Saturday, January 31, 2009

Brill!

I'm still trying to find one here in the UK to post a pic for my faithful (hee-hee, good one) readers. I'm back up in the middle of town today, so I'll see what I can do.
''No God' Ads, Soon To Appear On TTC Vehicles' by Freethought Association of Canada - RichardDawkins.net

You're fucking shitting me, right?

A girl in Oklahoma has been accused of witchcraft. And of hexing a teacher. Actually hexing, in the "She turned me into a newt." way.

Pharyngula: Going back to our Puritan roots

The complaint is here. American Civil Liberties Union : ACLU of Oklahoma Files Federal Lawsuit on Behalf of Student Accused of "Hexing" a Teacher

To my religions brethren may I just say this, There's no such fucking thing as witches.
Thank you.

Friday, January 30, 2009

No Reason for This Story...

Ah, Britain. And another outrage or two...

Apostrophe loses its place on street signs | News
A LOCAL authority was accused of "dumbing down" today after ruling that apostrophes should not feature on its road and street signs.

WTF? Now why would you do this in the first place?

The decision not to reintroduce apostrophes, which began to disappear from Birmingham's road signs in the Fifties, had been taken in light of factors such as the need for consistency and the cost of changing existing signs, he said.

"We are constantly getting residents asking for apostrophes to be put back in and we have got to make a decision one way or another," he said.

But wait, who have we left out here?

John Richards, chairman of the Apostrophe Protection Society, said: "It seems retrograde, dumbing down really. The council would be better advised to make sure the right apostrophes are in place rather than removing them. It sets a bad example to children."

Of course! The children.
Which is why this next one comes off so well.
PC brigade sobers up the drunken sailor | News
A CENTURIES-OLD nursery rhyme has fallen victim to political correctness after government officials removed any reference to alcohol.

The government-funded charity Bookstart changed the title character in the traditional sea shanty What Shall We Do With A Drunken Sailor? to a "grumpy pirate".

On long car rides as a kid, we used to sing a lot of sea shanty Newfie type songs (I blame Dad), including Drunken Sailor and now I drink. QED.


Children

Good advice...



Skewed views of science
HT to OneGoodMove

Thursday, January 29, 2009

A Little More on that Bishop

‘Lying’ Holocaust denier is embraced by the Vatican
HOLOCAUST denier Richard Williamson, 68, is one of four bishops who have had the excommunications lifted by Pope Ratzinger this week.

I'm going again with a "That's not going to help anything" as my comment.

Not a banner year there, Pappa-Razzi

Dismay as Pope welcomes back Holocaust bishop Richard Williamson -Times Online
Pope Benedict XVI’s rehabilitatation of a British bishop who denies that millions of Jews died in Nazi gas chambers has alarmed Catholics who fear it risks dealing a fatal blow to the inter-faith dialogue promoted by his predecessor.

Over the weekend the Pope issued a decree welcoming back into the Roman Catholic Church Richard Williamson, 68, and three other breakaway bishops excommunicated by John Paul II in 1988. The bishops had been ordained without Vatican permission by the renegade French archbishop Marcel Lefebvre, who rejected the reforms of the Second Vatican Council.

Video available here.
How do you make a joke here? Is there any way that this can help the image of the church?

I don't know what to say. Living the stereotype, maybe?

Asked nicely, robber leaves store
It seems even a thief appreciates good manners.

A masked man walked into a Needs convenience store in Lower Sackville, N.S., Tuesday night and demanded cash and cigarettes from the clerk.

Cpl. Joe Taplin, an RCMP spokesman, said the employee simply refused.

"He asked him, 'Please leave the store,'" Taplin said.

That polite request caught the would-be bandit by surprise.

"The suspect then looked at him and said, 'You know, you're the first one to ask me to leave in such a nice way, and because of that I'm going to leave,'" Taplin said.

I'd still rather not risk it.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Smart, real smart, guys.

BBC NEWS | UK | Debate over cannabis classification
Cannabis has been reclassified by the government from a Class C to a Class B drug, carrying a higher maximum jail sentence for possession.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

And with that, I am off to the pub for a pint.

Alcohol stops men being a flop in bed - health - 26 January 2009 - New Scientist
Men might want to remember a new rhyme: a drink a day keeps erectile dysfunction away.

Despite traditional views about the effects of booze on male performance, new research suggests that moderate drinking actually protects against impotence in the long term – perhaps for the same reason a glass or two of wine a day cuts the odds of suffering from heart disease.

Is this what they mean by mission creep?

Umm, about that Patriot Act law keeping everyone safe, how's that applied again?

Monday, January 26, 2009

First Big WTF Moment of the Week



BLASPHEMY CHALLENGE???

WTF?
That's some mighty fine Christian turning of the other cheek there, Lou.

HT to the Friendly Athiest.

Memo to Religious Dickheads.

It's better if you STFU, STFD and GBTW.
Do us all a favour.




HT to Pharyngula on the first link.

Crapstone, Wetwang...I can't keep going...

It is just so hard not to laugh at British place names:
No Snickering - That Road Sign Means Something Else - NYTimes.com
In the scale of embarrassing place names, Crapstone ranks pretty high. But Britain is full of them. Some are mostly amusing, like Ugley, Essex; East Breast, in western Scotland; North Piddle, in Worcestershire; and Spanker Lane, in Derbyshire.

Others evoke images that may conflict with residents’ efforts to appear dignified when, for example, applying for jobs.

These include Crotch Crescent, Oxford; Titty Ho, Northamptonshire; Wetwang, East Yorkshire; Slutshole Lane, Norfolk; and Thong, Kent. And, in a country that delights in lavatory humor, particularly if the word “bottom” is involved, there is Pratts Bottom, in Kent, doubly cursed because “prat” is slang for buffoon.

At the end of the Picadilly line is Cockfosters. In the Square Mile, not too far from the Old Bailey is Cock Lane.
Of course, some people don't like:
Council bans the 'rude' street names that might offend | Mail Online

Oh, fuck! Cockshut Lane! Oh, sweet zombie Jesus!
BBC NEWS | England | 'Rude' English streets defended
New road names with rude connotations could soon be banned in part of Sussex to avoid "deliberate misinterpretation".

But throughout England streets including "Grope Lane" and "Titty Ho" have a rich history.

I think Grope Lane is the same place that used to be Grope Cunte Lane...Expert: 'Rude' place names start innocent - Oddities - redOrbit
"Place names and street names are full of history and culture, and it's only because language has evolved over the centuries that they've wound up sounding rude," Hurst said.

Thank you, Mr Academic Buzzkill. Leave me alone I have some more snickering to do at Rude Britain.


Shitterton.

Again with the losing of the private data...

Catholics behaving...Catholic

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Yeah no shit...

BBC NEWS | UK | Atheist ads 'not breaking code'
An atheist UK bus campaign which uses the slogan "There's probably no God" does not breach the advertising code, a watchdog has ruled.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

No, no, no!

Buses again.

Muslim ads on county buses drive Jewish group to protest -- South Florida Sun-Sentinel.com
There's a new front in the conflict between Jew and Muslim: Broward County buses

Yeah, this is going to help things.

The Drug War

The Drug War is founded on a fallacy from the ground up: If only Prohibition had been more violent on both sides and more money had been involved everything would have worked out fine and Repeal would not have been needed.
On some level I'm not being too sarcastic here. We all know how Prohibition worked out. We all know how when alcohol became illegal in the US the Mob stepped in to provide supply for the demand.
So how had the War on Drugs been going? Pretty much the same way. The increasing intransigence of the authorities has pushed out anyone who won't be violent and has led to incredible abuses of rights of the accused and the non-accused alike. Corruption is rife and the whole damn thing is growing into a farce of tragic proportions. All in the name of...what exactly? People feeling a bit Weeee! for an hour or so?
For the record, I don't do drugs. I'm not interested in them and won't start if they get legalized. Cannabis is all but legalized in Canada and it's only a short hop to Amsterdam from here.
I also don't think that everything will get wonderful if the classifications of drugs are rationalized and some of them are made legal, or at least decriminalized.
But isn't enough enough?

Some Perspectives:
War on Drugs: The Collateral Damage | Culture11

Keep Drugs Illegal! | Culture11
Dispatches from the Culture Wars: The Financial Benefits of Legalizing Pot

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Congratulations to Barack Obama

I will unfortunately miss the sound of conservative sphincters twitching all over the US today as the words “I, Barack Hussein Obama do solemnly swear…” go out on the TV.

Still, it’s nice to see the door hit Bush on the ass.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

A small bit of socialization

Last night, I got out to the 10th anniversary party for the London Skeptics in the Pub. As it was my first time out with the SitP I periodically took a break in the conversation to mentally go over the dozen or so names of people I met.

Among the skeptic notables who were there were Rebecca Watson, also giving a talk on Monday, Ben Goldacre and Richard Wiseman.

I enjoy meeting a number of like minded folks who also enjoy beer - ‘twas in a pub after all. My natural impishness (okay I’m a a sarcastic prick – it’s called spin) means that I have to play with people in these situations when they do the natural sounding out of where you stand on matters of woo. When asked what I thought of UFOs I answered that it’s only reasonable to believe in them. This started the probing until I revealed that I was being very literal on the U more than the FO. Hey, it’s a bit sky and I sure as shit don’t know all the stuff in it. There’s lots I can’t identify. Aliens visiting Earth? Completely different story.

And so on like that.

If you’re in London, I may bump into you at one of these gatherings.

Friday, January 16, 2009

Sigh...And I wonder where the Anti-vax crowd come from.

Scientific illiteracy all the rage among the glitterati - Science, News - The Independent
The Celebrities and Science Review 2008, prepared by the group Sense About Science, identifies some of the worst examples of scientific illiteracy among those who profess to know better – including top politicians.

Mr Obama and John McCain blundered into the MMR vaccine row during their presidential campaigns. "We've seen just a skyrocketing autism rate," said President-elect Obama. "Some people are suspicious that it's connected to the vaccines. This person included. The science right now is inconclusive, but we have to research it," he said.

His words were echoed by Mr McCain. "It's indisputable that [autism] is on the rise among children, the question is what's causing it," he said. "There's strong evidence that indicates it's got to do with a preservative in the vaccines."

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Might want to tread lightly there.

I heard about this from a comedy show the other night.
You have to be careful when separating real from fake miracles - you may not be left with anything.
Catholics ordered to keep quiet over Virgin visions - Europe, World - The Independent
Catholics who claim they have seen the Virgin Mary will be forced to remain silent about the apparitions until a team of psychologists, theologians, priests and exorcists have fully investigated their claims under new Vatican guidelines aimed at stamping out false claims of miracles.

The Pope has instructed the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, formerly the Holy Office of the Inquisition, to draw up a new handbook to help bishops snuff out an explosion of bogus heavenly apparitions.

A long time ago I asked, "What? You liked the fucking polio?"

Guess what. The answer was yes.

A late Advent Calendar

Robin Ince (who has a great YouTube video about creationism's evolution) put together a secular humanist series of Christmas shows.
As part of this New Humanist did a series of Advent Podcasts talking to various scientists, humanist and atheist types, asking them about possible alternatives to Christmas and what they'd want as a present. All with intersting results.
Check them out. Or wait until the end of the year to have a more seasonal flavour.

And now it's settled

How do you fare on the Atheist Test?
Agnostic Atheist, myself. Okay, so I can't prove 100% that there's nothing there. But try proving 100% that Artemis doesn't exist.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Another List.

Do you need more than 25 reasons to check this out?
No.
Go read.
Top 25 Censored Stories for 2009 | Project Censored

Japanese words of the year...

There must be something about people and their relationship with their languages that everyone seems to have a word of the year prize of some form or another. (Remember a little while back when w00T! was word of the year in English.)
If you read Japanese, there's a list of the Shingo-Ryuko Taisho (Neologism/Trend Grand Prize) top 10.
新語・流行語大賞
Number 1 is Gu-, with the long drawn out u sound, this horribly annoying catchphrase of comedian Edo Harumi. She stresses the gu ending on every katakana borrowing (or borrowingu- if you will and I will try not to) to "comedic" effect.
This indicated a paucity of competition this year.
Number 2 is Arafo-, from around, ara, and forty, fo-. Arafo- is used to describe women just either side of age forty who are considered more poised, mature, independent and confident. Much like my wife, as a side note.
Please don't tell her I told you about her age.
There's an English list of the top 60 phrases here.

Calling out the worst in all of us.

The Beast has released its list of the Most Loathsome people in the US. Lovely stuff.
There is a deliciously evil turn of phrase here and there. Worth the read.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Inspiriation. If you skip the bit about the porn stars.

Japan's ageing society is causing a lot of changes. The birthrate is one of the lowest in the world and they've developed the greatest number of centenarians as a response.
Out of this comes a group of Genkinarians (genki - healthy or energetic) who are active in a variety of fields including sports and television.
And in paragraph 9, porn. Skip that paragraph if you need to.
Centenarian athletes and aged porn stars: the tip of Japan's demographic iceberg - Times Online

Monday, January 12, 2009

Good Ideas, Bad Ideas and Very Little Difference

Long ago, the Young's Brewery from just across the park in Wandsworth developed a Guinness-like stout that had chocolate in it. They called it, originally enough, Double Chocolate Stout. I went on one of the last brewery tours 2 years ago and, lo! I pronounced it good.
Not to be out done, the Japanese have stepped it up one here: Chocolate Beer - Boing Boing

Which Doctor?










You Scored as 10th Doctor

Rude and not ginger.
Dressed in a smart suit and very helpfull, you don't let people get away with things, and with your glasses you won't miss much!








10th Doctor

92%






3rd doctor

75%






9th Doctor

67%






7th Doctor

67%






1st Doctor

67%






4th Doctor

67%






5th Doctor

42%






Davros

42%






6th doctor

33%






a Dalek

33%






2nd doctor

25%






8th Doctor

25%




Some people should be unemployable.

Here's a good reason why.

Yes! What he said.

Nut allergies -- a Yuppie invention - Los Angeles Times
The most ridiculous extreme of overlabelling nuts came at the National Theatre a couple of weeks ago. My wife and I were getting a beer from the bar and I notice the Mixed Nuts and commented to the bartender that they were labelled "May contain nuts."
The bartender looked at us with the distress of a guy who has had this pointless go-nowhere conversation with every other person since he started the job. And he started the job with a 3 hour Health and Safety training on the topic so he was pretty much over it before he began.
I told him the most worrying thing is that by saying they may contain nuts, they're saying that there's less than a fifty percent chance the nuts contain nuts. Surely that's a problem.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Truth in Avertising?

Seriously, you're going after the bus ads with the truth in advertising laws.
Fuck me.
New Humanist Blog: Christian Voice lauch complaint over Atheist Bus Campaign
It was no surprise to see it reported on the BBC that Stephen Green has lodged a complaint with the Advertising Standards Agency over the Atheist Bus Campaign and its slogan "There's probably no God. Now stop worrying and enjoy your life."

No surprise that a complaint was lodged, but how does a god-botherer type scrounge up the 5 extra balls needed to launch it through the Advertising Standards Agency? When you say that takes a lot of balls.
Now keep in mind this lad got routed when he tried to have the Jerry Springer musical banned.
Anyway:
Green's complaint has elicited a fantastic response from the British
Humanist Association's chief executive Hanne Stinson, who told the BBC:
"I've
sought advice from some of our key people here, but I'm afraid all I've
got out of them so far is peals of laughter. I am sure that Stephen
Green really does think there is a great deal of evidence for a God
(though presumably only the one that he believes in), but I pity the
ASA if they are going to be expected to rule on the probability of
God's existence."
So they're not taking Green seriously
then? Which brings me to my usual question on this matter - why is the
BBC still taking him seriously?

Oh yeah, that's a shocker

Could anyone have seen that coming?
3quarksdaily
AMERICANS, INCLUDING ELECTED OFFICIALS, EARN A FAILING GRADE WHEN TESTED ON AMERICAN HISTORY AND ECONOMICS

Depress yourself. Read the whole article and follow the links.
On the quiz I got 27 out of 33 correct. (82.82%) The average is 74.2%. Yeah me.

Friday, January 09, 2009

And people ask, how boring is it in Canada in the winter...Part II

Continuing the theme of what happens to people locked inside a snowbank for extended periods of the year I give you a mathematician at Dalhousie. And this in a city that has more bars per capita than any other city in North America.
Mathematician Cracks Mystery Beatles Chord
The opening chord to A Hard Day’s Night is also famous because for 40 years, no one quite knew exactly what chord Harrison was playing. Musicians, scholars and amateur guitar players alike had all come up with their own theories, but it took a Dalhousie mathematician to figure out the exact formula.

And now for a little bit of hope in the New Year.

The well known atheist bus ads (There's probably no God. Now top worrying and enjoy your life") are rolling out a little wider.
Ariane Sherine: We did it! The atheist bus campaign is bigger and better than ever | Comment is free | guardian.co.uk
I'll keep my eyes peeled and post a pic when I see one.

And people ask, how boring is it in Canada in the winter...

When you're snowed in for 6 months of the year and an obvious computer and engineering nerd, what could go wrong.
This slightly creepy story could: Project Aiko: Canadian builds robot woman | Technology | guardian.co.uk

If you're interested the most common kanji that make up the name Aiko in Japanese are "love" and "child."
Global warming can't come fast enough.