Sunday, December 03, 2006

about a lucky man who made the grade (the orphan posts series)

Right, so downloading intewub pron one million times faster is getting a little boring, so I thought I should once more return to enlightening you dirty little savages with my erudite pontifications and breathtaking wit. To start me off, here's an unfinished post from long, long ago. Do me a favour and suggest some extra paragraphs I can insert to make this post make more sense (and if anyone has any links to more bitching about Deborah Coddington over that N&S article way back then, please oblige). Best submission gets a rare, candid picture of Apathy Jack not berating his students about the fact that they are a rancid pack of scrofulous turds.

First, a rant.

One of the things that rips my nightie is how people talk about evolution as if it is an entity in it's own right, and the allied discussions about how our bodies are "designed for x", "not designed to deal with y".

Ass people. Ass. We (and plants, and animals and the deep blue sea) are not designed for anything. We're not freaking designed full-stop. We are "designed" in the same way that a rocky outcrop in the sea is designed to have a hole in the middle just the right size to allow tourist boats to cruise through.

Evolution is the outcome of two things: mutation, and natural selection. As living beings reproduce, errors occur (error is probably a prejudicial word - do me a favour and suggest something better). The resulting offspring then get hit by natural selection (once again, people, natural selection is not an entity) - if the difference between you and your parentals doesn't lead to your death before you can reproduce, and you aren't unlucky enough to be killed by anything else in your environment, then your mutation survives to be passed on to your offspring (unless it's not part of the 50% of your genetic code that you contribute during reproduction. Yes, yes, asexual reproduction is a little different).

Extend the time period hundreds, thousands, millions of years and that mutation may have conferred an advantage that has kept your motley collection of genes alive. Or maybe other gene changes have proved more important and the original gene has been lost or is dormant or otherwise suppressed. Or maybe a comet came by and wiped the whole species out, something that seems to happen a little to quickly for most living beings to evolve a defense to - unless, of course, you have luckily evolved a 1000-feet thick shell without it otherwise adversely affecting your ability to survive in non-comet-strike environments.

The important thing to remember is that you don't get your thousand-feet-thick shell because of comets. You get a thousand-feet-thick shell by effectively random mutation and then you survive to talk about it later because everything else that might have competed with you for resources or preyed on you got killed by a comet. Evolution is, above all, the science of hindsight.

The upshot is this: you're an accident. Deal with it. But for christ's sake stop talking about evolution as if it is an entity in it's own right because you start making it sound like the equivalent of a certain white-bearded old man who lives up in the clouds, watching you all the time, and especially when you're doing that thing in the bathroom (you know, that thing that's going to get you sent straight to hell). It just gets the pCms excitable and they go off on a tangent about how evolution is just another religion and we all know where that leads. Here, here and here.

Second ... a rant.

Good lord, Deborah Coddington is a foul waste of breathing space. I don't pretend to be a good statistician or even a good journalist, and quite frankly, neither should she ... we bitch royally about how politicians never admit they fucked up and do the honorable thing (uh, that means resign, people - not seppuku. Although ...), it would be nice if we held journalists and their frigging editors to the same standard. How about Debs, you could take a nice break from those dreadfully confusing numbers and maybe work a little on not being such an asshole?

Mind you, you've got to love her justification for fucking up the article so royally: She was just opening the issue up for debate.


In this spirit I look forward to her next article on how Jews kidnap Christian children, slit their throats and bake the blood in their matzos during Passover ...

... on other misuses of statistics, Kung Fu Monkey has a little article on the latest urban legend about the murder rate in Baghdad being less than that of Washington DC (spoiler: he calls shenanigans)

... and in other news, The Fundy Post is off hiatus and has it's own shiny new blogspot address.

You always wanted to know, but were afraid to ask:
Is it possible to have too much dietary fiber? I don't like to foreshadow these things, but it has the sentence "McClurken sliced him open and found 'a large amount of bran-like material with a dry, thick, toothpaste-like consistency' in the lower small intestine.", which may be all you need to know.

A Snopes a Day; or, Shit You Should Stop Believing:
Women in Germany face the loss of unemployment benefits if they decline to accept work in brothels.

NASA scientists discovered a "missing" day in time that corresponds to Biblical accounts of the sun's standing still in the sky.
Straight Dope tackles the same shit with Did scientists discover a "missing day" as predicted in the Bible? Best quote comes from Harold Hill, the most committed perveyor of the myth: "[M]y inability to furnish documentation of the 'Missing day' incident in no way detracts from its authenticity."

Goddamn Fucker.

Thursday, September 21, 2006

paint it black

Good news! Black hole won't destroy Earth

Best quote:
... trapped black holes are so tiny, they could pass through a block of iron the distance from the Earth to the Moon and not hit anything. They would each take about 100 hours to gobble up one proton. At that rate ... "about 100 protons would be destroyed every year by such a black hole, so it would take much more than the age of universe to destroy even one milligram of Earth material,"[experimental physicist Greg] Landsberg concluded. "It's quite hard to destroy the Earth."
Of course, the rest of the quote should end with ... "not that it will stop us trying. Mooohaahahahahaha." Christ, when you get around to thinking up a name for a Death Star-like planet destroying weapon of choice for 9 out of 10 mad scientists, it's going to be something like a Large Hadron Collider.

Anyone else having flashbacks to The Quiet Earth?

A Snopes a Day; or, Shit You Should Stop Believing:
Book Excerpt: How PR Sold the War in the Persian Gulf - scroll down to the section called "Suffer the Little Children". Goddamn bastards. I'm all for territorial integrity and not letting nations get away naked aggression, but that shit is cold.

CSI for skeptics:
Houdini's Impossible Demonstration

You-have-got-to-be-fucking-kidding-me time:
The Orgone Howitzer (link stolen from Mutopia). Normally I'm all for things ending in -howitzer, but this really takes the cake. And oh god read the testimonial. Makes a man wish for humble 'ol Black Helicopters.

I see you under the midnight

Freaking hell, David Gemmell died 2 months ago and nobody told me? Holy crap. Best quote from Wikipedia:
"I tried to quit smoking and found that the years of polluting my brain with nicotine meant that I couldn't string a reasonable sentence together without filling my lungs with smoke. I went three months without a drag, took a good look at the crap I was writing and lit up."

David Gemmell I've always seen as the Agatha Christie of the Fantasy world - someone who could spin a damn good yarn, and even though it was essentially the same yarn as the last book he kept interesting enough that you didn't care. And he never jumped the shark, unlike some of his contempories **cough** David Eddings **cough**. Anyway, I think the reason I like Gemmell (aside from his writing about when men were Men and women wore chainmail and leather) is he wrote explicitly about honour; about people who were honourable not because they were inherently good, but because they weren't but they made the effort of will to be good inspite of their nature.

Isn't it shit that the moment you talk about "honour" or "heroes" you start to feel twee? Damn.

Anyway, if you're a fan also you might want to pop over Legend of the Silver Slayer and check out some interesting articles (I'm a fan of the timeline myself).

One of my favorite quotes is from Morningstar (1993):
The enemy is always reviled, pictured as the despoiler of women, the eater of babies, a living plague upon the earth, a servant of Satan. Wars are never fought for plunder or gain. Oh no, they are always depicted as ultimate battles between good and evil. But then, looking at the nature of Man, that is understandable. Can you imagine the scene, the great King gathering his troops before an epic battle. 'Right, myy lads," he says, as he sits upon his great black stallion, "today we fight for my right to steal gold from whomsoever I choose. The enemy are men much the same as yourselves. A good bunch, probably, with wives and children back home. And at the end of the battle, when I have more riches than I'll ever spend in a lifetime, many of them - and indeed many of you - will be wormfood, or crippled. Better to be dead, really, because I'll have no use for you once you can no longer raise a sword. All right lads? Let's be at them!
What if they called a war, and nobody came?

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

now I'm hiding in Honduras

Frank can't help it, he just likes oversized rocket launchers.

As always, if you ever see this, or anything like it, freaking drop me a line in the comments. I mean, for zombie-christ's sake, do you think I like ransoming your children?

Friday, September 15, 2006

keep the vampires from your door

If you read the Register story in my last post ("Mass murder in the skies") then you should also skip over to Wikipedia and read the story of Flight 434. This could be seen as the prototype for the recent British plot (and also was to be the precursor to Oplan Bojinka, an altogether more disturbing scenario), except instead of the TATP binary explosive that The Register is so skeptical of, the bomber used nitroglycerin - kept in contact lens solution bottles.

This all comes to mind because of The Path to 9/11 controversey. I saw the beginning of it whilst channel surfing on the Sunday night the first part screened. I came in just as the truck bomb was being positioned under the World Trade Centre. It was a slightly disturbing moment because I knew exactly what was happening within seconds of seeing the truck (without knowing what the programme was); you see, I'd just picked up The New Jackals on sale that Friday which starts with a description of the events of the first WTC bombing and then follows the careers of Ramzi Yousef and Osama Bin Laden up until the time the book was published in 1999. And the TV show followed the book pretty faithfully for the events of the WTC bombing. I stopped watching soon after because I pretty much knew what was coming and to be frank the docudrama format was kind of irritating for it's faux-24-ness. And there was one other thing that disturbed me. On The Path to 9/11 there was a scene where the detectives discover the differential housing with the legible VIN number that practically cracks the case. They remove the housing for analysis and are later berated by an FBI agent for disturbing chain of evidence in their zeal to get the housing back before the bombsite collapse (the implication being that the Federales were more concerned with bureaucracy and who got the credit) ... but the book, despite describing events in much detail, has no such scene with a tightwad FBI agent, or any such controversy over moving the evidence. It was just a small thing, but if they were prepared to lie about that small detail, what else would they fuck up? And guess what ...

Now for a mid-blog round-up: Posts of mine I actually like, in chronological order:

Alternate history of the world #1

Nice company you keep, terrorist; or, I'm just like the fetuses, Chuck, I wasn't born yesterday ... okay, actually I just like the title.

Give me a minute; i just need to irony my shirts

Terrifying space monkeys

God does not play al-zār with the universe I've said it before, I'll say it again. You protesting my speech does not mean you are against my freedom of speech. It means you disagree with me (I'm still on the fence as to burning down my embassy counts as speech, or perhaps "performance art").

It's Ralph Wiggam crazy Hey; I was raised Catholic so I'm allowed to be disrespectful.

Down in the trenches of hell, digging madly: Part 1. More the second, FutureWorld part. Althought the dolphin sex bit is also pretty funny.

The calliope crashed to the ground I'm proud I actually read some research before going apeshit about it.

News Round-up:
DVD chips 'to kill illegal copying'
Somewhere, Satan is laughing his ass off. You mean to tell me any mildly tech-savvy thief is going to be able to walk past the front of my house with a RFID reader and see at an instant exactly whether my collection is worth stealing? Are you fucking nuts? And don't get me started on the regional coding thing. It has nothing to do with piracy you cocknobbling parasites. Arrrggghhh!

RIAA copyright education contradictory, critics say
Satan's having a coughing fit.

Headmaster justifies fingerprinting pupils
Satan just fell off his chair.

You always wanted to know, but were afraid to ask:
Hold it! What happens if you don't urinate? Ow. Just Ow.

An Onion a day ...

Report: Majority Of Americans Unprepared For Apocalypse

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

I saw a werewolf drinking a pina colada at trader Vic's ... and his hair was perfect

Compulsory reading:
Mass murder in the skies: was the plot feasible?

... or were we all scared over something that would never have worked? Then, for a laugh, read the Terror-Junkies getting worked up in Reg hacks eat babies' souls.

And if that got you wondering how about Amazing terror weapons: the imaginary suitcase nuke?

On a lighter note, read this story about famed spoon-molester Uri Geller. Then ask yourself this: if he's a frigging psychic shouldn't he have seen this coming? Yeah. Case goddamn closed.

Bob Clarkson is a fat fucking fascist pig

Bugger, I managed to prove Godwin's Law in my title, but good god the man is a complete tosser. Anyway, NRT puts it more eloguently than me, and Bomber says it as offensively as he possibly can, although I'm sure he could have slipped a reference to beastiality in there somewhere, but I'd like to add a few points:

1. There seems to be a pervasive, Protocols of the Elders of Zion-like myth that right-wing shit-monkeys like to promulgate: to wit, that gay people want to turn us all into homerseck-shuls by the cunning and yet inscrutible method of existing, and calling attention to themselves by holding hands in public and having parades. You know, just like St Patrick Day parades try to make us all into Irishmen. It's a fucking lie Clarky, and either you're too stupid to know it or you're a gutter pig. Or both, I'm a liberal man after all.

2. Any attempt to disagree with a RW shit-monkey is instantly branded an attack on their freedom of speech. Bullshit. You have a right to say what you like. I have a right to say what I like and even disagree with your position. It's called dia-logue. There are two sides, although I'll understand if you can't count beyond 'one'. You keep spouting shit Clarky, we'll keep digging ditches.

3. There's a popular view that we need to make Muslims respect our culture of freedom and tolerance .... by telling them what they can and can't wear. Hmm. Perhaps we should get them all to wear a symbol so we know they are Muslim and therefore possibly dangerous? But what could we use? I know, how about a yellow crescent? Yes that should work.

I'm sure followers of Islam come to New Zealand for a variety of reasons, just like any other immigrant. Heck, 9 times out of 10 if it is a voluntary decision (i.e. not a refugee matter) then I betcha most people look at New Zealand like most present residents do - a good place to raise kids. Job prospects, quality of life, money will motivate others. But what I'd really like to think was a good motivating factor is New Zealand is a free country. We aren't Singapore, or Saudia Arabia, or China. We don't have restrictive cultural or religious laws (or at least we don't use them often). There's a reasonable sense of live-and-let-live. You want people to shuck off their old medieval customs and prejudices - then lead by example. We just a short step away from the Enlightenment ourselves, and neanderthals like Bob Clarkson seem all to keen to snuff out even that brief candle. Mandating what people can, and can't wear in public is one small step down the dark pathway.

Why large databases on private citizens are a bad idea:
Oz ID card database racked by identity fraud claims. Or, yet another reason not to move to Australia.

All we need is a Miracle:
Littlewood's Law

Edit: Why yes, Mr Stupid cannot spell fascist on his first attempt. Screw you too, hippy.

Monday, August 14, 2006

Mama always told my not to look into the eyes of the sun ...

Well, Monkey Fluids linked to me, so I guess I have to write something ... but what? I know, I'll break my blasted habit of writing half a post, getting tired or distracted, promising to post the rest of it tomorrow (or next week) and then never mentioning it again.

Just to confound you all.

Does it matter whether the United States saved our bacon in WWII?

So let's ignore the preceeding post and take it as read that the US were the good guys who saved our pasty white asses from the [insert suitably jingoistic description of the Japanese] hordes. Does that mean we automatically have a reciprocal duty to support them in their future military endeavors? In my opinion the answer is an unequivocal "it depends".

Now my approach to the question is moral; there is of course a whole other argument based on realpolitik which basically says do whatever is in your best interests - and whatever you can get away with - and to the casual observer that is how international politics seems to work 99% of the time. But that's not today's discussion. Today we are asking, "what is the morally correct path when deciding whether or not to support the US, given that the US supported us in WWII?"

To answer the question, let's start with an tree analogy (the analogy isn't about trees, but I'm going to add some branches, hence ...):

You are walking along a dark alley on your way home from a long bout drinking with your buddy Winston. You are approached by several gentlemen of unpleasant countenance and an ugly disposition, who suggest to you that a failure to hand over your wallet would lead to an unfortunate accident with a broken bottle. You, being drunk and a 98-pound weakling, decide to give up without a fight - when, Praise The Lord!, your neighbour Bob rushes into the alley with his .45 and shows those ruffians that a large handgun, a twitchy eye and a lifetime membership of the NRA trumps a broken bottle in 9 out of 10 dark alleyway confrontations. You, of course, are extremely grateful for Bob's timely intervention and swear undying friendship to him.

Next week, Bob comes over to your house and suggests one of the following:
  1. That you both go out to the dark alley and mug the next drunken, 98-pound weakling that passes. After all, he saved your ass last week, so you owe him.
  2. That you both go out to the dark alley and lie in wait for more muggers who might be preying on drunken, 98-pound weaklings. After all, he saved your ass last week, so you owe him.
  3. That you go over to the next street where Bob believes the muggers live in their crack house, so you can indulge in some vigilante justice by torching the place, thereby killing the muggers, their families, and burning down the house next door when the fire gets out of control. After all, he saved your ass last week, so you owe him.
... I'm sure you get the picture. The obligation owed is relatively insignificant when weighed against the moral weight of the actions requested. The argument for obligation has it's most weight when you have already decided the rightousness of the action. Saddam Hussain is a bad, bad man, and has WMDs, and we need to free the Iraqis, and it will kick sand in the faces of all those terrorists ... and we saved your ass, so you owe us. If you believe that Saddam doesn't have WMDs (or cannot conceivably use them if he has them), or that invading won't free the Iraqis, and will just serve as a sop to terrorists ... then "we saved your ass, so you owe us won't hold much water.

Now if the US was to ask us to do the geopolitical equivalent of helping to build their BBQ pit and maybe join the neighbourhood watch group ... maybe the argument from obligation is more persuasive.

Golly, all this seriousness is getting me down.

I fricking knew it! Those bastards!
America's plan to invade NZ - courtesy of Anth.

You always wanted to know, but were afraid to ask:
Would Vietnam war money have been better spent bribing the enemy to stop fighting?
How do Porcupines mate?
Oh come on, like you never wondered.

Why the goddamn hell have I never heard of this before?
The USS Liberty Incident pick (courtesy of Span):
Harry Potter and the mystery of an academic obsession. Two words: Potter Porn. Best quote - "the speaker does a quick poll to see who present writes narratives involving bestiality. Hands shoot up."

The full lyrics to the Best. Song. Ever:
Blinded by the light. It would have been by popular request but you bastards are all cultural philistines so I'll just have to ram it down your throat for your own good.

The full lyrics to the Other. Best. Song. Ever:
Lawyers, guns and money. Warren Zevon is my hero.

Monday, July 03, 2006

.... but mama, that's where the fun is.

It's the argument hour, a hopefully regular spot where I try to deflate prevalent strawmen, often with the aid of outrageously mixed metaphors. Today's argument is:
We should support the United States in the War On Terror/Cold War/War of the Worlds because they stopped the ravening hordes of marauding Japanese from taking over the entire Pacific, overrunning the Australians, and coming here to convert us to Shintoism at the point of a samurai sword and steal our women.
Or, as I like to call it, The "shut your mouth pinko 'cause if Uncle Sam hadn't saved your bacon you'd be talking Tojo" argument.

This argument, while obviously quite psychologically powerful for it's proponents (no one likes an ungrateful little bastard, and any argument that invokes WWII has inordinate power even now) it can definitely be attacked on at least two points - firstly as a point of fact, and secondly as a morally correct assertion.

Did the United States save our collective bacon?
From the American perspective the despatch of troops to New Zealand was not primarily to defend the two distant islands in the South Pacific. New Zealand had a strategic importance. In mid- March the Allies had decided to divide responsibility for their forces into three zones. The British would control the Middle East-Indian Ocean area, the European-Atlantic zone would be a shared responsibility, and the Pacific would come under the US Joint Chiefs of Staff. Within the Pacific itself there was a further division into two main theatres: the South-west Pacific, including Australia, the Philippines, New Guinea and the Dutch East Indies; and the Pacific Ocean in which New Zealand was a main base. New Zealand would thus serve as a source of supply and a staging post for operations against the Japanese within the Pacific. There American forces might train for offensives ahead or recuperate from battles just past. There vegetables and stores could be found for sending to the bloodied jungles further north.
(from Why They Came - US Forces in New Zealand)

Since I am not a historian, this bit is going to be necessarily rather short. In my gut I find the idea of Japan sailing half way around the world and invade us purely for our mild climate, rolling sheep-clad hills and unspoilt beaches kind of laughable. For chrissake, we didn't even have any decent golf-courses, the trip would hardly be worth the aircraft carrier fuel. No, when you look at the reasons Japan launched their war in the first place, annexing a little holiday home in the South Pacific was a little far down the "Things to do" list they stuck on their refridgerator. Unless, of course, we gave them an excuse ...
Japan's policies in the 1930s are remarkable for their disastrously self-defeating nature. Japan's grand strategy was based on the premise that it could not survive a war against the European powers without secure sources of natural resources, yet to secure those resources it decided to undertake the war that it knew it could not win in the first place.
- Wikipedia entry on the Pacific War

And there's the rub. The Japanese, loathsome nasty jingoistic bastards that they were in the early 20th century, wanted their own little colonial empire in Asia - perhaps mindful of that fact that if you are the largest kid on the block you run less risk of having your lunch stolen. But to be the biggest kid on the block Japan needed resources, raw materials, most of which were not native to Japan (at least in sufficient quantities); if you need resources you either buy them or steal them. Buying them is usually preferable - war being reasonably expensive in more ways than one - but stealing them, or to be more precise, stealing the countries that had them (ironically, since these were mostly colonial possessions, Japan was effectively stealing from a bunch of thieves, abeit slightly more benign criminals than Japan turned out to be), meant a greater security of supply - especially when the US started embargoing Japanese supplies of oil and steel (to be fair, the embargo was to punish Japan for atrocities in East Asia - I wouldn't want you to think Japan was an innocent in all this). Japan's answer to the problem was to launch a pre-emptive strike against the US and disable their ability to wage effective war in the medium term - giving Japan time to secure the resources it needed and then build up defences enough to make the US loath to attack.

Where does New Zealand (or for that matter, Australia) fit into the picture? Well, nowhere really - except insofar as we were allies of the main enemies that Japan has just created - the UK and the USA. Oh bugger. So wouldn't that mean that instead of needing to ally with the US to save our bacon from the Nips, we were actually becoming a target by becoming an ally ...


In closing this section I'll leave you with a section from a communique from a New Zealand defence official to the NZ Chief of Staff in 1942:
(7) The scale and probability of attack against New Zealand depends on ability to operate adequate naval and air forces from New Caledonia, Fiji and Samoa, and denial of these islands to the Japanese.
(8) If we hold secure bases in the Islands and can continue to operate reconnaissance and naval and air striking forces from them, the naval hazards to large invading forces and the difficulty of refuelling enemy naval escorts would render invasion extremely difficult, if not impracticable. Enemy raiding forces unencumbered by heavy transports and their escorts might reach New Zealand.
(9) If the Island Groups be lost, a full-scale attack on New Zealand is much more possible, but is considered unlikely for the following reasons:
(a) Possession of the South Pacific Islands will place the Japanese across the Allied lines of communication and isolate New Zealand from the United States. This will probably be sufficient for their purposes.
(b) The despatch of a powerful force to New Zealand entails a serious dispersion of Japanese strength and increased maintenance problems.
(c) Moves against bases in the Indian Ocean will inflict greater damage on the Allies, threaten the lines of communication in the Indian Ocean, and be a step towards closing the gap between Germany and Japan.
(d) The United States Fleet flanking the enemy lines of communication to New Zealand is a very real threat to an invasion expedition. This requires protection by a formidable force of capital ships, which the Japanese are most unlikely to risk at such a distance from Japan.
(10) Although arguable that Japan will invade New Zealand with a view to obtaining a powerful bargaining counter in any future negotiations, on balance it is considered the Japanese are more likely initially to direct any major offensive against the west and north rather than attempt an invasion of New Zealand and Australia, with the possible exception of Port Darwin.
(From the New Zealand Electronic Text Centre)

Disclaimer: Hopefully this is obvious, but the above isn't supposed to imply that we shouldn't have been involved in WWII in either the Pacific or European theatres - merely that involvement was not necessary for reasons of national security. There are a whole host of other reasons we should and did get involved.

Next Week: Mama always told my not to look into the eyes of the sun ... - Does it matter whether they saved our bacon?

You always wanted to know, but were afraid to ask:

How come TV psychics seem so convincing?

John Rogers kicks a man when he's down, which, let's face it, is the best time to do it:
Just. Stay. Down.

News of note:
French legislation could end iPod lock-in - Or, Steve Jobs, shut THE fuck up.
Bush Eats Baby, Republicans Defend President - 'nuff said.

Ain't no thing funnier than RapeBear:
On follow up calls - seriously everytime I read I get tears in my eyes. Four words: "Jews on a train". We are all going to hell for that one.

What about grown men who collect 3 3/4in action figures?:
The Geek Hierarchy

Friday, June 30, 2006

who do i have to kill to find some news?

So ... it's been cheap movie week and I've doused myself in a potent mixture of Dragnet, Under Siege, True Lies, and Robocop 1 & 2 and then lit the match. The things I've learnt:

  1. In the 80s it was compulsory for every cop movie to have at least one scene in a strip club. This may say something about the Reagan/Thatcher psychosocial infection (thank you Dr Bartholomew Wolper) ... or it could just be that 80s directors realised that men get painfully confused unless they see breasts are regular intervals (no, no, it's true. Would I lie to you?). Tom Hanks should go back to making fluffy comedies.
  2. Steven Seagal unfortunately has all the acting skill and emotional range of Stephen Hawking's voice box, but by heck it's a fun film anyway. There's oodles of fighting, AND breasts. Well, just two breasts, but I never was very good at counting my oodles. And for a movie that looks like it was bought and paid for by a Republican black ops team, it has a surprisingly subversive conversation at the end ... when I get a chance I'll transcribe - no bugger seems to have put the script on the net.
  3. Arnold Schwarzenegger is the creepiest goddamn husband I've ever seen. The man diverts covert intelligence resources from hunting for a terrorist who is smuggling ex-soviet MIRV nuclear warheads into the USA hidden inside 3000-year old Persian statues for some fiendish terroristic reason, and instead he devotes those resources to following his wife, whom he suspects of having an affair with a used car salesman (Bill Paxton, channelling Hudson). Said terrorists end up nuking an island in Florida. Arnie blackmails his wife into dirty dancing for what she thinks is a voyeristic spy (instead it's voyeristic Arnold, face hidden by an incredibly dark and convenient shadow, even though the rest of his body is perfectly recognisible). No wonder his daughter is a budding thief ... And, in a cruel twist of fate, we never get to see Tia Carrere's breasts. Still, the scene when the Harrier Jumpjets blow up the Florida causeway is pretty nifty.
  4. Robocop is a comedy. A violent, dystoptian comedy, but half a laugh riot nonetheless. C'mon, I dare you not to laugh when, after ED209 has pumped 60 high calibre rounds into a luckless executive's twitching and mutilated body, Dick Jones (my god, they called the guy Dick Jones!!) says "I'm sure it's only a glitch. A temporary setback." Classic. Heck, every scene with ED209 is played for laughs - he's a direct descendent of every drunken falling robot from the AT-ATs in Empire Strikes Back to the ... um, AT-STs in Return of the Jedi. Which just shows you where the 3 prequels went wrong - a distinct lack of drunk, falling robots. Except in the beginning of Revenge of the Sith with the ball-bearings, but man, that was just plain silly. If you can't take your comedy seriously, you shouldn't be out playing with an inflatable bobble stick.
  5. Speaking of The Empire Strikes Back, who the hell knew that Irvin Kershner, the man who made Lucas's script human, directed Robocop 2? Or that Frank Miller wrote the screenplay? Well, now you know.

You always wanted to know, but were afraid to ask:
What's the deal with stigmata?
Do copper bracelets ease pain?

Slimey Lawyer: Attempted murder? It's not like he killed someone ...

- Robocop, 1987

NB: Title of this post shamelessly stolen from Warren Ellis's Transmetropolitan. When I steal, I steal from the best. AND the least likely to sue me!

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

the frogs of war

Puppets Who Kill

Yep, I had to go change my pants too.

Bill the bloodthirsty ventriloquist dummy, Buttons the sexually hyperactive corporate mascot, Cuddles the foul-mouthed comfort doll and Rocko the con-artist plush puppy, all being looked after in a half-way house by a (human) social worker named Dan.

I mean, c'mon, how can I lose with quotes like this?
Rocko: I'd have to say I'm a breast man, myself.
Buttons: Ohhh, c'mon, it's the ass all the way.
Bill: I've always been partial to the torso and if there's a head attached, so much the better.
Inevitably when I actually get the DVD I'll be horribly disappointed, but in the meantime I bask in the warm glow of foolish hopes.

Monday, June 19, 2006

oh the humanity!

I really should be excited about Transformers. Okay, I'm not a true believer and my transformers-loving phase as a child was relatively short, but the simple fact is: Giant Robots rock. Giant Robots that Transform into cars and trucks and planes and shoot each other with large laser cannons are even better than rock. And CGI as at the point where it is definitely feasible to have a live action Giant Robot film without it looking stupid.

So why aren't I excited?

Well, I took a look on IMDB - and warning bells started going off, followed by a four-alarm klaxxon, the one you usually hear just before Soviet paratroopers start falling out of the sky because those limp-wristed liberals kowtowed to the Satanic Russkies and took their finger off the nu-kleeer trigger.

Director: Michael Bay. Director of The Island, Bad Boys I & II, Armageddon, Pearl Harbour, The Rock ... and Lionel Richie's "Do it to me" music video. Now, I liked the Rock, and The Island was okay in bits (those bits weren't necessarily coherent mind you), and Bad Boys might be okay on a rainy day ... but Armageddon and Pearl Harbour were both shit of the highest order. In Pearl Harbour I was rooting for the Japs, and not because I'm a rabid America hater (I start feeling patriotic during the President's speech in Independence day for Christ's sake! I'm a sucker!) - they just seemed competent and smart and motivated ... compared to the good guys. But I maybe I could look past Michael Bay, it is a Giant Robot movie after all, not high art. But then we come to ...

The Writers:
John Rogers. Who wrote the screenplay for Catwoman. And The Core. And episodes of ... the Cosby Show. Sigh.
Roberto Orci - all he seems to have written is episodes of Alias. He also gets a credit for Mission Impossible III, which was a reasonable film (not as good as MI 1, ten billion times better than MI 2). But he's also down for The Island, so something can't be right ...

Ray of hope: I can't see any big names in the cast list so far, which is a good sign. The only names I recognise: Bernie Mac (??), John Turturro and Jon Voight. John Turturro, for one, is classy actor, by any measure a busy man (72 acting entries on IMDB, 95% movies, starting with Raging Bull. He was "Man at table"). Most people probably remember him from O Brother Where Art Thou, or Secret Window, or even Do the Right T
hing. But I remember him best for playing the alternately sneaky player/pathetic weasel Bernie Bernbaum in Miller's Crossing. I know I've waxed lyrical about the film before so I won't bore you again. But if you haven't seen it for sweet zombie jesus's sake tell me and I'll lend it to you.

Coitus Interruptus over: We've got a year to hope they'll get Transformers right. In the meantime, sate your Giant Robot hunger with The Iron Giant. Possibly the best work ever from each of Jennifer Aniston, Harry Connick Jr and Vin Diesel - and even I've been known to get a lump in my throat at the ending, which means the rest of you pansies will blub like fire-hoses.

EDIT: The venerable Monkey-Fluider and Brain Stabber Josh just helpfully let me know what a colossal pillock I am - John Rogers is the same John Rogers who writes Kung-Fu Monkey. So if Transformers goes completely aubergine we'll know how to blame - that's right, MICHAEL BAY! That bastard.

EDIT THE 2ND: John Rogers talks about Catwoman (briefly). Heh.

EDIT THE 3RD: John Rogers makes no apologies for The Core. Fine, you bastards, I'll withhold judgement until I've watched the whole movie through. Sheesh! Oh, and check out The Biology of B Movie Monsters. Some people will take the fun out of anything ...

EDIT THE 4TH: Okay, after starting listening to the beginning of the commentary by Michael Bay on Bad Boys, maybe, just maybe he isn't the anti-christ. I have new respect for a guy who can admit in the first 2 minutes that he did the best he could with a bad script (rather than trying to claim, in the face of the evidence, that it's a great movie and everyone loved making it so much, and it has such an important message ...), and who made a reasonable popcorn action movie for a ridiculously low amount of money ($17 million, which I'm assuming is production only - so ex promotion costs). And who reveals that the fast cuts in one scene were partly for pacing but mainly to cover up that the set was pretty much made of cardboard.

Verna: What you doing?
Tom Reagan: Walking...
Verna: Don't let on any more than you have to.
Tom Reagan: the rain.
- Miller's Crossing, 1990.

we are amateurs

From Banking on Baghdad: Inside Iraq's 7,000-Year History of War, Profit and Conflict by Edwin Black. Excerpts from pages 41-47.
The Mongols waged organised terror as a war tactic to inspire surrender. When they approached they, they often did so in a great tumult. Sometimes they simply beat drums outside a walled city for days before an onslaught. Or they hurled incendiary missiles, or bombarded the the city walls in a perfection of siegecraft. Even as terrified inhabitants did not sleep, the Mongol warriors rested and dined on the stores they had carefully pre-positioned.

Unliked other invaders, their goal was not conquest and domination but utter destruction. Typically, an overrun city would be completely dismembered and rendered useless. Every living thing had to die - men, women, children, even cats and dogs. Death to opponents was a cruel, panful exercise - the more gruesome the murder, the greater the Mongol vindication. The Mongol custom was to report body counts by chopping off ears of their victims. Bag after bag was filled and delivered to ranking offiers as proof. This was more than warfare, more than plunder and subjugation, more than mere triumph - this was extermination.

... At Nessa, 70,000 people were ordered to bind each other's hands behind their backs. Then each one was systematically slaughtered as the masses awaited their turn ... At Merv, a major commercial hub in northeastern Persia, the population was cunningly convinced that they could safely exit the city in an orderly fashion, taking their most valued goods.It took four days for thousands of families to frantically gather their possessions and then nervously pass through the gate. They expected the promised safe passage. Instead, the 200 wealthiest men were identified and heinously tortured until they betrayed all their commercial agents and revealed their hidden troves of wealth. Then all the families were brutally torn from one another and and hideously butchered.

... At Nishapur, everything was burned, crushed, and pillaged, and all who lived were savagely murdered. The city disappeared. It was leveled to rubble, reduced to a space - except for three pyramids. To prevent any survivors from hiding among the heaps of corpses, orders went out to decapitate everyone. Those heads were towered into three ghastly monuments of extermination: one pyramid of male heads, one female, and one comprised of children. They stood as grotesque beacons and warnings.

... On February 5, 1258, after a six-day siege, the eastern fortifications [of Baghdad] were won. Entourage after entourage tried to reason with Hulagu [Khan], who would not life his siege or the invasion. Escape was impossible. The rivers were blocked. The roads were choked off. The mountain passes occupied. Finally the people of Baghdad obeyed an invitation to peaceably file out of the city gate. They were promised safe passage to Syria. But first, a census. Normally Baghdad's populations was hundreds of thousands, but with the swell of terrified refugees from the surrounding suburbs and village, it may have exceeded a million ... [they] filed out to the field, defenseless, their weapons left behind as instructed. Then, one by one, family by family, thousand by thousand, the Mongols did what they always did ... It is thought that Hulagu himself later bragged to King Louis IX of France that more than 2 million were killed. A Persian historian of the period stated the number was closer to 800,000. Others have estimated much more. The city's normal bustling population of nearly a million was swelled by multitudes of fleeing Moslems from the suburbs and surrounding villages. The higher death tolls are probably more accurate.
I would like to think that we are a more enlightened species than the Mongols were 800 years ago. At least these days have the good grace that when we lie, we lie about how few civilians we killed rather than exaggeratedly bragging about it ...

the electric frying pan of love, Part III

  • steam up a batch of sliced carrots, beans, and broccoli.
  • get one of those 3 minute macaroni cheese packets - one of the ones where you chuck the cheese-sauce powder into milk and then pour over the cooked macaroni.
  • assembled packet macaroni.
  • dice 1/3 to 1/2 half of an onion.
  • mix thoroughtly the macaoni cheese, steamed vegetables, diced onions and 1 can each of sweet chilli and lemon pepper tuna in a reasonable sized oven dish.
  • shake over a generous amount of wholemeal breadcrumbs, then follow with a generous amount of grated cheese.
  • Stick on the lid, then grill the sucker until the top is moderately crunchy without burning it.

If you like you can switch on the frying pan for continuities sake.

For those late to the party:
Part II
Part I

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

the calliope crashed to the ground

Before you read this post you might want to read The Dangers of Bread. It might put you in the right frame of mind ...

Today's NZ Herald had a story entitled Research finds more people indulging in party pills than expected. Or, as I'd like to call it, "a whole bunch of statistics that don't tell us much conclusive, but we'll sure as hell spin them for all they're worth".

Let's start with the first useless statistic: "of the one in seven who had tried them [legal party pills] in the past year, 15 per cent said the experience had a poor effect on their health". Which is very interesting. Except no attempt is made by the Herald at this point to define what "a poor effect on their health" means. Maybe they threw up? Or had the runs the next morning? Bleed from their eyes and then drew pentagrams on the bathroom floor in their own blood? Well, to find out we have to find the original report
(which is somewhat more informative and helpful than the Herald), which can be downloaded from here.

When we read deeper into the report we find that the question asked "whether their use of legal party pills had harmed eight areas of their life in the preceeding year". The eight areas were Energy and Vitality - 19.3%, Health - 14.6%, Financial position - 8.8%, Outlook on life - 6.3%, Home life - 4.7%, Friendships and social life - 4%, Work and study life - 2.9%, and Harmed children's health and well-being - 1%. Hardly stunning stuff. But we'll get back to this in a minute. Let's see what rent-a-moral-panic has to say:
The debate over party pills - legal highs that can have similar effects to amphetamine or Ecstasy - has intensified over what critics say is a growing problem.
Paul Gee, of Christchurch Hospital, said the emergency department dealt with about one BZP-influenced patient a week.
Dr Paul Gee, an emergency room doctor in Christchurch, seems to be quite the crusader against party pills. One wonders whether it is a coincidence that the other big crusader against their incidious effects, Jim Anderton, is also a native of Christchurch? But conspiracy theories aside, Dr Gee contradicts the idea the we have a "growing problem". How? Well he helped to write a paper last year that tracked admissions for party pill "adverse effects". A summary of the paper is here, and a article on it is here. Dr Gee's paper states that the emergency room at 80 incidents presenting because of party pills. The study period was 22 weeks in 2005, so we get a rate of 3.6 people a week in Christchurch with adverse effects during the study period. But now, according to the quote above, it's only 1 a week. Wow. Quite a serious problem then.

Dr Gee doesn't stop with his doom-mongering there. He goes on to say:
We have encountered people under the influence of BZP who have threatened family members with weapons and in one case set fire to their house while barricaded inside.
Dr Gee said 98 per cent of users could feel "a bit washed out for three or four days".
Good fuck. And this guy's a doctor? I hope I'm never hospitalised in Christchurch. 98% of users? Not according to the MoH survey. Loss of energy topped out at 18.4% amongst the psychological problems reported by users. Higher still was users reporting trouble sleeping, at 50.4% (frustratingly this is not further elaborated - was sleep profoundly disturbed for a lengthy period, or was it the equivalent of drinking too many cups of coffee?). Amongst physical problems, the biggest problem was poor appetite at 41.1%, followed by hot/cold flushes and excessive sweating, weighing in at 30.6% and 23.4% respectively. Well, that is a lot of users. But go back to those stats I quoted earlier. Despite users reporting all these symptoms, only one in five thought their energy and vitality had been affected, and one in six thought their health had been harmed. When you actually look at the number of people going to hospital things fall a little further into perspective: 1.2% thought they were in trouble enough to call an ambulance, 1% visited an emergency room, and only 0.4% were actually admitted (it would be helpful to know whether these actually all the same people but the study doesn't elaborate, sadly).

Dr Gee's 98% of users is utter bullshit, but that's not surprising because he is seeing his sample population in fucking emergency rooms; by definition he is only seeing the people with problems with party pill use. And this survey proves that the people he sees are overwhelmingly the unusual cases. As for his people under the influence of BZP who threatened people with weapons and burned down houses ... well, golly, were they under the influence of anything else? Did they have a previous history of violence maybe? Or possibly psychological problems? Had they eaten any bread lately? Dangerous shit, bread. Murder! Insanity! Death! You get the picture ...

At the end of the day this was a phone survey, not a clinical study, and the respondents were self-reporting. This is definitely a useful tool, but you get into difficulty when trying to extrapolate harms from such a survey - how does a user distinguish feeling dizzy caused by BZP, feeling dizzy because you downed too many RTDs on an empty stomach, and feeling dizzy from spinning around in a circle on a dance floor in a crazy fashion? Are you tired and washed out because of BZP use or because you didn't get home from partying until 5am in the morning?

But the most telling statistic was the number who had given up - 60.8% of the survey population. A third gave up because they didn't like the hangover, another third stopped because they didn't party as much, and the rest cited a range from health to expense. But the important thing is that a significant proportion of adults tried party pills, decided they didn't like them and so stopped using them. And another group of adults have tried it, liked it, and - despite the downsides to use metioned above - have made a reasoned and rational to keep taking the pills. And why the hell should they be stopped?

The smartest quote I've found on all this is from Ross Bell, from the NZ Drug Foundation. Last year, when commenting upon calls form Dr Gee for party pills to be banned, he remarked:
Of course, it would be interesting to know how many people are presenting to Dr Gee's emergency department with alcohol-related problems and whether he thinks alcohol should be banned accordingly ...
Oh, and funniest statistic goes to the methods used by respondents to "recover" from party pills: 50.2% used Recover Pills (whatever they are), 10.7% used alcohol ... and 1.3% used crack cocaine. Are these the same guys who used hammers to cure headaches?

A Snopes a Day; or, Shit You Should Stop Believing:
Six outrageous-but-real lawsuits showcase the need for tort reform Once you've read that, you should pop over to The McDonalds Coffee Case.

You always wanted to know, but were afraid to ask:
In "Blinded by the Light," what exactly is the lyric following the title phrase?
Best. Damn. Song. Ever.

Why do one's loins ache after a session of nonclimactic arousal?
Or, how not going all the way could give you cancer.

Alrighty, now before you go take a good look at this photo of Mohammed Abdul Kahar and Abul Koyair, the two gentlemen recently convicted of the crime of being recklessly and persistantly being Muslim while in possession of large beards. Have you had a good look? Then tell me this: screw being Muslim, with beards like that shouldn't they be forming the very first hill-billy death metal band in East London? Seriously.

... and finally, Monkey Fluids proves, once and for all, there ain't no thing funnier than sex with horses.

I'm gonna go build my own theme park! With blackjack and hookers! In fact, forget the park ...

From The Iron Triangle: Inside the Secret World of the Carlyle Group, by Dan Briody, page 10:

... in July 1971, operating under instructions from President Nixon, [Frederic] Malek had compiled figures on the number of Jews working within the Bureau of Labor and Statistics (BLS). Nixon, than at the height of his paranoia, believed that a "Jewish cabal" within the Bureau was undermining him, releasing unfavorable and inaccuate data to the public to damage his approval ratings. Malek, in a memo dated July 27, 1971, reported that 13 of the top 35 BLS officials were indeed Jewish, and provided their names to Nixon. In the months following, Chief Economist Peter Henle and Director of Current Emploee Analysis Harold Goldstein were reassigned to lower level postions within the BLS. At the time these events occurred, nothing was known of Nixon's anti-Semitic sentiments. It wasn't until 17 years later that the incident that the incident came back to haunt Malek, when Washington Post reporters uncovered the fateful memo while digging through old files from the Nixon administration.
Three points:
  1. This is why you should never trust your goverment further than you can throw it, because it is made up of people and most people are bastards. Just ask Apathy Jack, he's teaching their bastard children.
  2. You have to be especially worried about people so unselfconsciously evil that they write memos asking other people to do evil shit on their behalf.
  3. Never forget that everywhere in the world there is an otherwise good person willing to do the bidding of an evil person without question. See point one.
  4. From now on all the bad things in my life - you know, kidney stones, car accidents, a suspicious lack of rich, attractive women insisting that I become their toyboy - will be blamed on "a Jewish Cabal".
In retrospect, evil is probably the wrong word. But I'm having trouble coming up with a single word that encompasses "nasty", "stupid", and "ever so slightly insane".

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

truth in advertising

My work email address gets phenomenal amounts of spam each day, usually concerned with touting cheap viagra or pirate software. Occasionally I also get stock tip emails - you know, chinese company X is just about to conclude a profitable merger which will see its stock price soar in the next couple of days, etc. Usually I ignore these emails, but today one caught my eye, or at least the disclaimer at the bottom did. Emphasis is added:
Information within this report contains forward looking statements within the meaning of Section 27A of the SEC Act of 1934. Statements that involve discussions with respect to projections of future events are not statements of historical fact and may be forward looking statements. Don't rely on them to make decisions. The Company is not a reporting company registered under the Exchange Act of 1934. We have received one million two hundred thousand free trading shares from a third party not an officer, director or affiliate shareholder. We intend to sell all our shares now, which could cause the price to go down, resulting in losses to you. This company has: a reliance on loans from officers and directors to pay expenses. It is an operating company. The company is going to need financing to continue as a going concern ... A failure to finance could cause the company to go out of business. This report shall not be construed as any kind of investment advice or solicitation. You can lose all your money by investing in this stock.
So now not only are they going to scam you but they're also going to give you fair warning in advance?

The utter bastards.

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

a handshake of carbon monoxide

Now isn't this an interesting thing ... BNZ, one of the banks whose ATMs fell foul of the card skimmer recently, is replacing the machines it thinks are most at risk. The maker of those risky machines? Diebold, inc.

Diebold has a subsidery called Diebold Election Systems; DES came to prominence a few years when Bev Harris, researching the links between Republicans and electronic voting machine manufacturers, same across the source code to DES's machines on an unprotected website. Analysis of that source code revealed that the software was easily hackable and lacked robust auditing functionality (something that would be quite handy if you wanted to double-check whether anyone has stolen your election). It seems that any 3-toed moron could fiddle the vote tally, which means that Republicans and
Democrats could be behind the conspiracy ...

Of course Diebold isn't the only electronic voting company with potentially twitchy software ... but I'm not terribly surprised that their ATMs have also been fingered as security risks.

More links -
Corpwatch: November Surprise
Seattle Weekly: Black Box Backlash

Thursday, March 30, 2006

dead but dreaming

Yes, there is a God - a 28in high plush dark elder god.

If you want more information about your favorite high priest of the Great Old Ones, then you need to visit the Home Page for Evil, and then you can pop across to the 2004 Presidential Campaign page. Finally you can finish up with
(oh flaming zombie christ no!) the Sex Magazine - tagline? "For connisseurs of sensual horror".

Good lord.

A Snopes a Day; or, Shit You Should Stop Believing:
A tooth left in a glass of Coca-Cola will dissolve overnight

You always wanted to know, but were afraid to ask:
Could you jump off a bridge or a tall building and survive the fall?

Sunday, March 26, 2006

cannot stop the thought

For various reasons this week I have been thinking about death.

I don't have a terribly good relationship with death; and by that, I mean I have a hard time thinking about it. It's one of those that if I let it run around my head for long enough I'll have difficulty sleeping (in a cruel twist of fate, if I'm having difficulty sleeping in the first place, then I'll start thinking about death at which point I might as well give up and go watch Letterman).

While the actual process of dying (let me count the ways - drowning, falling from a great height, being stabbed, heart attack, etc, etc) is pretty scary all by itself - I'm by no means a man of great courage or fortitude - the prospect of ceasing to exist in a meaningful way absolutely terrifies me. I find it hard to conceive of. Of course, on one level I can imagine my non-existence; on quite another level I can't. It's like the difference between knowing that people experience love, and actually falling in love yourself.

I had a discussion with a friend of mine while waiting for our Burger Fuel order to arrive. The good Lord only knows how it came about, but basically we had opposing view points. I am afraid of death so I expressed a desire for immortality, or an afterlife - whilst I am an atheist of some description or another that doesn't mean it wouldn't be a pleasant surprise if there was a life after this one. As long as it was run by one of those blind watchmaker Gods who isn't too judgemental (christ only knows I'm a dirty sinner) I think I'd quite like it. My friend however, would not have a bar of it. Turns out he's not too fussed by the whole death thing and suspects that immortality would be more trouble than it's worth.

Of course it helps if you define what you mean by an afterlife. Your bog standard conception of heaven seems to be boil down to be just like here only nicer - you know, whole bunch of nice people (nice like you presumably - everyone else is downstairs being tortured for their sins - you know, like sleeping with women who are menstrating and eating pork and cutting your hair) ... nice people with halos, sitting on clouds in worthy contemplation of life, the universe and everything, occasionally tut-tutting at the antics of the living.

But this seems unlikely. I mean, what do you do all day? Contemplation only takes up so much of the your time, especially if you're like me and get distracted by pretty lights and those hot female angels (white gowns and wings. Oh yes). Other afterlifes have similar problems - I mean an infinity of Valhalla, fighting all day and then going up to the hall to eat roasts off the bone, quaff obscenely and wench with abandon would have to grate after a while surely?

Furthermore, if the afterlife turns out to be just like life only nicer then you suddenly have to ask the embarrassing question well then why the fuck did we have to go through all those years of hell on earth to get here - why couldn't we have just started with heaven in the first place? What kind of fucking sadist are you? Those of you who are familiar with the Argument from Evil will know one of the Free Will defense - i.e. that God would tolerate Evil as a natural collorary of accepting the Good of Free Will. But what about in heaven? Either the "better-than-life heaven" disproves the "to have free will you must have evil too" theorem, or in heaven you lose free will, which then begs the question about just how good heaven really is then, now that you are will-less drone.

But that's a simplistic view of the Judeo-Christian afterlife. Another conception is that we become one with God - merging with him in some happy-clappy hippy oneness with the Universe thing, presumably becoming one big orgasm of joy. And that's still not terribly satisfying. It seems that in becoming this big luminous being we would lose part of what is essentially us - our individuality. I'm not sure it's the afterlife/immortality that I desire.

There's more to this but I'm feeling pretty drained from the stuff that's happened today, so I'll try to finish this discussion off tomorrow night after South Park.

A Snopes a Day; or, Shit You Should Stop Believing:
Has anyone vanished in the Bermuda Triangle lately? Actually, it's not a Snopes but a Straight Dope article. I have the book they reference, rescued from a school fair I suspect. Kusche isn't the most exciting of writers, but he did approach the subject of the Bermuda Triangle with a unique methodology - he actually went looking for source material, instead of what most Trianglists did, which was read the books of other half-baked, crackpot Trianglists and then go and make up some new shit. Result? All the "disappearances" in the "Triangle" are either entirely explicable, non-existant, or, rather amusingly, didn't actually occur anywhere near the supposed area in question ...

Thanks to the Coriolis effect, toilets flush clockwise in the northern hemisphere and counterclockwise in the southern. Bugger, another thing I believed implictly based on a Simpsons

You always wanted to know, but were afraid to ask:

What exactly was the sin of Onan?

Twisted minds distort the picture books of our childhoods
Monkey Fluids
Ho boy. Don't say I didn't warn you ... personally this one is my favorite.

If you're anything like me you'll have to go and change your pants:
Miami Vice - release (US) summer 2006?

Monday, March 20, 2006

more interlude

There's a post about abortion out lurking out there, but tonight is not the night. Instead, I'm off to watch Mythbusters.

So it's all linky stuff: Take a look at the Unanswerables page on snopes - the page where all the really strange questions go. My favorite entry:
They say that if a person has a pet cat and dies, if the person's body is not found fairly soon after death, the cat, having not been fed, will become ravenously hungry and eat the dead person's face off — JUST the face!

Is this true? My cat often looks me in the face. I used to think he was just being friendly. Now I know he's just sizing me up, like a chef at a butcher shop, waiting for "the big day". Since hearing this rumor, every time my cat licks his chops it gives me the willies!
... although it's hard to beat this one ...
A friend of mine asked me if I've ever hear of invisible witches or ghosts that suck the blood out of a person's arm while they are sleeping. Apparently, she saw "marks" on her boyfriend's arm and this was the story that he told her.
... yup. That's going to be the excuse I use next time too.
A Snopes a Day; or, Shit You Should Stop Believing:
The average person swallows eight spiders per year

You always wanted to know, but were afraid to ask:
Are twin-blade razors better than single-blade ones? This Straight Dope article from 1983, but I thought it topical since Gillette has just released the 5-bladed razor (it's called Fusion, but that's just because "why yes, my penis is bigger than yours" had already been trademarked) . Personally, I'm waiting for one with lasers).

In a falling elevator, could you save yourself by jumping up at the last minute?

Daily Onion fix:
Conspiracy Theorist Has Elaborate Explanation For Why He's Single

No, you don't see dead people. You're just stone-cold crazy.
John Edward's Cold Reading Gig
Crossing Fingers Over Behind Your Back

Thursday, March 09, 2006

down in the trenches of hell, digging madly: Part 2.

I'd like to blog a little about how fucked up my work is at the moment, but I'm working on a little ulcer to go with my 2 week old flu, so I'll hold in the bile for another night.

Tonight it's all about the census.

Or, more specifically, that question. You know, the controversial one.

Many, many people have lain on their backs and batted this around like a cat-toy; Tze-Ming's posts I thought we ethnic minorities were the ones who were meant to have the identity problems and Re-name in vain are required reading. Hell, I even tackled it a while back with the horribly mis-named speaking of sexual perversions ...

Let me be honest: when someone says that they should be able to put down New Zealander as their ethnicity I feel that it is kind of like saying "I'm not racist - some of my best friends are niggers/ chinks/ wops /dagos /democrats". Ethnicity these days takes on the appearance of a zero sum game - revenge against all the slights us white people have to endure everyday for everyone else flaunting their non-whiteness with impunity. Christ, even I'm not immune. I dearly wanted to put down my ethnicity as Pakeha but because the "We're New Zealanders" campaign had slacked me off I used the New Zealand European box as a gesture of defiance. Sad, I know.

But I still feel that the whole question is a little old fashioned; and if nothing else it's just not terribly precise. If you are going to put me in a box I'd like one that fits like a glove, ta muchly. So next census I'd like questions like this:

  • What country/region did you go to school (or were you home-schooled?)
  • Where were your parents born?
  • Where did you spend your formative years?
  • Were you raised by two parents, one parent, extended family (or combinations thereof)?
... you get the picture. Let's really build a picture of our people. An immigrant from Mainland China is different to an Immigrant from Hong Kong, is different from an immigrant who came here at 3 years old from Mainland China, is different to someone who was born in China, lived until they were 10 years old in UAE, and then came to live here.

And while we're at it, why not take a snapshot of our views as a society? Death penalty, abortion, tax levels, GE crops ... okay, phrasing those sort of questions would take great care, but wouldn't it make the census a more valuable data source?

Or are we afraid of the answers we might get?

Fuck it. Next census I'm going to stick it to the man and put down my ethnicity as Jedi.

A Snopes a Day; or, Shit You Should Stop Believing:
The average person needs to drink eight glasses of water per day to avoid being "chronically dehydrated."

Daily Science Fix:
Fat and Happy: Why Most People Don't Diet and Voice of Reason: Fact vs. Fiction on Obesity

Daily Onion fix:

White House Had Prior Knowledge Of Cheney Threat - Aug. 2005 Briefing Warned, 'Cheney Determined To Shoot Old Man In Face'

Daily Matthew Dentith quote fix:

Stolen from Broken Planet News:
Group challenges science on 'biblically correct' tours; or, why you shouldn't sleep with your sister.

Abortion debates are like watching a car crash in slow motion:
S.D. House approves sweeping abortion ban I'm warning you now - they're up to fricking page 20 on this discussion.