Lies, Damn Lies
Sunday, April 23, 2006
Thursday, April 20, 2006
WikipediaWikipedia is a fun tool, which interestingly is still free to edit for all... well before they get banned for editing Bush's page to say "Bush is a war criminal! And also smells of poo!". Actually, if I was going to launch a mass attack on wikipedia, I suspect I would change all the pages to mention something involving excretion. Because that's the kind of guy I am.
It's often been remarked that there is a lack of admiration for expertise in wikipedia, but I think this is a more widespread problem, something that has appeared in the media too. Basically, something is fair and balanced if you have two people saying opposite things about a contentious issue (where a contentious issue is anything where someone shouts loudly enough). This is, of course, ridiculous. The creationist debate is one, where the voice of someone who knows nothing (or close to noting) about science, is equal to one who knows a lot. I suppose given the chance, the scientist could disprove the creationist's claims, but often they are phrased in a popular enough way that they seem reasonable, despite having no basis in evidence. No scientific journal takes the claims seriously, but the media do, because some people say it.
I suppose I am biased, being of a scientific bent myself, but the huge difference is that real science is peer reviewed and checked many times before being made public, and afterwards will still be subject to critisism. Creationists know their claims cannot get through this process, so instead appeal to those without the technical knowledge to notice the flaws in their reasoning.
Incidentally, to wikipedia's credit, the article on evolution, while mentioning the controversy, gives it no real support.
Tuesday, April 18, 2006
Rebuilding IraqI know this is something I talk about a lot, but it really is quite a serious issue. It's remarkable how many mistakes were made, and how much the arguments have changed. I think the most frustrating thing for the anti-war crowd is that we have had to argue with each and every one of these.
First came the WMD. The thing was, for all the politicans said, and all the dossiers that came out, the weapon inspectors were saying that they could not find anything. It was pretty clear to anyone with their head screwed on that Bush, and, in his lapdog manner, Blair, wanted war, and they did not want it because of WMD. It was just an excuse, one that wouldn't fly, so they presented a new one- the idea of liberation. To me this is a better argument than the WMD anyway, although not one that holds much water in international law- there was no sign that the people actually wanted to be saved, we just decided that ourelves. The most painfully obvious revelation that they did not truly care about disarming Iraq was when they gave a random deadline for war, despite the inspectors asking for more time. They had to interest in these weapons, and, I suspect, no belief that they truly existed- why would they invade if they thought that there actually were weapons that could hurt them?
The motive that seems to me to be Bush's, if possibly not Blair's, for war, has always seemed to be that mentioned in the document project for the new American century- a strong American millitary presence in the middle east, to intimidate other nations and also to gain control of vital resources. This is backed by the building of American millitary bases in the centre of Iraq. It does not look like there is any real intention of withdrawal any time soon.
Still, the most persuasive argument for going to war, at least in my mind, is the liberation of the people of Iraq. Certainly Saddam Hussein was nowhere near the best leader, although there were certain advantages to his regime- the people of Iraq were mostly secular, with women being able to go to university along with men, a valuable thing amoung some very sexist societies in the middle east. Still, there is no doubt that the people of Iraq could do better.
However, whether a war designed to eliminate Hussein was the best way to do this. Some argued that regime change of this sort could be succesful. As an example they pointed to Germany and Japan, defeated dictatorships in world war 2 that flourished into succesful democracies. This is indeed true, but the circumstances were somewhat different- both nations were powerful and succesful before the war, while Iraq had been severely damaged by the very misguided sanctions imposed following a break down in negotiations after the first gulf war. Whats more, other nations sacrificed to help Germany and Japan. Looking at Germany in particular, America alone spent 13.3 billion dollars over four years on rebuilding it, an equivalent of 130 billion in 2006, adjusted from inflation (figures from here. Meanwhile, in Iraq Bush promised 20.3 billion. The Marshall plan cost 7% of the US federal budget at time. This comes to about 1%.
All these factors, along with some bizzare ideas about what our greeting would be in Iraq (Cheney and Rumsfeld predicting dancing in the streets), have led to absolute disaster in Iraq. It is time to both withdraw our forces from Iraq, and increase the rebuilding funding massively.
Easter timeMistletoe and wine. As Cliff Richard might have said, if he was... well.. wrong. People are quick to point out that the origins of Easter have more to do with pagan festivals than the christian ones, but to be honest christmas doesn't fair that well either. OK, yes, having Easter occur at a different time each year is pretty insane (because Jesus died on the cross on a different day depending which year it is?), and the whole easter egg thing is just fertility rites after all. But look at christmas. The tree? Mistletoe? Father Christmas? Rudolph the freaking red nosed reindeer? Actually any popular holiday is bound to not be very religious, because proper religious holidays aren't much fun- or at least I imagine they would not be.
The popular holidays are always ones that have little do with what they are celebrating- St Patricks day has now become a GIGANTIC advert for guiness. [It occurs to me that buying shares in Guiness (or whatever company owns them), a few months before st patricks day is bound to show dividends... ] Valentines Day... well that never really was a very serious day. November 5th.. well November the 5th is a pretty random day to celebrate. It's hardly like there haven't been plots to destroy the centre of government before or after it, yet Guy Fawkes gets all the credit, despite some theories suggesting that it was a set up.
On an inquisitive note, I am aware that should one be of a differing religon, one can get time off work to celebrate this. But in this case.. do you get Easter and Christmas off too? 'Cause that seems like cheating to me....
Sunday, April 16, 2006
Amazing mazesIn my home town we have two mazes. One, only recently grown, is not accesible to the public, after some vandalism occured. Now, while that is admittably deplorable- A-it is possible to climb over the wall, and B-now no-one can use the damn thing. Ultimately all mazes will get vandalised a little, it helps nobody to shut it off. But never mind.
Our other maze is on our common (which, despite being called a common, is not, in fact, a common, for various legal reasons that I can't actually remember, something to do with a common not actually being owned by anyone, or being owned by everyone... or something), which is possibly one of the most depressing mazes ever constructed. First of all, it posseses no walls, the path being made purely by brick lines embedded in the grass. Second, and possibly most vitally of all, there are no choices during this maze. There are, in fact, only two directions to go- back and forward. Which makes one wonder why someone chose to construct this. It's really a little misleading to cause it a maze, as it is really more of a path. Just a path that really goes nowhere, despite being nearly a mile long, thus making it all the more depressing. Still, it did keep me moderately entertained as a child, but not particularly more than, say, the grass near by.
This comes from a list of disappointing tourist attractions in our town which includes the castle, which was destroyed in a very early civil war (somewhere in the twelth century), so is just a collection of walls, which one cannot even go near thanks to structural instability. Still, on the plus side we DO have a lot of cafes, and charity shops, as well as a lot of pubs (I imagine our pub to population ratio is significantly higher than a lot of the country). Good old pubs.....
Friday, April 14, 2006
SaladsWhats the deal with salads as main courses? To sound like a stand up comic a little. But this irritates me, or rather came to irritate me when looking at menus recently. A salad is NOT a main course. It's a salad- it's light, damnit (and I'm talking about evening meals here), it's a starter. Sure, if you're not feeling hungry, you can have the starter as your main- thats your prerogative. But as a main course- that's crazy?
Why does this irritate me? Well sometimes I fancy a salad, but only as a starter, and in the portions they would probably come in I might find them too big, and to get full up on salad... well that would be just embarrasing. Anyway, I'm not sure what I intend to do about this problem... nothing, I suppose.
The Emporer gets a jobmight take a while to load for slow connections...
FantasticTitantic 2... Jack returns!
Incidentally, I got this from the excellent Table of Malcontents, which is worth a look for lots of excellent links.
Wednesday, April 12, 2006
Spam spam spamLovely spam. Anyways, I have been thinking about spam recently. One assumes that it must work. Not massively, not so that the companies using it make a massive amount of money, but it must make SOME kind of money. Now some spam, I can see how it might work- the ones that promise girls gone wild- well, men do exist, and I can see that a reasonable proportion will click those links. Even the ones about buying a degree- I imagine some people might be tempted to do that.
But penis enlargment (or, indeed, breast enlargement). On the whole, to enlarge one's penis, I should imagine one would either have to have surgery, or take some kind of hormones. Neither of which are hardly the most reassuringly safe sounding things in the world.... Seriously, who would actually agree to do this over some random site on the internet?
Well, in the interests of science, I clicked on a link. This particular site, and I will not link you as no doubt it is full of pop ups and spyware, so you probably don't need to have that as well as me. Anyway, this site tells of a wonderful patch that enlargens one's penis
"The Penis Enlarge Patch is medical dermal patch infused with a pure botanical formula made of 100% natural herbs guaranteed to add size to your penis and enhance your sexual performance.
How does the Penis Enlarge Patch work?
When you get aroused, your brain releases a hormone and tells your body to send blood to your penis, which engorges the spongiosum and cavernosa and stimulates pleasure receptors. This is called an erection. Your penis is full of a spongy tissue that absorbs the increased amounts of blood and expands, causing an erection. The Penis Enlarge Patch formula stimulates these cells in a manner akin to bodybuilding, and builds new layers of cells onto the old ones. While you sleep, your penis' stressed cells repair, strengthen, and grow back larger and stronger.
As any dermal patch does, the Penis Enlarge Patch effectively and safely infuses the pure, unadulterated formula into your system, effectively bypassing your digestive system, as any male enlargement pill require. This is easily the most efficient method by which to ingest the formula."
"We have a 97% success rate! Our product works for men of all ages, from 18 to 70, and beyond. We have had customers both younger and older who have seen satisfactory gains in both length and sex drive. Circumcision is not important, our program works for men who are both circumcised and uncircumcised"
Disturbingly, on the testimonials page there are some pictures of people's penises, supposedly lengthened, but as there is no before picture the effect is lessened.
The price? Why they have a fabulous offer so you get 2 months free if you buy 6 months. Only 200 dollars! A bargin! I mean... christ. They do claim to have a money back guarentee, but are non-specific about how long it would last for, or indeed how difficult it would be to get ones money back.
I think the worst thing about this experience was the tiny nagging voice in my head saying "hey.... maybe it DOES work."
Tuesday, April 11, 2006
Huh?I get their point with this, but I'm not sure how workable it would be. I mean, sure, skills are basically what one goes to school for, on the whole, as when one goes into employment generally you do not need the varius bits of knowledge you have, other than to do well at pub quizzes.
Unless, of course, you want to, you know, specialise in the damn subject.... In which case this knowledge will be pretty damn important. The beauty of the current system is you learn abou all these things while meanwhile being imparted key skills. My experience of attempts to directly give these skills have been rather depressing, because humans don't really learn that way. You can't have creativity lessons, but you can have lessons that stimulate your mind and ask you to do creative things during them. Obviously this report is wonderfully vague, but it seems like a very bad idea to me.
Monday, April 10, 2006
ExerciseApparently I have an allergy to exercise or something, as afterwards my breath gets very forced and my body aches. I think this is a condition that really is not discussed enough in medical journals. Certain individuals have suggested to me that repeated attempts at this activity will enable me to get over such extreme reactions, but this seems unlikely to me. If someone had an allergy to a bee sting, would they keep getting stung? Deliberately that is.
Random point of trivia for you here, I have never been stung by a bee or a wasp. The worst ever has been a nettle, which is really over rated as a pain. I attribute this fact to my advanced form of cowardice called "running like a little girl". After all- "What cannot catch you, cannot hurt you." I also do not believe that proclaiming this will have any effect on my odds of getting stung, unless some activist, upon hearing my lack of wasp/bee related injuries, decides to unleash stinging hell upon me. People's belief in malign fate is actually probably stronger than their belief in any kind of benign one, from their claims that bringing an umbrella will stop it from raining, or wearing nothing but a t-shirt will make it cold. Clearly if there was any truth to this, you could generate fantastic micro-climates by having someone in winter clothes and someone in a t-shirt stand next to each other, and watch as they generate radically different weather.
People are prone to believe the funniest things- the assertion that lucky people exist, for example. Certainly one can obtain runs of luck, but the succesful existence of casions seems to imply that if there ARE lucky people, they are not lucky enough to tilt the odds of, say, roulette in their favour (where the expected return for 39 pounds in will be 38, assuming you are playing one number with each spin, and the wheel is totally unbiased. Which it will not be), or indeed slot machines, or any other game of probability. Anyone with an innate talent of actual luck could, give enough initial capital, make their living off gambling. Although admittedly if they were only very slightly lucky (only just beating the house on average), they would need a significant amount of money and time to compensate for a run of losses. It is, of course, fine to say that luck was in someones favour in a game, although one probably has a tendency to exxagerate that in ones mind- you remember the bits where THEY were very lucky, but not you, but to claim anyone is lucky overall probably stinks of someone being a bad loser. Not that I haven't, in my time, called someone incredibly jammy. This tends to be more the case when someone goes for something they shouldn't be able to do- people who get the last card that they need on the river in poker, someone makes a ridiculous shot in pool, I'm sure you can all think of very depressing examples, where the vagaries of probability serve to remind you that deeply unlikely really does not mean impossible. Ultimately the solution to this is to keep playing them, because if you truly believe yourself to be a better player than them, then on average you should come out tops. Of course it's entirely possible that over a thousands games of poker they will still beat you, it is just a little more unlikely.
I've lost my point here, I guess I just like to point out the frustrating lack of understanding when it comes to probablity in peoples lives. We all have a tendency, a very human one, to see patterns where there are none. Not believing in coincidences is a cliche detectives like to make, but they are incredibly frequent, simply because events that we think are deeply unlikely probably are not. A poor assesment of the probability of things is another symptom.
This also relates to disease treatment, as for example the MMR vaccene, when there were claims that it could lead to the development of autism. It was pointed out that even if this was a probablity, and it was highly doubtful, the consequences of not giving this vaccene were far worse, and far more probable.
I know this is a subject I have spoken about many a time before, but I think it is an interesting enough one to justify repitition. The most frustrating part of this is when these things get repeated in the media, people failing to use their heads on simple enough issues.
Sunday, April 09, 2006
filmsAs told by bunnies are intrinsically funny.
Friday, April 07, 2006
AbstinenceIt's interesting, how the debate about teaching abstinence in the US centres around the effectiveness of the technique (abstinence with no forms of other education, this is). While there is plenty evidence which suggests that the method is deeply ineffective at reducing teenage pregnancy (possibly because while it reduces the amount of people having sex, those who do will have little knowledge about contraception), this is not the issue. Thing is- why can't people have sex?
Ultimately abstinence is a worthy choice, and one that should be made apparent to all children, but I fail to see that there is anything inherently wrong with having sex, ignoring scriptual teachings that this is true. As long as both partners are fully aware of the risks they take, and are both very much consenting, there is simply nothing wrong with sex, and to my mind it is surely far more sinful to say so. I think it might be time to celebrate sex a little more, rather than think of it as something shameful. Sex does have consequences, and everyone should be aware of these, so they can be careful, and do what they feel the right thing to do. All we do by ignoring these desires is subjugate them, and cause severe repression.
Thursday, April 06, 2006
hmmmSo, apparently if you mention beastality even once, apparently this gets you on search engines. My blog has been selected in 7 different searches for the word, making it the fourth most frequently linked from word......
Hamas time nowCan't touch them! That's what Hamas need to do to improve their PR image- create a catchy pop song! Or, you know, cover a catchy pop song, replacing hammer with Hamas. Still, an idea, as right now, the whole "stated goals involve driving Isreal off the map" thing is just not winning the hearts and minds. It's really all about what you say, not what you do. For example, Iran has said some awful things about Isreal, so they are not allowed nuclear weapons, but Pakistan, a state ran by a dictator, is fully armed. Of course, controlling the media probably helps, because then you can bomb the crap out of a nation and call it liberation, and maintain the occupation, claiming you need to get the job done (whatever the hell that is). Ah, the intracacies of international diplomacy.
In other news, we are all going to die. That's right, bird flu has hit the UK. We better watch out, as the death rate in Europe is indeed in the tens.... We might even beat death by toilet... If bird flu does mutate, then this will become news... as it stands it's not the biggest scandal. Of course this is a country that when foot and mouth hit butchered it's livestock to prevent the non-lethal disease spreading....
Wednesday, April 05, 2006
Ah t-mobileApparently my phone is not in stock, so I must wait for an unspecified amount of time. Oh well, never mind. In other news, my 5 year old playstation 2 appears to not want me to play we love Katamari, which is a pity, as I rather would like to play on it. I don't know whether it knows something about the game that I don't, like it will unleash a demon or something, or if it is just old and full of dust. Well, I do know actually, but I'm not saying which. As a hint though, I did try to open my ps2 up, but whether to clean it or examine it's mighty brain is another question of course. Incidentally, if you care, it's a nokia 6280. My sister has looked at a photo and told me that it is not a girl's phone. So that's all right then.
I must admit that upon returning home I have not quite busied myself as much as perhaps I should, although I did manage to get at least SOME work done today, so that's probably a good thing. The main problem is my inability to set an alarm. I swear that for the last three nights I have set an alarm, but each time I have not been woken by them. Perhaps my radio alarm clock also knows something that I don't. Or perhaps at 4 in the morning I lack any of my normal physical abilities. Who knows.....
Tuesday, April 04, 2006
spot the mistake"Hello Kieran
Thanks for your email about the current offers available on Flext.
I'm pleased to say that the 25% discount would stay on your account for the full 18 months of the contract.
What may be more interesting to you is you can continue to benefit from it for as long as you remain with us.
The only reason we would remove the 25% discount would be if you failed to pay your bill on time. Other than that, you can keep the discount for life.
The Flext 35 is probably the best value for money. For the extra £5, you get twice the allowance (£180) on Flext 35 that you would receive on Flext 30 (£90).
Thanks again for getting in touch with me Keiran, I hope I've answered your question and that I've encouraged you to try us.
As you can surmise from this, I am getting a new mobile, with a spanking new contract. What's weirder is that I was actually inspired to get this from an advert, of all things- one in Empire. But that's not what Im writing about.
At the start of the email he's got it right, but by the end, he has failed. What, you ask?
SPELLING MY GODDAMN NAME
Yes, ok, it's Irish, and it's sometimes spelt differently, but surely some people should prefer the Kieran spelling. I before E except after c? Was I the only person taught this? The worst thing is that even when the only spelling of my name people have is the one I have GIVEN them, they still spell it wrong. This includes MPs. I suppose it's a small thing, but it does occasionally grate.
I am a little worried about T-mobile's customer service. When trying to phone them earlier on to find out a detail about the contract that was not clear, I was directed to a women speaking so quietly I could barely here her. Clearly she could not hear me, as she hung up.... Meh.
Monday, April 03, 2006
HolidaysCeleberate good times, or, in my case, watching the rest of the first series of Lost so I am finally up to date. Well I say that, but series 2 is out in America already, and a large portion of my acquiantances appear to have downloaded the series already. Apparently downloading tv is a bad thing although I'm not totally sure why.... if you've got a tv anyway, then you can just watch it when it is on. Indeed, you can even make a video tape of it. I'ts not like you pay for Lost particulalry. I suppose there could be an argument that ratings might be lost for that show, but it's kind of weaker than the whole music downloading argument, because it's clear that there are things lost there.
I've recently developed the uncanny ability to develop a sore throat every time I want to go drinking, which is perhaps my body trying none too subtly to stop me doing so, which it has been having a modicum of success at, but whether that is due to lack of finances or geniune health concern remains to be seen. Still, my whole psychology rebels at the idea of going into a pub and not ordering at least one alchoholic beverage of some sort.
Third year exams in a month and a lot of days, which will undoubtedly be an affair characterised by much merriment and laughter. Possibly even dancing. On that note, I've just had an image of dance exams basically being dance challenges, in which our instructor does some moves, and challenger has to copy, and elucidate- like a walk off in the excellent zoolander. Also, this should be the same for drama- emotional speech, followed by a mimicried but slightly more emotional speech. That couldn't continue round though, because eventually both people would be bawling on the floor. Which could be entertaining I guess.