where Taliban leader Mullah Omar studied, this weekend issued a fatwa against terror during a peace conference in Delhi, with Grand Mufti Habibur Rehman declaring:

"The religion of Islam has come to wipe out all kinds of terrorism and to spread the message of global peace. Islam rejects all kinds of unjust violence, breach of peace, bloodshed, murder and plunder and does not allow it in any form."


If this is true:
'The Great Evangelical Decline' by Huffington Post -
What Baptist leaders have known for years is finally public: The Southern Baptist Convention is a denomination in decline. Half of the SBC's 43,000 churches will have shut their doors by 2030 if current trends continue.

And unless God provides a miracle, the trends will continue. The denomination's growth rate has been declining since the 1950s. The conservative/fundamentalist takeover 30 years ago was supposed to turn the trend around; it didn't make a bit of difference.

Leaders said it did. Reporters and politicians believed it did. But the numbers kept going down until, finally, they have become obvious to everyone.

Evangelical faith has been dropping since 1900, when 42 percent of the U.S. claimed that distinction. Every year, Religious Right evangelicals, such as those who lead the Southern Baptists, are a smaller proportion of the country. Every year, their core values are violated more flagrantly by the media, scientific discovery and mainstream behavior. Every election, politicians promise to serve them and then don't because evangelicals lack the power to make them.

What all this means is that we were duped.

will somebody please tell this fucknut:

I'm not even American and I know he's so full of shit his eyes are brown.

Monday, June 09, 2008

Cause you'll put your eye out, Ralphie.

BBC NEWS | UK | Scotland | Plan to restrict sales of airguns
A pilot scheme restricting the sale of airguns in Scotland could be brought in to stop firearms getting a "grip" on communities.

To borrow slightly from George Carlin: They want to ban air guns but keep the fucking real ones!

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Bill Maher -- Movie Trailer

I have mixed feelings about Bill Maher. I usually love his New Rules segments. I applaud his stance that religion is something you can ridicule. However, I deplore his nonsense about vaccinations and medical care.

He's quick witted, but not an intellect on the order of Jon Stewart, the best comparison of someone with TV show that's outspoken on the issues and has a sense of humour.

Sometimes his outrage is misplaced. Sometimes it's bang-bloody-on.

So, making the rounds is his trailer for Religulous, his new movie where he tackles religion. It looks funny and thought provoking. It looks highly slanted and I'm looking forward to it in the exact same way Mrs Gaijin isn't.

I dunno. What do you think?

Sunday, June 08, 2008

I'll bet this guy wears a paisley keffeiyah and goes to Dunkin' Donuts. Appeaser!

Schneier on Security: The War on Photography
The War on Photography

What is it with photographers these days? Are they really all terrorists, or does everyone just think they are?

Since 9/11, there has been an increasing war on photography. Photographers have been harrassed, questioned, detained, arrested or worse, and declared to be unwelcome. We've been repeatedly told to watch out for photographers, especially suspicious ones. Clearly any terrorist is going to first photograph his target, so vigilance is required.

Except that it's nonsense. The 9/11 terrorists didn't photograph anything. Nor did the London transport bombers, the Madrid subway bombers, or the liquid bombers arrested in 2006. Timothy McVeigh didn't photograph the Oklahoma City Federal Building. The Unabomber didn't photograph anything; neither did shoe-bomber Richard Reid. Photographs aren't being found amongst the papers of Palestinian suicide bombers. The IRA wasn't known for its photography. Even those manufactured terrorist plots that the US government likes to talk about -- the Ft. Dix terrorists, the JFK airport bombers, the Miami 7, the Lackawanna 6 -- no photography.

Thursday, June 05, 2008

Math? Hell, I can't even count to five with mittens on.

Could this:
BBC NEWS | UK | Magazine | How to solve the British maths problem?
The British are uniquely happy to admit being bad at maths, says a report.

be related to this:
BBC NEWS | UK | Education | Most maths teachers 'not experts'
Less than half of maths teachers in England's secondary schools have a degree in the subject, despite a massive recruitment campaign.

or this:
BBC NEWS | UK | Education | Maths exams 'have become easier'
School mathematics exams in England have become easier, shallower and less demanding, according to a think tank.

This has been another edition of Well, duh. with your host, the Eternal Gaijin.

If it's Thursday the Police State must be creeping in.

Oh, look. It's Thursday.
Police protester snap did not breach rights | The Register
The New Order: When reading is a crime | The Register
Is this what it is going to be like? When simple possession of a proscribed document will be enough to see you clapped in irons and whisked down to the local police station?

About two weeks ago (May 16), Nottingham University campus was agog as police arrived to interview former student Hicham Yezza. After some ten years' study, first as undergraduate, then graduate, Hicham was a non-academic member of staff in one of the University departments.

His mistake was to agree to help Rizwaan Sabir, a friend in the Politics faculty, who needed a document downloaded from the web and printed off. This was all part of legitimate study: the document itself was on the Politics Faculty reading list. Unfortunately, the document in question also happened to be an al-Qaeda Training Manual.
Dispatches from the Culture Wars: Pentagon Removes Judge from Gitmo Tribunals
Here's a good way to judge the legitimacy of the quasi-courts set up at Gitmo: if the prosecution can simply remove the judge from a case when he issues a ruling they don't like, they're probably not legitimate
Guantanamo inmate charged over al-Qaeda 'dirty bomb plot' - Times Online
A British resident imprisoned in Guantanamo Bay has been charged over an alleged al-Qaeda plot to detonate a dirty bomb in apartment buildings in the United States.
D.C. to require ID to enter certain neighborhoods? - Boing Boing
John McCain vows to continue Bush's illegal warrantless wiretapping program - Boing Boing
John McCain has changed his position on illegal warrantless wiretapping: he used to think that the President had to uphold the nation's laws. Now he says that the Constitution is subordinate to the all-powerful executive order.
T-shirt with picture of armed robot endangers British aviation system - Boing Boing
This poor guy tried to board a BA flight at Heathrow terminal 5 but was turned back and told to change out of his t-shirt, which featured a Transformer robot carrying a gun -- a robot with a gun that apparently posed a threat to flight safety.
Rogier van Bakel: Why I won't be allowed to fly - Boing Boing
European airlines test spycams in every seat that "detect terrorism" in your facial expressions - Boing Boing
European airlines are prototyping a Panopticon-in-the-sky: cameras trained on every passenger in flight, married to some kind of snake-oil "terrorism detection" software that will be able to tell if the guy in 11J is planning to rush the cockpit.
Canadian airport security screener confiscates blocks tiny gun-shaped necklace charm - Boing Boing
The Unusual Suspect writes, "blogTO writes of a Canadian PhD student studying Social Political Thought who was intercepted by Kelowna Airport screeners when they spotted her necklace, which has a charm in the shape of a gun. (Article includes a photo of the actual necklace.) The charm is less than 2" in size, and has no moving parts."

The prosecution rests.

Tuesday, June 03, 2008

You know what...

This is hopeful:
The Canadian Press: New poll says almost a quarter of Canadians don't believe in any god
Fewer than three-quarters of Canadians believe in a god, suggests a new Canadian Press Harris-Decima survey.

"Religion in Canada today is not a particularly divisive subject and tolerance levels for different beliefs are high," said Harris-Decima president Bruce Anderson. "This is evident in the fact that one in four people feel comfortable saying they do not believe in a god."

The poll found 72 per cent of respondents said they believed in a god, while 23 per cent said they did not believe in any god. Six per cent did not offer an opinion.

Results may not total 100 per cent because of rounding.

Polls have told a different story in the United States.

"Canada's secularism stands in clearer distinction, when compared to the cultural and political influences of religion in the United States," said Anderson. "In one Harris Interactive study in the United States, conducted in 2007, the number who said they were non-believers was only eight per cent."
This is ironic:
Security interrupts Amtrak spokesman who says photos are OK in D.C.'s union station - Boing Boing
A BB reader says: "A local news crew was interviewing an Amtrak spokesman at D.C.'s union station who told the reporter that photography is allowed in the station. During the interview, a security guard interrupted them to say that photography/video was not allowed.

This is uncomfortably funny:

HT to Respectful Insolence

This is obvious:
BBC NEWS | Science/Nature | Crystal skulls 'are modern fakes'
Crystal skulls are the focus of the story in the latest Indiana Jones film.

But experts say examples held at the British Museum in London and the Smithsonian Institution in Washington DC are anything but genuine.
This is a load of crap:
Acupuncture’s Evil Twin: The Dim Mak Death Touch : Environmental News Blog | Environmental Graffiti
Known in Cantonese as dim mak and in Japanese as kyusho jitsu, the touch of death is legendary among martial arts nuts. The idea behind the death touch is somewhat mysterious: apparently there are several “meridians” or body lines where “chi” or energy flows through. According to Dr Cecil Adams, “A blow or squeeze applied to certain pressure points on these lines will supposedly put the whammy on the victim’s chi, leading to incapacitation or death.” Medical journals have even reported numerous incidents where seemingly mild trauma to the described dim mak pressure points results in disproportionately serious injury. But is this all a load of baloney? Is dim mak real or not?
Short answer: No. It's bullshit. Up and down.

From the I Can't Believe I Watched That Files

I'd like to say that I do have good taste in movies. We have a wide collection of Kubrick and Kurosawa films on DVD. I have the full range of Blade Runner versions. I have most of the IMDB in my head and carry it around with me. (I also annoyingly spout out half of it every time a question about movies comes up)
I love movies.
So here's the confession:
The other day I watched BloodRayne. Yes, that classic of the Uwe Bolle videogame-to-movie-to-video genre. Uwe Bolle is doing more to undermine movies that anyone else working within a 50 km radius of a box of film. Think Ed Wood without the camp factor. Or the raw cinematic talent.
There is nothing about this movie that is good. For starters it takes much too long to get from the opening to the ending credits.
From the outset you have a story of plot points unconnected to each other by lines. It's no way to make a kids colouring book and no way to make a movie. Characters, if such they can be called, are undeveloped beyond their names. The main protagonists have extremely modern diction and, except Michael Madson, haircuts.
And Ben Kingsley. I know that worthy work like Sexy Beast and Gandhi don't pay that much, but learn a lesson after Thunderbirds, will ya? Ta.
Turgid fight scenes with quick editing can not disguise the fact that no-one had done any training for the stunts.
Recommended to all who enjoy crappy movies as a guilty pleasure.
Ghost Rider has started running on Sky Perfect or Star Channel or one of those damn things. Wow, that was truly bad. Makes BloodRayne look Oscar-ish by comparison.
So what's next?
How's this for bad news, cinephiles?

Movies - News - Bay brings 'Ouija' to the big screen - Digital Spy
Michael Bay's Platinum Dunes company will produce Ouija for Universal, says The Hollywood Reporter.

Now that's going to be shit!