Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Stupidity: Shocking

I don't know if this happens anywhere else in the world, but in South Africa we have a problem with thieves stealing copper cabling from just about every source of electrical wiring there is. I was once on a train to Jo'burg that had to stop in the middle of the Karoo desert because a section of the train's electrical cabling had been stolen. In the middle of the desert. We had to wait for a service train to reach us and pump the engine with enough diesel so it could power itself over the gap to the next node that had electricity. Did i mention this was in the middle of the desert?

Anyway, some copper wire thieves got their just desserts recently. Who said stupid doesn't hurt?

And speaking of stealing things: my car was in the garage to have a couple of niggly things fixed yesterday. They closed at 5pm and I don't generally leave work until after 6, so I had to leave the car overnight. This morning i arrive to pick it up, and as i drive away the left rear wheel starts making a horrendous noise. After a short while the guy i give a lift to jumps out to see where the noise is coming from and tells me the wheel is wobbling. We stop the car and walk back to the garage.

Now, they weren't doing anything anywhere near the wheel, so i doubt it's their problem. But nevertheless the mechanic walks with me to the car, only to discover the wheel was so loose it was literally about to fall off. I had to walk down the road to fetch two of the nuts that had already come out on my short and dangerous journey. The mechanics swear they didn't touch that wheel, and i believe them, i have used this garage many times before and they are trustworthy.

Now, the only plausible explanation is that someone was trying to steal the wheel off my car and got disturbed in the process, leaving the nuts loose. It's not unlikely; the mechanic tells me that they once found a car around the corner sitting on four bricks, where the previous day there had been four wheels. Welcome to Africa. Next time i have to leave the car overnight, i'm asking them to put it in the yard.

(By the way, this is why I need the power to explode heads. Can you imagine, some guy is walking down the road in the middle of the night with a tyre iron, looking for some good tyres, and his head explodes? That's justice right there)

Oh, and if laughing at stupid people doesn't give you enough facial exercise, try this device out. Looks uncomfortable.

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In the last week I have received two very nice emails from people overseas who read this blog, both coincidentally involved in HIV research. People out there in the ether are reading my little words and being entertained! I feel all warm and fuzzy inside.

Monday, January 30, 2006

Headless Chickens

There is no doubt that the majority of south africans still run their lives on the basis of superstition and belief in magic. This becomes blatantly obvious when police buildings are 'cleansed' by the ritualistic slaughtering of chickens and goats. Yes indeed, in an officially sanctioned event, animals were slaughtered by sangoma to drive 'evil spirits' out of the Serious and Violent Crimes Unit's new Nyanga offices. Can you imagine if that happened in the US? PETA would have been all over it, questions of religious freedom aside.

And really, since when is religious freedom a 'get out of jail free' card to do whatever weirdass crap you feel like? Can a satanist claim that it's their religious custom to slaughter a virgin girl in order to consecrate their new office building? Whether it's animals or people, surely violence in the name of magic is no way to consecrate a building meant to house seekers of truth and punishers of violence? And since this was obviously requested by members of the police force, you're left wondering about what an episode of CSI would look like in south africa:

Thabo can't work out who the killer is so he consults his sangoma, who suggests he slaughter a goat and pray to his ancestors for guidance. Meanwhile, Mpho checks the suspect's horoscope to work out where he's going to be next...

Yeah, i'm sure it would be a hit show. It's got Emmy written all over it.

Friday, January 27, 2006

What the Bleep Indeed

My local video store is currently displaying for rental the DVD-shaped excreta entitled What the Bleep Do We Know? It's meant to be a life changing journey through physics and spiritualism, lead by noted scientists and, of all people, marlee matlin.

All i can say is, from the reviews i've read, you really shouldn't watch it if you want to hold on to your sanity.

From website nthposition.com:

"...it combines vacuous New Age mysticism with junk science through extraordinarily ham-fisted film making and thoroughly nasty, low-budget CGI."

and also:

"In fact, the science doesn’t have to be quantum physics to be buggered senseless in the street by What the Bleep - they extend this courtesy to pretty much all disciplines."

And a little insight from the Millenium Project (J.Z. Knight is listed under "Special Thanks" and Ramtha is listed as one of the scientists involved in the production):

"Ramtha is the spirit guide of JZ Knight, and was born 35,000 years ago in the slums of Onai, the major port of Atlantis. After 63 out-of-body experiences, and with his body vibrating faster than light, Ramtha became one with the wind. Free of weight, he ascended into the Seventh Heaven from the side of Mount Indus in Turkey and he and God became the one entity. He is now part of an unseen brotherhood of superbeings who love us and hear our prayers. This brotherhood will shortly initiate the "Age of God", and this will mean the end of disease, suffering, war and death. (I am not making this up!) Ramtha is now also a scientific advisor to hybrid documentary films."

Scientist indeed. Apparently Ramtha and Shirley McClaine were brother and sister in Atlantis, according to her book Dancing in the Light. If this isn't enough to tell you not to watch this movie, then I don't know what is.

Like Hey Shoo Wow Fully Dude

In news of altworld, it's slowly creeping into my workplace. Since moving to the new office, rose quartz crystals have mysteriously been appearing in all the potplants. Silly me, here i thought it was just decoration. No, turns out that they are expected to 'absorb the negative energy and radiation' from all the monitors.

....

Sorry, i had to pick my jaw up from the floor. That supposedly educated people can trot out this rubbish continues to surprise me. Even if rose quartz did absorb radiation, having one little crystal in the vague vacinity would not help. It's like telling someone having an x-ray taken that they're going to put a piece of lead on the other side of the room and it's going to work as a shield. The only way the quartz would shield you when you're surrounded by electronica is if you built a sphere of it and worked from inside there. Of course that's hardly going to be practical. Or cheap.

I swear to god the day our boss tells us we're going to all have our horoscopes or human pin codes compared in order to create a better office dynamic, i will quit, even though i love this job. No questions asked, i will just quit.

While i'm ranting about the new office look, let me talk about the art. Today we mounted several pieces of supposed 'fine art' that look like something tourists would buy at a street market and think 'oh it's so african, isn't it quaint'. Gah. It's horrible. This is something very typical of South African businesses that are trying to advertise to their clients that they are Afrocentric and MultiEthnic and all those other bullshit catch phrases expected to win business. The only thing wrong with doing it in our office is that all our clients are overseas! The only people who walk into this office are the people who work here. And. We. Don't. Care.

It's the african equivalent of American businesses putting Native American art everywhere, or Austalian business putting Aborigine art everywhere. It doesn't impress. It looks fake and disingenuous. It looks like you're trying too hard.

And in real news....

There was a massive fire on Table Mountain yesterday, started by a British tourist who was witnessed flicking a cigarette butt out of his car window. He's been arrested and his passport confiscated as part of his bail conditions. Interestingly he's being charged with culpable homocide after one woman out walking with her daughter was killed. The weird thing is - she's a British tourist too. Haven't they had enough of killing each other in their own country, they have to come do it here?

Thursday, January 26, 2006

Michael Jackson: Crazier than Ever

Good old MJ - even moving to Bahrain doesn't seem to have stopped the world noticing he's totally nuts. First he walks into a woman's toilet, then he's spotted wearing an abaya, which is the head to toe black dress traditionally worn by muslim women.

Yes indeed, this only goes to show my theory that MJ died years ago and has since been impersonated on a regular basis by his sister Latoya. It explains a lot.

Oh, and online casino Golden Palace bought William Shatner's kidney stone on eBay for $25,000. These are apparently the same people who bought the Virgin Mary Cheese Sandwich, so it just goes to show people with too much money are nuts.

Surveys: Educational

Thanks to everyone who has responded so far. To those who haven't: hurry up! I need as many as I can get for the numbers to have any significance other than the statistically random.

By the way, I am thinking of doing a side survey entitled 'Inability to Follow Simple Instructions'. The results are surprising in a group of supposedly well educated people. Shame on you. You know who you are.

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Midweek Cuckoo: A Call for Participants

Let me start by saying there will be no midweek cuckoo this week. Instead, next week's will be made extra special by your very own participation.

A friend recently asked me to explain why Astrology is bunk. I gave him a couple of the really good reasons then and there, but didn't have time to elaborate sufficiently. So next week's post will focus on astrology, why people believe in it, and why it's wrong.

As part of this, i thought it might be fun to do a bit of a survey. People who wish to participate can send me an email at moonflake at gmail dot com. The subject line should be Midweek Cuckoo, and the body should include only your star sign (or failing that if you don't know what it is, your birth date). I will in turn send each of you a horoscope for your sign, and all that is required of you is to read it and rate its accuracy on a scale of 1 to 10. Results will be published here next week as part of the post.

There are very few rules for the survey, but here they are:
1. Horoscopes will all be obtained from the same source
2. Horoscopes will describe general traits, and not predictions for the day.
3. All members of a particular sun sign will receive the same horoscope.
4. In the interest of keeping things vaguely scientific, please refrain from discussing your results with other participants before posting. The response should be your own.
5. Rate your immediate reaction of the accuracy of the horoscope on a scale of 1 to 10, with 1 being completely wrong and 10 being spookily accurate.
6. Results will be anonymous. Your individual response will not be noted or posted; only overall statistics will be reported on this blog.

The more responses I get, the more likely the results are to be statistically significant. So send me an email (moonflake at gmail dot com) and take part in the first ever moonflake survey!

And speaking of Jesus...

Oh my god you will laugh until you cry.

Taking Jesus to Court

Italian historian Luigi Cascioli, author of The Fable of Christ, is taking a priest at a local church to court to prove the historical existence of Jesus Christ.

There's a reason Cascioli has a leg to stand on. Don Righi (and the church in general) preaches that Christ was a historical figure who actually existed. If this can be proven false, Don Righi will be found guilty of "Abuso di Credulita Popolare" - translated roughly as abuse of popular belief, or abuse of popular gullibility. Yes, in Italy there are laws that protect the innocent stupid from being exploited by conmen, swindlers and other scum of the earth. Essentially, the priest will be found guilty of willfully perpetrating a lie. And in Roman Catholic Country, where tithes and contributions to the church are taken very seriously, it boils down to the church being a very profitable pyramid scheme.

Of course, the judgement of a court of law is unlikely to affect the actual beliefs of the faithful (Kitzmiller vs Dover for example), and in Italy where the Catholic church is king, Cascioli will be lucky not to be ordered out of court. However, should he be able to convince a Judge to actually hear the case, this could shape up to be the trial of the century.

There is significant historical evidence that points to Jesus not existing - take Herod's slaughter of the innocents for example, which is cited as the reason Joseph hid his son's birth by at least one gospel. Historians at the time have recorded no such thing, and you'd think the slaughtering of thousands of innocent children would make some mark. Even some of the gospels fail to mention it, and you'd think that at least would be a big enough deal that the Apostles could all agree on it. One gospel even has Jesus being born at Joseph's home and not in a cave or stable on the run from the law (not a very exciting nativity). Additionally, comtemporary historians such as Pliny the Elder make no mention of a religious leader called Jesus. A number do however talk of John the Baptist, and there seems to be no real doubt that he existed. All historical records of Jesus, however, appear to either be second-hand retellings of the christian version of things, or outright insertions into texts at a later stage by pious frauds. No non-biblical texts of the time provide any information on the life of Jesus Christ that is not a blatant retelling of the Bible.

Of course, non-existence of evidence is not evidence of non-existence, so 2000 years after the fact it is unlikely that anyone could prove conclusively that he did not exist. On the other hand, proof that he did exist would be simple - find some record that is not likely to have been subjective or falsified. An entry in a roman census for example. But such evidence does not exist, or has yet to be discovered. To be honest, I don't see the case going anywhere other than a judgement for the defendant due to reasonable doubt. But it's certainly going to be an interesting ride.

Monday, January 23, 2006

And on that note

It's nice to see that someone out there is still doing real medicine and saving lives.

On the other hand, people like this woman put the medical community to shame. I mean, i've heard of biting nails from stress, but this is going a bit far.

Quackery: Alive and Well in SA

On friday i was off work (due to having worked all weekend previously) so no posts. But two things happened on that day that have confirmed in my eyes that quackery is certainly alive and well in South Africa, and there is much money to be made off the stupid and ignorant.

Homeopathy

Driving past the local pharmacy, I noticed a sign that made me do a classic double take. In big colourful letters it proudly announced 'Melrose Pharmacy now has its own resident Homeopath! Private consultations available.'

Now, it only takes a high school knowledge of chemistry and about 5 minutes on the back of an envelope to work out that if the homeopaths actually follow the dilution ratios they claim to, the majority of their products to do not contain so much as a single molecule of the supposedly active ingredient. They are selling you water. Many of them, in the face of overwhelming evidence, have switched gears and claimed that yes indeed, after dilution there is no active ingredient. But, wait for it, the water remembers the molecules that were in it, and takes on their properties. Yes indeed, they are talking about the memory of water. Common sense alone should tell you this is bullshit. Why does it remember the shape of the active ingredient, and not also the shape of the container, the seal, the breath of the homeopath that mixed it, and the 5 million other things each molecule in the little ampule has come into contact with during its history on earth? But scientists, never relying on common sense alone, actually entertained this long enough to test it. And lo and behold, no evidence whatsoever for the memory of water. So really, homeopathy hasn't got a leg to stand on. I even blogged last year about a paper published in the medical journal Lancet that showed the effects of homeopathy to be consistent with that of placebos. In other words, they are as good as sugar water, because they are sugar water. QED.

Now, most consumers don't bother for 5 seconds to wonder about the rationality of what they're purchasing, so i can understand why homeopaths get away with this shit on their own premises. But here we have a case of a homeopath operating on the premises of a pharmacist. Correct me if i'm wrong, but don't pharmacists spend a really long time at university learning about the importance of things like clinical trials for efficacy, side effects and contra-indications, publishing results in reputable peer-review journals, and acceptance by national and international standards boards? We wouldn't expect anything less from conventional medicine. So how can a man whose career is staked on the importance of proving drugs to be both safe and effective, allow someone who does neither to peddle their wares in his pharmacy?

All I can say is, the recent issues that our dear health minister has caused in the pharmaceutical industry must be hitting hard, for a pharmacist to invite a fraudster into his shop in order to get a little more cash. However, he has obviousy thrown all his principles and training out the window. I'm ashamed, and I'm not going to be using that pharmacy in the future, you can be damn sure.

The Human Pin Code

South Africans are not beyond inventing quackery of our very own. I had the unfortunate experience of being at home on friday afternoon and catching 3 Talk with Nolene. For my international readers, imagine a talk show hosted by someone who desperately wants to be seen as the african Oprah, but has none of the intelligence, eloquence, ethics or style to pull it off. She's black, she's female, she's overweight, and she has a talk show. That's where the resemblance ends.

Anyway, she was interviewing the inventor of the Human Pin Code, South African Douglas Forbes. According to Forbes, important personality information is encoded in your birth date. Sounds a lot like astrology to me, but Forbes claims it is all science. The fascination came when they invited callers to phone in and give their birthdate, and Forbes would do a quick analysis (i.e. reading) for them.

Callers said hello, and gave their name and birthdate. And then came the kicker. 'Tell me a little about yourself and what questions you'd like the analysis to offer', asks Forbes. And that was when the caller spilled their entire personality over the phone. So he has their sex, age, and a smattering of issues that are important to them. Cue a very impressive but very transparent cold read of the caller. Callers were amazed at the relevance of a few vague and generic statements, blown away by how accurate he was. I was laughing my ass off at how easy it was to predict what he was going to say to each caller. I must be psychic.

And then came the funniest moment of all. A woman called in, and Forbes starts to talk about how she is a tomboy and always wears slacks or jeans rather than skirts. Is that accurate? She laughs and says no, not at all. Suddenly he switches gear! Oh, this is what we call a top bottom duality, she actually likes to wear very pretty tops and always makes sure her hair and makeup look good. How does that sound? The caller replies that honestly, he's completely off the mark. And watch how he slimes his way out of it by saying oh, she must be the 1% of people who do not follow their pin code.

What?? I nearly fell off the chair laughing. The caller wasn't impressed, but Nolene seemed unphased in her adoration of the guest and his thinly-disguised crap. But this is the same woman who interviews astrologers with a straight face, so i don't expect much more.

Seriously, people, don't be fooled by someone who is only a mediocre cold reader at best. This man has made a fuck-ton of cash off of gullible South Africans, and only stands to make more. Don't buy his books, don't believe his rubbish. There is no scientific basis for his 'scientific' theory, no more so than astrology. Take one look at his site and you will see he is only interested in making money off you.

Sigh.

Thursday, January 19, 2006

New Horizons; Same Old Fears

The new horizons mission has been cancelled again, for the second day in a row. On tuesday it was because of high winds. On wednesday, the facility handling the launch suffered a power failure. They're going to try again today, but the launch window is getting smaller and smaller.

new horizons is going to be the fastest man made probe, go the furthest, and is going to answer vital questions about what is alternately referred to as the smallest planet or one of the largest kuiper belt objects. its importance to science and our understanding of the solar system is undeniable.

yet, there is one group at least who relish the continual delays and impending doom of the project: the Global Network Against Weapons and Nuclear Power in Space. 'Holy crap!' you say, 'i didn't know New Horizons was actually a nuclear launch platform, packed to the gills with warheads ready to blast us all to smithereens from its orbit around pluto!' And guess what, it still isn't. What they're protesting is the 11 kilograms of plutonium dioxide used by the radioisotrope thermoelectric generator (RTG) that powers the probe.

According to NASA, there is a 0.4% chance of a launch accident that releases plutonium. Even in the event that it does occur, the amount released into the atmosphere will cause at worst exposure of 1 rem over 50 years. This is 15 times less than the exposure you get every day from normal background sources. Standing too close to your satellit dish is probably worse.

This just goes to show the bizarre misunderstanding and overreaction that goes hand in hand with nuclear power. Activists have caused many delays in gaining the go ahead to build the new pebble bed reactor at Koeberg. It's interesting, however, that they don't stop using all electricity in protest, as every joule in cape town is supplied by an already existing nuclear reactor. It's all fine and well to protest nuclear energy, just so long as you keep getting to use it.

Of course, the kinds of arguments they use are really great. Paul Gunter of the Washington, D.C.-based Nuclear Information and Resource Services comments: "The fact that both the planet Pluto and the manmade isotope plutonium are named after the god of hell lends bizarre insight into NASA's fascination with launching this hideous stuff into the heavens at the risk of fouling the very next of all humankind". What?? I'm sorry, is that meant to be a cogent argument? Don't get me started on the fact that someone who works for a nuclear information service doesn't appear to know the difference between an isotope and an element. It's bad enough that he thinks it's manmade.

Protesters to necessary technology never come up with any alternatives of their own. Why don't they go out and invent a safer, cleaner, more efficient source of energy than nuclear energy? Or another form of energy that is able to keep a probe powered for the 9 years it will take to reach pluto, at a fraction of the weight of conventional chemical batteries? Maybe then we'll take them seriously. But until that point, they can just shut the hell up.

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

Midweek Cuckoo: Jonathon "The Impaler" Sharkey

Jonathon Sharkey, Ph.D., L.D.D.D, is running for governor of Minnesota in the 2006 gubernatorial elections. He's the choice of the fledgling VWP (Vampyres, Witches and Pagans) party. In his own words:

"I am a Satanic Dark Priest, Sanguinarian Vampyre and a Hecate Witch. My Magikal Path name is: Lord Ares."

Should he become governor, Lord Ares has vowed to impale in front of the senate building anyone found guilty of terrorism (hence the nickname). He also supports mandatory jail time for drug and alcohol offendors, and impalement for drug dealers. Also, officers who abuse police power will, you guessed it, get impaled.

He's running for US President in 2008. If he wins, he has also vowed to impale George Bush.

If I lived in Minnesota, I would vote for this guy.

Monday, January 16, 2006

Bio Terrorism the African Way

I have previously blogged about how the Health Department forced the South African National Blood Service to abandon statistical risk profiling and switch to a more expensive testing method of dubious value. Interestingly, they only specified abandoning race related risk profiling. Nobody said anything about any other profiling.

It has now come to light that SANBS is still using sexual orientation profiling, based on international statistics that show that homosexual men are a high risk group. Now, I'm all for changing the wording from sexual preference to 'do you practice anal sex', because really that's what it comes down to. Sexual preference does not dictate it - many gay men only have oral sex, many straight men and women practice anal sex. So really, when it comes down to the bones of the statistics, that's what they should be looking for. Just change the wording.

But no, that kind of rational reaction would not be sufficient if you are the Gay and Lesbian Alliance. No, as far as they are concerned, the rational reaction is to have 300 members immediately donate blood and lie about their sexual orientation to do so. Maybe even that wouldn't have been so bad if they were all HIV neg and doing it to prove the point. But here's the kicker: 65% of them admit to not knowing their HIV status, and at least one knows he has full blown AIDS.

It doesn't matter that it will all get tested. There are window periods where the virus can go undetected. There are errors in the testing process. Infected blood can and does get through no matter how good your testing is (which is why risk profiling prior to donation is so important, but never mind). So there is a non zero chance that because of their actions, someone whose transfusion is meant to save them, will ultimately kill them.

This is not peaceful protest. This is biological terrorism. I don't care who you are or what fringe movement you stand for or even how valid your complaints are: this is not acceptable.

Friday, January 13, 2006

Coincidence? I think not!

Today, one year ago, our entire office grabbed every piece of valuable machinery, took it out of the office and placed it in their cars. Work halted. Servers were disconnected. Switchboards became inoperative. People streamed out of the office in one mass exodus.

Today, one year later, exactly the same thing is about to happen, at 5pm. Spooky. Such a coincidence must mean that (insert paranormal power or influence here) must exist! It cannot be a coincidence!

Of course, last year we were fleeing a mountain fire that threatened to engulf the office and us in it. This year we just so happen to be moving to a new office on the same day. But i defy you to prove that there isn't a mysterious connection between them.

Thursday, January 12, 2006

Memes are Hoax; pass it on

I have been indirectly dared to fulfil this meme. So here goes (as an aside, meme is just the words 'me me' put together).

1. What did you do in 2005 that you had not done before?
Went on a business trip to NY. Wore a suit. Felt very professional.

2. Did anyone close to you give birth?
No

3. Did anyone close to you get married?
No

4. Did anyone close to you die?
No

5. Did you travel? Where did you go? Best holiday memory?
Trip to NY for 2 weeks. Best memory is probably just experiencing for real a culture i've only ever seen on tv.

6. Best thing(s) you bought?
Home theatre system - only to have it stolen a month later.

7. Where did most of your money go?
Rent. Bills. Food. But good food. And my car.

8. What do you wish you had done more of?
Taken time off and spent it with Zenstar

9. What do you wish you had done less of?
Play World of Warcraft. Damn, it eats my time.

10. What kept you sane?
Being right 99% of the time.

11. What drove you mad?
Clients with stupid support queries, emailing me at night while i'm eating. Or at 3am while i'm sleeping. That damn blackberry.

12. What made you celebrate?
Multiple raises. A great relationship. Slowly finding out what's important to me and what i need to cut out of my life to be happy.

13. What made you sad?
Losing a good friend because they couldn't get past their own issues.

14. How was your birthday this year?
Nice. Saw some people i don't get to see as often as i'd like. got good pressies.

15. What political issue stirred you the most this year?
Manto Tshabalala Msimang and her abortion of a health policy. I hope TAC sues her and the health department into the ground, and takes Rath with her.

16. Were you in love in 2005?
Yes

17. What would you like to have in 2006 that you didn't have in 2005?
A laptop. A home theatre system (one month doesn't count). Burglar bars.

18. What date from 2005 will be etched in your memory and why?
My first burglary. I mean, i've had my car broken into many many times, and i've even had the damn thing entirely stolen, but i've never had someone actually come into my home and take my shit. Now I've only got to be mugged, raped and murdered to complete the african big five (car stolen or hijacked, check. House broken into, check).

19. What song will remind you of 2005?
Anything by System of a Down.

20. Compared to this time last year are you happier?
Yes.

21. Biggest achievement in 2005?
Being good at this new job.

22. Biggest disappointment in 2005?
Not winning the lotto? Nothing really, i had a pretty good year as things go.

23. What is the one thing that would have made you more satisfied?
Insurance.

24. Best new person you met this year?
Met some new people, none of them have really stood out. I'd have to say i've been more impressed with finding new bloggers.

25. A valuable life lesson you learnt this year?
Change is good.

Where's the start button?

Mmmm, the Macbook Pro sure is shiny, and i am loving that intel chip, but... it's not worth dealing with MacOS. Just... not.

Ok, before all of you explode with your 'Mac vs MS' theatrics: I know a lot of you out there hate windows, although i can't really understand why, it's like saying you hate qwerty keyboards just because the majority of the world uses them and you like using dvoraks. It's not an issue that should inspire extreme emotion. windows is a tool that does what the majority of users want it to do, and if you're not that user then you have other options like Linux and MacOS.

But from the other side, i have to say that i like windows. I don't love windows any more than i love qwerty keyboards - it's just the standard i'm used to. I wouldn't switch to Linux or MacOS any more than i would suddenly start using a dvorak configuration. I type fast using qwerty and i can do it without looking, because i've been using qwerty forever, just like i'm fast in windows. It's not laziness - using an unfamiliar operating system slows down productivity, and i don't have the time to waste trying to figure out how to do something that i already know how to do on an MS system. So yes, i'm sure if i took the time to become proficient on MacOS i would discover how great it is. but i don't have that time, anymore than i have the time to learn to touch type all over again.

And believe me, i'm not talking without experience. I wasted spent three years of my varsity career using Linux machines because UCT was too cheapass to fork out for a non-free system. It was awful. I went back to MS with great joy. I was not converted to Linux in any way. Sorry.

Conversely, of course, i don't expect anyone to suddenly start using MS. Different strokes for different folks.

Anyway, the point is no matter how stylish, i wouldn't buy the thing because its operating system is not what i'm looking for. it would just be an attractive ornament. but if you like macs... damn, it is sweet.

In local news, my response to this article is: honey, maybe it's you.

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

Midweek Cuckoo: Fred Phelps

I know I posted about this guy yesterday, but he really did deserve to be today's Wednesday Weirdo.

as an aside, looking at the website that GodHatesGays.com directs you to, I think it is likely to be a spoof, although it's not immediately obvious because even fred's real sites look like a joke. However, GodHatesSweden.com is definitely Fred. So is GodHatesCanada.com. But who doesn't.

The Reverend Fred Waldron Phelps Sr. is an evangelist of the old testament kind, with all the trappings of old fashioned fire and brimstone. He is the pastor and founder of the Westboro Baptist Church, the headquarters of which is in the basement of his private compound in Topeka, Kansas. Fred's house is on the compound, as well as the houses of 9 of his 13 children (the other four don't want anything to do with him for fairly obvious reasons). There are about 100 members of the WBC, the vast majority of which are related to Fred.

Fred's four estranged children, his sister and a number of people who have worked with him claim that he abuses his children and his wife, and may have been instrumental in the death of his 17-year old daughter in law. Even the minister who ordained him thinks he's mad. Phelps actively advises wife beating as a method of maintaining peace in the home. Quoted in a sermon, he said:

A good left hook makes for a right fine wife. Brethren, they can lock us up, but we'll still do what the Bible tells us to do. Either our wives are going to obey, or we're going to beat them!

The man also shot to death a dog that defecated on his lawn. Amazingly, although the dog's owner took Phelps to court, Phelps won the case. This says a lot more about the american legal system than about the rightness of his actions, though. In any event it lost him a lot of congregation members.

While he was an attorney in Kansas, he had more complaints filed against him than any other attorney in the history of the state, and possibly in the history of the country. His disbarment was signed by every single federal judge in the state, an unprecedented occurrence. Really, the story is just too bizarre for words, and continues on to fraud, extortion, child labour, attempted suicide, drugs, perjury, racism, exploitation, multiple arrests and AIDS conspiracies.

The wikipedia article on Fred is very well written and researched, and reads like an 8 hour HBO miniseries in the making. Rotten.com also has a timeline and collection of Fred's quotes, and a number of articles and at least one book have been written about him. He also appears as a character in a play called 'The Laramie Project', based on real events where Fred picketed the funeral of a young man who was murdered for being gay. He pickets every performance of the play, and has threatened to sue the writers for defamation, even though all the dialogue his character has in the play is directly from his own sermons of the time.

Truly a deserving midweek cuckoo. You couldn't make this stuff up.

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

I Was Wrong: God Does Hate Those Miners

Lo and behold, i was wrong about no one turning around and claiming that the death of 12 miners in the recent disaster was God's Fault.

The Reverend Fred Phelps of the Westboro Baptist Church has thanked god for his outpouring of wrath and for killing 12 miners to make the point that gays should all go to hell. You can view the PDF of the poster here. It's classic.

Also, go to Fred's site, GodHatesFags.com for a good laugh. Interestingly enough the mirror site is hosted at GodHatesAmerica.com, and mistakenly typing in GodHatesGAYS.com will take you to another FredPhelps site. Man, this guy's god sure does hate a lot of stuff. I shoulda saved him for tomorrow's Midweek Madman.

An amusing satire: GodHatesShrimp.com

And here is the official word of god. I'm merely an agent of his wrath. You have been warned.

Sign provided by ChurchSignGenerator.com

Friday, January 06, 2006

The Wrath of Rath

Ah, good old Matthias Rath, snake-oil salesman and con man delux. He's always good for a laugh.

Rath is in the papers again today, regarding his defamation suit against a Cape Town doctor, Eric Goemaere, who allegedly called him a 'killer' and a 'liar'. The doctor freely admits to doing so, and points out that these are based on fact and are in the interest of public safety, thus not defamatory.

In addition Rath is also suing Sapa, former education minister Kader Asmal, the Health-e news service, HIV/Aids expert Professor Jerry Coovadia, the DA and its health spokesperson, Dianne Kohler-Barnard, and the South African head of Medicines Sans Frontiers. It seems a lot of people don't like him and aren't afraid to say it.

Of course, when you read the quote from the doctor, you notice an interesting habit of Rath's, that seems unique to people who peddle lies for a living. Dr Goemaere stated:

"By those words he (Rath) claims that I am a killer prescribing these (anti-retroviral) drugs, but I believe he is the killer, not me, as he is confusing people and persuading them not to take these medicines."

So this is how the logical process goes, when you know you're the scum of the earth and people call you on it:

1. Call someone a killer for prescribing ARVs.
2. Have them call you a killer in return for warning people against ARVs and advising them to buy the useless vitamins for which you garner a tidy profit.
3. Sue for defamation.

So, it's okay to call other people killers, just not okay for them to do the same to you? This is the adult version of hitting someone and then going crying to mommy when they hit back. I have one thing to say to you, Mr. Rath.

quid pro quo.

Miner Hypocrisy

Some of you may already have heard of the tragedy that ocurred in west virginia this week, when a mine disaster claimed the lives of 12 miners. What makes this unique in disasters of this kind is that an initial, unofficial communication from within the mine office lead people to believe that all 12 miners had been found alive. When word reached the families desperately praying in the local church, the cry of Miracle! resounded. Reporters on site raced to press with photos of celebrating, god-fearing christians whose faith had saved the lives of their loved ones. 'Miner Miracle!' read the headlines. All around the country, people praised and thanked a merciful god, and lauded the power of prayer.

And then the official report from the mine office came, revealing that only one had survived. Suddenly, it was the fault of the mine office. The fault of the press. The fault of the rescuers.

Not one person turned around and shook their fist at the sky, and blamed the god who they were so keen to give responsibility to only seconds earlier. Nowhere did the headlines read 'Miners Abandoned by God'. People don't think that way. And it's that kind of selective reasoning that means religion works. God is given all the credit for the good stuff, and someone else gets all the credit for the bad stuff. Amen.

Wednesday, January 04, 2006

Midweek Cuckoo: Terence Malaher

It seems these days Messiahs are a dime a dozen. What I like about Terence Malaher is his use of single quotation marks, so liberal that it would make a greengrocer squirm. And the random underlining. And the colours. But mostly just the quotation marks.

In his website, Terence is trying to tell us the real truth about God's word and the coming armageddon. According to the website bio, Terence's flesh is of the 'white' colour, he was 'schooled' in South Africa and Zimbabwe, he speaks to all mankind of every race and creed via his sacred 'pen', and from a 'tender' age [he] was fortunate enough to be aware that there was an inner spiritual 'being' that was 'separate' from the flesh. Those are all his quotation marks, not mine. I'd love to know what he means by his 'pen'. Or, well, maybe not.

I also love the way his website is written in the third person, including the bio which includes quotes from the man himself. Yet, judging by this email written to the Quintessence of the Loon in protest of being included in such esteemed ranks, it appears that (a) it's Terence doing the writing, even when referring to himself in the third person and (b) his emails look just like his website.

I think this is what people do when deprived of paper and coloured crayons.

Also, here's the warning not to mess with his website. It's great.

Let it here be known that any "person" who tries to "violate" my "person" or the content of this God's sacred web site by any "Act" of intrusion, or any person who "directs" any other to so do, will by God be deemed an "offender" in God's eyes and by their own deed as one to be eternally "despised" by the Source (God), and their eternal destiny decreed by God THE AUTHORITY shall be one of eternal misery in the Dark "Hell" land below, for this "note" as all else by me written, has been done to set you free.

This applies to any person that seeks to denigrate me or my message, for by this 'act' of vindictive darkness it may well result in others being turned away from God's sacred message, and thus turning away from their own Salvation to their spiritual demise. Thus this same 'fate' will by God be placed upon the 'denigrator.' It is better or 'best' for any perceiving me as false to tell others to read my message and come to their own personally informed decision.

Peace and
goodwill unto all mankind


or

The Devil will
you bind


You have been warned.

Tuesday, January 03, 2006

Happy New Year!

Quick post to wish all and sundry a Happy New Gregorian Calendar Year. I had a good weekend which involved making sushi for family members and getting to the final table in schpat's first Poker Invitational. Fun.

I was thinking this weekend that Christianity is really the only religion that has it's own special anti-christianity i.e. satanism. Satanism as a religion exists only because christianity and the bible exist - without the existence of god and the angels, who the hell is lucifer anyway? More religions need this sort of thing, so this is what i propose:

Xenuism.

Come on, you know it's the next big thing. Atheism and rationalism are not the anti-scientology, Xenuism is. I'm working on a list of ways to tell if you're a Xenuist. Here's the first few:

You know you're a Follower of Xenu if:
3) You think medicine is good and that doctors know more about how to treat sick people than religious leaders do.
2) You think psychology has helped many people overcome psychological problems that may have resulted in them becoming non-functioning members of society, harming others or harming themselves.
1) You feel an irrepressible need to tie Tom Cruise to a volcano and then blow him up with nuclear bombs.

I think that last one is particularly telling.