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Archive for December, 2008

Italian priest Father Bottino says Santa Claus doesn’t exist!

This doesn’t half take the biscuit… Italian Catholic priest Father Dino Bottino is in trouble this Christmas for letting kids in on a secret! According to Dino (wait for it) – Father Christmas DOESN’T EXIST!!!

Apparently Mr Bottino let this bombshell out at a children’s mass in December 2008. He said he had never intended to hurt anyone, but it was his duty to distinguish the reality of Jesus from the story of Father Christmas which was a fable just like Cinderella or Snow White.

Whan a DISGRACE! Did he ask permission from the parents? That would be no. Well children – would you like to give Father Bottino a taste of his own medicine? yes? well, it’s easier than you might think!!

Simply ask him to prove the difference between his God and Cinderella or Snow White… without referring to the bible which as AS YOU KNOW was written by people who were little more than simple farmers with very little knowledge. His ONLY source of “proof” that the person he worships is a book written at a time when people believed in gods of the sun, water, earth and just about anything else they could have a god for. People who had no idea the earth was round, would not have a clue what a star was, had no telescopes, no radio, no TV, most of whom had never travelled overseas and who lived life pretty much in ignorance of most of the facts of nature. Ask him just HOW does he justify standing there preaching about Santa when his own hero is no more or less valid than any other character in popular folk-law.

And who NEVER brings presents!!

Each to their own – are we all born equal?

How many times have you had discussions as to whether or not people are born equal?
Personally I thought the argument in favour of NO was long-since won, but apparently not. Having managed to get part way through Stephen Pinker’s book "The Blank Slate" only to give up as it was a couple of inches thick and he’s not the most engaging writer, I happened to stumble upon a video in my favourite "hall of learning" – TED.

The video is embedded below in case you’re interested but in essence he puts a very clear case to say, well, NO, we’re not born equal or anything like it. Amazingly however the myth has persisted for largely political reasons – if we’re not equal, then that makes discrimination ok… or at least to some. Another burning reason to pretend we’re all equal is the title of Stephen’s book – the blank slate. If we’re all a blank state then it is perfectly legitimate to use social engineering to "perfect society".

Personally I’ve never accepted the premise that we’re equal. Firstly modern genetics tells us that some people are predisposed to various diseases and defects – so that’s the PHYSICAL side of equality out of the way. You can’t be equal if you’re more likely to die early or less likely to develop muscles than someone else…. which leaves the mental side. We’re animals, right? and we’ve all watched endless shows on TV that show fairly simple creatures who you would not expect to think beyond lunchtime, live their lives as if there was a purpose… birds migrate, deliberately, exactly, generation after generation. Do they plan this out with Google maps? No. Do they plan at all, I don’t think so. They use instinct, in other words some things are genetically imprinted on animals and are passed from generation to generation.

We are predisposed to verbal language, we are predisposed to swimming and walking…. this is not all LEARNED behaviour, there is something in there that tells us what to do – pre-programming if you like – and that means some will be better than others, not because of schooling or parenting – but because some will have more finely developed instincts than others.

In one example in his video, Stephen Pinker describes the comparison of identical twins separated at birth meeting up as adults wearing the same clothes, same hairstyle etc. It’s a stereotype but studies repeatedly show that in these circumstances, twins really DO retain similar if not identical mental characteristics despite wildly different upbringing and social lives. Quite the opposite is true of adopted children who may live in the same house with the same parents and same friends but end up wildly different as adults.

It seems to me that the evidence is crystal clear and irrefutable – we are not all born equal. I would not go so far as to endorse every word in the video, I can tell you that it is interesting and worth the button-press.

Each to their own – are we all born equal?

How many times have you had discussions as to whether or not people are born equal?

Personally I thought the argument in favour of NO was long-since won, but apparently not. Having managed to get part way through Stephen Pinker’s book “The Blank Slate” only to give up as it was a couple of inches thick and he’s not the most engaging writer, I happened to stumble upon a video in my favourite “hall of learning” – TED. The video is embedded below in case you’re interested but in essence he puts a very clear case to say, well, NO, we’re not born equal or anything like it. Amazingly however the myth has persisted for largely political reasons – if we’re not equal, then that makes discrimination ok… or at least to some. Another burning reason to pretend we’re all equal is the title of Stephen’s book – the blank slate. If we’re all a blank state then it is perfectly legitimate to use social engineering to “perfect society”.

Personally I’ve never accepted the premise that we’re equal. Firstly modern genetics tells us that some people are predisposed to various diseases and defects – so that’s the PHYSICAL side of equality out of the way. You can’t be equal if you’re more likely to die early or less likely to develop muscles than someone else…. which leaves the mental side. We’re animals, right? and we’ve all watched endless shows on TV that show fairly simple creatures who you would not expect to think beyond lunchtime, live their lives as if there was a purpose… birds migrate, deliberately, exactly, generation after generation. Do they plan this out with Google maps? No. Do they plan at all, I don’t think so. They use instinct, in other words some things are genetically imprinted on animals and are passed from generation to generation.

We are predisposed to verbal language, we are predisposed to swimming and walking…. this is not all LEARNED behaviour, there is something in there that tells us what to do – pre-programming if you like – and that means some will be better than others, not because of schooling or parenting – but because some will have more finely developed instincts than others.

In one example in his video, Stephen Pinker describes the comparison of identical twins separated at birth meeting up as adults wearing the same clothes, same hairstyle etc. It’s a stereotype but studies repeatedly show that in these circumstances, twins really DO retain similar if not identical mental characteristics despite wildly different upbringing and social lives. Quite the opposite is true of adopted children who may live in the same house with the same parents and same friends but end up wildly different as adults.

It seems to me that the evidence is crystal clear and irrefutable – we are not all born equal. I would not go so far as to endorse every word in the video, I can tell you that it is interesting and worth the button-press.

We value your service Not

Have you noticed (of course you have) that just about every company that uses an automated phone system have far too few staff?

“We value your call”

“we apologise but our staff are attending to other customers”

Seems to me that if someone valued my call that much – they’d make sure they could answer the calls. Of course anyone can hit peak times when they just can’t handle the number of calls – personally if I can’t leave a message I’d rather here the engaged tone – at least then I know I’m not paying for it and I can leave my phone to battle it out – but as an example – has anyone EVER gotten straight through to the likes of Orange? I certainly haven’t.

The National Unhealth

Over a month ago I made an appointment with my local doctor as I’ve an issue with arthritis – most likely due to spending too many years blowing away aliens at the keyboard. He referred me to Hexham General Hospital, with a note with a password on it.

I went to the hospital website to try to make an appointment and there were only 2 options, both on the same day, both at the end of December – that’s it  – not December at the EARLIEST, ONLY those two appointments, ever. Not good enough I thought. So, I rang up the booking people and spoke to someone. "Don’t worry" was the response – someone will come back to you within 2 weeks.

Well, 3 weeks later no-one had come back to me so today I tried the website. It’s not making ANY bookings now. Clearly that wasn’t an option so I rang the appointments line – and explained that we were now looking at a month or so since I went to the doctors and I’m still no further forward. This is obviously a private company and they blamed the hospital. So I asked who I could complain to and get some action.  I should go back to my own doctor and talk to the practice manager.

After some diversion I eventually spoke to the appointments person – and she’s going to talk to my doctor and come back to me.

This is starting to remind me of Orange……

Update January 2009 – FINALLY – an appointment this month with the NHS – stunning. But.. other than giving me a supply of helpful supports or fusing bones together, there is nothing they can do!

The National unHealth

ps4 Over a month ago I made an appointment with my local doctor as I’ve an issue with arthritis – most likely due to spending too many years blowing away aliens at the keyboard. He referred me to Hexham General Hospital, with a note with a password on it.

I went to the hospital website to try to make an appointment and there were only 2 options, both on the same day, both at the end of December – that’s it  – not December at the EARLIEST, ONLY those two appointments, ever. Not good enough I thought. So, I rang up the booking people and spoke to someone. "Don’t worry" was the response – someone will come back to you within 2 weeks.

Well, 3 weeks later no-one had come back to me so today I tried the website. It’s not making ANY bookings now. Clearly that wasn’t an option so I rang the appointments line – and explained that we were now looking at a month or so since I went to the doctors and I’m still no further forward. This is obviously a private company and they blamed the hospital. So I asked who I could complain to and get some action.  I should go back to my own doctor and talk to the practice manager.

After some diversion I eventually spoke to the appointments person – and she’s going to talk to my doctor and come back to me.

This is starting to remind me of Orange……

 
Update January 2009 – FINALLY – an appointment this month with the NHS – stunning.

Newcastle Airport – the Epitomy of International

Funny old thing – I’ve never been to Newcastle Airport at night to pick someone up – despite having been there so many times it feels like my second home, I’ve always been the one travelling!

Tonight we went to pick up my nephew from the USA. He’s 20 and  he’s actually in Northern Ireland at the moment and decided to pay us a visit for a fiew days. Anyway, his flight from NI was supposed to be in at around 10pm and as is often the case, when we got to the airport it was delayed by 30 minutes. No problem, we thought, it’s a Saturday night, lots to do at the airport.

Except there wasn’t a SINGLE THING TO DO. 10pm on a Saturday night and the “International” airport was a like a GHOST TOWN. WH Smiths – closed. Greggs – closed. Shops – non-existant. Some of the car rental places were closed, the rest had cameras in place of people. If I were coming in from another country to the airport at that time of night I’d be thinking I’d landed somewhere in the THIRD WORLD.  Over at the “International arrivals” section the chairs are ripped, making it very clear to visitors that we’re in a recession and can’t afford to repair things.

When the flight came in Maureen was of course ready to finish off her coffee when I reminded her that it can take at least 10 minutes for the bags to come in… and for the first time I realised there is no indication externally of when the bags are on the treadmill – for what effort it would take to make that information available to visitors so we at least know when to expect travellers to emerge.

Interesting experience – marks out of ten? two!!! A FAR CRY from a truly international airport which would acknowledge passengers from different time zones and not look like a CEMETARY at the early time of 10pm on a Saturday night!!!!

Johnny Lee and Head Tracking

If you’ve never hear of Johnny Lee – watch this – I’ve ran his software for a number of his projects and they work – guy’s a genius – if the games designers have any imagination – expect some pretty impressive stuff just around the corner.