Thursday, December 29, 2005

Shield Superman Belt Buckle

Shield Superman Belt Buckle

This is so cool!

My loot

Once again it has been proven to me that I have the world’s coolest girlfriend.

As it turned out, she ended up being responsible for purchasing all my Christmas presents this year… from her and on behalf of both her and my families.

She made sure that my DVD collection received a significant enhancement consisting of three of my all-time favourite movies: Charlie & the Chocolate Factory (Tim Burton’s one), Big Fish (Tim Burton is a genius) and Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (probably the best science fiction movie I have ever seen). (This in addition to my number one, all-time favourite movie Edward Scissorhands that she gave me for our 1 month anniversary).

And to top it off, her own gift to me was a frikken awesome coffee machine! It’s shiny, and has blinky lights and an LCD display. It’s also automated, so I can program it to make coffee whenever I want it to. Plus the jug it delivers the coffee into is also shiny, and thermally shielded so as to keep the coffee warm! I have dubbed it “Robosapien”.

One of the crappy things about Christmas (and my birthday as well) is that it always amazes me how little the people in my life actually know about me. I happen to think I’m pretty easy to shop for, but most people don’t take the time or effort to find out what I actually like, so they inevitably end up getting me something lame. I know “it’s the thought that counts”, but I’m often forced to wonder how much thought really goes into it.

That’s not to say I’m the world’s best gift-buyer myself, but I usually make an effort to find out what the intended recipient wants or is interested in… especially if it’s someone close to me. That effort is what counts, not the money spent. It’s difficult to measure success in these things, since no-one will ever tell you they hate the gift you gave them, but I think I get it right a lot of the time.

Hide got it right first time. She listened to me when I spoke (not intentionally dropping hints, just talking about the things I like, want and miss having), and took the time to look through my wish-lists for specifics. That’s the kind of effort I’m talking about. And that’s what means so much.

Tuesday, December 27, 2005

Assist Rescue Operation

Decipher - The Art of Great Games

Another wicked-cool card from the new expansion set, To Boldly Go.

This is the equivalent of catching a ball in Dodgeball.

If I manage to execute this properly, I could stop a Personnel... okay, no big deal (maybe two with a Tragic Turn under there).

But if it works, I get a free ship and its matching commander into play immediately. That's either a William T. Riker - Wistful Admiral and Enterprise-D or Jean-Luc Picard and his Enterprise-E.

This will be an awesome addition to my Dilemma Pile (if the expansion ever gets released, that is... the release date has been pushed back for, what, the fourth time now?)

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

I Hate Pat Robertson

Monitoring the Religious Right

The more I read about this guy the more I hate him too.

He's on my list.

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Give me back my goddam Playstation!

Customer (dis)Service in this country sucks huge, fermenting, odious, odiferous, egg-shaped piles. We all know it, but we all just put up with it. Why? Because if we make a fuss it doesn’t achieve anything more significant that contributing to our own stress levels.

About a month ago I bought myself a brand-spanking, shiny new Sony Playstation 2. Excellent. Hide, Zara and I had many hours of fun playing Tekken 4 (the only game I bought at the time) until after about two weeks the console decided to stop reading disks.

I was annoyed, but not particularly upset. I know this happens sometimes with new tech-gadgets. It came with a sticker for I-CSS: a company which apparently services the warranties for all Playstation hardware in South Africa. I called them and dropped off my defective console at their service centre in Midrand.

They told me they would most likely swap it out since it was so new. It would only take three to four days to verify that it was indeed faulty (the ID10T error check), then they would give me a new one. Having worked in a swap-out center myself, I’m familiar with the processes involved, so I was satisfied with that… even if it meant living without Tekken for a few days.

That was on a Tuesday.

I decided to be lenient, so I didn’t bother calling them again until the Friday, by which time it was certain to be ready. They told me they were waiting for parts. I thought it was a little odd that they would need parts for a device they weren’t going to fix, but I figured that maybe they’d decided to repair it after all… that’s their prerogative, I suppose. So I accepted it and carried on.

The next Tuesday I called again. A week was more than enough time. It still wasn’t ready. This time the story was they were waiting for swap-out stock to arrive. It had apparently been ordered and was on its way. (Now they were going to swap it out? I suppose it’s plausible that the service agent I’d spoken to on the Friday has misinterpreted the information on his screen as “parts” instead of “swap-out stock”… the two look so similar). They said it takes one to two weeks to arrive. Some lightning-fast mental arithmetic lead me to conclude that it should be arriving any day, at the latest the Tuesday after that (two weeks from when I dropped it off).

Again I decided to be lenient. I waited a whole week before calling them again, hoping that they would be calling me any time. One week after that second Tuesday, about half an hour ago, I gave them another call.

You guessed it: it hasn’t arrived yet. I threw my toys. It didn’t help. My rage was deflected by an impenetrable force-barrier of stupidity, ignorance and apathy. Typical of South African customer service.

For the one month period that I have been the owner of a PS2, I have actually had it in my possession for half that time. And it’s Christmas this weekend (or as I am starting to consider calling it: Non-religious-specific Day When People Give Each Other Presents)… I want to play with my goddam Playstation!

So I’m resolved to be an asshole about it.

I am going to call I-CSS every day from now on, and every day I will ask to speak to a higher level of management, and I will throw my toys at each one until someone gives me my goddam Playstation!

My lack of tolerance for customer service has been exacerbated by the ordeal Hide is currently going through with her goddam insurance idiots and the brain-donors down at the JMPD. But I’ll let her tell that story.

I-CSS will face the wrath if they don’t give me my goddam Playstation.

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

Intelligent Design Cold War turns hot

Professor hospitalized after beating |

We should have known it was only a matter of time. Irrational and ignorant people who have been proven wrong will eventually resort to violence... it's their only recourse.

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

The unbearable burden of indispensibility

All I want to do is take a nice, off-peak holiday at the coast with my girlfriend early next year.

Is that too much to ask?


My leave request for the two weeks I wanted was rejected. The only time I can have off is at the end of March, which is dangerously close to school holidays. Which means accommodation gets more expensive – in some places by more than a factor of ten.

Besides which it’s getting close to autumn, so the weather isn’t ideal.

I am becoming increasingly disgruntled. I’ve been under quite a lot of pressure here lately, which is fine. I can live with them putting me on 24-hour stand-by, as long as they give me broadband access from my laptop and as long as there is someone to cover for me when I’m on stage, on the paintball court, or doing something undisturbable with my parmaqqay.

But now they’re dictating my personal life – preventing me from taking leave when I choose to. That just pisses me off.

A considerable raise had best be forthcoming in the near future… this job is fast becoming more of a burden than an asset. It may be time to consider getting a new one. Then they will have to get someone new to cover support.

United Church of the Kingdom of God

After reading this article this morning, I recalled seeing a number of billboards around Joburg advertising the UCKG.

I remember thinking at the time how tacky it was that a church felt the need to advertise, and suspected a money-making racket, much like the Rhema and Christian Family “churches” – convincing their parishioners that sizeable cash donations are required in exchange for divine blessing.

So I’ve done a little reading about it. I was right… UCKG is officially the largest Brazilian franchise. An international con-job on par with Scientology.

But there’s more. Not only have UCKG been banned in Zambia due to allegations of “Satanic human sacrifice”, but they have also been linked to the abuse and murder of a little girl in the UK.

Apparently the UCKG are a pseudo-Christian cult originating from Brazil whose fundamentalist beliefs include superstitious practices like exorcisms – which would explain why it’s so prolific amongst uneducated communities in the 3rd world (I even spotted a UCKG office in Bela Bela, a small tourist town about 100km North of Johannesburg near my farm).

While the allegations of Satanism in Zambia are most likely ill-conceived, and the death of Victoria ClimbiƩ could well have been the work of three fanatics who just happened to go to that church, I think this bears watching.

UCKG has also been charged with misleading advertising in the UK following their claims of being able to cure cancer through spiritual counseling. Apparently leaders of the “church” in Brazil claim to be able to cure AIDS as well. I’m surprised they haven’t yet been endorsed by Manto the Moronic.

I’m going to be keeping an eye on this bunch – it seems like we’re looking at another group of hucksters selling spirituality as a product to the poor and ignorant, and what they’re selling could turn out to be very dangerous.

Matthias Rath: Charlatan and murderer

TAC Briefing: The harmful activities of Matthias Rath

This man represents the most despicable evil of the quack fraternity: those who offer ineffective “alternative” treatments to terminally ill people and discourage them from seeking real medical care that could extend their lives and improve their quality of life.

And to make it worse, he's doing so with the blessing of our (obviously retarded) Minister of Health.

"No war on the face of the Earth is more destructive than the AIDS pandemic. I was a soldier. But I know of no enemy in war more insidious or vicious than AIDS. Will history record a fateful moment in our time, on our watch, when action came too late?"
Colin Powel

Monday, December 05, 2005

Slave Species of god by Michael Tellinger

(I know Tellinger reads this blog, so I’ve avoided mentioning his book until I’d read it myself or I could get my hands on a review by someone who had actually read it. I’ve found one, so here it is.)

A review by Neil Kennard-Davis

Tellinger feels that he has a message to share with the world, and he does so with evangelistic fervour. The message is that human beings are a created species, created by visitors from another planet for their own nefarious purposes.

The story of this creation, it is claimed, is given to us in the ancient Sumerian tablets written in cuneiform and translated by Zecharia Sitchin.

The basic thesis is that Earth was visited by the inhabitants of a planet, called Nibiru, in a long period cometary orbit of the Sun. The planet takes some 3 600 years to complete an orbit. About 450 000 years ago these "people", the Anunnaki, visited Earth to obtain gold. Some 250 000 years later, fed up with the hard labour of mining, they created a new species by combining their own genetic material with that of Homo erectus. The new species was Homo sapiens. The visitors then used Homo sapiens as their slaves and, in turn, were worshiped by them as Gods.

The visitors established their first bases in Mesopotamia, with other bases in Southern Africa and, later, South America to mine gold. All of this was later recorded by the early Sumerians, and passed down to us.

The book relies heavily on the translations of Sumerian cuneiform tablets by Zecharia Sitchin. These translations, if accepted at face value, make some startling claims and indicate a high level of technological expertise. The theory is that the cuneiform tablets record actual events rather than mythological tales. The question that I have to ask is; did the translations inform the theory or did the theory inform the translations? Cursory research suggests that other scholars of Sumerian cuneiform tablets do not agree with Sitchin's interpretations.

I have several problems with the thesis put forward by Tellinger.

On a general level, before getting to specifics, the arguments are advanced with little, or no, reference to fact or logic. Arguments run along the lines of "Let us speculate that such and such might be possible." Then a few pages later "Since I have shown that such and such probably happened." And then a little later "As such and such has been conclusively proved." All of this without any connecting logic or evidence. Other ideas are advanced on the basis of "Surely anyone can see that it is impossible that . and therefore so and so must have been the case." In my opinion arguments proposed by these means are rarely credible.

On a specific level, there are numerous areas with which I have difficulty.
I will only touch on a few of them.

Much is made, in the book, about human beings having a damaged, or incomplete, genome. This was, apparently, a deliberate stratagem by the creators to keep us servile. Evidence of this faulty genome is the "Greed"
gene and the "Violence" gene that we are supposed to have received from our creators. This takes no account of the fact that very similar behaviour is to be found amongst our genetic cousins chimpanzees and other simians, let alone other mammals.

At the same time the message is given that we are evolving at a furious rate and that our faulty genome is repairing itself. No cognisance is given to analysis of ancient human DNA that shows it to be identical with modern human DNA. Probably the best known example being that of "Otzi the Ice Man"
who died close to 5 000 years ago and whose well preserved body was found in the Tyrolean Alps in 1991.

Apparently, when Homo sapiens was first created, some 200 000 years ago, this was done in Southern Africa and the result was, from Sitchin's translations, "Woolly haired man" a clear reference to African or Bantu races. Then, later, the Anunnaki interbred with humans and their offspring were the "Aryans" or "European" races who, supposedly, compose Homo sapiens sapiens. The difference between the two is supposed to be a further infusion of alien DNA into the human genome.

Once again genetic evidence is dispensed with. Modern research has shown that, genetically, all human beings - Woolly Haired or Aryan - are "kissing cousins." Any hybridisation with another species would show up clearly in the DNA of the different races. Such evidence is not present. Incidentally the same evidence has shown that there was no interbreeding with Homo neanderthalensis when the two species co-existed in Europe between 60 000 and 30 000 years ago.

As an example of the closeness of the genetic relationship between humans, the genetic diversity within chimpanzees - in a far smaller population - is four times that to be found in humans.

Tellinger also proposes, as fact, a planet-wide flood or deluge as recorded in the Bible and, apparently, the Sumerian texts. This, we are told, most scholars agree happened around 11 000 B.C. at the end of the last Ice Age.
Unfortunately no references are given to these "most scholars" and, as far as I am aware, very few, if any, serious geologists, geographers or archaeologists adhere to the idea of such an event.

A flood of such proportions is, however, a very useful answer to the obvious questions about the lack of archaeological remains from the 400 000 year occupation of Earth by the Anunnaki. All such evidence was destroyed in the flood. This argument ignores the fact that there are clear remains of human activity all around the planet dating from the period in question and before.
The marvellously scholarly book "After the Ice" by Steven Mithen examines just about every major site dating from the Last Glacial Maximum at 20 000 B.C. to the Agricultural Revolution in about 5 000 B.C. No sign of a global deluge is found, but there is lots of evidence of human activity.

The gigantic deluge is supposed to have resulted from the catastrophic collapse of the Antarctic Ice Cap caused by gravitational disturbances from the planet Nibiru as it made its pass through the inner Solar System. This collapse caused a tsunami of monstrous proportions that swept across the whole planet.

The actual fact is that the Antarctic Ice Cap has been stable for more than 400 000 years. Drill cores have been collected and painstakingly analysed to show this conclusively. In addition, analysis of air samples trapped in the ice show evidence of a number of events affecting the planet over this period. Ice Ages and Interglacial periods can be identified. Even large scale deforestation with the advent of agriculture has left its mark, as has the Industrial Revolution. Evidence of a planetary deluge is absent.

The destruction of Sodom and Gomorra is ascribed to an attack, by the Anunnaki, using atomic bombs against rebellious humans. In my opinion a far more likely scenario would have been a meteorite strike, such as the one that devastated Tunguska, Russia, in 1908.

As telling as the clear scientific errors articulated in the story are the things that are left out. Perhaps the early Sumerian writers had no knowledge of Neanderthals who had lived in Europe and the Middle East. They cannot be expected to have known about them, but the Anunnaki would surely have done so. After all Neanderthal remains have been found in the Middle East dating back beyond 60 000 years before present, a time when the Anunnaki were supposedly at the height of their presence.

Similarly no mention is made of the eruption of the Torba volcano, some 75 000 years ago. This event wiped out all life in the Indian sub-continent, and much of the Middle East, under a layer of ash between two and six metres deep. In the process it took Homo sapiens to the brink of extinction, probably caused the extinction of Homo erectus in Asia, and tipped the global climate into a severe Ice Age. One would expect such a significant event to have been recorded by the Anunnaki, but the Sumerian tablets appear to be silent on the issue. Perhaps Mr Sitchin is ignorant of this event.

Carl Sagan said "Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence." The claims put forwards by Michael Tellinger in "Slave Species of god" are truly extraordinary. Unfortunately, the evidence put forward to back them does not match up to the required standard.

Friday, December 02, 2005

Moonbases and Exopolitics

The Canadian Deputy Minister of Defense is all a-tizzy about a possible alien threat.

I agree with him that there is a need to develop diplomatic and military contingencies in the unlikely event that ET decides to land on the Union Buildings lawn some day. (I mean aliens landing in their space-ships, not the AWB leader falling of his horse)

One point I would like to examine in his speech (an extract of which can be found here) is that of the US "forward base on the Moon, which will put them in a better position to keep track of the goings and comings of the visitors from space, and to shoot at them, if they so decide".

There are many loony points in that extract, but I want to pick on this one.

Let's think about this for a second.

The Moon is a smallish rock (compared to the Earth) which orbits the Earth at a considerable distance once every 28 days (more or less).

What in Xenu's name gives this guy the idea that it would provide us with an effective weapons platform from whence to snipe at invading armadas?

I have a visual aid:

(this diagram is not to scale)

The Earth itself puts a huge blind-spot in the Moon-base's detection grid. Any sufficiently advanced alien species would be able to easily detect the WMDs on the lunar surface and sneak in the back way. They'd be able to 'put da bag on us' with relative ease.

From a tactical point of view, the Moon is a good location to launch armed space vehicles from, since the Moon's small gravity makes it much easier for small craft to achieve escape velocity than if they were to launch from the Earth's surface. The Moon's own mineral resources could be used in the construction of these vehicles and stuff... good plan.

But as a defensive weapons platform it's no good. A much better plan would be to have an extensive network of armed, solar or nuclear powered satellites in both high and low Earth orbit. The visual arc of such a network would be a full 360x360 degrees.

This could be supported by a number of Earthbound heavy artillery launchers in varied locations.

The key to defending a planet from invasion is redundancy... have a wide variety of defensive measures in many different places using as many independent and varied power sources as possible.

Well... now that I've shown you that I can defend us from the Zentradi better than Dubya can, are you guys ready to elect me as Supreme Emperor of Earth? It'll be cool! I promise!

Gravitational Anomaly

This is awesome!

It’s like one of those Spatial Anomalies they’re always encountering in Star Trek, only it’s right here on Earth… if it’s for real.

The video, although compelling, is very cleanly edited… which suggests to me that it might be fake.

I’m looking forward to Phil Plait’s explanation of it next week. Keep your browser peeled:

Thursday, December 01, 2005

F&*% Scientology!

I just watched the new South Park episode “Trapped in a closet” debunking Scientology… and poking fun at Tom Cruise.

You can download the episode for free here:

I thought it was awesome. Trey Parker and Matt Stone are bound to be labeled SPs for that, and I wouldn’t be surprised to see Comedy Central going under in the next year or so due to intense litigation. But I’m proud of them for taking a stand against this dangerous cult.

In the words of Stan Marsh “Sue me!”