Monday, 31 March 2008

Biofuels a dead end

There have been a lot of whispers and rumours about the lack of fitness of biofuels to replace fossil fuels. Personally I thought that biofuel engines would have to be significantly more efficient than comparable fossil fuel engines or the rate of return (energy wise) would be quiet low, something they don't appear to be - mainly regular diesel engines.

In addition, over the past year I have read reports of the decline of grain stocks as more and more biofuel crops are being grown which must be a recipe for disaster as the world population continues to spiral upward.

But theres another angle as Skeptico weighs in with his thoughts about a recent Time article which shows forests are being cleared specifically to grow these crops - Madness!

There was just one flaw in the calculation: the studies all credited fuel crops for sequestering carbon, but no one checked whether the crops would ultimately replace vegetation and soils that sucked up even more carbon. It was as if the science world assumed biofuels would be grown in parking lots. The deforestation of Indonesia has shown that's not the case. It turns out that the carbon lost when wilderness is razed overwhelms the gains from cleaner-burning fuels.

Stuff White People Like

I know its long after St. Patricks day but this entry from StuffWhitePeopleLike is so good I couldn't help myself. The other entires on the site are very funny.

Normally if someone were to wake up at 7:00 in the morning, take the day off work, and get drunk at a bar before 10:00 a.m., they would be called an alcoholic, and not in the artistic, edgy way that white people are so fond of.

On March 17th, however, this exact same activity is called celebrating St. Patrick’s day. This very special white holiday recognizes Saint Patrick, the patron saint of Ireland who helped to bring Catholicism to the Emerald Isle. His ascetic life is celebrated every year by white people drinking large amounts of Irish-themed alcohol and listening to the Dropkick Murphys.

It is also the day of the year when you can make the most gains in your social and professional relationship with white people.

Most of the time, white people consider celebrations of European heritage to be racist unless they omit large swathes of the 16th through 20th centuries. But since the Irish never engaged in colonialism and were actually oppressed it is considered acceptable and encouraged to celebrate their ancestry. For this reason, 100% of white people are proud to claim that they are somewhat Irish.

A big part of St. Patrick’s Day is having white people feel particularly upset at the oppression of their ancestors that has in no way trickled down to them. If you find yourself talking with a white person who tells you about how their great grandfather was oppressed by both the English and the Americans, it is strongly recommended that you lend a sympathetic ear and shake your head in disbelief. It is never considered acceptable to say: “but you’re white now, so what’s the problem?”

It is also worth noting that on this day, there is always one trump card that never fails to gain respect and acclaim. When you are sitting at an Irish bar and someone orders a round of Guinness, you must take a single sip and while the other white people are savoring their drink, you say: “mmmm, I know it sounds cliche, but it really is true. Guinness just tastes better in Ireland.”

This comment will elicit an immediate and powerful response of people agreeing with your valuable insight. This statement also has the additional benefit of humiliating the members of your party who have not been to Ireland (and thus cannot confirm this proclamation). Having not traveled to Ireland and consumed a beer that is widely available in their hometown and throughout the world, they will immediately be perceived as provincial, uncultured, and inferior to you.

It is also strongly encouraged that you memorize the lyrics to “Jump Around.” It will come in handy.

Rev Moon

I had no idea this lunatic had this much power and influence.

Online Videos by

Friday, 28 March 2008

Robo Dog

Cool, and a little freaky.

Game Theory

A very clear explanation of Game Theory from Good Math, Bad Math.

A classic example of this is the prisoner's dilemma. In the prisoners dilemma, you have two criminals who've been arrested for a murder. The two criminals (now prisoners) are the agents. The police know that they did it; but they don't have enough evidence to convict them of murder, only of a lesser charge. So the police want to get the prisoners to rat on each other. You end up with the following situation:

1. If neither prisoner rats on the other, they'll both get off with a very light sentence of 6 months in jail.

2. If one prisoners rats on the other, that prisoner goes free, and the other one gets a life sentence.

3. If both prisoners rat on each other, they each get 10 years in jail.

Who _Really_ Destroyed the Death Star

I have to admit, I believed the "official" version but now I'm not so sure...
3) Why was the rebel pilot who supposedly destroyed the Death Star reported to be on the Death Star days, maybe hours, prior to its destruction? Why was he allowed to escape, and why were several individuals dressed in Stormtrooper uniforms seen helping him?


7) Why has their been no investigation into evidence that the droids who provided the rebels with the Death Star plans were once owned by none other than Lord Vader himself, and were found, conveniently, by the pilot who destroyed the Death Star, and who is also believed to be Lord Vader’s son? Evidence also shows that the droids were brought to one Ben Kenobi, who, records indicate, was Darth Vader’s teacher many years earlier! Are all these personal connections between the conspirators and a key figure in the Imperial government supposed to be coincidences?

the full 'facts' here.

Privatise the Profits

Socialise the losses.

Thursday, 27 March 2008

Mary Beard on the Olymics

I don’t quite understand how we have forgotten that the “Olympic Torch” ceremony was invented by Hitler and his chums.

I didn't know this!

anyway continue reading here.

Do Americans Really Want Hillary?

It boggles my mind NoMoreMrNiceGuy has the latest on just how craven this woman is.

Tom Crean: Artic Explorer

Went to see Tom Crean: Artic Explorer last night at the Olympia and it was alright. Not as good as the reviews let me to believe, nor as funny (waaaay too much Oirsh humour for me) but still enjoyable and it effectively tells the story of this remarkable man.

I’m sorry to say however my overriding impression of the night was just how uncomfortable the seats are at the Olympia. Whoever runs the theatre should be ashamed of themselves! No wait, they should be made sit in the seats for 24 hours and if they can still walk afterwards made drink two litres of water and then forced to sit in them a further 24 hours. In a place where the tickets are priced at €35 the least I would expect are seats that are not falling apart and not so closely packed together that anyone over 5.2 is cramped in them. Note to self: avoid the Olympia.

Undemocratic Europe

I received a comment on my Lisbon Treaty post asking me to expound on why I think the E.U. is ‘undemocratic’ so here goes.

First off I should say in general I like the E.U, it’s been good for both Ireland and Europe however, the original purpose of the Union, the EEC (European Economic Community), was to foster trade and cooperation between the member states. I don’t have a problem with this, my problem lies with the current agenda (as I see it) of creating a European superstate loosely modeled on the American one. The first question any citizen should ask is “will this benefit me?”. As a working class citizen of Ireland I have to answer NO to this. The second question then is “Who will it benefit?”. Since the political and economic elite are the driving force behind this then I have assume they are beneficiaries. Their interests are not my interests, a European army does not benefit me, neither does a European police force nor a European foreign policy. These are tools and toys for the ruling class to better tighten their gripe on the continent under the euphemism of ‘Tighter Integration’. With their backs secured they can then turn outward to "protect" their interests, to quote from the Treaty of Lisbon website
[the treaty will provide for] Europe as an actor on the global stage will be achieved by bringing together Europe's external policy tools, both when developing and deciding new policies. The Treaty of Lisbon will give Europe a clear voice in relations with its partners worldwide. It will harness Europe's economic, humanitarian, political and diplomatic strengths to promote European interests and values worldwide, while respecting the particular interests of the Member States in Foreign Affairs.
This statement is Orwellian in its brilliance. Do I need to point out here they left out the small matter of the ‘Rapid Reaction Force’? Empires off any age act only in the interests of the ruling classes. Neither European citizens nor the unfortunate targets of Europeans “interests” have anything to gain from this, we simply don't need it. I would guess the vast majority of Europeans are quite happy electing their own parliaments but see the need and advantages of a loose and friendly union to regulate trade and resolve disputes. I would also guess most people have little respect of the bloated bureaucracy of Brussels and Strasbourg and are horrified at the prospect of giving them even more power.

So onto democracy. If the E.U. is so democratic why is Ireland the only state holding a referendum? I would submit that they know the people of Europe would reject it and so they don’t ask. Is this democracy? Ask only the questions to which you will get the answer you want? Our politicians are meant to represent us “the people”, but they clearly do not. Witness Bertie Ahern running to Brussels after the defeat of the ‘Nice treaty’ to apologise for the Irish rejection of the treaty. The referendum was then reran some months later with a campaign based fear and the “correct” result obtained.

If any politician, local or European, truly respected the will of the people the Nice treaty would have to have been abandoned after the Irish vote (incidentally I think, again, we where the only country to get to vote on it). As it stands today the Lisbon treaty is a renamed European Constitution which has already been rejected by France and the Netherlands. Europe cannot claim to be democratic when it clearly is built on non-democratic foundations. From these sandy foundations what monstrosity will they create? I don’t want to find out so I'm voting no.

In the past year alone the benevolent E.U. has assisted in the partition of a sovereign state in violation of all international law. If they can do that to Serbia and call it good what are they capable of when they want to be really good?

Granting more power and autonomy to the E.U. is a disaster waiting to happen but I imagine most people will only see that when the Rapid Reaction Force is deployed within a European state.

Vote NO!

Lego Dune

Dune is probably the greatest SciFi novel ever written. It's also one of the worst movies ever made and a mediocre TV series.

Now there is Lego Dune.

Link from themovieblog

You Could Hurt Someone

Lord of the Rings


link from boingboing

Wednesday, 26 March 2008

Atomic TV

Amazing this.

Seven Czech artists who faked a nuclear explosion in a stunt broadcast live on national television were acquitted yesterday of spreading false information, escaping a potential prison term of up to three years.

The Ztohoven group of young artists admitted hacking into a live panoramic broadcast of the Krkonose Mountains in the north of the country on June 17 last year, after climbing a television tower to attach a computer.

I have to admit it would have fooled and frightened me, fair play to the lads

the secrets of the twelve disciples

I downloaded (from Channel 4 OnDemand) and watched this excellent documentary on the 12 Disciples. I was raised a Roman Catholic and so was taught that James 'The Bother of Jesus' was not in fact Jesus' bother (after all, Mary remained a virgin forever) but was instead a half brother or adopted or something - I can't quite remember. Anyway, according to this documentary Jesus had four brothers and two sisters! This was news to me and there was lots more along those lines like Paul had a female disciple! They definitely left out that one!

The history of the early Christian church is endlessly fascinating and this program is well worth watching. Part 1 is here and the rest are on youtube

Free Southpark

No, not a rally to defend the soverenty of South Park, instead all the episodes and clips are online and free (legally) here.

My favorite character is Butters, I don't know why exactly, I just find him hilarious.

Gold Mining

SPIEGEL: How much waste is produced to extract enough gold for a wedding ring?

Slack: That produces 20 tons of waste.

I've been telling everyone I know over the past number of years that gold would rise in value. I have to admit I didn't really think of the environmental consequences of that... link

Quote Of The Day

Natural selection is a good object lesson in how NOT to organize a society. As I have often said before, as a scientist I am a passionate Darwinian. But as a citizen and a human being, I want to construct a society which is about as un-Darwinian as we can make it.

Richard Dawkins

from Lying For Jesus

Advertising V Reality

from boingboing.

What food actually looks like compared to the marketing image.

Some of the stuff looks disgusting.

Tuesday, 25 March 2008

Quote Of The Day

“Naturally the common people don’t want war; neither in Russia, nor in England, nor in America, nor in Germany. That is understood. But after all, it is the leaders of the country who determine policy, and it is always a simple matter to drag the people along, whether it is a democracy, or a fascist dictatorship, or a parliament, or a communist dictatorship. …Voice or no voice, the people can always be brought to the bidding of the leaders. That is easy. All you have to do is to tell them they are being attacked, and denounce the pacifists for lack of patriotism and exposing the country to danger. It works the same in any country.”

Hermann Göring

The Great Tantra Challenge

In a nutshell, voodoo guy claims he can kill by magic, friendly atheist volunteers, hilarity ensures.

On 3 March 2008, in a popular TV show, Sanal Edamaruku, the president of Rationalist International, challenged India’s most “powerful” tantrik (black magician) to demonstrate his powers on him. That was the beginning of an unprecedented experiment. After all his chanting of mantra (magic words) and ceremonies of tantra failed, the tantrik decided to kill Sanal Edamaruku with the “ultimate destruction ceremony” on live TV. Sanal Edamaruku agreed and sat in the altar of the black magic ritual. India TV observed skyrocketing viewership rates.

Soldier of Sidon

I read Soldier of Sidon over the Easter break which is a sequel to the Soldier of the Mist books I read last year and reviewed here.

This time we find Latro in ancient Egypt still trying to find release from his curse of only remembering events from the previous 24 hours while simultaneously being capable of seeing and conversing with the gods and spirits.

Once again Wolfe has vividly recreated the ancient world and given voice and character to it's gods and demons. Latro is as sympathetic as ever and is helped and hindered by a large cast of supporting characters.

For me this was the most accessible of all the Latro books but from reading the reviews on Amazon not everyone agrees. Perhaps I just gave Latro his due respect by reading his words carefully and by not expecting any answers to be served up to me. One quibble is that the book does not so much end as in it drifts off with many questions left unanswered and with Latro himself setting off on a new quest. I assume this means there will be another, I certainly hope so.

The Lisbon Treaty

I'll be voting NO to the upcoming Lisbon Treaty (a.k.a E.U. Constitution) primarily because I disagree with undemocratic forms of government. A European super state won't do me any good but I imagine the superrich and powerful will find it very handy to manipulate the levels of power from one central location rather than dealing with the many smaller, distributed and competitive levers spread across Europe. This opposition however, puts me in a very awkward position as it means I end up on the same side as people I generally think of as "loons". Take this readers comment to this letter in todays Irish Independant.

The Lisbon Treaty is The EU Constitution no matter how you may try to decorate it. The fact remains
1. Irish Constitution replaced & forgotten (God not allowed in EU Constitution) 2. Young Irish men & women will be sent to hostile situations throughout the world by EU ministers in the name of peace 3. Irish fishing waters (including coastline) will be open to all EU members. 4. Irish countryside will be regulated by EU which means hillwalkers will go where they please. 5. Irish Contractors will be regulated by EU. 6. Irish Banks will be regulated by EU. 7. Irish Postal Services will be regulated by EU. 8. All Irish citizens will be forced to carry biometric passports, driver licenses & ID cards. 9. Abortion will be legalised. 10. Divorce will be legalised. 11. Gay marriage will be legalised. 12. Euthanasia will be legalised. The Lisbon Treaty takes away all Irish sovereign rights & religious freedoms. VOTE NO
If I take the agreements one by one and see where I stand;

1. Irish Constitution replaced & forgotten (God not allowed in EU Constitution)
True: although God, god's or prophets have no place in a constitution. So while I don't want to see the Irish constitution made obsolete I'm glad there are no supernatural elements in the treaty.

2. Young Irish men & women will be sent to hostile situations throughout the world by EU ministers in the name of peace
Probably true: I would be against this and the use of armies in either foreign or domestic "policy".

3. Irish fishing waters (including coastline) will be open to all EU members.
The fact is all E.U. fishermen will only be happy when every last fish is extinct. In which case it doesn't matter from which country they come from.

4. Irish countryside will be regulated by EU which means hillwalkers will go where they please.
I think hillwalkers should be free to roam anywhere providing they lend all due care and respect while doing so. In fact it's an indictment that Irish law does not allow for this.

5. Irish Contractors will be regulated by EU.
Irish contractors are crooks and scoundrels, they will ignore E.U. regulation as efficiently as they ignore Irish legislation.

6. Irish Banks will be regulated by EU.
See Irish contractors above.

7. Irish Postal Services will be regulated by EU.
See Irish Banks above.

8. All Irish citizens will be forced to carry biometric passports, driver licenses & ID cards.
One of the steps towards a police state (a bad thing).

9. Abortion will be legalised.
This would be a good thing but I'm not prepared to vote YES to get it.

10. Divorce will be legalised.
Idiot, divorce is legal (albeit restrictive)

11. Gay marriage will be legalised.
This would be a good thing but I'm not prepared to vote YES to get it.

12. Euthanasia will be legalised.
This would be a good thing but I'm not prepared to vote YES to get it.

13.The Lisbon Treaty takes away all Irish sovereign rights & religious freedoms
It will take away sovereign rights but the notion of it removing religious freedoms is ridiculous. Notice also that the freedoms he is concerned about primarily involve restricting other peoples freedoms.

So there you have it, I'm on the side of religious nuts. Fuck!

YOYO Society

One of the guys from SeeingTheForest has a post about being stuck in an airport and uses a very accurate term to describe his predicament - the You're On Your Own (YOYO) society. I think this pretty much sums up the direction all modern western democracy's are heading, including my own banana republic. Individuals awarding themselves huge salaries and bonus' is lauded while government spending of social programs are either curtailed or run into the ground.

The fact is democracy is dying and corporatism is the de facto method of governance in the world today. And as George Carlin said "we know what these people want, they want more for themselves, and less for everybody else" and they are getting it.

Re-Growing Organs

Holy crap! regrowing limbs in humans, link

Three years ago, Lee Spievack sliced off the tip of his finger in the propeller of a hobby shop airplane.

What happened next, Andrews reports, propelled him into the future of medicine. Spievack's brother, Alan, a medical research scientist, sent him a special powder and told him to sprinkle it on the wound.

"I powdered it on until it was covered," Spievack recalled.

To his astonishment, every bit of his fingertip grew back.

"Your finger grew back," Andrews asked Spievack, "flesh, blood, vessels and nail?"

"Four weeks," he answered.

Crayon Physics

gearoidc sent me this but for some reason didn't blog it. Anyway have a look at this hypnotic and cool game;

Thursday, 20 March 2008

Religion in Ireland

Todays Irish Examiner has a study of Religion in Ireland, they contrast the latest poll results with the results in previous years;

the proportion in Ireland who said they believed in God
  • In 1981 it stood at 97%
  • In 1990 it was 98%
  • In 1999 it was 96%
  • In 2008 it is now 84%

Numbers attending mass or other religious service on a weekly basis.
  • In 1981 the figure was 82%
  • In 1990 it was 81%
  • In 1999 it was 59%
  • In 2008 it is now 45%

Numbers who say they pray, be it regularly or just on occasions.
  • In 1981 the figure was 81.5%
  • In 1990 it was 84%
  • In 1999 it was 82%
  • In 2008 it is now 84%
I was pleasantly surprised by the drop in the number of believers and not at all surprised by the drop in religious observation. However that fact that so many people still pray shows that a lot of people still have 'faith'.

Praying has been described (by Dawkins I think) as "the temporary suspension of the laws of the universe to benefit an individual" which, when you put it like that, shows just how ridiculous it is and yet it's as popular as ever. Why?

I suppose you could say something about the stress of modern living but my guess would be two fold.

First, these people are hedging. They understand the religious institutions are corrupt and out of date but they want to believe in "something" as, after all, faith is continuously portrayed a necessary trait of any happy, well rounded individual. Plus, if you don't think about it too much, the god you where raised to believe might just exist and it's better to be safe than sorry. And finally there is also all that brainwashing to deal with which is way to much hassle especially when you don't realise you've been brain washed.

Secondly (and worryingly) I think many people don't realise they have the option of giving up faith. I'm coming around to Sam Harris' point of view that we don't need the word "Atheism" as it has so many negative connotations many people back away from it on instinct alone. If I'm right about this then the enlightenment message isn't penetrating very deeply into our society which means the creepy old virgins and their minions have a firm a grip as ever on the levers of power in this country.

Beyond Belief 2.0

The Beyond Belief videos are available here. I watched most of last years ones and they where very good.

The Dollar crisis in 60 seconds


"Whenever I find my will to live becoming too strong, I read Peter Watts."
—James Nicoll
It was the above quote that first drew me to Peter Watts and by extension, Blindsight. The novel was out in hardback at the time so I decided to wait for the paperback to become available before buying it but then my birthday rolled around in January and I received it as a present, I finally got around to reading it this week.


It's hard to summarise Blindsight, the Amazon synopsis tries and while it's strange and intriguing I don't think it quite captures it.
It's been two months since a myriad of alien objects clenched about the Earth, screaming as they burned. The heavens have been silent since - until a derelict space probe hears whispers from a distant comet. Something talks out there: but not to us. Who to send to meet the alien, when the alien doesn't want to meet? Send a linguist with multiple-personality disorder, and a biologist so spliced to machinery he can't feel his own flesh. Send a pacifist warrior, and a vampire recalled from the grave by the voodoo of paleogenetics. Send a man with half his mind gone since childhood. Send them to the edge of the solar system, praying you can trust such freaks and monsters with the fate of a world. You fear they may be more alien than the thing they've been sent to find - but you'd give anything for that to be true, if you knew what was waiting for them.
Blindsight is about first contact, but there are no green skinned beauties here for the dashing captain to have sex with. In fact there isn't any dashing captain, the captains a vampire and the crew are rightly terrified of him. The aliens are utterly alien, Watts outdoes Lem's Solaris in the otherness of his aliens. This alone is worth the price of admission and yet the book offers so much more.

Interweaved throughout the novel is the question of consciousness. Where does it begin and end? Is it real? Is it useful? None of the characters are 'normal' humans (or 'baseline' as they are referred to in the book) which results in a strange disconnect of trying to understand the humans as well as the aliens.

Another outstanding achievement in this novel is the vampire captain itself. Vampires have been done to death recently (hee hee) but Watts has created something here that Bram Stoker himself would have been proud of. A real vampire I would dare to say, right down to explaining the vampire aversion to crosses. A vampire that is a predator and not a whiney teenage or rich dude speaking slowly. A vampire you definitely would not invite to tea or in Buffy's case, date.

Blindsight was on the shortlist for last years Hugo's but was beaten by Venor Vinges 'Rainbows End' which I read last month but didn't particularly like and so, bambi'esk, didn't blogg about. I can only assume the Hugo judges had half their brain missing when they overlooked this book.

I liked Blindsight so much I wouldn't recommend it. If I did and you didn't like it I would take it as a personal insult. But if you don't give a shit about that, read this book.

review of Blindsight on
Peter Watts website
Download Blindsight for free

O'Sullivan Resign's (is paid off)

Well 6 months too late (or 12 months with the benefit of hindsight) and EOS has finally been removed. Already the eulogies have proclaimed Eddie "The most successful Irish coach Ever"(TM) which considering the very low base we are working from here is not saying much. In fact seeing as Eddie didn't win the 6 Nations (let alone the Grand Slam) it would be far more accurate to say "Eddie was the least unsuccessful Irish coach ever". The man deserves nothing but scorn, he squandered the best Irish rugby team ever, he sidelined excellent players, he promoted his favorite players to the detriment of the team, his substitution policy was an insult, he never had a plan B, he was stubborn, controlling and ultimately a failure. Good riddance!

Wednesday, 19 March 2008

Bush speech hails Iraq 'victory'

I saw this headline 'Bush speech hails Iraq 'victory'' and thought I had clicked into The Onion by mistake, but it was actually the BBC. No wonder Americans don't get irony, they live it every day.


I really should tag this as "humour" but its probably as true as anything you'd see FoxNews.

Everyone Kills Hilter their first time

clever short story written as a wiki edit war;

At 14:52:28, FreedomFighter69 wrote:
Reporting my first temporal excursion since joining IATT: have just returned from 1936 Berlin, having taken the place of one of Leni Riefenstahl's cameramen and assassinated Adolf Hitler during the opening of the Olympic Games. Let a free world rejoice!

At 14:57:44, SilverFox316 wrote:
Back from 1936 Berlin; incapacitated FreedomFighter69 before he could pull his little stunt. Freedomfighter69, as you are a new member, please read IATT Bulletin 1147 regarding the killing of Hitler before your next excursion. Failure to do so may result in your expulsion per Bylaw 223.

At 18:06:59, BigChill wrote:
Take it easy on the kid, SilverFox316; everybody kills Hitler on their first trip. I did. It always gets fixed within a few minutes, what's the harm?

At 18:33:10, SilverFox316 wrote:
Easy for you to say, BigChill, since to my recollection you've never volunteered to go back and fix it. You think I've got nothing better to do?


link from boingboing

R.I.P. Arthur C. Clarke

Science Fiction God Arthur C. Clarke died yesterday. Every mention of his death includes a reference to the movie 2001: A Space Odyssey which to my mind is more Kubrick's achievement. What Clarke did do was write some terrific and influential novels, Childhoods End being so influential in fact that most people have never heard of it, but everyone knows the image of gigantic spaceships hovering over the worlds cities.

Tuesday, 18 March 2008

Making a replica medieval sword

In Honour of St Patricks Day

Certainly one of the best renditions I've ever heard.

(from boingboing)


Made me laugh (image from themovieblog)


Strange, interesting (or maybe not) news on the gravity front from sciencenews;

A new analysis suggests that when five different spacecraft flew past Earth several years ago, they gained more speed than can be accounted for by Einstein's theory of gravitation.

The unexplained gain in speed is tiny, between 1.8 and 13.5 millimeters per second—only about one-millionth the total velocity of the spacecraft examined.

$4,000 a second

Apparently the war in Iraq is costing the U.S. $10 Billion a month, thats $4,000 a second apparently - a mind boggling amount. Tom Tomorrow illustrates here 'At first they told us the war would pay for itself'

Ways to restore U.S. democracy

Also from onegoodmove comes this handy list of items that would go a long way to restoring American democracy.

  • The Constitution has been trashed and must be restored
  • The U.S. has supported and committed torture and it must end
  • The economy has been wrecked by the power elite in both government and corporate America and that greed will stop, regulations will be enforced
  • The Iraq War has been a disaster and we need a way out while acknowledging that we bear responsibility for bombing that country back to Ur
  • Universal healthcare is a human right and we’ll find a way to provide it
  • Our infrastructure - bridges, roads, water, sewer systems - will be fixed
  • No Child Left Behind will be canceled and we’ll figure out how to improve our schools
  • Unwarranted searches and surveillance of citizens will stop
  • There will be no more fooling around about the environment
  • A fair solution will be found for immigration
  • Government ethics legislation will have real teeth
  • Separation of church and state will be restored
  • Every last political hack (thousands of them) appointed by the Bush administration to government agencies will be fired, replaced with non-partisan competents
  • Earmarks will disappear entirely from legislation – let them be properly legislated
  • The wealthy elite have had it their way long enough, reaping collective trillions of dollars on the backs of the middle and lower classes and now it is their turn to pay it back

I would however add another item;

  • U.S. to stop interfering in internal affairs of foreign nations and will honestly assist democracy around the world instead of undermining it.

The God Delusion Index

I scored 5.

link from onegoodmove

Friday, 14 March 2008

Old Man's War

With his wife dead and buried, and life nearly over at 75, John Perry takes the only logical course of action left him: he joins the army.

I'm still in a SciFi frame of mind and so after reading lots of good things about this book I decided to pick it up and I'm sure glad i did.

This is a book about future war. The galaxy is filled with life and almost all of it is competing with humanity for real estate and this means we have to fight. And it's this fighting that's the real strength of this novel, somehow Scalzi manages to keep it fresh, interesting and exciting each time. I honestly couldn't get enough. In fact I finished the book in just three days (but to be fair it's only about 310 pages long) and am already anticipating the next installment.

One strange aspect of the book where all the references to religion. A lot of scifi stories tend to ignore or downplay religion but in this one belief and ritual feature heavily for both humanity and the alien races which made it feel very Babylon-5-y . It didn't distract too much from the story and I ended up putting it down the the fact the author is American but it did feel a little tacked on but maybe the next book will reveal more.

Old Man's War is a new take on a old idea in science fiction so it's not exactly "where no man has gone before" but stories and myths are reinterpreted in every generation and Scalzi's interpretation is excellent.

More Pat

Thursday, 13 March 2008

Quote Of The Day

"Leaders are Visionaries with a poorly developed sense of fear and no concept of the odds against them"

Robert Jarvik

(taken from a chapter heading of Blindsight)

Bush: ‘Fairness Doctrine’ unfair

Fully irony overload here, Bush thinks a bill requiring Broadcasters to be fair would be (guess what?) unfair! I really should quote the whole thing as nearly every sentence contains a 24 caret Orwellian gem (he even uses the term for chrissake!) my head nearly exploded.

In Nashville today, during a speech to the National Religious Broadcasters Convention, President Bush said there’s nothing fair about the so-called “Fairness Doctrine” that once required broadcasters to offer air time for competing ideologies.

The FCC got rid of it about 20 years ago. Now, some Democrats in Congress - long the target of popular conservative radio talk-show hosts - think it’s time to bring it back.

Perish the thought, Bush told the religious broadcasters in the following passage that ends with a veto promise.

“This organization has had many important missions, but none more important than ensuring our airways - America’s airways - stay open to those who preach the ‘Good News.’ The very first amendment to our Constitution includes the freedom of speech and the freedom of religion. Founders believed these unalienable rights were endowed to us by our Creator. They are vital to a healthy democracy, and we must never let anyone take those freedoms away.”

Tip to SeeingTheForest for the link.

Wall-E Full Trailer

This could be the best looking Pixar film yet and after Ratatouille that's saying something.

Wednesday, 12 March 2008

Journalism in the U.S.A.

It was initially the picture that drew me to this post on godis4suckers which in turn links to this Salon article about the state of journalism in America. Guess what? Its not good news. On the other hand it's not surprising either so I suppose if it where good news you wouldn't believe it.

In one of the ultimate paradoxes, for American journalists -- whose role in theory is to expose the secrets of the powerful -- secrecy is actually their central religious tenet, especially when it comes to dealing with the most powerful. Protecting, rather than exposing, the secrets of the powerful is the fuel of American journalism. That's how they maintain their access to and good relations with those in power.
It seems to me that this is also how journalism works in Ireland. See the HSEs' criminal response to newstalk106 airing criticism of their disastrous policies.

Tuesday, 11 March 2008


Hour long montage documentary, includes Noam Chomsky, John Pilger, Amy Goodman and more

(via Informationclearinghouse)

southwest flight attendant

Possessed: a documentary about hoarders

fascinating! (via boingboing)

POSSESSED from Martin Hampton on Vimeo.

Homeopathic Drugs found in US Drinking Water

Via Skeptico comes this story;

Despite multiple testing scenarios, and despite using the most advanced and sensitive equipment available, we were not able to find even one molecule of the homeopathic remedies in any of the tap water samples we examined. While this would not be a problem with allopathic medicines, homeopathic remedies are stronger the more dilute they are. This means that samples of water we tested containing zero molecules of, for example Arsenicum Album, would be potentized at the maximum strength possible, and as such could present real risks to the American public who would be unknowingly consuming these powerful homeopathic drugs.

Monday, 10 March 2008

House of Augustus opens to public

Man, I'd love to see this. There is more info on the BBC website.

Another new site to visit opens in Rome this week. It’s four rooms of the House of the first Emperor Augustus on the Palatine hill, never on show to the public before. Some parts of this building have opened from time to time, but those bits which you might have seen in the past are currently closed. The plan is that in due course, when conservation has finished, they will open again to join this new section.

For the love of God, EOS must go!

Eddie O’Sullivan should have been fired immediately after the world cup but instead he was allowed to inflict his dreary personality on Irish rugby for another 6 months and a disastrous 6 Nations. Yet again we can say that the tournament was there for the taking as all the teams are mediocre and under new management last Saturday’s game against Wales could have been a tournament decider. Instead Ireland, bizarrely, played 10 man rugby. I could hardly believe my eyes, Leinster and Munster consistently beat Welsh opposition in both the Celtic league and European Cup and yet O’Sullivan’s knees rattled at the sight of Gatland’s men. How depressing and emasculating for the Irish team for their manager to have so little faith in them. Contrast Italy’s brave performance against France yesterday which becomes even more glaring when you consider their drubbing at the hands of Wales two weeks ago. Italy did not hide from the game or play cynically, instead they went and played with passion, grit and a dash of hope, it was great to watch and it’s a pity that their endeavours have been so poorly rewarded. “You Reap What You Sow” is the old saying, well the IRFU sowed arrogant authoritarian gombeenism last October and now they are reaping it by the bushel load.

Ten Steps to Restore Democracy to America

Ten Steps to Restore Democracy to America, but most apply everywhere, especially No. 1

Human rights are for humans.
Corporations are not persons. We must update the 14th Amendment to insert "natural" before the word "persons" so corporations can no longer claim the "right to lie," the "right to hide their crimes," the "right to buy politicians and influence elections," and "the right to force themselves on communities that don't want them." Corporate charter laws should be amended on a state-by-state basis to reinstate the spirit of the Sherman Anti-Trust Act by again outlawing the ownership of one corporation by another, to limit the term of a corporation, to insert Corporate Code-like language requiring a corporation to place the needs of its community above its desire for profits, and, as Teddy Roosevelt so strongly urged us, to ban corporations from political activity of any sort. Similarly, corporations are not nations and shouldn't stand on an equal footing with nations. The United States should withdraw from support of treaties and agreements such as NAFTA, GATT, WTO, and its support of The World Bank.

Friday, 7 March 2008

Erm,.. I'm not like this

I found this at Pharyngula and it really stuck me. If this was the case, why would anyone give up religion?

And whats the corollary to this image? A man cringing on the floor being menaced over by angels and demons?

The artist provides an explanation to the image (something I really hate, but what are you going to do?) with the following quote
It amazes me to find an intelligent person who fights against something which he does not at all believe exists. --Mohandas Gandhi
I don't! I don't believe in leprechaun's and have never raged against them. But I would if everyone told me I must believe in them to be moral, happy, know love, have eternal life, avoid eternal damnation, give them money and respect the leprechaun Church.

The Normal Double Standards

Left I on the News says it all.

In the last few days, Israel attacks have killed more than 120 Palestinians in Gaza, 23 of them children and somewhere between a third and a half of them civilians. George Bush hasn't said a word. Just two days ago, one of those killed was a 20-day-old child. George Bush hasn't said a word. For months, Israel has imposed a brutal collective punishment on the citizens of Gaza, all of them. 98 hospital patients have died as a result, including eight premature babies. George Bush hasn't said a word.

Today in Israel eight rabbinical students were shot dead. George Bush's outrage has finally been provoked:

for a visual representation of this see...

Taliban In Ireland

Ahmadinejad in Iraq

I didn't hear much about this so this post was an eye opener.

How interesting that Ahmadinejad, unlike a U.S. president who has to be airlifted unannounced into ultra-secure bases, was able to convoy in from the airport in broad daylight on a road that U.S. dignitaries fear to travel. His love fest with Iraq President Jalal Talabani, a Kurd who fought on Iran's side against Iraq and who speaks Farsi, even took place outside of the safety of the Green Zone, adding emphasis to Ahmadinejad's claim that while he is welcome in Iraq, the Americans are not.

Thursday, 6 March 2008

The Joy of Rockets

I don't know what it is about rockets but I love the look of them (no penis jokes please), anyway I'm in the ha'penny place compared to this guy

which is a good excuse to link to this page coolrockets

The World Wide Telescope

Oh Yeah! (coming soon)

human conscious

Theres no doubt human conscious is very strange and the more you look at it the stranger it gets. Via onegoodmove comes this report of an experiment to study the effects of 'expectation' on peoples perception. Most everyone knows about the 'placebo effect' but the results of this study suggest the that effect is far greater and more pervasive that we imagine.
CIENTISTS AT CALTECH and Stanford recently published the results of a peculiar wine tasting. They provided people with cabernet sauvignons at various price points, with bottles ranging from $5 to $90. Although the tasters were told that all the wines were different, the scientists were in fact presenting the same wines at different prices.

The subjects consistently reported that the more expensive wines tasted better, even when they were actually identical to cheaper wines.

The experiment was even more unusual because it was conducted inside a scanner - the drinks were sipped via a network of plastic tubes - that allowed the scientists to see how the subjects' brains responded to each wine. When subjects were told they were getting a more expensive wine, they observed more activity in a part of the brain known to be involved in our experience of pleasure.

What they saw was the power of expectations. People expect expensive wines to taste better, and then their brains literally make it so.

Wednesday, 5 March 2008

God the Funnyman

Also via Carnival of the Godless (and Skeptico) comes this very well written article about the nature of god and is well worth a read.

[God] makes mankind imperfect, sets up some rules to follow, knowing (by definition) that billions of people will be unable to follow them, and then sees to it that in their failure they suffer eternal punishment. Eternal. To infinity and beyond, hallelujah. (Although according to those who build the churches and collect the cash, you can live a life of sin and crime and have a deathbed conversion; or drop a dollar in a dish; or, like Jimmy Swaggart, weep and declaim, and be fine, poof, it goes away. On planet Earth some killers get off after a couple of decades. But god's "vengeance is mine" jones doesn't get satisfied after a million years or two? Pretty harsh.)

Where Are all the Reflective Christians?

Excellent post over at Epsilon Clue regarding the mysterious silence of 'Reflective Christians'
One recurring criticism of Dawkins’s The God Delusion (and Hitchens’s God Is Not Great, Victor Stenger’s God: the Failed Hypothesis, and others) is that these authors attack a simplistic conception of God, one that no intelligent, educated person believes in anyway.


So why aren’t the intelligent, reflective Christians telling them they’re full of shit? Where is Plantinga’s The Rapture Delusion, or McGrath’s God Is Great, But You Still Have to Pump Your Own Gas?

link from the latest Carnival of the Godless

HSE asks boy (5) to prove he 'hasn't grown a leg'

OK, well all know the public service in general and the HSE in particular are staffed by bureaucratic idiots, but this one takes the biscuit;
A mother has told how she must constantly "prove" to the HSE that her five-year-old son "hasn't grown a leg", so she can claim medical support.
Newstalk106 have been covering this story and others like it the past couple of days and apparently this story is not unique - another person has to prove their son still has autism every year or so while another has to prove her son still has cerebral palsy.

No wonder the system is so clogged, such a mind numbing waste of everyones time!

Is Religious Tolerance an Oxymoron?

Massimo Pigliucci discusses over at Secular Philosophy.

Lopresti nicely summarizes the options available to religious people who wish to be tolerant of other religious traditions (tolerance toward atheism, of course, is a different matter...). First, one can decide not to be tolerant at all, and embrace exclusivism.
The second alternative, according to Lopresti, is inclusivism. Here the idea is that “we all believe in the same God,” sort of.
The final option presented by Lopresti is pluralism: the idea is that different religious traditions are in fact distinct (a la exclusivism, contra inclusivism), but they also have enough shared values and common objectives to foster reciprocal collaboration.

E.U. Woo's Serbia

According to the Irish Times ....
The European Union urged Serbia today to make clear it saw its future with Europe and laid out incentives on visas, education and transport to try to boost the bloc's image in the Balkans.

But the row with Belgrade over Kosovo has raised concerns that Serbia could shun the EU and turn towards Russia in future.
This reminds me of abusive husbands to hit their wifes and then buy them flowers afterwards. How many E.U. states would be happy for some foreign power (say China) to come along, slice a part of their country off, declare it independent and then demand they be happy about it? Serbia should remember abusive boyfriends don't change and stick with Russia.

Tuesday, 4 March 2008

Binocular Football

Made me laugh

SF Site: Best Read of the Year 2007

Every year I look forward to the SF Sites Best Read of the Year lists and they are finally all up

Editor's Choice

Readers Choice


I usually pick up one or two from the list every year and have yet to be disappointed, this time around Brasyl, The Name of the Wind and Bright of the Sky have really piqued my interest. I'll probably end up getting them and throwing them on the pile.

Mary Beard on Prince Harry

Mary Beard is a historian with a blog on the London Times website that I happen to like and yesterday she posted about Prince Harry serving in Afghanistan and used it to segue onto Roman Emperor's sending their relatives off to war. The post itself is pretty interesting (if you like that sort of thing) and I gathered that Mary is not a fan of either Prince Harry or war. Whats interesting however is the bile in the comments section, it's amazing. Dare to criticise a stupid war or a prince and your lynched! I've posted one of the comments below which is typical of the lyncher's, many of them seem to have a problem with the fact that Mary is a woman who should really just shut up and bake something, others appear to be a bit misty eyed by the "fight for freedom". Of course freedom should never be used to express an opinion or criticise important people.

It's presumably this kind of 'sh*te' that Harry was talking about on his return from Afghanistan recently.

Only a dullard could write such a dithering piece as this.

He's done a good job and wants to go back. What is not to lke about it all? He's just a boy who lost his mum trying to grow up and do something positive.

Stick to making jam, Mary.

Monday, 3 March 2008

Every School Bag Should Have One

Overcoming that age old problem that machine guns are just not compact enough...

thanks to Why, That's Delightful for the link

A Difference take on Prince Harry's Trip

Cry 'God for Harry, England and St George'

It's better than Kitchener's "Your country needs you." Skilfully and chillingly, it speaks to this century and through the most modern media.

David Attenborough

Tonight the BBC are showing the last episode of Attenborough's final series 'Life in Cold Blood'. I don't have a lot of hero's but this man definitely makes my list - natural history programs will never be the same again.

A Natural Phenomenon