Friday, 21 December 2007

The Story Of Stuff

Go watch The Story Of Stuff.

From its extraction through sale, use and disposal, all the stuff in our lives affects communities at home and abroad, yet most of this is hidden from view. The Story of Stuff is a 20-minute, fast-paced, fact-filled look at the underside of our production and consumption patterns. The Story of Stuff exposes the connections between a huge number of environmental and social issues, and calls us together to create a more sustainable and just world. It'll teach you something, it'll make you laugh, and it just may change the way you look at all the stuff in your life forever.

from Seeing the Forest

The American Civil War in 4 minutes

Via Pharyngula this very nice animation of the U.S. civil war.

Quote Of The Day

Ignorance more frequently begets confidence than does knowledge: it is those who know little, and not those who know much, who so positively assert that this or that problem will never be solved by science.

Charles Darwin

Shamelessly lifted from Scientia Natura.

Hellboy 2

Via themovieblog this here is the trailer for Hellboy 2, I really liked the first Hellboy and judging from the trailer this one will be even better

Thursday, 20 December 2007

Sam Harris

I met a friend last night and he had never heard of Sam Harris - Shocking! So without further ado, Sam Harris

(the rest 0f the talk can be found here)

Virtual barbar shop

Do yourself a favour an listen to this, it's excellent

Fantastic 3D Sound Experience - Virtual Haircut - The best bloopers are here

Lakota break away from U.S.

Interesting news this. I don't know very much about native Americans generally but I know the got a very raw deal in the past and I gather things aren't much better now.

Descendants of Sitting Bull, Crazy Horse break away from US

More Maddness from the Religion of Peace

A Turkish lawyer is asking Uefa to cancel the three points Inter earned in their win against Fenerbahce in the recent Champions League match. The reason? Inter wore a shirt with a cross on it and thats offensive to (some) Muslims.
The shirt's scheme saw a big red cross on a white background, a symbol of the city of Milan, and reminded many of an emblem of the order of the Templars, which is considered offensive in Islamic culture.
I am so sick and tired of Muslim's feelings, what's the bet next they will try to ban croissants.

Wednesday, 19 December 2007

UK party leader 'does not believe in God'

I wonder what Fox news are making of this? I don't know anything about this guy but this first impression is really good.

From the BBC
New Liberal Democrat leader Nick Clegg has answered "no" when asked on BBC radio if he believed in God.

The Warriors Apprentice

I enjoyed Cordellia's Honor so much I had to go out and get the next one entitled "The Warriors Apprentice". This book follows the adventures of Cordellia's son Miles, who was born at the end of Cordellia's Honor. This is the first book in a series known as The Vorkosigan Saga and are based around teh advertures of Miles Vorkosigan. This book begins when Miles is 17 and trying to enter the Barrayan Military academy, he fails, is sent off-world and in a series of escalating bluffs winds up in the middle of a war.

As with the previous book the writing is crisp and clear and the plot zips along with the clever and likable Miles. If anything this book is even more humorous than Cordellia's Honor with several laugh-out-loud moment's. Thats not to say its a comedy in the vein of the Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy but I've read a lot of 'hard' scifi and so this is quite a breath of fresh air. Surprisingly this book is considered one of the weakest in the saga, that being the case I look forward to reading the stronger ones. Its been a real treat discovering these book's I can't wait to find out what happens next.


Via TheMovieBlog here's the trailer for the upcoming Pixar movie Wall-E. The only Pixar film I didn't really like was "a Bugs Life" which isn't that bad a film, so I'm really looking forward to this.

Two Hobbit Movies to be Made

Some excellent and slightly worrying news today - the excellent news is that there is going to be a Hobbit movie made by Peter Jackson. The worrying news is they are also going to do a Hobbit sequel.

First off I'm delighted Jackson is going to be involved, I was one of those who felt he was the only man for the job (not that that would have stopped me from seeing the movie). Its a huge sigh of relief as I think he will respect and maintain the spirit of Tolkien for The Hobbit as well as he did for The Lord of the Rings.

The worrying bit is the "sequel" business. I'm not aware of any hobbit stories set between The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings so I'm concerned as to what story they'll come up with. Time will tell I suppose.

The two Hobbit films – The Hobbit and its sequel – are scheduled to be shot simultaneously, with pre-production beginning as soon as possible. Principal photography is tentatively set for a 2009 start, with the intention of The Hobbit release slated for 2010 and its sequel the following year, in 2011. Jackson and Fran Walsh will serve as Executive Producers of two films based on The Hobbit. New Line will manage the production of the films, which will be shot simultaneously.

Wanna buy some faith?

The bare faced gall of the churches in this country always maddens and amuses me. The Catholic Church in particular had a lock on this place for over 60 years and it was a shit hole. In the past 15 years people have begun to move away from organised superstition and the place has improved no end. This doesn't stop the religious corporations from crying wolf and pretending we have 'lost' something and that something being 'faith'. It's a happy coincidence then that that's exactly what the Churches sell and (much like Blackadders wine) they have an unlimited supply.


Catholic and Church of Ireland bishops in Co Monaghan have joined forces to criticise increasing secularism in Irish society.

The Catholic bishop of Clogher, Dr Joseph Duffy, and his Church of Ireland counterpart, Bishop Michael Jackson, say Irish people need to reassess their values and Christmas provides an opportunity to do so.

They claim society has suffered due to a slide towards secularism and there is currently great anxiety about a loss of the sacred.

Appealing for greater care on the roads and a more responsible attitude to alcohol, they are also calling for more neighbourliness and greater value to be placed on voluntary effort.

Tuesday, 18 December 2007

No Surprises there then

The Genesis report on the Irish Rugby World Cup fiasco has concluded that 'everyone' was to blame. Phew, what a relief ... thats ok then, everyone back to work. So what if the so-called 'Golden Generate' achieved nothing? The important thing is we had a report and everyone got their knuckles wrapped and now the IRFU and Eddie can go back to pissing on the fans like nothing ever happened. Good times.

Saudi Rape Victim

That poor unfortunate Saudi rape victim was pardoned yesterday. I was going to post about it but couldn't think of anything to say that didn't involve a lot of swear words, happily Scientia Natura puts it perfectly
I never knew that a victim of a rape was worthy of punishment and had to be pardoned to avoid a barbaric sentence of 200 lashes. I also never knew that such a pardon would be hailed by the international community in the post-Enlightenment 21st century as a great achievement.

Welcome to the Dark Ages.

Monday, 17 December 2007

Occam's Razor

Saw this on Phatyngula, just had to post it here

24: The Unaired 1994 Pilot

Very funny this, and very well put together.

Friday, 14 December 2007

Cordelia's Honor

Did you know that Lois Mcmaster Bujold has one 4 Hugo Award's more than every other author except Heinlein? I didn't, but when I first heard about this I decided I'd better find out what all the fuss was about and so I picked up Cordellia's Honor.

Cordelia's Honor is a compilation of two of novels: SHARDS OF HONOR and BARRAYAR (Barrayer won a Hugo). The main character in both is Cordelia Naismith a captain on an interstellar exploratory mission and it follows her adventures as she is captured by the militaristic Barrayans, escapes, is captured again, falls in love, gets married and then learns to survive and thrive in the hostile Barrayan society.

To non-scifi readers that summary might sound kinda corney and the cover of the book certainly doesn't help but trust me when I say these where two terrific books. Full of likable and loathable characters, well written and unusual for scifi, humorous. The closest thing I can compare them to in style are the Flashman books (only without the cad).

Holy Crap

Amazon have brought that J.K. Rowling book for £1,950,000. WTF! madness.

Here's an improvement on democracy

Via onegoodmove comes this excellent article from The Times, basically the West should concentrate more on spreading secularism rather than democracy. I agree so long as we don't try bomb secularism into them.

Here's an improvement on democracy

Democracy, we tell ourselves, is a hallmark of “the West”, the treasure that the rest of the World envies and that accounts for the pre-eminence of Europe and North America in economic progress, intellectual dominance and moral freedoms.

But it's not the case when you examine the chronology. The rise of the West had much less to do with democracy than with the rise of secularism. The West's advance was chiefly related to the decline in the influence of religion that sought the truth by “looking in” to see what God had to say, and its replacement by looking out, deriving authority from observation, experimentation and exploration.

Thursday, 13 December 2007

Star Wars Collectables You Never Saw

If you are a Star Wars fan, click here.

Thieves chop off man's 'magical' leg

I'm sure the owner isn't laughing but I thought this was hilarious. Pity something like this doesn't happen to all the psychics and charlatans here, it might discourage them peddling such nonsense.

A self-proclaimed Indian holy man who claimed his right leg had magical powers was seriously ill in hospital today after two men chopped it off.

Yanadi Kondaiah, 80, said that those who touched the leg would be cured of illness or have wishes granted.

"This seems to be a case of superstition. The two people might have taken away the leg hoping to benefit from its magical powers," said a police spokesman.

"We are looking for the miscreants as well as the leg," he added.

Superstitions, belief in magic and the occult remain widespread in much of rural India.

Kondaiah, from the Chittoor district, a remote area more than 300 miles south of Hyderabad, told police the two men plied him with drink as thanks for previously helping them with his magical touch.

After he passed out drunk the men chopped off the leg below the knee with a scythe and left him to die. Passing villagers found him and took him to hospital.

Ted Talk: A Surprising idea for "solving" climate change

Wednesday, 12 December 2007

Death of a Model

Well the media (only) hysteria over the death on model Katy French seems to be dying down (no pun intended) at last. I'm pretty sure the whole thing will come to be seen as a watershed in Irish reporting where news was finally ditched and infotainment became the norm. Any bets as to long we will have to wait before the 'Runaway Bride' story makes for a weeks worth of copy? Luckily there do seem to be a few journalists left, Kevin Meyers sums up a lot of my feelings on story in todays article,I think he really hit the nail on the head. Too bad the rag he works for is leading the charge to the bottom.

Tuesday, 11 December 2007


I'm just back from a very pleasant few days Krakow where we went to celebrate my father in laws birthday.

We stayed in an apartment just off the main market square in the central tourist district so it was very central and had all the amenities required. This was our first time renting an apartment like this and it worked out very well, my one complaint is we where given a single set of keys which makes things very awkward for 6 people. In any case we managed but next time I'll check in advance the number of keys made available should we go down that route again.

Because Poland is an Eastern European country it goes without saying the local beer was excellent and my father-in-law and myself had a grand ole time sampling the different brews on offer. Though neither of us are vodka drinkers we did try some of Polish varieties (just to be social) and there was one in particular that was very nice but I can't remember its name (to be fair, it was in Polish) which is a pity because it was quite tasty. The next day I had to make do with a guess as I purchased a small bottle of what I _think_ was the nice one.

The food in Krakow was universally good. On the second night we went to a "fancy" restaurant that had been recommended to us by some Poles living in Ireland who obviously thought we are just the kind of people who eat Snail's & Foie Gras. After a quick look at the menu we beat a hasty and disorderly retreat to the nearest streak house where they serve the meat of the animal and not the offal.

There's some interesting sights in Krakow but here's what I liked. The city itself, which is lovely and very pleasant to walk around and admire. The church of St Mary which can rival most churches in Rome, the castle even though the ticketing system is ridiculous, the salt mines and Kazimierz. I didn't go to the concentration camps for various reasons so I can't comment on them. Finally, the Christmas markets where open so we could browse the stalls, enjoy some excellent street food and keep warm with some mulled wine.

It's a nice place Krakow, I'd definitely recommend it.

Pat Condell on Sudan

Voyager 2 probe reaches solar system boundary

Apparently Voyager 1 reached the boundary a few years ago but nobody was listening - Doh!
Anyway, very cool story this. Voyager 2 probe reaches solar system boundary

Monday, 10 December 2007

Ayaan Hirsi on the Recent News

Islam's Silent Moderates. I don't need to add anything.

Power of the Planet: Atmosphere

I wanted to post about this last week but couldn't find a clip, but I have one now so here goes.

BBC has a new program at the moment called Power of the Planet where the very likable Dr Iain Stewart looks at how the Earth works. Last weeks program was about the Atmosphere and the looming dangers of climate change, this clip is of him in Siberia lighting methane being released from the permafrost and, seeing as methane is many times more effective than carbon dioxide as a green house gas, it scared the shit out of me.

Wednesday, 5 December 2007

Tuesday, 4 December 2007

Quote Of The Day

... witches must exist because, after all, everyone believes in them. Anything that a large number of people believe must be true.

Of Credulity and Incredulity, (1668) Meric Causabon

"The raising of storms by witches is attested by so many, that I think it needless to recite them."
"why that 'tis impudence to deny it." *
Certainty of the World of Spirits, (1691) Richard Baxter

* I may have taken the second part of this quote out of context (I can't find the full text) but I think the point is the same

Sex in the Final Frontier

Here's an interesting bit of research you mightn't have heard about

US and Russian astronauts have had sex in space for separate research programmes on how human beings might survive years in orbit, according to a book published yesterday.

The results:

Only four positions were found possible without "mechanical assistance". The other six needed a special elastic belt and inflatable tunnel, like an open-ended sleeping bag.

And of course how the puritanical Americans handle this:
The results were videotaped but are considered so sensitive that even Nasa was only given a censored version.
Whomever has that tape could make a million!

lion Vs Buffalo Vs Crocodile

A friend sent me this video, its pretty amazing

Monday, 3 December 2007

Wanna Headache?

Richard Dawkin's website has published links to a debate between Daniel Dennett and Dinesh D'Souza that is well worth watching but with a warning, D'Souza is full if shit and it's an ordeal listening to him. He starts talking in parts 6 and 7 and it's a real challenge to keep up with the logical fallacies he delivers in machine gun fashion, its a fun but exhausting game to try and name them. His favourite mode of debate however seems to be a blending of Ad Hominem and Equivocation so keep an eye out for how he presents Dennett's ideas and how he reckons Augustine preempted modern cosmology. One of the best bits is when (in Part 9) he castigates Dawkin's, Dennett etc for "wandering far outside their field's (of expertise)" for talking about religion. Apparently he finds this "intellectually embarrassing" but of course it wasn't in the least bit embarrassing for him when he talked about history, science and cosmology earlier in the debate, for people like D'Souza these hypocrisies don't seem to register but unfortunately they don't appear to register with his target audience either.

Dennett does very well, much better than either Michael Shermer or Christoper Hitchens did in their encounters and he seems to have gotten under the skin of D'Souza as D'Souza is far louder and angrier than he appeared in the two aforementioned debates. This makes him look far more like the lunatic he is and I for one approve.

D'Souza spends a lot of time explaining how he believes there must be something "greater", i.e. God and how logical and brilliant it is to believe in this god so I wish someone would put the point to him 'So what?'. If there is a god that can exist outside of space/time and is capable of creating the universe and everything in it then there is no reason to believe it's his god (I believe Dawkins came up with this argument). It could be any god ever thought of, or none, but the point is, it seems very unlikely such a being would bother feeding strange and contradictory stories to a bunch of bronze age goats herders to convey "truths" of any description. After all it's such an inept way to convey anything, but the good news is we have radio and TV now so god can contact us with the true "truth" whenever he's free.

Part 1

Part 2

Part 3

Part 4

Part 5

Part 6

Part 7

Part 8

Part 9

Part 10

Part 11

Part 12:

Part 13:

Part 14:

Part 15:

Screenwipe: The Apprentice

One of the best shows on TV is Charlie Brooker's Screenwipe and over the weekend it 'wiped' reality competition programs like The Apprentice. One of the strengths of Screenwipe is that it tries to illustrate, by way of examples and humour, just what its complaining about so its not just another talking head gripe fest. To see what I mean watch the last 4 minutes of part two as Charlie learns how to be the a boss on TV.

Part 1

Part 2

Part 3