Solving the problems of the world

In which our hero explains patiently to the planet at large on the subject of how it can fix itself

If you're here, you shouldn't be, because the blog has changed a bit

It's OVER HERE

Skepticism has invaded my other blog

I have a blog over here about cycling. I started it because I wanted this one to return to scepticism, music, alcohol and misinformed ranting. Turns out that it's almost impossible to have non-overlapping magisteria in the blogosphere, though, as I take on Kinesio Tape on The Crankset.

King Leer

He never takes that fucking look off his face. Speculation is that it's stuck that way.     Thanks Australia. This is what's in charge for the next few years. You twats.

I joined a cult

I really did. I got given a coffee machine. And now I'm a member of the Nespresso Club. Or something I'm scared. Help me.

Last night I dreamt...

.. something slightly weird. Which is not, of course, to say that most dreams aren't weird. But still. In this dream, I went to visit Google Australia, who'd just moved into a new premises. For some reason, the building was Market City - aka Paddy's Market - in Haymarket, Sydney. I went in the company of Dave The Happy Singer, his partner Jasmine, and a couple of colleagues from my current job. After some faffing around with security clearances and so on, during which Dave committed the faux pas of spilling his coffee into an important -...

Meryl Dorey has stepped down from the anti-vaccination network

Several reports are available. Australian Doctor reports here. The delicious thing? She's being succeeded by innumerate dingbat and staunch, but failed, antivaxer Greg Beattie. That might put Meryl's constant claims to be "not anti-vaccine" into perspective. Meryl claims to have stepped down to work on "two special projects". One is rumoured to be codenamed "project shred all the fucking documents", the other, presumably, is dodging Fair Trading's name change directive. Speculation is, of course, rife. And fun. Stay tuned.

Lily Phénomène has comment regret

A while ago, I posted this little note about chiropractic, and one of its heroic defenders. Lily, apparently, doesn't like that I posted it. She sent me a Facebook message. Well, Lily, since you blocked my Facebook account I can't reply to you privately, so I'll have to put the answer here instead. No. What you posted is a matter of public record. It's on a publically-accessible Facebook page. It's a fact that you said it, and I don't much care that you now have comment regret. You know what the solution is for the problem of people reporting the stupid things you say on the internet?...

How to fail at Astroturfing

My attention was drawn today to a website called "Helmets On Heads". This website purports, under the domain helmetsonheads.org, to be a promotional campaign to raise safety and tries to look independent but industry supported. It's actually wholly owned by the industry. This should be a warnign flag to treat claims with caution - there's a monetary incentive to overstate the case, so a little extra scrutiny is justified. Their FACTS page makes a rather odd set of claims, which you'll probably spot if you're schooled in spotting hokey numbers. Now, I do like a good hokey number, so I thought I'd...

This can only end well

Antivaxer Jane Beeby, about whom I've blogged previously, has decided to run for council in her home region of Clarence Valley. Jane is (or was, it's unclear) a committee member of the AVN and a rather vicious lieutenant to Meryl Dorey herself.  In the past, she has suggested a critic - a long-time health activist and writer for Australasian Science - gargle bleach to remove "the smell of shit of your breath" and wished that my next shot would be "a lethal one". For her to be elected would not, it appears, be a positive development for public health. Jane has a Facebook page. Perhaps...

Get the message, @BankWest.

We've been through this before.

Stop Building Bike Lanes!

"GERROFFTHEFUCKENROAD!!" As a cyclist, I hear this so often that I can almost predict its arrival. Usually, it's shouted out of the open window of a tradie's ute as it barrels past me at a dangerously short distance, but it can come from vehicles as diverse as taxis, vans and the humble Hyundai Excel of a barely-qualified P-plater. And it's really quite annoying. Because when I'm on my bike, I'm as entitled to use the road system as anyone else. In fact, I can go anywhere on NSW Roads other than places where it's specifically signposted not to go. Generally, this means Motorways,...

A quiz for Sydney drivers

Please complete all questions to the best of your ability. You have thirty minutes. It is raining heavily in Sydney. At about 2pm, you need to drive from the CBD to Strathfield. Which of the following actions should you take? Switch on your headlights Drive at a reduced pace appropriate for the conditions and leave a longer stopping distance to the car in front Drive as close as possible to...

Buy nothing new. In fact, take everything back and demand a refund

There's a bit of a stoush in Sydney at the moment. Barry O'Farrell, a man in no position to issue proclamations along such lines, has branded the City of Sydney's support of Buy Nothing New Day as "nuts". Retailers in the CBD are making noises about rates strikes. The commentariat are split, predictably, on what all this means. It's all, apparently, quite controversial.  Lefties don't know where to put their faces. The right-wing are all too decided on where their faces ought to be, and that's right in the public eye, which as a result is full of spittle. For my part,...

A Shepherd, a Fisherman and a Confidence Trickster walk into a pub...

The Lord's My Shepherd; I shall not Want Psalm 23 Few phrases from christianity are so abhorrent for me while at the same time being beloved of the faithful, as Psalm 23, known to generations of long-suffering british school kids and boy scouts as "The Lord's my Shepherd", a dreary hymn to the tune "Crimond", attributed to Jessie Seymour Irvine. This torturous dirge is the archetype of an exercise in tedium, especially if led by an aging church organist who insists on the full metred arrangement, at shuffling pace, pauses and all. Dressed in stiff and uncomfortable Sunday best, dragged to a cold building filled with strange...

Goodness Gracious, The Beast from the Cretaceous

In a blogging exclusive, I am today able to reveal a hitherto unseen Scooby Doo screenplay, from the writers of the original, and superior, "Scooby Doo, Where Are You?" series. It was discovered in, of all places, a garage sale in Cootamundra, NSW, and has made its way to me through a network of contacts. As with all Scooby Doo, Where Are You? episodes, the screenplay is a sophisticated allegory playing on larger societal themes, often bringing cultural morés into sharp relief in order that the audience may have their  frontiers expanded by the dénouement. Anyway, here's the episode, in full,...

Failing at one's own job

If there's a common thread that runs through the ranks of antivaxers, chiropractors, homeopaths and general fucktwats that I've blogged about over the years, it's an inability to quantify or even recognise their own incompetence that stands out most clearly for me. Enter Professor Brian Martin, Faculty member in Social Sciences at the University of Wollongong, a regional centre some 85km or so south of Sydney. Brian has reared his head in support of Meryl Dorey and her Anti-Vaccination Network a few times in recent years. Brian sees himself as a champion of "whistleblowers", and sees Dorey and her band of...

Those bike lanes again

It's been a couple of months since I last blogged about Sydney's bike lane traffic light problem. As I hinted in the last series of blogs, I've largely stopped using the Sydney Cycleways, due mainly to the appalling performance of the detection loops, but also due to some other factors, not all of which apply to all riders, among them being it often takes longer to get from A to B via cyleway than by using the road (due mainly to very short, unreliable light sequences, but also due to the next item) It's almost impossible to...

In which "poisonous spiders" are nothing of the kind...

There's a report doing the rounds that an Indian town has been overrun by "poisonous spiders". It's been reported all over. Let's get something straight right out of the box. In this context, spiders are not poisonous. They are venomous. Big difference. Secondly, I'm disinclined to believe the reports for a couple of slightly better reasons than outright grammatical hatred.  Here are some quotes from the article "similar to the tarantula, but it could be a whole new species." "leaps at anything that comes close,"  "latched onto them after biting."  If it's "similar to the tarantula" - which isn't a species of spider at all but a...

Because Biology (a play in two acts)

ACT ONE: The Problem The scene: The war room of the Australian Religio-Social Ethics (Heterosexuals Only, Lesbians Excluded) Society. A large, windowless vault, in which a large boardroom table stands, lit harshly from above. Nearby is a large buffet table, laden with the fruits of a lavish lifestyle. A large, somewhat homoerotic ice sculpture of St Sebastian Pierced By The Arrows is slowly melting into a pool in the centre of the table, slightly waterlogging the caviar bowls. A number of dark-suited functionaries stand discreetly in the shadows. Around the boardroom table, dressed smartly in suits and robes of office, are seated The Religious Spokesmen. One is in the robes of...

Why Iran must curb its nuclear ambitions

Yes, a rare political post from me, but on a topic which really bears examination. As we all know, Iran's nuclear programme has been a cause of international concern for a number of years now. There are fears among Western powers that Iran's nuclear programme may bring to fruition several serious concerns Attainment of nuclear weaponry, thus tipping the balance of military power in the region Possiblity of nuclear acccidents due an unstable government's inability to properly maintain facilities Possiblity of sabotage due to the volatile political situation in the area ...

Meryl is getting confused

Poor dear. Maybe it's time her family arranged some sheltered accomodation for the old duck. I mean, her brain's just not what it once was. She might need looking after. Here's a little conversation that popped up in my timeline today: "Odd", thought I, "I don't recall talking to that account recently. That's a particularly thick example of Dorey's tame trolls, and I don't generally respond to them unless I'm drunk or particularly annoyed." Admittedly, I'm drunk and annoyed a lot, but it just doesn't stack up. So I had a little dig around to figure out what this could mean. It turns out that indeed, no, I haven't...

I don't dance when someone else has picked the tune

I've been doing this "arguing with godbots online" thing for some time now, probably as long as I've had a reliable internet connection, yet some things never change. First, some background. This week, word got around that Moore College, a cult consolidation center here in Sydney, had an open twitter wall. And as we all know, open twitter wall means TROLLIN' TROLLIN' TROLLIN'. Soon, atheist quotations and provocative tweets were flowing onto the #MooreCollege hashtag, in the sure and certain hope that they'd make it onto the tweet wall and cause either some annoyance (blackhat trolling) or cause someone to genuinely...

I no longer have a phone

... which is to say i have in my possession a device called, oddly, an "iPhone" - but I am no longer using it as a telephone. It is now merely a hand-held internet device, portable music player, GPS,audio recorder, bookshelf, storage device, game centre, clock, calculator, camera and pocket computer. Well, I say merely - that's a pretty impressive list, but it no longer accepts calls. There was a time, oh, a hundred years ago, where the idea of being able to talk directly to someone a great distance from you seemed a positive wonder, and one which people lined up to...

#reasonfortooth: Because belief in the tooth fairy is justifiable

This past weekend in Melbourne two packs of non-Tooth Fairy believing heathen monsters gathered for festivals of depravity and sin. The Global Atheist Convention brought 4000 avowed non-Tooth-Fairy believers together in an orgiastic bachanal of tooth-fairyless hate, and at the same time, the Reason for Faith rally brought together a number of so-called "christian churches" - actually a sinister cult whose main precepts deny the existence of our saving lady the Tooth Fairy (may blessings be upon her wand) - in a sick and depraved ritual of  Tooth-Fairy denial. ...

Modern online media and #atheistcon: A tragedy in two parts

ACT ONE The scene: A tiny upstairs newsroom in one of Melbourne's less salubrious quarters. In it are crammed four desks, the largest and most imposing of which is lorded over by The Editor. The Editor's off-white striped shirt is stained at the pits with the sweat of editorial stress. His hair is thinning, but he retains the muscular frame of a weekend rugby player, though these days it's overlaid with a generous veneer of fat. His tie hangs from his chairback, and hasn't seen his neck in some time. Several stained whisky tumblers litter the desk, and the nearby wastepaper basket shows the neck...

Save The (one good thing about the) Monorail

So, Sydney's much-maligned monorail is to be bought by the government, and torn down. Good. Except for one thing You see, there is one, single, lonely, solitary useful thing about Sydney's monorail. One gleaming upside to the pointlessness of its circuitous route around the Darling Harbour tourist black hole. That one good thing, ladies and gentlemen, is this: Pyrmont Bridge (Wikipedia image) Yes, that one good thing can be seen in this picture. If you're a true Sydneysider, you'll know it. It's the strip of shade provided by the monorail line, which gives pedestrians a welcome respite from the bastard sun. This line of reduced radiation is an old friend...

Stupid things that I have seen this week

This This This This and This Oh, and the ABC used obvious-nutcase-is-obvious Meryl Dorey to comment on a story about which she knows nothing at all. This is why there are days where, given the chance, I would gladly push the big red button that disentegrates the planet.

Response from City of Sydney re: Bike Lane Lights

As I was drafting the previous post, this popped into my mailbox. It resolves a few questions, more so than the previous RTA email, in fact Subject: RE: Bike lanes, traffic lights, police operations and RTA guidelines Hi Jason   The Lord Mayor has asked me to reply to you directly on this issue.  I'm also available to speak to you in person if you'd like to discuss in detail   You've raised quite a few issues, and I know John at RMS has replied to you though you feel not all questions are fully answered.  So I'll try here, and you can let me know if...

Sydney Morning Herald picks up on the bike lights story

I spent an hour or so on Monday morning in the company of Amanda Hoh, a video journalist from Fairfax Digital, looking at the bike lane traffic lights which have so exercised me over the last couple of weeks. I was Amanda's guide and model for a video piece on the lights. We tested various ways of hitting the sensors and found that they really only work when you're dead center on the line where the diamond markings should be. We also discovered, in an adjunct experiment, that it's not sufficient to have a wheel on the outer edge of the sensor...

Wrong again, Meryl

Australia's most debunked woman, and occasional president of the Australian Vaccination Network (AVN) is at it again. Here's a little tweet she fired off this morning: I wonder, readers, if you can guess what I'm going to say next? Yes, that's right. Predictably, the article to which Meryl Dorey links says nothing of the sort. In fact, it says: Barely two weeks after World Health Organisation (WHO) declared India as a polio-free nation, an 18-month-old female child was admitted to a state-run hospital in Kolkata with suspected polio on Monday. The child, Sumi, a resident of Indrabala village near Baruipur in South 24 Parganas district, was...

Email to NSW Police regarding Pyrmont cycle control lights

Having written to the RTA and Clover Moore about these frustrating bike lights, I figured I ought to talk to NSW police about their crackdown day: I'm a blogger with interest in, among other things, cycling in and around Sydney. I've recently been blogging about the cycle lane lights in Pyrmont. A day after my first blog on the topic, I noticed a crackdown by Sydney Police on red-light running. Ironically, my blog of March 6th had been about how the traffic control sensors are unreliable and badly installed. This being the case, I'm after some press comment on the crackdown of...

The green light and why you're not getting it

I've been riding my bike to work recently. Not every day, but certainly enough to re-learn a few of the things I used to know back when I was a regular bike commuter. One of these is that drivers are sometimes idiots. Certainly not all the time, but when you encounter perhaps a hundred cars on a given commute, it only takes 0.1% of drivers to be idiots, and you're getting a near miss (or worse) once every ten trips. However I've also observed that sometimes cyclists can be idiots too, me included. So, anyway, there's this lovely bike path network that the City Of Sydney have...

Oh, and one more thing

Section 59 of the AVN vs. HCCC judgement (emphasis mine): 59 Although I find that both complaints concern the health service that the plaintiff provides, the health service has not been shown to “affect the clinical management or care of an individual client”. Although it might have that tendency, and although the plaintiff hopes to have that effect, I do not consider this to be sufficient to establish that it has had that effect. Translation: "The AVN is desperately trying to come under the jurisdiction of the act, but I see no evidence that it's actually succeeded in that attempt". Isn't that a...

A Note on the AVN vs HCCC Judgement

Hello visitors from The Northern Star and other sites. The Stop the AVN FB hub is here, and the public site here   This morning judgement was handed down in the AVN vs HCCC, a case which Stop The AVN has of course been following closely. The AVN won. But is it as simple as that? Well, it seems it's not that simple. I am most emphatically not a lawyer, but I've been sitting here reading over the text of the judgement. While the AVN may have won, it most certainly hasn't won. What? OK. give me a moment here. The judgement deals in detail with the matters...

Dear Facebook...

It's "<person> and <person> commented on a post in which you were tagged" You're welcome, Facebook. You can send me a cheque post-haste. Or some stock.

The armour of grief

Have a quick look at this pair of tweets These are emblematic of a major problem in the world of vaccine/antivaccine. We're dealing with genuine cases of harm and death. Over here on the pro-vaccine side, we try hard to be sensitive to grief, not always successfully, but occasionally something like this crops up and it's very hard to fight back because of a societal taboo against intruding on the grief of others. Of course, this doesn't seem to apply in the case of Meryl Dorey, whose activities around Dana McCaffery's tragic death are well documented, however this case is slightly different. The person...

What planet do these people live on?

Sometimes you just have to ask what planet antivaxers live on. Take for instance, this post over at the AVN Facebook page, a letter from "CC", which illustrates the archetypal introspection-free hypocrisy and glaring inconsistency of the antivax lobby. Here's the bit I'd like to highlight first: OK, well, if that's true, that would be a bad thing. After all, the pro-vaccination side in this debate prides itself on rational analysis of the facts and figures, and regularly calls out the antivax side for its emotion-based, gut-feeling mode of thought* So imagine my surprise when reading on, I started to see appeals to emotion...

95% of percentages are annoyingly useless

There's a notice on the intranet here at work, which reads as follows: Lock it or lose it! 75% of theft from motor vehicles happens to unlocked cars It's annoying me. It's been annoying me for a while. Why? Because it's emblematic of a common theme in the presentation and usage of statistics. In the absence of other essential data - in the absence, indeed, of context - the 75% figure is largely useless. To really evaluate what it means, we have to know at what rate cars are left unlocked. If, for example, 85-90% of cars are left unlocked, then to have 75% of theft happen from locked cars would...

Somebody call Meryl a Waaahmbulance

Posted by Meryl Dorey over at Australian Vaccination Network HQ: Paraphrased: "Waaaah. Me not know how to a SEO. Therefores anyone who does must by an criminal. Kew E Dee. Also what are an wiki?". Of course, reading comprehension levels over at the AVN are primary-school level at best, so it's no surprise they think this article by Krelnik is about censorship. It's not. It's about improving search results to bring factual information into searches which may return a large quantity of misinformation - something that is actually the core business of a search engine. And of course Meryl is very sore about...

Is Meryl Dorey Anti-vaccine? Let's Ask Google

Meryl Dorey is fond of claiming that she is not anti-vaccine, but is in fact pro-choice. How can we sort out this seeming dichotomy? Well, obviously, in the way all the greatest fights are settled - Googlefight. Well. I think that's settled. Stop The AVN are right after all.

A sense of entitlement

Quoth the Dorey: Let's leave aside the (somewhat disrespectful) red herring of "anti-choicers" for a moment, and examine the rest of this absurd tweet. In Australia, there is an entitlement meant to encourage vaccination, which was recently revised. You are only entitled to this if you completely vaccinate, or have a valid reason that excludes you from vaccinating. Do you get this, Meryl? It is an incentive to vaccinate. Therefore you're only entitled to it if you vaccinate. Imagine for a moment, a government incentive to insulate your property. A fine idea, and one which benefits everyone (except perhaps the power companies) in these environmentally conscious times. Should you...

To Meryl Dorey, 'irony' means 'a bit like an iron'

I'll just leave this here   It's like Meryl's decided she wants to do our job for us, it really is.

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Shorty Awards 2012: Support #StopAVN

Nominate Stop the AVN for a social media award in the Shorty Awards Yes, it's that time again. Time for the Shorty Awards. This year, I'm supporting and promoting a Shorty for @StopAVN in the #Activism category. If you have an existing, active twitter account, please join me in voting for @StopAVN., and help out by promoting this initiative to your followers, the more the better. Of course, shenanigans have happened before (see the comments trail here), so I'll be following any responses from the antivax side with interest, and I've started a wiki hub page here. Let me know if you see dodgy...

#stopavn's Operation Nutcracker: Wings Over Woodford

Right now, as I hit "publish" on this post, anti-vaccination campaigner Meryl Dorey will be preparing to speak to the crowd at Woodford Folk Festival's Blue Lotus. Speaking against her will be Professor Andreas Suhrbier, an immunology expert who actually does know some facts about vaccines. It's an absurd, even comedic mismatch of knowledge, bringing together as it does one of Australia's leading experts in vaccination and an innumerate conspiracy theorist from Northern NSW. While this is going on, 500ft above the Woodford site, a banner will be unfurled, sending a simple message to everyone on the site, not just the...

I hope you end up a cripple at 40

So saith Chiropractic Assistant Lily Phenomene, of Carine Glades Chiropractic*, in this comment from the Stop The Australian Vaccination Network Facebook page.  Why? Well, I had the temerity to equate homeopathy and chiropractic with "witch doctors". HOW DARE I? Well, here's the thing. Well, technically, here are the things. Chiropractic, in its original form, is little more than faith healing. Faith healing dressed as physiotherapy, but faith healing nonetheless. How so? Allow me to explain. D.D. Palmer, the originator of chiropractic, posited that health was maintained by a poorly-defined "energy" he referred to as "Innate Intelligence". Blockages - called subluxations by chiropractors - in the...

Meryl Dorey and the Magic Water

Meryl's latest absurd scrawlings concern homeopathy, and take as their theme the skeptical dismissal of this modality as "magic water". Meryl, it seems, is somewhat resentful of our stance on homeopathy, and she explains this. She then goes on to spin us a yarn based, apparently, on the experiences of a "friend" whose husband apparently had a miraculous recovery thanks to some sugar pills bathed in almost pure water. A friend-of-a-friend tale in the classic vein. I have a tale too, Meryl. When I was a young lad of perhaps ten years old, my parents took me to see the great Paul...

#WoodfordFF is NOT about Free Speech

As the Woodford Folk Festival story hits the Brisbane Times and goes international, I think it's time for a reminder. Many commentators speaking on the topic of Meryl Dorey's upcoming appearance at Woodford Folk Festival have raised the spectre of free speech. It is time to put that spectre to rest. Let us lay aside the fact that Australia has no statutory right to free speech. Let us lay aside the commonly understood principle of falsely yelling "fire!" in a crowded theatre. The Woodford scandal - and it has become a scandal - is not about free speech. It is about privileged speech, and specifically...

A letter to the organisers of Woodford Folk Festival

Dear organisers I'm writing to you to express serious concerns about one of the speakers on the programme at the Blue Lotus for this year's festival. http://woodfordfolkfestival.woodfordia.com/index.php?id=77&venue=9&act=45 Meryl Dorey is the head of the AVN, an organisation known to promulgate misinformation in support of an untrue and dangerous anti-vaccination position. This activity genuinely puts lives at risk. The AVN is subject to a Public Health Warning by the NSW Healthcare Complaints Commission, and was stripped of its charity status by the NSW OLGR due to serious irregularities in its fundraising activities. http://www.hccc.nsw.gov.au/Decisions/Public-Statements-and-Warnings/Public-warning-against-Australian-Vaccination-Network--AVN-/default.aspx http://www.olgr.nsw.gov.au/charitable_latest_news.asp I have several concerns for Woodford itself. First of all,...

Meryl Dorey on Stanislaw Burzynski

Here's Meryl Dorey in 2009 herping talking about testing of medical interventions. And here's Meryl Dorey fellating lauding Doctor Stanislaw Burzynski, head of a clinic whose product has never passed a Phase III trial (certainly not a double-blind crossover) and which has only been successfully tested by Burzynski. (source: Skeptic Magazine) Meryl also hates chemotherapy. Burzynski's neoplaston product is not only actually a form of chemotherapy, but is also administered in conjunction with other chemotherapy drugs, often in unorthodox and unapproved combinations. Meryl's one of those thingies. You know. It's on the tip of my tongue. Hippo-something. Hippocampus? Hippodrome? Nope, I've got it. Hippogriff. Meryl Dorey is a...

Irreducible?

There's been a creationist or two lurking around on the blog recently*, blathering about complexity. So I'll take the opportunity to drop in a favourite video from QualiaSoup on the topic of irreducible complexity. Of course, ID is dead, but that doesn't mean this isn't still a fascinating video.   * the two creationist respondents "John" and "Marc" posted from strikingly similar - though not exactly matching - IP addresses, both owned by the same ISP. I suspect they're either the same person or else closely allied. Or it's a coincidence that they're coming from the same IP block.  

Textagate

Meryl Dorey, over at the Australian Vaccination Network, spent a bit of time in Western Australia recently, where she went to the Conscious Living Expo. At this expo, a skeptic attached to Stop The AVN managed to get hold of an AVN leaflet which was essentially begging for money, besides being utter bilge and disinformation with a tagline of one Judy Wilyman, a social sciences PhD student with AVN sympathies who is known to tout a PhD she doesn't even have yet to add a veneer of respectability to her nonsense. Meryl and the AVN are, of course, disallowed from making public fundraising appeals by...

How to identify one-humped camels

  You're welcome

A new script for @BankWest

BankWest occasionally call me to discuss "a personal banking matter". Generally, it'll be one of You're overdrawn. Again. Give us some money. Your card has been used overseas. Again. Was it you? You're a few days late on your payment. Again. Give us some money. The first is a business necessity - I do occasionally overstretch my card and Bankwest are right to chase me for it. The second is a nice courtesy and important for security. The third is slightly needless but understandable. HOWEVER, the way BankWest goes about making these calls is extraordinarily bad...

So, carbon tax, huh?

UPDATE: Technicality. Not a Carbon Tax, but a carbon price. Thanks @teknetia

In which I make some predictions

I just filled out Malcolm Turnbull's "survey on problem gambling", being as I am, it seems, now an advocate for pokie reform. I noted with interest the way the survey was laid out. It questioned whether I supported mandatory pre-commitment It questioned whether I supported voluntary pre-commitment It questioned whether I supported limiting bets It questioned whether I supported increased counselling for problem gamblers. In these questions, we see the contrast between Labor and Coalition plans on this topic. Labor are seeking to introduce a limited version of mandatory pre-commitment,...

Immunity

A fantasic short film by a talented young director

Look, seriously...

... on a story of this calibre, and the only commenters are talking about coffee?

Animals are all pricks

Storified by @anarchic_teapot. Click for the full stream.

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Skepticamp Melbourne 2011 : Done, dusted and packed away

So I'm back in Sydney now after a weekend away in Melbourne for Skepticamp Melbourne 2011. And what a marvellous day it was. The unOrganisers have to be handed massive props for putting on an excellent day. Held in the storied halls of Melbourne University, in a venue almost designed for a 150-person Skepticamp, the day was filled with insight, jollity, dicks* and, unusually for a skepticamp, arses. Thanks, Jo Benhamu. I arrived a bit late at the venue, since I had flown in the night before and only managed to sleep at about 3am, but from the moment I arrived...

Stephen Fry on Apple's mobile device competitors

So long as the way they crack Apple is to learn from Steve Jobs that style matters, that beauty matters, that joy, simplicity, elegance, harmony, charm, wit and quality matter – well, I don’t care which company has the best stock market capitalisation. And in one sentence, that really does sum up what's important. I am not an Apple computer user at present. I have an iPhone and several iPods. My Macbook and Bondi Blue original iMac are relics of the past, but I cannot deny that the philosophy underlying the product line has always, it seems, been firmly pointed at "great product and...

An open letter to IT departments

Dear IT Guys I have a problem with you. Yes, I mean you. You people ostensibly providing information technology services. Especially those of you in government organisations. What exactly are you playing at? You've become an impediment to human productivity. How did this happen? IT was meant to be the shining future of humanity. It was meant to give us offices free of paper, instantaneous communication, systems that would know what we want and when we want it, machines that would do all the crappy stuff and leave us free to innovate and live a little. IT was meant to liberate us so we could achieve our...

All you get is a maybe

I don't really think much of the "fine tuning" argument that gets advanced so often by christians. Especially those christians who are excessively enamoured with the bunkum put forward by William Lane Craig, a man whose primary talent is an ability to stand in front of big rooms full of people and talk about the Kalam Cosmological Argument without bursting into laughter. I also don't think much of christians defining their god in narrow terms as the prime mover, solely as the creator of the universe Still, fine tuning arguments, prime mover claims and their ilk are often advanced as support for christianity, when in fact...

The Golgafrinchan Solution

OK, guys... don't spread this about too much. We don't want them to catch wind of the plan. But I've figured out how we can rid ourselves of the useless third of our population that's been causing so much trouble. You know, chiropractors, tarot readers, crystal therapists, TV psychics, antivaxers, dowsers, naturopaths, homeopaths, pyramid power nuts, 9/11 troofers, climate change denialists, ancient astronaut proponents, creationists, IDiots and other assorted loons. But especially antivaxers. As we all know, there's been difficulty finding a humane solution to this problem for a long time. We're good people, and we're faced with an insoluble dilemma. These people are holding back...

WAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAH!!!

DO WANT

My Dry Year: September

OK, so August is over, and the Black Dog Institute will be up, if my calculations are correct, about $125 or so for five nights off the wagon. What? What am I on about? Oh yeah. Until July 2012 I am operating under Dry July Golden Ticket rules, meaning that I don't drink unless I (or someone else of a charitable nature, of course) hand over a minimum of $25 to the nominated charity (or non-profit) of the month. So now it's the end of August and it's time to nominate a new cause. For this month of September I shall be handing over my drinking money to... Skepticamp Melbourne Melbourne's...

Lord Chesterfield's letter to his son, 19th Nov 1750

On the topic of orthography... I come now to another part of your letter, which is the orthography, if I may call bad spelling ORTHOGRAPHY. You spell induce, ENDUCE; and grandeur, you spell grandURE; two faults of which few of my housemaids would have been guilty. I must tell you that orthography, in the true sense of the word, is so absolutely necessary for a man of letters; or a gentleman, that one false spelling may fix ridicule upon him for the rest of his life; and I know a man of quality, who never recovered the ridicule of having spelled...

Newsflash: 300 lines of code more influential than Meryl Dorey

So, I'm not sure who here knows what Klout is. Well, Klout is something that 'social media experts' like to flick themselves off about while drafting WINNING STRATEGIES. It's an automated service that calculates your relative influence on social networks based on a bunch of information such as: your follower count (what newbie social media experts flick themselves off over while drafting WINNING STRATEGIES) how often your content is retweeted how often you retweet others' content the klout scores of the people you influence the topics...

Newtown Community Chiropractic

Ever heard of Newtown Community Chiropractic? It's a chiropractic clinic in Newtown, and it's all about the community. So much so that it occasionally runs anti-vaccination "seminars" at which employee/owner of Newtown Community Chiropractic Nimrod Weiner uses Newtown Community Chiropractic's premises, marketing, budget and 'reputation' to push an untrue anti-vaccination message to impressionable parents from the Newtown Community and the surrounding Inner West. Oh, that Newtown Community Chiropractic, you say? Yes, that Newtown Community Chiropractic. Not very nice. Anyway, one of Australia's fine national broadsheets ran a story on Nimrod Weiner, and a seminar he held at Newtown Community Chiropractic recently, which has attracted the attention of some...

The eternal question: Epic troll or christian?

Difficult to know sometimes. Well, maybe not so tricky. Look, I'm really sorry about the big selection smear, but this guy has selected  #EBEBE8 on a background of #FFFFFF as a sensible twitter background. I work with what I have, guys, OK? So I tweeted, being a SOCIAL MEDIA EXPERT*, about how awesome this tweet was, both for the WINNING STRATEGY and for the AWESOME DESIGN CHOICE and GROUNDBREAKING OUTSIDETHEBOX COLOR CHOICE. Shortly afterwards I got this reply: HOLY FUCK AM I BEING TROLLED BACK no wait he's a christian. Wait, am I being trolled back? Probably not     * the asterisk should tell you all you need to...

Musical Trolleys - a study in ethics

Many of my fine atheist and skeptic friends  - and doubtless others - will be familiar with The Trolley Problem, the study of ethics through hypothetical scenarios first introduced by philosopher Phillipa Foot*. The problem is most commonly known from the scenario of a branched train line. Several workers are on the main line, and one is on a siding. You can divert the train using a switch, and you describe whether you would throw the switch or not. The scenario is then varied, to find the points at which you would take action to divert the train. Sometimes there are loopbacks. Sometimes the...

My Dry Year: August's selected charity

So, as I outlined in an earlier post, I'm extending my Dry July into a whole year, one charity per month, right up to August 2012. Each month I'll be remaining dry, though under Dry July rules I can obtain a golden ticket, at a minimum donation of $25, for one day back off the wagon. August's charity of choice is The Black Dog Institute Mental health, especially depression, is something I've had my share of brushes with, and the work that BDI do has a genuine impact. If you agree, give them some money. In return, I'll stay off the booze. Or,...

Philip Brookes, stealth christian and #stopNSCP troll

Over at Mike Stuchbery's blog, a comment fight is going on over Peter Garrett's letter to Evonne Paddinson, head of ACCESS Ministries and self-admitted winner of souls for christ through the NSCP. Garrett, of course, is a stealth christian, as I've pointed out previously, but oddly enough so are many of his defenders around the blogosphere. Take, for example, Philip Brookes. Philip is a prolific commenter over at Mike Stuchbery's blog, and in fact anywhere the NSCP is mentioned. Philip avoids any reference to christianity in his posts, and cultivates an outward image of the unbiased onlooker, all the while accusing opponents of the...

Fund My Idea

I would like to create a product. The product takes the form of a game, and can be summed up as follows "a steampunk-themed mobile device and XBox360 arcade hybrid platformer game starring Tom Waits as the gravelly-voiced gangling protagonist. Control Tom as he trieds to get back home to see his baby, through myriad levels of freakshow carnival nights, ironclad whales' bellies, dust-clouded Cadillac drives past Burma Shave signs, deranged late-night diner nightmares and deranged vaudevillia, all to a hammering soundtrack of overdriven barrel organ and prison bar percussion." Fund me, and I'll totally make it. I just need a part-time steampunk writer, a couple of programmers, a graphic artist, a...

Sing me songs of no denying. #stopNSCP

So, it seems that our esteemed activist-musician-in-chief has cleared Access Ministries of any wrongdoing over proselytisation to children in schools. So that's all right then. But wait a minute. Let's just recap. Evonne Paddinson, CEO of Access Ministries, has clearly stated on more than one occasion that her mission, and that of her organisation, is to pass the good news to school children. As @askegg notes here, this message is rife throughout Access materials and public statements, and has been repeated on numerous occasions, by Paddinson herself, by her chaplains and by other Access employees. There are plenty of reports from students making...

Education Minister Peter Garrett speaks

OK. The gloves are REALLY off now

As I've mentioned before, I'm currently doing Dry July, in support of the Prince Of Wales Hospital's Cancer Unit. I'm doing this as part of the Vinocast team, along with m'colleague Dave The Happy Singer. A small battle has, of course, ensued. First, a recap. I am abstaining from alcohol, aside from Golden Tickets, of which more anon, for the month of July, the upshot of which is meant to be that people give money to my nominated cancer charity. This is a biggie. Read the title at the top of the blog. I really quite like a drink now and again. So I...

National Yell "Get a Fucking Job" at a Priest Day

What do you mean, other skills? Please join me in declaring today,...

I feel I have passed a test...

... in that I did a Tom Waits cover and The Reverend Doktor Bob gave it a stamp of approval. Tango Till They're Sore by StopThatAstronaut Let me tell you. Half Man Half Biscuit covers are easy. I've been toying with Tom Waits material for an absolute age and haven't ever got one I'm even remotely happy with. Tom is too distinctive in writing, lyricism and delivery. And his choice of musicians and instruments (and of course his own playing style) makes it shockingly hard to take something of Tom's and not end up with a...

Shouting Down Our Freedom to Impale our Faces on Railings

Face-on-railing impalement is an incredibly emotional topic for supporters and critics alike.The Mercenary’s recent story by Wobbleboard McHamblestein (To impale or not?) presents viewpoints of both proponents and critics. The article cites Medyl Dopey of the Australian Impalination Network (AIN), a citizens’ group that advocates parental choice and provides information about the positive aspects of face impalement. The AIN has been operating for 17 years. In 2009, a pro-non-railing-impalement group was set up titled Stop the Australian Impalination Network (SAIN), with the express aim of shutting down the AIN. The methods used by SAIN disturbed me. SAIN essentially rejects free speech advocating the...

The new voice of hardship

There are two ways the following soundbite, from the Daily Telegraph, may have unfolded: Possibility one: The person in question, and the journalist reporting, really seem to think that poverty is defined by the inability to afford frozen chips instead of potatoes and oysters once a month, the line being delivered by a 27-year old uggbooted, chainsmoking, holden-labelled tracksuit wearing mother of six, having been accosted in Kempsey IGA by a first-year journalism student on a torturous internship for News Ltd. The line, for greatest effect while reading out loud, should be read in the broadest ocker you can summon, and prefixed with a solid, nasal "YEEEEEEEEAAAAAH MATE"....

Hello Melbourne!! Do you wanna rock??

Slight update to the post, the full-mixed audio has been done, and here's the rough cut of the tweaked version:   And the original version, below  

The In Vino Veritas Podcast is here

Some of you will be exclaiming "FINALLY". Others will be saying "huh?". Still further will be frothing at the mouth and demanding your money back. Well SCREW YOU MONEY BACK DEMANDERS, YOU'RE NOT THE BOSS OF ME. *ahem* Where was I? Oh yes. My new podcast is here. Dave The Happy Singer and I have been beavering away here at Zombie Proof Studios, over many bottles of wine, several packets of seasoned seaweed, one stuffed dinosaur and a massive pile of audio equipment. We've been driven insane by turns and were it not for the wine we'd have entirely lost it. It's possible we...

A round of applause for Scribd

I want the world to be a nicer place. Most of us do. Of course, you can't make an omelette without breaking some eggs, and sometimes, I have to make some people desperately unhappy in my drive toward a happier world. LIke antivaxers and their supporters. They get rather annoyed with me and, of course, with all the other part-time internet superheroes that oppose their nonsense. They act as though we're making their lives unpleasant. Yep, we are. Frankly, if I can help in some small way to prevent more deaths, more illnesses, more economic impact and more general misery from vaccine-preventable diseases, then a...

Fun with smurfs

Ken King, the antivax maniac in my previous post, is back. The man is a glutton for punishment, especially in view of his adherence to Colloidal Silver, an inneffective quack nostrum whose most notable effect is to turn people blue.   He's really a very angry little man. And he's utterly unwilling to be swayed by rational argument, believing as he does that vaccines are not only 100% ineffective but also staggeringly toxic. So the only alternative is to have fun while provoking him into making a fool of himself. Not difficult.

Skepticamp in theory and practice

This is my quite short stopgap talk from Skepticamp Sydney 2011, on the why, where, when and how of Skepticamp, thanks to Biyani Mills who taped it in the absence of our second camera. The Q & A was interesting but has been left out in the interests of brevity and understandability, suffice to say this session really cemented the Melbourne event for later in the year

Told you we'd do it....

So, after some months of preparation, hundreds of emails and phone calls, several hectic days nights of organisation and a about seven hours of sustained awesome, Skepticamp Sydney is over. I said we'd do it, didn't I? Yes, Australia's first skepticamp* was a success. In fact, a triumph. It took place from 11:00am on 30th April, at UTS in Sydney, and attracted somewhere in the region of 100 keen skeptical attendees, some of whom were attending their first skeptical event, and some of whom were speaking in front of a crowd on a chosen topic for the first time. In fact, the level of attendee engagement...

I Say "No" To Chaplains

  Well, of course I do. The banner at the top of this blog, of course, says "Atheist". You'd think I would. However, there are very good reasons why you should be against the national school chaplains program even if you're a believer, and explaining this is part of the purpose of a new website launched tonight by my good friend Dave The Happy Singer, who's been beavering away behind the scenes with a small group of smart, dedicated folks. And me. No To Chaplains starts with ten simple and very good reasons why the NSCP is a bad idea, none of which...

STORM

It's on: Skepticamp Sydney 2011

Skepticamp Sydney 2011 is taking place 30th April 2011 at UTS in Sydney Tickets are FREE and available from EventBrite. We're looking for volunteers, sponsors and, of course, participants. SIGN UP!

Are you smarter than a Meryl Dorey?

There's now a simple test. Head over to Shellity's blog and try it out.

Urge your employer to run pertussis vaccinations

I wrote a little note to my company's Corporate Responsibility team, HHH, a few days ago.   To: All HHH Contacts I’m not sure if you’re all aware of the recent pertussis (whooping cough) death at the Royal Children’s Hospital in Melbourne. http://www.theage.com.au/victoria/death-sparks-vaccine-appeal-20110216-1awnl.html Australia is now in the midst of what is quite justifiably being called an epidemic, and children are dying. Two years ago, 4-week-old Dana McCaffery died from Whopping cough at Lismore Base Hospital. Shortly afterwards, and as a direct consequence of the media coverage of Dana’s death, a group called “Stop the AVN” was formed. We at Stop the AVN are focused...

Meryl Dorey

The creator of this image has indicated that it may be posted freely

Antivaxers want your stories

Via Twitter and Skeptical Canary comes a link to an online survey set up by antivaxers into the health of unvaccinated children. There are many things about this which are colossally stupid. One is the self-selection bias which is inevitable in antivaxers carrying this out. If the link is spread among ideologically-motivated antivaxers, then only ideologically-motivated antivaxers will answer, making it "a survey of the purported health of the children of people known to lie a lot" The other majorly stupid thing is that it's on the internet. Guess what else is on the internet? Yep, you guessed right. People like me. So I filled...

Skeptalk: Why atheists get annoyed at "In God We Trust"

I just wanted to archive this response I made to a thread on skeptalk, where a user has asked, somewhat naively: '[...] why "in God we trust" or "One nation under God" upsets atheists' Well, the first thing for me is that it's just a lie. I'm not sure about you, but I was brought up to believe that lies are a bad thing. There's no evidence for a god. None. To make such claims without evidence falls into the "lie" category for me.   The second thing is that such a statement is counter-constitutional. Not that I actually have standing to talk about US...

Little Sugar Pills: Why Fall For Homeopathy?

Courtesy of Kylie Sturgess

Meryl Dorey: False Copyright Claimant

On top of everything else Meryl Dorey does, Meryl has today been revealed by Facebook as being the false copyright claimant behind recent removals of content from the Stop The AVN Facebook page. An email from Facebook admins confirms what SAVN Administrators suspected all along: -----Original Message----- From: ip+jgimsrn@support.facebook.com [mailto:ip+jgimsrn@support.facebook.com] Sent: Saturday, 5 February 2011 8:52 AM To: <redacted> Subject: Re: Copyright Counter Complaint: #254415615 Hi <redacted>, Thank you for bringing this matter to our attention. Please note that we removed the content in question because we received a proper notice of copyright infringement compliant with the Digital Millennium Copyright Act, 17 U.S.C. § 512(c)(3). If you would like to...

More heatwave? This is not good for my brain

So, according to the SMH, Sydney, which has already sweltered through what was apparently the fourth hottest January in 150 years (or something), is in for a record heatwave. This is not good news. You see, I lose my mind in the Australian summer. Completely. What happens is this: I let myself get dehydrated, sometimes because I'm forgetful, but usually because my geek brain does its special trick of tightly focusing on one activity to the detriment of others. Then, because I'm dehydrated and starting to get a little stoopid, I forget to rehydrate. I forget to walk in the shade when I'm outside. I make ridiculous decisions,...

Scientology, Skeptoid, free rides and abusive relationships

Skeptoid recently took on Scientology. I say "took on". What I actually mean is "gave a free ride to". There's been plenty of discussion of this over at the Skeptalk mailing list, split pro and anti, to which Brian has been firing back one-line replies to in rather a glib fashion. It's a bit tedious, but at least the other members are OK to engage on this subject. However, Brian did add a more lengthy response over at SkepticBlog. Overall I didn't find it a particularly convincing defence, but I was disturbed by one particular paragraph: My analysis was that people who have the...

In which The Pope makes me facepalm. Again.

The pope has apparently expressed the opinion that fake profiles on social media sites are bad, citing "The risk of constructing a false image of oneself, which can become a form of self-indulgence." May I just remind everyone that "Benedict" is not the pope's real name. His real name is Joseph Ratzinger. And if anyone has a false and self-indulgent image of himself, it's a man who thinks he's god's appointed representative on earth and as a result lives in an opulent palace.

Truth In Advertising

Flawed reasoning, "absolute" morality and twitter-based zealotry

Errr... wrong. It does not follow that if there is no god there is no basis for good and evil. Now, first let me address an objection that I can already see. I do not accept the idea of "absolute" morality, in the same way that I don't accept the idea that "infinity" actually has an existence here in the real world. It is merely a concept invented by humans to describe "that thing so big it never ends". However, I do accept the idea of "morality maintained over time", and I find, on questioning, that this is what most christians mean...

The Birth Of Theology

Earth 500,000 years ago Night time Around a flickering fire sit Thag, Og and Clug, cavemen. It's a clear night, the starts are out and there's a full moon casting a wan light over the landscape. Around them are the sounds of the savannah on which they eke out their existence. It's a daily struggle for existence. Recently, their companion, Morg, was eaten by a tiger. The cavemen are feeling, for want of a better word, philosophical. Thag: You know, Thag miss Morg Og: We all same, Thag. Thag: Make you wonder what it all about really, doesn't it? Og: What Thag mean? Thag: Well, it like, one minute...

One More Thing

This one a little more on the levity side than the last... And the updated lyrics, for those who wish to know such things Just remember that you're standing on a planet that's  evolving And revolving at 1742km an hour (at the equator), That's orbiting at around 29km a second, so it's reckoned, A sun that is the source of almost all our power (barring geothermal & nuclear). The sun and you and me and all the stars that we can see Are moving at 225km/sec In an outer spiral arm, at roughly 402,000km an hour, Of the galaxy we call the 'Milky Way'.   Our galaxy itself contains a hundred...

Three things

This weekend at TAM Australia, I did three things that will shape my skeptical year to come. The first thing I did was to sit on a panel with some prominent skeptics, and , in response to the question "What would you do in terms of activism if you were offered a budget?", declare, unplanned, that I would host a Sydney Skepticamp within the next six months, were I given money to get it started. It took mere seconds for the audience to start throwing in cash, Robin Hilliard hurling in an immediate $50 dollar note. Others followed with twenties, tens...

Open Letter to Budget Petrol, Petersham, NSW

Jason Brown, Dulwich Hill, NSW 2203 To who it may concern I've been a regular customer at budget petrol since I moved to Dulwich Hill over two years ago. You've been my closest LPG station, and running a large 4WD on gas necessitates a regular fill, especially in weeks where I'm running a heavy commute. I estimate that I would spend at least $1000 to $1500 per year on gas alone at your station, not counting the times I've grabbed a few groceries, oil and fluids, spare bulbs and the like. However, today I was disappointed to notice that you've started stocking Power...

What I did this weekend.

On friday morning, I parted ways with my employer. This was probably inevitable since the IT Director who hired me stormed out a month or so ago after a bust-up with the CEO. At that point all my projects were put on hold, I was relegated to piecemeal web development, and told specifically not to take on any new work without approval. Which, obviously, never came. I was already talking to recruiters and considering options, but was hoping it would at least wait until after TAM Australia. Still, this way I get a pay-out of notice, leave and entitlements. Better, if I stay...

Antivaxer Logic

Bananas are rich in potassium. Potassium explodes on contact with water. The human body is > 60% water - and in infants that number is higher! Therefore, bananas make you explode

Speaker Registration Thread for Skepticator Live

Skepticator Live is taking place in just over a week. If you're attending and want to speak, this thread is where you register your interest. Simply leave a comment below with Your name A very brief bio The chosen subject for your 5-minute talk Preference for a time of the evening you'd like to go on stage Don't comment here unless you're registering to speak. I'll delete any comments that aren't registrations because this will form my master list for the evening In formal pre-registration we currently have Chrys Stevenson speaking on Australia...

TGA tells PowerBalance to stop making absurd claims

Vic Skeptics are reporting today that Australia's TGA (Therapeutic Goods Administration) are calling on PowerBalance to withdraw their crazy claims. QLink, Shuzi, Eken, Phiten and others using the PowerBalance schtick, you'd be well advised to do the same The TGA is not exactly known for strong enforcement, but I do note the text of the requested retraction clearly says the claims were unlawful, so PowerBalance would probably be well advised to cut it out about now. As would their imitators. For full details, see the Vic Skeptics blog or the TGA decision.

Fiona MacDonald of Cosmos Magazine: New Journalist of the Year

You may recall Fiona wrote an excellent piece on the Australian Vaccination Network (AVN) and their figureheadcase, Meryl Dorey, earlier this year Well, I thought in view of that I'd best let Mrs Dorey know at her post on the story.

Email to QLink / Clarus Products

More on the Q-Link Saga

Clarus Products, makers of the placebo pendant Q-Link have released a media statement emphasising that they do not pay third parties for endorsements. Here's the release in full STATEMENT BY CLARUS TRANSPHASE SCIENTIFIC, INC., DEVELOPER-MANUFACTURER OF Q-LINK™ PRODUCTS & SRT™ TECHNOLOGY (SAN FRANCISCO, California) –Recent media attention in Australia to energy products generally and particularly to our own Q-Link™ brand product line calls for our clear comment. As the developer and manufacturer of the Q-Link™ range of energy products – products that have been on the market for 19 years and sold to more than a million users in more than 50 countries – we want to make...

Rodial Limited, meet the Streisand Effect...

... Streisand Effect, meet Rodial Limited As this story outlines, Rodial Ltd, manufacturers of an expensive "boob job" gel, are attempting to stifle scientific comment through the use of UK libel laws. Good luck with that It is highly unlikely that this product, "boob job" by Rodial Ltd, works as claimed. Here's the original Daily Fail article upon which the case is being based.

Nothing New Under The Sun: Powerbalance, QLink, Shuzi and Franz Anton Mesmer

With the current money-making quack fads of Power Balance, Hotband, QLink and Shuzi, it may pay to get some historic perspective coupled with basic scientific work. In 1778, Franz Anton Mesmer, pictured above, moved to Paris and began a successful and highly lucrative career using his "Animal Magnestism". Paris Society flocked to Mesmer's baquet, from where he would produce a "magnetic fluid", imbued with near miraculous powers. Mesmer and his devotees were convinced they'd found a force of great import, and lobbied for scientific academies to give animal magnetism their stamp of approval. When the academies declined, Mesmerism continued apace, leaving a trail of...

Good Chiropractor/Bad Chiropractor?

An interesting comment appeared earlier on an old post about Chiropractors. It's not the first time I've encountered the idea, but I think I ought to spend a few minutes sharing the comment, outlining the problem and proposing what I think the solution is. Sure, it's no business of mine, but when has that ever stopped me? Here's the comment from Skg, in full: I must say, that while some (many?) chiropractors promote bogus treatments, not all do. I have been to see a few on occasion, and while I have some chronic health problems with range from annoying to severe (all of...

Hello to new readers, and a QLink update

A big "hi" to anyone that's arrived via Media Watch, or via Scienceblogs or via Crikey, or any one of the other new inlinks of the last few days. The spike in traffic, and presumably new subscribers, means I guess I should be picking up my game and including far more pages of thoughtful analysis of current skeptical issues. Or maybe I'll just carry on beating people up with words for the sin of credulity, and posting the occasional deranged music clip. That might be the way to go. Stick with what you know, they say. For anyone who didn't see the Media Watch...

Sydney's Mainstream technology correspondents: A case of the brain worms?

So, on the tail of Stephen Fenech's ethically-questionable QLink spruiking, and Charlie Brown's half-baked sales pitch for the same, we have yet another case of a "tech correspondent" from a mainstream news source utterly failing the critical thinking test. On the front page of today's print edition, and prominently on the online version, is this piece of utter fail: Cookie monsters: browser beware as political websites plant spy devices What? Surely not? An HTTP server using third-party cookies? On my internet? Stilgherrian's ever-excellent view on it is here, but for my part, let me say this Stop listening to the mainstreamers on the subject...

Channel Nine spruiks QLink

Or, at least, Today's "technology editor" Charlie Brown. As with Stephen Fenech, I've contacted Charlie Brown via Twitter asking for justification of his sales pitch. So far, not a peep. I'm told that Stephen and Charlie are good buddies. Not that I want to suggest collusion, but let's face it, I'm suggesting collusion. Are you being paid for this Charlie? In cash or in kind, either way is a problem for journalistic ethics. If you're not being paid, then you're clearly too gullible to be a technology reporter. If you are being paid, then you're clearly unqualified to be a reporter of any...

More on QLink

Or, "Moron. QLink?!?" So as I've already reported, Sydney's Daily Telegraph has today published a questionably-motivated piece of puffery on the QLink mini, written (or more likely simply boilerplated) by 'technology reporter' Stephen Fenech - brother of QLink endorsing "athlete" Mario Fenech. Not that I want to imply that there's anything untoward going on here, of course. Did you read that in a sarcastic tone? Good. So anyway, I asked Stephen Fenech, on Twitter, if he could give me some scientific peer-reviewed evidence to support his assertions [sound of crickets] Heloooo?? Stephen? Looks like he's hiding. This being the case, I figured I'd take a look at...

THIS

A thousand times, this.

Today's favourite crossword clue

C-A-N-B-E-R-R-A (7,7) Capital Letters

Miracle Mineral Solution investigated in UK and Europe thanks to one dedicated young skeptic

Miracle Mineral Solution, a quack product made from bleach and marketed to the gullible by the cynical, is under investigation in the UK and Europe, and is looking to be in serious trouble. And the credit is,deservedly, going to a 15 year old welsh skeptic called Rhys Morgan. Rhys's blog recently made it onto the Skepticator, so I was aware of him, but I was pleasantly surprised to learn about the developments with MMS and Rhys's age and level of involvement. Rhys is also active in 10:23 and is a credit to the skeptical movement in the UK. I don't want to harp...

Australian Vaccination Network (AVN) No longer a charity

Yes, that's right. Meryl Dorey's AVN is, as of the 20th October, no longer a charity. The Office of Liquor, Gaming and Racing (OLGR), which regulates charities in NSW, has revoked their charitable licence, and not a moment too soon. The OLGR release hasn't hit the web yet, but Meryl Dorey's response is here. Note that Meryl has cherry-picked the OLGR finding to support her assertion that it's all based on the HCCC complaint. What, as I say, do items (b), (d) and (e) say? Notice also that Meryl is using this opportunity to beg for more donations before the 20th. She's also lying about...

In which I have a fanboy meltdown moment and talk TAMOZ

That's me! Yes, that's me just next to James Randi's face. Randi's face! His beardy face! Squeeeee! SQUEEEEEE! *faints*   Yes, I'm quite excited about #TAMOZ. I'm speaking on the activism panel 2.00pm - 4.00pm on the first day. We're directly opposite the Science Based Medicine panel, so I expect our attendance to be zero, as everyone will be off listening to The Novellatron methodically destroying quackery in the next room. But still, if you're passing by on the way to SBM, toss us a biscuit through the door. I know for sure Travis Roy is on the panel, as is Elliot Birch, making it a sure...

The nature of error, in being unexpected

Cast your eyes over the following screenshot This raises the question "When exactly is an error expected?" Surely if you expect an error, it's not actually an error? It's merely the outcome you thought would take place. Yes, OK, it fits the dictionary definition "a deviation from accuracy or correctness; a mistake, as in action or speech", but that's not the point. The point is that "error", in its form as a synonym for "mistake" probably isn't the ideal word to apply to the outcome of a computer program when coupled with "unexpected". If you expect it, it's not an error. If it is an error, it's...

The Flying Monkey Effect explained

In my recent talks to Sydney Atheists and Western Sydney Freethinkers, I've been a little damning of email-writing campaigns and blog comment campaigns due to something we've termed the "Flying Monkey Effect". At the same time, I've tried to get across the point that they could have positive effects, properly done. I wanted to expand on this a little. The Flying Monkey Effect, as anyone with a modicum of pop culture nous has twigged, comes from the 1939 movie "The Wizard Of Oz". The Wicked Witch of The West employs an army of flying monkeys which she sends out to do her evil bidding....

A little perspective

Several times recently I've had antivaxers cite thalidomide as a case of medical harm and/or failure. Well, I was just prepping some medication and I got to thinking. You see, there are two packs of thalidomide in my kitchen drawer. Whaaaa? Yep, two packs. You see, thalidomide is still in use. In the case of my kitchen drawer, it's being used as a treatment for Esther's GvH, an area where it seems to have some effect. These days, of course, the screening process is more stringent - you can't get it if you're pregnant, for a start, and there are regular checks on patients...

Dawkins vs The Pope

Dawkins wins

Antivax idiocy: Micrograms vs. milligrams

I'll just leave this here, shall I? Elaine Dow, you're an idiot.

It's Chronogeddon

Yes, Chronogeddon, the ever-feared end of time itself. It's 3.10pm and it seems like hours since it was 2:55pm. My day has taken a turn for the slow and I don't know what to do. We're all doomed. Dooooomed. DOOOOOMED. Only The Doctor can save us now.

It's that time again

Yes, it's that time when I roll up my sleeves, get a grip on myself and quit smoking. Again. I'm becoming something of a veteran at this. I started as a 15 year old, stopped in my later teens, restarted in my early twenties, quit in my mid twenties, started again in my late twenties, quit in my early thirties, started again a year or so ago and now I'm back to quitting. Again. Of course, this time I haven't had a run-up. I had my last cigarette on Thursday and kinda decided then not to buy more. Normally, I quit on...

Australian Vaccination Network: Still cyberstalkin'

  Not for the first time, supporters of the Australian Vaccination Network are off on a cyberstalking campaign. The image above is of a Facebook sockpuppet account, intended to be in the name of a Stop the AVN member's wife, publicising a private FB group intended to share sooper-sekrit "information" gathered on members of Stop The AVN. They googled up the wrong person, though. Ooops. The group in question "The Who's Who of Stop the AVN" is, I believe, the third or fourth incarnation of "Stop The AVN Exposed", a private facebook group for acolytes of the Cult of Meryl, in which they share what...

Happily Promotes Bogus Treatments. Avoid

Every so often I walk from my house to the local shopping strip, and when I do I usually go past the local chiropractic centre. And they have posters in their windows which make grandiose claims for chiroquacktic chiropractic manipulation that are just not borne out by any valid science. They claim to cure asthma, childhood colic, bedwetting and allergies... just by mangling your neck around the place. There is just no evidence for these claims. None. They also claim that chiropractic is "250 times safer than anti-inflamatories". Whatever the fuck that's meant to mean, I can say this: staying in...

The Australian Vaccination Network

Australian Vaccination Network. Yes, that's a link to the only page that currently matters where this organisation is concerned. You may also want to investigate http://www.stopantivaxnetwork.com/ http://www.facebook.com/stopavn/ http://www.antivaxxers.com/ http://stopmeryldorey.com/  

Is Meryl Dorey Anti-vaccination?

As regular readers will know, my focus right now is on the Australian Vaccination Network, an anti-vaccination group from Northern NSW whose president, Meryl Dorey, consistently claims that she is not anti-vaccination, but is merely pro-choice. Well, courtesy of a friend of mine on the Stop The AVN Facebook Group, here's something to chew over

The Steve and Meryl Show

I should have done this weeks ago...   Soundtrack: Yakkity Sax on Banjulele and Kazoo, played by yours truly. Video from ABC Lateline's report on the AVN.

Some new t-shirt designs for Meryl Dorey by #stopavn

I was just mulling over Meryl Dorey's pleas of "We're not anti-vaccination" in the light of this anti-vaccination t-shirt design, and I thought to myself "well, I'm sure I can help!" So I did We start out collection with this beautiful number from our winter range. Worn off the shoulder it's sure to make you the belle of the ball!  Feeling flighty? How's about this little cracker? Or perhaps madam would like something a little more understated for her choice in vaccine-related couture    This next item is modelled by Fifi, our resident entomophobe. Do stop screaming, Fifi dahling!  I don't know about you, but I hope more people "see the...

PUBLIC WARNING ABOUT THE AUSTRALIAN VACCINATION NETWORK (AVN)

Courtesy of the NSW Healthcare Complaints Commission: The AVN’s failure to include a notice on its website of the nature recommended by the Commission may result in members of the public making improperly informed decisions about whether or not to vaccinate, and therefore poses a risk to public health and safety. Read the full release at the HCCC: Public warning about the Australian Vaccination Network.

Your Daily Dose of AVN failure

 The link Meryl has tweeted comes from the conspiracy website nationalexpositor.com. It speculates about commercial-in-confidence agreements signed with vaccine manufacturers, something that's done to provide governments  maximum information with minimum commercial exposure. It's not, in principle, unlike an NDA between say, a software company and their developer partners. I've signed a lot of those. They're normal procedure. Of course, to the National Expectorator, this means they're secret contracts to cover up vaccine deaths. No kidding. As a taste of their usual menu of paranoia, their top story at the present time is: "False Flag Cyber Attack Could Takedown The Internet Billion dollar cybersecurity industry at...

Free will, omniscience, sin and morons with twitter accounts

 So, apparently, this big beardy guy in the sky already knows everything I'm ever going to do, ever. But also, apparently, I choose to sin. What's with that? Surely if god knows everything I'm ever going to do, I basically have no free will. And if the whole doctrine of sin relies on my free choice in the matter - my choosing to sin, or at least, choosing not to repent and all that - then surely I can't actually, in any meaningful sense, commit a sin. Ever. Because I have no choice. It's pre-destined. All I have is an illusion of choice, because...

Another day, another Dorey-ism

Dear, dear readers! You're smart, numerate kind of people. Some of you will have read my previous posts on hokey maths. Some of you can even count. Can you see how Meryl is lying with numbers? Here's a tip. There's more than one lie. Tell you what, I'll help you out a little. Here's the NSW vaccination schedule. And Meryl Dorey's overall claim as that there are 31 doses of vaccine in the schedule by 12 months of age*. OK, you're seeing it now? No? OK, well allow me to explain. The first lie is in Meryl's claim that three doses DPaT equals nine doses total. This...

When storytelling goes wrong

I was just musing, up to my gills on painkillers. And I got to thinking... It has been said that human beings are not, in fact, Homo sapiens - the Wise Man - but that were are in fact Pan narrans - the Storytelling Ape. I believe I heard this first from Ian Stewart and Jack Cohen, and it's an idea I'm much enamoured with. It's true that, if anything, humans in general are far from wise. When we think intuitively, we're often, if not usually, wrong. Suckered in by charlatans, tricked by cults, bamboozled by the way the real world works, we invent stories to...

Sure, Meryl. It did nothing

  The article Meryl cites is here The very first paragraph reads: Pertussis (whooping cough) is a mandatorily notifiable disease in Slovenia and since 1959, there has been an active national immunisation programmme. Since the start of this programme, the annual number of notified cases has fallen sharply [1] Does that really sound like the vaccine did nothing? Really? OK, that's just the beginning of Meryl's fail. Let's delve further. The study cited is of an outbreak in a kindergarten. Of the 12 kids in the kindergarten, two (16%) had confirmed pertussis, most likely picked up from either the parent cited in the paper*, or the same source as the...

Meryl: Failing Infectious Disease 101

I just had to blog this. It's just too absurd to let slip. Did you know that it's only possible to contract a single disease at a time? Yes, really. Meryl Dorey says so, so it must be true  That's a page from the Winter 2006 edition of the Australian Vacination Network's "Informed Voice" Magazine. If you click and get the bigger version, you'll see that just above "How many is to many?" Meryl has made the following claim: It is also a fact that we will only ever contract one disease at a time - measles - not measles, mumps and rubella. Measles -...

So, apparently, 99.2% is the same as 0%

Well, it is if you're an antivaxxer like our old friend Meryl Dorey. Just so you don't think I'm putting words in Meryl's mouth, here's a little screenshot from the Australian Vaccination Network's blog.   What Meryl and Tom are discussing here is a paper entitled "Measles outbreak in a fully immunized secondary-school population". It seems Meryl didn't read much beyond the title, since the actual article examines the difference between seropositive children in a fully vaccinated population (that is, those which had active antibodies against measles), and seronegative children (who didn't). There were 74 seronegative students and 1732 seropositive students. That's about 4.3% seronegative. 14...

Promoting a damn good cause

Look, I'm not usually one to plug a commercial product. I have blogged in the past on Allienware Notebooks and iMate Smartphones, but they're more in the way of product reviews and I wasn't outright askking you to buy. Today I am. Vicks are running a promotion right now that, to leap on an obvious pun, will get right up Meryl Dorey's nose. The Road To Relief campaign offers to vaccinate one child for each Vicks' product purchased. I'm currently suffering with what I believe is a bastardised combination of Marburg, Ebola and West Nile disease, which Esther says is a mild cold,...

We need more than just reasoned debate

Over the last couple of days, an bit of a storm has been brewing in a thread on Facebook. Today I finally reached the end of my patience and posted what I expect to be something of an argument killer, which I'd like to share here with commentary. The background. Atheist L, name redacted, is active in confronting theists on Facebook. Atheist C appears to dislike Atheist L's style of engagement, finding it inferior to his own, and has made it amply clear on several occasions. He expressed the belief that he was the superior debater, and that L should just...

Meryl Dorey: Still lying on schedule

Yet again, a post about one of Meryl Dorey's regularly scheduled SocialOomph tweets. And guess what? Meryl is lying again. Oh, sure, she's probably just repeating something she's heard somewhere else. Sad thing is, though, she's been told she's wrong repeatedly and she's still carrying on, so it's crossed from merely repeating a rumour without checking into the territory of outright lie. She's repeating this on the "official" twitter channel of the Australian Vaccination Network, which claims to be an independent watchdog. It's not a watchdog. It's a half-blind junkyard mutt with three legs. So, are pharma companies the biggest buyers...

Monday Musical Madness on a Tuesday: Those Singing Tesla Coils again

  Now, while you're listening... The Australian Vacccination Network are running a seminar tonight in Perth, WA. It's causing a small shitstorm of controversy Please, if you're in the area, or if you're online and feel like helping out, please do. StopAVN on Facebook is active, #stopavn on Twitter is active, and a new blog has been established purely for the WA effort. Do it. I gave you Tesla Coils, now you give me some pro-science muscle.

Meryl Dorey and the Fallacy of the Excluded Middle

Meryl Dorey, of the ever-inaccurately named Australian Vaccination Network, tweets this gem every so often from scheduled tweet service SocialOomph: Taken purely at face value, this tweet is almost true. Almost. You could almost imagine a similar version coming from a competent immunologist. "No vaccination is 100% effective 100% of the time. Even after you receive a vaccination, there may be circumstances in which you could develop a symptomatic infection". Thing is, that's not what Meryl is trying to get across, as you'll see from this screen cap of an email from Meryl herself:  Yes, Meryl really seems to believe, and has repeated on...

Letter to the State Library of Western Australia

Dear Mrs Allen,   I write to you with regard to a forthcoming seminar hosted at the State Library of WA on behalf of a group known as the "Australian Vaccination Network".   I would like to draw your attention, as no doubt a number of others have also done, to some facts around this group which should give the State Library of WA pause.   The AVN, and Mrs Meryl Dorey in particular, are fond of claiming the free-speech high-ground. Unfortunately, the right to free speech should not include the right to promulgate misinformation. The AVN are guilty of repeatedly supplying misinformation to members of...

It's "Everybody Draw Mohammed Day"

And already Pakistan, in its confused, fundie-addled manner, has banned Facebook throughout the country. Frankly, I don't have a problem with this. Might quieten down some of the shrill bullshit that a subset of muslims are posting in response to this simple little cartoon exercise. Apologies for the low-quality piccie, by the way. All I have to hand right now is post-it notes and a webcam. More blog coverage here.

You didn’t die from it 30 years ago and you’re not going to die from it today.

Those words were spoken by Meryl Dorey, arch-antivaxer and chief fallacy-pusher of the Australian Vaccination Network, on Channel 7's "Sunday Night" programme. The segment was discussing measles and pertussis outbreaks here in Australia, and focused on the tragic death of little Dana McCaffery from pertussis. The non-factual basis of this quote is beyond question, however just for good measure, let's look at some mortality figures for measles and pertussis. First, let's see about 30 years ago. Here are some figures from the mid-1970s, a time when I, a 30-something, was making my first faltering steps into the world. The figures are from the US, and...

What could be better than being loved by god?

This is a paraphrase* of a post I came across today on Facebook. If I may, I'd like to address it. So, again: What could be better than being loved by god? Well, for one, having a biscuit. Having a biscuit is certainly better than being loved by a god. For one thing, you've got a biscuit.  Secondly, you can verify the existence of the biscuit. You can examine the biscuit with your senses, and tell that it's really there. You can touch it, see it, smell it, feel its texture and, ultimately, taste it. Yes, you can eat the biscuit. You can dunk the...

A Word On Faith

I engage with Christians, Muslims, Mormons and other sundry religionists online often. You might say I have a few years experience of these conversations under my belt, and if there's one thing this experience has taught me, it's that, ultimately, the final fallback of a religionist, when challenged, is "faith". Demanding evidence, rebutting claims and generally pushing for justification ultimately comes back, one way or another, to faith. It is, you might say, foundational. I'm pretty sure most religious folks would agree with me on this. So I figured I should post something about faith. Mark Crislip, the narrator of the excellent Quackcast...

Copypastianity: a neologism I'd like used more

Copypastianity (noun): The tendency, during online debates, for christians to immediately google up the first apologetic website that suits their argument, and to paste the text wholesale into the comment thread, thus executing a perfect Gish Gallop without any of that tedious thinking and typing.

I know a story...

I know a story of a remarkable man whose deeds were legend. He constantly impressed his companions with his insights, and they often came to him for advice - as did complete strangers. He travelled, solving dilemmas, performing great deeds, advising both rich and poor and spreading his fame, far and wide.   His advice was always good, though often it seemed gnomic and mysterious when first bestowed. He possessed insight far beyond that of an ordinary man. The years of his youth are shrouded in mystery, but his adulthood is very well documented, in personal testimony, copies of which are found...

Quack Quack!

"That Meryl!" Episodes 5 and 6 are here

Episode 5 Episode 6  Yes, it's true. Meryl is an HIV denier too. She's tried to paint herself as an honest questioner, but after she's been handed evidence and research and is still asking the questions that research has answered, the only applicable label is "denialist". So, there we have it. Meryl Dorey: conspiracy theorist and AIDS denialist. Ooooooh, That Meryl!

Shirt, tie and jacket: Corporate voodoo

[Here's a post I wrote and never published a while ago. My job has since changed, but you can't escape the voodoo] I'll get this out of the way immediately. I do not like formal "business dress". Shirts, ties and proper trousers shit me to tears. I feel uncomfortable and as a result I am less effective. I'm pretty sure I'm not the only one. I also don't trust "suits" as far as I can throw them. I work in IT. I do complicated magic with computer software, for which I'm paid quite a lot of money. I've been doing this for...

More whinging from the Theist Front of NSW

Ethics Trial a Rees Throwback: Catholics A telling headline if I've ever seen one, as a representative of the local Catholic lobby attempts to tie the NSW Secular Ethics education trial, which has just begun, to Nathan Rees's premiership. The implication is of course that since Rees was forced out by a secret ballot orchestrated by the current party faithful, that obviously this is somehow a "bad" policy of a "failed' premiership that's only snuck through by the skin of its teeth. The truth, of course, is far from the fantasy promoted by Mr Robert Haddad and the church generally*. The ethics trial...

Skepticator For Mobile Devices pilot version hits the web

Yes, if you have a mobile device, hit up http://m.skepticator.net/ to view the latest news from the skeptisphere. GWT will be added later, as will search capability. Here we see it running on my slightly battered HTC Touch Pro. It's the basic basic theme as its big brother, with the rounded corner fripperies removed and the left-hand navigation gone, ad it also cuts down on showing the opening paragraphs of stories, just the title, where it's from and when it appeared. It's also the first of my sites to go out on .NET 4.0. At the moment, it's ad-free as I've not yet...

Theists to NSW MPs: "But we neeeeeed our monopoly on children's minds!"

It's come to my attention that the god-bothering population of NSW is currently engaged in a letter writing campaign in a poorly thought-out and somewhat transparent attempt to stymie the planned Secular Ethics class trial currently kicking off in NSW. Our theistic Premier, Kristine Keneally, has already, it seems, decided that churches are qualified to "vet" a secular ethics class, despite this being far from their specialist subject. Now the churches are attempting a grassroots DDoS campaign to convince MPs that secular ethics are evil and must be stopped. Chrys Stevenson writes:  Important for Australian atheists/secularists - the Christian rent-a-crowd have been busy...

Hardware/Software as mind/body dualism metaphor

This was retweeted to me by good ol' @DrNancyMalik*  this evening. Of course you, my dear readers, being smart, well educated and (may I say) extremely attractive people, can see right through this bollocks, right? Still, for the hard of thinking, let's expand a little. This is a very badly written paraphrase of an argument I've run into repeatedly - that is, the invocation of dualism and some kind of refutation of the atheist, materialist position. That I've had it pushedmy way by a homeopath is a mildly unusual platform, but it's the same old tired claim nonetheless. I have a simple answer for it, which...

Australian Vaccination Network: 407A Notification of Cessation of Business

What? No Fucktards?

Apparently, someone's been searching Skepticator for the word "fucktards". No results were found. Well, says I, why not rectify that? The following people have been alleged to be fucktards Dr Joseph Mercola Mike Adams Meryl Dorey DrNancyMalik Dana Ullman Each and every one a fucktard. Additions to this list can be sent to me in the usual way, or added to the comments below.

Improvements to Skepticator

When last I posted about Skepticator, it was a raw, fresh-faced little website with a few command-line apps behind it drawing content. It had something like 64 feeds aggregated, and was ticking along slowly with about 1000 posts to look through. But there was no easy way to actually dig for content. It was a very linear experience, and if you wanted just the latest Skeptical commentary, that was fine. But that's not why I started it. So, since I last posted, I've been working away like mad to make Skepticator much, much cooler.  - Warning: Massive techy nerdy geek-out follows. If you're not...

Esprit d'Escalier and ECREE

I was hanging out on a christian facebook group last night, as you do. The discussion got round to standards of evidence, and "how come you demand strong evidence for the existence of a god when one of your mates could just tell you something and you'd accept it".   The accepted course of action at this point is to raise "Extraordinary Claims Require Extraordinary Evidence", or ECREE, and I usually do this along the following lines, though this time, I added a flourish I hadn't added before (in italics):   Look, if a friend called me and said he'd seen a three legged...

A win for skepticism - #VoteRachie

Yes, the campaign to get Dr Rachael Dunlop to the top of the Shorty Awards has borne fruit  

Belief in Erwin Alber is a form of delusional insanity

Let me introduce Erwin Alber. Erwin is an antivaxxer. he runs a few conspiracy-themed antivax groups on facebook, and occasionally trolls skeptical pages. He's only got one trick though. Are you ready for it? Here it is: Yes, you read right. Erwin's trump card is a quotation from Dr Herbert M. Shelton, one of the 20th Century's greatest quacks. A quack who didn't merely rip off his patients. Didn't merely make his patients sick, but actually starved his patients to death, and after doing so, continued to practice without a licence, causing yet more death. A man who believed he could...

I am Sean The Blogonaut

Some of you may be familiar with this man His name, you may believe, is "Sean The Blogonaut". Well, I can reveal, yes folks, you heard it here first, that the man in the picture is merely an actor, picked from the cheaper end of a Sydney casting agency's "serious yet handsome" list, in order to carry out my dastardly, pseudonymical plan. Yes, ladies and gentlemen, I am Sean The Blogonaut. My macchiavellian scheme would have worked, too, were it not for some meddling kids. I am, in the end, particularly proud of my achievements while writing as "Sean". A Monthy MIller Award, some...

Mike's $10,000 is quite safe

As ever, in the cause of promoting skeptical thought and critical thinking while on the internet, I've been out there on the tubes causing trouble. The campaign to put Dr Rachael Dunlop into the lead of the Shorty Awards Health category has been very successful. Very successful indeed. Of course, during the making of this very successful campaign, it's become clear that not only is Mike Adams a quack, but he's also a mass-email marketer and colluder with big business, a supporter of Scientology and their front-group CCHR, and a general butthurt whining hypocrite. He's also the originator of a $10,000 "challenge"...

Help fight pseudo-scientific medical quackery on twitter

If you have a twitter account, you've probably seen the occasional tweet flow past mentioning the Shorty Awards in the last few days. The Shorties are an independent award for the best short-form content in a number of categories, awarded annually in March. As you might expect from our friend the internet, alt-med woo-woo, anti-vaccination nutbaggery and pseudoscience are rife, and alt-med quacks are polling high in the #health category. This is not a good thing Luckily, skeptics to the rescue. Doctor Rachael Dunlop, heart disease researcher, blogger, podcaster and science-based medicine campaigner, is now the subject of a campaign to take back...

The argument from the Gregorian Calendar

I'd seriously never seen this argument before, but christians now seem to be coming out with this more and more often. OK, what's hard to understand that, during the last millennium, Europe was the major colonial power, and that Europe used a christian calendar? And that we still use it because to change it would be expensive, absurd and largely pointless? Are they really this stupid? Yes they are *sigh*

A conversation in the garden

Scene: Garden of Eden. Newly built. Adam and Eve, sounding naive and newly minted, converse with God. Birdsong in background, gentle waters lapping.   God: So, Adam, Eve. You like it here? Adam: Oh yeah, it's great! Eve: Nice flowers! G: Good, glad you like it. Took me days. A: I'm quite fond of the trees. E: Oh yeah, just look at the trees. G: Yes, I like them myself, and speaking of trees, before I let you alone there's just one thing. A: OK. What? E: Oooh! Butterfly! G: There's this one thing, right? A: Ok.... G: There's a tree over there. With fruit on it A: The big one? G: Yes, the big...

Way to miss the point, Ruth

Ruth Gledhill writes the "Articles of Faith" blog for the UK's Times newspaper. I've subscribed to her column for a while now, because as an activist atheist, it's always good to see what's going on around the world in the area of "faith". One of the problems* with Ruth is, though, that occasionally, she just doesn't get it. Take this headline, for example. Happy 'atheist bus' children are Christians Oh, Ruth! That's ironic! Those silly atheists have done a bus ad featuring children, but they're actually christians! Ho ho ho! Oh, those atheists, oh so wrong. Trouble is, here's what the ad actually says So in...

A Universe From Nothing

Laurence Krauss is my new hero. Explains curvature of space and higher-dimensonal geometry exactly the way I explain it in the pub - with triangles on spheres. Also touches on Hilbert's Hotel, a brilliant insight into the concept of infinity. Recommended watch. MAKE yourself an hour of free time so you can watch this. Seriously.

The textual contradiction paradox

To my knowledge, only in Christianity does this happen. You point out direct contradictions in an account, and are immediately regaled with: But that's evidence that it's true! There is no other field, that I know of, where this could happen. In the context of a scientific theory, two conflicting sets of data are an indication that your hypothesis may not be correct. In jurisprudence, two conflicting testimonies mean that one or more of the parties are either lying or mistaken. In everyday experience, if one friend tells you they saw Britney Spears in the street and the other says "No that...

God and the Yangtze River Dolphin

You may have noticed I have a passing interest in the subject of religion. You may also have noticed I have a penchant for biology, especially evolutionary biology. Which got me to thinking...   I'm currently watching my way through Last Chance To See, a TV reprise of the 1990 book of the same name, starring Mark Carwardine and Stephen Fry. The aim of the series is to revisit some of the world's rarest and most endangered species, an audacious aim given that these reclusive and solitary species are down to tiny numbers of wild specimens. Much of the series has already...

Error: compassion not compatible with evolutionary origins. Abort/retry/fail?

  Oh, Albert. That last paragraph has just earned you a coveted place in my "Raging Fucking Nutbags" Tweetdeck column, because let's face it, that 's a *really* stupid thing to say.   In fact, evolutionary theory predicts and demands compassionate behaviour in social species. Allow me to explain.   Your strawman of evolution, that the strongest survive, that there's no call to altruism and that "might is right" might be correct, if only we were an entirely solitary species. In your cartoon version of evolution, we're all meandering through life entirely alone, just looking for things to eat and things to fuck, and our...

Victorian Government drags feet on funding atheists, bends over backwards for religions

As some of you rabble may be aware, next year sees the "Rise Of Atheism" convention in Melbourne, Australia. This is a global-level convention featuring the likes of Richard Dawkins and PZ Myers as speakers, and is expected to see thousands of non-believers descend on Melbourne in a godless frenzy of spending and debauchery*. The AFA, not unexpectedly, has applied to the Victorian Government for funding assistance, and seeing as this event will be bringing a significant amount of dollars to Melbourne, some response was expected. Nothing so far but the chirping of crickets Meanwhile, Melbourne is hosting something called "The World Parliament...

The AVN gets unexpected results

The Australian Anti Vaccination Network put an interesting poll up on their site last night. They asked (in a somewhat naive manner): Will you be getting the swine flu (AH1N1 2009) vaccine? With the options Yes No I already have I'm not sure, I need to do more research first I'm sure you can guess how this turned out once Twitter was alerted to the poll's existence? My spies tell me that Meryl and her cronies had no idea how it was done until earlier today when...

Announcing: Sydney Ukulele and Beers Meetup

Yes, Myself and good mate James Taylor decided, over a couple of glasses of wine and some rousing choruses of "Creep", "Light at the End of the Tunnel" and "When I'm Cleaning Windows", to start a meetup group here in Sydney for those interested in: Drinking a beer or two Playing songs on ukulele Having a laugh To join, you must fulfill at least two, preferably three of the above criteria and join the Facebook Group "Sydney Ukulele 'n' Beers Meetup". We're currently in the process of finding a venue for the...

Mercury: the second most-toxic substance known to man

... or not As my readers* may be aware, my recent skeptical focus has been all over the anti-vaccination lobby, a bunch of rabid, idiotic fringe-dwellers who think vaccines are the sole cause of everything bad in the world. One of the oft-repeated canards of the antivaxers is that vaccines contain thimerosal, which contains mercury, and that mercury is the second most toxic substance known to man. But is it? Liam Skoda, over at the Stop The AVN Facebook group, took up the challenge of this question and in short order demolished this piece of antivax nonsense. Liam simply looked up some known lethal dose...

Sydney Atheists has a Facebook Page

Yep, Sydney Atheists, as part of some upgrading of online communication, has a Facebook Page. If you're on Facebook, why not become a fan and get updated of forthcoming events, news and other stuff that may be important to a member of Sydney Atheists?

Using chaos to support theism: wrong again

Jesse The Radical is anything but. Mostly, he's recycling old pseudo-scientific refutations of atheism as if he really understands what they mean. Problem is, if he realy understood what they mean, he wouldn't be using them. Take this little doozy, for instance: Chaos does not produce order. The universe has order, therefore, it could not have been produced by chaos. #atheist #fb Well, OK, Jesse. Let's just see if you're right about that, shall we? First, let's define "Chaos". From teh wikipedias: Chaos (derived from the Ancient Greek Χάος, Chaos) typically refers to a state lacking order or predictability. OK, fair enough. That's fine....

JANDO

I just got this email, via the blog's feedback mechanism, from someone calling themselves "Jando" (email address withheld). Interesting reading about all points of view is available. I can't help but think that these blogs are a bit too personal (ie riddled with one-liners, insults, comebacks, counter insults etc) from both sides to provide any real mature context for the debate on wether to vax or not to vax. What everyone here needs is a good shot of rationale open debate. I suppose I also wonder why one side is SO pro and one SO anti, maybe the pro's should let...

Meryl undermines her own case again

They're not as smart as they'd like you to think, these antivaxers. The latest salvo in Meryl Dorey's Twitter War against vaccination: Polio surge in Nigeria after vaccine virus mutates - Yahoo! News: Polio surge in Nigeria after vaccine virus mut.. http://bit.ly/DhFf0 Whoah, scary headline. And it's true. A poorly-implemented polio vaccination program in Nigeria does appear to have caused the emergence of some new genetic variants of Polio. This is scary. Surely this means that all vaccinations are suspect now? Well, no. You see, Nigeria still uses an old, outdated, live polio vaccine because, basically, it's cheap. Cheap as chips. Trouble is, there are... problems with it. Turns out that...

Antivax: Sometimes what you omit defines the most effective lies

As ever, the twitter backlash against the Australian Vaccination Network continues. One particular item has grabbed my attention. @nocompulsoryvac, a twitter account run by Meryl Dorey on behalf of the AVN, tweeted this little gem today, on a claimed 155% risk increase for Autism. Well, this piqued my interest. That's a fairly spectacular figure, representing a significant 2.5x increase in risk. Wow. And it's quite a specific number too. Must be conducted in quite a rigorous manner, eh? Well, no. Not really. You see, even though Meryl left that little gem unattributed*, I decided I was going to hunt down this data point...

Oh look, my blog is back!

Now isn't that a thing? Yes, the server fell down for a while. Well, actually, for ever. There's a new server running the blog now and it's much more powerful. Also more resilient. Also more expandable. Also, tapered. No, not tapered. But better. So what's been happening while I've been away? Well, before the great server apocalypse of '09, crazy things were happening with the antivax nutters of the Australian Vaccination Network. Crazy things are still going on, but we're winning, hard. Since my last post, the AVN have decided that an open group on Facebook doesn't support their requirements any more. It's too...

Third episode in a continuing series...

... of antivax morons   You'll recall from yesterday's post that Jane was the lovely lady wishing that my next shot was a lethal one. She then suggested that my good friend Peter should "gargle bleach [to] help with the smell of shit of your breath". Jane is a wonderful human being. She also later accused Peter of being incarcerated for 18 months for aggravated assault (untrue), and of being sued over a post on his "ratbags" webpage (also untrue). I hit my posting limit this evening, in addressing the pure idiocy of these folks. Today was perhaps a little less juvenile than...

More lulz from the Anti Vaccination crowd

If you saw yesterday's post, dear reader, you'll be aware that I've been flexing a little skeptic muscle on the Australian Anti Vaccination Network's Facebook page. The subject of yesterday's post, Erwin Alber, seems to have slinked off with only a parting Hitler reference to remember him by. But we've got a whole 'nother batch of crazy cooking up. Enter Jane, Lauren and Nicola, three rabid supporters of the Antivax movement. Through today blows were traded, statistics cited (our side), anecdotes rambled (their side), links provided (our side) and emotive fearmongering employed (guess which side) It eventually became clear that the strain...

Either stupid or a barefaced liar

One of the current targets of the Australian Skeptics is the Australian Vaccination Network. I will not stoop to link to them, though a swift search engine foray will either get you to their site or, depending on how the skeptics have reacted, a googlewhacked site explaining their work. Essentially, under the guise of "caring for the children", the Australian Vaccination Network is actively discouraging vaccination for children. Yep, that's what I said. They're discouraging vaccinating your kids. I don't wish to cover old ground, so I'll point you to my good friend Doctor Rachael Dunlop's blog, which has extensive coverage and...

Does Australia deserve Church/State separation?

In my opinion, yes, but let's face it, according to a 1981 High Court judgement, we absolutely don't have separation. And this has come up today on a discussion among the Committee of the Sydney Atheists. You see, in one of our first podcasts, we discussed Exo Days. Exo Days are an outreach program kicked off by Hillsong Church so that school kids in nominally secular state schools can be evangelised to, without an explicit evangelistic title. It's kinda stealth recruitment, if you will. Well, it turns out that "Big Exo Day" is sponsored by our beloved Federal Government. For which, see screenshot:   Regular...

Top Tips for Sydney Drivers

I drive in one of the world's most stupidly laid-out cities. There's a big fucking harbour right down the middle, and hills, and rivers, and sloppily laid-out suburbs aplenty, coupled with a population that is both affluent and incredibly self-centred. Good driving conditions this does not create. In addition, we have governments and government agencies that, seemingly, have no fucking clue about traffic flow, bottlenecks or decent road maintenance, coupled with a vocal minority of residents who seem to believe that, while traffic flow is broken, we must UNDER NO CIRCUMSTANCES, change anything about the roads in their area. This is awesome. And the...

Universal Response to Pope Benedict XVI

So the pope has come up with another one of his special statements comdemning abortion/family planning/condoms/sexual immorality, this time admonishing Nancy Pelosi for her stance on abortion. The thing is, whenever the pope issues one of these dopey statements I feel compelled to remind everyone: Do not take advice on sex and reproduction from an 82-year old dress-wearing male virgin This would not be sensible. Here's a musical interlude Yes, everyone, Pope Rick Benedict XVI is still a virgin*.   * I have it on good authority that altar boys do not count

Professors should know better

Professor Clive Hamilton is the latest voice in The Australian's ongoing blog series about CleanFeed. Read this, then read this. I think you'll see my first objection to the professor's article. His hatchet-job employment of the slippery slope argument is a collossal fallacy that fails to address the anti-cleanfeed lobby's actual objections to the proposed filter. He then goes on to employ strawmen as low-rent caricatures of the opposition, and repeats several already-addressed objections on GetUp's use of test data, then throws out some more strawmen. There is a simple, currently available, low-impact solution to Clive's extreme, fallacious example: Kids should not have unfettered access...

Syndey Mourning Harold Fials et Spilling

Yes, Sydney's newspaper of record struggles to spell "grammar". Delicious irony.   link

Critical Mass Podcast #4 has arrived

Yes, you heard right, Critical Mass #4 is available here. Featuring Ian Woolf, hosting, Dave The Happy Singer, Alan Conradi and some drunken madguy-bloke-type-thing. Music has become a touch more prominent in this edition, with contributions from Dave The Happy Singer, Baby Hammer Death, and Boxxy. There's also a lot of namedroppery, and many lulz. Note: the Oxford Comma in the music sentence is there for a reason, just in case you think less of me. So, anyway, the song halfway through is based on Adam Green's "Jessica" and was a first-take production of FlightPath Studios. Yes, it was my doing, one night...

And the Best Comment Gold Medal goes to....

The following piece of truly stellar logic from "rational" on Bernadette McMenamin's Australian IT pro-CleanFeed piece Apparently 674 of the URLs currently on the ACMA blacklist contain child pornography material. On July 25, 2008, Google software engineers Jesse Alpert and Nissan Hajaj announced that Google Search had discovered one trillion unique URLs. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/World_Wide_Web) So, the government wants to spend tens of millions of dollars to protect us from 0.0000000674% of the internet. [emphasis mine] Bravo, dear sir. Fucking Bravo. You win today's Comment Gold. The rest of the comment, and many other solid gold items, can be viewed at the link above

On the Ontological Argument

Oh, for fuck's sake... Ontological Argument When you say that no evidence is offered by this argument, you seem to be ruling out immediately the possibility of an a priori argument for the existence of God. As a methodological conclusion, a bit more is required. In any event, I agree that there is something wrong with this argument. Then again, there may be forms of the argument that get past your objection that it also proves the existence of any imaginary kind of thing. Consider this simple form: 1. God is, by definition, the most powerful person. 2. Persons that exist are more powerful...

There is no scientific controversy over evolution...

... but there is a political controversy, and a religious controversy. What brought this on? Well, as a couple of previous posts have intimated, Sydney Atheists popped on up to Toongabbie Anglican Church over the weekend. During the discussion afterwards, I was chatting with a member of the congregation, I believe one of the pastors. Sorry dude, forgot your name, but you'll soon know who you are. The conversation, paraphrased, went something like this. I'm 'J', Mr Christian is 'X' X: But evolution is just a theory, right? J: You're misunderstanding the word "theory". It does not mean the same as "hypothesis". X: But...

Response to David @ Toongabbie Anglicans

I've been trying, for quite some time now, to post this response on Toongabbie Anglican's website. All I got was fucking fail:  I'm a bit fucking annoyed about this. Still, I saved the comment and can post it here. Original thread HERE. Hi David, I can understand why you’d feel a little intimidated at the thought of entering a pub full of atheists. After all, you may interrupt us while we’re eating babies and plotting our next shopping mall rampage. Obviously we couldn’t let you out alive if that happened. Note: that is a joke. Anyway, as for discussion with Sydney Atheists as a...

Unlikely occurrences are not miracles, OK?

I've been meaning to post this for a few days, but today's collossal media fail on the Hudson River's newest boat has prompted me to step up and do the rant thing Stop throwing the word "miracle" around to describe things that are not miracles. Here is what a miracle is, according to dictionary.com an effect or extraordinary event in the physical world that surpasses all known human or natural powers and is ascribed to a supernatural cause. A highly-skilled pilot ditching a plane in a river without loss of life is NOT A FUCKING MIRACLE. A baby surviving against long odds is NOT A FUCKING MIRACLE Being...

Medical Science will save your ass...

... and god will do fuck all That is the inevitable conclusion I am forced to draw from reality as it manifests itself. Anyway, let's just update on where I'm at right now. After a minor explosion in blogging over recent times, when I looked like I may actually establish myself as a regular blogger once more, I've had another outage. This one is not because I'm a lazy asshole. No, this one is because my girlfriend of several years, Esther, has been in intensive care with severe respiratory problems for the last few days. Make no mistake about this: it was severe, life-threatening,...

Critical Mass Podcast #3 is online

Produced by... oh, you know, some genius editing and production dude, with support from Ian Woolf*. This represents the first complete release from Flightpath Studios, even though it was emphatically not recorded here (we tried it. It was problematic. Think about the name "flightpath") I also talk on it, a bit, though having to share a mic and being my first podcast, I did stay to the background a little. Wait till next time though. Also, my news item: Serious Business. Features, our friends: Ian Woolf, Alan Conradi, Dave The Happy Singer, Anthony Englund and myself. Published via SydneyAtheists.org here. * truth be told,...

3rd of January, 2009: Epic slow news day

It must have ben a slow news day, because I ended up finding this story in the "National" section of the Sydney Morning Herald, normally a fairly reliable news source: Holy vision greeted return of Mary MacKillop's nuns  OK, I mean seriously, WTF? You mean just because an SMH fluff-peddler had a boring day, I have to beat up on some old codger from SA? Fair enough, let's get moving. The story tells of a 93-year-old man called "Nat Renfrey", a devout catholic and long-term resident of Penola, Mary McKillop's home town. Supposedly, in 1936, when 20 years old, at Renfrey was playing...

Jett Travolta is dead

Many media outlets are reporting on this, most under their "entertainment" sections, and this being the case, you may wonder, if you're not already in the know, why I'm writing about it, on the homepage of a self-confessed atheist, geek, climber, curmudgeon. How can this possibly tie back to the topic this blog is ostensibly based on? Well, if you'll allow me to elaborate, this ties back to potential harm caused by religious dogma. Come with me on a journey into dogma unleashed. You see, Jett Travolta, in addition to being a 16 year old kid prone to seizures and exhibiting symptoms...

Dave The Happy Singer has joined us in blogland

Follow the Happy Singer here.

Tim Minchin: One of our greatest humans

Storm

How to do it wrong on the internets

It's always a good day when someone PMs you with a threat of physical violence. jason please dont make this personal and your right about one thing i am not the worlds best speller and some times when i type fast i miss letters and dont check maybe i should use spell check but i didnt so shoot me . but to chastize me would be a mistake i would rather talk about the way religion is so evil and wrong not on how i should spell and hearing about flouride on a athiest group . i dont like fighting but i play...

Cultural Sensitivity redefined for the hard of thinking

A Muslim man is suing Tesco for religious discrimination because they asked him to handle alcohol. Now, I don't have every detail on this case, but it's a fair bet that one or more of the following predicates could apply: Our muslim friend is not smart enough to realise that working for a large retail store which sells alcohol may occasionally bring him into contact with, well, alcohol. Tesco are so cringingly culturally sensitive that they genuinely thought when hiring this man that they'd be able to work round this fundamental problem The hiring manager has...

Greater

English, motherfucker, do you speak it?

The next person who says or writes "without further adieu", without it being a pisstake, or by way of example, is going to get stabbed, in the neck, with a pen. I mean it, fuckers.

Sydney Atheist Social Lounge this Thursday

25th Sept, 2008. 6.00pm onwards at the Kippax Lounge, upstairs at the Aurora Hotel, Elizabeth Street. And thence the last thursday of each month, until Jesus returns and ushers in the tribulation.

Gov. Sarah Palin's Church

Sarah Palin's Churches and The Third Wave from Bruce Wilson on Vimeo. I don't think I need to comment much further than to show this video. Floor's open

Camden fears Muslims; Welcomes Catholics

I don't believe I blogged on the original flap, because my sensibilities were not offended. Camden Council, south of Sydney, rejected a planning application for an islamic school after community outcry. Fair enough, thought I. I'm not prepared to judge the motivations of the community, but the outcome is one less modern madrassah, great. Turns out I wasn't entirely smart in that assesment. Camden is now fully behind a broadly similar application for a catholic school. OK, I'm almost certain to put at least one foot wrong here somewhere and get shouted down, however I think I ought to voice my thoughts, and they, at...

Analogy: The argument from scriptural truth

This blog post is completely, unimpeachably true. How do I know? Because this blog post tells me that it's true.

The End Is Nigh

No, really. It Is. Honest Via Frode: The end of the world is right upon us. Any minute now fiery death could rain down from der heavens and fuck us right up. What? Really? I hear you say.... well, according to Ronald Weinland, YES. And I quote: "By the fall of 2008, the United States will have collapsed as a world power, or it will have begun its collapse and no longer exist as an independent nation within six months after that time." Riiiiiiiight. OK - Full disclosure: I'm not American I'm not pro-american, yet at the same time, I'm not...

Shermer vs. Lennox: Does God Exist?

Last night I attended the Great Debate at the Wesley Centre in Sydney, where along with an audience of several hundred, I watched Dr. Michael Shermer debate Professor John Lennox on the Subject: "Does God Exist?". Here is the transcript of that debate:   Moderator: Hello, I'm that bloke from the ABC, you probably recognise my voice. No? Oh. OK then. Anyway, here are the contestants who will enter thunderdome tonight. Audience: two men enter, one man leave... two men enter, one man leave... Shermer: Does God Exist? No. Thank you very much I'll see you after the show. No but seriously, try the veal....

Finally, some Youth Day/NoToPope photos are up

After intermittent struggling with SubText, I've finally managed to get the photo upload functionality working on this blog (with the assistance of Live Mesh, more on that later). To this end, I've added some photos from last month's No To Pope Rally. Yes, I know it's been a month, but this site's been playing silly buggers and I had an overseas trip and everything else to deal with - quit yer whinin'. For those who were living under a rock at the time, or have serious Short Term Memory Issues, Sydney hosted World Youth Day recently, an event more properly titled...

So, just what is an Atheist anyway?

I can hear the groans already. "Oh yeah, just what the web needs. Another one of these posts." Yes, it's not the only post of its kind by any means, however the question is still often asked. I was asked a version of this question just the other evening and no doubt wih the looming (and horribly misnamed) World Youth Day on the horizon here in Sydney, I'm almost guaranteed to be asked again. So straight into it. What is an atheist? The way I'm currently explaining it is something like this. First, we must define terms. Atheism, simply put, is "not theism". AskOxford defines...

Portmanteau word of the day

Christinanity encapsulating: Christ Christ nbsp; /kraɪst/ [krahyst] –noun 1. Jesus of Nazareth, held by Christians to be the fulfillment of prophecies in the Old Testament regarding the eventual coming of a Messiah.  2. the Messiah prophesied in the Old Testament (used chiefly in versions of the New Testament).  3. someone regarded as similar to Jesus of Nazareth.  + Inanity in·an·i·ty  /ɪˈnænɪti/ [i-nan-i-tee] –noun, plural -ties for 2. 1. lack of sense, significance, or ideas; silliness.  2. something inane.  3. shallowness; superficiality.  Creating a compund noun for cases of senseless religiosity which do nothing to advance anyone, to whit, almost any time the pope opens...

Why Debate Dogma?

I find much to agree with here, I must say. I could probably find numerous slices of disagreement with Pat's stance if I really tried, but truth be told I agree that religion doesn't deserve our validation. It's laughable, unsupportable, and has had a free pass for far too long. I would almost say: Amen, brother.

A tragic, yet important story

Under the category "Bullshit kills": Homeopath's baby 'died of infections' The next time anyone opens their senseless trap and asks what harm a seemingly trivial 'alternative' belief can do, I'll show them this link, after first punching them in their fat, stupid fucking mouth. There is no evidence that homeopathy works or has ever worked, and belief in this wacky, culty, frankly fucking weird school of alternative medicine is no better than appealling to wood spirits to cure your fucking toothache, or chanting to make it rain. That anyone in this day and age could neglect genuine proven medical treatment to dose their baby...

What the fuck is wrong with the US?

I'm speechless Actually, no, I'm not speechless. I'm fucking mystified, but I'm not speechless. Let's see. When's the worst time a person could possibly have access to a shotgun? Oh yes. when they're fucking half asleep. Let me just get something out right now. The whole of the United States of America is fucking batshit mental and must be stopped at any cost. Addendum: I'm moving to Sweden.

Nice to see Mark joining me on planet foam-at-mouth

Mark has posted a well argued and only mildly spittle-flecked indictment of Gillette Inc. over at his once biztalk-flavoured blog. He has a point, and it's nice to see someone else joining me up here where the heads are clear and the rants flow freely in the afternoon breeze. What the fuck is the deal with Gillette (and Schick) and their constant pissing around with a product that reached a pinnacle of perfection a number of years ago. It really is an example of where the curve has flattened. There's not a lot they can do to make the product any better*,...

As Ever, running behind the curve...

They have every album Enya ever made

This is Kieren and Symantha. Isn't this a terrible picture? Look at it and imagine the sort of people it suggests. Kieren and Symantha have matching pyjamas. They watch wholesome family entertainment on Channel 10, and think Rove McManus is the bee's knees. They use pet names for each other in public. Symantha still has her childhood teddy bear collection, which graces the single bed in their pastel spare room. They want to have several children "when they're ready". They drive a Prius. Slowly. It has a fish on it. They like fondue, and have matching tiger feet slippers. They drink hot chocolate from matching...

A quick primer: There, Their, They're

I've noticed. A lot of you out there on the internet are morons. You have trouble with simple, commonly used linguistic constructs in the English language. Many of you have jobs which pay you large amounts of money, not a penny of which you deserve. Some of you are 'management'. Others delight in the dubious job title of 'copywriter'. All of you are fuckwits; This is the reason: You have trouble with the very simple words There, Their and They're. It's a piece of cake, to use a rather hackneyed colloquialism, to distinguish between these three simple words. There denotes location. "It's over there". "There it is". "There's a bear...

Dear Santa

Can I please have one of these? Please? I could pretty much fit it into my Disco, but it looks like such a lot of fun...

Hitchens Strikes Again

Ralph Reed? Asshole. Sean Hannity likewise, with added blowhard value. But Christopher, well, he's got it sorted. VIctory #2 goes to Hitchens.

How about a little Monday afternoon musical insanity?

The incomparable Bela Fleck and the Flecktones; Bela Fleck, Victor Wooten, Jeff Coffin and Future Man. Probably the #1 live band I've ever had the privilege to see. If they pass by you, see them. Really.

We Win...

... and theists lose. That's right - you believers can just pack up your revival tents and fuck off.  By a margin of 1205 votes to 778, a clear mandate, the case "We'd be better off without religion" put forward by A.C.Grayling, Christopher Hitchens and Richard Dawkins was carried. Opposing were Rabbi Julia Neuberger, Professor Roger Scruton and Nigel Spivey. PZ provided the heads-up

Unexpected links: Breast Cancer; House Mice

ScienceBlogs can be utterly fascinating for a random surf. Today, for instance, I hit the front page and found this article: Breast Cancer Associated with Common House Mouse. The title is attention grabbing for one thing, but once inside there's a fascinating, well written and easy to digest summary of current research into the link between a human virus - HMTV - linked with breast cancer and the corresponding 'mouse version' of the virus, MMTV, which is known to cross species barriers, and some stats on relative distribution of human breast cancer incidence against common house mouse ranges. Science, when fascinating and...

God won't help you this time, sucker

One of the things I enjoy most is seeing other people's misfortune. It's not very charitable, but there's a certain irresistable comedy in, say, seeing someone walking down the street while writing an SMS, and walking straight into a lamp-post. It reaches in to your autonomic nervous system and pulls strings other humour just can't touch. It also has to be genuine. Any comedian can get dressed up as an old lady and fall down the stairs, but to be groin-tearingly funny, it has to be a real old woman* Also, in some way, the satisfaction level is pushed up by how deserving the...

ID Schemes and National ID by default

I picked up my new NSW driving licence this morning (having been on a UK driving licence up until now), and this got me to thinking about a subject I've had some previous thoughts on. A lot of countries are currently looking at introducing National ID Schemes. Such schemes have been around before, notably in times of war when (possibly justifiable) paranoia brings forth a need to identify citizens and by extension, identify potential enemies. In times of peace (notwithstanding the putative 'War On Terror®'), the need seems less justifiable. Personally, I'm very much against the carrying of any kind of photo-ID day-to-day....

I never, ever thought I'd say this

But Michael Portillo and I seem to have some common ground I didn't think we would. We share a great distaste for religion in politics. He is of course, utterly wrong on the following quote "I recognise that teaching religious belief may be a good way, perhaps the best way, to impart a sense of right and wrong to children" This is about the only part of the essay which I could call egregiously wrong, and it mars what would otherwise be a very well argued point. Teaching about religious belief, perhaps, could give some useful insights in conjunction with genuine morals and...

Quack Quack!

Are you aware of 'Dr' Gillian McKeith?

The Toyota Prius: Environmental Disaster

I have come to a conclusion, as I often do, which may surprise readers (all three of you). You may be aware of the Toyota Prius, which aside from being the World's Ugliest Car also lays claim to saving-the-world-one-puff-of-CO2-at-a-time super efficiency. Friends, I shall prove to you that this is a myth. My theory is built upon the observation that Prius drivers potter along like they're your bloody granddad. For instance, I personally was stuck in a queue of traffic on a single-lane, no-overtaking, 60kph-limit road for about 4km at 30kph, just a day or two ago. In my car (heavy, diesel-powered 4WD) that meant...

Don't ask. Really, don't ask

So I'm surfing the web for source images and I stumble upon this site, and find this image: To the author of the site this is the hands of god. The me, this is Godse.cx. I haven't done the background research yet, having just shot beer out of my nose on seeing the image on a serious (if slightly insane) religio-zealot's website, but I'd be willing to lay odds that this is a Fark photoshop entry or possibly a SomethingAwful forum item. My nose hurts. Update: this, trivially enough, is what I was after: "Moses, dude. Get it fucking right, OK? You're looking for a land...

Embryonic Cloning passes parliament

Yes, despite the opposition of wannabe-theocrats John Boy, Abbot and Costello, Mark Vaile, and (surprisingly or not) new Labor leader Kevin 'bring in the god squad' Rudd, Peter Garrett and Tony Burke, therapuetic cloning of embyos has the go-ahead. A step forward has been made, despite the opposition of those who prefer to think with the gut in place of the organ so well evolved for it, the brain. Said Rudd: "I find it very difficult to support a legal regime which allows creation of a form of human life with the single purpose of allowing the conduct of experimentation.". Well, yeah. OK. Twisting the...

The forthcoming WA DST Change

Western Australia is about to trial Daylight Savings Time. Literally about to. The change will begin on December 3rd and will be a three-year trial, after which WA will hold a referendum on whether to keep the change in place. So what does this mean for your computer? Well, not too much, hopefully. At Microsoft the team has been hard at work to implement a fix to the WA timezone for Windows, so WA users will not be subject to the confusion this move could potentially cause. Without this fix, automatic time changes won't happen, stored appointments may be an...

The best news ever

SMH reports that the NSW government will offer free wireless broadband in the Sydney CBD and significant centres by 2008. This is such great news. But the countdown begins to when Telstra try to crush this beautiful idea like a bug, since it would be percieved as a threat to their bottom line

An Inconvenient Truth

It's taken a while, but I've finally watched An Inconvenient Truth. Let me tell you one thing right at the start of what will inevitably become a rant: On the large scale, it is a GOOD thing that Al Gore didn't become President of the USA in 2000. Mr Gore has had the opportunity, having stepped back from politics, where frankly he was doing no good, to actually develop a serious platform with the potential to actually benefit mankind. He has some seriously bad points, personally. For a Democrat, he's far too conservative for my own politics, and he was inevitably (as wife...

The only thing that can unite the fuckwits....

.... is hatred. Welcome to tolerant Jerusalem, centrepiece of Abrahamic religion and its message of peace and love. Do I need to add anything?

Enlightenist? A bit unweildy, but it might work

I just dug this excellent article up via the Richard Dawkins Website. It proposes, much in the vein of 'The Brights', a new label for rationalist, non-religious thinking people. You know, those of us that don't believe in all that unsupportable superstitious claptrap. My particular favourite sentence is this: “...if there is an interventionist God then there would be continuing demonstrable evidence of such, which there most certainly is not, and if there is a creator God who is non-interventionist then he neither requires nor merits worship, and if there is no God at all then so be it. ” Which kinda captures...

Pubic Service Announcement

Now that North Korea has THE BOMB, I thought perhaps it would be appropriate to share this important safety information.

Lord Jesus, Please heed my HTTP request...

... and shower down your blessings in Content-Type: text/html. So it seems an organisation with its roots still firmly trapped in the Bronze Age is gittin' jiggy wid “new media” and “blogging” and “online communities” in order to avoid “becoming an anachronism.”. Newsflash, jeezuz freakz0rs! Your entire philosophy is thousands of years out of date, and a thin veneer of silicon is not going to help in the long run. Anyway, you're not the first. Seriously, though, the Anglicans may see some gains by embracing technology, but as with all religious endeavours, they're ultimately beating an empty drum. My hope is that by embracing...

Standards of written English, or Why The Fuck Can't Anyone Spell "Their"

Lynne Truss holds forth on the state of written English in today's Sydney Morning Herald. I, for one, agree heartily with Lynne's stance on poor English, and freely admit I'm imperfect in my own on occasion - but I make a conscious effort to get it right. Poor grammar and spelling are two things (of many) which make my blood boil, to the point where I generally go hungry rather than eat at a restaurant or cafe with a menu written by a functional illiterate. Lynne puts her finger on the nub of the problem - people who say “as long...

Pot, stop being intolerant of that kettle!

The world's largest international Muslim body complained of shrinking tolerance in the west yesterday http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/irony    

So I'm sitting here...

.. having a couple of VBs and installing Windows Media Center Edition 2005 onto my chunky home server box and I got to thinking; I spent about 25 minutes trying to find my MCE install media, and some other time trying to track down the product key (which was, for some reason, not in the same place). And I thought to myself, wouldn't it be nice if we had the equivalent of RIS (remote installation service) over the net? I may or may not be “ahead of my time” here, but bear with me. I've had a couple of beers and...

Kevin Rudd loses mind, courts theocracy

Kevin Rudd is calling for Christian Organisations to take a bigger role in national politics. Yeah sure. Good idea. Because we really want Intelligent Design taught in schools and the Ten Commandments posted in public buildings. What, I ask you, is wrong with the separation of Church and State? If Christians were politically inactive, I wouldn't say so much, but the Jesus Bloc seems to already have its mitts well and truly on the political chalice, not to mention some recent political dirty tricks in New Zealand by nutcase hardcore christian group The Exclusive Brethren, who are incidentally based in Australia....

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