Archive for September, 2006

PostHeaderIcon Sam Harris

samharrisI just finished reading Sam Harris’ new book(let) “Letter to a Christian Nation”.

The book instilled in me the urge to buy a big bag full of them and go knock on people’s doors on Sunday mornings at 8am to urge them to read the ‘Better Book’.

However, I realize that in order for this crusade to have any success, the people I would be targetting would be asumed to approach religion in a rational fashion, as Sam Harris’ arguments are all very rational and logical.
Since I know from experience that even some of the smartest and best educated people I personally know have ‘decided’ to not ever let reason interfere with their religious beliefs, this expedition is doomed to fail.

So I will NOT actually go knock on people’s doors.
Which is good, because I don’t like getting up at 8am on Sunday mornings.

Instead .. I just started in Richard Dawkins’ (whom, I can proudly say, I once met. Okay, so it was during a book signing session, so what? I am actually in a picture with the Great Man himself! So! There! I bet you’re all jealous now! And so you should!) new book “The GOD Delusion”. Very promising! So far I only read the introduction, and even THAT was already delightful reading!
 

Sam Harris: Letter to a Christian Nation 

Richard Dawkins: The GOD Delusion

PostHeaderIcon “.. a creeping civic stupidity ..”

BigotDo fundamentalist Muslims scare you?

Fundamentalist Christians scare me too. And you should be scared too.

How Christian (supposedly a faith based on love, compassion and tolerance) are you really, when you send death threats to a judge who ruled that today’s most popular delusion (Intelligent Design) cannot be taught in public schools?

Scary bigots!

Link to article

PostHeaderIcon Nokia 770

My blog’s right sidebar is too wide, especially for smaller screens; I need to fix have fixed that.

nokia


PostHeaderIcon Turkishness

euIn Turkey there is a law that makes it a crime to ‘insult Turkishness‘.

To criticize this law is considered an ‘attempt to influence the judiciary‘. Which is also a crime.

Turkish authors who have written about the brutal slaying of over one million Armenians during WW1 by the Turkish, have been charged with the crime of ‘insulting Turkishness’.

Turkey, who is seeking membership of the European Union, has been told, by that same European Union, that European Union members have a thing against putting writers in jail for expressing opinions. Something to do with that silly thing about freedom of press and speech.

During the trials of these ‘Turkishness insulting‘ writers, there were large protests by people waving European Union flags with Nazi swastika’s on ‘m and slogans referring to ‘EU Fascism’, thereby 

  • expressing their opinions about the EU’s suggestion to not put people in jail for expressing their opinions
  • supporting a law which, if the EU would adopt a similar one (criminalize insulting ‘European Unioness‘), they would go to jail for.

I’d say, let’s not make Turkey a member of the European Union just yet.

(btw, when was Turkey geographically moved to Europe? Last time I was there, it was still firmly planted in the Middle East)

(link to article)

Note: I hope I didn’t insult anyone’s ‘Turkishness‘ with this post. If so: I’m profoundly sorry for your reaction! (I learned this clever way of ‘apologizing‘ from the Pope!)

PostHeaderIcon A hit man? A mishit-man!

hammerUsually, stories in which a person goes to jail, a woman is viciously attacked and another person dies, are very sad stories.

I guess the story I just read is a sad story, but I had to smile anway: the bad bastard went to jail, the dumb scumbag died, and the attacked woman came out on top.

Hiring your ex-custodian to kill your wife, because you don’t like the divorce proceedings? And then this tiny skinny brainiac goes to the wife’s house, uses the security codes he has been provided with by the almost-ex hubby while carrying a backpack with in it the first name of the ex husband and his cellphone number?

Following these smart moves, this same skinny ‘slight’ genius attacks the tall strong female nurse when she comes home.

If he had done some research, he probably would have realized that a ‘close combat’ weapon, like a claw hammer, shouldn’t have been the weapon of choice in this quite uneven match.

A hammer? This Einstein must have taken his boss’ suggestion to become a ‘hit’-man a little bit too literal.

Anyway, she took away his hammer and when the ‘assasin’ then tried to bite her to death (real pro!) she simply grabbed him by the throat and squeezed the life out of the varmint like a rotten banana.

I’m sure that’s not exactly how it was worded in the police report, nor how she experienced the whole ordeal, but that’s how I like to read it, and that IS what the outcome of it all was: Moron husband to jail, not likely to score high points in the divorce proceedings, the lady is safe AND got rid of the annoying husband for a LONG time, and the ‘hit man’ … out of the gene pool!

Yeah!

(read the article)

PostHeaderIcon FlightFright

nwestThis is a copy of two separately posted messages, some three weeks ago, from my previous Livejournal blog, in which I wrote under the name of ‘Dutchdoc’ (‘Dutch’ should be obvious, ‘Doc’, because Grumpy and Dopey were already taken, or so the story goes).

I’ll explain the reason for re-posting this later.

It was somewhere in February 2005.
A true story.
I was in line at the security checkpoint at Melbourne (Florida!) Airport. After a stopover in Atlanta, I would soon be on a transatlantic flight.
In front of me, at the security checkpoint, were four guys who were very obviously traveling together.
I estimated them to be in their mid-twenties, conservatively dressed and clearly from Middle Eastern descent. Well.. Middle East.. they could have been Afghani or Pakistani too. But you know what I mean. NOT a group of four guys you want to see board YOUR plane! I mean.. four guys with blond hair and blue eyes… sure… But this.. MAYBE not!
Understandably they were VERY closely scrutinized by the security folks. Every single one of them had their carry-on luggage hand searched, were thoroughly frisked and even had to take apart their cell phones. On top of that: they were treated RUDELY! Barked at. Two of them were visibly angered by the whole ordeal and the other two just giggled. But all four of them endured the whole thing remarkably patiently.
Was this profiling? Of COURSE it was. And I have to admit, legal or not, I don’t care! Profiling, despite being racist, in a way, simply makes sense.
Does that make me a racist? I don’t think so. Just careful. It’s all a matter of statistics.
Anyway.
As I now know, the first names of these four Pakistani-looking 25 year olds were: (8/29: names removed. No longer relevant to the story, besides I shouldn’t have used their real names, especially not in this context).
What was NOT obvious about this whole thing was that there was actually a fifth member traveling in this group.
He followed the four from a distance, watched with interest when they were being frisked, barely noticeably shook his head, smiled, joked with the security officer when he put his THREE laptops on the conveyor belt, and was waved through without any further incident.
I remember thinking: THREE laptops, isn’t that a bit suspicious?
Apparently, it wasn’t.
The five of them would fly to Paris.
And from there, according to their tickets, on to New Delhi.
As for the name of this fifth guy, let me just suffice by giving you his ‘code’ name…

(to be continued…)

And a few days later I posted the rest of the story …

Frightflight II

The (not-so)fright flight saga continues …

As mentioned in the first part of this story, the mystery fifth member of this group was waved through the security checkpoint without any incident.
One may have wondered about this, since I clearly mentioned that the security folks were heavily profiling!
There was a reason the fifth guy wasn’t bothered:
He was blond and had blue eyes.
And his code name, that I promised to reveal, was ‘Dutchdoc’.

And before you fearfully and astonished ask me ‘Are YOU a terrorist? We had NO idea!” .. no, of course I’m not a terorrist. Nor were my 4 companions terrorists.

They were just four co-workers from our software design center in Noida, India, (I have now removed their names from the first part of the story: I didn’t feel comfortable using their real names), who worked here in Palm Bay for a few weeks with some of my team’s members on various issues.
They were returning home, and I travelled with them to attend a design review meeting at said development center.
As for the reason for telling this story I have to add this: some of my Indian co-workers had purchased some electronics gadgets here like games, portable dvd-player and cell phones -yeah, I guess we pay them too much ;-)-. They were very thrilled about this and while we were seated, waiting for the plane to take off, they were showing eachother stuff, handing the gadgets back and forth, pointing, giggling and overall being very excited.

Nobody seemed to care and nobody asked them to quit doing that.
HAD someone told them to stop passing these gadgets around, chances would have been that some of them wouldn’t have immediately realized what was being asked of them: Their English is, well, while better than mine, slightly different from what’s commonly used here in the US.

Since I have SEEN this, I IMMEDIATELY knew what happened when I read the first stories of Northwest flight 42 that returned to Amsterdam after some passengers ‘displayed behavior of concern’ (passing around cell phones).

Again: security theatre!
I can understand that the onboard Air Marshall (yes, there was one) was alerted by this and payed some attention to it.
Had he DONE this calmly and without panicking, I’m almost SURE he would have recognized the innocent nature of the whole thing.
But to recommend to the captain to return IS panicking. (And I won’t even go into the absurdity of the Dutch police holding and questioning these 12(!) kids for TWO days, without realizing these guys were just passing around gadgets).

I guess this is all a matter of training.

The security theatre is becoming rampant. Last Saturday there were SIX flights being diverted here in the US, one for something silly as a woman filing her nails!

We need better training for air marshalls and cabin crew:

– If a guy tries to set his shoe on fire: sure, take him down.
– If a woman doesn’t realize you’re serious when you tell her to quit filing her nails .. diverting the flight is over-reacting.
– If a an elderly American woman goes to the bathroom ‘too often’ .. NOT a reason for TWO airmarshalls to tackle her and make the plane land.
– If you find dynamite in someone’s luggage: yes, that’s a reason for concern and requires some investigation.
– Taking someone into custody for bringing two tubes of toothpaste on a plane .. you need training! (What’s wrong with holding on to the toothpaste and returning it after the flight).

PostHeaderIcon Ig Nobel

ignobelEvery year the bi-monthly magazine Annals of Improbable Research awards the so called Science Ig Nobel Prizes for ‘results that cannot, or should not, be reproduced

The purpose of this post is to invite you all to read the list of prizes awarded so far, and leave a comment here indicating your favorite(s).

The list can be found here.


PostHeaderIcon Why I am not an astronaut

helmetA KLM Boeing 747, flight 4805 taxied to the only runway at Los Rodeos airport and took position for takeoff. The weather was terrible, they could only see part of the runway. They also knew that there was another plane taxiing on that runway when they lined up for takeoff, but couldn’t see it. Probably due to language differences, the communication with the tower was not clear. There was some confusion between the captain and the first officer, but the captain decided the runway was clear and started the takeoff. After all, he had heard the tower order the other plane to take the nearest exit off of the runway … plus he was in a hurry. If he waited a bit longer, Dutch regulations would have required a change of crew: they would have been on duty for too long. That would mean hours, if not a day, delay. So he pushed for it.

All this happened on March 27, 1977 on the Canary Island of Tenerife. The other plane on the runway, which, coincidently, missed the exit they were supposed to take to clear the runway, was Pan Am flight 1736.

583 People died that day in the resulting collision of the two planes.

There were a few different incidents that led up to this accident, but the main one was, what is now called in the aviation world, “getthereitis” (get-there-itis .. get it? It simply means: being in such a hurry to get somewhere, that safety regulations are ignored: just GET there, no matter what.)

Guess which word went through my head when I read this today on CNN:

CAPE CANAVERAL, Florida (AP) — Caught in a scheduling squeeze, NASA decided to try to launch space shuttle Atlantis on Friday without replacing a troublesome electrical component.

Friday is the last launch day available before the U.S. space agency runs into a scheduling conflict with the Russian space agency.

On Thursday, NASA decided not to change out an electricity-generating fuel cell whose coolant pump had given erratic readings, causing a scrub a day earlier. Replacing the fuel cell could have delayed any launch attempt by several weeks.

I’m glad I’m not an astronaut: I mean, can you imagine being in that thing, while NASA is going to try to launch the damned thing with known faulty parts (and we’re not talking about a broken light over its license plate here!)?

See this article.

PostHeaderIcon Pet peeves

Nozzle“Pet peeves” is a new ‘category’ in my blog.

It will deal with minor things in my life that bug me, irritate me, annoy me or piss me off. They’re always petty things, nothing earth shattering and mentioning them here probably makes me come across as a whiner. It’s just the little stuff.

My first one is this:

If you pump gas, the nozzle usually has a little doohickey that keeps the handle in the ‘pump engaged’ position so that you don’t have to hold the nozzle all the time you’re pumping.

This is very handy, since it allows you to do other things while you’re pumping gas, like washing your windows, lighting a cigarette (hahahaha… just kidding) or looking on the map to see where the heck you are.

It’s also much appreciated by people with arthritis.

So, it annoyes me to no end, when I’m at a gas station, and someone has, for some completely insane reason, removed these handy little doohickeys! Why on earth would people do that? It’s there for a reason! Removed them to prevent spillage perhaps: utter nonsense, all the nozzles have some very sophisticated mechanism to make it stop pumping when your tank is full. Someone broke off these things just to annoy me. And it works. I have gotten very childish about it: when I get at a gas station and they removed these doohickeys .. I leave. If I’m driving on fumes (this is often the case, when I enter a gas stattion) I will pump gas for 2 or 3 bucks, and drive to the next gas station.

told you it was the little stuff!

PostHeaderIcon Hocus Pocus

PotterThe Catholic church recenty appeared to start embracing some subtle rationalism by saying they were sorry about the whole Galileo thing, and that, perhaps, our star system is heliocentric after all, kinda, sorta. And yes, evolution, hmm..  it probably could have happened.

But the new Pope seems inclined to steer the Catholic church right back to the middle ages. Assisted in the attempt by some of his loyal followers:

Father Gabriele Amorth, who is Pope Benedict XVI’s senior exorcist (no really!! I’m not making this up!), takes issue with the Harry Potter books.

Please read this article about Father Gabriele’s insights.

Too silly for words, really.

Behind Harry Potter hides the signature of the king of the darkness, the devil

Well, yes, nobody denies that, in fact Harry always takes on the “king of the darkness” and always wins, he’s the good guy. He defeats the devil, so to say, in every single book. How is this different from any other fantasy book that deals with the same theme and is read to kids as bedtime stories all over the world, like, for instance, the bible? What’s the problem?

Well, the problem, as Father Gabriele sees it and explains to us, is, that “the books attempt to make a false distinction between black and white magic, when in fact, the distinction “does not exist, because magic is always a turn to the devil“.

Read that again: “magic is always a turn to the devil

That is interesting! I have always been taught that Jesus himself performed quite some magic left and right. And isn’t it also true that in order to become a Saint, one has to have performed magic somewhere in ones life? In fact, doesn’t every priest during mass turn to magic, when he performs a cool trick by the name of transsubstantiation?

I will not spend any words on the lunacy of the  ‘remote exorcism’ of Hitler. Other than to remark that it utterly failed (why am I not surprised). That just has too high of a voodoo content for me.