Wednesday, 29 November 2006

What's interpretive dance for "It'll blow in five minutes!"?

Just a short post to point out the latest buzz in bomb detection...

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Monday, 27 November 2006

These things I don't believe (in)

Okay, let's get some basic facts sorted out from the beginning so you can work out right now whether or not to listen to what I have to say in this blog or immediately disregard everything just because I don't share your belief in X.

I am, as one label might be, a "rational materialist". I try to limit the irrational concepts I accept as far as possible. I accept the scientific process of discovering new and interesting facets about the world and the universe around us, but also accept that this process involves human beings and that errors can creep in. Much of often cited that the scientific process is "self-correcting", but this can take time and is often derided by critics who just want to point out science is wrong... usually because it disagrees with whatever fanciful idea the critic wants to believe in.

And so, I do not accept any of the following (not necessarily exhaustive list) as real (with the caveat of revising my opinion on the presentation of solid tested scientific evidence):

  • God/dess (of any kind and/or plurality)
  • Soul/Afterlife/Reincarnation
  • Free Will
  • Objective morality
  • UFOs/Alien abductions
  • Homeopathy / Complementary medicine (aside from placebo effects)
  • Chi/Life force
  • Psychics/Mediums
  • Bigfoot/lake monsters
Some people would say that this is a world view bereft of beauty. I think Lynne Kelly responded to that best in "The Skeptics' Guide to the Paranormal":
Some believers accuse skeptics of having nothing left but a dull, cold, scientific world. I am left with only art, music, literature, theatre, the magnificence of nature, mathematics, the human spirit, sex, the cosmos, friendship, history, science, imagination, dreams, oceans, mountains, love and the wonder of birth. That'll do me.

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Sunday, 26 November 2006

It's more than Weird enough

I'm currently giving a lot of listening time to Weird Al's latest album, Straight Outta Lynwood. His major single off that album is White and Nerdy, which describes most of us so well.

But there's another song that he put out at the moment too which is perfect, namely You're Pitiful. There's a bit of a story behind it, and there'll never be a video for it, but I think this fan video is perfect, and would be exactly the video Weird Al would make. Great stuff!

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Saturday, 25 November 2006

It's so Amazing!

I can't believe I forgot a website! The James Randi Educational Foundation is a great resource for skeptical thinking. James Randi, aka The Amazing Randi, is a magician of renown and when he sees the work of "psychics" and dowsers, etc., he sees the same psychological tricks and slight of hands that magicians regularly use. And he's prepared to say so.

But some people don't like this (namely the aforementioned "psychics" and co.) and now they can stick it to him. Literally! The Amazing Randi comes with pins so you too can get your own back on Randi according to accepted and sound voodoo practices. Cool, huh?

And don't forget to check out the newsletter, Swift, for the ongoing battle against the slush that is used against us and, basically, get our money and worse.

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Friday, 24 November 2006

Blogging in a vacuum

Obviously there are hundreds if not millions of blogs out there, and no-one has time to read them all. Indeed, quite likely, there a hundreds that barely anyone reads at all. Some are highly read and checked every day for the next fascinating post, often talking about some exciting new discovery or point in your particular area of interest.

This isn't one of those blogs.

(No, I don't know for certain that no-one is reading this, but I can take a reasonable guess that it's not going to hit anyone's top ten list any time soon.)

And yet, we feel compelled to put our thoughts out there, though no-one may be listening (or reading). This has both positives and negatives. On the one hand... why bother? If you're saying great material in an empty room, you're still in an empty room, and it is just a big waste of time.

On the other hand... it's incredibly freeing. You can say what you like and know no-one will be offended, because there's no-one to offend. And, also, you know there's no-one that will point out what rubbish you're spouting. (And, years later, when you become famous, this provides plenty of material for people to mock you over. :) )

And that's what I'm feeling. I want tons of people to read my words... but then I'll have tons of people judging my words. Scary and exhilarating.

But here am I, in a vacuum, safe and secure...

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Thursday, 23 November 2006

The inevitable anniversay post...

Yes, many Doctor Who fans will be pointing this out, so I'll be original and do exactly the same.

How many other series are still going after 43 years? Although that's only because of the new series that we can say 'still going', as before that this series was as dead as any other. Yes, there were novels et al, but really, no one outside of us fanatics counted them.

But, hey, it is now 'still going', and there ain't many series that are doing that! That is could come back speaks a lot of the passion of the fans behind it, but the fact that its surviving well speaks to its enduring vision which has remained unchanged...

...well, it hasn't remained unchanged. Its vision has changed a lot, to what some people (such as myself) would describe as "soap opera". Does that appeal to me? Not really. Does it appeal to the masses? Yep. Now, which one of those appeals is the important one?

(And the vision has changed before. Just look at the fourth Doctor's adventures versus the first!)

ANYWAY... raise a glass in honour of this great series... much as I will be doing tomorrow at the next Wellington pub meet.

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Wednesday, 22 November 2006

Are you in the Conspiracy?

What is this Conspiracy II thing I'll often mention?

It's a science fiction convention, namely the 28th national science fiction convention for New Zealand. I'm on the committee so I can offer insight of what it is like to be behind the scenes of a convention.

So far, it's much like organising any other event. Big surprise, huh? I'm in charge of getting the events programmed. Unfortunately, we don't have many yet. We have lots of ideas, but unless we have people to run them, that won't be enough. Hey, if you come along and want to run something, I can guarantee you a slot!

We have a ton of literacy-based guests. If there's a particular science fiction and/or fantasy genre, we've probably got someone who writes it.
But lots of people like media guests. Due to their starring role commitments, this is never likely. Still, one never knows...

(The link is in the web links to the right, so I won't post it here again.)

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Greener Wellington

There are times when, as a Doctor Who fan, you can't help but make obvious connections...

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Tuesday, 21 November 2006

But did it remove the spots?

The Chinese are getting upset over a freckle remover, which just goes to show what can happen when "harmful" becomes visible. How much harm needs to be done before people step in and say "enough".

There are email scams, get rich quick scams and pyramid scams, but most of us see through that. What of credible sounding scams? Those that rely on dodgy sounding science of "quantum energy" or "the life force of the universe" or something else to make you think there is something to it. In most cases, the particular brand of snake oil is harmless enough, per se, but what about when it stops you from getting proper treatment? And what about when it is demonstrably harmful?

Weight loss is another area where there are plenty of bogus claims. Hey, who doesn't want to lose weight? (And I for one am certainly weighing in at a level for above healthy...) But when a product goes bad, only that one product is sunk. (And sometimes not even for that long.)

The Chinese are trying to crack down, but the system is working against them. Too many bad ideas have already gotten through the loop holes. At this point, they are closing the barn door on the horse's tail.

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And so it begins...

Introducing my foray into the world of blogging.

Expect posts on a number of topics, including rants both sane and otherwise. Discussions about my experience with Conspiracy II. Pointers to interesting stuff that I come across.

In other words, about the same random things you lot are involved with.

More posts to come as inspiration strikes...

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