Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Pirate Wednesday - France and Spain


There have been two fairly major pirate events in the news in the past couple of weeks. First was that French yacht that was abducted by Somalian pirates, and the crew held hostage. A ransom was paid, and the crew released. The pirates were subsequently captured and taken to Paris, then charged with a criminal offense. I assume they still await trial.

Shortly after that, in an eerily similar incident, a Spanish vessel was captured and the crew taken hostage, again near Somalia. They too were paid a ransom and have let the crew go, but have not been captured.

I have said before that I do not consider this new breed of half-assed maritime guerrilla crime to be true piracy, and I maintain that position, though these two recent incidents are a vast improvement over the petty nickel-and-dime theft common to the Somalian pirates.

That being said, I'm disappointed at the pussy reactions of both France and Spain to these attacks. Have they forgotten their own past? Do they deny their legacy of real piracy? I'd like to take a minute to remind the world that these once-great nations have sired a host of pirates over the years that would put the Somalian bilge rats to shame. Perhaps they will be inspired to return to their roots and take back the seas from these pretenders to the salty throne in an epic wave of neo-retro pirate vigilantism.

This is surely an incomplete list, using only this Wikipedia article as a source. Many of the below pirates have their own articles, I recommend you peruse their glorious deeds.

France:

Jean Ango
Eustace the Monk
Jean Fleury
Francois le Clerc
Guillaume la Testu
Jacques de Sores
Captain Archembeau
Jean Bart
Philippe Bequel
Pierre Bot
Jacquotte Delahaye
Anne Dieu-Le-Veut
Michel de Grammont
Jean du Casse
Alexandre Exquemelin
Jean Foccard
Jean Hamilton
Pierre Le Grand
Lessone
Marquis de Maintenon
Daniel Montbars
Francois l'Ollonais
Pierre Le Picard
Chavalier du Plessis
Jean de Pointis
Jacques Tavernier
Moise Vauquelin
Olivier Levasseur
Emanuel Wynn

Spain:

Pedro Menendez de Aviles
Juan Garcia
Pedro de la Plesa
Edwardo Blomar
Bartolome Charpes
Juam Guartem
John Pyne
Mancel Alcantra
Jose Gaspar
Benito de Soto

In which I meet Richard Dawkins

Richard Dawkins has been in Vancouver this week promoting The God Delusion on the local radio and TV stations. Yesterday he gave a talk at UBC which, unfortunately, I couldn't get a ticket for because they sold out an hour after becoming available.

But I wasn't going to let that stop me! With my copies of The God Delusion and The Selfish Gene in hand, I made the journey to campus on the mere possibility that he may be signing books afterwards.

Vindication! Sadly I have no pictures, but I saw him in the flesh and came away two signatures richer. Totally worth it.

I'll admit I was a little starstruck. I wish I could claim the reason I didn't say anything meaningful to him is that I was at the end of a very long line and he was clearly anxious to leave. That's part of it, but mostly I was just shy.

I had two books with me, so as he was signing the first one I said "do you mind if I ask for two?" He replied "uh... well, go ahead," thinking I wanted to ask him a question, I suppose. I said "uh, no, I mean this other..." and he said "ah, certainly" then I said "thank you very much" and walked away.

It was awkward, but wonderful.
Like a catholic wedding night.

Woah, hot, two chicks!

"This is not an aggressive act against gay women," Lambrou said. "Let them visit Lesbos and get married and whatever they like. We just want (the group) to remove the word lesbian from their title."
It's actually a reasonable request, I think.

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Gin, Television, and Social Surplus


By Clay Shirky, via Marginal Revolution

Did you ever see that episode of Gilligan's Island where they almost get off the island and then Gilligan messes up and then they don't? I saw that one. I saw that one a lot when I was growing up. And every half-hour that I watched that was a half an hour I wasn't posting at my blog or editing Wikipedia or contributing to a mailing list. Now I had an ironclad excuse for not doing those things, which is none of those things existed then. I was forced into the channel of media the way it was because it was the only option. Now it's not, and that's the big surprise. However lousy it is to sit in your basement and pretend to be an elf, I can tell you from personal experience it's worse to sit in your basement and try to figure if Ginger or Mary Ann is cuter.

And this is the other thing about the size of the cognitive surplus we're talking about. It's so large that even a small change could have huge ramifications. Let's say that everything stays 99 percent the same, that people watch 99 percent as much television as they used to, but 1 percent of that is carved out for producing and for sharing. The Internet-connected population watches roughly a trillion hours of TV a year. That's about five times the size of the annual U.S. consumption. One per cent of that is 100 Wikipedia projects per year worth of participation.

Monday, April 28, 2008

The atheist in the foxhole


Jeremy Hall is an American soldier in Iraq, and he doesn't believe in god. His atheism has been the cause of harassment, to the point that Jeremy has filed a lawsuit against the US Military.

Known as "the atheist guy," Hall has been called immoral, a devil worshipper and - just as severe to some soldiers - gay, none of which, he says, is true.

"I see a name and rank and United States flag on their shoulder. That's what I believe everyone else should see," he said.

The issue came to a head when, according to Hall, a superior officer, Maj. Freddy J. Welborn, threatened to bring charges against him for trying to hold a meeting of atheists in Iraq.

"Religion brings comfort to a lot of people," [Hall] said. "Personally, I don't want it or need it. But I'm not going to get down on anybody else for it."

"I hope this doesn't define me," Hall said of his lawsuit. "It's just about time somebody said something."

About time indeed. Lots of awesome soundbites in there from Hall. It takes a lot of courage and strength of character to stand up to the friggin' US army.

Friday, April 25, 2008

Brief History of Disbelief

Just a simple recommendation today. Jonathan Miller and the BBC made a documentary a few years ago called "A Brief History of Disbelief" consisting of interviews with six prominent scientists and philosophers regarding their atheism, and investigations by the host into the history of faith and reason. It's really really great. Get it.

I've undertaken this series partly because I want to investigate the antecedents of my own disbelief and to consider the history of what I'm reluctant to call atheism. In fact, I'm rather reluctant to call myself an atheist. But that's not because I'm embarrassed or ashamed of it, or because I fear for my life as I might have done in the olden days when I announced that I was. Nor have I any reason to think that I may be socially disabled in a way I once might have been. No, the reason I'm so reluctant is that atheism itself has acquired almost sectarian connotations and it hardly seems worthwhile to have a name for something that scarcely enters my thoughts at all. For myself, as for many people, it's only in the light of such current controversies with regard to belief that I've found myself explicitly willing to articulate my disbelief.

Monday, April 21, 2008

Colbert, You're On Notice

I'm currently watching The Colbert Report, and one of the headlines he used at the top of the show, in reference to the pope, was "The Audacity of Pope".

I knew I should have slapped a copywrite on that motherfucker! I had it first Colbert!

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Jolly Blog(g)er on the radio!

I listen to a radio show (via podcast) on the CBC called Search Engine. It's about issues related to the Internet, and net-based fads.

Last week there was a brief discussion of net neutrality, and the host asked people to comment on the site. I did:

Speaking of the charter of rights and freedoms, what is lacking in that document that we need to add specifically for the Internet? Aren't the existing rights enough to cover web users as well?

As for net neutrality, bear in mind that the infrastructure that makes the Internet possible is property that is owned by people who worked hard to build it. Do they not have rights when it comes to their property? No one needs permission to invent the web, but once it's invented, shouldn't the creator have a say in how it's used?

This week, he read some of the comments, and mine slipped in! Cool!

Except that he pronounced it 'Jolly BlogGer' as opposed to 'Bloger (rhymes with Roger)' as everyone knows is correct. It just sounds weird out of context. I still love the wordplay, but maybe enough is enough.

That got me thinking, The Pirate Bay has started a blog hosting service. It would be cool to move my pirate themed blog to their servers. I haven't decided anything, but I'll let you know if a move (and name change) is in the works.

Charles Darwin on-line

Wow. It's supposed to amount to about 90,000 pages; here is an article about the project. Here are a few indicated highlights.

(N.B. this post was stolen verbatim from Tyler Cowan of Marginal Revolution)

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

The Audacity of Pope

So the Pope has come to America for a visit. One of his goals is to "heal sex abuse wounds" of the countless victims of priest rape. The audacity of this man astonishes me. No matter how good his intentions are, he has no right to get further involved in these cases. The catholic church has lost the right to be a source of comfort to the people it has abused.

Think about it, this is an organization that commits a crime, denies the crime, covers it up, protects the criminals, blames the victims, and THEN has the balls to try to "help" the victims sometimes up to forty years later. He probably expects praise for it too. To me, that's basically the same idea as a doctor going around with a tyre iron smashing people's kneecaps, then tenderly putting them in a cast and giving them a bill.

Pope supporters will surely be crowing about all the wonderful things the catholic church has done to heal abuse wounds after this. Sorry, it doesn't count when you apologize for damage that you have caused.

Oh, but it's going to be alright from now on right? Because the Pope "vowed to keep pedophiles out of the priesthood". Sorta like the vow of celibacy the pedophile priests took eh? I call bullshit.

Fuck the popo.


P.S.
More blatant hypopecrisy (via RD)
and Hitchens weighs in.

Friday, April 11, 2008

TED Video - Johnny Lee

Here's a very cool video showing what one researcher was able to do with Nintendo Wii technology that really goes above and beyond what's currently on the market. More than that, he shows how online communities have helped to spread his ideas far more effectively than traditional channels.

Saturday, April 5, 2008

News Blues (yeah it sucks, go fuck yourself)

I'm not a sports fan. I'm not excited about the big game, I have no opinion of the new kid they've got playing goal, and I don't give a shit if they go all the way this season.

I have plenty of pointless hobbies and interests that others might find interminable, so I abide the sports thing. To each his own, I won't begrudge it.

The thing that irks me is the insistence of major news networks to include sports results in the top news. I subscribe to a whole bunch of news feeds, mostly the "top headlines" or something similar.

I expect top headlines to be things like natural disasters, political scandals, and maniacal killing sprees - I'm receptive to these types of stories when reading top headlines. So when I see "Kansas dismantles North Carolina" I get pretty fucking upset. What the hell is going on south of the border?!

Turns out one college basketball team got more points than another. It wouldn't be so bad if they didn't insist on using those god-awful sports metaphors right in the headline. When I read that Sharks Devoured Kings, my first thought is "holy fuck, does this spell the end of monarchy as we know it?"

Perhaps its my fault for expecting Top Fucking Headlines to be reliable representations of major world events. How would people react to headlines concerning my frivolous interests? "Hundreds Dead in Molten Core" would probably freak out a lot of folks, before they found out it was just a raid gone wrong.

Friday, April 4, 2008

Breaking: Backlash against relaxed PW schedule

Pirates have boarded a French luxury yacht near Somalia, and taken all 34 crew members as hostages, French officials reported this morning. The attack appears to be in response to a relaxed schedule of "Pirate Wednesday" posts on the popular internet blog The Jolly Bloger [sic].

Once a weekly feature of piracy-related news, biographies, and humerous non-sequitars, Pirate Wednesday has become sporadic and unpredictable, upsetting pirates and internet users the world over.

"Our demands are simple - we want a new PW post each and every week, 150 words minimum, posted before 12:00 PST. We will kill one Frenchman a week for every missed post," the captain of the pirate crew was quoted as saying.

We contacted internet phenom Jolly Bloger for comment in his metro Vancouver office:

"What? Screw off, I said I'm busy with a new job. I'll post more often when things calm down - or maybe not, I dunno, it's my god damn site."

At the mention of a French proposal to require by law a minimum of one PW post per week, the Jolly Bloger began to yell unintelligibly for ten minutes. Something about the rights of the people, free speech, and hippies.

"We just want our favourite website back to normal," the pirate captain told us by satellite phone. When asked what their second favourite website is, he responded "fARRRk.com"

Thursday, April 3, 2008

Again, not a damn miracle!

Have you heard about the pregnant man?

It's a transgendered guy, so he was born a girl and had a sex change, but kept the plumbing. He got artificially knocked up, and is now six months pregnant with a healthy baby. That's really cool, hurrah for medical science right?

Well, not exactly. He went on Oprah (of course) and declared it a miracle.

Praise Jaaayzuusss!

Now, a normal man with man parts becoming pregnant... that would be weird. If it were to happen, there would surely be a logical explanation, but calling it a miracle casually would probably be acceptable. This, clearly, is not the same. Everyone knew he had a uterus, it is thanks only to the skill of the doctors and researchers that this happened, not God.