Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Watch All Of This

I am shaking with anger. Literally shaking right now.

What follows is a Panorama investigation into the fact that some Muslim-run schools have been teaching anti-Semitism and death penalties for homosexuality, among other shit, to kids as young as six. As the report says, it's not just Islamic schools that do it, evangelical Christian and ultra-orthodox Jewish schools do this shit too - but the report focuses on Muslim ones mainly.

The Youtube comments for these vids bordered on National Front rhetoric at some points. If you do watch them, watch all of them and pay real attention. Bigoted shit will not be tolerated here.

Now, if you'll excuse me, I feel like I need a shower.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Mo' Like Salvation Barmy

Some people just can't stop complaining.

Yes, it's the Salvation Army*, those sons of fun who used homeless people as hostages when the US government tried to stop them discriminating against gay people. They've got a new beef; another blow has been struck by heathens who dare to enjoy Special Baby Jesus Month without the Baby Jesus. Tim Minchin's absolutely beautiful Christmas song White Wine In The Sun, a track both Katie and I adore, has been included on a Christmas CD whose profits will go to the Sally Army. The song is, naturally for a Minchin classic, pretty critical of organised religion and the way it fucks with people: check it out.

Now that's bloody beautiful. But it focuses on living people, and warmth, and comfort and family, instead of a newborn with a halo. So these fucks are throwing an absolute shit-wobbler. They've called it a sick joke, which I think Tim would appreciate as quite a few of his jokes are - but still hilarious.

Well, let them squall. They're getting the money, they can bugger off if they think their moral outrage carries any weight with sensible people after the crap they've pulled.

*I remember when I was a kid, I was taken in and thought the name meant their function was to save people's lives. Given that they tried to refuse to feed the homeless when their faith-sanctioned bigotry was threatened, I'm slightly ashamed of ever thinking that preserving life was the organisation's focus.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

You Could Not Make This Up

Holy fucking shit. I have never met this guy and know only his name, nationality and job, and I already know he's a fucking riot.

Michel Rouyer, a French farmer, has been arrested and fined for feeding cannabis to ducks.

There is nothing I can think of that could make that sentence rock any harder, except maybe replacing the words 'arrested and fined' with 'applauded and given more ducks'. He said he did it to rid them of worms, and that his flock was now in excellent health. He also admitted to smoking a little bit of it. The awesome part is that they didn't arrest him for that, or possessing it, and rightly so; the hilarious part was that giving it to the ducks was the bit they charged him with. It's not like it's cruelty, unless it gives them the shits or something, which the BBC report doesn't mention, but check out this accompanying photo:

That is the most relaxed duck in the entire fucking world.

Rumours that the police were tipped off by a disgruntled baker from down the street, holding a grudge after being cleaned out by an entire flock with the munchies, can be disregarded as too funny to be real.

Throwing The Facebook At Them

This is possibly the most ridiculous thing I've ever heard of among jurors. There have been reports of jurors' own judgement being undermined because they've been looking at Twitter while court cases are ongoing, and because that'd make it easy for campaigners or lobbyists to get messages across to them and influence their decisions. The Sun (hideous conflict-provoking vultures that they are, but nevertheless) reported that a judge had to restart a trial after a juror accessed her Facebook, put up details of the court case and started gathering her friends' opinions on whether the defendant was guilty. This is, as we all know, fucking retarded, and only a conscious effort not to make snap judgements prevents me from instantly visualising this juror as a drink-raddled fake-tanned chav (basically white trash for any Yanqui folks who don't know the term) along the lines of this venomous harridan, whomever the fuck she may be.

There have also been reports of jurors investigating rape cases using the Internet. Because that's fucking unbiased, isn't it.

The report mentions that they're considering classing use of these resources for purposes related to the court as being in contempt, which sounds reasonable to me. There's only so many ongoing court cases you can Google before you realise that maybe the fringe sites calling for the lynching of the defendants aren't legitimate evidence.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Godless Beautiful Thing Of The Week

Yes, I know it's Monday. Yes, it's meant to be a Sunday thing. No, I don't have an excuse. Crap.

This will be the last Beautiful Thing of the Week, month-long test-drive as the concept was. What I'll be doing instead is abandoning the weekly format of it and just slapping them in alongside any other posts Katie and I make, as they make themselves obvious to me.

This one's a long one. Waaaay long, and it harks back to one of the first. I thoroughly recommend right-clicking this and using the Watch On Youtube option as it's faster-loading, if only a little.

This is a collection of tracks by the unparalleled Joe Hisaishi. For those who don't know, he's the composer for the movies made by Studio Ghibli and thus responsible for such gems as the soundtracks of Princess Mononoke, Spirited Away, Ponyo, Laputa The Castle In The Sky, Howl's Moving Castle, My Neighbour Totoro, Nausicaa Of The Valley Of Wind and dozens of other pieces. Man's a genius.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

It's Sagan's Day, Hooray, Hooray

It's Carl Sagan's birthday today!...pity he died fourteen years ago. Still, if other people commemorate births of influential figures thousands of years later, fuck it. This one's within my lifetime and a greater loss to human thought than any other death in the past twenty years.

Carl was the guy who first helped me make sense of the idea of four-dimensional travel in a three-dimensional perception, basically by dumbing it down a level and showing what it'd be like if a sphere dropped through a two-dimensional landscape. He was instrumental in the US space program right from the week before day one, as it were, and was a NASA advisor - one of his jobs was *briefing the Apollo astronauts*, telling the brave bastards who got launched at the Moon in a huge firework what they could expect. That's a badass fucking job. Carl went on to win the Oersted Medal, TWO of the NASA Distinguished Public Service Medal, a non-fiction Pulitzer and a Public Welfare Medal from the National Academy of Sciences.

Carl Sagan was basically the poster child for a reasonable, enlightened human being. He was raised from an early age with a sense of wonder and focused, realistic inquisitiveness that led him to become one of the most inspiring figures in the history of cosmology, and one of the best and most riveting speakers on the subject. Check this out:

We'll all miss him.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Godless Beautiful Thing Of The Week

First off, an apology. This should have been done last night, but having hit the age of 25 fists-first, at an appreciable fraction of lightspeed, I've had other things on my mind. So, here we go, slightly late but well-formed for all that.

Week Three in the GBTOTW (which sounds like a town in Eastern Europe, but fuck it) and in contrast to the biological beauty of last week's post, this weekend focuses on a different beauty: the mathematical perfection of fractals. I do this because it was brought to my attention that Benoit Mandelbrot died of cancer last month, aged 85, in Massachusetts.

Mandelbrot was the man who discovered fractals, and there's one kind named after him. The discovery led to new abilities to measure things that previously couldn't be - the coastline of my island home of Britain, for example, or the internal geometry of a lung. It also led to new theories in data compression and digital music. I won't sport with people's intelligence by wasting space here on what a quick Google can explain better - but this is the kind of thing it led to:

Shiiiiiiiit. That's a weird-looking pattern - but what Mandelbrot discovered about such patterns, and what makes them freaky to look at when stoned, is that it repeats all the way down.

Another example, less like peacock plumage but still guaranteed to mess with your head if you're under certain chemical influences. I have that much on good authority.

These things tend to look either like deep-sea lifeforms (not so far off, as the Mandel Bro discovered that they occur widely in nature such as within cauliflowers and broccoli) or radiation-sensitive images of the early life of the universe.

(A Mandelbrot pattern, named for the lad himself.)

Those last two examples aren't even mathematical constructs - one's water frost forming on the surface of a mercury pool, and the other is the fractal growths inside a cauliflower. Fucking. Awesome.

Friday, November 5, 2010

Course Set For Awesome

If you read this blog at all, you probably move in the circles where you'll have already heard about Clint McCance, the Arkansas school board shithead who declared his happiness over the recent rash of gay teen suicides because they'd 'sinned'.

I won't go into the whole story here, if only because people like VJack, Think Atheist's Ruby Dynamite (awesome fucking name) and PZ tell the story much better than I could, and with overall less swearing and personal abuse per word.

What I will add to this is that a new voice has spoken out against McCance. A voice so instantly recognisable, you know instantly that you'll get where you're going and get there fast. A voice that's done far more naughty things to relativity than any human could ever hope to achieve with a partner: George "Fly her apart then!" Takei.

Fucking. YES. I can't even add anything meaningful to that. The grin on my face is defying maths right now. Go on, George, tell it like it fuckin' is.