Thursday, August 30, 2007

Another Satisfied Microsoft Customer

Wow... and you thought XP had problems... A ex-cop in the US recently ran into problems installing Vista and struggled to get his old programs up and running. After three hours, his patience had run out but his ammunition hadn't... The unfortunate computer took five slugs to the monitor, a sixth missed, passing through into the next apartment.

I only wish I could get in contact with him and say, "It's OK, we know and understand the feelings and frustration you've been through... All is not lost... You missed the tower case altogether so you can still upgrade to Ubuntu and save yourself a lifetime of aggravation."


Monday, August 13, 2007

Greetings, Fellow Sagittarians

If you have a distorted brain like mine, you've probably wondered about the angle on which the Milky Way cuts across the sky. It's just all wrong.

The Moon orbits the Earth around the equator. Both north poles point roughly in the same direction. In like manner, the Earth orbits the Sun around its equator and, again, both north poles point in roughly the same direction. But neither the Sun nor the Earth are in-line with plane of the Milky Way.

And the question is, why?

The answer is quite astounding...

Over the past couple of billion years, the Milky Way has been devouring a near-by dwarf galaxy we have come to call Sagittarius. The process of colliding galaxies is quite complex and, if you have Ubuntu, quite spectacular (as Ubuntu includes a screen saver that shows you the interactions of colliding stars graphically).

We've always thought of our sun as forming on the spiral arm of the Milky Way. But the reality is, our sun formed from the fragmented ruins of the Sagittarian dwarf as it collided with Milky Way. Rather than being a part of a spiral arm, we're thundering through a spiral arm of the Milky Way. Our Solar System is punching a hole in the spiral arm, passing through it like a bullet (which is not a bad analogy given the phenomenal speed our Sun is moving at).

And the evidence, the proof, has been staring us in the face each night as we've gazed up at the Milky Way. Rather than being on the same plane as our host galaxy, we're passing through at roughly 60 degrees.

Surprised? Find this incredulous? Unbelievable? Remember, all truths start out as heresies...

Curious? You can read more about this from these links...

ABC Science
The Solar System's direction of travel
We Are Not From Here

Saturday, August 04, 2007

Loyalty or Honesty?

Which is the greater trait? Loyalty or honesty?

It doesn't take most people too long to realise you can be loyal without being honest. Yet history is rife with examples of people who were loyal when, honestly, they knew better. The most sensational example of this is, of course, the Nazi's, but the concept hits a little closer to home than that.

Loyalty will always be valued over honesty by those in a position of authority (be it political, religious, secular businesses or social groups) simply because no one wants to be told they're wrong. We instinctively and inherently resent honest notions that force us to justify ourselves. And so, our natural sense of values are topsy-turvy. Someone that's loyal is seen as more valuable, more of a team player, more of an asset. While someone that's honest is difficult, a trouble-maker.

Reality, of course, is just the opposite. The seemingly loyal devotee isn't at all loyal. They're dishonest. While the honest devotee is loyal to principle before position.

If you find yourself in a position where you are challenged to be either loyal or honest, choose the tougher road less travelled and be honest...

Sunday, July 29, 2007

Why Are We So Easily Fooled?

Yep... there's a bit of a common theme running through the last few posts, the ease with which the mind can be fooled. Here's another one for you. Take a good look at this image...

The squares marked A & B are the same shade of grey.

Absurd, ridiculous, I hear you say. I thought so too until I checked by opening the image with gpaint (The Linux equivalent of MS Paint, although it's a misnomer to call it an equivalent when its clearly superior).

Yes, this is simply an optical illusion but think about it. If we can be so easily fooled by something so simple, what does that say about other judgements we make in life? A bit too sobering or negative? Perhaps. But the most astounding thing about this is the mind's stubborn refusal to see things as they actually are. Even though I can logically convince myself that these too shades are identical, I can't see it. Try as I may, I can see the shades are the same when they're put next to each other, but as soon as I look up again, B is clearly lighter than A, even though I know it's not.

So why is the mind so easily fooled? I'd like to hear what you think? For my part, I think it comes down to the fact that perception is a mental action, not a function of the eyes. Think back to your high school biology class and how the lens in the eye inverts everything, making everything upside down. The mind then has to process that image, turn it right way up so it reflects reality. So everything we see has been processed to one degree or another. It's all be tampered with subconsciously.

In short, we see what we are supposed to see...

Friday, July 27, 2007

The Ambidextrous Mind

The mind is a remarkable thing, perhaps more remarkable than we dare imagine. Take, for example, this image. Which way is it turning? Clockwise or anti-clockwise? “Why, don't be silly,” I hear you saying, “Of course it's turning clockwise.” Ah... you must be right-handed.

You see it's actually not turning clockwise or anti-clockwise. It's an illusion. It will turn which ever way you want it to turn. Don't believe me, give it a try. As you're reading, slowly become aware of the shadow at the bottom of the image. Try to ignore the legs and just let your eye settle on the shadow and, presto, you'll see she begins to turn anti-clockwise.

Ah... the ambidextrous mind. Now, are you ready for a real challenge? Can you make her turn either way at will? That's a real test of mental strength. You can do it, the trick is in training your mind to recognise which leg she has extended. If her right leg is raised, she'd be turning clockwise. If her left leg is raised, she'll be turning anti-clockwise. It helps if you focus on the shadow again.

The funny thing is, it is harder to unlearn. Getting her to turn clockwise again is harder than getting her to turn anti-clockwise the first time. The mind loves a rut :)

Isn't it bizarre how you can literally talk your mind into seeing whatever you want to see? There's a lesson in there somewhere...

Sunday, July 22, 2007

Mistakes Were Made (But Not By Me)

Looking for some light reading? Then this book probably isn't for you. But, regardless, it is well worth adding to your collection.

Mistakes Were Made (But Not By Me) is a rare look into the sordid world of self-justification. It examines how decisions that are clearly wrong can be made by people and justified or even strengthened when events go belly up.

Take, for example, a cult that believed the world would end on December 21st and that they would be spared by being abducted by aliens at midnight on the 20th. Surely, you would think, when 12:01am rolled around, the faithful would be faithless. In a rational world that would be the outcome, but not in the surreal world of emotional illusions. By 4:40am, when it was absolutely clear to the most ardent of the faithful that the prophecy had failed, the prophet had another vision (what a surprise). And the vision was that the steadfast belief of the faithful (a group of about 30) had spared the Earth (the billions of us outside the fold). The "salvation" of the entire Earth lay with those 30 kind souls. Quite thoughtful, really. After this, instead of loosing momentum, the "faithful" then became more passionate and devoted than ever before.

Ah... I hear you saying, but I'm no freak. That could never happen to me. Yet this same mental mechanism, cognitive dissidence, works on numerous levels. Consider smoking. The consequences of smoking are inescapable and horrendous and yet still millions persist.

Moral of the story. Whether its alien saviours or a fag after a pint, Proverbs 21:2 still holds true, every man is right in his own eyes.

I've painted myself into a few corners over the years and got my feet dirty trying to get out of them... Mistakes were made by me...

Here's a few others worthy of note in this category...

The Lucifer Effect With a title like that, how can you resist?
Dont Believe Everything You Think is another...
A Mind of its Own: How Your Brain Distorts and Deceives brings some humour and wit to the arguments if you're stuck in the middle of the UK floods and a little bored, go to and order some of these. The military may not be able to get help to you, but Amazon will :)

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Courage, Stupidity or a Remarkable Example of Discipline

It's silly I know, but it does make a point, life is how you see it... So how do you see it? Courage? Stupidity? Or a remarkable example of discipline?

Sunday, July 15, 2007

The Problem with Religion

The one, universal tenet of all religions, regardless of flavor, is they don't think. Could it be put any more eloquently than this...

Religion is based on unquestioning acceptance, and for that reason, it never progresses beyond where it is... Sad, but true.

The great reformers, from Moses through to Christ, Paul and Luther, all shared one thing in common, the courage to question the status quo. You would think we would have learned from that...

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Contribute to Cutting Edge Astronomy

Want to be part of genuine astronomical research? Now's your chance. Computer operated machines have photographed more than a million galaxies (or galaxy candidates). But the human mind is still far superior to computers at pattern recognition. And even if you teach a computer to recognise a spiral or eliptical galaxy, the computer would still fail to recognise anything really unusual or new. The scientists themselves are going nuts trying to classify this many photographs, so they've asked for help.

You can be the first human to set eyes upon a distant galaxy - be the first to classify it!
Here's one I classified as a clockwise (from an observer in the Milky Way) spiral galaxy. I feel 80% sure. If you can do better, then you need to sign up quick! Right now I'm the best they've got!

On the web site, you set up a user-name. Then do a five minute tutorial in galaxy categorisation at the required level. Then do a quick test. If you get 8 out of 10, you can contribute. Perfect for a lunch break. Have a go!

Monday, July 09, 2007

Winning the Lottery

On the train into work this morning I caught sight of a fellow passenger sharing indignation with the Sun newspaper. Mugger won £4m on lottery! It turns out the winner had previously mugged an 88 year-old lady for £6 to fuel his gambling habit. Apparently, fury among readers of the Sun is stoked by such an undeserving winner.

Well gamblers and readers of the Sun... that's how gambling works. You see, winners are not chosen on merit. A person gambles in the hope of getting something without earning it. It seems just a little two-faced to get upset that someone else gained what he never deserved.

A gambler's winnings are wholly at another's loss. But don't let the exploitation gnaw at blunted conscience - the odds are overwhelmingly in favour of once again becoming one of the chumps funding another unworthy winner.

Sunday, July 08, 2007

What does it take to succeed?

What does it take to succeed?

If the trend of the last 20-30 years is to be believed, all you need is pretty little posters with nice positive, iconic sayings on them. We're becoming a generation of cheerleaders, always there with the pomp pomps ready to inspire. The sad thing is the many people have been fooled into thinking that the pomp pomps actually make a difference. They don't, they're window dressing. It's the players on the field that make a difference.

Gone are the days where hard work was its own reward. No one wants honesty posters, they want fairy tale posters. No one wants to be reminded of Edison's quote about genius being 90% perspiration, 10% inspiration. Why perspire? Why slog away at things when I can quote a few jingles and feel good about myself. And then sit back and wonder why things don't fall into my lap when I was oh-so-positive?

Perhaps I'm bursting my own bubble here, and not yours, but here's reality for you...

OK, I admit, they're humorous. But stop and think about it. What is it that makes them so funny? Apart from the few that are straight irony, the reason these are funny is because they're all too true. They're honest, not pretentious.

The next time you're tempted to look at one of those office-bound pieces of new-age motivational trash for inspiration, remind yourself they're fanciful, not grounded in reality. Don't be hoodwinked by the cheerleaders. Success takes work. That's it. That's all there is. There are no other hidden gems of wisdom that will enlighten your world and make everything as easy as 1, 2, 3.

Welcome to the real world.

Have a nice day :)

Sunday, July 01, 2007

Failed Terrorist Attacks

At times the effectiveness of the security services has been called into question. Happily it's the terrorists incompetence causing their own embarrassment this week in Britain.

Following three car bomb attacks, they've accomplished one parking ticket, one car towed away, one jeep burned out with severe burns to a terrorist, and two arrests on the scene. The police having captured some of the crew, were able to quickly follow with two further arrests.

Thankfully, no one has been injured besides the scum who perpetrated these attacks. I can only hope that this is a sign of the maturing terrorist network becoming as ineffective as most large organisations operating in Britain.

The sad reality is we cannot be so smug. According to the Telegraph, "The security organisation is monitoring 30 suspected plots involving more than 1,700 possible terrorists." That a hell of a lot of arseholes coming out of Friday prayers at the local mosque with murder on their minds.

I have not yet found any reference to Islam in the BBC's coverage of these three attacks. What the BBC is trying to pretend, I just can't imagine.

Saturday, June 30, 2007

Congratulations and Thank You

Congratulations and thanks are due to the police who have made safe two car bombs in London.

An eye-witness reports a police officer climbing into a car to disconnect a mobile phone - possibly a detonation trigger. No one was hurt. Respect to those whose professional service saves life and limb.

On a side note, I can't help observing that for two car bombs, there was one parking ticket and one towing. A fairly average day in London to that point.

A doormat for all occasions

Yes... its for real...

Friday, June 22, 2007

From the US, With Love...

Apparently, not many people did. Al Gore got more of the popular vote but lost on a state level. Well, I guess we can be thankful for small mercies.

Wednesday, June 20, 2007


Think you're a genius? Can you solve this?
I took me a while, but there is an answer... I'll give you a clue, think back to high school trig and the ratios that apply to triangles.

I'll post the answer in a few days...

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Democracy - We Get What We Deserve

One thing I'll say for democracy - people get what they deserve. Those of us who remember the "time for a change" mantra of '97 know the shallowness of thought that won the country over. Blair's government has proceeded to ban anything unfashionable, remove our rights, and generally boss us around for our own good - and Britain deserved it. Britain chose it.

We even have the opposition we deserve. If we were a principled people, we would have a principled opposition. But principles don't pay in politics - the electorate neither understands nor desires them. The Conservative party knows better than to put a principled conservative in the leadership role. They've tried that - and the electorate burned them for it. So we have the vacuous Cameron - a showman like Blair - only with fewer principles.

The Palestinians elected Hamas. That's the thing about democracy. This may sound like a bitter injustice to the many good hearted Palestinians who want none of this madness, but they fail to form a critical mass. They will endure what their compatriots have chosen.

Heartless? No, I want something better for people. Pragmatic? Yes, I think the best option for government is to allow the people to choose. The down-side is that the people will get what they choose.

Monday, June 11, 2007

Just what does this mean?

  • "DANGER: Bouncing planes may strike your car."
  • "DANGER: Do not tie plane to car."
  • "DANGER: Planes equipped with Star Wars Hoth-style tow ropes."
  • "DANGER: Airplane lavatory may leak onto your car."
  • "DANGER: Vehicle launched missiles used in this area."

Tuesday, June 05, 2007

Olympic Logo Analysis

Some of you will have heard the psycho-analyst on the radio telling us that this logo is the new ink-blotch. What you see in it apparently says more about you than the logo.

See a broken jig-saw puzzle? Better get some counselling for those childhood disappointment issues.

Reminded of the SS collar pin? Get those repressed Nationalist Socialist urges seen to fast.

See oral sex? Spend a little less time on the Internet.

An evil transformer toy? Still in touch with that inner child.

A sumo wrestler taking a crap? Refer to Sigmund Freud.

So, what do I see in the logo? Why, it's a thing of inner beauty and excellence - of course.

Anyone else care to share what they see in the London 2012 Olympic logo? (All subsequent psychoanalysis provided free of charge.)

Olympic Logo Fall Out

I couldn't believe the scale of the nationwide negative response to the Olympic logo yesterday. Last night there were 8000 signatures calling for the logo to be scrapped - this morning there were 14,000 signatures. (I'm not gonna link to the petition.)

Give me a break, it's just a logo!
And it's a good one, at that! Think of the fun animations they'll squeeze out of it when it starts throwing the discus or jumping hurdles. The vehemence with which critics are calling to dump the logo is as disproportionate as the head-in-the-clouds idiots who attribute virtue and inspiration to the thing. It's just a logo!

But then, maybe it's an essential part of the British character to self mock. We need to come crashing down on ourselves for everything we do. I think that secretly, many Brits envy the Americans for their easy confidence to back themselves.

Monday, June 04, 2007

London 2012 and Utter Bollocks

As it happens, I like the new logo for the London Olympics in 2012.

See the four digits in there? 2012! Cool huh!

But what the hell is going on when this logo costs £400,000? No wonder the whole Olympics budget is hopelessly out of control!

What really gets me is the crap that the great and the good start to spout at a time like this:

Olympic Committee President Jacques Rogge -
"This is a truly innovative brand logo that graphically captures the essence of the London 2012 Olympic Games - namely to inspire young people around the world through sport and the Olympic values."

I thought it was jagged numbers. Ok, it comes in four colours, and soon they'll make the logo's arms and legs do athletic stuff - but inspire young people? values? It's a logo!

Lord Sebastian Coe -
"It's not a logo..."
For fuck's sake!

Olympics Minister Tessa Jowell -
"This is an iconic brand that sums up what London 2012 is all about - an inclusive, welcoming and diverse Games that involves the whole country. It takes our values to the world beyond our shores, acting both as an invitation and an inspiration."
What the fuck is she smoking?

Tony Blair -
"When people see the new brand, we want them to be inspired to make a positive change in their life."
From looking at the logo? What planet is he from?

London Mayor Ken Livingstone -
"The new Olympic brand draws on what London has become - the world's most forward-looking and international city."
What a pretentious wanker!

Leaving the Seat Up or Down

Careless of lowering the tone of this blog - the following insight affects us all.

Everyone knows you should leave the toilet seat down after use - except for men who need it up. Surely, if a woman in the household has just gone (stay with me here) this increases the likelihood of a man being next. Quite complicated, really. In fact, the true cost of either strategy (up or down) depends on the constituency affected and the probable reactions of said parties.

At any rate, many would agree that certain people need some decision-making help in this thorny field.
Thankfully, with the deft use of game theory, The Science Creative Quarterly mathematically modeled the cost to John or Marsha.

Please print off the above table as a ready-reference to post in shared convenience facilities.

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

The Dutch Kidney Scramble

I suspect the reality show is closer to reality than we care to admit. While the 'best' reality shows are spectacularly contrived and ever more bizarre, it is their connection to the human condition that makes them work.

Three contestants whose own kidneys have failed will - with their families - attempt to outdo each other in miserable accounts of pain and heartache, while a terminally ill kidney donor selects the winner to receive the kidney. Viewers will phone and text in with their votes. The predictable facade of 'money to charity' and 'raising awareness' is both glib and clich├ęd.

While it would be fun to examine the ethics at stake, I'm also interested in where this 'reality' thing can go from here. What's next? I understand people have already had their marriages chosen by reality show. Perhaps potential suicides will be voted on or off with... "Is life worth living? Dial now to bring your favourite jumper in off the window ledge". How far will this degradation go?

And yet it's really not a sign that things are getting worse. I'm reminded of Pilate who asked the mob who he should release from the death penalty - Barabbus the murderer, or Jesus Christ who had committed no wrong. The mob was thick and the mob was easily manipulated. This is undoubtedly compelling theatre, but hardly the soundest decision making process.

Birmingham Girls Too Ugly

The city of Birmingham failed to find anyone suitable for the Miss Great Britain beauty contest. 50 miles to the north, they found Sophie Wilson from Stoke-on-Trent who has never even lived in Birmingham. Oh, the humiliation.

What does it mean when a Miss Great Britain spokesman says, "We were desperately looking for a Miss GB entrant from Birmingham but in truth, there was no-one suitable who entered"?

On reflection, I suspect that it's not so much the lack of lookers in Birmingham as the preponderance of thicko's in Stoke-on-Trent with nothing better to do than enter beauty pageants.

Sunday, May 27, 2007

Saturday, May 19, 2007

Man created gods in his own image

There is no doubt that Christopher Hitchens is one of the more brilliant minds of our times. His incisive wit, depth of thought and ability to articulate what others would never dare consider is second to none.

His latest book God is Not Great: How Religion Poisons Everything is challenging, to say the least, for a Christian minister to read, consider and enjoy. (You can read two chapters and the conclusion, here)

The Bible declares that God created man in his own image, however, there can be no doubt that man was not to be outdone by this and so man, in kind, set about to create gods in his own image. Hitchens book offers rich insights into the history of religion, so much so that there may very well be a fatwa declared against him by the Mormon church.

The conclusion, though, is predictable. What should we do when faced with such a tidal wave of irrational, irreverent religious possibilities? Refute them all. Throw the baby out with the bathwater and embrace atheism.

Is there an alternative? Is a belief in God possible without wallowing in the irrational, succoring on emotions and conscience? In the financial realm, when considering an investment move, the wise course is to conduct an impartial audit, to apply due diligence. Perhaps this is the solution.

Catholicism and the celibacy of priests and nuns would stand condemned by I Timothy 4:1-3 where forbidding to marry is accounted the doctrine of devils. In like manner, perhaps in the final analysis of our audit none of the various interpretations and factions would be left standing. But maybe that's not such a bad thing. Perhaps the problem hasn't been God, but misrepresentation. Maybe we would be left with what was originally intended, an actual understanding of both God and man.

I Thessalonians 5:21 says "Prove all things, hold fast to the good." Even in atheism, there is something to learn. Perhaps Mr. Hitchens would find a distilled and purified understanding of the Bible a beauty to behold.

Thursday, May 10, 2007

Ten Years of Tony Blair

On the announcement that Tony Blair is to step down as prime minister on June 27, here (pinched from the BBC) is how he has aged over the last ten years:
Not too bad, really. You should see how the rest of us look after ten years of his sanctimonious and bossy leadership!

Friday, May 04, 2007

And Which Are You?

In response to Are You Stuck posting Which Are You here's something that makes my operating system of choice look a little better.

Friday, April 20, 2007

Banana Republics

Within hours of the polls opening in Nigeria, the ballots are not even in the country! This is a big country, with crap transport, and there are 120,000 polling stations needing those ballots - if you can call shacks with no ballot papers "polling stations"...

Never mind, the government won't care how people vote anyway. These elections are just to humour the "international community".

With this scale of incompetence and contempt for the electorate, Nigeria is in danger of being compared to the United Kingdom - remember the election the judge said "would disgrace a banana republic"?

Wipe that grin off your face, Tony Blair - history will be cruel. Why not try on the more fitting dumbfounded-shit-for-brains look of your Nigerian counterpart.

Sunday, April 15, 2007

Following the Cricket

Australia and New Zealand have confirmed their places in the semi-finals. If you're having trouble telling your backward square leg from your silly mid off, then here's something to help.

And if you neither knew nor cared that the Cricket World Cup is in full swing in the West Indies, then you might like to start here: