Garage Sailling

With the cost of living rising I can’t understand why there aren’t more people out garage sailing on weekends. It’s fun. It’s cheap. It’s full of bargains. Or, stealing a similar sales pitch triplet from Lock Stock – “It’s a deal. It’s a steal. It’s the sale of the…” hang on, that probably violates my sense of self censorship.

Anyway, I digress. On Saturday I teamed up with my regular garage sailing companion – Mr Ferguson, and a relative newcomer to the experience Mr Mildenhall. Craig and I have established some rules for our garage sailing trips that I think are worth sharing with the masses. He’s also harnessed the powers of modern technology to make garage sailing a breeze. I make no apologies for continuing the sailing motif.  

The rules:

1. You must barter, bargain, beg or negotiate on price. If the vendor refuses to drop the price you must try to get extras thrown into the deal.
2. You must buy something – somewhere during the day you must make a purchase.
3. Someone (usually me) has to buy a particularly stupid item for under $1.
4. Car doors must be locked at each stop.
5. Team members must be prepared to convince reluctant participants to buy something they clearly don’t need (like a fishtank).
6. You must have a friend available with a Ute or 4WD to pick up your bulky purchases.

Other observations on garage sailing regarding optimum conditions are best expressed by some mathematical equation where as time increases the opportunity to bargain increases and price decreases. But at the same time – availability of goods also decreases. The optimal time is somewhere in the middle – where bargains can be found – but the premium items have been snapped up by second hand dealers. Another element is consumer mood – where if you don’t get up at 6am – ie start somewhere closer to 9am – bargains are available and optimism is high.

Craig, being the technological early adopter that he is makes the process refined and efficient. Coordinates and details of each garage sail listed in the Townsville Bulletin are plugged into Google Maps – and routes are plotted with Craig’s laptop GPS system. Craig also now has wireless broadband – which means he can take photos of an item, email it to his wife and contact her via skype for approval. This is revolutionary stuff – and will change the face of Garage Sailing for ever. 

I’ll try to put up a photo of this week’s “trophy” a porcelain cow shaped gravy boat/milk jug – but for now you’ll have to content yourself with this pic

 

From the vault

I was reading something today – and there’s a language warning on that page – naming and shaming the 10 worst game consoles of all time. I had a pretty privelaged upbringing when it came to consoles – dad was a freelance computer game reviewer for a newspaper and some magazines – so we used to get things for free to play with – and our experience would help shape the stories. Sometimes we got to keep them. 

One of these units – which I remember quite fondly – didn’t make that top 10 list. But in all honesty probably should have. The Commodore CDTV was pretty groundbreaking in its day. It was one of the first units to integrate a CD like disk (well a CD – a precursor to the DVD) with a television.

I have fond memories of playing Defender of the Crown – a strategy game with some third person sword fighting thrown in (mostly to rescue damsels in distress who would become your bride – but occasionally to steal all the other person’s money) on the machine.

Anyway – this really is just a chance to pay a little nostaligic homage to such a crap machine. And is the first in a series of posts designed to convince my wife that an X-Box 360 is a necessity, not a luxury. Videogames teach valuable life lessons.

Uncategorized

On Russia – for Ben

Russia is a strange and mystical country full of socialists and iron-fisted military types. It surprises me they can see through the vodka induced stupor to bomb the crap out of a neighbouring country – let alone do so in defiance of a brokered peace deal. 

In all seriousness this conflict – and its timing (while the world is at play at the Olympics) worries me. Russia and China need an opportunity to flex their military might in the face of the US. This looks like a chance for them to do that. The US is stuffed – if they bite, they’ll probably either lose or have to nuke the crap out of Russia – neither seems like a wise move. The bearing it will have on the current presidential campaign will also be interesting – if McCain takes a strong stance it leaves Obama having to make an awkward decision.

The only easy solution I can see is for the US to topple Hugo Chavez in response – strike a blow against socialism and one for market based democracy. The analogies there are pretty endless – they’re similarly geographically remote from philosophical allies, they both influence the natural resource security of the larger country – and both have heads of state unpopular with the local neighbours but popular with the military superpower at the other corner of the globe.

That’s not really a solution – more a pointer to how complex this whole resource based empire game is. To quote the West Wing – “Free trade stops wars”.

Oil should be decommodified and used up as fast as possilbe. For free. By the masses. Then we’d have to use some initiative to wean ourselves off this dependency on a finite resource. Cost of living would stop growing astronomically and we’d all be happy.

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On golf

Golf is a stupid sport. I’m glad it’s not in the Olympics. Someone once told me that to get ahead in corporate life you should learn to play golf – and also learn to lose to your superiors. I think not learning to play golf almost guarantees the latter. 

Anyway, golf is a stupid game. I’m not sure what prompted this post.

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On secular humanism

In my continued reflections on the debate I’m having with my e-friends (ok, so they’re friends in real life – but the tyranny of distance means I see them maybe once a year) I find myself increasingly frustrated with the “secular humanism” movement. It’s really a quasi-religion set up to give atheists a framework to debate from. Secular humanists see their beliefs as the default “logical position”. 

The definition of humanism from Wikipedia:
“Humanism is a democratic and ethical life stance, which affirms that human beings have the right and responsibility to give meaning and shape to their own lives. It stands for the building of a more humane society through an ethic based on human and other natural values in the spirit of reason and free inquiry through human capabilities. It is not theistic, and it does not accept supernatural views of reality.”

My problems are as follows:
1. Humanism describes itself as optimistic on the human race’s ability to save itself. Human nature is seen as inherently good – but slightly selfish. This is how they reconcile survival of the fittest with external factors like our social “herd” instincts (best epitomised by Facebook), good and charitable acts without external motivation (which is how they dismiss the good and social acts of religious adherents), and the chaos obviously occurring between humans (Russia v Georgia is the latest example).
2. Humanism holds itself on a pedestal – and humanists look down on those who need the “crutch of religion” or the “imaginary sky friend” to get them through day to day life.
3. Humanists, in relying on reason, dismiss the notion of the supernatural – and will not debate on the possibility of anything supernatural existing without first seeing the evidence. This makes even approaching a discussion on religion almost futile.
4. Humanists rely on faulty evidence when dismissing Christianity – eg inaccuracy of scriptural translations.
5. Humanists are sold on postmodern thinking – which is yesterday’s news – rather than the modernist view of truth as verifiable, actual and objective.
6. Humanists are generally pretty smart – and generally blinkered by confidence in their own ability to reason. Human intelligence has limits. Humanists, in relying on their own prowess and dismissing the opinions of others as “subjective” and influenced by wants, desires and needs – are limited to their own capabilities. Some of the world’s most revered scientists – perhaps by nature of their positions as revered scientists are secular humanists – eg Einstein.
7. Further, humanism fails to recognise the limits of human capabilities – what if one day God is scientifically demonstrable? What happens to the current humanists? Human knowledge and understanding is in a constant state of flux – to pin a philosophy down to “what we currently think we know” or “what we can currently test” is dangerous.
8. Ethical living is not a natural response to atheism – nor is it the common response. Because secular humanists have realised the shortcomings of their position (slippery slope of morality) they seek to massage their philosophy to include this concept of “ethics based decision making.” Anarchy and hedonism are more logically consistent results of atheism.

Some key highlights from Wikipedia:

“In certain areas of the world, secular humanism finds itself in conflict with religious fundamentalism, especially over the issue of the separation of church and state. A faction of secular humanists may judge religions as superstitious, regressive, and/or closed-minded, while the majority of religious fundamentalists see secular humanism as a threat to the values they say are set out in religious texts, such as the Bible and the Qur’an.”

“Some criticize the philosophy of secular humanism because it offers no eternal truths nor a relationship with the divine. Critics allege that a philosophy bereft of these beliefs leaves humanity adrift in a foggy sea of postmodern cynicism and anomie. Some argue that this philosophy has always been antireligious and it is often used in connection with atheism.Humanists respond that such criticisms reflect a failure to look at the actual content of humanist philosophy, which far from being cynical and postmodern, is rooted in optimistic, idealistic attitudes about the future of human society that trace back to the Enlightenment, or further, back to Pre-Socratic Greek philosophers and Chinese Confucianism.

“Secular humanism describes a world view with the following elements and principles:

  • Need to test beliefs – A conviction that dogmas, ideologies and traditions, whether religious, political or social, must be weighed and tested by each individual and not simply accepted on faith.
  • Reason, evidence, scientific method – A commitment to the use of critical reason, factual evidence and scientific methods of inquiry, rather than faith and mysticism, in seeking solutions to human problems and answers to important human questions.
  • Fulfillment, growth, creativity – A primary concern with fulfillment, growth and creativity for both the individual and humankind in general.
  • Search for truth – A constant search for objective truth, with the understanding that new knowledge and experience constantly alter our imperfect perception of it.
  • This life – A concern for this life and a commitment to making it meaningful through better understanding of ourselves, our history, our intellectual and artistic achievements, and the outlooks of those who differ from us.
  • Ethics – A search for viable individual, social and political principles of ethical conduct, judging them on their ability to enhance human well-being and individual responsibility.
  • Building a better world – A conviction that with reason, an open exchange of ideas, good will, and tolerance, progress can be made in building a better world for ourselves and our children.”

You can’t really argue with someone holding these beliefs that a supernatural being exists – it runs counter to the tenets of their “faith.”

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On dialogue with atheists

I have some friends who are atheists – not just soft agnostics like most of society – but reasoned, secular humanists who think Dawkins lacks objectivity and is a rabid fundamentalist. You know, the logical type of atheists who have thought through life and made their own conclusions on the basis of the evidence they see around them. The type who make “moral judgements” based on empathy and reason. I’ve spent the last couple of weeks in pretty intense debate with them via email. The discussion has been protracted and mostly frustrating. I’ve also been feeling pretty outnumbered – it was three to one and then they introduced these two guys I’ve never met into the email circle. One of them is pretty much the only person who now reads this blog – so hi. I actually don’t know where he sits on the issue because he just commentates on the debate – and how much he hates analogies. 

This debate has made me question – not my beliefs – but my response to having them attacked. Pride is something I struggle with. I want to be right, I want to engage in the debate in an intellectual sense and essentially prove my faith* and convince these guys they should convert – and be just like me. Which again, kind of misses the point of Christianity – because I should be trying to convince people to be just like Christ. Here’s the rub – the Bible promises that the world’s wisdom will see Christianity and its message of a capitally punished God as foolishness (1 Corinthians) – so I can’t expect to be convincing, nor can I mention this in some kind of argumentative context – because to argue the veracity of something using that thing doesn’t really stack up. I can’t say “the Bible is true because it says it is.” Nor can I say “the Bible is true because I have experienced that it is” – because that is subjective. I also can’t say – “the Bible is true because all the observable evidence (ie pain and suffering) suggest it is” – because all the observable evidence is observed, and compartmentalised based on the starting hypothesis – ie if God is not there it’s all just chance and coincidence. My basic instinct in this debate is to debate. To apologise (in the “mount a defence for” sense) for my beliefs. Is this the right way to respond? I’m not convinced that it is – not in the frames of science and philosophy.

Science is limited. Science has merit, and a place in the world. Science answers questions of cause and effect, and makes observations to test and demonstrate hypotheses – science is good at what it does. What it can’t do is test that which can not be observed – and it is limited to the theories and subjective whims of those testing them through hypothesis. I can observe “facts” and essentially plug them into my frame of reference to demonstrate a theory. The theory always comes first.

History also has limits – postmodern criticism has merit – but to rob any text of the chance of being true and accurate objective history does a disservice to our understanding of human history and anthropology. Why can’t we trust the accounts of a number of people recorded in the one book – from very separate original documents – to reveal truth? This exercise also taught me that those who are passionately disinterested – or dispassionately interested – in Christianity have very little knowledge of the actual text of the Bible – and its history. Instead relying on years of inaccuracies and insipid, purposeful lies. “The bible has been changed over time” is one of those half truths that misses the point – it hasn’t been changed by whim – but by desire to bring it closer to the original text based on rigourous academic scholarship. It has been used as a political tool in the past – and those who most stridently opposed that were the Christian church – and these men were martyred for the cause. This sort of shoddy criticism has no grounding in anything but what my atheist friend told me in primary school so I believed it.

I think it’s unhelpful to present this debate (theism v atheism) in the sphere of the rational, observable or philosophical. To do so puts the existence of God on our terms – a God by nature transcends the rational and observable. God sets the rules for this debate – not humans. To move God into these realms, and into our terms is not rational or reasonable – if God exists then there is no reason for him to conform to our experience of the world – or human conventions of understanding – anymore than there is reason for us to bark when communicating to dogs. We do not do this when interacting with our subordinates (the animal kingdom).

Thanks to Dawkins, Atheists now tackle these arguments by realigning the burden of proof and changing the terminology – now we, “theists” have to demonstrate why God must exist – before even tackling which God they should believe in. Therefore the Bible is dismissed as an authority (partly because post-modern literary criticism means nothing can be trusted as true anymore), Christians can’t claim any unique authority on the debate on the basis of the historicity of Jesus – particularly because any of the eye-witness accounts to his life must now be ignored or disputed, any third party accounts of Christianity – and the leaders of the early church – are not as valuable as “modern science” and observation – and the default position is now that the complexity of life is a product of randomness and an infinite spectrum of time. I don’t really understand that being the default. Atheists are now critical of the “watchmaker” assumption – ie when you see a wristwatch in a field you assume based on complexity the watch was designed and placed there. I think that’s something that’s been slowly indoctrinated. Atheists are now taught to proselytize in the same way they accuse Christians of brainwashing their children and others.

One of these guys scoffed at my suggestion that his lifestyle is the result of his atheism – and vice versa. He suggested the two were not linked. The atheist point of view by definition dismisses the idea of God – and hence questions regarding whether their atheism influences the way they live are flawed – theism v atheism is still the fundamental question that ultimately shapes the worldview of the individual – morals, ethics, philosophy and conduct all stem from this fundamental position – whether we (or they) like it or not.

The “church” has been responsible for some terrible injustices over time – or at least these have been conducted in the name of the church – ignoring the wildly publicised misdemeanours and wars, in a broader sense the church has failed to adequately educate casual church attendees. Both these atheists had backgrounds including church attendance. Both had strong – and in my opinion inaccurate – understandings of the “teachings of the church” and felt adequately qualified to make assessments on the basis of their childhood experiences. This may be unfairly representing their opinions and positions – but in my opinion something as serious as religion – and the underlying foundation we build our lives on – should be considered by adult minds. Both in the case of people who have always been Christians – and in the case of people who have chosen not to be. In either case I’d hate to think this is the kind of decision you make at 10 and never revisit.

It’s been a pretty interesting discussion all told – and I’d love any readers input on the issue. This post ended up being much longer than I planned.

*Not technically scientifically possible because faith is the belief in something that can’t be observed.

Ubergeek

Thanks to my father I’ve spent the last few weeks (actually, probably my whole life) discovering my inner geek – thanks mostly to lifehacker.com.au –  which I mentioned a few weeks ago.

Anyway, in that short time i’ve significantly improved my “internet” experience through Firefox add-ons. If you’re not using Firefox 3 – you should be. Firefox’s strength is that it’s incedibly customisable. So here are my 5 favourite add ons:

1. Better Gmail 2.0 – makes Gmail more awesome by scripting out all the ugly, pointless stuff and applying funky skins.
2. Firebug – a funky little design tool that has been particularly useful for me and my wedmastery at work – it allows you to look at the elements that make up a page (design and content) and edit/tweak them in real time – any site, any time – which makes tweaking your own site, and stealing things from others a real breeze.
3. Piclens – a very, very cool image gallery viewing plug in. get it. Seriously cool.
4. Clipmarks – I’ve used this for a few posts lately – if you see something you like on a webpage you can highlight it and send it straight to your blog. Awesomeness. 
5. Ctrl + Tab – allows flicking between tabs within the browser in a breeze. I used to hit alt+tab trying to switch between tabs and would find myself increasingly frustrated when it changed windows on me. But no more.

Honourable mentions go to Delicious Bookmarks – which now make up the “what I’m reading” links in the sidebar, Facebook’s toolbar – which keeps you up to date on Facebooky goodness, if I could get it to work I’d love the FireNes plug in that brings about 1000 Nintendo Entertainment System games into your browser. I’d also recommend a number of plug ins that allow downloading from YouTube – but I’d have to pick the best.

I’m using the AeroFox skin in full screen mode and I feel like I’m in the future right now. There’s also a program out there that reskins Windows XP into Windows Vista like goodness – all the nice design elements without the performance sapping components.

I’ll probably put links up to all of these at some point – but right now I have to go. Farewell.

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Weasel words

I was driving to work this morning listening to my local ABC news. Which I think is the best local news in Townsville. There’s a story going round up here about a crocodile – which is not unusual for North Queensland. This crocodile is terrorising the locals at Mystic Sands. It’s two metres long and must be removed because it’s a danger to the community – the creek it lives in flows past two houses. 

The local EPA spokesperson said “The Crocodile needs to be removed because there’s a real chance it could interact with pets, or even small children…”

Since when is “interact” a euphemism for eat? Weasel words are the new black. Obfuscation is a big part of my job, a media training thing yesterday with one of Queensland’s leading PR consulting groups made me even more cynical. The trainer (an experienced journalist) made a point that everything we read now has spin on it because journalists are hand fed more than 90% of their news (ie most stories come from Media Releases) – and anyone who puts out a media release knows that they’re not objective.

This trainer made a comment that politics – and particularly policy making is now purely assessed on the following criteria:
a) will we be hammered more for not doing it, or doing it?
b) is there a photo in it?
c) Can we turn it into a news story or a website?

The QLD Government, and the Rudd Government have massive spin machines dedicated to packaging policy for the masses. Rudd is great at symbolism – but lacking substance. This is a prime example of something that met the aforementioned criteria.

Rumours and innuendo
Rumour has it that several leading local sports stars were busted in a “cocaine party”
Rumour also has it that several leading political journos are starting to link some of Rudd’s decisions in policy making in the Queensland government – linking many of South East Queensland’s current woes with his decisions… eg Water shortages with dam refusals, health problems with health infrastructure investment (or lack thereof), and education problems with a Rudd led education review.

Anyway, I’m off to interact with my morning tea.

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A dog’s life

I imagine a lot of Saudi’s will be walking pet fish from now on.

clipped from www.smh.com.au

Saudi religious police ban pet cats and dogs

Saudi Arabia’s religious police have banned selling cats and
dogs or exercising them in public in the Saudi capital, because of
men using them as a means of making passes at women, an official
said.

  blog it