Monday, December 29, 2008

Dazzling wit!

You're doing it wrong. Oh, so very, very wrong...

Photo taken in a certain doughnut shop, deep in KL. Will whoever came up with this monstrousity please do us all a favour and die slowly in a fire?

New depths for the Star and the Malaysian public

I don't know about you, but I find it more than a bit telling of the quality of the Star's reporting and the moral fibre of its readership when the 'Most viewed' list looks like this:

In this one glance we see the gullibility, barbarism, prudishness and pettiness of the Malaysian public. "Party without undies planned"??? THIS is what passes for news?! We're next to THAILAND, for fuck's sake! By the way, that "Bush is 'booted' out" article is indeed regarding the incident mentioned in an earlier post, 2 WEEKS AGO. And the astrologer is from no less illustrious an insitution than the "Geocosmic Centre of Yijing Meta-Science Research Malaysia". Right... I believe you mean PSEUDO-Science, you shameless bastards. "Geocosmic", my eye...

By the way, Feng Shui master Lee Cheng Hoe says:

"Meanwhile, people can place water features at the south-west corner of their homes with the water flowing towards the inside to help counter negative energy."

Hope you're proud of yourselves. I'm-a going to peep at a real newspaper's website before this drivel induces projectile vomit.

Something we won't see during Obama's time

Spotted this on /b/. lol'd something fierce:

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Dickens and Liquid Crystal = Joy!

I've just liberated this handsome little device from the uncomprehending clutches of my parents and I have to say, I love it!

I daresay I've been trawling the net way, way too long. The tides of pop culture have pulled the English language quite some distance from the days when books were written with pen and paper by lamplight. English, as we see it today, in magazines, newspapers, books and that crucible of memes, the Net, has become a leaner creature, driven by the needs of a rapidly accelerating world to convey the maximum amount of information with the minimum number of words.

In under an hour each morning, I'll be skimming Malaysian news*, IHT, BBC News, Wired, Al Jazeera, New Scientist and Scientific American. If the mood takes me, I'll sample bits and bobs of the blogsphere, grimacing at pretentious pseudopatriotic blowhards, laughing at fundies or pondering the intellectual integtrity of a peer's post. Back in the real world, within arm's reach is a pile of linguisitics texts to devour, printouts from, a small stack of Japanese books with an accompanying BIG stack of Japanese dictionaries and sod knows what else in the fearsome ranks of archfiles of reference material I've printed. In the bathroom, a pile of Skeptical Inquirer, Scientific American Mind, Popular Science and New Scientist. In my car, Bertrand Russell's Unpopular Essays, because I need something fun to read in KL's traffic jams. And by my bed, science fiction of various grades, ranging from trashy WH40k to the stuff that makes you think, by the likes of Alistair Reynolds, Vernor Vinge and Huxley, supplemented by 3 volumes of Larry Gonick's Cartoon History of the Universe, assorted manga and a majestic, leatherbound tome: Bullfinch's Mythology. Oh, two majestic leatherbound tomes! The other one is the complete Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy trilogy - all 5 books of it.

Point is, I'm one of those people who are firmly of the opinion that one can never read too much. I've been wolfing down information for quite a while now, often simply for the sake of it, SO... I did find in the garden of literary and intellectual wonders that I surround myself with a particularly rare and radiant blossom in the form of Checkov's Uncle Vanya. It came with the ebook reader, one of a hundred literary gems** that now sit in a slim device of steel, leather and semiconductor wafers (with all the right buttons in all the right places! What a triumph of engineering design!) on my desk, though more often, these days, in my hand.

I'd never read Checkov, and was enamoured of science very early in my life, so for a very large part of it, classics were something I read because I simply had to know.

*Brief interlude. Haruka wants her chin rubbed.*

Where was I? Checkov! There is a singular beauty to the language as written in his day, and its such a joy to read after days and days of Pinker's pedantry! To be fair, given Pinker's subject matter (I'm halfway through The Language Instinct), pedantry is a necessary evil, especially for a schmoe like me who's never studied linguistics, let alone cognitive linguistics, at uni before. As such, seeing English put to work by the hands of such masters as Wilde, Shaw, Dickens and the like is a much-needed break from the relatively clipped, emotionless drone of news and popular science texts.

I luv the ebook reader. All I need now is a steampunk version of it and I can die happy...

*The travesty that it is...

** I was very chuffed to find Darwin's On the Origin of Species was among them.

The Atheist's work is never done

Here's a question I saw on Yahoo! Answers:

Do people and their pets reincarnate together into different lives?
Just thought of this lol do you think like, with people and their pets, that in every or some lives they reincarnate together. Like a person has a dog, is the person and the dog likely to meet eachother again somehow in the next life?

Of course, I felt obliged to give my most diplomatic, not-at-all-contemptuous retort:

As an atheist, I'd think it wiser to go on the assumption that there is no afterlife. Make the most of this life, chill out, be groovy, live well. When death eventually comes, you or your dog won't be in a position to object.

So, yeah, 2 points for me. I peeped at it a while later to find another answer:

Yes, this absolutely is the case, people ALWAYS reincarnate with their pets. However what generally tends to happen is that because of the karmic relationship between the person and his or her pets, the roles are almost always reversed in the next life. So your pet will become your owner, and you will become the pet - or, depending on how poorly you treated your pet, you may instead end up being reincarnated as the feeder animal that gets fed to your previous-life pet's new pet - who, in all likelihood will be the reincarnation of one of your other previous-life pets or a smaller animal that you fed to them (as in the case of a feeder mouse, cricket, or feeder goldfish). Hope this clears things up for you!

Patrick Stewart, help me out here...

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Infidel Xmas

Heisei banzai! Well, it was Emperor Akihito's birthday yesterday... And so we come once again to the birthday of the man with the mullet himself, Jesus H Christ, who shares, among other things, his birthday with Mithra.

Look, tell you what, I'll skip out on the dissection of the life and times of the zombie king for now. There's plenty of that all over the net, and I'm in no mood to vent atheist's frustration* right now, because my kittens are happily dozing together not 2 meters from me. Good vibes, right there.

So, what's a heathen devil like me (and no doubt many others) to celebrate at a time like this? What have I to look forward to at a time like this, I, who simply am not convinced of the existence of a theistic God, for whom this day is of no greater significance than, say, Thor's birthday?

Plenty, I suppose. This time of year, perhaps more than any other, is a point in the year where everyone, regardless of race, colour or creed, are that little bit more likely to be nice to each other. I concede that this little spurt of altruism is, indeed, inspired by the God delusion, but it's my own, perhaps overly optimistic little hope, that every year, perhaps one or two more people will realise that all humans are in the game of life together, and we don't need a date of religious significance to simply be nice to each other.

Xmas, for some reason, always makes me think of the famous Christmas Truce, in which German and British troops in the trench-hells of the First World War unofficially decided on a cease-fire and just live-and-let-live for a bit. For a brief few days, soldiers, young men with orders from some unfathomable political force to kill one another, on two sides of a fool's war, ceased to be soldiers and were just people again - people in a tough spot trying to help each other to get by. In a crucible of blood, bullets and barbed-wire, the imaginary lines dividing men were melted away to give birth to the collective realization:

It doesn't have to be this way. We don't have to kill each other.

Such an epiphany is sorely needed in many parts of the world today.

So, while I don't celebrate the birthday of Jesus/Mithra, what I do celebrate is one more excuse for people to be nice to each other. One more justification to reach out to the other side, not to strike them down, nor to turn them from their beliefs, nor to take what is their right, but to just simply be together and not fight, just for a while, and realize the true enemies are not the people under a different flag or even worshipping a different god. The true enemies are found in the delusions that make people divide the world into Us and Them.

* Atheist's frustration = the exasperation felt by atheists and secular humanists everywhere at the continued existence of religiously inspired absurdity.

Monday, December 22, 2008

Fire extinguishers and their uses: A guide to Korean politics

Trawling the net as long as I have, one of the great things I find about the net is that there's always, always another "Seriously, wtf???" moment lurking around the next link. Here's one.

Long story short, the ruling party was meeting to ratify a FTA between South Korea and the US. The opposition wasn't invited, and the ruling party* barricaded themselves in the meeting room. So, about a dozen or so opposition lawmakers decided to invite themselves, with the aid of sledgehammers and crowbars. Alas for the underdogs, though they eventually tore down the door, they didn't manage to get into the meeting and stop the FTA, thanks to a further barricade of heavy furniture.

Somehow, I doubt that, even if they did get in, the opposition lawmakers would be interested in sitting quietly at the meeting table to rationally discuss the pros and cons of said FTA.

* The "Grand National Party". How pompous can you get?

Sunday, December 21, 2008


Here's an old chestnut that gave me a geeky lol worth sharing:

Friday, December 19, 2008

When Money is the New God...

... and the new God ain't working, it's time to scurry back to old Gods. That's the impression I got from this IHT article. I can't quite recall who it was who said the real measure of a man makes itself known in times of adversity, or words to that effect, only wittier and catchier. Evidently the credit crunch has revealed a great many people for the spineless, money-grubbing, irresponsible little weeds that they are.

Despite my best efforts, many acquaintances of mine maintain a terribly naive view of human nature, resolutely believing that humans are, in their heart of hearts, strong and good and kind and similar saccharine tripe courtesy of Chicken Soup for the Gullible Soul. Take a good look now. Like a toddler who's tripped and fallen, these people run crying for the security blanket of an imaginary friend, finding shallow solace* for shallow minds in the empty promises of the master conmen who dress themselves up with titles like "reverend", "pastor" and "father".

It is tempting to simply pour scorn on these poor fools blindly chasing their childish delusion and leave it at that, sparing them no more thought than one would the expiry of another Happy Tree Friend. I for one take this as a clear indication that those who would speak in defense of science and reason are not doing enough, though for the life of me, I know not what more we can do. There's nothing quite as exasperating as the combination of wilful ignorance, smugness and in certain cases (Dinesh D'Souza and Deepak Chopra come to mind) small-minded spite that one encounters in trying to reason with died-in-the-wool theists.

But, heathen comrades, keep your chin up and do not despair! We, the infidels of the world have truth on our side and empirically verifiable evidence to back it up, which is infinitely more than the delusional hordes can or ever will offer. The Age of Reason will come, but it won't just turn up by itself, like certain poor fools are wont to believe about their "messiahs". It will take work, perseverance and the patience of mountains. And when patience runs out, then at the very least some creative stress relief in between.

So, for your consideration here's Chris Cocker, of "Leave Britney alone!" fame for you to annihilate at your leisure with a blender. And a gerbil, just in case.

By the way, if you haven't already, do watch Bill Maher's Religulous. Maher does strike me as a bit smarmy at times, but it's good to see religion put in it's proper place, i.e. a collection of silly old myths for sane people to look back and laugh at. To the atheist, this movie is a light-hearted reminder of what the conflict between faith and reason is about. To the agnostic, it is a wake-up call. To the theist, a mirror and a well-deserved smack in the face, that is, if a theist has the stones to actually watch it. Go see!

* Just had to mention: I just watched Quantum of Solace. Bond sans cool gadgets? Boo!

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Yay! Good news for a change!

I was rather chuffed to see the front page of today's Star (the print version) adorned with pics of Governor* Bush getting shoes chucked at him by an Iraqi journalist. Big props to Muntader al-Zaidi, caster of shoes, for his courage in giving that inarticulate hick what's been coming for quite a while now. My only complaint is that neither of the shoes hit Bush. Apparently, $10 million has been offered for those shoes! I wonder if this is going to start a fad...

Anyway, it wasn't long before the creative souls at B3ta got to work:

On a completely unrelated noted, I peeped at this Comedy Goldmine from Something Awful and figured the teachers who read this blog (both of you) might appreciate it.

* Yes, Governor, because that's the last post he held legally.

Monday, December 15, 2008

What to do with all them old CDs

A thought occured to me a couple of days ago. Simply put, it is this:

Would it be possible to build a solar power plant using old CDs?

Would it be feasible to have racks to hold groups of CDs together connected to heliostats to reflect the sunlight over a large area into a black receptacle where water is heated into steam to power a turbine?

It seems to me the limiting factor here is the reflectivity of the CDs. I mean, it's not like there's a terrible shortage of discarded CDs, is there?

*Posted this on the RDF forums. Will be waiting most eagerly for the response, even if this idea is shot down in flames, coz science is just like that...

Friday, December 12, 2008

Ah, to be a cat...

Everytime I see Haruka and Souseki dozing together like this, I can't help but feel a twinge of envy - they look like the most contented critters in the universe! However, I do wonder if Haruka still harbours a little resentment towards Souseki:

In case you're wondering, Souseki is alive and well, and has about 2 days left of being male, as at the time of writing.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

I used to like dinosaurs... *Used* to.

My niece is visiting, and when she's not harassing my poor cats, she can usually be found watching Barney dvds. Well, maybe not quite dvds in the plural. I'm quite sure I've been overhearing the same dvd over and over again for the past week. Were I not an infidel, I'd be fairly sure Barney is the AntiChrist.

Anyway, here I sit, with that wretched purple dinosaur's voice ringing in my ears and some odd thoughts popped into my head. For instance, how do children's shows come about? On what basis would the character design be settled upon? Do they target a particular demographic? And just how exactly do they aid a child's mental progression other than by grabbing attention with bright colours and writing information into young minds through sheer repetition of annoyingly catchy tunes and silly voices?

This led me to the odd little question: Given a culturally homogenous society, would it be possible to design the perfect (or close to perfect, at any rate) children's show? That is, if we decided to, say, isolate a group of munchiekins for the entirety of their childhood and run any number of diabolical experiments on them, gauging their responses to various cartoon characters, songs, information and whatnot, using the results to produce a children's show giving the best possible rate of information retention? Preferably with the minimum amount of painfully annoying, repetitive songs?

Well, its just a thought is all. Much like fantasizing about blowing Barney's brains out with a suitably large-caliber gun is just a thought. A happy, happy thought. Anyway, on a vaguely related note...

The Sep/Oct 2008 issue of Skeptical Inquirer pointed a little fact which I found at once unsettling and reassuring. Apparently, the human brain reaches it's maximum size around the age of 14. After that, it very slowly shrinks throughout the rest of one's life. By the time one is 70 years old, the brain is about the same size it used to be at the age of 3.

Now, this is unsettling to me because, at first glance, it appears that my poor, addled brain has been slowly, inexorably dying for more than half of my life. :-( I suppose this is one little fact of life I should keep from my dad (70 this year).

But, upon further consideration, this is quite uplifting! Why? Well, for a start, my dad, and many individuals I've met around the same age (bar one), clearly possess an intellectual capacity light years beyond that of any 3-year-old child I've witnessed. What I draw from this is that it illustrates the sheer magnitude of the human brain's powers of storage and cognition, that even with the capacity of a 3-year-old's brain , one can still function perfectly well (most of the time) with all of the software, that is, the accumulated memes we've managed to scrape together, from 70 years of living. Who knows the limits to our untapped potential?

Well, I look at this as a reason for optimism, a valuable thing indeed in these very interesting times we live in, this age of economic time bombs, of global terror, of culture war... and of goddamn purple dinosaurs.

Monday, December 8, 2008

Huffin' and puffin'...

Well, since we're on the subject of 3 Little Pigs anyway, here's a video that surfaced from the depths of my memories from when I still watched TV:

Saturday, December 6, 2008

The way fairy tales should be told

Was searching for the Fatboy Slim video with Christopher Walken struttin' his stuff when I stumbled on this:

You gotta love Christopher Walken :-D

Friday, December 5, 2008

Yet another childhood memory tainted forever...

Thanks a LOT, *sigh*...

Something I've always wondered about, but could never be bothered to look up...

If a hyponotist has you under a trance, then tells you to die, would you? Could he tell you that your heart just stopped? On a related note, what do you suppose would happen if you were under the influence of an asshole hypnotist?

Being a rebel for a bit...

I heard that in merry Englande, one can be prosecuted for having information on how to make a bomb on your computer. So, as a slap in the face of the obviously computer-illiterate muppet who came up with that one, here's a happy link for you:

There, all you'll ever need to know about blowing things up. Need moar? Just fucking Google it. And here's a fun word to look up: Flux compressor. Go knock yourselves out. Or blow yourselves up, whatever floats your boat.

Point is, a law like that is completely useless in the face of internet access. If people want to find out about something as simple as bomb-making, they will. You want to stop people from blowing things up? Think a little harder about WHY they'd want to blow things up in the first place, eh? I'm beginning to think they were right about Guy Fawkes being the only sane man who entered Parliament...

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Oh, lookit! Doublethink!

How intellectually dishonest does one have to be to work in Malaysia's "most widely read English daily"? Well, now we know. From the Star's website today:

Hurry and you should still be able to see it. And yes, that is the same Zaid who made that very brave speech mentioned earlier on this blog, and indeed many other blogs. And that's why these days, the U in UMNO stands for 'useless'. Seriously, how do these people live with themselves?

Check out the two articles, and you'll find that neither makes reference to the other. And of course, there'll be the obligatory statement from the PM, who still maintains an unbroken record of not saying a single word he went back on less than 3 months later or which isn't an utterly worthless platitude that's blindingly obvious to anyone with a primary education.

Still hoping that China, or better yet, Singapore will kindly invade Malaysia...