Tuesday, 27 February 2007
O well, will try to keep telling myself that it has been almost 5 months since he left to work in Shanghai until the end of the year, and those 5 months have gone by pretty fast. Just have to take a few deep breaths, grit my teeth and hang on for a few more months.
Saturday, 17 February 2007
Singing... on the road again....
Friday, 16 February 2007
Thursday, 15 February 2007
Tuesday, 13 February 2007
Scooterboy and I have been toying with the idea of moving overseas again. Well, Scooterboy is already living in Shanghai, it's a matter of where we would both go next. I was loathe to move again as I am very happy in Melbourne but, seeing where my taxes (almost 50% of my income plus another 10% for almost all goods or services purchased) are going, I'm a heck of a lot more willing to pack my bags and look for greener, saner pastures overseas.
In October 2006, Good ol Johnny of messin-with-Obama-and-U.S. Democrats-when-it's-not-his-business fame, messed around with the separation of Church and State, and the secular public school system in Australia.
I must admit I missed this in the news as I was up to my ears in wedding planning and had not kept up with current affairs in the last few months of 2006.
You-Need-To-Be-Sacked Johnny implemented, with tax payer funds, the National School Chaplainy Programme through which "thousands of religious counsellors will be appointed to schools that join a new $90 million federal program to fill a significant "spiritual and pastoral" gap in services to Australian students."
View the following links for more information:
"Australian Secondary Principals Association president Andrew Blair said his members would have "favoured a much more open funding arrangement on a per capita basis for every school in the country, to allow them to engage the right kind of support that they might need, whether it be a social worker, a psychologist or a chaplain".
Mr Blair condemned tying such support to a religious base.
"I'm not sure that all that many schools across the country will opt to pick it up," he said.
"This kind of new fundamentalist zeal that seems to be coming out of Canberra is frankly out of step with what the education community really needs."
Australian Education Union federal president Pat Byrne said schools should be able to opt for a non-religious counsellor.
"Most schools would welcome the additional resource," Ms Byrne said. "The difficulty is that they have to be a chaplain representing an organised religious group." Teachers baulk at Howard's chaplains."The scheme has nothing to do with any genuine concern for students and the difficulties they confront. As outraged teachers’, parents’ and student counsellors’ organisations have pointed out, it will instead allow individuals without formal qualifications, including religious bigots, to prey upon young people with social, emotional and psychological problems.
Australian Capital Territory Council of Parents and Citizens Association president Jane Gorrie, for example, remarked: “We think it’s a very divisive proposal. Government schools are secular, so putting in religious chaplains is basically giving religious access to government schools and young people at their most vulnerable moment.”
Prime Minister John Howard has ruled out suggestions that schools could apply for the funding for counsellors rather than chaplains. The scheme was to be an avowedly religious one, he told the media. “To call a chaplain a counsellor is to bow to political correctness. Chaplain has a particular connotation, people understand it, they know exactly what I’m talking about.”
Sunday, 11 February 2007
Watch the announcement on Obama's website (note: I couldn't get the stream to work on my Mac - I'm waiting for it to be uploaded to his YouTube account).
Full text of the announcement here.
NYTimes article here.
When asked what he tells people who question whether Obama has enough experience to be president, Torrey said: ``I'll say what Barack says, Donald Rumsfeld and Dick Cheney have a great deal of experience.'' Bloomberg
Saturday, 10 February 2007
Here's a blog on the results of one participant.
"The very widely dispersed M168 marker can be traced to a single individual â€” “Eurasian Adam.” This African man, who lived some 31,000 to 79,000 years ago, is the common ancestor of every non-African person living today. His descendants migrated out of Africa and became the only lineage to survive away from humanity’s home continent."
More on The Genographic Project.
Friday, 9 February 2007
Hey Scooterboy! Here's a real life chick Big Eater for you! :D
From Wired: "Natsuko Sone is a petite 21-year-old who stands 5 feet 4 inches tall and weighs just 95 pounds. But she can eat 183 pieces of sushi in half an hour and down 20 pounds of food in one sitting.
Sone is the newest celebrity sensation among Japan's long line of champion competitive eaters -- or "food fighters," as the entertainment industry calls them -- and a rising star on YouTube."
Courtesy of BoingBoing.
Thursday, 8 February 2007
I printed the membership form, saw a note regarding payment via money order or cheque. Bad. I don't have a cheque book (I would have to queue at the bank to buy a bank cheque, not worth the money and more importantly, not worth my time. I actually can't even remember the last time I had to write a cheque… somewhere in the vicinity of 8 years or so ago). I am young enough that various means of payment have been established, such that I have never touched a money order (some archaic system involving a piece of paper for which one needs to queue in the infamously long and tedious lines at the Post Office - and that's if you can get there during your lunch break since they close at 5pm). So, I emailed the society requesting an alternative payment method. No response from the Society. Called them to ask the same question. Spoke to a 'mature' sounding lady whom I shall refer to as Ancient.
Ancient advised no cards accepted and rather snappishly started to carry on about their reasons. I cut her off. Asked about bank transfers. She said that would be possible provided that she can identify that I am the payer??? "WTF?", I did not say. I decided to be patient with Ancient and explained that I can easily specify e.g. "X name for purposes of membership in Rationalist Society of Australia." She said ok. I then asked for their banking details. Ancient then mystifyingly said, "I don't give out that information." "WTF??", I again did not say. I have no idea how she thought I was going to transfer the funds to her.
Ancient then proceeded to lecture me to the effect of "what's so difficult about going to the Post Office once every quarter to get a money order?" (as an aside, a lecture delivered in a snotty clipped British accent raises the hackles that much higher). I didn't bother explaining to Ancient the issues in relation to scarcity of time and my unwillingness to waste it standing in long queues during my lunch break (when I get one). I just said, I've never touched money orders, which hearken back to yesteryear and that there really was no excuse in this day and age of internet banking, then hung up.
I am happily a Bright but believe I should support a local outfit. So, I persevered and found the Atheist Foundation of Australia which appears to be a more professional organisation. I downloaded their application form from their website, entered my details in Word, paid with a credit card online via Paymate, then emailed the completed application form to them and Bob’s yer uncle. All over red rover in 10 minutes. Get with the times, Ancient.
Tuesday, 6 February 2007
On Sunday, January 28th, 2007, Jim Gray, a renowned computer scientist was reported missing at sea. As of Thursday, Feb. 1st, the US Coast Guard has called off the search, having found no trace of the boat or any of its emergency equipment.
Follow the story here.
Through the generous efforts of his friends, family, various communities and agencies, detailed NASA aircraft imagery has been made available for his last known whereabouts.
You will be presented with an image. The task is to indicate any satellite images which contain any foreign objects in the water that may resemble Jim's sailboat or parts of a boat. Jim's sailboat will show up as a regular object with sharp edges, white or nearly white, the same size as the boats in the sample images below. The size of the boat in the sample images is the size of the object you are looking for, even though the images you are scanning are much larger.
If in doubt, be conservative and mark the image.
Help search through this site
Article on the search.
Sunday, 4 February 2007
On 11 May 2001, I was browsing news headlines online during an ordinary lunch break at my desk, on an ordinary day, when I saw the headline, "Douglas Adams dies at age 49". I stopped breathing.The day clouded over. It's not him. It's some other Douglas Adams. But no, it was the one and only author of my all-time favourite book, The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy. My heart sank and I tearily scoured online coverage of his death.
A few days later, Richard Dawkins wrote this moving lament for Adams.
Years later, my heart still sinks when I think about our world without Douglas Adams. It is heartening to see that this great man is so fondly remembered by his fans and friends. Dawkins dedicates the God Delusion to the memory of Adams and often writes about him in the book. I just want to share one section with whoever may be reading this post.
"Douglas Adams's moving and funny account of his own conversion to radical atheism - he insisted on the 'radical' in case anybody should mistake him for an agnostic - is testimony to the power of Darwinism as a consciousness-raiser. I hope I shall be forgiven the self-indulgence that will become apparent in the following quotation. My excuse is that Douglas's conversion by my earlier books - which did not set out to convert anyone - inspired me to dedicate to his memory this book - which does! In an interview, reprinted posthumously in The Salmon of Doubt, he was asked by a journalist how he became an atheist. He began his reply by explaining how he became an agnostic, and then proceeded:
And I thought and thought and thought. But I just didn't have enough to go on, so I didn't really come to any resolution. I was extremely doubtful about the idea of god, but I just didn't know enough about anything to have a good working model of any other explanation for, well, life, the universe, and everything to put in its place. But I kept at it, and I kept reading and I kept thinking. Sometime around my early thirties I stumbled upon evolutionary biology, particulary in the form of Richard Dawkins's book The Selfish Gene and then The Blind Watchmaker, and suddenly (on, I think the second reading of The Selfish Gene) it all fell into place. It was a concept of such stunning simplicity, but it gave rise, naturally, to all of the infinite and baffling complexity of life. The awe it inspired in me made the awe that people talk about in respect of religious experience seem, frankly, silly beside it. I'd take the awe of understanding over the awe of ignorance any day
The concept of stunning simplicity that he was talking about was, of course, nothing to do with me. It was Darwin's theory of evolution by natural selection - the ultimate scientific consciousness-raiser. Douglas, I miss you. You are my cleverest, funniest, most open-minded, wittiest, tallest, and possibly only convert. I hope this book might have made you laugh - though not as much as you made me."
"People will then often say “But surely it’s better to remain an Agnostic just in case?” This, to me, suggests such a level of silliness and muddle that I usually edge out of the conversation rather than get sucked into it. (If it turns out that I’ve been wrong all along, and there is in fact a god, and if it further turned out that this kind of legalistic, cross-your-fingers-behind-your-back, Clintonian hair-splitting impressed him, then I think I would chose not to worship him anyway." DNA