Friday, May 8, 2009

Saturday, April 4, 2009

The Thing

Ok, here's the thing.

I wanna move this. I want a new space, probably on Wordpress, or on my own domain using Wordpress software.

The thing is, I kinda want a new name, but I love my friggin' logo so much that I want to restrict the name to something with the initials 'JB'. I'm thinking, but nothing terribly satisfying has come to mind.

I'm not dead.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Pirate Wednesday - Google Earth


Unbelievably exciting pirate related news! A man claims to have discovered sunken treasure using Google Earth!

Mr. Smith was noodling around on Google Earth one day, randomly examining parts of the Aransas Pass in Texas. Suddenly, his eyes darted to a shoeprint-shaped outline near Barketine Creek.

His suspicions and, presumably, his vast knowledge of history, were sufficiently aroused for him to believe that what he had found was the wreckage of a Spanish barquentine (think large boat with three or more masts) that supposedly met its final resting place south of Refugio, Texas, in 1822.
The treasure, if this is indeed what he found, is estimated to be worth about $3 billion. There are also some legal complications regarding who has the rights to the wreck.

This comes on the heels of an awesome update to Google Earth that expands the service to the oceans. I happened to see the latest iteration of Google Earth last night, after kinda losing interest months ago, and it has really come a long way. It's spectacular. I suspect this is the first of many novel discoveries to be made from the comfort of someone's home, just surfing satellite images.

Living in the future rules.

Stephen Hawking

The first real, adult science book I ever read was A Brief History of Time by Stephen Hawking, when I was eight or nine years old. I didn't understand much of it then, and now, having read it at least five more times, there are still parts that go over my head. That book was a pretty huge influence on me though.

Hawking's reverence and appreciation for the natural world, past scientists, and the process of science itself comes through so strongly in his writing, it's hard not to be inspired. Not to mention the personal struggles he has had to overcome to continue his career.

I'm not sure if I would be the same person I am today without A Brief History of Time. I would probably have encountered Feynman at some point, and that would have done the trick just as well, but Hawking was really the start of a process that would shape much of who I am as a person.

Stephen Hawking still does public lectures every once in a while, and I just read that he'll be going to Caltech next month. I'm way up in Vancouver, and I was just in Pasadena last fall, but I think I may try to go and see him. I know I'll never forgive myself if I don't get another chance.

Getting sick of this

If we don't stand up and fight for world wide free speech, we will lose it everywhere.

The editor and publisher of a newspaper in India have been arrested on charges of "hurting the religious feelings of Muslims."

Mr Kumar has said he has already issued a public apology for reproducing the article.
"I admit it was an editorial misjudgement but it was never intentional," Mr Kumar told the BBC in an interview.
Yet another person bends over forwards to apologize for stating their opinion. This has to stop. It was the same thing in that case where a British teacher in Sudan named a teddy bear Muhammad and was arrested, then went out of her way to apologize. Ridiculous. If we don't stand up and fight for world wide free speech, we will lose it everywhere.

Friday, January 30, 2009

Dear Ted Haggard,

Fuck you.

Hold on. Allow me to back up just a bit.

Ted, you have spent your life building and maintaining boxes. All kinds of boxes, but particularly in regards to sexuality. You have a "Normal" box, and a "Faggot" box. You have built a career putting people into these boxes. If someone didn't quite fit neatly into one box or the other, you'd cram and shove them in.

Then, you'd nail the boxes shut and lock them up with chains. If anyone ever tried to pry open their box just a little bit you would shame them, taunt them, and threaten them with all kinds of horrible things. When everyone was packed uncomfortably in your boxes, you were happy to kick the "Faggot" box into a lake of fire - quite literally in your mind. You did all this in the name of Jesus, and the name of love.

All the while, you were living a secret, double life. You were paying a man to bring you drugs and have sex with you. The next day, you'd return to your boxes. You would have been perfectly content to continue the double life forever wouldn't you? But the man you paid for sex didn't let that happen - he exposed you. I bet you were mad at first, but it wasn't long before you told the world how liberating it was to have all your secrets out in the open. Lucky you.

Now, Ted, you've been on Oprah, and you told her you don't think that you fit nicely into one of your own boxes. You have a complicated sexuality that can't be defined simply.

Well guess what Ted: Everyone has a complicated sexuality that can't be defined simply. No one fits nicely into one of your boxes. All of this time you've been ruining lives by forcing simple definitions on complicated people, in the name of loving them, and all it took to change your mind was having your lies exposed, your hypocrisy made public, and your reputation and fortune threatened.

So fuck you, Ted. Fuck you with a white-hot metal rod. Fuck you so hard you beg for the lake of fire.

The Jolly Bloger

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

George Bush - God

Don't read any politics into this, its just really cool.

GW Bush Vs John Lennon: GOD - Click here for more free videos

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Redefining Death

"We try to think of organisms as engaging in a work of self-preservation. To be living is to be engaged in that work. To die is to cease to be engaged,"
I love bioethics. I think it's the most intellectually compelling field in science. The problem is this: It is unethical to remove organs from patients who are considered "alive". Alive used to mean a stopped heart, but with modern technology, it's possible to keep a heart beating in a clearly dead body. So now "alive" means the brain is functioning. But it appears as though some brain functions carry on in what we would also call dead bodies from a humanistic moral perspective.

So, do we severely cut back on organ transplants, resulting in many more deaths, because of a technical definition of "alive," or compromise medical ethics by removing organs from "living" people, or do we sit our asses down and think like we've never thought before to find a satisfying philosophical way to fulfil our moral requirement, while still managing to maximize the lives saved by organ transplantation? What do you think the bioethicists did?

Friday, January 9, 2009

Probablemente Dios no existe.

(via RD)

The atheist bus ad campaign is spreading. Faster that I would have thought, and in unlikely directions. Wonderful!

Don't you just love how that sounds in spanish?

"Probablemente... Dios no existe."

The Double Standard

Ok, Madoff is a jerk, but this guy kinda makes me smile. Is that bad?

When I saw the headline Catholics targeted by NY man in $17M Ponzi scheme I said "I thought the Pope lived in Italy... and I'm pretty sure its waaay more than $17 million."

Seriously though, isn't religion all just one big financial scam, among other things? Surely Catholicism is (though technically, a Ponzi scheme implies at least some people are paid back). So the question becomes: to what does the title of this post refer?

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Lacking a good theory, an awful one may be the best

A strange thing happened at a wind farm in the UK. One of their turbines got severely damaged. Assuming it was hit by an object (which, from the damage, looks likely), the object must have been approximately the size and weight of a cow. It is currently unknown what specifically may have hit the turbine.

Therefore, it was an alien spacecraft. A very small, cow-sized one. Drunk driving too, I imagine. Bats can avoid those motherfuckers. Bats rule, but I gotta think interstellar travelers could trump even a bat's navigation systems with their UFO (Ungulate Flying Object).

I figured it out! It was one of these! An undiscovered population of extant pterosaur living in England is way more likely than clumsy visitors from planet Moron.

Monday, January 5, 2009

Happy New Year

2009 is going quite well for the Jolly Bloger so far. Wanna know what my resolutions are?

As always, I'd like to blog more. I'm much busier at work than I used to be, and some of my hobbies have suffered. However, I still waste too much time on unproductive activities. I'll try to make more time for writing, and also for reading books. I just finished this one, and started this one.

I also want to get outdoors much more often. I'll be using this book for motivation - I'll try to work my way through the entire thing eventually. If anyone in the Vancouver area is looking for a hiking partner and doesn't mind talking to a crazy person, let me know.

I'm going to continue to consciously shed my collection of silly childish biases that I have accumulated throughout my life. I have plenty that I won't go into right now, and it's time to let go. Part of this, however, is a ridiculous bias against new technology. I was against cell phones for far too long, totally against blogging for even longer, and it seems that every time I hear of a new trend I automatically take the stance that it's a pointless fad. RSS, torrents, podcasts... I held out on these for ages for no reason, and now I can't live without them.

No longer: I'm on Twitter!

I signed up this morning, and so far it seems alright! I haven't quite got the hang of it yet, but I'm following a few people, including Penn Jillette, from whom I have already learned more about the next season of Bullshit than I could find on Wikipedia. So that's a plus.

The thing is, I'm using my real name on Twitter. I'd like to share it here, but this blog is more or less anonymous. Although... that has created some difficulties for me in the past. Let's do this shall we?


Ah, ok. That feels better. I don't particularly love the idea of family members or potential employers Googling my name and having all this insanity come to the top, so I'm still going to post as the Jolly Bloger. I just won't be going to any lengths to hide my identity anymore, i.e. when posting comments on other sites.

So, that took a weird turn. Happy New Year everyone!

Friday, December 19, 2008

Musings on Milgram

I was just reading about the replication of the Milgram experiments, which show that people are surprisingly obedient to authority. The majority of subjects will deliver painful shocks to others when a researcher instructs them to do so. This of course has broad implications in any situation involving authority figures, particularly in regards to all the torture controversy of late - who is really responsible?

A couple of thoughts came to mind.

I would love to see a follow-up, similar to my suggestion for acupuncture research, to study whether the obedience to authority is any weaker for subjects who know about the Milgram experiments. I'm not so naive to think that I'm fundamentally more benevolent or resistant to authority than average, but I would like to think that in the same situation, knowing about the Milgram experiments would help me overcome the effect. My guess is that it would, in the same way that knowing about common logical fallacies, susceptibility to illusions and false pattern recognition, etc. help me avoid falling for pseudoscience and hoaxes.

This got me thinking about psychological studies in general. In the interest of proper blinding, test subjects are almost always mislead regarding the true nature of the experiment (and filled in afterwards, of course). Milgram told test subjects they were testing shock aversion in a learning experiment.

If you know this is standard practice, and you suspect that you're actually participating in a different test than the one overtly described, won't that alter your behaviour? You'd be on your guard, suspicious of everything. Like a suspect being interrogated, you won't be fooled by the big mirror on the wall. To what extent does that invalidate the experiment? How do you filter that out? As scientific literacy increases in society (fingers crossed) will this become a major problem for psychological and behavioural research? How might they overcome or work around the problem?

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

One of these stupid things

(via Oot and Aboot)

To make up for the dearth in posts here recently, I've done this crap!

(Bold is what I've done, my notes in red)

Are You a Hardcore Atheist?
1. Participated in the Blasphemy Challenge.
2. Met at least one of the “Four Horsemen” (Richard Dawkins, Daniel Dennett,Christopher Hitchens, Sam Harris) in person.
3. Created an atheist blog.
4. Used the Flying Spaghetti Monster in a religious debate with someone.
5. Gotten offended when someone called you an agnostic.
6. Been unable to watch Growing Pains reruns because of Kirk Cameron.
7. Own more Bibles than most Christians you know.
8. Have at least one Bible with your personal annotations regarding contradictions, disturbing parts, etc.
9. Have come out as an atheist to your family.
10. Attended a campus or off-campus atheist gathering.
11. Are a member of an organized atheist/Humanist/etc. organization.
12. Had a Humanist wedding ceremony.
13. Donated money to an atheist organization.
14. Have a bookshelf dedicated solely to Richard Dawkins.
15. Lost the friendship of someone you know because of your non-theism.
16. Tried to argue or have a discussion with someone who stopped you on the street to proselytize.
17. Had to hide your atheist beliefs on a first date because you didn’t want to scare him/her away.
18. Own a stockpile of atheist paraphernalia (bumper stickers, buttons, shirts, etc).
19. Attended a protest that involved religion.
20. Attended an atheist conference.
21. Subscribe to Pat Condell’s YouTube channel.
22. Started an atheist group in your area or school.
23. Successfully “de-converted” someone to atheism.
24. Have already made plans to donate your body to science after you die. Better, I donate it while I'm alive.
25. Told someone you’re an atheist only because you wanted to see the person’s reaction.
26. Had to think twice before screaming “Oh God!” during sex. Or you said something else in its place.
27. Lost a job because of your atheism.
28. Formed a bond with someone specifically because of your mutual atheism (meeting this person at a local gathering or conference doesn’t count).
29. Have crossed “In God We Trust” off of — or put a pro-church-state-separation stamp on — dollar bills. Doesn't count - I'm Canadian. UPDATE: I found an American single and completed this one.
30. Refused to recite the Pledge of Allegiance. Or any oath to God or country.
31. Said “Gesundheit!” (or nothing at all) after someone sneezed because you didn’t want to say “Bless you!”
32. Have ever chosen not to clasp your hands together out of fear someone might think you’re praying.
33. Have turned on Christian TV because you needed something entertaining to watch.
34. Are a 2nd or 3rd (or more) generation atheist.
35. Have “atheism” listed on your Facebook or dating profile — and not a euphemistic variant. I have a dysphemism, in order to be more offensive. I'm counting this one.
36. Attended an atheist’s funeral (i.e. a non-religious service).
37. Subscribe to an freethought magazine (e.g. Free Inquiry, Skeptic)
38. Have been interviewed by a reporter because of your atheism.
39. Written a letter-to-the-editor about an issue related to your non-belief in God.
40. Gave a friend or acquaintance a New Atheist book as a gift.
41. Wear pro-atheist clothing in public.
42. Have invited Mormons/Jehovah’s Witnesses into your house specifically becauseyou wanted to argue with them.
43. Have been physically threatened (or beaten up) because you didn’t believe in God.
44. Receive Google Alerts on “atheism” (or variants).
45. Received fewer Christmas presents than expected because people assumed you didn’t celebrate it.
46. Visited The Creation Museum or saw Ben Stein’s Expelled just so you could keep tabs on the “enemy.”
47. Refuse to tell anyone what your “sign” is… because it doesn’t matter at all.
48. Are on a mailing list for a Christian organization just so you can see what they’re up to…
49. Have kept your eyes open while you watched others around you pray.
50. Avoid even Unitarian churches because they’re too close to religion for you.

So that's 35 officially, plus one for #35, and one that doesn't count because I don't have God on my money.


31-40: You are the 5th Horseman! Congratulations!