Friday, 30 January 2009


I love a lot of geeky things and one of them are the statues from Sideshow Collectibles and this little fella on the left is one of their latest offerings.

I've been getting into Hellboy recently (both movies and graphic novels) and so it really struck a cord.

File this under "Oh NO!"

They're planning on making a movie out of one of the best SciFi novels from the 1990's.

Not withstanding the success of The Lord Of The Rings, this news sent a shiver down my spine.

I'll just keep whispering to myself "the book still exists, the book still exists ..."

How Did It Come To This?

Ireland's answer to Jabba The Hut, Brian Cowen (pictured earlier) is the third best paid leader in the world. As any economist will tell you that means he's the third best leader in the world. I'm kinda surprised George Bush is ranked as fourth best seeing as he trashed the world and all, but you can't argue with the list. Then again, "a change is as good as a rest" they say and nothing changes a place faster than war, disaster and bankruptcy.

I am a little concerned going forward as Jabba Brian may be taking a 10% pay cut this year. This would move him down to fourth, which is still pretty good, but there are no medals for fourth. If anything he should demand a pay rise! The country is in such a state that third best world leader might not be enough - we need the absolute top guys (or gals).

Obviously he should refuse to step off the podium down to fourth, after all the 10% is pure tokenism. Or maybe Brian could award himself a whole slew of medals to make up for this draconian pay cut. He'd look real spiffy (even more spiffy than normal) dressed up in all those medals. They might even distract the plebes from the state of the country.

- Singapore: Lee Hsien Loong $3.8m (€1.9m)

- Hong Kong: Donald Tsang $775,000 (€390,000)

- Ireland: Brian Cowen $624,000 (€314,000)

- US: George Bush $597,000 (€301,000)

- Japan: Taro Aso $530,000 (€267,000)

- France: Nicolas Sarkozy $483,000 (€243,000)

- Germany: Angela Merkel $475,000 (€239,000)

- United Kingdom: Gordon Brown $421,000 (€212,000)

- Canada: Stephen Harper $340,000 (€171,000)

- Australia: Kevin Rudd $330,000 (€166,000)

- New Zealand: John Key $325,000 (€163,000)

- US Vice-President: Dick Cheney $310,000 (€156,000)

- Russia: Vladimir Putin $120,000 (€60,000)

Sometimes I get so chocked up with pride I feel like getting sick.


Thursday, 29 January 2009

Tabloid Fever Strikes New Scientist Magazine

Pharynula has some good comments about this disgraceful cover from New Scientist;

No more than "The Selfish Gene" many lunatics won't read past the cover, so well done New Scientist for aiding the medieval hordes.

Eircom will disconnect Internet users after three unsubstantiated copyright claims

More dispatches from the Banana Republic:

from BoingBoing

Eircom, a major Irish ISP, will now disconnect its users from the Internet if they receive three unsubstantiated copyright infringement claims from the record labels. The record labels are vowing to hold other ISPs to the same deal, wh‎ich is part of a court settlement in a lawsuit against Eircom. The UK has just rejected this measure, and initiatives to spread this across the EU and the US have died as well.

Irish Times.

So much for "innocent until proven guilty".

Wednesday, 28 January 2009

Respecting Religions

Obviously I'm in the "no way" camp;

Johann Hari: Why should I respect these oppressive religions?

Starting in 1999, a coalition of Islamist tyrants, led by Saudi Arabia, demanded the rules be rewritten. The demand for everyone to be able to think and speak freely failed to "respect" the "unique sensitivities" of the religious, they decided – so they issued an alternative Islamic Declaration of Human Rights. It insisted that you can only speak within "the limits set by the shariah [law]. It is not permitted to spread falsehood or disseminate that which involves encouraging abomination or forsaking the Islamic community".

In other words, you can say anything you like, as long as it precisely what the reactionary mullahs tell you to say. The declaration makes it clear there is no equality for women, gays, non-Muslims, or apostates. It has been backed by the Vatican and a bevy of Christian fundamentalists.

Fox News: fear & loathing

I really hate these guys;

Monday, 26 January 2009

How great is Tony Benn?

As Keyes says, the mans a legend!

Is that fear I hear in the new reads voice as Mr Benn continues to read out the address?

(lifted from John's blog)

Thursday, 22 January 2009

The Turing Spider

Also from Peter Watts this amazing story about a brainy spider ..
This hairy little spider right here. A pinpoint brain with less than a million neurons, somehow capable of mammalian-level problem-solving. And just maybe, a whole new approach to cognition.
She does it like a Turing Machine, one laborious step at a time. She does it like a Sinclair ZX-80: running one part of the system then another, because she doesn't have the circuitry to run both at once. She does it all sequentially, by timesharing.
She'll sit there for two fucking hours, just watching. It takes that long to process the image, you see: whereas a cat or a mouse would assimilate the whole hi-res vista in an instant, Portia's poor underpowered graphics driver can only hold a fraction of the scene at any given time. So she scans, back and forth, back and forth, like some kind of hairy multilimbed Cylon centurion, scanning each little segment of the game board in turn. Then, when she synthesizes the relevant aspects of each (God knows how many variables she's juggling, how many pencil sketches get scribbled onto the scratch pad because the jpeg won't fit), she figures out a plan, and puts it into motion: climbing down the branch, falling out of sight of the target, ignoring other branches that would only seem to provide a more direct route to payoff, homing in on that one critical fork in the road that leads back up to satiation. Portia won't be deterred by the fact that she only has a few percent of a real brain: she emulates the brain she needs, a few percent at a time.

Peter Watts (hopefully) upcoming book

I'm a big fan if Peter Watts (well, considering I've only read two of his books - but Maelstrom is on the way) and today I read in his blog the cover blurb for this latest and it sounds fantastic!
A Different Kind of Singularity.

The eve of the 22nd century. A world where the dearly-departed send postcards back from Heaven, and Jainist evangelicals make scientific breakthroughs by speaking in tongues; where genetically-engineered vampires solve problems intractable to baseline Humans, and soldiers come with zombie switches that shut off their own self-awareness during combat. A world under blatant surveillance by an alien presence that refuses to show itself.

Daniel Brooks is a living fossil: an old man in a world of immortals, a field biologist in a world where all biology has long since turned computational, an unwitting catspaw used by terrorists to kill thousands. Taking refuge in the Oregon desert, he turns his back on a humanity that shatters into strange new subspecies with every heartbeat. But he isn't hiding from anything; he awakens one night to find himself at the center of a storm that's about to turn all of history inside-out.

Now he's trapped in a ship bound for the center of the solar system. To his left is a grief-stricken soldier with a zombie switch in his head, obsessed by whispered messages from a dead son half a lightyear away. To his right is an autistic hacker who hasn't quite discovered that Dan Brooks is the man she's sworn to kill on sight. A vampire and its entourage of zombie bodyguards lurk in the shadows behind. And dead ahead, a handful of rapture-stricken monks takes them all to a meeting with something they will only call "The Angels of the Asteroids".

But whatever they encounter, there in the blinding maelstrom above the sun's north pole, is the furthest thing from anyone's vision of divinity. By the end of their pilgrimage the whole world is coming apart at the seams— and Dan Brooks, the fossil man, is face-to-face with the biggest evolutionary breakpoint since the origin of thought itself.

The Singularity's here. It's too late to go back. And all those starry-eyed optimists, the extropians, the transhumanists, the rapture-nerds and technophiles who sang the praises of technology=magic — somehow, none of them realized there'd be no room for humanity in a post-human age …

Israel V Gaza

Two things that made me laugh at the sorry mess.

First up was the always entertaining, Mark Steel whose comment in the London Independent cast a weary eye on the current 'conflict';
The worrying part about whether the ceasefire in Gaza can hold together will be whether the international community can stop the flow of arms to the terrorists. Because Israel's getting their planes and tanks and missiles from somewhere and until this supply is cut off there's every chance it could start up again.
However, as good as Steel is, he can't be outdone by the real master of Irony, The ADL;
The Anti-Defamation League on Tuesday lambasted Venezuela and Bolivia over their decision to sever diplomatic relations with Israel, calling the move "inflammatory and offensive."
It's a funny world...

Wednesday, 21 January 2009

Telephoning the Dead

Michael Shermer has a nice article here about pattern seeking. In this case a (new to me) method of 'contacting the dead', using ... a, erm, telephone...
[it] “consists of a random voltage generator, which is used to tune an AM receiver module rapidly. The audio from the tuner (“raw audio”) is amplified and fed to an echo chamber, where the spirits manipulate it to form their voices.” Apparently doing so is difficult for the spirits, so Moon employs the help of “Tyler,” a spirit “technician,” whom he calls on to corral wayward spirits to within earshot of the receiver. What it sounded like was the rapid twirling of a radio dial so that only noises and word fragment s were audible.
of course it works but the ability of people to spot patterns where there are none, such as.

Vice Presidential Handlers Lure Cheney Into Traveling Crate

from The Onion

WASHINGTON—A team of nine specially trained handlers have successfully lured outgoing vice president Dick Cheney into a reinforced steel traveling crate in order to transport him back to his permanent enclosure in Casper, WY, official sources reported Monday. "He's a smart one. Once he sees the crate, he gets pretty nippy, but we've learned a few tricks over the years," chief VP wrangler Ted Irving breathlessly said while applying pressure to a deep gash on his forearm. "If we break a rabbit's legs and throw it in there, he will eventually go in to finish it off. Doesn't work with dead rabbits, though. Cheney only eats what he kills." Irving said that the latest vice presidential relocation went much more smoothly than September's diplomatic trip to Georgia, which was delayed for several hours after Cheney mauled three secret service agents and escaped inside the White House walls.

The Magic Cube

Synesthesia is the phenomenon in which the stimulation of one sense modality produces a sensation in a different sense modality, for example, touching something and sensing a color.

So how'd he do it?

Answer will appear tomorrow but the comments seem to provide decent solutions.


“There’s only 3 things I’m afraid of…”

beautiful video about high-voltage maintenance workers

thanks to Johnny K for the link

Tuesday, 20 January 2009

Liquid Wood

An interesting story to get away from the gloom.

Plastic was one of the great innovations of the 20th century, but German scientists believe a new invention, liquid wood, could soon supplant the chemical in terms of everyday usefulness.


Welcome to Animal Farm

The entire country is in meltdown but doesn't stop the public sector unions from having a hissey fit.
More than 9,000 members of Siptu's Dublin Health Services branch voted overwhelmingly in favour of industrial action this afternoon over the proposed cutbacks in the health service.


“The decision to ballot for contingent strike action arose out of a clear and provocative public statement by a senior manager in the HSE to the effect that health workers were inefficient, too expensive
and inflexible”, said Siptu health sector organiser Paul Bell.
These guys are so insane "statements" are driving them to stikes!

What happened to union protecting workers rights and conditions? Now they have moved on to protecting their feelings?

22 years of social partnership has resulted in a real life Animal Farm where the "partners" now bicker over how many angels can dance on the head of a pin.

Nationalising Anglo Irish Bank

Two very different views here on the imminent nationalisation of AngloIrish Bank, the first from Morgan Kelly (professor of economics at University College Dublin.)

Facing the imminent collapse of the national financial system, the Government needs to perform a ruthless triage. The worthwhile banks need to be maintained by any means necessary, including nationalisation, while Anglo Irish and Irish Nationwide must be allowed to collapse.

What began as farce has turned swiftly to catastrophe. Last September the Government casually decided to give a small dig-out to some developer pals by guaranteeing the liabilities of Anglo Irish Bank. This spiralled into a proposed nationalisation that would saddle Irish taxpayers with Anglo’s bad debts, which could easily exceed €20,000 per household, and starve the other, worthwhile, banks of the capital they need to survive.

The second from David McWilliamns (future teller & gure)

[snip]there is only one thing the Irish government can do to retrieve the situation. It can quarantine large diseased chunks of the Irish loan book in Anglo. In effect, it can turn Anglo into a financial skip, throwing into the bank all the bad debts of the other banks.

Bank of Ireland and AIB, although they like to hold their noses and look down on Anglo, might actually have a worse bad debt position than the nationalised orphan. This is because, in an effort to catch up with Anglo, the big banks accelerated lending at the top of the market from 2005 to 2008. So they need the financial skip as much as anyone else.

It would be unwise to allow them to get off the hook by throwing all the bad debts into Anglo. Brian Lenihan should raise a huge bond on the international markets to finance the bad loans.

I'm not an economist so I'm really in the dark as to what the answer here is, all I know is, in this Banana-republic, none of those responsible for this fiasco will ever be held accountable ...

Monday, 19 January 2009

Pirate retires

Oh wait! I ment chief executive of Bank Of Ireland retires..

Two things really stood out for me, one;

In a statement this morning, Mr Goggin said he was “very proud” of his 40-year career with the bank.

I suppose this is like Darth Vader being very proud of his service aboard the Death Star

and two;

Mr Burrows said the bank was “well-placed” due to the support of the Government through the guarantee scheme to “play a full part and in a wider context and to rebuild value for its stockholders”.

Even after the sucker Irish government bails out these guys their the primary focus is still on "stockholders"!? I realise the Irish state (AKA the Irish people) now owns a large part of the bank but this isn't due to clever financial wizardry on the part of the government, it's because (they claim) they had no choice.

So how about Mr Goggin if you got down on your hands and knees and begged forgiveness from the Irish people for your part in almost bankrupting the state?

How about admitting the the entire system you championed is hopelessly corrupt and should be discarded.

How about not retiring, but resigning - immediately?

Neural Impulse Actuator (NIA)

this system is for games, but the wider future applications are mind boggling...

Thursday, 15 January 2009

Tuesday, 13 January 2009

The fear of strangers

We have it ass-backwards apparently..

What do Bruce Pardo and Atif Irfan have in common?

In case you’re not familiar with their names, let me rephrase:

What do the white guy who dressed up as Santa and killed his ex-wife and her family (and then committed suicide) and the Muslim guy who got thrown off a recent AirTran flight on suspicion of terrorism have in common?

As we wrote in Freakonomics, most people are pretty terrible at risk assessment. They tend to overstate the risk of dramatic and unlikely events at the expense of more common and boring (if equally devastating) events. A given person might fear a terrorist attack and mad cow disease more than anything in the world, whereas in fact she’d be better off fearing a heart attack (and therefore taking care of herself) or salmonella (and therefore washing her cutting board thoroughly).

I must have bumped my head

Lately I've found myself agreeing with Kevin Meyers - this can't be good.

Today he's talking about just how incompetent our political leaders are (very)

The regulator who for 10 months failed to tell his minister about the financial horror story of Anglo Irish Bank, with nearly €90m missing from the books, was not sacked, but in due course retired, on full pension.


In the middle of the greatest financial crisis in the State's history, our entire (and vastly overpaid) political class is still on holiday. We have thousands of unoccupied houses across the country, as part of a government-sponsored wheeze to avoid taxes.

The unfortunate solution as Mr. Meyers sees it (and I can almost agree) is to throw our lot in entirely with Europe and hope than some Brussels Satrap can do a better job than our own lot have done.

I don't know if I can bring myself to vote 'yes' next time out, I might abstain or spoil my vote but I think it's pretty clear that the Irish system has failed after a mere 80 years ..

So roll on Lisbon! Roll on rule from Brussels! Yes, I know that our political establishment want it also, but what logic can you expect from them? Hasten the day when a gauleiter or apparatchik of the EU administers our affairs, for we clearly are not capable of doing so ourselves.

Atheist Shame

Mildly amusing video.

Instruction Manual For Life

A beautiful animation about "instruction manuals", very much in the same vain as Blankets

Thursday, 8 January 2009

Excellent Beer Ad

'The Secret' 1 confirmed case of it working

'The Secret' is that stupid book about ... well ... stupidness, but here is actual testimony of it _really_ working. Amazing!

Please allow me to share with you how "The Secret" changed my life and in a very real and substantive way allowed me to overcome a severe crisis in my personal life. It is well known that the premise of "The Secret" is the science of attracting the things in life that you desire and need and in removing from your life those things that you don't want. Before finding this book, I knew nothing of these principles, the process of positive visualization, and had actually engaged in reckless behaviors to the point of endangering my own life and wellbeing.
At age 36, I found myself in a medium security prison serving 3-5 years for destruction of government property and public intoxication. This was stiff punishment for drunkenly defecating in a mailbox but as the judge pointed out, this was my third conviction for the exact same crime. I obviously had an alcohol problem and a deep and intense disrespect for the postal system, but even more importantly I was ignoring the very fabric of our metaphysical reality and inviting destructive influences into my life.
My fourth day in prison was the first day that I was allowed in general population and while in the recreation yard I was approached by a prisoner named Marcus who calmly informed me that as a new prisoner I had been purchased by him for three packs of Winston cigarettes and 8 ounces of Pruno (prison wine). Marcus elaborated further that I could expect to be anally raped by him on a daily basis and that I had pretty eyes.
Needless to say, I was deeply shocked that my life had sunk to this level. Although I've never been homophobic I was discovering that I was very rape phobic and dismayed by my overall personal street value of roughly $15. I returned to my cell and sat very quietly, searching myself for answers on how I could improve my life and distance myself from harmful outside influences. At that point, in what I consider to be a miraculous moment, my cell mate Jim Norton informed me that he knew about the Marcus situation and that he had something that could solve my problems. He handed me a copy of "The Secret". Normally I wouldn't have turned to a self help book to resolve such a severe and immediate threat but I literally didn't have any other available alternatives. I immediately opened the book and began to read.
The first few chapters deal with the essence of something called the "Law of Attraction" in which a primal universal force is available to us and can be harnessed for the betterment of our lives. The theoretical nature of the first few chapters wasn't exactly putting me at peace. In fact, I had never meditated and had great difficulty with closing out the chaotic noises of the prison and visualizing the positive changes that I so dearly needed. It was when I reached Chapter 6 "The Secret to Relationships" that I realized how this book could help me distance myself from Marcus and his negative intentions. Starting with chapter six there was a cavity carved into the book and in that cavity was a prison shiv. This particular shiv was a toothbrush with a handle that had been repeatedly melted and ground into a razor sharp point.
The next day in the exercise yard I carried "The Secret" with me and when Marcus approached me I opened the book and stabbed him in the neck. The next eight weeks in solitary confinement provided ample time to practice positive visualization and the 16 hours per day of absolute darkness actually made visualization about the only thing that I actually could do. I'm not sure that everybody's life will be changed in such a dramatic way by this book but I'm very thankful to have found it and will continue to recommend it heartily.

from an amazon review

Wednesday, 7 January 2009

A picture is worth a thousand words

One of the great things about religions is how much time they spend hating other people. Sadly in the modern world many people don't have time to read how the other guy is evil so this website presents it in pictorial form.

The first panel above is particularly amusing but it does explain why Ahmadinejad hates gays so much.

The priest in the fourth panel is identified as "Fr. O'Toole" which really miffed me. I'm Irish and was born a Catholic and if it turns out our guys are running the world then I want to know why this place isn't neater! At the very least we should all have giant TV's and cheap alcohol. Also, the other countries have to start letting us win things in sport.

Tuesday, 6 January 2009

Everything is recycleable

Skeptico has a load of new posts since I last checked his blog but I really liked this one.

It seems a wireless internet network in Glastonbury is being blame (by some) for all sorts of illnesses, but an enterprising woopert has developed a solution

Matt Todd, […] has started building small generators which he believes can neutralise the allegedly-harmful radiation using the principles of orgone science. The pyramid-like machines use quartz crystals, selenite (a clear form of the mineral gypsum), semi-precious lapis lazuli stones, gold leaf and copper coil to absorb and recycle the supposedly-negative energy.

Skeptico's golden response?

That’s what I like about new agers today. They don’t just want to get rid of the negative energy, they want to recycle it. This is sustainable woo!

I loved that!

Fatwa +20 years

It's 20 years since the fatwa was issued against Salman Rushdie and Christopher Hitchens has some thoughts to share;

[on self censureship] So there is now a hidden partner in our cultural and academic and publishing and broadcasting world: a shadowy figure that has, uninvited, drawn up a chair to the table. He never speaks. He doesn’t have to. But he is very well understood.

link Assassins of the Mind

I have to admit I've never read Rushdie, although I have pawed his books a few times while browsing. In the end I've been a little intimidated by the standing of the man - like a modern Joyce. Someday I'll get over myself and pick up The Satanic Verses, could be a good New Years resolution ...

Monday, 5 January 2009

Happy New Year and All That.

This is my first day back at work since the 23rd (and even that was a half day) - what a great break.

If it wasn't for the fact I couldn't get to sleep last night I'd be totally refreshed.

something something Blindsight something

I felt a little like a blind man touching an elephant reading this but I think I understood just enough to post it;

A patient with bilateral damage to primary visual (striated) cortex has provided the opportunity to assess just what visual capacities are possible in the absence of geniculo-striate pathways. Patient TN suffered two strokes in succession, lesioning each visual cortex in turn and causing clinical blindness over his whole visual field. Functional and anatomical brain imaging assessments showed that TN completely lacks any functional visual cortex. We report here that, among other retained abilities, he can successfully navigate down the extent of a long corridor in which various barriers were placed. A video recording shows him skillfully avoiding and turning around the blockages. This demonstrates that extra-striate pathways in humans can sustain sophisticated visuo-spatial skills in the absence of perceptual awareness, akin to what has been previously reported in monkeys. It remains to be determined which of the several extra-striate pathways account for TN's intact navigation skills.

the link is from Peter Watts so I feel confident enough to nod dumbly in the corner;

Happily, the New York Times prints an English translation