How DARE you?

More than anything I've read about the Labour party, this pisses me off beyond belief.

Walter Wolfgang, a party member for 57 years, was bundled out of the conference hall by stewards after shouting "nonsense" as Mr Straw, the Foreign Secretary, defended Britain's role in Iraq. He was later stopped under anti-terrorist powers as he tried to re-enter the hall.

Y'know, we used to have a cherished concept in England called "freedom of speech", a concept so central to the British people that it didn't need to be written in any law. We, the British people, have the right to criticise our government.

Mr Blair, I hope the apology humiliated you. I hope it hurt you bad. I hope it reminded you of who you work for.

Somehow, I doubt it.

Story here, and here.


Commence driving!

Having passed my theory and been issued a learner's permit, my wife decided it was high time I actually got behind the wheel of our car. So I drove our beast around our local mall's parking lot to get the feel of it.

A full list of the casualties will be released once next-of-kin have been notified.

Now that's a manly man!

Vic Armstrong, British stuntman who appeared in too many films to count, received a Lifetime Achievement Award at the World Stunt Awards.

As if that's not enough evidence of hirsute testicles, he appeared wearing a suit that was on fire!


BBC NEWS | Entertainment | Lifetime honour for UK stuntman


Nancyboys and Fairies League (part 4)

This post is a direct extension of part 3.

With reference to the whole "pointing upwards" ritual, two questions arose over the weekend:

1: Why point upwards?

Isn't it only children who believe that the christian god lives in the sky? Isn't that a convenient get-children-to-believe twisting of doctrine? Don't christians believe that their god is everywhere? Couldn't a player, therefore, point at the crowd, the uprights, the QB, the opponent's coach, the ground, or his own crotch and still be pointing to his god?

2: Why point at all?

Isn't it an accepted part of Christian doctrine, and repeatedly stated in the bible, that the Christian god knows what you're thinking? Doesn't it go something like "all of human heart he knows" or somesuch? So why point? If you believe that the invisible old man helped you score, just say "thanks" inside your head and he'll know, won't he? Won't he?

The two questions have similar answers. A player would never point at the ground because people would think he was thanking Lucifer, so in order that everyone know that one is thanking one's god, one must point in the only direction that almost everyone would understand to mean "I'm thanking my god", and one must point, because otherwise how will people know one is thanking one's god?

But why?

PDR. Public Displays of Religion. It's the current big thing. We must loudly, vocally and publicly thank "God" wherever, whenever and as often as possible.

Yet this is another case where Christians are following the teachings of Paul, not Christ.

The bible says that Jesus Christ (y'know, the guy who put the "Christ" in "Christian"?) held forth on this very subject:

Matthew 6; 5-6

5And when thou prayest, thou shalt not be as the hypocrites are: for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and in the corners of the streets, that they may be seen of men. Verily I say unto you, They have their reward.

6But thou, when thou prayest, enter into thy closet, and when thou hast shut thy door, pray to thy Father which is in secret; and thy Father which seeth in secret shall reward thee openly.

Seems pretty clear to me, but then, I'm just an atheist.

Paul, of course, takes it upon himself to disagree with - er - his own god:

1 Timothy 2:8

8I will therefore that men pray every where, lifting up holy hands, without wrath and doubting.

So, are they Christians or Paulians?


Bengals 24-7 Bears

Much as I like the Bears..



SETI @ home

I've been using the SETI@home software for over a year now. It's a little programme that you download, which then uses your computer's "down time" to analyse data collected by various radio telescopes. Having completed each "unit", it uploads the results and downloads the next unit.

I works like a screensaver, so it doesn't slow your computer at all. The practical upshot is that, with vast numbers of computers processing units daily, the SETI@home project is like one vast supercomputer. In fact, SETI@home processed its 2 billionth unit early in september.

It's a great project, you lose nothing (because it only runs when you're not using your computer) and you're contributing to real science.

Win-win situation.


End of an error

Mrs Doombreed and I quit smoking today. This is going to be difficult. I was never what you'd call a heavy smoker, but I've gone without for various lengths of time in the past and I've experienced the craving, so I know how hard it's going to be.


Friday Rodent Blogging

Imo, looking especially evil.


Baby panda!

This is almost illegally cute. Yes, it's an ickle baby panda, born a couple of months ago at the National Zoo in DC. And he may well be the cutest thing in the entire universe. There's no name, yet, because the zoo is holding a competition to name him.

Now I'm going to have to go do something manly - possibly involving a car engine or power tools - to balance out the fact that my initial reaction on seeing this picture sounded somewhat like a strangled cop siren.

More on the Basra story

Conspiracy theorists around the globe are already trying to spin the situation in Basra to meet their own ends.

The two soldiers - now SAS beyond any doubt - were in plain clothes. No, wait, they were dressed in Arabic clothing. No, wait, they were disguised as Arabs.

They were in an unmarked car. No, wait, they were in an unmarked car armed with sniper rifles. And.. and.. had just assassinated police officers. No, wait, they had explosives and were setting up bombs that the coalition were going to blame on insurgents!

In fact.. yeah.. there never was any insurgency. The whole thing was British Black Ops trying to maintain support for the war.

That's why they were broken out, so the story would remain secure.

Yeah, okay, reality calling here.

The reason the two guys were busted out was because the Iraqi police, contrary to their agreement with the British Command, had handed them over to Shia militia, most of which are suspected of sympathising with, if not actually being members of, the "insurgency".

Y'know, I have been, and remain, against the invasion and occupation of Iraq. I believe it was a manufactured war waged for faked reasons, but when people go making up hysterical claptrap it only serves to hurt the anti-war movement. Every silly conspiracy theory loses credibility.

Yeah, indulge your paranoid fantasies, just don't expect the rest of us to take you seriously.

Drive time!

Tomorrow, I'm going to get my learner's permit.

Yep, 31 years old and only just now learning to drive.

So if you live anywhere in or around Kentucky, for the love of sanity, stay off the roads!


The Exorcism of Emily Rose

Warning: The following post contains spoilers.

We went and saw this film today.

Firstly, purely as a piece of entertaining fiction, the movie was so-so. Imagine an episode of Law & Order stretched to full-length movie time and you're just about there. Some mild jump-inducing moments, a few incidents of mediocre suspense and.. blah..

The movie starts with that catch-all license for hyperbole: "this movie is based on a true story", so how much is true?

There was no "Emily Rose" killed in a recent exorcism in the USA.

The film is very loosely based upon the case of
Anneliese Michel, a 24 year-old woman from Germany, who was killed in 1976.

There was no "one try" of the exorcism. The preacher concerned, one Pastor Ernst Alt, performed dozens of rituals, sometimes twice in one week, over a ten-month period.

There was no last minute reprieve for the priest either, he, and another priest involved, as well as the girl's parents, were convicted of murder and sent to jail.

And, as to the experts brought by the defence? No such thing. Every expert brought in the trial confirmed that Michel was suffering from epilepsy and her "demonic" attacks were, in fact, grand mal seizures.

Even the church eventually came to the conclusion that she wasn't possessed.

So, yeah, based on real events.

However, like the original case, this movie is likely to become a beacon for people convinced that demonic possession is real and and science refuses to admit the fact because it's too scary.

UK soldiers 'freed from militia'

Shit's going down in Iraq, man.

British troops went in and busted up a militia compound, rescuing two British soldiers (the Mirror claims they were SAS, but that seems to be speculation) who had been arrested for shooting dead one police officer and wounding another.

Apparently, the British troops just decided "fuck it, let's go get 'em" and used their tanks to batter the walls down.

Oh, and, yeah, that's the militia, y'know, the guys we're supposed to be helping keep law and order.

I'm not really sure how I feel about this. On the one hand I'm pissed off that two of our guys would be arrested by the people they were there to help, and even more pissed off that, upon confirming the two soldier's identities, they did not turn them over to British command. This seemed to me to be a militia flexing its muscles. On the other hand, they did open fire on the police, and that's, well, a crime. And thus, breaking these guys out is a further violation of the law.

I'm drifting towards the former. They're there to help, let them do their job.

BBC NEWS | Middle East | UK soldiers 'freed from militia':

"Two British soldiers whose imprisonment prompted UK troops to storm a Basra police station were later rescued from militia, the Ministry of Defence says.

Brigadier John Lorimer said it was of 'deep concern' the men detained by police ended up held by Shia militia.

Basra governor Mohammed al-Waili said the men - possibly working undercover - were arrested for allegedly shooting dead a policeman and wounding another.

The arrests sparked unrest in which Army vehicles were attacked."

What the HELL?

The American government is going to burn hundreds of tons of food intended for the survivors of hurricane Katrina - because it's British.

Apparently, the COMPO rations (to give them their real name) aren't "fit for human consumption" under USDA rules concerning meat products imported from Britain, so these ration packs will be destroyed.

Yeah, okay, tell you what. Why don't we just ask the people for who this food was intended if they give a flying monkey's chuff about USDA regulations?

BSE and vCJD levels are higher in the USA than they have ever been in the UK, and meat from the UK is now processed in a way that eliminates almost any possible chance of contamination, unlike US meat.

But, sure, burn the meat. Let them eat cake.

Mirror.co.uk - News - EXCLUSIVE: UP IN FLAMES:


Tons of British aid donated to help Hurricane Katrina victims to be BURNED by Americans

From Ryan Parry, US Correspondent in New York

HUNDREDS of tons of British food aid shipped to America for starving Hurricane Katrina survivors is to be burned.

US red tape is stopping it from reaching hungry evacuees.

Instead tons of the badly needed Nato ration packs, the same as those eaten by British troops in Iraq, has been condemned as unfit for human consumption."


Blair gave Murdoch 'veto' over EU, says PM's ex-aide

Okay, this is plain messed up. Why is Blair bending over backwards to slime his way up Rupert Murdoch's butt?

I understand that Murdoch is a political force around the globe, being the head of the world's biggest media empire, but consulting an unelected figure over our country's policies - especially one who has shown through his broadcasting that he doesn't give a hoot about what's right, just what's right for him - is low even for the grinning twat in No 10.

Sadly, Blair is the PM. Even sadder is the fact that he can run again at the next general election. Sadder still is the fact that some people will still vote for him.

Independent Online Edition > UK Politics : app1:

"Tony Blair promised Rupert Murdoch that he would be consulted on any change to Britain's policy towards Europe, according to a diary kept by a former Downing Street press officer.

But the original entry in The Spin Doctor's Diary was toned down on the orders of the Cabinet Secretary Sir Gus McDonald. The original entry, published in today's Mail on Sunday, described the atmosphere in No 10 as 'very edgy' after pro-euro comments by the then Secretary of State for Trade, Peter Mandelson 'because we have promised News International we won't make any changes to our Europe policy without talking to them.'

The idea that an Australian-born newspaper magnate should have a veto over Britain's relations with Europe will infuriate Labour supporters. The version that will appear in the diary, to be published by Hodder this month, will read: 'apparently, News International are under the impression we won't make any changes without asking them.'"

Bengals 37-8 Vikings

I've caught some bastard virus that is causing much production of lung-butter, but I managed to sit up in bed to watch the Bengals hand the Vikings a sound thrashing.


Go Bengals!

And, now, back to bed.


Blair tells Murdoch: 'gloating' BBC is 'full of hatred for America'

Tony Blair, it seems, has found a new ally in his fight to make the BBC into the Labour party's voice box. Blair has been a constant critic of the BBC's neutral stance, attempting to paint them, as news services in the US do with anyone who doesn't agree 100% with the President, as biased, elitist, "liberal" or unprofessional.

Well, Blair couldn't have found a better sidekick than Rupert Murdoch. He is the owner of Fox News, which already takes swipes at Auntie Beeb for not meekly following the Bush n Blair pony show without question.

Can there be any doubt that Blair is gunning for the Beeb, and will sink to any depths to achieve his aims?

Just remember, Tony, lie down with dogs, get up with fleas.

Independent Online Edition > UK Politics : app1:

"Tony Blair has told Rupert Murdoch he believes the BBC's coverage of Hurricane Katrina was 'full of hatred of America and gloating'.

In an extraordinary disclosure that will acutely embarrass Mr Blair, the world's most powerful media mogul revealed details of a private conversation that took place in New York on Thursday.

Addressing a conference of influential media figures in the United States, Mr Murdoch said the Prime Minister had told him he had been shocked at the way the BBC had handled the disaster.

'Tony Blair... told me yesterday that he was in Delhi last week and he turned on the BBC World Service to see what was happening in New Orleans, and he said it was just full of hate at America and gloating about our troubles,' the chairman and chief executive of News Corporation said."

Friday Rodent Blogging (Belated)

Kuzco, going for his morning (sleep)walk.

Friday Rodent Blogging

Friday Rodent Blogging is temporarily suspended until I can figure out why my computer will no longer upload images.


Man admits 'honour killing' of his sister

Wow, "honour killing", a great euphemism for "barbaric murder inspired by religion".


Man admits 'honour killing' of his sister - World - Times Online

Touched by His noodly appendage

Flying Spaghetti Monsterism

For the unfamiliar, the Flying Spaghetti Monster is a satirical deity that was invented as a challenge to the current rash of school boards considering teaching the myth of creationism alongside the science of evolution.

Like his older sibling, the Invisible Pink Unicorn (Blessed Be Her Holy Hooves), the FSM has just as much right to be taught in science classes as creationism does, seeing as there is exactly the same amount of evidence for both myths.

This entry, though, is to note that the Wikipedia entry for the FSM (linked to above) has been "protected" because it was under attack.

First, the creationists simply tried to have the entry removed. When that failed, they tried editing it to make it more suit their worldview.

See what I mean about Paulians?

Reginald Mitchell

Reginald Mitchell, designer of the greatest warplane ever to fly - the Supermarine Spitfire - has been honoured with a statue as part of the 65th anniversary Battle Of Britain exhibit at the London Science Museum.

BBC NEWS | UK | Museum honours Spitfire inventor

BBC NEWS | UK | Boost to Spitfire inventor's name

He was also voted Greatest Midlander by BBC television viewers.

BBC NEWS | UK | Spitfire designer wins television vote


Keen-eyed readers will have noticed a slight change in the last few posts. Keen-minded readers will already know that it's because I've figured out how to use the "Blog This!" tool.



It seems that a week after Katrina sunk New Orleans, an old episode of The Price Is Right was aired on CBS, where a contestant won a trip to, you guessed it, New Orleans.

Bad, but the cherry on the top was that another prize offered on the same show was a speedboat.


Urban Legends Reference Pages: Politics (The Price Is Right)

Decoding secret world of Opus Dei

Shock! Horror! The catholic church has a clandestine, manipulative, secret society!

Coming up after the break: Breaking news concerning rumours that the Pope might be a catholic!

BBC NEWS | Europe | Decoding secret world of Opus Dei

Bush 'caught short' at UN summit

So, Bush needed to pee.

Is this really such a big deal?

Everyone seems to be making such a big deal out of this, but it just seems like Bush was asking Rice whether it was acceptable to sneak off while the UN was in session, or whether he had to wait for a scheduled break.

Or, maybe, he was actually asking permission...

BBC NEWS | Americas | Bush 'caught short' at UN summit:

"It's a situation anyone could find themselves in - having to answer the call of nature in the middle of an important meeting.

But when you are the US president, at a gathering of more than 150 world leaders, it is even more tricky.

While talk at the UN world summit was focused on terrorism and internal reform, George W Bush appeared to have been caught short.

And, he is said to have turned to Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice for advice.

'I think I may need a bathroom break? Is this possible?' a Reuters news agency photographer caught him writing in a note to Ms Rice."


Fascinating study

The BBC has just published the findings of a multi-national poll to see how people view those in power in various countries. The results are startling.

Sixty-five percent of citizens across the world do not think their country is governed by the will of the people[.]

[O]nly 13% of people trusted politicians and only 16% thought they should be given more power.


A quarter felt more [power] should go to religious leaders - who are also seen as the most trusted group.

And, surprisingly, only 32% of people in the USA said that their religion was the thing that defined them. But 40% "
would like religious leaders to be given more power".

In the US and Canada, 49% of people said they trusted religious leaders, compared to a global average of 19%.

At least Europe is an oasis of sanity:

In the 23 European countries surveyed, a third of respondents said they did not trust politicians or business, religious and military leaders, rising to more than half in central and eastern Europe.

Globally, only a quarter of those in the survey held people in authority in similar disregard.

Journalists in particular are held in poor esteem - only one in five Europeans trusts them, if the survey, or indeed this report of it, is to be believed.

Good to see the Beeb can maintain a sense of humour about it.


Ale 81

Thought I'd point out one of the greatest things about living here in Kentucky, one of the world's best non-alcoholic drinks, Ale81.


Taking a knee

One thing that I find faintly disturbing about American football is this business of "taking a knee" at the end of the game.

(for our British viewers, the concept is quite easy: If Team A is ahead, and has the ball with only a minute or so to play, they can opt to have the quarterback take the ball at the snap and kneel. This effectively counts as a running play, meaning the clock keeps ticking. You have 40 seconds to start the next play, so a couple of "kneels" can run the clock out. When the quarterback's knee hits the ground, the play stops, so Team B can't do a thing about it)

Don't get me wrong, I understand why they do it - wouldn't want to risk injuring the players, throwing an interception or fumbling the ball for no reason. It just seems like it's a slap in the face for the defense. I mean, the offence know they're taking a knee, the defense knows it, the refs know it, the commentators know it, the fans in the stadium know it and everybody watching at home knows it. Is it really necessary to actually do it? Why not just say "sod it, game's over" and avoid forcing the defense back on to the field to pantomime fake plays? It's like it's not enough that you lost, now we're going to rub your noses in it.

And why do the defense play along? Hell, why not just bunch everyone up and rush the line? You may not get a fumble but you might just feel better that you went down fighting.

It seems slightly deflating that even the closest, hardest fought game can come down to one guy kneeling down two or three times.

Talk about an anticlimax.


Bengals 27-13 Browns

Okay, it's only the Browns, but woot!



Well, that lasted..

It seems that the Irish, pissed off at the world for talking about al Qaeda so much, have decided to restart their old bullshit.

Y'know what the worst part about this is? It's not even about two groups arguing over which has the better god. It's two groups arguing over who worships the same god better.

And, they both worship a god that supposedly said "Thou shalt not kill".

Sinn Fein councillor Fra McCann said the trouble could have been avoided if the Orangemen had talked to Springfield Road residents.

Bullshit. The whole point behind this parade is to cause trouble. The trouble could have been avoided if the participants had decided to not bother marching, or if the residents just decided to shrug it off and let the silly men in their silly orange sashes have their silly parade. But oh, no. Our way of worshipping is better than your way of worshipping, so we're gonna have a riot and throw shit at kids on busses.

Religion: just say no.


Friday Rodent Blogging

Imo again, this time he's hunkered down in his foxhole, planning an ambush should I ever be stupid enough to put my hand in there.

There's a gentleman on the line for you, Mr Cheney..

This is.. well, this is what happens when you try to turn the suffering and death of thousands into political capital.

People will tell you to go fuck yourself.

living Life in Bangkok

Bangkok Ram left a comment on my brief entry concerning England's performance against Ireland (see last entry), so, intrigued by the name, I went and checked out his blog. It's a very interesting read, so I've added it to the sidebar under - well, duh - blogs.


Gas prices, again.

Following on from this and this, comes this.

Gas prices in Britain have topped
£1 per litre.

So, using the same conversions:

£1.03 per litre is $1.86 per litre, is $7.03 per US gallon.

Gas here is just starting to slide back downwards, with my nearest station charging $2.79 per gallon.



What happened?

It's the question I get most when I tell people I'm an atheist. So here's the answer.

I don’t know why I’m an atheist. I just am. I grew up in a country where low-age indoctrination was just accepted. In my school we would pray daily, sing hymns, and go to church services for Easter, Christmas, Harvest Festival, et al. My parents weren’t regular churchgoers, just wedding, funerals, and christenings. I was baptised shortly after birth, and I’m now my eldest niece’s godfather*1. I joined the Cub Scouts and then the Scouts, both of which required me to swear an oath before god, and the national anthems I still sing with pride both have heavy references to Christianity.

But for all that I never really believed in any of it. I cannot remember ever actually believing there was a god. Ever. I never did anything more than mouth the words. I would sit in church listening to the Padre droning on about the bible and not swallowing any of it. I viewed the bible as a slightly interesting book with some vaguely useful advice but nothing more than that. I began to be annoyed by Christians very early on. The question I dislike most is the one that goes “how did you become an atheist?”, to which I normally reply, “I was born an atheist, so were you. I didn’t become an atheist, you became a Christian”.

Thanks to an ex I dabbled in what could possibly be classed as witchcraft. I owned my own tarot deck and I was pretty good at reading runestones*2. I still wear a pair of pendants my wife gave me, a gold eagle’s head and a silver eagle rampant, a result of me explaining to her about a ritual my ex went through to identify my “spirit guide”. But I didn’t really believe that either. I wear the pendants because they are a gift from my wife, nothing more.

I was raised to question. That was my father’s big thing when I and my brother and sister were growing up. Always question. So when I noticed that the whole business of Easter had absolutely nothing to do with Christianity, I questioned. I learned about Eostre, the pagan goddess of spring and rebirth, who was associated with anything to do with fertility, such as chicks, rabbits, and eggs, and I found this remarkably familiar. I learned how the recently converted Romans usurped the pagan festival of Eostremonth and replaced the goddess with the death and resurrection story from the bible. I also learned about the winter solstice, with its traditions of Yule logs, and a period of worship known as “the twelve days of Yule”. I even found out that the Anglo-Saxons celebrated the 24th of December as the last day of the old year, celebrating the 25th as “Mother’s Night”, the birth of the New Year, a perfect place for the story of the Nativity*3.

My readings about the history of Christianity in Britain led me to other questions. Like, how did the vampire legends of Eastern Europe include the idea of holy water and crosses, when the legends in many places pre-date Christianity? The same answer presented itself. The Christian Romans usurped the local legends and religious practices in order to force Christianity upon the population. The whole image of witches as old hags with cauldrons, black cats, broomsticks and lonely cottages in the forest*4 was developed as a method of usurping the power*5 of the “village wise woman” from most of Europe. Over the years my disinterest turned to dislike*6. Christianity had stormed into my country and destroyed almost my entire cultural heritage.

A friend of mine at school had parents who followed the Druidic faith and I remember him coming in to school one day very annoyed because his family had gone to Stonehenge*7 to celebrate the summer solstice and found that the government had fenced it off, preventing the people from getting close to it. The Christian right had been trying without success to get the worship there to stop. So they’d solved the problem by deciding that, as a site of National Heritage, people shouldn’t be able to go near it. By cloaking their agenda in the façade of “protecting our nation’s historical sites”, they’d managed to deny the Druid’s right to worship there.

But it was when I came online that my dislike turned to disgust. Online, I ran into the worst that Christianity has to offer. It was then that I developed what one friend dubbed "The Theory Of Self-Perpetuating False Belief*8”. As far as I was concerned, the majority of Christians don’t actually believe in their own religion, but because they were raised in “the faith” they pretend to share it. Every person of faith goes through doubts. They question their beliefs. Some turn to the dark side and become atheists*9 or agnostics. Others find their faith inside them. Most don’t, but want to believe so desperately that they feel compelled to maintain the façade of faith. Online, I discovered, were thousands – probably millions – of Christians on the Internet, all desperately trying to justify their own faith. This is why I get annoyed when people try to offer “proof” of Christianity. Fools who claim that Noah’s Ark has been found*10 or that the Ark of the Covenant has been located*11 or that the blood of Jesus has been located and DNA examination proves he didn’t have a father*12 or that the cross of Jesus was located*13. What these people are doing, I decided, was seeking proof to justify their pretense of belief. It’s like millions of people worldwide had decided to take Pascal’s Wager at face value*14. I respect any Christian who is comfortable enough with their beliefs that they say, “it’s a matter of faith, not proof” when questioned, but people who claim that there is proof just wind me up.

Since coming online I’ve become more expressive in my atheism. I’ve mellowed with recent years, but with age come experience and even more cynicism*15. The Theory of Self-Perpetuating False Belief now has a further level. Some Christians, in my opinion, are so scared by the idea that their beliefs are false that they actually delude themselves into believing, as it were, that they believe. You can spot these by the way they use such phrases as “I can’t believe in a word without god” and “when I see the beauty of the world I can’t believe that it was all accidental”. So desperate are they to believe that they believe that they are terrified by the idea of there being no god, and thus, any hint of the truth must be quashed lest they be forced to confront their own doubts. Without god their lives have no meaning. So they search for proof and, finding none, ridicule those of us with the strength of will to live in a world where we make our own meaning.

Here’s where I am now. I live my life, I have my own problems. I won’t preach, I don’t proselytise, and I don’t seek to convert. Leave me alone and I’ll leave you alone. But I do seek to be armed with the knowledge to rebut those Christians who refuse to allow the same respect for me. And I do feel slightly guilty for taking on such easy targets, but I do enjoy it.

*1: Yes, I did the “respect the family” jokes. Doesn’t every guy do that, as if we were the first person in the history of man to think of it?

*2: Or, at least, pretending to.

*3: Decorating your house, Father Christmas, gift-giving and, presumably, bad sweaters and argyle socks as presents from older aunts also pre-date Christianity.

*4: You really want to know? Okay, the village wise woman would be old, because the tradition was to apprentice a young girl with her to take over when she died, and it took a long time to learn all the herbal lore. She would probably be ugly because any comely girl would be arranged to be married rather than being apprenticed in this way. She would own a cat because in any forest-based house, which contains quantities of food, grains, herbs, pulses etc, there will be mice. She has a cauldron bubbling on the fire because most herbal remedies involve poultices, broths, salves, etc which would require cooking of the ingredients. And she would have a broomstick because, well, everyone had one. And pretty much everyone had warts at one time or another, British weather being what it is.

*5: Simply put, it was a method of ensuring that the people took their problems to the priests rather than the wise woman. The fact that prayer doesn’t cure boils - but the funny smelling poultice does - ensured that enough people were protective of the “heathen witch” to ensure her survival, albeit in a much reduced capacity. Toothache and piles will burn through the strongest faith.

*6: And dislike leads to hate, hatred leads to suffering. Truly, Christianity is the Dark Side.

*7: I’ll repeat the old joke here, just for completeness. Yes, there was a Strawhenge and a Woodhenge, but the Big Bad Wolf huffed and puffed and blew them down.

*8: Probably not an original theory, but one I hadn’t heard of when I came up with it.

*9: And it’s interesting that Microsoft Word, which I’m writing this on, capitalises “Christianity” automatically, but doesn’t do the same favour for “atheism”.

*10: It hasn’t.

*11: Ditto

*12: This would only be provable if Mary’s DNA had also been found and a comparison made. Oh, and only provable if the blood of Jesus had actually been found, of course.

*13: If you assembled all of the pieces of “the one, true cross” together you’d have enough wood to build a house.

*14: Which is, of course, why so many Christians quote it, despite the fact that it was destroyed decades ago.

*15: As if I needed any more than I had.


Ernie, please...

If KY Governor Ernie Fletcher is really confident that his staff are innocent of applying unfair - even illegal - hiring practices, why did he issue pardons for all of them?

And, if he's so sure that this was a good, honest, legal move, why did he choose to do so at a time when it's likely the news would have gotten lost in the coverage of hurricane Katrina?

And, if he's so smart, why didn't he realise that the law only allows a governor to pardon convicted criminals and not accused persons who have not yet stood trial?


I watched my other local team play today, the UK Wildcats. And they play just like England, too.

They went out and dominated..

..for about five minutes, then it all went to crap.

Stupid mistakes, missing easy plays.

It was almost like watching England's exit from - well - just about every World Cup since 1966.

England 1-0 Wales

Okay, so it's not as impressive a scoreline as 38-0, but.. ooohhhhhhh yeah!

Match report.

Justice William Rehnquist

It's never a good thing when a human dies, especially after a bout with cancer, so I just wish I could be confident that the media circus that's about to errupt, after the death of Chief Justice Rehnquist, will allow for any modicum of respect for the guy or his family.

But with another post open in the Supreme Court - not to mention a promotion for one of the Justices to fill the Chief Justice seat - I just don't see that happening.

What I do see happening is the right using this as an excuse to try to stampede the confirmation of Judge Roberts through, and the left losing sight of how important this is in their panic over having two new fights looming.

Ho hum.

Land of the.. free?

This is just very strange:

Battle over rare gold eagle coins

The US Mint has seized 10 Double Eagle gold coins - some of the rarest and most valuable in the world - from a woman checking their authenticity.

The Mint says the coins, which never entered circulation, are public property and is holding them at a fort.

Joan Langbord, who says she inherited the coins from her father, a jeweller, has vowed to fight to get them back.

The gold Double Eagle is so rare that in 2002 a single coin reached a price of $7.59m at auction.

But the US Mint says that Mrs Langbord's coins could only have been originally obtained in an "unlawful manner" in the 1930s.

What in the hell? Without any proof that these coins were actually obtained illegally, without a complaint, without a victim, this woman's property is seized. Oh yeah, all $75.9 million of it.

Isn't there a statute of limitations on this kind of thing?

Story here.

Bengals 38-0 Colts

I know it's only preseason, but that's outstanding.


Hooray for California!

Some good news here:

California Senate approves gay marriage bill

SACRAMENTO, California (AP) -- The California Senate approved legislation Thursday that would legalize same-sex marriages, a vote that makes the chamber the first legislative body in the country to approve a gay marriage bill.
Full story here.

Friday Rodent Blogging

The final rodent in our infestation is Pacha. He's smaller and less adventurous than his brother, Kuzco, but is a bit high-strung. Apart from that, the only way to tell them apart is Pacha has ears of a lighter colour.

Both Pacha and Kuzco were, it's true, named for the lead characters in The Emperor's New Groove, one of our favourite movies. We really need a guinea pig named Kronk.


Evolution is NOT a theory (part 2)

Maybe I've been in the states too long, but something struck me as odd when I read an article from Auntie Beeb about the cracking of the chimp genome.

It contains phrases like:

Scientists have deciphered another book in the library of life - the genetic recipe of our closest living relative, the chimpanzee.


Buried within the 3 billion DNA "letters" are the changes that put our ancestors on the pathway to humanity.

Not to mention:

It is more than a century since Charles Darwin recognised that humans and chimps are related. A wealth of evidence has emerged since then, including the discovery of the first known chimpanzee fossil revealed this week.

Researchers hope the comparison of the chimp and human genomes will shed light on the past six million years or so of evolution, since the two species diverged from an apelike common ancestor.

It took me a while to figure out what was nagging at me. Then, it hit me. There's no "it's believed" or "some people think". There's no "opposing theory", no "creationists disagree", no theistic propoganda.

There's just evolution, presented as proven, accepted, genuine fact.



Price gouging

Well, this is familiar, no?

We get a natural disaster and suddenly people start jacking up the prices of things. Gas here is climbing all over $3 per gallon, and the news today had a report about gas stations in Atlanta which were hitting $5.50 per gallon.

Still not quite as high as people in the UK pay, but it's getting close.

Anyone want to take bets on whether it gets back down to last week's prices any time soon?

Didn't think so.

Isn't price gouging illegal?

Pascal's Wager

Pascal's Wager is one of those annoying bits of illogic that gets stepped on repeatedly but refuses to die.

The wager states, as its base principle, that either there is a god, or there is not.

It then reasons that, if there is no god, it makes no difference whether you worship or not. If there is a god, it goes on, then it definitely does matter. Worship and you win, don't worship and you lose.

It concludes that you might as well worship because if you're right, you win, if you're wrong, you lose nothing.

The problem is that the wager is flawed in all three parts.

In the base principle, it fails to recognise that there have been thousands of gods worshipped by humans over the millennia. Also, it fails to consider that it's not limited to just the possibilities we've thought of. The choice is not between god and no god, it's between no god and an infinite number of gods - worshipped in an infinite number of ways. So how does one choose?

This leads us into the problem with the reasoning: How do you choose who - and how - to worship? You'd be in just as much trouble if you worship the wrong god - or, the right god in the wrong way - as if you'd never worshipped any god. In fact, atheism looks like the best choice - you may not have worshipped the right god, but at least you're sure you're not worshipping the wrong one.

The conclusion, though, is where the biggest problem comes in. Pascal's Wager was formulated to support Christianity, a religion, remember, that believes its god can see into your thoughts. Surely it's obvious that such a god would know if you really believe or if you're faking it thanks to a persuasive, if flawed, argument. I could go to church, I could pray, I could kneel and bow my head, I could eat the little crackers or play with the beads, but I cannot make myself believe. I do not believe and accepting the wager would be self-defeating, because I would be simply pretending to believe.

And I, poor little atheist that I am, don't think any god would be too happy with that.