Thursday, January 31, 2008

Terror reporting ban

Tonight I'm thinking about the various calls around the world to do things like banning reporting on terrorism trials, or banning people from reporting that they are under investigation for terrorist offenses (among others).

You know, it's the old bait and switch. You want to do something that's going to screw over the public. So, you propose doing something that will screw them over in an even more outrageous way. After the outrage, you "compromise" back to your original plan and everyone is happy, if still screwed.

The only problem is, it seems that the public has forgotten how to play this game of chicken. We get proposals that boil down to, "we'll take all of your freedoms, in exchange for false security," and the public or media fail to call them on it - or more likely, welcome it with open arms.

Make your own point, I have to go to bed.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

*cough* *cough*

I have officially been sick for one month straight now.


Sunday, January 20, 2008

Designer Life

You know, I'm not sure my previous post really got the actual point across:

The human reproductive system is essentially structured to terminate fertilized eggs on a routine basis. From a certain point of view, the whole system is set up as a harsh evolutionary process. A weak and likely genetically damaged sperm will not reach the egg first, if at all. Genetic defects are detected and spontaneously aborted.

It seems difficult to reconcile those facts with the beliefs that humans (and subsequently the human reproductive system) were designed by a deity and that termination of a fertilized egg is equivalent to murder in the view of that deity.

I can think of several theological ways to resolve it, I suppose, but those theological points of view end up being the exact opposite of the views held by the anti-evolution Christian fundamentalists.

I feel a sigh coming on.

Saturday, January 12, 2008

The Abortion Debate

So of course as I'm reading stuff about the anti-evolution nonsense going on down in Florida, somebody mentions abortion as another religious over-reaction, which reminded me of a thought I had recently.

Since the religious belief seems to be that life begins at conception, I was wondering what the actual miscarriage rate is. Since, presumably, the God of the Gaps is the one causing miscarriages and that's all fine, but once a person decides to do it, it's murder.

It's unfortunately a bit hard to get good numbers, since many miscarriages could happen without anyone realizing. According to this site, 15-20% of pregnancies ended in miscarriages in 2003. That's basically in line with what I've read elsewhere. This site suggests it could be as high as 50%. This site suggests up to three quarters of all fertilized eggs (a.k.a. conception) are lost.

Statscan has some abortion numbers, suggesting about 30 abortions per 100 live births, which would presumably mean about 23% of non-miscarried pregnancies are aborted. I find that surprisingly high to be honest. That also doesn't prove the point I was expecting to make, that abortions would be statistically insignificant compared to miscarriages, but there you go.

I'm pretty sure based on those numbers that it's pretty hard to justify bombing / shooting / murdering someone attempting to enter an abortion clinic. Then again, maybe I'm just way off base, in the same way that running someone off the road can't be justified just because lots of people die in car accidents. Maybe it's just my lack of empathy talking. Or maybe I just really need to go to bed.

In any case, I still think the wisest thing suggested on the subject is to ensure abortion is legal, safe and rare. I couldn't recall who said that, but a quick search on Google leads me to believe it was Bill Clinton. Regardless, I still believe it's the wisest thing I have ever heard said on the matter.

Recently Watched: The Story of Stuff

You too can watch the Story of Stuff right here.

And now that you've done that, we can think about stuff.

Now, there are a lot of things in the video I can agree with, if they're true. If it's true that it's actually physically impossible for every person on Earth to simultaneously experience the same quality of life as those of us in North America, then that's pretty sad. If it's true that our quality of life is built on the backs of the "developing" world, then that's pretty sad. I'm not at all sure what can be done about it, but there you go.

At the same time, I really get the feeling that not everything in the video adds up, but I don't really have the facts to confirm or deny most of what is in the video.

However, when I watched the part about planned obsolescence of computers, I got the same feeling I get when seeing computers portrayed in most movies: it's all just wrong. It's so wrong that it calls into question every other claim presented in the film.

The main problem is the claim that only one tiny part of your computer changes from year to year, and the only difference is the shape of the socket (hence the "planned obsolescence" claim).

Now, presumably she's talking about the CPU. It's completely ignorant to suggest that
any CPU should be able to work on any motherboard. There have been major technological advances made in CPU speeds, and the supporting clock frequency from the motherboard, on-board system software, front-side bus speed, memory bus speed band, and any of a dozen other technological advances of the last several years are necessary to make it work. Technically it might be possible to build a significantly faster CPU and put it on an old motherboard, but it would be so hampered by the rest of the system not advancing along with it there would hardly be much point.

RAM, hard drives, video cards have all improved, and not in any planned-obsolescence way, but in a we-didn't-know-how-to-build-it-before way. Technological progress is not the same thing as planned obsolescence, although it might look the same to someone who doesn't know any better.

Now, that doesn't invalidate the point that maybe we don't actually need all those big improvements and could be happy with playing text adventures on our ancient PCs. I'm not sure that encouraging that sort of technological stagnation would be a good idea either - the only reason we're not all starving to death is due to technological advancement. The entertainment industry is an interesting one, and I work right in the middle of it so my perception of it is probably colored. I never find it quite as evil as she might like to paint it though - we don't plan to make new games to make the old ones obsolete, people simply stop buying them after six months (on average).

To be honest, I find American consumerism excessive and disgusting. As with all things, balance is key, and there is no balance or happiness there. Consuming seems to be the end goal, not happiness, which is a very bizarre way to approach life.

So, I'm going to keep driving my Civic Hybrid, recycling as much as I can, and just generally be a moderate consumer. I'm also going to buy DVDs once in a while, upgrade my computer when I can't play new games any more, and generally have a little fun once in a while.

Wednesday, January 9, 2008

Recently listened to: Ayreon: Into the Electric Castle

I really haven't been posting enough. I've basically been sick continuously since December 21st, which has left me in a disinterested state.

I'm not exactly better yet either, but it really seems like time to write something. So, what better than a new review?

I got a couple new CDs for Christmas. Ayreon: Into the Electric Castle is one of them. I had been reading many good reviews of it around the web and decided to request it for Christmas, and have been listening to it pretty much continuously since I got it. It really is very good, essentially a rock opera, but the musical style is all over the place, even within a single song, ranging from light flute passages, to lots of synth stuff, to some pretty heavy rock stuff.

To sum up the story (and yea, there be spoilers here, but who really cares about spoilers in music): Eight people from various points in time (an Egyptian, Indian, Barbarian, Roman, Knight, Highlander, Hippie and a man from the future) are plucked from their proper time and made to go through several trials in some "time beyond time, space beyond space." Basically they must journey through a tunnel of light, across a rainbow bridge, through the Garden of Emotions, enter the Electric Castle, pass through the Castle Hall, the Tower of Hope, through the Mirror Maze, glimpse a future where men and machines merge and emotions are lost, and finally choose from one of two gates to return to their own time. Only half of them reach the exit, at which time their "guide" through the journey reveals that it or its race are responsible for wiping out the dinosaurs to populate the Earth with humans in order to experience their emotions, which were lost to them eons ago.

While this is all somewhat bizarre and implausible, there really isn't enough science fiction rock opera in my opinion, so we'll let that slide. No, really. Me, whiner at all things slightly ridiculous is letting it slide. It's that good.

Really, despite the plot being a bit out there, seeing the different characters respond to their environment and each other is pretty cool. The Egyptian, Roman and Highlander think they're in the afterlife, the Indian thinks it's a spiritual journey, the Knight thinks he's been sent on a quest for the Holy Grail, the Barbarian thinks he's on some quest to rid the place of a curse, the Hippie thinks he's stoned, and the Futureman thinks it's some sort of virtual world. Their perceptions ultimately decide who is able to survive, and who loses hope, falls behind the others, or makes bad choices.

OK, that's all I can manage to write right now. You can listen to some of the music here if you are so inclined.

Wednesday, January 2, 2008

New Year's Resolution

Same as last year (and the year before that, and the year before...): Not to make any New Year's resolutions.

That must be ten years or more running now. I can't decide if keeping that resolution is good or bad, since technically I've resolved not to make any resolutions.

Tuesday, January 1, 2008

I hate being sick

It interferes with the thinking.