It's SUPPOSED to be about how I'm setting up a marine nano-aquarium, but I get so easily distracted that this blog could also be about religion, politics, almost anything except sport...
This site's address is www.geekbrit.blogspot.com
Tuesday, April 26, 2011
Wednesday, August 11, 2010
Division by God
Imagine if you will, that the Universe is the creation of an all-seeing, all-powerful God. Imagine further that this Creator is aware of every single entity that has ever lived on every single world that he/she/it has caused to come into existence. Suppose also that of those teeming billions upon billions of life forms, the Creator has decided to favor one species - humans - above all others with knowledge of the Creator's existence, and has done so by interceding directly in the lives of people living on Earth, causing them to record words uttered directly to them by the Creator of the Universe.
Let's take all the above as being true - after all, this much is common belief among most religions. The question I would have to ask is, given the omnipresence and omniscience of the Creator, why wouldn't this God make the same message known to all people, at the same time? Why would there be any ambiguity in the message, and why would some claim to have completely antithetical instructions from their deity?
The disagreements over God's message to Humanity have caused more pain and suffering than almost any other factor in human behavior, throughout recorded history and it seems not unreasonable to assume, for a great deal longer.
Some would say that the reasons for the confusion and conflict is the fault of the imperfect vessels (humans) for God's perfect message. I would suggest in response that this indicates the plausibility of one of three possible conclusions about the nature of God that can be deduced through consideration of claims of God's message to his Faithful. The first conclusion has to be that God is incompetent. If this were not so, God would have put in place safeguards to ensure that in case of doubt, it would be possible to refer to the original message - inscribed with plentiful illustrations and examples in titanium supernaturally infused into clearest diamond perhaps, or when questions arise we would be able to have a quick word with a heavenly Customer Service representative - anything except a body of morally-suspect old men with a vested interest in manipulating interpretation of the 'message' to their own ends.
That seems a little harsh in retrospect. Let's assume that a Creator who made this magnificent enormous Universe to live in isn't ham-fisted or incompetent. What does that leave? Well, God could be... whisper it softly... dead. I guess that could explain why the message became corrupted and misused to justify suppression, torture, killing of all non-believers by many who cleave to one faith or another - God just wasn't there to fix things when these silly humans went off-course.
There is another possibility what if the entity or entities that formulated all these varied and conflicting versions of the "One True Faith" were actually just a teeny bit evil? This option doesn't actually require the Creator to get involved at all - doesn't it strike you as just a little egotistical to believe that the lord of all Creation has a personal interest in your species, let alone whether you get a better job or avoid a mugging on the way home?
So there you have it. The Creator from your holy book is incompetent or negligent, doesn't exist, or is actively malevolent, delighting in causing all the struggles big and small between extremists of all persuasions. I leave you to determine how a Loving, Caring God fails to fall into any of these categories given the evidence of the last week (any week), and whether this deity is truly worthy or even aware of your saccharine praises. May your God go with you.
Sunday, June 17, 2007
With or without religion, you would have good people doing good things and evil people doing evil things. But for good people to do evil things, that takes religion.
- Steven Weinberg
Thursday, May 10, 2007
This entry doesn't have a title
Robert A. HeinleinBeginning with technological action stories and progressing to epics with religious overtones, this take-no-prisoners writer racked up some huge sales numbers.
Sunday, December 10, 2006
In The Mob
Well, I can't tell you about the outcome of the show, and I'm not even sure I can tell you how I did as a contestant in "The Mob" - I'll just say I didn't disgrace myself. Apart from the legal aspects, I wouldn't want to spoil the fun ;)
So I'll just say that the taping of the 1 vs 100 show last Friday was a hell of a lot of fun, and even the waiting around wasn't too bad - with a hundred or so other hopefuls sitting around with you, there's always someone to talk to.
The casting directors are very proficient, and surprisingly polite - I would imagine that it can be very frustrating working with large numbers of people, none of whom know what's going on, while trying to coordinate the taping of three shows in a day. The analogy to "herding cats" is most apt.
After queuing outside Security Gate 3 at Culver Studios, the day starts off (at 8am for my group) when everyone is escorted into a huge empty sound studio where you collect your name badge before presenting ID & Social Security Number card at the 'accounting' table. Coffee and breakfast items are available, and the first hour of waiting begins at a set of bare wooden tables. When you sit down, you'll find the Official Rules of the game and the legal contract on the table, along with a pen - don't start filling it in, at 9am, one of the directors stood up and explained what you need to write in each section. It's worth reading through the legal contract though - the clauses and legal retribution that you sign up for are intentionally scary. My favorite clause was that I grant the right for the program that I appear in to be broadcast throughout the Universe without any compensation. Personally, I'm ok with everything up to the edge of the Solar System, but I'd really like to hold out for a cut of all royalties earned from Alpha Centauri & beyond.
On your name badge, you'll find a three-character code; the final character is a number between 1 and 4. We all speculated that this is related to the score you achieved in the trivia test at the audition, since the directors are careful not to get too many of any one 'grade' when they're assembling The Mob for the next show - I nearly got into the first taping of the day, but they had enough of my grade already. I was a 4, and I'm still undecided as to whether that means I'm a really bright spark, or thick as sh!t.
We were called through to a curtained-off section by name-tag 'grades' and seated in grade-groups on comfy grey sofas. There are also one hundred folding chairs that are used when assembling the next Mob, and some of these were occupied by people who hadn't managed to get onto the show the previous day, or who were returning players.
At this point, an independent observer went through the legal obligations and other rules again, with dire threats in case of contravention of the rules. No one decided to back out. I however, was increasingly uncomfortable with one of the requirements - you have to be a legal resident of the United States. Now, I'm here legally, with a work visa, and I'm a resident for tax purposes, but my permanent residency application is still pending. (Heck, I can't even claim more than one allowance, so I'm paying MORE tax than permanent residents and citizens). I decided to go and ask the independent adjudicator guy if this was a problem, because if it was, I was going to step down and walk away. They took down some details (British & Canadian citizenship etc) then they spent the next half hour looking into it, before deciding it was ok. The nice thing about that was, every time one of the casting directors spoke to me after that, they called me by name, rather than saying "oy - you in the blue shirt - yes, you - you're going to be number 54" etc.
Sooo... at 2pm (remember, I got up at 5:20am to drive to Culver City), my group shuffled to the stage next door where the taping was being carried out. I was number 83 - and let me tell you, the second row from the top is STILL pretty high. The stage manager told us to be rowdy, and man, we were ROWDY. The studio lights were intense, but at least it was warm (the waiting area is more than a little chilly - well, what can you expect? The ceiling is about 50ft high, and they keep the door open all day). The show that I'm on has a famous gymnast and her husband, stars from a soap opera and eleven "men in black" - you'll get it when you see it - as the 'special groups'. It should be aired on either the third or fourth Friday in January 2007.
The taping took a little over two hours - and during that time the Mob has to stand at all times except for the odd two-minute break. There's a little butt-perch at the back of the 'pod'. The Contestant and Bob Saget however seem to be on their feet the whole time.
Bob Saget is fun, and he has to think very fast to ad lib questions and comments. He does however have a little difficulty pronouncing foreign names - one question took at least five takes, and they ended up recording audio only so they could dub in a voiceover! I'm going to leave further details of the taping till another posting - I can't afford to give anything away!
Saturday, December 02, 2006
My daughter Emmy sent me this youtube clip of one of her friends perfroming live at the St George Applefest in Canada - I think this young lady will go far. Remember, you saw her here first!
P.S. - I have been invited to be part of the Mob on 1vs100 - taping at 8am next Friday! Wish me luck!
P.P.S - We have our first second generation baby seahorse! I dunno if there's only one because the litluns born in August are still not fully grown, or because I disturbed the 'happy couple' by starting to clean the tank while they were exchanging eggs, but I think this is a good sign :) A few more and I'll start sending breeding groups out to other people - spreading tank-bred seahorses conserves wild stocks.
Friday, November 24, 2006
Competition... find the craziest stuff on eBay
Ok, this caught my attention when I was smurfing through ebay today:
Pound for pound, possibly the most expensive dirt on ebay.
Is this guy for real? Who would pay $200 for a few grams of dirt that have been on the International Space Station? Well, good luck to him!
There's a bunch of crazy things on ebay - someone must be able to find something that beats my crud from the ISS, post your findings in a comment!
Update: I'll be darned... he got a buyer!!!
Saturday, November 18, 2006
I just found a couple of letters that I wrote for my friend's online magazine "ChicNeanderthal" a few years ago, and thought I'd share them with you...
As the duly elected representative of the people, vis-a-vis the Council of Elders, Shamans and Tribal-chiefs, I am writing to inform you that the Council has today initiated legal procedings to have this den of iniquity, this hotbed of dangerous new ways of thinking, this so-called "ChicNeanderthal" wound up.
We have consulted the highest legal baboons, and they concur with our contention that incitement to evolution is a grave contravention of natural law. Remember what happened to our good friends the Australiopilithicans? Evolved specialised mouthparts to drink happy-juice from the shub-shub plant just as the shub-shub plant evolved into Stinking Milkwort. One generation and they were gone. That's what evolution does for you, young man.
Honestly, you've got it coming to you, what with your fancy lah-di-dah friends with their fancy names like "Alf", "Bert" and "Elsie". Zog was good enough for me, your grandfather and so on for as many generations as we can count. Er.. that's about three I think, I'll have to consult the lemurs on that one.
Be warned, you young fops, I'm not saying that I have any control over the more militant Neanderthals, but there's those who say that the editors of ChicNeanderthal have gone too far, and that this HERESY AND POISON OF THE MIND WILL BE WIPED FROM THE FACE OF THE EARTH WITH THE FIRE THAT BURNS AND MAKES DAMP THINGS DRY. Damn. I think I might have given away a guild secret there.
On a more personal note, could you bring a few copies of your newspaper round when you come home? We're almost completely out in the privy. Oh, and Mum says to look in on your Aunt Auguthta when you get time, because the mammoths are eating her washing again.
Zog Wogan-Golightly, Elected Elder of Little Dumpling, Wimpstonshire
Sir, this is a weighty matter indeed. Your thinly-veiled threats of violence are of no consequence to us. Evolution is a one-way superhighway to the myriad campfires in the sky, and ChicNeanderthal is determined to lead the way. I feel an editorial coming on. And the baboons are liars.
Tell Mum I've got an idea for keeping the mammoths away from Auntie's washing. Can she get me lots of pointy sticks and some string from the shops?
My good friend Wilkins and I were recently engaged in idle chatter down at the communal privy, when Wilkins' attention was captured by a scrap from one of the issues of your disreputable journal. I was concerned when Wilkins put the article to one side rather than use it for its intended purpose, but made no comment on the matter at the time. Wilkins gave me a cheery wave and said that he'd see me later, as he "had to see a man about a Norse".
Somewhat perturbed, I made all haste to return home and rapidly thumbed through the enormous pile of unsold back issues of your journal. [Mum says can you let her know when you're going to find somewhere to put these, as she's sick to the back teeth of vacuuming around them. I'd have thought that since her vacuum cleaner consists of a short pipe, her own lung-power and a spittoon, she'd be grateful for anything that took up some floorspace - but I digress.]
At last, I found the article that had so caught Wilkins' imagination - the misspelling of the word "Flagellate" in one of the headlines on that particular page is I think, unique. With a growing sense of alarm, I read how ChicNeanderthal is recommending that certain breeds of Scandinavian are suitable for ploughing, pulling carts and even riding and jumping. No wonder Wilkins had been sitting there with a bemused smile on his face and steam gently escaping from his open-toe plimsolls. Without delay, I set off to find the poor wretch - immediately after enjoying a nice round of club sandwiches (although some of the clubs still had bits of hair stuck to them), and helping to dislodge a small mammal of some kind from the back of your Mum's throat.
I knew exactly where Wilkins would be. There he was on the beach amongst a crowd of proto-Vikings excitedly waving his scrap of paper around and trying to explain the concepts of saddlery as he understood them from your article. One of the strangely-garbed members of Wilkin's audience took off the knotted rope contraption that Wilkins had been trying to put over his head, rubbed his jaw and called out something to one of his companions on their boat. Immediately a fearsome four-legged creature, of great size and snorting like a man in desperate need of a pint of warm beer was brought ashore, led by someone holding something very like Wilkins' rope contraption. The Viking pointed to the creature, then to your article, and kept saying something like "Orse! It is Orse!".
Well, of course Wilkins was incensed that this stupid Johnny Foreigner could think that he wanted anything to do with such a loathsome creature, all nose teeth and very hard feet. He politely explained that if the gentleman would kindly hand over one or two of those rather charming young Norse girls, he could be on his way. For some reason the Viking took exception to this, and with a bellow first bloodied Wilkin's nose, then placed his ceremonial horned helmet somewhere from which it has taken simply ages to extract. Well, if he wants it back, he's going to have to clean it himself, that's all I can say.
I of course acquitted myself admirably in the "lives to fight another day" stakes. I have recommended an excellent lawyer to Wilkins, and he'll be in touch with you shortly, unless you'd like to offer an out-of-court settlement for the reckless and dangerous advice you gave in the article? And you got a typographical error in every single instance of the word "Norse". It really makes me wonder what the education system is coming to. Honestly, I really think its time to go back the old ways. The Grannys looking after the kids until they're old enough to understand the concept of "Kill something and eat it". Never did me any harm.
By the way, Aunt Auguthta says thank you for the "fence", but should it be inside or outside the house, cause the only reason the mammoths have stopped eating her washing is because she can't get out to hang it up on the line any more.
Thank you, Mr Wogan-Golightly, for your letter.
I am naturally very concerned that errata published by this journal might cause "misunderstandings" but I am rather more concerned that you would blame ChicNeanderthal for your friends foolishness. Before you take umbrage let me explain. I have recovered the article to which you refer from our database and can tell you that I see no way to misinterpret the text as anything other than what it is - a tutorial on Macrame. There is no mention of carts; there is nothing at all about Scandinavian females and I would suggest that your friend's misreading of "plaiting" as the allusive "ploughing" is significant of his state of mind.
I do sympathise with you, Mr Wogan-Golightly but I really don't think your friend Wilkins needs a lawyer (yet.)
Please don't let me discourage your correspondence - feel free to sue as often as you like from March of next year because the publicity can only help the sale of genuine "adult rated" material in our newest, nudest publication - ChickNeanderthal. (Ed.)
Sunday, November 12, 2006
Thank you, Dr John, & and update
My thanks to Dr John for choosing my humble blog as today's selected site, and thank you also to those of you who stopped by - I don't think I've ever seen so many comments on one of my postings. I hope some of you wandered down to other postings.
[To understand what the heck I'm talking about, I suggest that you read last Sunday's blog entry first.]
An interesting theme through the comments was the fact that few people think they would have stayed for the whole 5 hours waiting for those scant 7 minutes total for the interview and trivia test - and viewed dispassionately, if I had known it was going to take so long, would I have gone? Actually, I think I would, not for my sake, but because Mrs Geekbrit has for a long time envisioned herself on that stage, and I wanted to go to the audition to support her - and from that perspective, who wouldn't give up a mere half a day for the sake of a loved one? Of what worth is your love if it pales at the thought of a little discomfort?
Ok, that's the high-minded gas & noise out of the way - you also have to consider the competitive atmosphere when you're waiting in line, everyone who drops out brings you that much closer to achieving the goal you set yourself when you made the decision to attend the auditions - and even when a small pragmatic voice whispered that the rational course would be to withdraw, stubborn pride wouldn't let us quit, to someone else's benefit. As time went by, our investment in the whole process grew, such that it would have been harder and harder to walk away - you know the principle, the gambler's compulsion to throw good money after bad, or "we'll just spend another $100Billion and we'll achieve Peace in the Middle East".
I decided to close today with my own "embarrassing moment" that I wrote on the Deal or No Deal questionnaire (although expanded somewhat as I had little space to write on the form), and boy, ain't it a doozy...
When I was a lad of 17, going to Harlow Technical College in England I used to catch the bus to Bishops Stortford from the Harlow Town Centre bus terminus - now this is quite a respectably sized terminus, with two rows of covered waiting area and able to handle perhaps forty buses at any one time. One day, I saw my bus about to leave as I ran down the length of the terminus to catch it. I knew a trick that always made the bus stop, and had used it many times to get the driver to open the door and let me on - if you grab hold of the arm for the rear-view mirror next to the door, the driver has no choice but to stop.
Well - not this time. The driver just glared at me and made "Go forth and multiply" gestures. I yelled through the closed door "WHY WON'T YOU LET ME ON???" He jabbed his finger back over his shoulder at the aisle-full of standing passengers - the bus was full - and then he pointed again at the thirty people he had left standing at the bus stop, all of whom were glaring at me.
I decided to eschew the dubious comforts of the bus shelter and instead walked the mile and a bit to Harlow Town Railway Station - definitely a day to take the train!
Sunday, November 05, 2006
Deal, or One Versus One Hundred?
Yesterday was absolutely gruelling. For some time now, Mrs Geekbrit has wanted to be a contestant on Deal or No Deal (a TV game show where you select random cases numbered one to 26 containing a cash value of 1 penny to $1,000,000, while a 'banker' tries to tempt you to leave the game early by offering sums of money based on the odds that you're going to be left with a high value case).
So when open auditions were announced just thirty miles away we had to go along. The same auditions were selecting people to appear on One Vs One Hundred - much more my kind of show, where the contestant wins increasing amounts of money each round multiplied by the number of members of the 'Mob' who answer each question incorrectly - so long as the contestant walks away with the money - if he gets a question wrong, the remaining members of the mob share the contestants winnings between them.
The auditions are nominally open from 10am to 1pm. We arrived at 11am and stood in line out on the corner of the street about 400 yards from the doors. An hour and a half later, we were inside the doors, and saw that the line of people in front of us snaked from front to back of the hall seven times before disappearing up some stairs to where the 'auditions' were actually being held.
At this point, we were given some forms, with questions like:
- What was the luckiest moment of your life?
- What is the most interesting thing about you that people can't tell just by looking at you?
- Tell us about an embarrassing thing that happened to you?
- What is the most outrageous thing you've ever done?
- Apart from your spouse, who would be your main supporters, and why?
- What would you do with a million dollars?
There were a couple of other questions I can't remember - sorry :( These actually took quite some time to answer, and we'd progressed around a couple of lengths of the hall by the time I finished answering them. [BIG HINT... take a pen!]. Then everything came to a grinding halt for at least 20 minutes - I think the casting crew stopped for lunch.
The good thing about all this is that you get to know the people in line with you - you'll probably be talking to them more in the time that you're in line than many people talk to their next door neighbours all year! Anyway - after more than four hours standing in line, we made it to the top of the stairs and were formed into lines of ten people. [ANOTHER BIG HINT... the casting crew are really fed up with the Screamers - they say that since people get only thirty seconds to make their pitch, it's not good if some other prat is yelling and distracting the interviewees/interviewers].
A short time later you're in a group of ten people standing around a table facing an interviewer. For the past two hours, you've been working out what you'll say. Now's your chance, don't fluff it! Can you imagine the pressure? You have to sound interesting, they don't care how much you enjoy the show. I don't know what it takes to get selected as a contestant, because I didn't get selected! A few people were told that they could leave now, the rest of us were sent to YET ANOTHER LINE, where we were photographed, and then waited in line to take a trivia quiz. I guess Mrs Geekbrit and I are in the shortlist for the Mob - I suspect most people end up in this category, since the One Vs One Hundred show could easily get through 100 people an episode.
The test itself is pretty easy, apart from some obscure questions that I just had to guess at - it seems that to get a perfect score, you have to remember what some CD covers from the last few years looked like (Aerosmith, Red Hot Chilli Peppers, some others).
Anyway, after five hours standing in line (my back was killing me), I came away with a deep sense of... how cheap I felt - I was only mildly interested in the audition process myself, why did I rack my brains to come up with a good spiel for the 'interview'? And I really went for it. Damn, am I really so materialistic? I like to think its because I feel that if I do something, I do it with all my heart, but I wonder...
P.S. Feel free to add a comment with answers to some of those questions!