Monday, 31 December 2007


We all have rituals, in all shapes and sizes (pilgrims to particular places each year, throwing salt over one's shoulder, watching a particular Christmas movie(*)). Tonight is one for me, and indeed I expect not to be the only one.

Tonight I'll be up to see in the New Year. Why? Um... just because really. I said around this time last year that is it an entirely arbitrary point to changing a count from a point people thought significant... but even I have to admit it is a compelling psychological point. (I did avoid seeing in 2000 just because I'm one of those that refuse to accept 2000 as the new millennium, and only cared about 2001.)

Unfortunately, in the olden days, there were big TV programs counting down the final minutes, but looking at the current TV schedule... it sucks! So, instead, although I have heard bad things, I'll be spending today slogging though 24 Season Six... which only takes 18 hours actually, when watching sans ads.

(*)Die Hard for me. And usually reread Hogfather as well. Haven't this year, though.


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Sunday, 30 December 2007

Spam Analysis

Am getting the latest barrage of spam emails. While I'm sure there are a number of well wishers towards me, somehow the title of "Happy New Year to [my email]" raises my suspicions flags. Getting them from random eddresses, and the body is:

Happy 2008 To You!
http://family postcards 2008 . com/

(spaces inserted to saw "screw you".)

Looking at the page (via Lynx, a text-based browser that doesn't automatically screw your computer), the page wants to download a piece of software "fck2008.exe" (or "fck2009.exe").

Definitely trying to fck my computer, but it looks like this is the latest Storm Worm virus.

At least this is a slight cut above "g3t BIGGER p 3 n 1 s nOw!"


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Friday, 28 December 2007

DW: Voyage of the Damned!

Hey, wait a minute, that didn't open with a zoom into London! Oh well, on to epic adventure!

Well, that intrusion into the TARDIS was easily resolved, wasn't it? With no explanation for why (different dimension!) nor any reaction from the crew that something weird happened before. Huh.

Anyways, ... what the hey? Yes, there is the obligatory explanation for what's going on, but it's still a paper thin reason for suddenly having a spaceship called Titanic turn up over earth, then threaten to plummet into it. Clearly, RTD wanted to do a disaster story, but I'm not thinking this was a good pick. Story took a definite backseat to the amazingness of the sets and the cast.

Yeah, let's talk about Kylie... was there any reason it that Kylie in particular was playing this role? It could have gone to any actress as far as I could see. The main point seemed to be to use her status as a shorthand for getting the audience to care about her so we would care when she tried to replicate the "get away from him you bitch" moment. Not to say she wasn't good in the role, just that Astrid wasn't much a part worth taking note of. (Yes, I wasn't moved at the big moment. I'm a hardhearted bastard.)

As for the other cast members, oh look, it's Geoffry "I'm a doctor, and I want my sausages" Palmer and Bernard "Sssppppoooooooonnnnsssss!!!!" Cribbins! And a bunch of others distinct enough so that we can remember them when they are a party moving through the ship (and note: the black guy died first!). Props all around, but Jimmy Vee stole the show. (And there was also some guy called Tennant around, but eh...)

As for the ship itself, the model looked gorgeous. Now there's a prop that needs to be sold! The sets were fine, with the BBC more than ready for the period costumes that the people wore (if anyone produced a period drama long running series, they'd need zero costume budget as that is all the BBC really seems to care about and stores everything period...). The Host... why? Does the planet Stow have the same mythological roots as the earth? Why angels with halos? (Or were they a deliberate rip from earth mythology... but again, why then and not, say, reindeer as something more appropriate.) There's no reason for them, honestly, and the heads were not the best feature of their outfits.

Overall, it was good, and the bit about London being evacuated was funny, but the show rocked from melodrama to farce in... well, a snap of the fingers. Not a failure by any means, but nothing special to me either.

Previews: Series Four - ooh, I recognise those beasties! Lots of stuff to come. Torchwood - eh... notice we see lots of the crew looking around, but nothing plot-wise (other than the presence of James Masters).


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Thursday, 27 December 2007

New comment whizzies

There is ever a war for popularity with any new whizzie gadgets: Betamax vs VHS, Microsoft vs DR Dos, Microsoft vs Apple, Microsoft vs intelligence... and on the net side of things, there is far too many competitors for blogging software, either install your own like Wordpress or Moveable Type, or sites like Blogger, Facebook, MySpace, Bebo, etc., etc., etc....

But it looks like there is also a fight for commenting functionality. The one that looks to be dominating everything is OpenID, an easy way to have a "single digital identity" on the internet. (Um, aren't people against being a number?)

However, it's not enough to have one identity, you can alternatively look the same, using Gravatars (globally recognised avatars)! Now you can have a little wee image that follows you around as you comment anywhere (or, for users of Wordpress, you can create distinctive Wavatars to make things look pretty).

All these things require users of the blogging software to make changes to activate this functionality (although it does look like software makers and blogging sites are taking away that choice), and so the popularity war is underway.

I don't have an OpenID Gravatar yet, but I'm sure it's the coming thing.


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Wednesday, 26 December 2007

The time has come...


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Tuesday, 25 December 2007

Celebrate the birthday!

On this day in history a great person was born, as we all know! I wanted to find some decent videos about him, but YouTube just turned up rubbish.

There was this musical tribute, but there is a reason filks are considered evil. I did find a rather... interesting look at his life. Here is some of his teachings, laid out in lego form! This is a rather surreal take on his time in the desert. But we all know he can't play poker.

Oh well, at least we can all appreciate the resulting works of Sir Isaac Newton, born 25 December 1642...according to Old Style dates, anyway.


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Monday, 24 December 2007

Ah, that song...

Because there is a single word they don't want you to hear.


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Sunday, 23 December 2007

It's the 12 days of Christmas!

Swear Bear style! (NSFW!)


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Saturday, 22 December 2007

Early Christmas Present

Here they are, the Four Horsemen of Atheism: Richard Dawkins, Daniel Dennett, Sam Harris and Christopher Hitchens.

They gathered together for a two hour discussion ranging over all kinds of topics... and you can see the results!

You can either download Quicktime movs, or torrents, or just the audio files (which is fine), or you can buy it on DVD (with proceeds going to the Ayaan Hirsi Ali Security Trust).



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Friday, 21 December 2007

20 candles for 75!

The other fanzine of the week is TSV #75, the one with the spectacular colour cover!

The first page bulk are reviews of Series 3, and an interesting collection of views they are. It was quite surprising that so many views agreed that the ones that split the reviews were a odd occurrence. Since every review got a rating out of five, we have boring statistics time again!

Smith and Jones get 3.4, The Shakespeare Code gets 3.2, Gridlock 3.8, Daleks in Manhatten 2.4, Evolution of the Daleks 2, The Lazarus Experiment 3.2, 42 3.2, Human Nature 4.8, Family of Blood 5, Blink 4.6, Utopia 4.2, The Sound of Drums 4.2, The Last of the Time Lords 3.2. Winner is Family of Blood, the loser is Evolution of the Daleks.

Reviewers wise, they all rated the series overall as 4, but how did they really do? Stuart Brown rates 3.8, Andrew Foxley 3.9, Jon Preddle 3.4, Paul Scoones 3.5, Izzy von Lichtan 3.6. So the most appreciative was Andrew, the least Jon. Overall, the series rates 3.6, so the 4 was about right.

Paul gives us a breakdown of the origins of TSV, including a very informative look at the pages of TSV #1. The continuing look at the PDAs continues to interest me. Singapore Who continues Jon's obsession with all things DW transit (Singapore? Really?).

Edwin gives a list of websites worth looking at, although I would also add in Fishpond (especially when they forget to adjust the price!) and Galaxy Books.

While all good, the best parts of this issue are the cartoons by Amy Mebberson. Spot on and very well done! Adam, you're not paying her enough!


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Thursday, 20 December 2007

Watch this!

Turn up to the movies at the listed time...and start watching ads! Why do we put up with that? It does give some leeway for turning up late, but it's still really annoying...

Anyway, the still ads go first, then the moving ads... and then the movie trailers start, usually for movies I don't care about but the cinema probably thinks we would like because we're trapped in the dark.

Speaking of, at the Reading theatres, have you seen that ad (and how could you not?) for the Reading Reel Club, with the fat guy eating chips? A book comes out from a bookcase (and take a look at those titles, that's some occult reading), hits him on the back of the head, and then doors open, and we are told: "Don't sit in the dark in your house, come and sit in the dark in our theatre!"

But after all that, it's time for the movie... only it's not! Many times recently, I'm still being hit with yet another movie trailer! Before it was AVP-R, and the other day it was National Treasure. Annoying me like this is enough to make me not want to see the movie!

(Although I probably will... sigh...)

Going to the movies is an experience in itself before we even get to the movie. And it's not a good one...


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Wednesday, 19 December 2007

25 Reversed Polarities!

RTP#25 is an issue of two halves (how could it not be?): one half done by Alex, the other half done by Peter.

Because it was easier to look at, I started off by reading the end of Cydonia. Which was big and epic and tied up all sorts of plot lines that had been building over the past issues. Well, I guess it did. At some point it might be an idea to go back and reread all the parts in one go (a special combined issue?), because, to be honest, I can't remember most of it. But at least, according to the commentary, it made him happy to wrap it up, so that's good.

Peter also interviews Kelly Buchanan about Doctor Who, politics and Faction Paradox. Interesting stuff, but there was more there that we couldn't find out about. (Shame, but there you go.)

The other main component of #25 was part three of the look at Saucer Who. Lots of interesting details there. Although Alex did miss a trick in not putting the picture on pages 18/19 in the centerfold of this issue! (I had forgotten I'd written something for this issue.)

Other random bits help fill out the diversity of the issue: Graham Muir's partial review of Series Three (or did extra pages with the rest of the review fall out?). David's view of Torchcould (although this and his letter both suffer from drop out. What happened at the end of column three in his article? and what sentence starts with 'chair'?). And the Doctor rues his alliance with the Daleks...

This issue is a tenth anniversary issue, but aside from the editorial there isn't anything special. Then again, the big look back was a few issues back.


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Tuesday, 18 December 2007


So I did get around to watching Beowulf (although not the 3D version - although I could tell where things were going to be thrusting into my face...).

Yeah, it's an animated movie all right (although I gather they don't like being considered "animated" like all the other movies out there), but it's nothing that impressive given the current state of technology. Frankly, Shrek could have done this. I saw photo-realistic stuff like this back in Final Fantasy 7. Most of the images are nice, but when their mouths move, it doesn't come across as quite right.

Story-wise, I think I should get around to reading the actual poem at some point, because I can see that this is a rather glossy retelling that undoubtedly takes many liberties with minor things like details and actual plot.

Ultimately, it was enjoyable, but not something that will be remembered throughout the ages...


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Monday, 17 December 2007

The "good" lie

Christmas Time... Mistletoe and Wine... and presents. Lots and lots of presents.

But only if you are good.

Yes, it's that time of the year again, when we celebrate the winter solstice... er, I mean the ever burning oil... no wait, the birth of a lamb! Which has what to do with giving people presents? (Actually, I do remember being taught a story of about how wise men stopped at houses and said "we're going to see the new baby, wanna give us something?" One woman said no, later regretted it, then went around giving everyone presents in the hope of getting in on the action. Yeah, that's what really happened.)

Anyways... in midst of all this reality (it's all those things and more!), we also have Saint Nicholas, who rewards good behaviour. This is clearly something kids respond to well, including issuing threats to the big guy.

Sooner or later the kids find out what's really going on, and some go on to question everything they are told. We comfort ourselves that this is all a good thing, but face facts. We are lying to children about a non-existent being at the North Pole(*), so they will do what we say, and incidentally helps them accpt other lies we tell them.

Good on us...

(*)Don't tell me "you had a cruddy Christmas as a kid and are taking it out on the rest of us." You don't know me, and that wasn't true. But I did come to the realisation that I'd rather get gifts from my parents that someone who didn't care about me (aside from my 'goodness').


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Sunday, 16 December 2007

3D is No-D

The big excitement over the wunderbar Beowulf movie is that, in some locations, it is playing in Dolby 3-D. Which thought meant really good sound, but is visual 3-D, ala those classic movies with lots of monsters reaching out to the audience.

Now, while this is a cool thing, it kinda bites for me. As I wear glasses, and 3-D glasses(*) need to go in front, I have trouble at the best of times trying to get the 3-D effect to work. Even still images are a problem!

So, no sword swinging in my face for me. :(

(*)Get them for "free" at the theatre as long as you hand them back. If you damage them... $80!!


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Saturday, 15 December 2007

I got mail!

Pity none of it's for me. In the past few days I have gotted:

Something for a woman who was the tenant before the tenant before me! And I've been here for a few years now! And this is by no means the first time.

The third of a group of items (about one a week) for someone who, it turns out, is the house next to me. From the Wellington Parking and Infringement Centre or something.

And a Christmas card for "Johnnie & Peter". Whoever they are. No return address or anything.

Usually I'm nice and "Return to Sender", but am getting really irritated and am at the point of just throwing these things out. It's not like the senders care, I send that Parking thing back as RtS twice and it still came!

I reckon people are just randomly giving out my address so they won't be bothered by mail from people they don't like.

(And this isn't counting the mail that is for another flat in my block of three, but ends up in my mailbox merely because I'm the first one...)


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Friday, 14 December 2007

Exploding Whale!

You've heard about it... here it is!


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Thursday, 13 December 2007

I did it... I actually did it...

Spent a wad of money and got me own domain name:

Clicking on it, you might notice a slight recursive nature... yeah, it points to here. I have another site I could point to, but this is the one I update far more frequently that any other. (Been a while since I updated elsewhere...)

Big excitement? Not really. But it is a lot easier to remember...


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Wednesday, 12 December 2007

Compass fracass

Hey, if I complain, can I get free tickets to the Golden Compass as well? Not that the Catholics over here have been making that much of a fuss, unlike the Americans who are screaming like someone dare suggested that Bush Jnr. is potentially not fully compos mentis.

The Golden Compass...blah blah...Phillip Pullman...blah adapted from the book, it's so evil it's teaching little kiddies about atheism, how dare this happen before they can be brainwashed into accepting the true nature of life (ie there was nothing before Jesus). I know that human nature is such that generally we try for the easy path in life, to only look for things we already agree with, but there is only so far this can go on. (Is religion really that fragile that it can't bear even the slightest of challenges?)

Not that this movie looks to be that great. It was made safe for the viewing masses (ie, anything possibly anti-religious has been removed) that now it's all glitz and glamour without substance. Huh. Sounds perfect for the American market to me...


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Tuesday, 11 December 2007

53? What 53?

When I was proofreading TSV 53, I found an increasing sense of unfamiliarity. I'm not saying I remember every word in every issue, but nothing here was sparking any memories at all (well, except for one piece, see below). I'm thinking I never read this when it came out with #54. Weird.

Still, this does mean I get to appreciate A Question of Answers as a new reader. I get to be amazed by the vampires mentioned by James Grant. At last I understand what those teasing pictures for Dominion was all about. (And I also read a Karkus that makes a later Altos loves Yartec strip (in #69) seem like a rip-off.) It was a strange experience.

The one piece I did know was, of course, the story I wrote: Hotline. It was basically a piece that went directly for the humour, which is why I end up bashing the sixth Doctor so much. I also loved the idea that the Doctor got lost in the TARDIS and needed directions back to the console room. :) However, one thing that didn't work very well was that the Master was supposed to be one just one line and he was continually picked up, then put back on hold. I couldn't really find a nice way to express that. Still, it's still amusing.

As ever, check out more commentary by Alden and Paul.


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Monday, 10 December 2007

Thirteen to Centarus

Jeff pointed this out to me (and the rest of this text is cribbed from his email). This is a complete episode of the mostly-missing 60s/70s BBC Outer Limits knock-off, Out of the Unknown. The BBC threw out almost all of the colour ones, leaving the b&w seasons relatively intact. Odd, considering 'no-one wants to see b&w anymore'. They found a previously missing ep of OOTU in Europe 22-odd months ago.


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Sunday, 9 December 2007

That's amazing!

xkcd's latest strip is about how amazing it is to be in the 21st century. Allow me to present another thinker:

Here we are, evolved from by the process of natural selection and contingency, to become creatures that hit pieces of plastic that send electronic signals to bits of wire and silicone, that creates electrons on a piece of glass (or LCD) that enables us to think we can understand the world with computers(*).

What you're looking at right now...and even right now...doesn't exist as you think it does. It's just your brain interpreting light particles impacting on nerves to create a three-dimensional image of what you perceive as the world around you.

And, as Douglas Adams said:

The fact that we live at the bottom of a deep gravity well, on the surface of a gas covered planet going around a nuclear fireball 90 million miles away and think this to be normal is obviously some indication of how skewed our perspective tends to be.

(* Or watch porn. 'Amazing' means different things to different people.)


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Saturday, 8 December 2007

Bashing people for Christ

Now, whether or not the Anti-Smacking Law is a law we should have is indeed something of interest to discuss. [My own view is that there is a difference between smacking and full of physical abuse, but the law is hazy about grey areas.] And some people are going to do more than discuss it, they are going to be charged under it for hitting their children. Such as this man.

Why did he hit his kids? Because, and let me quote this: "I believe very strongly in smacking as a form of discipline. I'm a Christian, and believe it's what I've been commanded to do." That's right. The book of peace and love instructed him to hit his kid with a rod (or wooden spoon, as the case may be).

The actual passage is from Proverbs 13:24

13:24 He that spareth his rod hateth his son: but he that loveth him chasteneth him betimes.

Mmm...feel that peace and love... Now that is from the Old Testament. Which is an interesting point. So we have a Christian who is following the teachings from the entire bible. Well then, let me quote from Deuteronomy 21: 18-21
21:18 If a man have a stubborn and rebellious son, which will not obey the voice of his father, or the voice of his mother, and that, when they have chastened him, will not hearken unto them:
21:19 Then shall his father and his mother lay hold on him, and bring him out unto the elders of his city, and unto the gate of his place;
21:20 And they shall say unto the elders of his city, This our son is stubborn and rebellious, he will not obey our voice; he is a glutton, and a drunkard.
21:21 And all the men of his city shall stone him with stones, that he die: so shalt thou put evil away from among you; and all Israel shall hear, and fear.

Why beat when you can stone to death? As encouraged by the bible! (Ah, Deuteronomy, such crazy stuff...)

I'm sure he would be the first to say "that's going too far"...but it's in his bible. If he isn't following it, then he's picking which bits of the bible to follow (leading to what we call "supermarket religion"), but, more important, he has some criteria to decide which bits to pick. Clearly, that criteria has come from outside of the bible (as the bible says "take everything!"). And if there is something outside the bible that tells us what's good and what isn't...whyfore then do we need the bible?


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Friday, 7 December 2007

Coupling action!

When looking on YouTube for videos from Coupling for my previous post, I found lots of videos for train coupling.

Now, we all know about train spotters, but this was something I definitely wasn't expecting. How many videos of trains coupling do we need? (Quite a few Japanese ones for some reason.)

And, if you can handle it, there's decoupling action too!

As it has been said: it doesn't take all kinds, we just have all kinds...


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Thursday, 6 December 2007

Town character

No, not atmosphere, but the local... people who are so memorable to see.

Such as, here in Wellington, Blanket Man! Often seen on Cuba Street, looked at very strangely, largely ignored by the populace as these people mostly are. Yeah, even me. But I don't mind him around. He might be... intellectually different, but at least he's obviously so. It's the subtle ones you need to watch out for. But, he's harmless, and he's ours.

A more known figure is the Wizard down in Christchurch who just hit 75! Now there's someone who knows how to be strange and do good with it! Got onto television, and refuses to be in the Census by being offshore on a particular date every few years. He seems fun!

And as for Auckland... umm... is there anyone noticably weird up there? (I mean, moreso than the rest of you...)


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Wednesday, 5 December 2007

Coupling Steven Moffat

Based purely on his brilliant sci-fi scripts, I decided to pick up the entire series of Coupling (that it was available cheaply didn't hurt). Many people would immediately say "this is the British version of Friends", and I can't deny that charge, although Steven claims more influence from Seinfeld and the series is more of a form of ripped off autobiography of his life with now wife (and series producer) Sue Vertue.

Being from Moffat is it extremely funny, although watching it all in one go does make the later episodes feel like an effort to get through, and I starting skimming through the opening titles before the end of series one.

Would have to say that my favourite character is Jeff, the insecure one, who unfortunately didn't get into the fourth series. (He is replaced by Oliver, through whom Steven gets to make lots of sci-fi geek references, and throw in a lot of Doctor Who moments, including having Nicholas Briggs give a rather familiar vocal performance!) [And seeing Gina Bellman did cause some cognitive dissonance as I had seen her in Jekyll.]

There was an attempt to recreate it as a US series (to put on versus Friends), but seems like it fell over before it got through the first season because it was so terrible (as anyone who's seen US-adaptions of UK shows would have predicted).


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Tuesday, 4 December 2007

Affect of the Doctor

When it was announced that someone was writing Billie Piper's autobiography, we all thought "'ey up, she ain't done nuffin yet, that's a bit off, innit?" (although probably with less of an accent). But I've just been reading a sort of autobiography that was basically focusing on their teen years...and it was a fascinating read!

Of course, I have a slight bias in that this was a Doctor Who book, but not one by one of the more recognised stars. I'm talking about "The Doctor's Affect" by Steve Cambden, who's claim to Doctor Who fame was that he helped Nigel Brackley control K9. Woo!

This book is written extremely engagingly, proving that inserting personal observation onto the more dry facts of "this effect was done like this, and that effect was done like that" is an excellent narrative technique. How did he have do much trouble finding someone to publish this? (He eventually self-published.)

Steve grew up with Doctor Who and Tom Baker especially influenced him. Taking any opportunity he could get, Steve managed to get himself onto a Doctor Who set as a helping hand - at the tender age of 16! He was there during the later part of K9's role on the show and treats us to the ups and downs (or lack thereof) of K9's performance and of the show itself, pulling no punches (not that he has a lot of punches, not exactly in a position to get the real dirt on the happenings).

If you have any interest in the show, especially behind the scenes, I highly recommend this book, it's a compelling read. (Although it could have used an editor's eye...and page numbers!) Onto his next book: The Doctor's Effect.


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Monday, 3 December 2007

I like chicken!

But it looks like I should, as chicken is full of bugs. Damn that evolution!

The bacteria of two chickens tested resistant to apramycin. They also proved resistant to another two antibiotics from the same family - gentamicin and tobramycin - used for serious human infections.

Oh, that sounds bad... I guess. The article compares this finding with that of the Ribena scandal (was it big enough to call a scandal?), in which another schoolgirls did a scientific experiment that produced alarming results. I think this points to the conclusion that we should stop all school science experiments immediately! They are clearly getting in the way of business profits!

Still, at least we can spin this as not a problem:

"What Jane has done is taken a very small snapshot and it has shown a surprising observation," he said. "But it's a time-specific snapshot and it's not a good look."

Ah, so it's a matter of "yeah, that might have been true, like, yesterday, but it might not be the case today!" I get that, great excuse...

But since, if I was restricted to just one type of meat, I would choose chicken, I'm not giving up the habit just yet.


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Sunday, 2 December 2007

Phew, demons are Christians!

Exciting article on Saturday telling us all about exorcisms and how they exorcise real demons from people. Despite the fact that the church is often saying "we don't do that any more". And that lots of priests have said "we prefer to first go for psychiatric style investigation before assuming actual demonic impression because that's more responsible."

Nope, what we have here is Michael Hewat, ready to exorcise at the drop of a demonic curseword. 'Cos that's how you can tell people are possessed. They start growling, and cursing and glowing eyes and spewing blood... oh wait, those last two things don't happen, and it's not like anyone could do the first two unless they are possessed.

But the best point about exorcisms, which isn't mentioned in the article, is that they work! Never once has it been "hey, you can't exorcise me. I don't reocgnise your god, I was made by Zeus!" or "don't try that pansy crap on me, I am an aspect of Shiva!"

Which leads to four possibilities:
1. The demons really do follow the Christian religion.
2. Christian rituals evolved (evolved? never!) to deal with demons properly.
3. Doesn't matter what ritual, any works on demons.

At least there's the token skeptic voice of David Riddell in there, talking about the power of suggestion.


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Saturday, 1 December 2007

Slow news day

Yeah, there was exciting stuff going on yesterday. It's hard to know where to look first.

There's the exciting news of a crane being finished! Woo! And Britney and Paris are bad role models! Well, I never! And then there's Beckhan Watch! Hold me bad!

If only there was real news to talk about. Like, say, the woman who was lashed for being raped. Or the woman who was jailed for letting children named a teddy bear after... one of the kids, actually. Or how one woman has to get others to help pay for security because governments aren't interested.

Whatever sells papers, I suppose...


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