Archive for July, 2008

A Great Desecration

PZ Myers, evolutionary biologist, outspoken atheist and astonishingly prolific blogger, has done what he recently promised to do in the wake of a kerfuffle about some kid who took communion but didn’t swallow (thereby smuggling out a piece of the flesh of Jesus himself according to Catholic doctrine).

PZ couldn’t believe the fuss (well ok he probably wasn’t so surprised) and promised to do the same himself, prompting a hysterical flurry of pleadings and condemnations for it. Being an atheist (and therefore fashioned of pure evil) he was unmoved by such appeals, and went ahead and did it anyway. Read his report here, along with some interesting references to the slaughter of Jews perpetrated by the Catholic church over the centuries as punishment for the crime of host desecration.

Also fun (although sometimes alarming) to read is the hate mail PZ gets; this is one of the more civilized ones:

You must be the devil himself as even he knows the power in the Holy Eucharist (don’t you dare disparage the Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity of Our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ by calling Him Who died for you a cracker!). You must be a freemason, or just a very sick man who needs healing and believe me, I will pray for your conversion. Pray you live to see that day so you can ask Him to forgive you and your uncircumcised heart. Just the mere thought of desecrating the Holy Eucharist is enough to get one into hell, but, maybe that is, for now, the horrible place you are aiming for. I dare you to read about Our Lady of Fatima and the accounts of hell as the three children saw, then, maybe you will change you sick mind. God forgive you. However, it was great that you got many people praying for your conversion since you showed the world how sick you are, and maybe God will convert your hard heart. Pity you. From a lay evangelist who prays for you and the rest of this sick world of secular humanists.

Some level-header Catholic named Mark Shea thinks PZ defiling a wafer is tantamount to breaking into someone’s house and stealing their child’s drawing:

And if you send one of your blog readers into my house to take it, I would be quite justified in calling you a thief who has stolen something precious. I would also be quite justified in defending it and my house from your naked act of aggression.

He also refuses to mince his words:

I won’t mince words. Myers is an evil man. And as evil men, particularly evil intellectuals, tend to be, he is also a mad man as are most of his acolytes and followers. One need only read Pharyngula to know this. Not all atheists are driven mad by their atheism. Many are quite respectable human beings. But those who make it their raison d’etre tend to be made crazy by it. That’s the tragedy of sins of the intellect. They don’t just make you stupid. If you persist in them, and particularly if you persist in them to this degree, they make you crazy.

In Mark Shea’s mind (and those of his perfectly sane acolytes) PZ Myers is an evil mad man because– although he wouldn’t hurt a fly – he would symbolically disrespect a cracker to make a point.

I honestly don’t get it. I can understand someone calling the demonstration obnoxious perhaps, but evil…?

Nothing is sacred. That’s not a lament of our modern times. It’s simply true, and it’s good that it’s true. Nothing is above question or even ridicule. We have ethics, morals and taste; we have no need of the sacred for to live well as humans.

I want a new car

As petrol gets more and more expensive (and we pay a lot more for it in NZ than people do in the US – try $8/gallon), I am thinking it’s time I found a car that’s cheaper to run. I’ve looked at the Prius before, but I have come to think of these as overengineered, being basically two things at once. I don’t really want an electric + petrol vehicle (especially one which isn’t pluggable). And they’re ugly.

I would love it if there was a short to medium range EV on the market here but of course that’s a totally unrealistic expectation and can only happen in the distant future– notwithstanding the fact that individual hobbyists are getting bored with waiting for the market and actually building their own.

So I’m thinking small cars, with small engines. Maybe like the Smart, only less 90s concept-y and more simple. Something like a Mini. Not a mid-life crisis BMW MINI… rather an old Mini, a la Mr Bean. The problem is, I’m not exactly a classic car enthusiast, I just like the look of the things. They are, for want of a better word, cute.

The body panels of the Mark I were so thin as to be virtually transparent, an issue rectified with later models.

I think an old mini makes more sense than, say, an old VW beetle, since the latter is amazingly loud, not known for its excellent handling, and the last time I sat in one it actually caught fire.*

So within a week or so, I expect to be the proud owner of a tiny piece of motoring history… or possibly I will have completely changed my mind and come to my senses.

UPDATE: I have come to my senses. Much as I would like an old mini, they are too expensive (people are asking $4000 – $6000 depending on condition) and they have almost no safety features by today’s standards. Instead I am going to try to get something like the 2002 VW Lupo… which appears to be both extremely economical and safe for its class.

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* The reason for this was that in the VW Beetle the battery was located under the rear seat, and in this instance the insulating cover had slipped such that when I put my weight on the seat the springs beneath pressed onto the battery terminals, electrically shorting them and creating an instant toaster effect which nearly set my arse on fire.

Vista looks like someone hit XP with a laminating machine

Which is my way of saying: I think it is butt-fugly.

This is the Aero look, where translucency, shadows and psuedo-reflections abound. It’s like a team of Microsoft middle managers crowded around OS X and decided that they could beat those latte-sucking Apple snobs at their own game, having apparently never heard the adage Less is More.

Buttons on windows don’t just change color when you hover your mouse over them, they also emit an eerie fuzzy glow, as though being viewed through a foggy window. The window frames themselves have this blurry translucent effect on them, so you can see underlying windows well enough to be visually distracting (but not enough to be useful). And inexplicably the heavy drop shadows around windows don’t appear to extend under them, which implies that either a) the windows have some sort of illuminating effect on the screen immediately beneath them or b) Microsoft’s designers don’t give a shit about visual consistency.

Windows and dialog boxes swell and shrink when you open and close them, which adds a kind of temporal blurring effect to the visual fuzziness inherent in the interface already. The whole thing feels squidgy; the opposite of crisp.

And this squidginess goes beyond aesthetics; Vista’s performance compared to WinXP is pathetic. It takes forever to start up, and something as simple as closing an explorer window can takes up to 3 seconds! The mouse cursor is constantly doing the glinting blue ring of eternal waiting. And it’s as though when I press a button or select an item the system is saying “dude, wait wait, I’m going do something cool………… check it out, I’m glowing!”

And UAC… I’ve heard people bitching about this but wasn’t sure why… every time I open network preferences or similar “sensitive” settings I get a “are you sure this is OK?” dialog. That in itself mightn’t be so bad, but in this install at least I get a half second black screen before this thing comes up, and then again when it goes away, and each time I get this shock because for a moment it feels like the computer has spontaneously crashed. OS X causes less irritation even when it forces me to enter a password!

When an operating system is superceded, it’s successor should be faster, not slower. When you the user are simply choosing which application you want to run, there is no excuse for sluggishness. If Vista looked smoking hot then maybe I could understand, but it looks like shit! Cheap plastic laminated shit!

And so another Vista install has bitten the dust, as I have now downgraded this mid-range Sony Vaio* to good ol’ WinXP, and it finally feels like the new machine that it is. I can’t say for sure that all of its sluggishness was due to the Vista install, since big vendors like Sony are notorious for bogging down their machines with proprietary “Crapplets”, but as first experiences go this was the pits, and it jibes perfectly well with the stuff I’ve been hearing from others.

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* No I haven’t bought yet another computer– I am doing this downgrade as a favour to an extremely dissatisfied Vista user.

Are these the worst iPhone 3G plans anywhere?

iPhone Plans 250 500 1GB
Cost per Month $80 $130 $250
Included Minutes 120 250 600
Included TXT 600 600 600
Included Data 250 MB 500 MB 1 GB
Additional Usage
Per minute $0.69 $0.55 $0.53
Per TXT $0.20 $0.20 $0.20
Per MB $0.10 $0.10 $0.03
iPhone with plan
8GB iPhone $549 $449 $199
16GB iPhone $699 $599 $349

So the minimum plan from Vodafone NZ is as follows:

8GB iPhone 3G, 24 month contract, 250MB per month
= $549 + $80 x 24
= NZ$2,469*

I am livid! I sold my iPod Touch recently, so sure I was that I would be getting an iPhone, and now I just want to send hate mail to Vodafone.

(Funnily enough they are the only providers to offer the iPhone 3G upon its release in New Zealand– I wonder if this could be at all related to their extortionate pricing…?)

Compare this great deal to what Optus Australia is offering:

8GB iPhone 3G, 24 month contract, 250MB per month
= $0 + $56 x 24
= A$1,344

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* NZ$1.00 = US$0.75 = AU$0.79

And now, something I don’t hate

I feel compelled to point out that Mad Men is giving Deadwood a run for its money for the title of my favorite TV show ever. It’s just so… captivating. And beautifully lit. And both John Hamm and his hair are incredible.

Alexander Downer, Go Fuck Yourself

I guess I must be in the deplorer camp…

"As foreign minister, he made one heck of a mark, mercilessly slaying his political opponents while determining Australia’s foreign policies. Some will never forgive him and John Howard for taking Australia into Iraq. Many will admire his conviction in confronting Saddam Hussein and the scourge of terrorism. Some will deplore his role in the Tampa asylum-seeker stand-off. Many will respect his determination to foil people smuggling. Some will sigh with relief at another Howard man gone."

The Australian, July 1st 2008