Wednesday, July 25, 2007

The Bible Motivational Poster

Saw this one over on Pharyngula. Had a good chuckle.

From my constant attacks on fundies, you'd think I'm some sort of God-hating angry athiest. I'm really not. I'm not sure what I'd call myself these days - probably the closest term I can think of is "deist". But I do get fired up when our selection process for politicians seems to be about choosing people with good hair, good talking points about non-issue wedge topics like gay marriage, abortion, and flag burning, and oh, yeah, making sure they have the same metaphysical, non-verifiable belief system as a good portion of the population, because, you know, that's important stuff. A Christian never did anything immoral or anything. :eyeroll:

Why do I keep carping on about this? I guess it's because when you see people like the Republican Ted Stevens talking about the InterTubes, right now you just get embarrassed for him. And you laugh. Because it IS funny. Riotously so.

How is it that these are the people that are making decisions about things they haven't a clue about, and aren't getting educated about? Why not try to select people that are knowledgeable or at least, more importantly are inquisitive about the world, the world that we live in and can talk rationally about? Because the issues the Internet raised/raises is/are tres simple compared to the sort of ethical and scientific questions we will have to wrestle with in the coming years, and people who think the Bible is a good source of science or even morals are not going to be able to cope - that is, make sound judgements. They will do things like equate blastocysts to fully grown human beings. They will do things like compare internet connections to tubes. And it won't only be funny, it will have consequences.

If these people cannot wrap their minds around net neutrality, I tremble to think of how they'll deal with the issues that are coming fast and furious from science - especially in biology. Hell, many of them still don't accept evolution (notice I don't say "believe" as that implies superstition). For instance, synthetic creation of new life is one. Electing people that are using the Bible to lead is just like electing cavemen to lead us - they are throwbacks and just won't have the coping skills to lead.

Longevity Site

I found a new site...or rather, one found me. :) It's called A very cool name. Longevity Meme. I like it. My earlier posting on True Mutations and Designer Evolution got picked up by a site I found intriguing, and a bit of my posting was commented on. This is a bit recursive; I'm quoting a site quoting me talking about a book. :)

For instance, and this is the most glaring one (although I didn't corroborate this) is that a new drug cannot be brought into the U.S. market unless it's to treat a condition or disease. Read that again. So, if something is developed to extend life or extend your current capabilities, like vision or hearing, it will not be approved. It's the 21st century. How can this type of thinking still be with us?"

It's quite true, and exactly why there are not dozens of companies in the US directly aiming at extending the healthy human life span. Those with the inclination are forced instead into disavowing any thought of treating the aging process. Their technological breakthroughs are relegated to patching up age-related diseases after the fact rather than reaching for rejuvenation and prevention of aging.

Anyway, I suggest clicking on over there as they provided links within that text to back up those statements appended to my remarks. Very nice. The bummer is that this backward thinking is true. :(

In other news, by sheer luck or synchronicity or whatever, just today also posted a link to an article about transhumanism in Reason magazine just today that longevitymeme also picked up and commented on earlier. Maybe this whole transhumanism thing (this longevity meme, if you will, but to me, transhumanism encompasses a lot more than just longevity) will start getting more legs. I noticed lots of coverage recently for the CR diet, and I notice that things like vegetarianism/veganism/raw veganism seems to be more and more common, etc. - the connection being that people are trying to live longer, though the switch may also be due to morality, I dunno. I know my switch to vegetarianism involved both, but I'm a bit of a hypocrite since I still eat eggs/cheese, I suppose, and which is also ethically dubious.

Anyway, maybe there are more Prometheans and Icaruses (Icarusii? Icarusix?) among us than I thought. And that can only be a good thing, IMHO. :)

Shiny Object News

Over on GOP Exposed, Jeff skewers the recent bout of shiny object news (you know, stories about cats stuck in trees, random fires and arrests, Paris Hilton, iPhone, bullshit "terror alerts" etc.). It's really quite funny, especially if you have grown tired of what passes as "news" these days (and I'm also *really* tired of Apple fanboys in tv and in print acting as if the iPhone is something revolutionary - yawn)...television news is just painful for me to watch anymore, although I suspect that's more due to my waking up rather than any real change in television news. Jeff also shows how PBS and later CNN piloted the sort of uneven shout shows such as Hannity and Colmes. He does this by playing a clip from author of Cable News Confidential (Jeff Cohen) - required reading if anyone thinks this nonsensical "talk show" that features a moderate representing the liberal paired with a brand-name conservative firebrand started with Faux News.

I've seen old shows of Crossfire, I know what he's talking about. And that's PBS, the network that's supposed to be communist if you believe the dittoheads. Funny it never occurs to them that some of the old liberals are probably more correct about the acronym PBS meaning Petroleum Broadcast System, since even in the early days, so much of its funding came from Exxon, etc. But as usual, even the appearance of independence (or any truth about certain issues leaking out) is extremely undesirable. As long as you are given "choices" - like choosing between Nike and Reebok, that means you have "freedom" and you're well-informed. I get to choose between news from a MNC like NewsCorp that got started by Murdoch doing tabloids or an MNC that also does defense contracting...bleh.

Anyway, make sure you listen to the last segment in full - Jeff Cohen talks about how Ann Coulter would not come on to debate him about the book - he was fine with going on himself, since she wouldn't go on. But no. She went on alone and talked about her controversial book, without any counterpoint. Why do these people always flee from any sort of intellectual honesty?

Saturday, July 21, 2007

Transhumanism: Prometheus Vs. The Puritans?

What if you could live effectively forever? What would it mean to both you and society and its institutions? Would religion have any value or meaning anymore? What groups would hold us back from achieving such things?

I've recently read two books that had a lot of similarities: Designer Evolution and True Mutations. I've long been meaning to read some stuff from/on the Transhumanist/Extropian crowd, and these books I had holds on at the library, became available around the same time.

The first book, Designer Evolution, is a transhumanist manifesto, and tries to lay some groundwork for a new philosophy for the future of science, most especially the science dealing with biology. Simon Young, the author, makes the assumption that there will be breakthroughs in medicine and/or technology that will make human lives extended to hundreds, then thousands of years. What will this mean to theists, liberals, etc., and how will they resist it? What will it mean to their philosophies to have science basically negate the reason for their philosophies? The author also makes the interesting argument that we should not make the same mistake of the past, that is, that science negated a lot of past philosophies but didn't leave the lay man much in the way of a replacement, and so, for many, the dominant philosophy became nihilism.

The second book is from RU Sirius (who runs two podcasts, contributes to Ten Zen Monkeys, and was the founder of the magazine Mondo 2000). This book is comprised of interviews with very interesting people, and just about every page your brain will probably come into contact with new and interesting ideas, or new ways of looking at things. It doesn't deal with just transhumanism, or even mostly, it's just different peoples' takes on a possible future, but since biotech is all the rage right now, it seems to come up here and there.

What really jumped out at me from both of these books is that much is possible, if we as a society (or the world) could just get past the "monkeys with car keys" stage - we could achieve some truly great things. Maybe not absolute immortality, but maybe a much better and longer quality of life, for starters.

Part of the stuff that needs to be discarded, IMHO, is dogma. That includes dogmatic religion, but also includes dogmatic ideologies that hold us back - this idea that man is meant to suffer is retarded and outright cruel, but it drives some of our laws. For instance, and this is the most glaring one (although I didn't corroborate this) is that a new drug cannot be brought into the U.S. market unless it's to treat a condition or disease.

Read that again. So, if something is developed to extend life or extend your current capabilities, like vision or hearing, it will not be approved. It's the 21st century. How can this type of thinking still be with us? I know it's in our myths - it's right there in Genesis (the aversion to knowledge, the aversion to being god-like, the shortness of life -something about 120 years). It's in the Prometheus myth, too, and there are other "lessons" about man reaching for godhood in probably thousands of other myths.

But as Designer Evolution makes clear, we've been "playing god" every time we reach for an aspirin, or when we developed open-heart surgery - why the aversion to extending life and making it extremely better? In other words, why should we let myths hold back bio-tech? I think I have a solution and it involves choice: let the theists, the humanists, the hard-core liberals and gaians, etc., choose NOT to extend their life, etc., but let's not let them hold back developments to do so...they can live the normal life, unenhanced, and those of us who are interested in living longer, fuller, lives free of pain and unfettered by mythological fears can do so...

Tuesday, July 10, 2007


So Ray sent me this link. Dudeism joins the long list of fake churches/cults and deities, such as the Invisible Pink Unicorn, the Flying Spaghetti Monster, Discordionism, the Church of the Subgenius, and Pastor Jack's Church of Tom Jones.

On a related note, Tiffany and I went to see The Big Lebowski last night thanks to Film on the Rocks. Though I didn't notice them, Tiffany saw at least a few dudes wearing a robe, just like their hero.

Saturday, July 07, 2007

Republicans Provide No Leadership

I had this meme of "Republicans provide absolutely no leadership on anything" bouncing around in my head for months. I was turning the concept over and over in my head, trying to find a few examples where they actually provide some leadership on things. And by "leadership", I mean real, demonstrable examples of laying a path for the future, not hearkening back to some mythical golden age in the 1950's - I'm sure it wasn't as good as even white Christian males remember it, and for virtually everyone else, it was absolutely not great. I also don't mean by "leadership" endless resource wars and global hegemony or wars on nouns. That's just pathological behavior masquerading as leadership.

At the same time, I was pondering how so many liberals and "hippies" had/have so many things right, and are forging ahead to try to create real solutions to real problems of the here and now, as well as the future. While doing this, they are not relying on the "authority" of superstitious traditions of Abrahamic descent, either, and not denigrating science. Instead, for the most part, they embrace science - it's the best hope for resolving these problems. Meanwhile, many in the religious right actually look forward to catastrophic events. What kind of leadership is that?

So I was stewing in these very thoughts, when I came across references to an op-ed stating that the hippies were right. Says it so much better than I could have.

Friday, July 06, 2007

ADD: A$$hole-Driven Development

This was a link referenced in the Javaposse podcast.

This site lists some of the real proceses, although unspoken, that development shops really follow. Forget Test Driven Development, XP, Scrum, etc. These describe what are *really* going on. :)

Asshole Driven development (ADD) - Any team where the biggest jerk makes all the big decisions is asshole driven development. All wisdom, logic or process goes out the window when Mr. Asshole is in the room, doing whatever idiotic, selfish thing he thinks is best. There may rules and processes, but Mr. A breaks them and people follow anyway.

Another unspoken process:

Get Me Promoted Methodology (GMPM) - People write code and design things to increase their visibility, satisfy their boss’s whims, and accelerate their path to a raise or the corner office no matter how far outside of stated goals their efforts go. This includes allowing disasters to happen so people can be heroes, writing hacks that look great in the short term but crumble after the individual has moved on, and focusing more on the surface of work than its value.

Here's one from the comments:

Teacher’s Pet Driven Development (TPDD) - when one developer is a favorite of a manager and thus bypasses all logic, design and reasoning in favor of the pet’s whims.

Yup, if you've been a developer for even a few years, you've probably seen these three and many of the ones listed on the site.

I'm reminded of the Antipatterns catalog; one of my favorite being the GoldenHammer. Who hasn't been somewhere that has a Golden Hammer? I've been places where the NetNegativeProducingProgrammer AntiPattern is combined with Teacher's Pet Driven Development. Not pretty.

Thursday, July 05, 2007

Gmail and Firefox - Resolved!

Okay, somehow I think I finally stumbled upon the solution. Mind you, I had tried just about everything - deleting the entire firefox installation dir and reinstalling, and starting totally fresh w/o plugins, wiping the cache, etc. Still had no luck.

Today, I was telling my IT guy about this and he suggested trying another profile (firefox -p on the command line). I tried that out, thinking, hell, why not? I couldn't remember if I had cleared my profile before on one of my re-install tries. Nope, still not working. Hrmmm...

Then I started thinking about that damn Google Talk feature - any way to turn it off? It could be causing the problem, and besides, it kept logging me off my IM session in Trillian.

I clicked on the option in the bottom: "standard without chat", and yep, it disables it.

AND - Firefox now works again with Gmail for me! I bet most people claiming they never had problems with Gmail + Firefox are not using the Google Talk feature. Try it out - turn it on and see how you fare, I'm curious. I, for one, will not be turning it back on. :)

Wednesday, July 04, 2007

Gmail and Firefox

I've been struggling with this one for weeks now. I have yet to find a solution. Gmail just will. not. work. with. Firefox.

This has started ever since update. I've tried re-installing and running without any plugins whatsoever. Still get timeouts on some script on the page. It doesn't work on FF at work on XP, at home on Ubuntu or W2K. I hate using the non-Javascript enabled version of Gmail, and I hate using IE, not that it's an option for Ubuntu, anyway.

The puzzler is that Google calendar and blogger work fine. No other issues for other sites using Javascript. It's just Gmail as far as I've noticed, and it's got me so irritated, I'm actually thinking of using a shitty mail site like Yahoo or Hotmail (horrors!). I've done some searching around, and the few people talking about this don't seem to have any solutions that work for me.

Any ideas, throw them my way.

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