Friday, 31 August 2007

You can choose...

To Live Free or Die Hard! (Note: not safe for work.) And also it contains spoilers for all four movies.

(And here's the Guyz Nite website.)


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Thursday, 30 August 2007

When I think of Maddy...

She's touching herself.

At least, that's what everyone else is thinking. It certainly made an impact, and that moment in her show where she is touching herself (during the song Like a Virgin during the Blond Ambition show) made the top 25 list of biggest celebrity scandals (at number 25).

Frankly, I'm surprised she only made number 25, and only appeared once. :)

(I won't reveal number one.)


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Wednesday, 29 August 2007

Not-blue moon!

The clouds haunted the day, but finally cleared at night enough to give a brilliant view of the moon (although scattered cloud continued to fight)...

It might not sound that exciting, seeing a red moon (and it is definitely reading as red), but... it's just cool! Unfortunately, I can't show you what I saw, because I don't have a digital camera. (And a time lapse movie would have looked great...) But just after the moon finished being eclipsed...the clouds won.

Probably be something on YouTube later...


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Tuesday, 28 August 2007

You'd better watch out!

Watch out!

For the moon, that is! Yep, tonight's the night the moon turns BLOOD RED! It's one of them lunar eclipsy thingies.

You can find out about the astronomics involved by looking at this here blog entry by Pamela Gay. Of note is the title: if it doesn't work for Americans, then it is EVIL!!!!

And just because I like linking to Phil, let me also point out that tonight Mars will not compare.


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Monday, 27 August 2007

Cos gas is still funny

Here's another Mythbusters segment that never aired.


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Sunday, 26 August 2007

Those Enemies are back

And here's the second part of Richard Dawkins' series, The Enemies of Reason.

The Irrational Health Service. (And he does point out some good that these people do. But they could do so much better by doing it right.)

(Not great quality, but this is google video.)


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Saturday, 25 August 2007

Truth in advertising

I've talked about Hell before. And why not? They make damn good pizza (or good pizza that damns you, your choice). They certainly like to create controversies, and they say there's no such thing as bad publicity... but I'm not here to talk about them.

One of their ads recently featured Hilter, arm out in salute, holding a piece of pizza, saying that heaven in HELL. Fine and good, but then three complaints from Jews later and the poster was deemed inappropriate and pulled. What exactly is the fine line between sensitivity and kowtowing to the slightest suggestion that you are offending people? Remember, there is no right to not be offended. This is the sort of thing that eventually leads to not even daring to publish cartoons of certain religious figures. But I'm not here to talk about that.

I am here to talk about the ad agency behind this promotion. This is either a brilliant piece of reverse psychology, or the winner of the Stupidest Saying This Week award. (Emphasis mine.)

"MacGibbon said the agency did not set out to offend or generate publicity with its advertising."

I'm sure the Hell people would be glad to get that cleared up. :)


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Friday, 24 August 2007

The Two Bus Phenomena

Yesterday I had the chance to put the two bus dilemma into practice for my benefit. This also shows how being aware of information allows you to use it.

The two bus phenomena is simply, especially during the busy times, of seeing a full bus coming along and thinking "hmm, if I wait a short time another bus will come along, probably less full of people, because they all got on this bus." Given the stochastic nature of the bus timetable, this is fairly valid thinking, although can sometimes give you a long wait or make it the three, four or more bus phenomena. :)

But people often go for "bus here" as opposed to "bus soon", so the real crunch comes when two buses turn up at once. By the logic of above, people go for the second bus as that should be the less full one. Indeed, often good thinking.

But what if there have been two buses for a while, because two routes joined? Then it could be the first bus is also fairly empty, and by the phenomena, likely to remain so. Unfortunately, with buses, they don't wait for you to choose, and so you make our choice for the first or second, and go with it.

Yesterday morn, I happened to stand basically near the end of the first bus, so I could see how full that was, and how full the second was. Using the knowledge of how people interact in the two bus phenomena, and being able to see that the first wasn't very full, I chose that one.

And had a pretty nice, uncramped, ride to work. :)


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Thursday, 23 August 2007

Those Medicos...

Watched Sicko last night. Yeah, I can see why the health people are working hard to discount this. And, yes, I felt the movie... rotating, revolving, moving in a circle-like direction. (Seeing Manufacturing Dissent didn't hurt either.)

At the end Michael Moore says that the USA is the only country in the western world without free health care. Now, I might be a little immodest here, but I'm pretty sure that New Zealand is a civilised country in the western world, but we sure don't have free health care. Allow me to tell my story.

Near the end of 2005 I was told I needed my wisdom teeth removed. I knew that eventually they would be a problem, but getting them removed...? But, well, I had to. So early 2006 (when I had the time), I started on the path for the operations - by calling my health provider (Southern Cross, of course)...

Which covered me! I had to pay the first $500, but they got the rest. Which was several thousand dollars. At the rate I paid the premium that would be about five years worth!

It's not free... but certainly not a horror story.


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Wednesday, 22 August 2007

The Passion of the Wet Fish

One of the many films Madonna has been in was Swept Away, directed by hubby Guy Ritchie. It's the story of a socialite (Maddy) who is shipwrecked with lowly boat boy (Adriano Giannini), the latter whom proves island-ready and lo! a relationship is formed out of adversity!

However, it's one that fails to convince, making the top ten list of worst screen chemistry pairings.

I can't say I'm surprised either, because... well... frankly, her own good role was in Evita (which, surprise, surprise, had a lot of singing!). Certainly more "aspiring" than "inspiring".

(The pointy brassiere goes to Foo, who is clearly more of a Madge watcher than me!)

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Tuesday, 21 August 2007

Once again: pretty pictures

These two are from pages 16 and 23.

And this one was never used!


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Monday, 20 August 2007

The latest from Richard Dawkins

You might have read his The God Delusion, or seen the associated series The Root of All Evil?, but now he's got a series that is looking at the wider attacks on rationality from all kinds of pseudo-scientific thinking, named The Enemies of Reason. The first part of the first episode is shown below, and links (just links, not embedded videos) to the rest of the episode one parts are below the fold.

Part 2
Part 3
Part 4
Part 5


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Sunday, 19 August 2007

Be SCARED, damn you!

The theme of the recent TAM meeting was "Skepticism and the media." Yesterday, we got a great example of the media in action, and exactly the sort of thing we need to take a rational approach to. Now, I'm not downplaying the concept of the article, just how it was presented. With the capitals as they were, allow me to point you to the article that is:

In the MIND of a child MOLESTER

YES! A child MOLESTER! Right now, your very child could be being MOLESTERed, as they sleep in their bed! Panic! PANIC! Children being MOLESTERed! In the MIND! In! The! MIND!!! By a MOLESTER!!!!!

Don't think!! Just act!!! Without thinking!!!!

Oh, and but our paper to find out about it (the MOLESTER's MIND!), and also read all our ads and buy all that crap, because just HAVE AN EMOTIONAL REACTION!!!!!!!

Finding out how pedophiles think, and presenting that, is very valid research. But when the paper is merely presenting it in a sensationalist format, the immediately obvious question is: do they care about the topic, or only want people to get a copy and then buy the ads?

The answer happens to be the latter, if they are honest, as the primary aim. And that is why the media can't be trusted, largely, to present any story properly. Be afraid. Not only of pedophiles, but of people who think they can make a buck by shoving them in your face.


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Saturday, 18 August 2007

Before your very eyes...

One of the TAM speakers created a wee java applet that puts yet another boot to the creationist camp, in particular the tent that goes under the name of "irreducible complexity".

Check out the Irreducible Complexity Evolver. A ball drops from column four, worth some points, and the aim is to get the ball out column five. The program (which is a set of co-ordinates and letters that do things) is fit if the total points minus the number of letters is more than zero.

After a dozen programs are tested, they create offspring that are mutated in some way (letters are removed, inserted or changed, or two programs combined code), and the cycle begins. (Evolution, anyone?) This continues through generations, until eventually the programs balance against the ball points (which change as programs get better), the programs can't adapt to the changing ball points, or... a program is created such that it is fit, but if one letter is removed the score it gets falls to zero. Aka, the program is irreducibly complex...

Intelligent Design theorists claim that evolution can't create irreducibly complex systems. Wanna bet?


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Friday, 17 August 2007

Metaphor involving shaking, sticks and skeptics...

James Randi, Michael Shermer, Eugenie Scott, Richard Wiseman, Scott Dikkers, Phil Plait, Christopher Hitchens, Rebecca Watson, Bob Carroll...

What do all these people have in common? One, they're great people! Two, they were all at The Amazing Meeting 5. Three, you can see them for yourselves!

I finished going through the DVDs recent, with around 20 hours of watching goodness, so pick up your own set.

PS. Although, with the dollar TANKING, maybe not immediately...


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Thursday, 16 August 2007

Hey, I have a politcal leaning!

Thanks to Foo's comment yesterday, I now know about, in which I can check out my political stance.

Now, I'm not entirely positive about the results, as I wasn't entirely positive what the statement was saying. Also, most of my answers were "agree" or "disagree" instead of "strongly agree"/"strongly disagree". But all that said, what am I? About 30% left, about 60% social libertarian. (Here's a nice graph that plots me.)

Political Compass also has the NZ Parties as they were in 2005. So, from that, I can see that the closest party to me are... The Greens! Now that, I wouldn't have picked... although they do have some things I agree with... I wonder if they want some of my mone...hey, wait, they thing GE is bad! Fools! So much for that correlation.


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Wednesday, 15 August 2007

News roundup

A number of articles have been in the papers over the past few days, and while they could be their own entries, I've decided to dump them into one (and thus don't need to say as much).

Christian Politics
I'm not in any way political (which is why I like working for Statistics NZ, easy to be politically neutral when you're politically ignorant). But when people start saying we need a political party based on Christian values, I can't help but be very worried. I would suggest those people read the damn bible, because then they'll find out what those values really are. (My favourite is Luke 19:27.)

Grr, give me more money!
Interesting study that shows that angry men are respected more than sad men, which are respected about as much as sad women, all of whom are far more respected than angry women. That's right, angry women are right down the bottom of the respect list. Perhaps it's because of their puny, puny muscles... or that we live in a male patriarchal society that favours man brawn power... nah, it's their tiny, tiny muscles...

Those crafty deer, keeping an eye out for bibles...
You can get camouflaged bibles... but why? Who really thinks that animals will be scared away when they hear the good news? (Although given that animals don't tend to fair well, they'd be well to fair.) One comment I like: "Because we believe that God created all this," we think it'll be a great idea to go out and shot it up!


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Tuesday, 14 August 2007

I see an #49

Yep, TSV time again, this one #49. Check out Alden's post for good articles to read, and Paul's for all that background goss.

And me? I got reviews! Which I totally don't remember doing. And roll those 'r's, 'cos I use a lot of them!

The Rescue is up first. I liked the book a lot, and a lot more than the TV episodes. There were some decent character moments that played well on the page, but they just didn't translate that well onto the screen. But, from the the looks of the review, I liked the TV episodes pretty well, so I guess that makes the book extra good!

The Romans was paired with The Rescue on one tape, so I guess it made sense for me to do them both. Again, the book well done, but this time the TV episodes work a lot better, especially for seeing William Hartnell is high farce mode. Just thinking now of his fight in the bedroom and the scene where he plays for Nero is making me laugh! Classic stuff.

Resurrection of the Daleks is now a chore to watch. I didn't like it then, and I'm not fonder of it now. Just too much being crammed into one episode. Frankly, the criticisms of this story are true, which is a shame considering that this is Tegan's leaving episode. (But then, leaving episodes were never that well treated for most companions. Usually it was a quickly tacked on "Well, see ya, Doc!", if that!)

Anyways, be sure to check out the rest of the issue.


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Monday, 13 August 2007

SNS: The Mystery of the Missing Hour

The last story of Season Two: The Mystery of the Missing Hour by Joseph Lidster. (Note: This will be the last review I use white space on. From now on I'll hide reviews below the fold.)

SIXPENCE: I do love this.
SHUFFLE: And I love you! Come here, my dear!
<They kiss!>
SIXPENCE: Mark, what is it?
SHUFFLE: I don't know. That felt wrong.

Joseph Lidster brings us a tale of two very different halves. The first CD is very much a rip off of the most basic of Agatha Christie style stories, with an odd small group of people, random deaths, and two detectives by the name of Shuffle and Sixpence (evoking her previous pair of Tommy and Tuppence). It's a very casual murder mystery, more intent on the soap opera aspect than the actual murder, and might be preferably summarised as Carry on, Sapphire! (That Steel and Sapphire seen to be playing rather bizarre roles evokes more Adventure 5 than anything else, but I'm not sure if Joseph was hoping for that, or wanted the audience to feel uneasy. If it was the latter, I think that would have made the first CD interminable.)

The second CD is a different beast as Sapphire and Steel finally arrive, and we find out the truth behind this radio play set in Cairo, Egypt, Land of the Pharaohs. There are hints set up that refer to the previous two seasons of SNS audio plays, right to the first play, but the main links are to Water Like a Stone. However, I think it would have meant more if we hadn't found out that there was a Season Three, evoking as it does the ending of Adventure 6.

It's quite the challenge that Joseph attempts, and, certainly on a first listening, when the true nature of events unravel it's quite exciting. On the second listen, the clues placed in can be spotted, but also questions are raised about how the mechanics of the trap actually work, making more the novelty than any real sense of horror, that grabs the listener. (Not that PJ was ever forthcoming about what the hell he was doing either.)

The cast probably thought the whole thing quite surreal, especially Sarah Douglas I'd be bound, and I do wonder how the original script read without the cast having been set. Stirling performances all around, and Colin Baker remains quite the treat to listen to.

This would have been a decent episode to end the series on (and I hope Joseph fully realised just how more enjoyable the fun stories are over the suicide inducing ones). There is, however, a Season Three in the works, so we won't have to go without them just yet. (However, recalling some of my previous reviews, I do hope Big Finish to take an opportunity to sort out just what they are doing.)


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Sunday, 12 August 2007


Now, I know this article is about a terrible disaster, and we shouldn't be making fun of it (yet... as they say, comedy is tragedy plus timing...), but this headline evokes the sort of image you really don't want to think about...

Diarrhoea patients fill wards after floods


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Saturday, 11 August 2007

Intelligence Tests and World War Two

In the news has been articles about the changes to the immigration act. This reminds me of what I read in "The Mismeasure of Man" by Stephen J. Gould, the moral of which is: what criteria are you applying to make up the new guidelines?

Binet created the "Intelligence Test" to identify children that needed help learning. That's it. He knew that "intelligence" wasn't really a good term, that there is no one thing that could be called "intelligence", and certainly that it shouldn't be used to judge, but to inform to help.

But the idea of the test was taken up, and taken to America, and it was decided that intelligence tests could be applied to everyone, that it does measure "intelligence" and this is something we can measure people by.

On applying all the tests (which were really measuring how well one understood American culture of the time), they found out that recent immigrants weren't intelligent. (Read: didn't get the American culture.) Immigrants from longer ago did score highly... which clearly meant that the more intelligent ones had immigrated earlier, and now only the dregs were coming.

This all fed into the 1924 Immigration Act, which set quotas on how many people from European countries could come in. Including Jews, who were trying to flee from a certain disastrous turning in Germany.

So, when the purges and WWII hit, there were more Jews in Germany that would have been had the quotas not been set as the data was understood from the "intelligence tests". (And no, I'm not saying this is the one underlying cause for everything wrong. That would be stupid.)

While we may want to change our immigration laws, this might be good. Or... again, just what criteria is being used to decide who gets in?


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Friday, 10 August 2007

D, of course!

"Thanks" to Rebecca, I'm now aware of a "quiz for Skeptics", 43 questions that that skeptics are idiots? I guess. Anyways, my answers are:

1) D is close, but I doubt I would be so formal. But it's simple politeness!
2) Rook.
3) Crucification and Resurrection are old hat.
4) Just another expression of "trust me, not them".
5) B was likely a decent part of it.
6) B. (Although replace 'good' with 'bad'.)
7) B mainly. Just forcing them connections.
8) I'll accept D just because it starts with "according to passage X".
9) Without knowing the exact passage, I'll accept D.

10) That one should believe in "heaven" rather than trying to get anywhere on earth. (D is amusing in that it implies Jesus didn't say anything original.)
11) That it's really Olde Englishe! Er... be generous?
12) A. (A bible error? Really?) As has been pointed out, if D then what else has been changed?
13) Mainly B. And, if D, then that just shows the NT as a rip off of the OT.
14) Look at the evidence! (As opposed to 'D', prove him wrong!)
15) Damned if you do, damned if you don't.
16) Again, another "according to passage X", so whatever it says. But D made my brain collapse as it attempted to suggest the bible didn't present an erroneous cosmology.
17) While A is likely true, D is the current accepted answer.
18) Don't write the bible while drunk!
19) Could be C, could be D, but if D what else was scribely errored?
20) Flat. A.
21) Christians, trying to find something nice to believe in.
22) In at least three different, contradictory ways.
23) B mostly, in that Christianity, for Christmas, ripped off a lot of other stuff.
24) That drugs aid creation myths!
25) Hume doesn't believe savages can be educated.
26) They are niggling over small details to avoid considering that the whole is wrong.
27) "Don't lay the smack down on yo bitch!"
28) Yeah, I'll side with D.
29) People need mental help.
30) immediately challenged to debate his point, and he better have evidence!
31) The gospels were written by different people. (Again, another case for "well, depends on the words, which get changed...")
32) "Dude, chill."
33) "Let's see the evidence!"
34) The basis of this entire quiz!
35) realise you'll need a new computer.
36) The convergence of evidence.
37) Evidence! Note: anecdotes and eye-witness testimony is not reliable evidence.
38) A bit of A, a bit of C. Mainly getting new wives for their tribe and picking on the cute young-uns.
39) People haven't got it? (In regards to D, indeed, let's bring on the evidence. Oops!)
40) The question is begging it's own dismissal? (Again, Rook!)
41) Personal experience is easily flawed, so don't think much of that point.
42) I like C, but D's about right. (At least no expression of 'faith' there.)
43) Mock it. Mock it ruthlessly. And invite others to mock it as well.


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Thursday, 9 August 2007

Cos gas is funny

This segment of Mythbusters was never screened on TV. When the producers wanted a "viral video", after a few suggestions this bit was proposed. Now, they couldn't just put it on YouTube, but when Adam screened it at MIT and said "Well, if it just so happens to end up on YouTube..."


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Wednesday, 8 August 2007


Xkcd is one of the best webcomics around, drawn by creator Randall Munroe. Rebecca Watson, the Skepchick, is trying for her own radio show in a contest.

These two things come together as Rebecca interviews Randall for round three in the radio contest. Check it out and hear this (rather short) interview with someone who gets the math jokes and can find the romance. (And feel free to sign up and rate the show!)


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Tuesday, 7 August 2007

My god

So, I'm an atheist (obviously), but if I was going to believe in a god, what sort of god would it be?

I can imagine a god that is like someone who is sitting in a chair and imagining the universe as a thought experiment. That someone can imagine an entire universe and has been doing so for over 13 billion years might seem amazing, but, hey, this is a god we're talking about. They'd sit there, thinking about the universe, probably going various places with their mind and examining bits, but basically being the creator of everything we know.

Looking at the Do-It-Yourself Deity test, what would I select? Omnipotent, yep (even able to do logically impossible things... or, at least, make us believe that someone logically impossible has been done, which is as much as we could tell). Omnibenevolent, nope. Omniscient, yeah, why not? (Although not listed, I'd go for a variant of omnipresent as well, in that god could be anywhere god wanted to be.) The Creator, yep. The Sustainer, yep (don't stop thinking about us!). Perfectly Free, yeah, why not? Eternally Existing, nah, they are still just a being. A Personal God, *snort*, not likely.

So how plausible is this god? According to the test: 0.8 (out of 1.0). Pretty plausible.

But I try to limit my irrational beliefs, so while I could believe in this god, I'm not gonna.


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Monday, 6 August 2007

Now she's worried?

Madonna is worried about some sexy pics, and other items, coming out that she created in the early 1990s, for her then boyfriend.

This is the same woman who in posed for nude pictures (which later appeared in Playboy and their own book "Madonna Nudes 1979" (*)) But, hey, that was before she was a star. She needed the money, signed a contract, and now has no control over what happened.

Then, yes, there's Sex (*). Released in 1992, just before what happened in the article, features more nude pictures of her than anyone would need. This was really cashing in on exploitation, just another change in her image.

But Madonna thinks this will be a problem now? She's worried that this will be a problem with her adoption of David Banda. These pictures, not those previous lots that everyone already knows about. Hmm... you know, someone who's cynical might think she's playing this up to yet again get the Malawi adoption into the papers. But that would be the thinking of someone who's used to manipulating the press and getting media attention in any way possible.


(*) Yes, I have a copy.


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Sunday, 5 August 2007


I listen to the Rational Response Squad, although I am rather behind in my listening. In the current shows I am listening to, they are talking about the David Mills (author of The Atheist Universe) response to the Blasphemy Challenge. (You might remember my own take.)

His video involved him picking up dog poop with the holy bible. He got a lot of backlash for this (including one note that proclaimed he set back the atheist movement 3000 years). I'll present the video (embedding denied be damned), and see what you think of it. My own thoughts continue below.

His own response was that his dogs pooped, he needed to pick it up, and just happened to have the bible in hand when he did so. It was just a fun thing he was doing with his 11 year old daughter.

My take... I've often said (and by 'said', I meant 'thought privately without ever letting on') that there is no meaning to anything, just what meaning we insert. People do things and then 'meaning' is assigned afterwards. That he wanted to pick up dog poop and had the bible in hand is explanation enough for this. That he wanted to make a point about the bible is another. That he was having fun with his kid is yet one more.

But what it comes down to is that he probably wasn't thinking deeply about why when he did it. He... just did it. It then got posted to YouTube, meanings were ascribed and things when out of control from there.

There is no meaning to anything. Just interpretation.


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Saturday, 4 August 2007

Because you can't have enough Firefly...

You can't touch this!


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Friday, 3 August 2007

It's because of the "goth girl" thing

For some reasons a fair few DW fans are librarians. In which case, they may like this Dunedin duo, Haunted Love. In particular, their "Librarian" song.

(Hat tip to Pharyngula.)

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Thursday, 2 August 2007

D&D goes commercial!

Or rather, did a commercial, a long time ago. Ye gads, that's a frightening look back into the past (worse still that I'm still playing it :) ). Some interesting comments too, by one of the people who starred in it.

Check it out at RetroJunk.

(I'm afraid to look around the site. I've got enough things sucking up my free time!)


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Wednesday, 1 August 2007

Vegans don't have sex with meat

Okay, that's not the title of the article, but that would have been much funnier.

(Given that I make sexual jokes below, I'm going to hide the rest of this below the fold.)

New Zealand now has "vegansexuals", people who only have sex with other vegans. Because, as the saying goes "You are what you eat." Which does give rise to some problems:

'One vegan respondent from Christchurch said: "I believe we are what we consume, so I really struggle with bodily fluids, especially sexually."' I can see that oral sex might cause some dilemmas (certainly with 'spit' vs 'swallow'), and, indeed, vegans might not like the idea of feasting on one's 'meat and two veg' (although presumably then teabagging will be all right).

This comes from a study, but one line in particular caught my attention: "Many female respondents described being attracted to people who ate meat, but said they did not want to have sex with meat-eaters because their bodies were made up of animal carcasses."

Female respondents? I wonder how many males gave this qualification. If it came to a casual pick up at a bar, then I doubt men would be the first to ask "So, I suppose you like to rip raw hunks of bleeding meat off of live screaming animals, and wallow in the blood as you cram pieces of muscle down your gullet?" Men just aren't that picky.

Now, I'm not hassling vegetarians (as long as they don't hassle me), and they are free to have whatever sexual practices as makes them happy. I just find it amusing that this is the story that makes the paper.


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