Saturday, May 23, 2009

Quote of the Day

Came across this on a website talking about the number of internet searches for the word "sex":

It took a black man becoming leader of the free world to wrangle the collective consciousness away from sex for roughly 23 minutes.

Google's statistics here.

Saturday, May 9, 2009

Lucky bugger of the month

I just spotted this headline on the ABC News website:

Man falls into ocean after trying to swat shark

The story: A guy is fishing in a small tinny, a great white starts chewing on his outboard (happens all the time, don't ya know), so he goes to swat it away with an oar, which he promptly drops in the ocean. So he circles around to pick up the oar, but when he leans over the side of the boat to grab it, he falls out. The boat has got the motor running, so it putters off, leaving him adrift in the ocean.

With a great white shark that he'd just been prodding with an oar...

Apparently the shark came back, swam around him a few times, then cruised off. (It probably didn't like the smell after he crapped himself!) A little while later, another boat passing by picked him up.

I don't know about you, but I'd be buying myself a lottery ticket after that. Then again, maybe not - I think he's just about used up all his luck for the millennium...

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Time lapse FTW!

Here's a nice video. And some nice music to go with it! :D

Timescapes Timelapse: Learning to Fly from Tom @ Timescapes on Vimeo.

Leaves my half-hearted attempts at timelapse for dead...

Five billion people almost DIE, and it is FUNNY

What an interesting thing to say!

I found it on Book-A-Minute, being the synopsis for Good Omens, by Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett.

The really funny part is that it's a fairly good representation of the overall story. If you haven't read Good Omens, I strongly urge you to - it's a good read, like pretty much all of Pratchett's work.

Some of the other 'condensations' on Book-A-Minute aren't so good, though. This one, for Dune, for example:

Frank Herbert
I'm lots smarter than you are. I challenge you to understand even one of my paragraphs!
Gee, Frank Herbert is smart. I can't even find the plot.

I'd have to say that I found the plot very easy to find in Dune, so either the person who wrote the condensation is not very bright, or they were making a point about Frank Herbert's sometimes rather heavy style... I suspect the latter.

Unless, of course, their condensation was based on the 1984 movie. I'd totally agree with them, then - I saw that movie back in the mid-80s, and didn't understand it at all until I read the novel about five years later. I'd definitely recommend the 2000 mini-series over that movie, if you want to actually comprehend what you're watching. Unless you've read the book, in which case you'll be able to figure out the movie enough to sit back and enjoy the soundtrack by Toto. :-D

Monday, May 4, 2009

Quote of the Day

Well, here's an interesting one I found in a comment on Slashdot (yeah, I know, but you occasionally get intelligent people posting there...)

There is no right to be wrong, especially when you try to spread falsehood as unassailable truth (there is no such thing as an unassailable truth, truth should be attacked at every chance we have, just to make sure truth is REALLY truth, and not some pleasing falsehood that makes us happy).
The quote was specifically in reference to an argument about whether or not it's appropriate to attack religious people because they choose to believe that the earth was created just 3,000 years ago, thus the first part about spreading falsehood (specifically referring to the Intelligent Design crowd there, I think).

But the second part is, I think, an important statement. The only genuine truth is the truth that survives attack - and we're referring to 'scientific' or 'reason-based' attack, here, where we look at what makes up the truth, and what that means about the world, and how we can see whether that does in fact occur - rather than "attack" meaning "drown it out by screaming that it's wrong, wrong, WRONG, and that this other 'truth' is the only real truth".

So, if you were to ask me whether I object to people believing that $deity made the world, whole, a mere 3,000-5,000 years ago, I'd say no, I have no objection to them believing that. That's what freedom of religion is about - they have the right to believe whatever they choose to believe. Personally, I'd think they're very wrong, but if they choose to ignore the evidence out there, then there's not much I can do about it.

What I object to is them telling me that I cannot believe anything else.

It works both ways, folks. If you have freedom of religion, then so do I. So be happy in your faith. If you think someone is believing the wrong thing, then feel free to discuss it with them, and try to persuade them to your point of view. But remember - 'persuade' doesn't include telling someone that they are wrong and will burn in hell for eternity if they don't do things your way. It also doesn't extend to getting laws passed that will force them to do things your way, or to teach their kids your way. That's not conversion. That's corruption and enslavement.

Oh, and remember - science & religion don't mix. Really. They're about completely different things. It's perfectly sane to both believe in God and accept that science is helping us to figure out all sorts of fascinating things about how this wondrous universe works. They're not mutually exclusive at all, despite what some people seem to think.

Friday, May 1, 2009

I am a human pincushion...

Er, ok, maybe I exaggerate. I only got *one* needle today - the good ol' flu vaccination.

Supposedly, from what I hear, it's a type-A influenza vaccine this year, which shares some characteristics with the dreaded swine flu. So in a week or two, I might have some (minor) immunity, or at least resistance, to that one.

From what I've been hearing & reading, though, this swine flu thingy seems to be over-hyped.

Disclaimer: I'm not an expert on diseases, I'm an engineer fer cryin' out loud!

Okay, why do I think that?
  1. There have been 13 officially confirmed deaths due to this particular flu. Lots of "suspected" deaths in Mexico, but their numbers keep getting revised downwards, as they do more analysis & testing;
  2. The victims have been in poor health, or were elderly or very young (e.g. the sole non-Mexican victim was a toddler in the southern US);
  3. Mexico City, where the outbreak was first noted, has 20 million plus inhabitants living in very close proximity, and there are only 300-odd confirmed cases and 12 deaths. To put that in perspective, there are estimates that "ordinary" influenza viruses kill a few hundred thousand people each year...
On the flip side, of course, we need to consider the potential threat:
  • Normal influenza has a mortality rate of something less than 0.1% (i.e. less than one person in a thousand who get it will die from it, or from a secondary infection). The confirmed numbers so far for the swine flu suggest a mortality rate of at least 2.5%, which is comparable to the 1918 Spanish Flu, which killed millions worldwide.
  • According to this article, "WHO has warned that it would be a mistake to be lulled into a false sense of security. The 1918 Spanish flu pandemic started mildly – and went on to kill 20 to 40 million people round the world."
  • The level of health services in Mexico might be such that they're missing a large proportion of the infections, and the "possible suspected" deaths might easily be 10-20 times higher than the confirmed numbers (and similarly for the number of infections).
Ok. So. The media is doing it's usual big beat-up, but the threat is still there, I guess. A bit of reading reveals that the Spanish flu first emerged 12-18 months before the real killer strain swept the world.

Might be time to stock up on the tinned food!

Mmmm. I could do with a bit of Dynamite Chilli... :-D

That and some more flour - going to try to find somewhere that sells better quality flour than the usual supermarket stuff. Maybe some other ingredients, too.

Actually, that reminds me - I had Chicken, Szechuan style, for lunch today. Got it from the chinese takeaway down the road ("Yummy Yummy" - gotta love those names!). Pretty bloody good, if you ask me. A little too much zing, initially, but once I figured out it was a bad idea to breath in the chilli sauce, all was good. :-P