Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Pirate Wednesday - Captain Mission


Here it is! Pirate Wednesday. I'm going to do something I didn't really want to do quite yet. Since last week's PW was so pathetic and it's already late in the day today, I'm going to post my very favourite entry from my dusty old pirate book. I wanted to hold off on this one for a while because its very long and also so cool... but what the hell. Without further ado, the entire entry on Captain Mission, the atheist, libertarian, pirate leader.

MISSON, CAPTAIN.

This unique pirate came of an ancient French family of Provence. He was the youngest of a large family, and received a good education. At the age of 15 he had already shown unusual distinction in the subjects of humanity and logic, and had passed quite tolerably in mathematics. Deciding to carve a fortune for himself with his sword, he was sent to the Academy at Angiers for a year, and at the conclusion of his military studies his father would have bought him a commission in a regiment of musketeers. But young Misson had been reading books of travel, and begged so earnestly to be allowed to go to sea that his father got him admitted as a volunteer on the French man-of-war _Victoire_, commanded by Monsieur Fourbin. Joining his ship at Marseilles, they cruised in the Mediterranean, and the young volunteer soon showed great keenness in his duties, and lost no opportunity of learning all he could about navigation and the construction of ships, even parting with his pocket-money to the boatswain and the carpenter to receive special instruction from them.

Arriving one day at Naples, Misson obtained permission from the captain to visit Rome, a visit that eventually changed his whole career.

It happened that while in Rome the young sailor met a priest, a Signor Caraccioli, a Dominican, who held most unclerical views about the priesthood; and, indeed, his ideas on life in general were, to say the least, unorthodox. A great friendship was struck up between these two, which at length led the priest to throw off his habit and join the crew of the _Victoire_. Two days out from port they met and fought a desperate hand-to-hand engagement with a Sallee pirate, in which the ex-priest and Misson both distinguished themselves by their bravery. Misson's next voyage was in a privateer, the _Triumph_, and, meeting one day an English ship, the _Mayflower_, between Guernsey and Start Point, the merchantman was defeated after a gallant resistance.

Rejoining the _Victoire_, Misson sailed from Rochelle to the West Indies, and Caraccioli lost no opportunity of preaching to young Misson the gospel of atheism and communism, and with such success that the willing convert soon held views as extreme as those of his teacher. These two apostles now began to talk to the crew, and their views, particularly on the rights of private property, were soon held by almost all on board. A fortunate event happened just then to help the new "cause." Meeting with an English man-of-war, the _Winchester_, off the island of Martinique, a smart engagement took place between the two ships, at the very commencement of which Captain Fourbin and three of the officers on the French ship were killed. The fight ended by the English ship blowing up, and an era of speech-making may be said to have now begun.

Firstly, Signor Caraccioli, stepping forward, made a long and eloquent address to Misson, inviting him to become captain of the _Victoire_, and calling upon him to follow the example of Alexander the Great with the Persians, and that of the Kings Henry IV. and VII. of England, reminding him how Mahomet, with but a few camel-drivers, founded the Ottoman Empire, also how Darius, with a handful of companions, got possession of Persia. Inflamed by this speech, young Misson showed what he could do, when, calling all hands up on deck, he made his first, but, as events proved, by far from last, speech. The result was a triumph of oratory, the excited French sailors crying out: "Vive le Capitaine Misson et son Lieutenant le Scavant Caraccioli!" Misson, returning thanks in a few graceful words, promised to do his utmost as their commander for their new marine republic. The newly elected officers retiring to the great cabin, a friendly discussion began as to their future arrangements. The first question that arose was to choose what colours they should sail under. The newly elected boatswain, Mathew le Tondu, a brave but simple mariner, advised a black one, as being the most terrifying. This brought down a full blast of eloquence from Caraccioli, the new lieutenant, who objected that "they were no pirates, but men who were resolved to affect the Liberty which God and Nature gave them," with a great deal about "guardians of the Peoples Rights and Liberties," etc., and, gradually becoming worked up, gave the wretched boatswain, who must have regretted his unfortunate remark, a heated lecture on the soul, on shaking "the Yoak of Tyranny" off their necks, on "Oppression and Poverty" and the miseries of life under these conditions as compared to those of "Pomp and Dignity." In the end he showed that their policy was not to be one of piracy, for pirates were men of no principle and led dissolute lives; but _their_ lives were to be brave, just, and innocent, and their cause the cause of Liberty; and therefore, instead of a black flag, they should live under a white ensign, with the motto "For God and Liberty" embroidered upon it.

The simple sailors, debarred from these councils, had gathered outside the cabin, but were able to overhear this speech, and at its conclusion, carried away by enthusiasm, loud cries went up of "Liberty! Liberty! We are free men! Vive the brave Captain Misson and the noble Lieutenant Caraccioli!" Alas! it is impossible in the space of this work to do justice to the perfectly wonderful and idealistic conditions of this pirate crew. Their speeches and their kind acts follow each other in fascinating profusion. We can only recommend those who feel disposed to follow more closely the history of these delightful pirates, to read the account printed in English in 1726, if they are fortunate enough to come by a copy.

The first prize taken by these pirates under the white flag was an English sloop commanded by one Captain Thomas Butler, only a day's sail out from St. Kitts. After helping themselves to a couple of puncheons of rum and a few other articles which the pirates needed, but without doing any unkindness to the crew, nor stripping them, as was the usual custom of pirates on such occasions, they let them go, greatly to the surprise of Captain Butler, who handsomely admitted that he had never before met with so much "candour" in any similar situation, and to further express his gratitude he ordered his crew to man ship, and at parting called for three rousing British cheers for the good pirate and his men, which were enthusiastically given.

Sailing to the coast of Africa, Misson took a Dutch ship, the _Nieuwstadt_, of Amsterdam. The cargo was found to consist of gold dust and seventeen slaves. In the latter Captain Misson recognized a good text for one of his little sermons to his crew, so, calling all hands on deck, he made the following observations on the vile trade of slavery, telling his men:

"That the Trading for those of our own Species, cou'd never be agreeable to the Eyes of divine Justice. That no Man had Power of the Liberty of another; and while those who profess a more enlightened Knowledge of the Deity, sold Men like Beasts; they prov'd that their Religion was no more than Grimace, and that they differ'd from the Barbarians in Name only, since their Practice was in nothing more humane. For his Part, and he hop'd he spoke the Sentiments of all his brave Companions, he had not exempted his Neck from the galling Yoak of Slavery, and asserted his own Liberty, to enslave others. That however, these Men, were distinguished from the Europeans by their Colour, Customs, or religious Rites, they were the Work of the same omnipotent Being, and endued with equal Reason. Wherefore, he desired they might be treated like Freemen (for he wou'd banish even the Name of Slavery from among them) and be divided into Messes among them, to the end they might the sooner learn their language, be sensible of the Obligations they had to them, and more capable and zealous to defend that Liberty they owed to their Justice and Humanity." This speech was met with general applause, and once again the good ship _Victoire_ rang with cries of "Vive le Capitaine Misson!" The negroes were freed of their irons, dressed up in the clothes of their late Dutch masters, and it is gratifying to read that "by their Gesticulations, they shew'd they were gratefully sensible of their being delivered from their Chains." But alas! a sad cloud was creeping insidiously over the fair reputation of these super-pirates. Out of the last slave ship they had taken, a number of Dutch sailors had volunteered to serve with Misson and had come aboard as members of his crew. Hitherto no swearword was ever heard, no loose or profane expression had pained the ears of Captain Misson or his ex-priestly lieutenant. But the Dutch mariners began to lead the crew into ways of swearing and drunkenness, which, coming to the captain's notice, he thought best to nip these weeds in the bud; so, calling both French and Dutch upon deck, and desiring the Dutch captain to translate his remarks into the Dutch language, he told them that--

"Before he had the Misfortune of having them on Board, his Ears were never grated with hearing the Name of the great Creator profaned, tho' he, to his Sorrow, had often since heard his own Men guilty of that Sin, which administer'd neither Profit nor Pleasure, and might draw upon them a severe Punishment: That if they had a just Idea of that great Being, they wou'd never mention him, but they wou'd immediately reflect on his Purity, and their own Vileness. That we so easily took Impression from our Company, that the Spanish Proverb says: 'Let a Hermit and a Thief live together, the Thief wou'd become Hermit, or the Hermit thief': That he saw this verified in his ship, for he cou'd attribute the Oaths and Curses he had heard among his brave Companions, to nothing but the odious Example of the Dutch: That this was not the only Vice they had introduced, for before they were on Board, his Men were Men, but he found by their beastly Pattern they were degenerated into Brutes, by drowning that only Faculty, which distinguishes between Man and Beast, Reason. That as he had the Honour to command them, he could not see them run into these odious Vices without a sincere Concern, as he had a paternal Affection for them, and he should reproach himself as neglectful of the common Good, if he did not admonish them; and as by the Post which they had honour'd him, he was obliged to have a watchful Eye over their general Interest; he was obliged to tell them his Sentiments were, that the Dutch allured them to a dissolute Way of Life, that they might take some Advantage over them: Wherefore, as his brave Companions, he was assured, wou'd be guided by reason, he gave the Dutch Notice, that the first whom he catch'd either with an Oath in his Mouth or Liquor in his Head, should be brought to the Geers, whipped and pickled, for an Example to the rest of his Nation: As to his Friends, his Companions, his Children, those gallant, those generous, noble and heroick Souls he had the Honour to command, he entreated them to allow a small Time for Reflection, and to consider how little Pleasure, and how much Danger, might flow from imitating the Vices of their Enemies; and that they would among themselves, make a Law for the Suppression of what would otherwise estrange them from the Source of Life, and consequently leave them destitute of his Protection."

This speech had the desired effect, and ever afterwards, when any one of the crew had reason to mention the name of his captain, he never failed to add the epithet "Good" before it.

These chaste pirates soon took and plundered many rich merchant ships, but always in the most gentlemanly manner, so that none failed to be "not a little surprised at the Regularity, Tranquillity and Humanity of these new-fashioned Pyrates." From out of one of these, an English vessel, they took a sum of £60,000, but during the engagement the captain was killed. Poor Captain Misson was broken-hearted over this unfortunate mishap, and to show as best he could his regret, he buried the body on shore, and, finding that one of his men was by trade a stonecutter, raised a monument over the grave with, engraved upon it, the words: "Here lies a gallant English-Man." And at the conclusion of a very moving burial service he paid a final tribute by "a triple Discharge of 50 small Arms and fired Minute Guns."

Misson now sailed to the Island of Johanna in the Indian Ocean, which became his future home. Misson married the sister of the local dusky queen, and his lieutenant led to the altar her niece, while many of the crew also were joined in holy wedlock to one or more ladies of more humble social standing.

Already Misson has received more space than he is entitled to in a work of reference of this kind, but his career is so full of charming incidents that one is tempted to continue to unseemly length. Let it suffice to say that for some years Misson made speeches, robbed ships, and now and again, when unavoidably driven to it, would reluctantly slaughter his enemies.

Finally, Misson took his followers to a sheltered bay in Madagascar, and on landing there made a little speech, telling them that here they could settle down, build a town, that here, in fact, "they might have some Place to call their own; and a Receptacle, when Age or Wounds had render'd them incapable of Hardship, where they might enjoy the Fruits of their Labour, and go to their Graves in Peace."

This ideal colony was called Libertatia, and was run on strictly Socialistic lines, for no one owned any individual property; all money was kept in a common treasury, and no hedges bounded any man's particular plot of land. Docks were made and fortifications set up. Soon Misson had two ships built, called the _Childhood_ and the _Liberty_, and these were sent for a voyage round the island, to map and chart the coast, and to train the released slaves to be efficient sailors. A Session House was built, and a form of Government arranged. At the first meeting Misson was elected Lord Conservator, as they called the President, for a term of three years, and during that period he was to have "all the Ensigns of Royalty to attend him." Captain Tew, the English pirate, was elected Admiral of the Fleet of Libertatia, Caraccioli became Secretary of State, while the Council was formed of the ablest amongst the pirates, without distinction of nation or colour. The difficulty of language, as French, English, Portuguese, and Dutch were equally spoken, was overcome by the invention of a new language, a kind of Esperanto, which was built up of words from all four. For many years this ideally successful and happy pirate Utopia flourished; but at length misfortunes came, one on top of the other, and a sudden and unexpected attack by the hitherto friendly natives finally drove Misson and a few other survivors to seek safety at sea, but, overtaken by a hurricane, their vessel foundered, and Misson and all his crew were drowned; and thus ended the era of what may be called "piracy without tears."

He was the mildest-manner'd man That ever scuttled ship or cut a throat. BYRON.

The Catholic church is run by murderous lying bastards

BBC NEWS | Africa | Shock at archbishop condom claim: "The head of the Catholic Church in Mozambique has told the BBC he believes some European-made condoms are infected with HIV deliberately."
I have nothing to add.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Cool guy takes NASA research/gigantic balls into own hands

(via SuicideGirls)

This is really cool. Reid Stowe, some crazy Richard Branson type guy has decided to take space research into his own hands. He's testing the psychological effects of isolation on a small crew working together to manage a long voyage for about the length of time of a manned mission to Mars. He's doing it on his sailboat.

The 55-year-old Stowe, a sailor and professional adventurer, is currently sailing the 70-foot schooner Anne through the South Atlantic. He's attempting to stay at sea, beyond the sight of land, for 1,000 days. Stowe calls his project the Mars Ocean Odyssey, because he thinks the journey will provide valuable lessons for a manned flight to Mars, when astronauts would be confined to a small vessel for two to three years, separated from terra firma and most of humanity.
Of course, you can follow along on his website and blog. I don't particularly like the RSS feed he's got, but its such a cool story, I'll be keeping up with it. Don't bother telling me that this isn't a reliable study, I know. I'm sure Reid knows. It's just cool ok?

Acupuncture Placebo Effect


The BBC has reported on a German study with some interesting findings.

More than 1,100 patients took part in the study. They were given either conventional therapy, acupuncture or a sham version.

Although needles were used in the sham therapy, they were not inserted as deeply as in standard acupuncture. Neither were they inserted at points thought key to producing a therapeutic effect, or manipulated and rotated once in position.

After six months 47% of patients in the acupuncture group reported a significant improvement in pain symptoms, compared to 44% in the sham group, and just 27% in the group who received conventional therapy.

They go on to pay lip service to Ancient Wisdom and point out that "Acupuncture is based on the ancient Chinese theory that needles can be used to release the body's vital energy, or qi." Of course there's no mention of the fact that there is no such thing as vital energy in any form, qi or otherwise, or that the ancient Chinese "theories" have exactly as much support as medieval belief in humors and bloodletting.

The role of the placebo effect in this study is interesting, and I would love to see it investigated further. In particular, do you get the same 44-47% success rate with needles when the test group believes in acupuncture? How about when they're skeptics? I would imagine that for those who do not accept the whole qi nonsense, the positive effect will shrink dramatically.

This of course raises some ethical concerns for medical professionals. If the placebo effect does in fact help people, but only when they're deluded, then what right do we have to shatter their delusion? Well, the placebo effect can only work some of the time. If your back pain is stress related or in any way psychosomatic, then plain suggestibility might 'cure' you. However, if there's really something physically wrong, then the placebo effect isn't going to help. It's not fair to waste time giving genuinely sick people false treatment just to keep the illusion alive for the hypochondriacs, and further, even when it does help it is dishonest. I may be alone here, but I don't think that giving somebody temporary comfort justifies lying to them for any reason.

Debriefing

Holy crap, it's been a busy week. I've had very little time to do any writing and I missed Pirate Wednesday on its second week. Let's just call that little Talk Like a Pirate Day post Pirate Wednesday ok?

Speaking of, I had a great TLaPD last week. I wish I had taken pictures. I went out and bought piraty bandannas for myself and my roommates (roommateys?) then picked up tropical fruits and other ingredients for dinner. I made pork chops with banana and bacon using Red Stripe Jamaican beer and garnished with pineapple and coconut. Then I put on a big pot of grog that was sort of a mix between American and Navy Grog, but a lot of improvising. Water, Bacardi 151, Grand Marnier, sugar, cinnamon, lemon juice, and fresh limes. No measuring, just dump it all in to taste like a pirate would. I listened to Stan Rogers for a good mix of Canadiana and piracy and ended the night with the world's greatest porno, Pirates from director Joone.

Anyone else celebrate TLaPD? Share your story!

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Yarr!

Avast me hearties, don't be forgettin' it be Talk Like a Pirate Day. I'll be makin' a big pot o' grog tonight to share with me crew. I also be mighty busy today, so Pirate Wednesday will have to wait until this afternoon.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

A Pigtacular Improvement

Remember that thing about cheese + chocolate? Prepare to have your face rocked off.

Cheese + BACON CHOCOLATE!!!

Oh, it'll happen. I will make it happen.

Monday, September 17, 2007

Ernie Chambers: Atheist Senator?!


This is big. In protest of frivolous lawsuits that tie up the courts' resources, Nebraska senator Ernie Chambers has filed a lawsuit against God for the innumerable atrocities committed in His name. That's wonderful. It's hilarious. It is in every way delightful (and the accompanying AP photo is about as good as it gets). But it is not what interests me most about the story.

The Omaha senator, who skips morning prayers during the legislative session and often criticizes Christians, also says God has caused "fearsome floods ... horrendous hurricanes, terrifying tornadoes."

Did I read that properly? He skips morning prayers altogether, he's critical of Christians... Perhaps I shouldn't jump to generalizations, but he sure doesn't look Jewish, or Buddhist, and if he was Muslim wouldn't he join in the prayers? It almost sounds like Ernie Chambers is an Atheist Senator! There has been speculation about the possible non-belief of one or two American politicians in the recent past but nothing confirmed, and the best evidence for non-belief that I've seen is simply lack of evidence for strong belief (EDIT: sorry, I'm a little behind the times). This is the first I've heard of a senator who is actively critical of religion and refuses to engage in religious practices, and now he's suing God.

I'll be following this story for sure.

EDIT: Ok, I've got an update already. Looks like Dawkins beat me to it by a little bit, and he linked to a different article with other information. Ernie Chambers has confirmed his non-theism, and is now the highest ranking elected official without an invisible friend.

Human energy harvesting--a reply

Human energy harvesting--a very silly idea | Tech news blog - CNET News.com

The above link is a response to an MIT report that endorses generating power from the everyday movement of people. The initial report suggests using dynamos in the flooring of a subway station to generate electricity from the stompings of you and I. Here is the Cnet reply:

But if there's enough motion to provide harvestable energy, there's enough motion for the humans to notice. Ever walked along a pedestrian suspension bridge that bounced under your feet? It takes more energy to walk on such a surface than it does on a rigid surface.

Where does that energy come from? From you, of course. It's like carrying a parasite that takes a little bit of your energy. In fact, this approach is also called parasitic power generation. By keeping the parasite fed, you get a little more tired and you eat a little more food. In effect, you become a highly inefficient motor that runs on food.

Food calories are inefficient to produce. A wheat field is a giant biochemical solar panel that turns a small part of the sun's energy into chemical compounds that you can eat.

And then those compounds have to be kept cool and transported large distances, then cooked and eaten. By comparison, traditional electric power generation is hugely more efficient.

So when you see celebrity Ed Begley Jr. using a stationary bicycle to turn a generator to power his toaster, remember that this is a crime against the environment--not environmentalism.


Ok, I'm with you for the most part. It's a horrible fallacy to think we can result in a net gain by using humans as generators because ultimately, we are awfully inefficient. It's like saying that an electric car is better for the environment than a gasoline powered car... well perhaps, but you have to consider where that electricity comes from. If you're on a nuclear plant's grid then great. If the electricity is made by burning coal then you aren't much better off than with gasoline. I'm actually surprised the MIT report made this error.

I have to comment on that last sentence though. Stationary bicycles and the like are the one exception to the rule. It is inefficient to use normal day to day activities to produce electricity, because we generally want our day to day activities to be as efficient as possible. If only there were some activity we engage in that is deliberately inefficient. The gym! Why do people ride stationary bikes in the first place? To burn as many calories as they can! They're putting their inefficient body to the red line on purpose, and that energy is just being wasted in the artificial resistance of the machine. Why not use a dynamo to produce the resistance rather than weights, springs, or friction straps? If the person is going to be expending that extra energy anyways, there is no harm in harnessing it.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Muslim Voters: The Nut Position




I am of two minds about the veiled voter debate in Canadian politics right now.

The story so far: new election laws say you must show photo ID when voting, which implies that they must also show their face for comparison though that implication is not directly spelled out in the law. It is not an absolute necessity though, as many voters are able to cast a ballot by mail without showing their face. Muslim women who wear veils (niqabs, burkas, etc.) are being allowed to vote without showing their face as long as they provide alternate forms of ID. Prime Minister Stephen Harper wants to make them remove their veil to vote period. Elections boss Marc Mayrand is refusing to enact such a policy because,

[My] authority … I believe is designed much more for operational matters as opposed to dealing with some fundamental rights protected by the Charter, including the right to vote and freedom of religion, and I think it's not up to an administrator of the electoral system to juggle those rights.
Ok, so here's what I think. Stephen Harper's position is wrong. Showing one's face is not the be all and end all of proof of citizenship, which is really all that matters here. If you don't trust multiple forms of ID, then you cannot support the vote-by-mail system. End of discussion. The law must apply to everyone equally. Which brings me to Marc Mayrand, who is also wrong. He's basically saying that to demand Muslim voters remove their veil would be to violate their freedom to practice their religion. I call shenanigans. Freedom of religion means that you cannot be jailed or fined or banned or somehow stopped by the government from holding any private beliefs. It most certainly does not mean that you can bypass regulations, legal or otherwise, because of silly rituals dictated by those beliefs. There is absolutely no conflict between freedom to vote and freedom to hold Muslim beliefs if women were required to show their face.

So what's the right course of action? Well that depends on how the law is being enforced right now. Is Mayrand allowing Muslim women to vote sight unseen because the law allows for it, or because he doesn't want to disrespect their ridiculous ideas about God? How would elections officials respond if a non-Muslim wanted to vote with their face covered? I propose an experiment. Next federal election I am going to get myself a gorilla suit and go exercise my right to vote. I will bring multiple forms of ID, just like the veiled voters. Let's see if the law does in fact apply equally to everyone, or if religion is being given special treatment.

As an aside, it always feels good when there are two clear opposing sides in a debate and I agree with neither of them. It lets me know I'm really thinking, not just following. Down with false dichotomy!

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Pirate Wednesday


This is a bloge (rhymes with dodge, get used to it) about many things. The description above gives a pretty good overview. I have written about science, I have written a little about politics, and I have written a few non sequitars. I would now like to tell you a bit about pirates. I'd like to do this in a relatively structured weekly format, just to shake things up. It's also a good draw for readers, and some of my favourite blogs have a weekly theme. PZ has Friday Cephalopod, Angry Toxicologist has Non-Science Fridays, and Penn had Monkey Tuesdays (albeit in a different medium). Today is Wednesday, and as good a day as any to start, so it is now PIRATE WEDNESDAY! (subject to change without notice)

Let's ease into this feature with a nice light one, shall we? I have a book. It is a very old book, a very good book, and it is about pirates. I will tell you the name of the book, but not now - I want to tease it out a bit. Bonus points if anyone can find it. For now and the foreseeable future, I will use PIRATE WEDNESDAY to post excerpts from this book and maybe some commentary or news of my own crafting.

In this volume I present, with no further introduction, the full and complete articles drawn up democratically by the crew of Captain John Phillips on board the Revenge, which display with great brevity and elegance the harsh, yet truly moral and democratic manner in which pirates conducted their lives and business.

  1. Every man shall obey civil Command; the Captain shall have one full Share and a half in all Prizes; the Master, Carpenter, Boatswain and Gunner shall have one Share and quarter.
  2. If any Man shall offer to run away, or keep any Secret from the Company, he shall be marroon'd with one Bottle of Powder, one Bottle of Water, one small Arm, and Shot.
  3. If any Man shall steal any Thing in the Company, or game, to the value of a Piece of Eight, he shall be Marroon'd or shot.
  4. If at any Time we should meet another Marrooner (that is, Pyrate,) that Man that shall sign his Articles without the Consent of our Company, shall suffer such Punishment as the Captain and Company shall think fit.
  5. That Man that shall strike another whilst these Articles are in force, shall receive Moses's Law (that is 40 Stripes lacking one) on the bare Back.
  6. That Man that shall snap his Arms, or smoak Tobacco in the Hold, without a cap to his Pipe, or carry a Candle lighted without a Lanthorn, shall suffer the same Punishment as in the former Article.
  7. That Man that shall not keep his Arms clean, fit for an Engagement, or neglect his Business, shall be cut off from his Share, and suffer such other Punishment as the Captain and the Company shall think fit.
  8. If any Man shall lose a Joint in time of an Engagement, shall have 400 Pieces of Eight; if a limb, 800.
  9. If at any time you meet with a prudent Woman, that Man that offers to meddle with her, without her Consent, shall suffer present Death.
Wasn't that interesting? Join me next PIRATE WEDNESDAY - it will be a very special one. Next Wednesday is, of course, September 19! Annual Talk Like A Pirate Day!

Pushing the Limits of Conception


Check out this article from Bad Astronomy. By far the most interesting thing I've read in a long time. In brief, a star system has been found where one member, a star so massive that the atoms themselves collapse into one gigantic nucleus many miles across, is rotating and orbiting at mind boggling speeds around a star so large it would dwarf the sun. The large star is literally draining into the small massive one due to the incredible gravitational and tidal forces. Really weird stuff, science fiction can't compete with reality.

This kind of thing fascinates me because the masses, sizes, speeds and forces are so far removed from anything we are capable of understanding, even the analogies that try to convey a sense of scale challenge our imaginations and expand our cognitive horizons.

Monday, September 10, 2007

The Meaning of Life

There's a very interesting conversation going on in the comments at Cosmic Varience about the definition of life. Does life require evolution? Even reproduction? Do computer viruses and robots count? Lee Smolin is even in on the conversation. Worth checking out.

New Product Idea















Cheese + Chocolate. Somebody get on this.

Don't even try to tell me about chocolate cheesecake.
Motherfucking cheddar.

Friday, September 7, 2007

Big Trouble in Regular China

So I just saw this on the BBC (damn!) and it made me sick.

Doctors in China have discovered 26 sewing needles embedded in the body of a 31-year-old woman.

They think they were inserted into Luo Cuifen's body when she was a baby by grandparents upset she was not a boy.


I'm sick of China.

I'm sick of people fawning over Chinese culture. So much new-age bullshit comes from ancient Chinese "medicine" and even intelligent people think there's some value to a medical treatment simply because it was invented a thousand years ago. I'm sick of going into a drug store and finding Chinese herbal treatments on the medicine shelves, I'm sick of hearing about what a wonder drug green tea is, I'm sick of hearing about accupuncture, I'm sick of ancient Chinese 'wisdom'. I'm sick of recalls on shoddy products made by unscrupulous businessmen; from tainted dog food to lead toys. I'm sick of communist oppression and governments obsessed with keeping information from their citizens. I'm sick of the Zodiac sign required by Blogger. Come on, it's Google for god's sake! I'm sick of a culture that values rote memorization and subservience in the education system over deep understanding and critical thinking. I'm sick of not just discrimination, but unthinkably cruel widespread abuse perpetrated by GRANDPARENTS on the basis of gender.

Dear China,

Shape the hell up if you ever want to be taken seriously as a world power. Right now you're a joke.

Sincerely,
The Jolly Bloger

A Triumphant Return?

Alright. I tried to stop. I lost interest for a bit and wrote nothing, but I feel the pull once more. The screaming empty text box must be filled. This time around I will try to post a little more thoughtfully instead of ranting about whatever I happen to read on the BBC that day. We'll see how far I get.