Thursday, February 26, 2009

God Idols - Amish

Holy barn raisin'! I haven't posted this one yet!

Go and watch this week's episode of God Idols at once! And don't forget to rate it!

Monday, February 16, 2009

God Idols - Jean Claude

The next episode of God Idols is up! This is the one in which I sing for the Internets for the first time. That's right, I'm now an Internet Celebrity, check me out:

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

I Get Hate Mail - I Think

I'm so excited! I just recieved this email:

Check this out.
I like Star Trek.
I like the old ones, the "next generation", the movies ect [sic].
In fact I have probably watched and seen everything even slightly related to Star Trek.
I have read uncountable sci-fi books, magazines ect. In fact lately I have been noticing more and more people who don't have the foggiest idea that Omni magazine ever excisted [sic] or what it was about.(I am getting old)

I beg you not to take this as a [sic] attack of any kind.

Dude you have to lose the star fleet [sic] uniform, the whole star fleet [sic] officer as  a [sic] "occupation" shit.
Because that is what it is if you are relating it to who you are, and what you do.
Quit blogging and go out and meet real people for the first time face to face,


P.S. if you can count how many women you've had on one hand leave the computer off until you can't be sure if you have forgotten some when counting.

It's difficult to follow, but despite the author's assertion that it is "not [an] attack of any kind" I think this is hate mail!

I particularly enjoyed this bit: the author took the time to add me to his Gmail Contacts. Look at the name he used (I've obscured my email address):

What do you guys think? Does this qualify as hate mail?

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

God Idols: There Can Only be One

After many weeks of tireless effort (on the part of my lovely and talented wife, Heidi), dressing funny (on my part) and even shaving my beard (yikes!), the first episode of our new YouTube reality series God Idols is up for your pleasure and entertainment!

Many thanks to our dedicated team of co-conspirators: Michael Meadon, Angela Butterworth, Gustav Bertram and James Hough (who also sacrificed his beard to the cause).

Keep your browsers warmed up for the next riveting episode!

Friday, February 06, 2009

I've Been Slacking

I've been so wrapped up with YouTube, predictions and Klingon Kriminals that I've been falling behind on my sceptical duties!
Let me catch up on that quickly.
First of all, Monday night was the third Joburg Sceptics in the Pub. Fortunately James over at Acinonyx Scepticus posted an excellent write up of it here.
Secondly, the first 'for real' post has gone up on our team blog, Intrepid Aardvark. Angela (aka The Skeptic Detective) posted this damning criticisism of Acupuncture. Go. Read. Subscribe.
Okay, we're up to speed again!

In Which I Get Link-love from

Link loveImagine my surprise when Heidi noticed that I had suddenly shot up on the Afrigator stats this afternoon. The traffic here increased by about 500% in the last two days! Holy crap!

After a little looking around, I found out that the good folks over at had picked up my post on the "Klingon Kriminal" yesterday, and sent hordes of faithful readers headed my way.

So, to you new guys... uh... welcome! 

Thursday, February 05, 2009

The Klingon Kriminal

My news feed is all a-flutter this morning about a kid in Colorado Springs who robbed a couple of convenience stores armed with what journalists describe as a "Klingon Sword".


It's not true. Here's an image from the surveillance footage:

Granted, that weapon he's holding certainly has a Klingon look to it. Here it is, zoomed in:

The few media reports who have done a little research claim that he's wielding a "batleth" (Klingon for "sword of honour"). Here's a picture of a batleth:

The batleth is a four-pronged, two-handed sword. It's wielded in such a way that all four prongs are facing forward, like this:

If you look back at the surveillance footage, you'll see that kid is brandishing a two-bladed dagger, that kinda looks like a batleth to the untrained eye, but the mere fact that he's holding it the wrong way round should tip you off that it's not one.

What's he's holding there is this:

The Valdris. A two-bladed, fantasy-styled dagger, roughly 60cm long, made of stainless steel (so it's designed to be an ornament, not an actual weapon).

This kid probably is a nerd, and may well be a Star Trek fan, but this is no Klingon weapon. It's not even a Star Trek weapon. Just to set the record straight.

I suspect that the journalists in question recognised the vague shape of the dagger as being reminiscent of the batleth, and jumped at the opportunity to belittle the offender by labelling him as a "Star Trek nerd."

UPDATE: Turns out the clerks at the convenience stores identified the weapon as a batleth. They were both wrong.

How Did I Do?

I'm sure you remember that at the beginning of 2008, I made a list of 22 predictions for the coming year.  (Or rather, I hope you remember... I completely forgot.)

Although it's already February, I guess now is a good time to look back at how I did:

1. The winner of the United States presidential election will be a tall, good-looking man. Or will at least be the tallest and/or best-looking of the available candidates. He will be a Church-going Christian.

Well we all know who won the 2008 US presidential election: President Barack Obama (woohoo!). Let's look at all the things I predicted about him:

[He] will be a tall, good-looking man. 
President Obama is 186cm tall. That's about 8cm taller than your average African American male (and about 9cm shorter than I am... FYI). That makes him pretty tall. In fact it makes him a full 13cm taller than his rival, Senator John McCain.

As for good-looking, you decide:
I think it's pretty clear which of these two men is better looking. And yes, despite rumours to the contrary, President Obama is, in fact, a Church-going Christian.

Okay, so that's one hit so far.

2. Scientists will make startling new discoveries about Dark Matter and/or Dark Energy that will threaten to overturn our understanding of the cosmos.
Well, not really. While there were a bunch of interesting stories about discoveries relating to Dark Matter and Dark Energy in 2008, none of them really came close to threatening to overturn our understanding of the cosmos. While some psychics might claim it as a hit, I'll take it as a miss.

3. The South-East coastal regions of the United States will be lashed by several severe storms during the summer.

That was an easy hit. There were seventeen such storms.

4. Many people will be left homeless and some will be killed in Gauteng, Limpopo, Mpumalanga and parts of Mozambique in the first quarter of the year as a result of floods.
5. Hundreds, possibly thousands of people will die in natural disasters (such as volcanic eruptions, earthquakes or tsunami) in the Pacific regions and parts of the Middle-East.
6. Danie Krugel will not acknowledge our challenge.
I have no web links to back this one up, but I assure you it was a hit.

7. Astronomers will discover many new exoplanets and identify several new places where life might exist.
Fifty new exoplanets were discovered in 2008. And one new place where life might exist was identified: Enceladus. Hit!
8. I will complete my 29th trip around the sun.
Hit! In fact right now I'm well into the second half of my 30th trip!

Next I made a cluster of four related predictions:

9. The petrol price will increase substantially after the oil price increases.
10.The petrol price will increase substantially after the oil price decreases.
11. The petrol price will increase substantially after the Rand/Dollar exchange rate improves.
12. The petrol price will increase substantially after the exchange rate worsens.

The gist of the first two was that the fluctuations in the petrol price were not related to fluctuations in the oil price.

You can see in the graph above that the petrol price (blue line) does seem to track more-or-less with fluctuations in the price of Brent Crude (red line). So I'll give myself one hit for that one.

The next two made a similar claim with regards to the Rand/Dollar exchange rate.

As you can see, there is virtually no link between the Rand/Dollar and the petrol price, despite the frequent claims to the contrary. I think I deserve two hits for that one.
13. A prominent South African government official will be accused of fraud or misappropriation of funds, but those accusations will disappear and never result in formal charges.
I wasn't able to find any specific examples of this, but considering the ANC's decision in 2008 to disband the Scorpions, they have effectively all gotten away with any and all corrupt and fraudulent activities they may have committed (and probably did commit). I didn't get the details right, and I severely underestimated the scope of what was going on. That being the case, I'll take another miss on this one.
14. A formerly obscure website will suddenly become very popular, prompting "experts" to claim that it will drastically change the way we communicate or do business.
One word: Twitter. Hit.
15. It will not substantially affect the way we communicate or do business
I'm still using Facebook. And Email. And IM. And the telephone. What about you?
16. The South African Reserve Bank will increase the prime lending rate.
Tricky. Prime was increased in June 2008, but then it was lowered again to it's former level in December. I didn't say that they wouldn't lower it again, I suppose, so I'll generously grant myself another hit.
17. It will be revealed that Iran was never attempting to produce nuclear weapons. This will not prevent President Bush from claiming that Iran is a major threat.
18. A number of people will be trampled to death by a crowd in Saudi Arabia in the last weeks of the year.
Close, but it's a miss.
19. Israel will engage in violent encounters with its neighbours. There will be casualties on both sides, but Israel will report that they have fewer than the other side.
Hit. 330 to 4 at last count.

20. The flying car will not be released to the consumer market.
21. A woman in either North Africa or the Middle East will be treated to unfathomable cruelty after breaking an oppressive and misogynistic law. She will then be pardoned after significant international pressure is exerted on her government. The law will not be changed.
Miss. She wasn't pardoned.
22. The world as we know it will not end.

That was a fun game, wasn't it? I scored 16/22. I win!

The point of this whole exercise was to demonstrate that with a little bit of common-sense, some vagueness, a dash of general knowledge and a touch of science, it's quite easy to make a set of predictions with a high rate of accuracy. No psychic powers necessary!

Wednesday, February 04, 2009

Unified Feed

I had an idea for a new (for me) use for the otherwise very useful RSS tool, Yahoo! Pipes.

Up till now I've been using it to help filter some of the feeds I have coming into my Google Reader, to try and remove some of the clutter. But it occurred to me that I could use it for my outgoing feeds too.

So that's what I've done. I've created a pipe that aggregates the feeds from my various publishing sources into a single feed.

So for those of you who have previously subscribed to my blog, Google Shared Items or Facebook items, you can now subscribe to one feed and get all of those, along with my Twitter updates, Picasa Web Gallery, and even my few and far between YouTube videos.

It's one-stop Owen Swart shopping! Woohoo!

So yeah, there's a little badge on the sidebar to your right. Or else you can visit the pipe itself and subscribe from there. I can't decide if it's awesome or just unbelievably arrogant, but I thought I'd throw it out there in case any of you guys wanted it.

If you like it, or dislike it, or have something similar set up for yourself, please drop a comment!

Tuesday, February 03, 2009

The Wedding - The Movie!

My lovely and talented wife has just uploaded a short version of our wedding video (that she edited herself) set to The Nearness of You - Norah Jones (our song).


Monday, February 02, 2009

Theme for the Day: The Stupid People Are Winning

After spending some time this weekend reading and dealing with commenters on the Internet (not you guys, the other commenters), I have drawn the conclusion that the stupid people are winning.

Here is more proof: