davegodfrey: South Park Me. (Liff)
 There have been several well-written rants about Jamie Oliver's attempts to drum up an audience for his new programme. There being no such thing as bad publicity, he's decided to do so by offending exactly the groups of people his programme is intended to entertain, educate, and inform.

Jennie
has already explained the reasons why people might buy ready meals rather than make stuff, far better than I can. I've done the living on minimum wage thing, and it isn't fun. I was lucky in that I had parents I could fall back on if necessary. And, importantly, the only person I had to support was myself. Cooking on a budget of £10 a week is not something I've ever had to do. I couldn't even get a wildcard entry to the All-England Four Yorkshiremen Contest. If I'd had to look after anyone but myself I don't think I'd have coped. I'm amazed anyone can frankly.

The comments on Jennie's article are very interesting and I recommend reading them, as are the ones on Jack Monroe's (although I'd avoid the ones on her Independent one like the plague). I want to like Jamie Oliver. I really do. I think his heart was in the right place when it came to school meals, and I like what I've seen of his style of cooking (measuring? pfft! chuck it in, slosh it about, off you go). Its just that I can't stand his chirpy mockney twattery, and the more he opens his mouth the more like the objectionable brand of Tory he sounds. On the other hand I can make a pretty good guess who Nigella votes for (and I wouldn't be surprised if I was completely wrong), but she makes aspirational food pr0n, rather than being on a mission to save the world from twizzled turkey..

I don't know what kind of programme Jamie has made, and frankly I've been thoroughly put off watching it. Besides the programme that should have been made would be much better anyway. It should probably have been made by the Kamikaze Cookery guys and Jack Monroe.

For most people in London, fresh fruit and veg is readily available pretty cheaply. There are lots of greengrocers that will sell a kilo of slightly wonky peppers for what the supermarkets will charge you for one perfectly formed one, that tastes exactly the same when you cut it up and put it in a stew. If you have a reasonable sized saucepan you can make a decent stew from onions, peppers, whatever seasonings you might have (mustard, chilli sauce, marmite/bovril instead of a stock cube), and a tin of kidney beans, and some tinned tomatoes which won't break the bank, won't take very long, and depending on how many it needs to feed whatevers left can be whacked in the microwave the next day. I haven't costed it up, but per person it'd be under a pound. If you have access to cheap fruit and veg.

For people in this situation, where cheap healthy food is potentially available then "all" one needs to do is help them understand the resources they have available, how best to make use of them, such as the variety of "one pot" recipes, and how to make the best use of tiny kitchens with next to no equipment, and understanding the economics of scratch-made vs ready meals, and when they're a saving and when they're not. Which is something I think not even the sainted Jamie Oliver is equipped to do. Its certainly beyond my ability, and I can't help but feel that for many people its too late. They never learnt to cook, and while it doesn't necessarily have to be difficult, as Jennie so rightly says it takes time and effort to acquire new skills, and time and effort to use them. Which many people regardless of their financial status just don't have.

Perhaps we should be teaching this in schools. You could call it "Economics of Household Management, including Essential Practical Skills". Of course there might be a better title out there. With all the money the government has saved by implementing the Bedroom Tax they could provide information packs with important and useful information at the benefit office. If you have to have training or lose your benefits perhaps this should be an option?

Like I said, the recipe idea above works if you can get cheap fresh fruit and veg. Unfortunately having spent my life in an area where they are readily available I don't have a solution for what  to do for people for whom this is a luxury. Which of course would be an ideal hook for episode 2, and might open a serious discussion about food deserts, because that's something that needs to be had. Its all very laudable of me, Jamie, and the rest advocating educating people about how to eat healthily and cheaply but its a waste of time if they can't put it into practice.

And I can't help but feel after all that rambling that nothing will change, that Jamie Oliver's programme will achieve nothing but make the typical victim-blaming Fail readers feel smug, and that I'm no better than the rest of them, because like the young lady in the Pulp song, I'll never really understand either.
davegodfrey: Coelacanth (Science)
As usual the world has shown its knack for horrific timing. A day after the death of Caroline John who played one of the few Doctor Who companions who could match him in a battle of wits, and who I'm sure did much to inspire many women scientists (and indeed women generally) who saw that yes, you can be whatever you put your mind to even if you're "just a woman" we have this from the EU.

Here's the teaser trailer.



Are you done with the vomit bucket yet?

To be fair, the profile videos are pretty good- here's Joanna Zmurko, a Polish student working for a PhD in Virology in Belgium:-



She makes a pretty good case for why science is so cool. "On Friday I didn't know what the function of a certain gene was, but on Monday I did". That one sentence will do more to inspire young women to go into science as a career, than any number of flashy ads with pouts, lipstick, high heels and short skirts.

Naturally enough twitter has completely exploded against this #sciencegirlsthing, and the alternative #realwomenscientists is doing very nicely. Rarely has the "can we make maths pink?" joke felt more like reality.

If you want to inspire women to be scientists tell them the story of Vera Rubin, who had to meet her prospective PhD supervisors in the departmental lobby because women weren't allowed inside the offices, and provided the evidence that convinced people that Dark Matter exists.

How about Cecilia Payne-Gaposchkin, who showed that the sun was made of hydrogen, and said:

"The reward of the young scientist is the emotional thrill of being the first person in the history of the world to see something or to understand something. ... The reward of the old scientist is the sense of having seen a vague sketch grow into a masterly landscape."

You want inspirational women scientists- Caroline Herschel, sister of the more famous William (who discovered Uranus), was a first-rate astronomer, and was the first woman awarded the Royal Astronomical Society's Gold Medal (the second? Vera Rubin). Or Margaret Burbidge, coauthor of the B2FH theory, that still explains how the elements up to iron are made, and is an ardent feminist who turned down the Annie Jump Cannon (another female astronomer) Prize because it was only given to women.

And that's just four of the astronomers I could name off the top of my head. You want biologists? Barbara Hastings, Dorothea Bate, Miriam Rothschild, Mary Lyon. We have Florence Nightingale to thank for the pie chart- I'd argue that was a far more important contribution to medicine than being "the lady with the lamp".

But no. We have high heels, lipstick, and pouting. Its enough to make you give up and become a hairdresser...
davegodfrey: South Park Me. (Default)
Stephen Green really is a nasty piece of work. Whodathunkit.

Even the Daily Fail have turned on him.

As it happens has his wife. Who clearly endured a dreadful marriage, and frankly I feel dreadful for her, her children and anyone who had anything to do with the man. Who is now married to someone 25 year his junior and hoping to start another family.
davegodfrey: South Park Me. (Default)
Is it me or are banks crap?

I mean really, really crap. And incompetent. Really incompetent. And somehow at the root of it, it all becomes your fault. This week my banking has turned into a complete farce. Sometime in November I registered for online banking, but as is the way with these things I never actually used it since then. I don't think I can even recall the passwords. (This is a long running problem I have with almost all computers). But anyhow, around this time I stopped receiving bank statements for this account.

Last week my card expired. I have not been sent a new one. I pop into Branch A, which is convenient for work. Money is withdrawn and they have a look at my account. There's some kind of block placed on the account, so that they won't send any post to the address I've given. They can't get anything sent to them (which would be convenient), but they can get the new card sent to Branch B, where my account is actually located, and I can pick it up "in two to five days".

Monday rolls around - four working days later - and off I go to visit Branch B (taking time out of work to do so I might add). The card is not there, and "it takes five to seven days to arrive". Fair enough, I think, so I leave my number so they can call me when it arrives.

Friday now, and still no card. So I phone the bank. Only I don't. I actually phone the support centre because I dial the wrong number, but they say they'll call the bank and pass on my message. I decide to try a different number, get the same people, and leave no message. Several hours later I've heard nothing, and as I'm going to need some cash for the weekend, and beyond try the branch number again- if they've got the card I'll get it. If not I'll go to the cashier up the road.

Its not the branch, its the call centre people. And I can't speak to the branch. However they give me the very useful information that "We don't send cards to branches for security reasons". Oh, because Branch A said they could only send it to Branch B? What's happened? It turns out that Branch B did indeed receive my card. But destroyed it because they don't send cards to branches for security reasons. So why did Branch A do this? "I don't know, which branch was this? We'll send them a note..."

The upshot of this is that I send them a letter confirming that I live in place X, and I'll get my card. In the post. To address X.

Revenge is a dish best served in letters from someone's boss.

I'll let you know how things go with the screws, but I think someone's pissed off with being ignored by their supplier....
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davegodfrey: Flying Spaghetti Monster : Touched by his noodly appendage (FSM)
Yes. I admit it. I watched a BNP Party Election Broadcast. Its OK I've had a shower.

Its all rather unpleasant to be perfectly honest (I think you knew that). Lots of stock footage of WWII, photos of Winston Churchill on Nick Griffin's desk, etc. (I didn't check if the Spitfire was Polish, and I can't bring myself to watch it again). Its got all the usual crap about how great Britain is, and how much Nick loves his country, interspersed with some really nasty graphics. Universally aimed at the Muslim community. There's the "Immigration Open your eyes" union flag, and the cartoon of a woman in a burkha next to a map of the UK covered in minarets.

Architecturally speaking I like minarets. I'm less enamoured of Islam, but that's got rather more to do with my dislike of all organised religion, and the various brands of extremists who make the average believer hold their head in their hands. (Steven Green, I'm looking at you.) I'm not overly keen of the burkha either, but that has rather more to do with whether or not the woman in question has a free choice to wear it or not. Speaking to various Muslim friends over the years there's certainly nothing in the Koran that states its compulsory, its very much a cultural thing. And when it is a free choice I do not find it the least surprising that first, second or third generation immigrants choose to wear it, in order to identify more closely with their faith and ancestral culture. Especially when faced with the consistent islamophobic, anti-immigration rhetoric of the Daily Mail and co.

I like immigration. Immigration is a good thing, My grandfather's family came from Poland and Lithuania, via Canada. (I don't have a UK passport, but a Canadian one for this reason). In the wke of the leader's debate twitter is currently full of people pointing out why #iloveimmigration (I'll just repeat [livejournal.com profile] miss_s_b - "Freddie Mercury. 'Nuff said"). Our culture, cuisine, scientific progress, history, etc, etc would be very much poorer without it. The Huguenots came in as refugees, and within a generation had strongly influenced the lands they settled in. Wikipedia has a list of people who can trace their ancestry back to the Huguenots. Oh look. Winston Churchill's on it.

The broadcast asks what would our veterans think of multicultural "politically correct" Britain? Well as many WWII veterans were conscripts I think their views would be very diverse. I'm sure some thought Hitler was right about the Jews. Equally many others would have volunteered for the International Brigade and gone off to fight Franco in Spain had they been old enough, and of course there would have been all points between the two.

As for "Political Correctness" well, yes perhaps people go a bit too far in trying to avoid offending groups, who, had they been asked would probably wonder what the fuss was about. Mostly however what is reported to have happened, and what actually happened are usually rather different. Ultimately its about recognising that not everyone is a straight, white, cis-sexual, Christian male. And I think the country would be rather better if more people lived by that maxim, rather than any of the strange ideas they have about what constitutes "British Culture".

Ultimately were the BNP to get in virtually everyone I know and value as a friend or colleague would be made to feel unwelcome in the country that either they were born in, or have chosen to call home.
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Grr.

Jun. 29th, 2009 05:15 pm
davegodfrey: South Park Me. (Liff)
I'd quite like to see Transformers Revenge of the Fallen, because a film about giant robots smashing the crap out of each other sounds like it should be an awful lot of fun. I don't have to worry about complex plot twists, I don't have to worry about following the dialogue minutely, it should be a perfect summer movie. Don't get me wrong I love cerebral films with character depth, and plot-twists galore, just not when its too hot to think. Sometimes its nice to just switch my brain off and enjoy the explosions for a couple of hours.

And then I read reviews like this, this and this. And I wonder if I should bother. I should, of course, have expected this. The first one had problems with objectification of women and racial stereotypes, so I'm not sure why I thought the new one would be any different.

Its sad really, this is 2009, not 1959. I can excuse this kind of thing in the 50's B-movies I love, because they're a product of their time, made before the Civil Rights movement, Women's Lib, and Stonewall. I should feel guilty for wanting to see it because its big, brash, and dumb. Not because its an example of some of the worst aspects of Hollywood's continuing attitudes to race.
davegodfrey: Coelacanth (Science)
The entire world seems to have gone utterly insane over this fossil, known colloquially as "Ida", but officially as Darwinius masillae. And it is a lovely fossil. It is also important because it will, I'm sure, tell us lots about what was going on in primate evolution 47 million years ago. I'm not going to go through the reports because there are too bloody many of them, but I will point out that while many have fallen for the "Missing Link" Found! angle plenty of others- especially the bloggers writing opinion pieces are being rather more restrained.

However utterly revolutionary it is not. At best it means a group of animals a bit like lemurs (Adapids) are more closely related to apes and monkeys than a group of animals a bit like Tarsiers (Omomyids). Be honest had you heard of either?

I quite like it because its another species published in PLoSOne (The Public Library of Science). This is an open access journal, so anyone can download and read a copy of the paper for free. There's a lovely long description of the fossil- it is young (under a year old), female (it lacks a baculum [penis bone] which you'd expect to see in male primates like this), and very nicely preserved (the body outline, hair and stomach contents are all preserved).

Its from the Messel deposits, which have yielded beautiful fossils of fishes, early horses, ants, weird mammals like Leptictidium, and all sorts of other things. Messel was covered in one episode of David Attenborough's 1980s series on fossils Lost Worlds, Vanished Lives, and also in the first episode of Walking With Beasts- though proto-whales aren't known from the area. I can't believe someone thought it was a good idea to turn the site into a rubbish dump. Fortunately they haven't, and it is now a World Heritage Site.

I am not qualified to say how much this fossil supports the conclusions that the authors are trying to draw- that the group to which Ida belongs are more closely related to monkeys and apes than tarsiers and their relatives are.  However the paper lacks a phylogenetic analysis and as Laelaps and The Open Source Paleontologist points out this is something one expects to see when claims for moving large groups around are made. Hopefully one will be done soon, and the question of whether Adapids (the group to which Darwinius belongs) is closer to lemurs or monkeys and apes will be better resolved.

I don't really have much to add to the criticism of the hype either. Both Ed Yong and Carl Zimmer have covered it far better than I could hope to. Especially Ed's post.

Personally the part that really annoys me- I wouldn't be at all surprised if the view of the Adapids in the paper turned out to be wrong. You just know that the creationists will have a field day because while I'm sure most of you know that the great strength of science is that whenever new information appears which contradicts its conclusions we change our minds- something the creationists seem incapable of appreciating as being A Good Thing. I just hope I am pleasantly surprised.
davegodfrey: Flying Spaghetti Monster : Touched by his noodly appendage (FSM)


"Charles Darwin wasn't a scientist but a theologian"

Darwin did indeed study theology- but then so everyone who didn't take medicine. At the time Cambridge offered two degrees- Medicine or Divinity. And aside from natural selection Darwin wrote one of the definitive works on barnacles and worked out how coral reefs formed. That makes him a scientist, regardless of what he read at university. By this reasoning Margaret Thatcher is a chemist. Oh, and Darwin lost his faith after he came up with Natural Selection, not before.

"No transitional forms"

Pakicetus, Ambulocetus, Rhodocetus, Basilosaurus, Dorudon, and just today Maiacetus. And that's just the whales I can think of off the top of my head.

"The cell is one of the simplest units of living matter"

Life spent the first 2 billion years as bacteria. It took a very long time to get that complex. Oh and stop it with the "Chance and time" bollocks. Evolution IS NOT A RANDOM PROCESS!!" Mutation is random. Selection is non-random.

"irreducible complexity"

Oh crap she's discussing Behe's flagella stuff. The flagella is developed from the Type 3 Excretory system present in a variety of other bacteria. Has she never heard of the phrase "pulling yourself up by your bootlaces"? Because that's how evolution works.

"Wake up and acknowledge God created you"

Hail the All-Father! Oh sorry not the god you were referring to? How about Queztzalcoatl? Not him either? Bacchus? Tiamat? Ra? Crom? Azathoth? Geoff?

The video comes from the "Passion for Christ Movement". Note the Ex-Atheist T-shirt she's wearing. Coupling the standard creationist nonsense with their "Ex-Homosexual" T-shirts,and the "your body is something to be ashamed of" cant tells you everything you need to know about these people I think.

H/T to Pharyngula and Feministing
davegodfrey: South Park Me. (Default)
I do love Stephen Green sometimes. His latest shtick is to complain to the Advertising Standards Authority about the "There's probably no God, so stop worrying and enjoy your life" advert London buses. Of course if he hadn't started jumping up and down and stamping his little feet virtually no-one outside London or the prominent atheist internet communities would know.

If he didn't exist I think the atheists would have to invent him. His campaign against Jerry Springer The Opera got the laws against Blasphemous Libel overturned, though with the introduction of the Racial and Religious Hatred Act in 2006 its death was on the cards anyway. Incidentally Green's private prosecution was dismissed by the High Court on the grounds that it was impossible under the acts governing theatres and broadcasters to be charged with blasphemy.

I shouldn't be surprised that people like Green don't understand that being told we're bad people for not agreeing with him annoys us. Clearly by his logic feminists should keep quite about all the adverts that portray women's bodies as dirty things to be ashamed of. (Actually Green probably thinks women's bodies are dirty things to be ashamed of.)

What's annoying too, is the Christians who like to think of themselves as moderates, and the concern trolling atheists and agnostics (Clifford Longley as quoted by Andrew Brown for instance) "Ooh no, we can't upset the religious people". To which the only response I can think of is bollocks. Insulting for no reason? Yeah, I'm not a fan of that. I've been guilty of it myself, and it just makes you look stupid.

There are however times when its perfectly justified. Osama Bin Laden and Fred Phelps (to take the most extreme examples) clearly have some warped ideas about what their religions should be. I'm sure they have (and in the case of Christianity know) bits of their holy books that back up their ideas, but there are plenty of other parts that contradict this, and big lumps that are just plain ignored. After all Christians women don't make blood sacrifices after their periods any more. (They don't do they? Or is it like that secret evolutionist ritual where they show us all the Precambrian rabbits?)

Sometimes it would be really nice if it didn't feel like it was just the humanists and the "outspoken atheists" getting up and telling the religious extremists that they're mental. And Christians, what is it with the persecution complex? Guys you took over the Roman Empire, and have been in charge of Western Civilisation ever since. You haven't been able to cry "Oppression" in 1800 years, except when you've been oppressing each other.

I'm going to stop here before I turn into Marcus Brigstocke without the gags.
davegodfrey: South Park Me. (Default)
You probably all know that Darth Ratzi's claiming that the LBGTQs an equal threat to the planet as the destruction of the rainforest. Its all the fault of "gender theory". Which according to him "lead towards the definitive emancipation of man from creation and the creator". Sounds like a good idea to me given the kind of creator he seems to believe in. I'm still not sure how the homosexuals are going to destroy mankind. Possibly in the same way that they'll destroy marriage by um. Er. Being able to visit each other in hospital, and avoiding higher levels of inheritance tax.

But at least he doesn't seem to condone the charges of heresy against Galileo. I'm actually mildly surpised that he's been pinned down on this pressing topical question.

Also. This Christmas I'm going to need an new irony meter. An Italian priest, Father Botino, in Northern Italy has been criticised for telling kids that Father Christmas doesn't exist, "he never intended to hurt anyone but it was his duty to distinguish reality of Jesus from a story that was fable just like Cinderella or Snow White".

Fortunately a group of real terrorists have been found guilty. There are some experiments I don't like. I'm not sure I support a lot of the medical tests on chimps and other "higher" primates. But I also recognise that curing AIDS, learning how embryological development works, and all the other things that people do experiments on are important, and worthwhile. And they're only done when there isn't an alternative. You can't do everything in a computer or a petri dish. Biological systems are just too complex.

If it wasn't for animal testing an awful lot of people would be dead. Including most of these "activists".
davegodfrey: Flying Spaghetti Monster : Touched by his noodly appendage (FSM)
Hot on the heels of Richard Dawkins' The Genius of Darwin (which had a post's-worth of problems, but otherwise I generally enjoyed.This week's on Social Darwinism should be better), Channel 4 is screening Make me a Christian. Wherin about a dozen people from various backgrounds in Leeds are berated for being "sinful" and lectured by a bunch of somewhat fundamental Christians.

I could tell I wasn't going to like it when in the first 10 minutes the guy leading the project states that he believes in Genesis and Adam and Eve because Jesus did. No further explanation seemed necessary to him. He didn't seem to think there was anything wrong with bullying a woman who was clearly unhappy with her life, and may well have had self-esteem issues, picking on the fact that she was interested in tarot, wicca and witchcraft. And then he meets the lesbian, confiscates her erotica, posters, etc. Isn't Christianity supposed to be about love? Because that really wasn't the message he was sending out.

There's a scene where they get the group together and discuss abortion with them, showing them graphic videos of the procedures, including one of an abortion that happened after 20 weeks. One of the participants (the lesbian I think) asks "what about cases of rape?" This is brushed aside with the comment that "there are plenty of people out there who are willing to adopt." After that my flabber was well and truly ghasted.

I'm quite glad the rest of this weeks episode was devoted to the guy who's shagging around while his girlfriend is off at uni. Unfortunately showing him pictures of people with tertiary syphilis didn't put him off that week's boozing and clubbing session. Maybe if they'd told him that when the programme gets shown on national TV he's going to get dumped on his arse he might have listened, because Jesus clearly wasn't putting him off. In fact telling people he was trying to "live a Christian life" seemed to be working as a chat-up line!
The main problem with this program is that the biker was absolutely correct when he pointed out that "your not giving us reasons to believe in this". He is of course the "uncooperative" member of the group, and therefore makes for better TV. I wonder if the mild-mannered bearded chap will be so critical of him when the people running this project discover he's been flirting with Islam?

Ranty Day.

Jun. 17th, 2008 07:09 pm
davegodfrey: Marvin: ...and me with a terrible pain in all the diodes down my left hand side... (Marvin)
I wasn't going to bother with this, but [info]snapesbabe who's blog I dearly love, has "inspired" this. (Its in aid of Snap! day, so please don't take this personally).

Humans are primates.
Humans are placentals.
Humans are mammals.
Humans are tetrapods.
Humans are vertebrates.
Humans are deuterostomes.
Humans are animals.

The fact that about half the population are capable of carrying a fetus inside them has had some major implications for their biology. Their pelvis is wider than that of a male for instance.

At a more fundamental level the female is defined as the sex which produces eggs, large sex cells which provide a food source for the growing zygote, and are not produced in relatively large numbers. Males however are characterised by producing large numbers of very tiny and thus fairly cheap sex cells.

Because of this, and because in mammals females carry the developing offspring within their bodies, means that females- generally- will not have more children by having sex with more men. Varying their sexual partners might give them better children, but they aren't going to have any more than those who are "faithful".

Males however are the opposite. In theory the more sexual partners they have, the more offspring they can produce. (In practice this is not always the case as we shall see). We therefore have a conflict. The methods by which this conflict is resolved is a major preoccupation with behavioural ecology. Depending on their ecology and environment all sorts of weird things happen. Some males are utterly faithful (Deep-Sea Angler Fish are a familiar, if extreme example), some males' sole purpose is to mate with their sisters and die before they're born. Female Lily-Trotters keep harems, and the Bdelloid rotifers have done without sex for about 100 million years.

Given that the only reason you and I are here is because all our ancestors successfully reproduced, what makes humans so special that we think none of this has any effect on our behaviour?

I thoroughly recommend reading "The Red Queen" by Matt Ridley, (just forget about the Northern Rock fiasco), and "Dr Tatiana's Sex Advice to All Creation", by Olivia Judson (There's even a musical TV series to go with this one).
davegodfrey: Coelacanth (Science)
Some of you may have seen this paper at PLoS ONE. Its a rather nifty piece of work by Darren Naish and Mark Witton (who's very nice drawings accompany the article itself, and the various newspaper reports.)

Basically a group of pterosaurs called Azdarchids have always been a bit of a problem for palaeontologists working out their lifestyle. They're huge, with 10m wingspans, 2-3m jaws, and "it could look a giraffe in the eye". Originally suggested to be variously scavengers, "dip feeders" (like albatrosses), and mud probers, but they don't have the right sort of beak for any of those. Along with every other bloody pterosaur they've been suggested as a "skim feeder"- but no pterosaur is nearly as specialised as Rhychops the skimmer.

Naish and Witton therefore reconstruct them as stork-like predators. The fossils are mostly found in terrestrial deposits, and their footprints indicate their feet aren't adapted for wading (another popular hypothesis)

Yet again coverage is varied. The best place is of course the paper itself, freely avaliable online. Or you can read Darren's blog about it. I wouldn't bother too much about the rest of the media though. 

  
ETA: The Economist, another short article, and nothing wrong here either. States the research showed that they "were more like giant storks. Rather than skimming the sea, they plucked their prey from the ground." Better than the Sun article, but frankly not that much. Again, shorter seems to be better.
davegodfrey: Marvin: ...and me with a terrible pain in all the diodes down my left hand side... (Marvin)
Imagine you've been given millions to make your film. It involves aliens. These aliens will be seen as non-moving prop remains, and live ones will be rendered in CGI. You therefore have free rein to make them look as weird as your imagination allows.

So why do they always make them look like humans with funny shaped heads. WHY GODSDAMMIT!?!? I'm not really talking about Who or Trek here, where you've got a relatively limited budget, rather more limited time, and its really the characters rather than their appearance that is the big draw. But even then Who made an effort with Rutans or the Nestene.

The skeletons are almost always tetrapod- virtually always with the pentadactyl limb. You can usually identify these things as probably mammalian, because they lack abdominal ribs. The rest of the skeleton could pass for human most of the time. The most they ever do is make the eyes bigger and stretch out the back of the skull. Even if you're going to stick with the vertebrate bauplan humans aren't that interesting. There are snakes that can give you a bite with their mouths closed, legless amphibians with sensory tentacles and protrusable eyes, and have you ever seen a baleen whale's skull? This is before we get out of the tetrapods. If you allow yourself fishes you've got all kinds of weirdness to play with. Add invertebrates to the mix and you'll get things that wouldn't be out of place in a Lovecraft fantasy. What's more because people are unfamiliar with them they'll be even more alien than some chap in green make-up with a fake eye in the middle of his forehead.

As long as you can make something like this work under gravity I don't care. Let your imagination run away with itself. Or leave their appearances hinted at, but no more. Let me conjure up bizarre flights of evolutionary fantasy if you don't have the vision to merely tweak a primate.
davegodfrey: Coelacanth (Science)
"Dr" Gillian McKeith, aka "That Awful Poo Lady" is no longer permitted to use the title "Dr" in any of her advertising. I personally think she shouldn't be allowed to use the title "Dr" in her name, as she got it from a non-accredited degree mill on the basis of a 46 page pamphlet on the supposed health benefits of "blue-green algae". Its also an insult to the people I know who slogged their guts out to produce backbreaking 1,000+ page tomes. (Maths PhDs are probably much shorter, but 20 pages of solid equations would require just as much work).


Its not just the stupid science and the bullying that get to me. She shares something in common with an awful lot of other "woo merchants". The attitude of blaming the victim. While doing something about poor diet and lack of exercise will help you, I don't think it accounts for the disparity in life expectancy between rich and poor. Goldacre's article cites the difference in average lifespan between someone who lives in Hampstead (78) and Kentish Town (70). I've read similar stats in a Steve Jones book (using -iirc- the District line for comparison). For practicioners of alternative "medicine" if their hyperoxygenated water or chelation therapy or the laying on of hands doesn't work its because the patient didn't believe enough, or didn't have the right attitude. It couldn't possibly be because the "cure" can't work now could it? Blaming the victim makes good TV, pointing out the uncomfortable truth about the difference between rich and poor that influences such things as diet choice makes politicians uncomfortable and can't be allowed. Its not just health, this attitude permeates many other areas of political debate. I'm sure you can think of some.
davegodfrey: South Park Me. (Dave Godfrey)

A Libyan court has sentenced five Bulgarian nurses and a Palestinian doctor to death for "knowingly infecting 426 children with AIDS. The problem? There is absolutely no evidence they were responsible. Initially found guilty and sentenced to death in 2004 the supreme court quashed the verdict and ordered a retrial. Surprise, surprise they got the same result.

An article in Nature demonstrated that the strain of HIV involved was prevalent in the area, and that the outbreak was probably began before the accused medics arrived at the hospital. This appears to have come too late to help the case. Confessions under torture appear to have been made, though the police officers involved have been acquitted. Many of the infected children also had Hepatitis B and/or C, indicating that poor hygiene was a far more likely cause that deliberate infection. Witness testimony was ignored (including statements by the guy who discovered HIV).

The president of an organisation representing the victims made a statement claiming that the children had been infected with a "genetically engineered" virus under the supervision of Western intelligence agencies.

The case has been appealed against and may go to the Libyan Supreme Court.

Watch This Space as they say.

davegodfrey: South Park Me. (Default)

US Radio Host calls for forced identification of Muslims 

When Jerry Klein used his talk show to call for US Muslims to be given a crescent tattoo or forced to wear a distinctive armband his phonelines were jammed. The first caller said he must be "off his rocker". Other callers called suggested this didn't go far enough and advocated internment camps and deportation.

The statement was a hoax. At the end of the show Klein said

"For me to suggest to tattoo marks on people's bodies, have them wear armbands, put a crescent moon on their driver's license on their passport or birth certificate is disgusting. It's beyond disgusting... Because basically what you just did was show me how the German people allowed what happened to the Jews to happen..."

I have a nasty feeling something similar would happen if a similar hoax was staged in the UK. Having said that there's something about phone-ins that brings out the nutters. There's usually at least one racist/homophobe/nazi on each episode of "Any Answers".

Muslims in the States blame ignorance of their religion as a major factor in this. Given the level of ignorance some Americans have about other parts of America, let alone the outside world I'm not surprised.

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davegodfrey: South Park Me. (Default)
The Evil Atheist Your Mother Warned You About

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