If anyone say’s “There is only one true religion” walk away.

Having grown up from two halves of a single cell into a complex ecosystem I feel entirely proficient to answer any question about anything. Of course I have no idea how correct my answers will be.

It amazes me (and angers me) that anyone believes that they have an ultimate answer to anything, and yet every day I’m bombarded with a mix of competing absolutes from politicians and religious nuts, and people who have been influenced by politicians and religious nuts.

Life can be hard, and for the multiple millennia that pre-date us is was clearly harder than it is today. Making people act in unison was (and is) a fundamental of civilization. Today we persuade people to act for the good of society (by working hard and not killing, stealing or having sex with their siblings) by threats of punishment (prison, fines etc) for bad behavior, and houses, clothes, food, entertainment, good health etc. for good behavior. It works pretty well if people are educated in the ways of society.

In the past it was much easier to coalesce people by creating a framework of things that would happen to you if you didn’t follow the rules, and nice things that you could look forward to if you did. Living in the past was tough, and a good deal of it was not that much fun, so creating a dream of better times after you died just made so much sense.

There never was any evidence for this dream future, but if you questioned it, limbs could easily be removed (as could innards), so questioning was curtailed pretty easily.

But here’s the thing; just because people under duress were made to believe ridiculous things for hundreds of years, does not means that you need to believe them when the threat of being burnt alive while tied to a stake is removed.

Evolution is a proven explanation for how complex viable environments are created from a large number of simplistic components. It makes sense and can be seen clearly by experiment. In fact using the principles of the evolutionary process allows a very clear understanding of how things work at a chemical, physical and biological level. The word “theory” is placed in sentences because the scientific process understands the nature of truth, and that it is not absolute.

Religious nuts and politicians know how to manipulate language to avoid having their powerbase undermined by inconvenient facts. Clearly it’s much better to have people give you things and do what you say, than to have them not give you things and not do what you say.

So rather than spend time helping humanity continue to improve scientifically, religious nuts and politicians will always prefer to limit change to those areas that personally benefit them.

No one person or group has a truth that is more viable than any other person or group. And as soon as any person or group tries to force their way on anyone else they are instantly wrong.

Having said this, there are some wonderful life lessons to be learned from all the major and minor religions. I love the sikh ideas of helping others, and the Judea-christian-islamic ideas of learning and ethics, along with the Buddhist concepts of mind and the really cool alien overlord ideas of scientology. But I’m not a fan of any of the restrictive ideals of all of these cults, or of the destructive and absolute nature of some of their most fervent followers and leaders.

There is clearly documented and examinable archaeological evidence that all of the major concepts in all of the major religions were part of peoples teaching well before the current religions were in place. This shows to me that the concepts were used as part of ancient peoples education systems to teach a code of ethics and behavior to allow for groups to work together for the ongoing benefit of society.

It is well documented (at least on the history channel) that the bible (basis of so many religions today) was crafted over many hundreds of years by scholars and it truly is an incredible piece of human work.

Just because something was created a long time ago and still exists does not give it extraordinary powers over people. Studying the stories that have been used for millennia to teach ethics, philosophy, morality and how to deal with complex situations is a good thing. Treating any single view as the only possible view, and allowing for no discussion is plain nuts.

I have some very dear friends who are deeply religious and incredibly intelligent. I respect their beliefs and have had the honor of celebrating many times with them, and honoring the memories of loved ones that that are no longer with them. And I have been proud to have them share in my life events in the same way. They have never tried to convince me of the perfection of their religion and I’ve never tried to convince them of mine. Quite honestly it’s never even been a conversation.

There are nut cases on street corners that I have passed, and the odd person with a shaved head and a pony tail, or well dressed youngsters with name badges that have tried to convince me of their unique truth, and I treat them all with the respect they deserve (not a lot).

Anyone crazy enough to believe that any old book is entirely true, is crazy enough to kill innocent people. There have been many examples of this through history. What I don’t understand is how anyone who purports to believe there is a god(s), can accept that their particular version of god(s) is better than every other version, and that their god(s) expects everyone who isn’t buying into their particular set of edicts is inferior and must therefore die or be damned.

At this point it all just fails. And the only possible answer is that it’s all total bullshit.

Sitting around and bullshitting with your mates has always been a good thing to do, and sometimes out of the bullshit you can have a good or even great idea (and it passes the time), just remember it’s bullshit and stop yourself if you feel you’re taking it too seriously.

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Sign, Sign, Everywhere a Sign…

Signage; instructions to help us go where we want to go, let us know the rules and in some cases, to keep us safe.

In a city that is sometimes a little lacking in good signage I was happy to see so much of it at all the entrances to the Central Park Reservoir running/walking track.  In addition to significant signage at each entrance there is substantial additional signage along the track as well.  This beautiful Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis Reservoir is a popular, busy place for locals and tourists on nights and weekends all year but in the spring and summer is gets even busier.  The signage is there to help manage the flow of runners and walkers, keep them safe, and make it a pleasurable experience for all (Note: even the tortured main character of Marathon Man found solace and joy when jogging around the 1.58 mile cinder track).

Nothing too crazy, just a few simple rules: no bikes, no baby carriages (or other wheeled vehicles) and go counter-clockwise.   That’s it.  For the non-English readers there are images of the prohibited means of locomotion.  And arrows… lots and lots of arrows pointing the way.   To quote The Five Man Electrical Band, “Sign, sign, everywhere a sign… Blockin’ out the scenery, breakin’ my mind… Do this, don’t do that, can’t you read the sign?” 

Yet what do I encounter every time I go there?  Bicycles. Baby carriages. Strollers (don’t get me started on those military grade urban assault strollers again).  And this summer, wheelchairs and rollerbladers have joined the fray.

 

Look, this cinder track is not very wide and frankly it is not easy for a human-powered wheeled vehicle to be pushed around it anyway.  Lots of skidding and cinders/gravel dings.  There are miles and miles of much better alternatives in the park – paved paths, roads closed to auto traffic and more.   Yet here they all are, right in my way.  Unfortunately even with a clear safety mission to spot them it was difficult to focus on avoiding these “vehicles” because so many people were walking and running in the wrong direction as well.

Chaotic. Unsafe. Bullshit.  Yes, I am the Average Angry Reservoir Runner and I’m currently designing a T-shirt for these offenders to read as they pass me [something along the lines of, “IF YOU’RE READING THIS T-SHIRT, YOU’RE F#*%ING DOING IT WRONG!!!”].

Oh yeah, I almost forgot this nugget – New York Magazine, supposedly by and for NYC locals, recently published their recommended Central Park run (which of course included a trip around the former Miss Jackie Bouvier’s Reservoir track).  The instructions to New York Mag’s 400,000 readers for that portion of the run?  Run clockwise around the reservoir’s track!!!  They even included a damn map with arrows.  Me thinks the former First Lady would not be pleased. (94)

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Consultant Speak

Tech Blogging   —   Is it news or commentary?

Does anyone know the difference?

I am impressed that some authoring tools for wannabe and isarenow bloggers include  the following grammar and style rules checking to be invoked at some point in the writing / editing / approval and posting process

But gee willickers, Batman, I don’t how any decent opinionated nerd with words can produce a few thoughts to share without at least 2 or 3 of the following elements:

  • Bias Language
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I am not sure exactly why this makes me so angry,  But I am sure someone will tell me how I

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I’m still angry about the salt and pepper war – impossible to win

Throughout all time there has always been a clear definition between right and wrong, good and bad, cleaver and stupid, Mets and Yankees, Spurs and Arsenal. And for all time it has been right that saltshakers always have less holes than pepper shakers.

Some may not agree with my hypothesis, but these people are entirely wrong!

My wife and I have had this highly intellectual argument going on for some time (it feels like for all time), and I have had the chance to prove my case both physically and via documentation on numerous occasions, only for her to find a weakness in my proof. Personally I’ve found these so-called “weaknesses” to be irrational and flawed.

Let me give you a few examples:

I contest that salt pots should always have less holes than pepper pots, and I have in my possession a set of pots that prove this. One pot has written on it “a dash of salt” and this pot has one hole. While the pepper pot, which has eight holes, has the worlds “a sprinkle of pepper”. Clear evidence of the truth of my argument!

My wife of course points out that these pots are made in England, and hence are wrong, because the English have no idea of how to use salt and pepper (as proven by the average English cuisine) and clearly should not be used as a guide for good condementing. She does make a good argument.

As further evidence, I turned to the worlds only salt and pepper museum, which happens to be in America. It can be found at http://thesaltandpeppershakermuseum.com/Home.aspx

This establishment of all things sodium chloride and flowering vine of the family Piperaceae, have prominently displayed on their website the number one question that they get asked about salt and pepper pots. “Which Shaker has the most (or least) amount of holes, Salt or Pepper?” and these oracles give a very clear answer:

“The shaker with the least amount of holes is for Salt…and the shaker with more holes is for Pepper. An easy way to remember is that salt is bad for you so you need less!’

That seems to be like a positive, expert opinion in my favor. Yet my wife then points out that this museum is actually in Tennessee, and no one in their right mind either lives in Tennessee or believes anything that anyone who lives in Tennessee says.

Again she does make a good argument.

The search for the truth continues.

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The fall and rise of the goggly box.

I remember a time, long long ago, when we had three television channels, no VCR, 90 minutes of children’s television, and the remote involved my brother throwing things at me with increasing force until I got up and pressed the button that offered a choice of two.

Sometimes it was more entertaining to change the channel than to watch the cherished programming that started with Dr Snuggles and ended with Crackerjack.

And then came the imaginatively name Channel 4, which was the first grains of sand of the landslide towards content saturation.  We didn’t see it coming at first.  BSB and BSkyB brought up the simpsons, which was…different, if not great,  and SKY gave us foreign shit, like RTL, a slightly larger remote, and later a hard disk recorder.  But with new channels simply diluting the good content, disbursing it further, and making it harder to find.  I seems that there is little more quality content now than there was back in the days of three channels and no VCR.  It’s just a bugger to find.

And finally the small trickily of sand turned into a landslide of content, with the occasional gem stone hidden in the shale.

But finally we come full circle.  After two decades of increasing choice, one or two channels have collected some of the better content into simple on demand services.  No more do we have to choose carefully between BBC1 and ITV for 90 minutes, channel hopping to find the best available TV.  We no longer have to juggle tapes and scower the radio times, hungry for the occasional decent program.  It’s all on my on demand service.

But even now, why do on demand services only have content over 2 years old.  Why am I still hunting for decent TV programmes, and why is there still only crap on most of the channels most of the time.

Let’s face it, we like watching TV, but it’s awfully hard to find TV that I like to watch. (199)

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The war on obesity is a big fat lie!

I AM THE AVERAGE ANGRY AMERICAN….AND I’M TIRED…

The war on obesity is a big fat lie! I am so tired over this sham of a war on obesity. PLEASE nobody cares if your fat what they care about is that you’re costing them money. Here’s the truth no one wants to speak….the problem is NOT obesity it’s ECONOMICS and I am angry at anyone saying otherwise. You want a real war, you want to fix a real problem, fix the socio-economic situation that has the poor eating happy meals and the wealthy having private chefs/nutritionists.

This whole obesity is costing us money is bullshit! Being über skinny costs us money too, it’s just private money not public money and that’s the REAL issue at war here. Think about it, you never see fat rich people. Why, because they can afford the nutritionist and the personal trainer, THEY NEVER HAVE TO EAT KENTUCKY FIRED CHICKEN!!! Though I’m sure if they craved some there chef would love to “bake” them some. If they were fat, they were poor, they got rich and they got skinny…Rosanne Barr, Cathy Najimy, Oprah Winfrey, Ricki Lake…get the picture. I am so freakin angry that the oligarchy of this country want you to believe they have your best interest at heart. Oh please, they have their wallets at heart. Has anyone ever added up the cost of healthcare for knee replacements, hip replacements, chiropractors, and all other “getting in shape” injury care. NO! And why not? BECAUSE THEY HAVE INSURANCE.
It’s not fat and skinny, it’s rich and poor and I am so angry that people pretend it to be otherwise!

I’m not saying anyone should ever weigh 400 lbs, but what about the people who are 6 feet tall and 100lbs? Why isn’t anyone having a war on the skin and bone anorexics? How about the “I need to smoke to stay too skinny” models? Where’s the public outcry for their health. It was a breeze banning trans fats, why? No money in it! Tobacco…need I say more. And while I’m ranting about the painfully thin supermodel, when was the last time a super model was discovered in a developed nation? Their not, their from POOR countries. They are not from the land of plenty that’s for sure. I am so freaking angry at the double standard…hell there is no standard other then the gold one.

For Pete’s sake STOP telling me it’s a health issue. STOP lying to me about how your trying to save my life. My obese grandmother lived to the wonderful age of 98 and she never jogged, pilatied, or touched a treadmill in her life! It’s simple economics…If the wealthy have to pay for it, and it in NO WAY benefits them, then they want it stopped. They declare war and put an end to it. Here’s a thought, lower the price of salmon to the price of a double whopper and more people will be thinner and healthier. Give people a living wage to buy chicken that is NOT FRIED and the war is over.

I am fucking tired…maybe I just need a nap (59)

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Egotistical games developers make me angry

I enjoy a good computer game. Most of the games I’ve played tend to be reasonably anti-social, either you blast the crap out of everything that moves or they are very competitive (such as sports games). The exception to this has been the collaborative, non-violent games. Yep I know how can a game be any good it it’s not competitive and there is no gore. Well it turns out that if you add Lego into the mix this can be achieved.

And the best thing about these non-aggressive, U-rated, lego collaborative games is that my wife loves to play them with me. All of a sudden the PS3 is no longer the new golf when it comes to marriages (even though my missus loves to play the ancient and honorable sticks and eggs as well).

But and there is a huge BUT here. These lego games are no longer just about running around a pseudo 3D world of bricks filled will little Lego characters, now they are filled with absolutely horrible little movie vignettes. It can now feels like fifteen minutes from turning on the console to breaking your first lego brick while you watch corny and tedious segments from a movie rendered with the worst possible levels of creative acting and script work. And the creators of these games in their annoying style don’t even give you the option to skip these scenes.

Acting is a skill best left to professionals, it’s an art, and even most of its leading practitioners are not so good at it. So when games developers try, it’s not a pleasant experience. And forcing you to watch their work before you can progress to the actual game play, is beyond frustrating.

These little movie scenes are now getting longer and worse. And in the latest cut of this genre (Lego Batman 2) the characters have progressed from making little grunts to actually talking, and this is infinitely worse. This may be the last Lego game we play unless they either; get better at movie making or just add a skip option to the video scenes.

How difficult can it be to actually think about your user when you create? I may be forced to retreat to the anti-social single play destroy everything that moves games in the future, and my wife will have to just play solitaire on the ipad. Either that or well have to forget computer games and actually do something non-digital together (gasp).

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I’m Angry about the baiting and switchery of air travel.

What was included is now an extra. They now charge you extra for checked bags, that’s been happening for a while of course, and we have sort of become used it. It’s sort of like getting used to being punched in the face, I’m sure if you knew that every time you left your house someone would lay a fist between your eyes, you would on some level get used to it, but I cannot imagine ever getting to the point where you accept it as reasonable. That’s how I feel about being charged for carrying luggage on a plane.

You’re going somewhere a significant distance from where you live, and you going there for more that a few hours. It’s reasonable to expect to carry luggage, and it is unreasonable to be charged an extra lump of readies to do this. Okay if your taking well above the normal, I can see the cost issue and a fair charge is reasonable. But there must be a reasonable expectation of some luggage, there used to be! Some airlines are still “allowing” you to carry the first bag for free, but the path has been forged and this is slowly being eroded.

It’s as unreasonable as being charged extra for your carry-on bag, or being changed extra for a seat with enough room to be able to sit for the length of the flight without losing the feeling below the knees because there isn’t now enough room for an average set of legs. Or being charged extra for using the dunnie, or for being charged extra for a crap meal. All of these are being tested by airlines today.

And it seems that the airlines have realized this, since one thing is unreasonable and people have accepted it, then why not charge for every other possible unreasonable thing. They are trying it out, and guess what the flying public (having no choice) is accepting it.

For most flights you don’t choose the airline, you choose the destination. And given that there is normally very little choice as to which airline you use to go from A to B, you just accept their crappy service.

On the few occasions where I have a choice of airline, and given that normally the prices are almost identical, I choice based on which airlines have screwed me least in the past. It seems that the best an airline of today can offer is to suck least.

And what about the fuel surcharges. The moment crude oil prices increased the airlines passed on the cost to the passengers. But as the prices came down again it seems they forgot to reduce or remove these surcharges. For many flights now the surcharges and extra costs actually are greater than the posted cost of the flight itself.

I know airlines are having a very tough time, but I suspect this is not going to be fixed by screwing the customer. Paraphrasing the words of a very astute management consultant (Peter Drucker) “The purpose of a business is to create and keep customers, only when they are doing this well should they should look at cost an efficiency”. I’d suggest the airline industry has lost sight of the customer.

There are some examples of excellence in the airline industry, and these airlines are the ones that are profitable, safe, efficient and have happy customers, but I think they are focused on keeping their customers happy and then the others accolades are a consequence of that.


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When Barnes and Noble go out of business it will be my fault

I love to read, but finding the right book or group of books is challenging. I find the New York Times bestseller list pretty useless, as it’s written for such a broad audience that 99.5% of its recommendations just don’t do it for me. I read the book section every week and normally find a couple that sound good, but when I start to read the books they were written about, I generally find that in long form the stories either suffer from annoying writers traits or just are tedious.

I’m not a fan of overly flowery descriptions of people or places, or tedious descriptions of family trees, so books about girls with dragon tattoos are totally out. Basically I like stories with guns, tech, weird worlds or things that go too fast. I think that’s a pretty standard bloke requirement for reading matter. But it can be incredibly hard to find good ones. Obviously anything by Gaiman or Pratchett works, but outside of that I find I need to evaluate books carefully.

Once I’ve found a book that sounds along the right kind of a line, I find the best method of confirming if I’ll enjoy reading it from cover to cover, is to randomly open it at a page and read a couple of paragraphs. This ensures that you avoid books that have a good start, but fail by the third chapter. And ensures that you are very unlikely to ruin the story, as randomly selected paragraphs by themselves don’t often tell you who did it or why.

To do this I visit actual bookstores. And since the only chain left seems to be Barnes and Noble, I do visit their stores and trawl their bookshelves. But I never ever purchase books from them, with the exception of the odd technical manual that I may want quickly to fix a specific issue, and am willing to waive the lower price of Amazon for immediacy.

There are several reasons why they don’t get my business. Firstly they are expensive unless you join their loyalty discount program. And since this costs a yearly fee, and I have no faith in their medium to long term viability, I have not done so.

But secondly I read most of my books now on an Amazon Kindle, and not a Barnes and Noble nook. And while travelling around the city or on planes I download audio books from audible.com. So instead of purchasing books at B&N I just photograph the desired book covers on my phone, and pick them up later online.

Every time I do this I know I am killing a little bit of the last bookstore chain in the country. And that one day when they are gone, I will regret their passing, but the simple fact is, I don’t want to carry physical books around with me, and their online services are less suitable for me that the others I do use.

I love real books, and I think I’ll always prefer reading from paper than in any of the various e-forms (my secrets out). But e just works better for portability and accessibility. It’s there when I need it and it’s cheaper to boot.

With a kindle book I can read it on the kindle, my laptop, my phone or my ipad and even move between all the devices. With audible books it’s on my phone, in my car, on my iPod and even in the bathroom when I’m having a bath.

Barnes and Noble do offer me a great service, for which I pay them absolutely nothing. They will die and I will miss them. Sad but true.

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I’m angry about the new slave trade

The average wealthy (or at least not poor) American has a wonderful cheap supply of slave labor, and the great thing is that these new slaves have even less rights than the ones of centuries ago (yes I know this is absurd, and insulting, but think about rights and social values in the context of history). You do need to pay these new slaves, but a salary, which is only a small fraction of the minimum wage.

You don’t need to offer them any job security, health benefits or holiday pay or care in any way about their welfare. Hire as many as you need for a pittance of pay, stop paying them and they are not your problem. If you’re wealthy and happy to not think about the ethics this is a great deal.

But then along comes some bleeding hearth ethical types and they want to give your slaves rights. What the hell!

Of course we all use different words to describe this situation. If you’re a bleeding heart you call these people immigrant workers, while if your making hay while the sun shines you call them illegals.

The bottom line is that the deck is stacked against these workers. The very people they come to work for are doing everything they can to keep them status-less, while the people who are trying to help them are almost powerless.

If people who come to America for economic reasons (and didn’t follow the legal process) were ever to get legal work status, that would require them to be paid at least a minimum wage, and get the same protections as any other humans in the workplace. That would be very expensive.

Eventually it has to happen, slave labor is not a socially acceptable practice, and people are just starting to be called out on it.

Obviously it’s wrong for people to come to any country without following the approved process, but I feel that the very people who are hiring these workers are in effect directly supporting this illegal practice.

A simple fix is always to punish those who are hiring illegal workers. When the cost of breaking the law outweighs the cost of following it, then people (however unethical) tend to either follow the law or go underground.

Making it easier for people who are needed to perform work, to get legal work status, along with making it harder to hire illegal workers, seems like a reasonable course of action.

Yes it will make the costs of farming, manufacturing and construction increase (as wages and benefits will increase), but it’s one part of the process of fixing the new slavery.

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