29 September 2011

Creepy Church Sign

Whenever I visit my parents in Magpie I make sure to check the sign this church has out the front of its grounds. You know the kind where they have their uplifting message, or their prosthelytising tracts, or the kind on the Simpsons that always has an amusing message.
Well when I saw this the other day, I knew I would have to stop next time and take a photo, its just so odd and creepy; something which would seem more at home in a message from a stalker, written with cut out letters from magazines.
Check it out:
Did i mention he is supposedly watching you; all the time......
Seriously? What is the message this is trying to get across? I mean I understand the reference being that Jesus got himself killed for the sins of all mankind. But does it really need to try and link itself to ones perception of their appearance?
I don't really have much more to say on the subject; what do you all think?

Is it Quote-worthy or Just Crazy?

I have one of those standard day-a-page calendar things on my desk at work, and every date is emboldened with some quote or words of wisdom from one source or another. Generally they are interesting, sometimes they are inspiring, but some days I really wonder if the people compiling this list are really putting thought into it, or are they just grabbing anything that sounds quoteworthy, in order to fill the required 365 days of a year.
Take today’s instalment for instance:
 “Health is not a condition of matter, but of mind” – Mary Baker Eddy
At first I thought this interesting, perhaps it was a take on perception, or the true meaning of health. But then the more cynical side of me won over, and I began to wonder what came of old Mary, and would she have still shared this view if her health had failed her.
A quick glance at Wikipedia seemed to confirm my wariness; she was the founder of the Christian Science religion.
Now I am an atheist, and quite critical of religion in all its guises, but don’t think that I am being too quick to judge here solely on her Christian nature. Christian Science is at best a ridiculous superstition, and at worst a dangerous and immoral practise.
The crux of Christian Science ‘thinking’ revolves around the fact that Jesus didn’t use drugs, or employ any hygiene measures in promoting health, and as such they must not be necessary. Eddy and her sect instead believe that all illnesses can be overcome through proper knowledge of God, hence the quote about health being a condition of the mind.
Sit there and think about a god, or read your holy books, and magically you will get better; it is a laughable concept, especially given that this lady was living only just over one hundred years ago, and clearly had hundreds of years of medical theory available to her.
Pictured: Mary Baker Eddy
Not pictured: Sanity
Here is an example of the ‘Science’ she employed, in a passage straight from one of her texts:
“It is plain that God does not employ drugs or hygiene, nor provide them for human use; else Jesus would have recommended and employed them in his healing. … The tender word and Christian encouragement of an invalid, pitiful patience with his fears and the removal of them, are better than hecatombs of gushing theories, stereotyped borrowed speeches, and the doling of arguments, which are but so many parodies on legitimate Christian Science, aflame with divine Love.” (Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures, 143:5, 367:3)
This religious resistance to medical advances is a constant theme in history, as even things like the vaccination of people against the plague was derided by zealot individuals as being against their gods will.
It should be noted that Mary once claimed to have healed herself of an injury using this method, however her local homeopath went on the record as saying that the injury itself was not chronic, and its disappearance was unremarkable.
You just know it must be humbug when even a homoeopath thinks it bunk.
It is also worth noting that though Mary claimed dot have been a sickly child throughout her life, there has also been suggestions that this was more psychosomatic than anything, and just goes to show that some illness is all in the mind, but should nevertheless be treated through medical, and not magical, means.

But let’s not forget that laughable though it is, it is also a dangerous practise. It is a practise that encourages parents and loved ones to forego seeking medical help, and to wait around, affording whatever ailments afflict them more time to do damage. It is no surprise that these Christian Scientists have found themselves in courts multiple times on charges of neglect, and failure to seek medical aid.
Isn’t it bad enough that we have religious nuts out there in this day and age that strap their 13 year old daughters to chairs and drown them trying to exorcise evil spirits, or likewise cause the death of a four year old boy by smothering his face in the dirt in the name of exorcism?
Not only do these atrocities happen, but we still have to apparently tell parents that the best hope for healing their children is medicine, and not prayer (read: sitting around doing nothing). I mean prayer is easy enough to supplement on the side, so why not simply do all you can for your child, and get a doctor around also?

And that in closing, is why I think this quote was not worth printing.......
There, rant nicely tied up.

Overzealous Thesaurus

I often try and jazz up my prose a bit while I am writing by taking advantage of Microsoft Word’s in built thesaurus when I can’t quite remember the words I want to use.
I was a bit surprised this time when I noticed that my thesaurus wasn’t content with the mere offering of one word synonyms, but instead gave me the somewhat extended ‘throw a monkey wrench in the works’ as an alternative.
I can’t even remember what I was looking for, as this entry overshadowed everything else.
I had noticed that it would often substitute a smaller idiom, perhaps one of three or four words (as it also has below in ‘halt in its tracks’), but a seven word thing seems a bit excessive.
Although perhaps in the future I will be able to extend my attempts at writing some fiction by incorporating this expansive tendency......

(P.s. I am beginning to think that writing a blog can make someone a bit self-centred, by which I mean I didn’t make the first four paragraphs of this post start with ‘I’ on purpose. I just wrote and it came out that way. I guess it’s just a bad habit...)

28 September 2011

The Dullest Day is Actually Quite Interesting

This year has been a pretty busy one. We have had tsunamis, Arab revolutions, a new sovereign nation, nuclear scares, a royal wedding, covert assassinations, the capture of war criminals, the final space shuttle flight; and I think some guy from Australia even rode a bike in France quite well.
We should think ourselves lucky that we find ourselves in such interesting times.
In fact this clustering of seemingly significant events this year made me think of an article I read a while back about the distribution of interesting events in the past hundred years. Ironically the most interesting thing to come from this study of significance was the identification of the past century’s dullest day.
Apparently this day was the 11th of April, 1954.
According to Computer programmer William Tunstall-Pedoe, the only things of note that happened on that day was “a general election was held in Belgium, a Turkish academic was born and an Oldham Athletic footballer called Jack Shufflebotham died”.
I checked Wikipedia and couldn’t find anything else of note myself, but this study went a lot further than I did in my idle clicking. It compiled over 300 million facts about world events over the past one hundred years, and created a matrix which garnered importance from not only the events themselves, but also from how they were linked to each other.
From this the program (True Knowledge) was able to pinpoint that particular Sunday as the most humdrum of days on record.
Remarking on this fact the Cambridge researcher explained "Nobody significant died that day, no major events apparently occurred and, although a typical day in the 20th century has many notable people being born, for some reason that day had only one who might make that claim - Abdullah Atalar, a Turkish academic”.
Now I am not going to go into how objective this conclusion is, or how we define what a boring, or significant event was; after all that wasn’t even the purpose of the program to begin with. What I am interested in however is the more philosophical ramifications of this title ‘Most boring day’, or perhaps, ‘least interesting day’. Because to me, as soon as you figure out that this day was objectively the day with the least going on, well that makes it seem more interesting if you ask me.
Consider if you wrote these days down in a list from most interesting, to least. Wouldn’t you find the last entry somewhat more significant given its new position at the nadir of importance? But then what?
So it becomes more interesting, and then moves up the list, but then instantly loses the very quality that gave it importance, and is surpassed in dullness by its now slightly less important, but at the same time all the more interesting neighbour.
Perhaps I am just rambling (I have been known to do this), but this reminds me of an interesting paradoxical riddle I once heard called the Unexpected Hanging Paradox.
In this paradox we are presented with plight of a prisoner, condemned to execution, and at the mercy of a judge administering the sentence. The judge informs the prisoner that they will be executed on a weekday the following week, at noon, but that the day of the execution will be a surprise to the prisoner. That is to say, when the executioner knocks on the door, the prisoner would have been unaware that that was their final day until that point.
However the prisoner in this case is a wily character. After a quick cogitation on the subject, they conclude that they will escape from their impending hanging alive.
Pictured: the prisoner
Their reasoning starts by excluding those days upon which their hanging wouldn’t be a surprise. Offhand there is seemingly only one example of this; Friday. As if it gets to Friday, and the prisoner has yet to be hung, then surely this cannot be constituted as a surprise when the executioner knocks on the door, as it is the only day left!
So Friday is out of the question, but that still leaves the rest of the week I hear you say. Ah dear reader; the prisoner has thought of that too.
Given that Friday has been eliminated from possible ‘surprise’ hangings, the last possible day must be a Thursday. But as before, if you arrive at the end of a Wednesday and find yourself still persistently breathing, then your only other option would be a Thursday, which would be not at all that surprising!
This kind of reasoning can be extended to exclude Wednesday, Tuesday and finally Monday from the possible hanging days, until the prisoner is assured that they will survive this ordeal intact.
Generally the riddle, or paradox, ends here with a glib recount of how, confident that they would escape their sentence through this feat of reasoning, the adroit prisoner is shocked to find the executioner knocking on their door Wednesday at noon (or some other arbitrary day).
There is some innate distrust of the prisoner’s rationale in this paradox. You can’t help but feel that is something wrong with their arguments, even though each step seems to make sense. The difficulty isn’t just with this simple iteration though; it is a problem still widely debated in the academic world, with philosophers and logicians seeking the correct answer, and appealing to epistemology, or the leaky inductive argument for answers.
It seems to me that it is the prisoners own pride that leads to a life-threatening confidence in the first place.
Nevertheless, before my tangent strays too far off topic I should try and wrangle it back in to place. I brought up the unexpected hanging as a way of dealing with this, ‘most boring day in history’ thing.
The second we start to eliminate days from the category of ‘boring’, we will always leave the next likely candidate as the new dominant force of dullness, and then next in the crosshairs to be blasted with importance. This is the leaky inductive problem that is also present in the unexpected hanging case.
I guess there is at least one thing we can be certain of, and that is that there is at least one professor at Bilkent University who may take aim at the 11th of April 1954 being the dullest day on record. And that’s Professor Abdullah Atalar.
I will assume that he is saying something rather profound here. Well done Professor Atalar; you are important

27 September 2011

Custodians of Modern Vintage

[Editors note: This post was actually written last weekend, but the post failed, so here it is again. I hope you enjoy it as much as i just enjoyed calling myself editor]

For the next three weekends my wife, my son and I will be holding the fort at Modern Vintage from 8:30am to 3:00pm each Saturday. For those who know me, or my sister, you will know what I am talking about here, but for the rest of you hypothetical readers, I shall give an explanation.
Modern Vintage is a new homewares store opened up by my mum Kerrie, and my sister Rachel (of Picklebug fame for those in the know) right in the heart of Ballarat. They have furnished this using their formidable eye for style, as they travelled across the middle kingdom, buying wares and having adventures.
In fact I say this with great envy, as very reason why I am manning the post with my immediate family is because my mum and sister (along with my dad in his characteristic traveling hat) have hit the skies again, and are currently on a three week sorte through the markets and bazaars of China.
So below I have attached some photos of our tenure at Modern Vintage, that you dear reader may get an idea of how awesome my families latest business venture is. Damn awesome that is.
Harrison and Lizzie manning the counter

A collection of goods for sale

Awesome old authentic ship steering wheels (this is sold, but rest assured, there will be more; there are lots of old ships in China, and I will be first in line)

A swish table with some knickknacks

Another cool chunky wooden table for sale. Lizzie wants this one

Another groovy old wooden table, and some chunky coloured chairs

Things to put on your face

Some little thing made of wood, and what  appears to be a half horse-half aardvark head, and some ornate looking lanterns (which also look like gas canisters, or veiled lego heads....)

These groovy Chinese looking stools have been selling like hotcakes (do pancakes really sell that well to be worthy of the idiom?)

Available in many colours, for the modern homeowner ;-)

An assortment of melts, I swear one of them smells just like Hubba Bubba

For the man who has everything; why not a massive wooden pitchfork?

The numbers are for sale, the old school door isnt

Jewelry for the ladies, or perhaps, the men....

A nice multicolored drawer set, and one of their authentic vintage life preservers.

More jewelry stuff. i really don't have much to say here. *cough*
So come on in and check it out people, and remember that soon enough there will be a whole new batch of goodies on its way from the orient.

A Rant on Wednesday, and Why We Call It That

The Rambling Beginnings
Why is it spelt Wednesday, when it is clearly pronounced wendsday? I mean I get the English language is an eclectic beast, but is there even a sound for 'dn'? Or is the ‘d’ perhaps silent?
On second thoughts, I think it definitely is, and wouldn't even make sense as wendsday, as if you think about it; we actually call it ‘Wensday’. Thinking back to my childhood, I remember looking at this most formidable of the weekdays when learning to spell them, and constantly repeating to myself “wed-nes-day, wed-nes-day, wed-nes-day” to drill in the odd spelling of the thing.
But as with most irksome words in the English lexicon, its roots must be understood if you want to see the logical, in the seemingly illogical.
Wednesday is Woden’s day.
Woden, Galdalf; its all the same.
Woden, for those of you who are not as well versed in Germanic gods as I am pretending to be, is kind of a counterpart to the Norse Odin, which for some reason I will assume you are all aware of. He was also the standard psychopomp for the Germanic tribes, which I am mentioning solely because the word itself is so much fun to behold.
Woden was a pretty busy guy (if he had existed), and quite deserving of a day of the week being named in his honour. Under his supervision, the earth and sky were created from the dead body of a giant named Ymir, he created the first man and woman from an ash tree and an alder. Oh and he also established the laws of the universe. So a bit of a polymath as well.
Wednesday is Woden’s day because of the industrious Romans. After conquering parts of Germany, the Romans, as they are wont to do, sought to romanise the Germanic tribe’s gods, they assigned Woden to their representation of the god Mercury, due to their similar role as psychopomps (managed to get it in there again).
Having earlier assigned the seven major planets the names of seven of their main gods, the middle day of the week was given to Mercury, and thus passed on to his buddy, or somewhat alter-ego, Woden.
In fact if you look at the romance languages, they all still take their name for Wednesday from this roman convention: mercredi (French), mercoledì (Italian), miércoles (Spanish), miercuri(Romanian), dimecres (Catalan), Marcuri or Mercuri (Corsican), dies Mercurii(Latin).
What is funny however is that so many other languages have a more structured way to addressing the days of the week, and yet English clings to a Germanic style name, based on a bastardisation of others gods by the Romans. Hell even the Germans had discarded it a thousand years ago in favour of the more direct name Mittwoch, which literally means middle of the week.
Indeed many nations and languages have taken to this way of naming Wednesday, as either the middle of the week, or else as a demarcation of its place within the week, yet the English refer to it by the name of a god that they no longer, and most likely never, worshiped.
Most Slavic languages follow the modern German pattern and use derivations of "the middle" for Wednesday: сряда sryada (Bulgarian), srijeda (Croatian), středa (Czech), среда sreda (Macedonian), środa (Polish), среда sredá (Russian), среда/sreda or cриједа/srijeda (Serbian), streda (Slovak), sreda (Slovene), середа sereda (Ukrainian).
The Finns call it Keskiviikko ("middle of the week"), and its Icelandic counterpart Miðvikudagur means the same, whereas the Faroese name Mikudagur translates as "Mid-week day".
Depending on when you think the week ends or begins, you could also take the somewhat less artistically inclined path and just number the days of the week. I mean it’s not as extravagant as our English roots in foreign gods and celestial bodies, but then again it was our languages penchant for ‘out there’ origins that got me ranting in the first place.
The Portuguese take the easy route and simply use the word quarta-feira, meaning "fourth day”, similar to the Greek who call it Tetarti (Τετάρτη) (simply "fourth"). The Arabic culture was always one for numbers, so no surprise that they went down the mathematical path, and if you want to talk about the day after Tuesday in Arabic, its أربعاء which means "fourth". Similarly in Hebrew it is רביעי ("fourth") and in Persian چهارشنبه ("fourth day").
The Estonians weren’t content starting with Sunday, and thus their name is given as kolmapäev, meaning "third day”. In Mandarin Chinese, xīngqīsān means "day three", as they leave Sunday unnumbered.
So all very logical one would assume.
Though I guess we aren’t alone in remembering Woden’s importance in the world (he didn’t die on a cross, but in some tales he did impale himself on a tree....), as some dialects of Faroese use Ónsdagur to refer to his day, while the Danes pay him his dues on Onsdag, ("Ons-dag").
As usual, the ever vigilant, and chronically worried pious religious people of the world have even found issue with this inadvertent ‘worship’ of deities long relegated to the reject bin (your turn soon enough Christ), with groups such as the Quakers calling Wednesday ‘forth day’, in case their god gets a bit jealous of old Woden’s popularity.
(Note: a similar worry of inadvertent worship is the reason why traditionally Muslims bow when praying; in order to ensure that Allah doesn’t accidentally think they are worshipping the sun. Because I’m sure Allah worries about this.)

Wednesday is called 'budhwar’ in Hindi; I don’t know why.
I myself prefer hump day.
Plus it doubles as a name for disturbed little children.
[Wednesday that is, not hump day.....] 
Rant completed.

James Nesbitt Is The Man To Watch

James Nesbitt is just plain gold. Put him in a show, and that show is instantly great.

A couple of years back I discovered his dramatic chops in Jekyll, the modern extension of Robert Louis Stevenson's Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde. A six part BBC thing which brings the tale forward into the modern era, complete with some sci-fi style genetic mumbo jumbo thrown in to boot.
Nesbitt did a great job playing the titular characters, changing deftly between the everyday Doctor Tom Jackman and his maniacal counterpart Hyde.
Just check out that wicked grin!
Then a year back I watched the three part three part drama serial, again by the BBC, Occupation. Set during the beginning of the 2003 Iraq war, it deals with the lives of three soldiers during the wear, and then how they adapt to life afterwards. Again Nesbitt shines as he deals with his family obligations, amid his tours of Iraq, and the realisation that he has fallen in love with an Iraqi doctor.
If you haven't seen this show, it is well worth your time, and has one of the best, most emotional, and most devastating endings of any show i have seen. And i loved it!
And yes, that is Tommy from Snatch on the left.
So when I saw an add for another upcoming British drama with the Irish actor (ITV this time, not BBC), I was pretty excited. The show was Monroe.
Monroe deals with the neurosurgeon Gabriel Monroe, played by Nesbitt, his work life, and how he deals with the goings on in his family. Think of this as a British version of House, except with less focus on the solving of a medical mystery (these are generally straight forward procedures), and more focus on personal relationships. Now that I think about it, it isn't that much like House at all.... There are similarities; he has a sidekick a la Wilson, and a rocky relationship with a female doctor at work. There are the doting younger doctors, one of whom is a smarmy self assured jerk, and so forth. This might simply be a case of the way such professions work (with the old and wise mentoring the young and cocksure), but either way it works well and there is a dynamic in the show that allows more relationships, and an opportunity for students to explain things in simpler terms for us laypeople in the audience.
Plus he has an Irish accent, and that's just tops.
But one thing that Monroe has which House lacks is a heart. Monroe is the empathetic voice in the hospital, whereas his female counterpart, the heart surgeon Brennan, plays his cold and methodical foil.
The show switches nicely between his private and personal lives. However as is the case with most shows like this, there is still the amazing coincidence that each week a patient comes in with just the right problem to parallel something happening in his life. Dealing with a patients parents who have split up as he deals with his wife leaving him, and so forth.
Nevertheless, i highly recommend getting on to this show while the gettings good; go on to iView, and check it out for free(ish).

So that is my little rant on James Nesbitt. 

Oh, and while I am geeking out about Mr. Nesbitt, check out this production photo of him in his Hobbit gear as Bofur the dwarf. Awesome:

15 September 2011

My ‘Work’space

I remember at one point the director at work made it known that he wanted desks to be nice and clean. ‘An organised desk indicates an organised mind’ was the justification offered.
Now my desks are always a mess, as verified by the below image, but I don’t see this as a negative thing. After all, an organised desk doesn’t technically imply that it must be a clean desk. After all, what does a clean desk say about us; a clean mind? Or what’s worse, when I look around and see some of my colleagues with an all but empty desk, then what am I supposed to infer?
My desk is a mess, but I know where everything is. It may very well be a nice analogue of my mind, a veritable cacophony of thoughts and beliefs whirling helter skelter all over the place which, if taken as a whole might appear to be utter chaos, however look a bit closer, and you may find there is a thread of coherency holding it all together.
I am keen to make this blog a place for me to write not only my rants on topics, or links to amusing or interesting articles, but also as a sort of journal, and a way of laying down whatever can be called my personality on the web. So in the spirit of making this a personal endeavour between me, and you dear reader, I thought I would share my workspace (note the inverted commas in my title, they are there for a reason) as it sits now with you, so that you might get a better picture of who I am. Or at least, who I am at work.
This is the best I could manage to fit in two photos from my phone, with a bit of ad hoc photo manipulation achieved solely through Microsoft Word; but I think it gets the job done. I have even added some labels for the various doodads adorning my workspace:
1.       Old Christmas decoration made from an incised business card.
2.       Rolled up plan I should have dealt with long ago.
3.       Post it notes stuck under my desk.....
4.       Guernica, a painting by Pablo Picasso.
5.       Spiderman (with spider sense tingling)
6.       Very tiny origami crane (it's the white dot at Spiderman’s leg)
7.       The Portable Atheist by Christopher Hitchens
8.       Multiple print offs in both colour and black and white (we are supposed to save money by printing in black and white, yet I end up printing off two copies, because when I actually need colour, I forget that the default setting is black and white, thus wasting more money in the end......)
9.       The Great Wave Off Kanagawa - woodblock print by the Japanese artist Hokusai.
10.   Can holder filled up a third of the way with all the used staples from two years of council work
11.   Origami rubbish bins
12.   Mobile phone dock made from binder clips
I also have a few more pieces of art printed off and attached to the wall at my left in order to make myself appear more cultured than I am. As well as some photos I have printed off of my wife and son in order to help me through the more dreary work days.
So that is my workspace as it sits today. A little bit of craziness stuck in the middle of the bureaucracy that is local government; a description which could just as easily describe me, as my desk...

Gumby Arrested!

Yet another example of a catchy headline begging for an accompanying image, which is promptly delivered in all its glory.

"Gumby robber surrenders to police"

Apparently the store owner thought the guy was a joke. The news story says "The failed convenience store robber who dressed up as the animated character Gumby has turned himself in to police"
Perhaps he would have fared better if he had a friend dressed as Pokey for a quick get away.

On letters that are also words

When you go through the alphabet, a surprising number of letters are words in their own right. Well at least the sounds that make the letters names are. In fact only D, E, H, K, W and Z have no meaning beyond the letters they describe. They are at most a noun describing this letter.
Here are the rest, along with a quick definition:
A – A determiner, used before a singular countable noun to refer to one person or thing not previously known or specified, in contrast with ‘the’, referring to somebody or something known to the listener.
Bee -  A buzzing thing (thank Baldrick for this definition).
Sea - Big blue wobbly thing that mermaids live in (again, courtesy of the diminutive servant from Blackadder)
Eff – An offensive term used to express strong feelings by similarity in sound to other offensive terms.
Gee – Expressing enthusiasm.
Eye – Organ of vision
Jay – Noisey bird/Somebody thoughtlessly talkative
Ell – Old unit of length used for measuring cloth
Em – Variable measure of type, equal to the point size of the typeface ebing used.
En – Half an Em (See above)
Owe – Be indebted for something.
Pee – Urination
Queue - Line of waiting people.
Are - Present indicative plural and 2nd person singular of be.
Ess – Something S-shaped (i know, a bit of a cop out, but it’s in the dictionary....)
Tee – Small object for placing a golf ball on.
You -  Those being referred to.
Vee - Something with the shape of a ‘V’ (It’s a noun, look it up!)
Ex – Previous, former.
Why – An adverb used to ask or talk about the reason, purpose, or cause of something.
Who says I have too much spare time.....

14 September 2011

Bits of the World Trade Center live on

I am a bit late with my obligatory September 11th post, but then again I was around a year late in starting this blog, so I figure I can still get this post out there.
Rather than focusing on the obvious stuff: on the regret, and the sadness, and the reflections of how this day ‘changed everything’; or the resulting wars, and other terrorist attacks; the now seldom mentioned War on Terror, or the ultimate demise of the mastermind of that horrible act a decade ago. Rather than follow suit with a similar post, I am instead focusing on some of the more interesting results of that dark day in 2001.

True to the enterprising spirit that made the United States the capitalist juggernaut of the 20th century (I'm not extending this into the current century because I’m not that optimistic), the wreckage of the Twin Towers has been utilised in two interesting ventures.
The first is perhaps the most American of the two; the building of a warship, the aptly named USS New York. Soon to be followed by two sister ships named after the other crash sites from the terrorist attacks (the USS Arlington and the USS Somerset), the New York was created partially with steel from the collapsed towers.
I guess it is fitting that a relic of the greatest attack on the United States homeland become a part of the navy designed to protect it, but I cant help find it amusing that of all things in Americas arsenal, a warship is probably the last thing that would be useful in combating the threat of terrorists; especially those who hide out inland, be it in caves, or swanky Abbottabad compounds.
The scrap steel utilised from the towers was melted down and now forms part of the ship’s bow, and though it only comprises less that 0.1% of the ships total mass, it was more of a symbolic gesture to go along with the ships name.
There is something true to that war hungry oriented view of the United States which goes along well with this usage of World Trade Centre scrap metal. Even if you don’t look at the militaristic nature of the U.S as a bad thing (it was a thing of pride for many people in watching the forces of ‘freedom’ rise up in opposition to the growing communist war machine many years ago), it is still somewhat fitting that what was once a symbol of American power is now transformed into another, more literal, form of power projection.
However we don’t only associate Americans power and influence with the tip of their metaphorical sword, but also with their technological and scientific reach. That’s why I was again both surprised, but also quite accepting to find out this week that there are parts of the World Trade Centre rubble now on Mars, exploring the red planet.
It seems that one of the contractors working for NASA on their latest Mars Exploration programme was able to incorporate some of the rubble from the towers in their design.
Honeybee Robotics was tasked with the creation of the drilling mechanisms for the Spirit and Opportunity rovers due for launching to the forth rock from the sun in the year 2004. Their offices are located in lower Manhattan, and as such the events of those days really hit home for them, and they decided to honour the spirits of those lost by including some parts from the collapsed towers in the rovers.
They used recovered aluminium to create the cable shield for the rock abrasions tools each of the rovers use to analyse the martial soils. You can see a picture of one of them, stereotypically adorned with the emblem of the flag of the United States, in the image below.

Via Gizmodo and NASA

Don’t Trust the Catholic Church to Seek Justice

I was reading an article this morning about Senator Xenophon publicly naming a priest accused of rape many years ago, with my initial thoughts being around the legality of naming and shaming people. I had heard his ultimatum yesterday, and was wondering not only if he would do it, but also if he should do it. As far as I know this isn’t the same as the recent kerfuffle surrounding a certain Hinch, as there is no ongoing case, but then again that turns out to be part of the problem.
As I read further the more striking issue seems to be how the Catholic Church likes to see itself as somewhat anterior to the normal routes of justice in our, or indeed any, country.
For instance the insidious George Pell had the following to say about the way the Church deals with ‘complaints’ (a rather benign word when we are talking about child rape I think):
“When someone who has been abused chooses to bring his complaint to the church rather than to the police, the integrity and implementation of the church's protocols (Towards Healing in this case) are of first importance in achieving justice for the complainant, and indeed for all concerned."
Oh really? Because I would have thought that the thing of foremost importance in this country would be ensuring that justice is sought through the proper channels, and through institutions that are designed, and one would hope qualified, to meet out justice.
All pretence aside; I have no idea as to the legality of this case, or whether the Senator should be giving this information to the public. But I think it is somewhat overshadowed by the constant behaviour of the Catholic Church all over the world in putting their own rules and regulations above that of not only the nations they live in, but the societies they are a part of.
In the Church’s letter to Xenophon pleading that he not go ahead with the naming, they pointed out how an investigation had already been conducted by the Archdiocese in question, making reference to the fact that they wanted to ensure “natural justice and procedural fairness”, perhaps not realising that in Australia we have actual departments centred around both of these principles. But then again, it’s all in the term ‘natural’ I guess.
Australian justice would be seen as paling in comparison to the justice of an institution that believes it has its own communication line to the answers of the universe, and that one slightly sinister looking guy in Rome has his ear to the lord of the universe. Considering this mindset I am not surprised that they seek to circumvent our own earthly legal institutions.
That's the Pope on the right I think
The letter also goes on somewhat absurdly to state that "The priest concerned has categorically denied the allegations and, objectively speaking, it is not irrelevant that he has been a priest of good standing in the Archdiocese for almost 50 years". Now I am no expert on the matter, but I don’t think that a priests good standing is enough to absolve them of any accusations leveled their way, after all there are numerous examples throughout the churches history of seemingly upstanding members of the church being anything but upstanding behind the scenes.
Honestly, I don’t know how anyone can trust the Catholic Church these days, and given the recent opposition in Ireland, a former stronghold of the Church, it seems as if less and less people are trusting of them.
I read another article recently that goes over the way the Catholic Church words its official responses to make it appear more cooperative, regarding compliance with the laws of whichever country it finds itself infecting, than it actually is.
In a recent response to the Cloyne Report (an investigation into sexual abuse (cf. Rape) into a diocese in Ireland), the Vatican said:
“From the foregoing considerations, it should be clear that the Holy See expects the Irish Bishops to cooperate with the civil authorities, to implement fully the norms of canon law and to ensure the full and impartial application of the child safety norms of the Church in Ireland.”
A seemingly innocuous response, I thought, which even gives a hint of proper cooperation on the Churches behalf. That is until I read Michael Nugent’s thoughts on the matter. Apparently the important thing to notice here is the use of the word ‘full’ or ‘fully’. Note its absence when talking about cooperation with civil authorities, but its adhesion to anything Church related.
Nugent compares the lack of the adverb when dealing with civil authorities to an example from another abuse case the Church faced, again in Ireland, back in 1997:
“This missing word “fully” is the exact formulation that the Dublin Archdiocese used in 1997 to mislead people about its response to the sexual abuse of Marie Collins. When the priest who had abused Collins was convicted, the Archdiocese issued a press statement claiming that it had cooperated with police in relation to her complaint. Collins was upset by this and told her friend Father James Norman. Father Norman told police that he had asked the Archdiocese about the statement and the explanation he received was that “we never said we cooperated ‘fully’, placing emphasis on the word ‘fully’.””
So here we see again that when it comes to matters of justice, the Catholic Church cannot be trusted to be forthright and open with the civil authorities, and is more than willing to hold back information which might throw them in a bad light, than it is to help those who have suffered sexual abuse and rape while in their supposed divine care.
In this case the Church was made aware of these accusations, but it was ultimately the civil authorities who ensured justice prevailed, through no help from the Church. Oh sure they cooperated, but just not fully. And to me it seems that anything but a full cooperation with the law smells of an intent to hide things, and circumvent the proper channels of justice and truth.

Well I think that’s the end of that rant. I suppose after two more laid back posts, it was about time I let fly with a rambling rant.

David Brent Tattoo

Now this is dedication.

Massive fan of anything Gervais that i am, I don't think i would want one personally. But I admire it nonetheless.

13 September 2011

Under Pressure

It seems my sister has given me a bit of free advertising over on her blog (Picklebug Designs in case you didn't know), and consequently touted me as the 'family intellectual'. So rather than agonise about trying to live up to this for any potential link followers, i figured instead i would just ease the pressure, and post this:

Ah. Thats better.

Worth a thousand words

Sometimes when you read an interesting headline you wish they had a picture going along with them, other times you would have been happier if they hadn't. Here are two examples I noticed recently from each camp; one is hilarious, the other is horrifying.
Let’s start with the more palatable example first:
‘Drunken elk trapped in an apple tree in Sweden’
You just know it’s going to be gold. Drunken animals are always a favourite, and apparently this is quite a common occurrence for elks who go searching for fermenting apples and other fruit (that is the drunkenness is common, not the getting stuck in trees part).

No need to worry about the old girl, according to the BBC she was liberated from the grip of the tree, and spent the night recovering in a local residents front yard.

Now to the less savoury example. The headline that caught my eye was:
‘Caterpillars Infected with Melting Virus’
Regrettably I can’t find the article this originates from, but I went one better and saved the original source, an article in the journal nature (Via RichardDawkins.net).
That’s was what piqued my interest, and here is what freaked me out when I followed the link:

That’s right, an actual melting caterpillar, like something from a horror film, right before it lands on the shrieking comic relief foil.
What’s more the caption describes the event being witnessed in the picture by saying that “Caterpillars infected with baculovirus climb to the tops of trees, where they melt and drip the virus onto the foliage below”.
So it’s not just a virus that makes you melt (if you happen to be a caterpillar), but also one that takes your caterpillar mind and turns you into a zombie for its own benefit.