Science and Anti-Science

Last week, the wonderful Hubble Space Telescope helped provide fresh evidence for the expanding universe. Very cool stuff! Once more, observed data refutes supernatural claims about our existence.

Of course the ignoramuses in the Texas government introduce a bill to protect supernatural claims about our existence.


The ever-awesome xkcd comics displayed the following comic when I was clicking the random link. It is so true.

No wonder Texas feels the need to file meaningless bills.

Bad Astronomy

For the past couple of months, I have been following Dr. Phil Plait’s Bad Astronomy blog.

This is one of those blogs that you end up wishing you had been reading since the very first day. BA posts regular news updates and some stunning pictures from the world of astronomy (in particular) and science (in general). Plait also writes about the importance of skepticism and the abuse of the scientific method in areas such as homeopathy and the anti-vaccinations movement.

It is almost always interesting and well worth subscribing to the RSS feed.

Exiting The Deep Freeze

Phew! It is melting! The glorious upward tick in temperature started yesterday and I couldn’t be happier about it.

Microsoft’s office was closed most of the week; but since this weather shouldn’t keep someone who spent three decades in Canada down, I came in anyway. I was late a couple of days since I could not ride my bicycle and had to be dependent on taxis and buses.

My workouts were cancelled too. Funny, sometimes you don’t miss something until it is gone. I’ll be heading into the gym a bit later today to re-acquaint myself with the treadmill.

Being Canadian did not protect from slipping and falling either. Although minor, the ribs on my left side are still complaining to me about the damnable ice.

Dallas simply cannot handle this sort of thing. The city shuts down. I still laugh at them (sorry, but it is kind of funny) – I also empathize with them. I moved to Texas to get away from this sort of weather.

Time to get life back on track now. Laundry, groceries, workouts and more ray tracing await!

Australian Flooding

I have been following the stories of the flooding in Queensland with interest and concern.

This morning, the stories took a personal turn as my hometown of Brisbane is now affected. The dam protecting the city has held back what it can and now must allow flood waters into the city to prevent it from bursting.

To think it was only about 7 months ago that I walked by the 1974 flood marker!

I hope my friends are alright.

Quick edit to the original post; my friend Mark pointed me to this video from the town of Toowoomba. This is intense!

Michael Moore Posts Bail For Julian Assange…Sort Of

I liked what Michael Moore had to write in a Huffington Post article yesterday. Although it was typical Moore fair of not-quiiiiiite digging far enough and lacing it heavily with personal opinion. He claims to have posted bail for Julian Assange and makes it seem like he did it all himself. Read carefully and you’ll see that he had help and further, only half of the bail has been raised.

All of that aside, I do agree with Moore. This world needs something like WikiLeaks. Politicians and corporations often do act against the public and they rely on the public’s laziness and apathy (plus the control of most of the media) to get away with this behaviour. I would like to see these circumstance changed.

Texas judge puts state’s death penalty on trial


Is Texas actually becoming civilized? A Texan judge in Houston is challenging the legality of the state’s barbaric death penalty. This will be something to watch over the coming days.

There are certainly some people who should never be permitted back into society. However, the risk of executing an innocent person can never be reduced to zero percent. That makes it a chance not worth taking.

With any luck, Texas might become a state enjoyable to live in…

Props To WikiLeaks

I am amused at the tempest in a teacup that the newest WikiLeaks release has created. I saw that Vladimir Putin shrugged it off. Jon Stewart on The Daily Show shrugged it off. But Sarah Palin (genius in foreign policy that she is) and even Prime Minister Harper’s aide think that Julian Assange should be hunted down and killed.


It is a very long-shot that any of this material could actually lead to war (as Tom Flanagan claimed). At least such a war would have a reason behind it – unlike the War On Terror.

Yet Another Reason To Hate Facebook

The stories continue to build-up. First they sued over someone using the suffix "book" for their own website. Then they patent  the term "Face." Now it is revealed that Facebook can track you (whether you are a member or not) with the "Like This" link button that many sites use.

I tried to completely shutoff the use of cookies on my system, but too many websites became unusable. I am seeking other options to try to rid myself of third parties watching my every online move.

The line between privacy and usefulness continues to blur.

Why I Am Still Glad That I Quit Facebook

Last week Gizmodo revealed that a hacker had gathered 100 million Facebook profiles and produced a BitTorrent download (nearly 3 GB worth) of user’s personal data.

Let’s be clear here; there was no hacking involved here. Ron Bowes simply used Facebook’s wide-enough-to-fly-a-747-through API and the fact that its users are strongly encouraged to reveal everything about themselves. Remember, these Facebook users have willingly revealed this data to the world already.

What my Facebook friends didn’t seem to get is why this bothers me so much. I would still be on Facebook if I could undo what I had shared and simply return to being a name (and maybe a picture). I simply do not trust Facebook to let me return to that state of online being. They know that I am single (and I get hammered with never-ending ads for online dating sites despite telling them that I am not interested). Until I made it clear that I was an atheist, I even got ads for finding Christian single ladies.

The next day, Gizmodo updated the story by revealing just who was downloading all this personal data. Here is where it gets creepier.

  • Apple
  • AT&T
  • Church Of Scientology
  • Halliburton
  • IBM
  • Oracle

This could be users on their networks doing this rather than the corporations themselves. But doesn’t this send a shiver down your spine? Just a little one?

Can you not imagine what could be done by cross-referencing this information with previously collected data (you do read the fine print on every license agreement and contract you sign right…)? What if your insurance company hikes your premiums in spite of your good health because you have Facebook-ing about your new-found love of thrill seeking?

It is disconcerting to see gathered into one place all the information that is publicly available. We have all given up this data in one way or another. Quitting Facebook was my tiny attempt to strike back.

It Is About Time!

I have been waiting for President Obama to ask, "Whose ass do I kick?" for weeks now!

Until now, just about every news report that I have read regarding the Deepwater Horizon disaster features a penitent president accepting responsibility for this catastrophe. I don’t get it. This is not his fault. This is entirely the fault of BP and their vendors.

The government should be there with resources to help affected states clean-up. But the true culprits should be ultimately footing 100% of the costs.

Columnist Mark Morford phrased it the best way:

Truly, BP is behaving no better or worse than any other corporate spawn of Satan would in a similar situation. What’s more, if you don’t think every oil company on earth is right now kneeling before Beelzebub in gratitude that it wasn’t one of their own wells that exploded, you haven’t been paying attention.

Morford rightly continues, stating that this is not Obama’s Katrina (frankly, the comparisons made between the two events sicken me). Rather, it is Big Oil’s Chernobyl.

I hope that something good can come from this mess…