This is good to see

Jul. 26th, 2014 05:57 am
[syndicated profile] tim_worstall_feed

Posted by Tim Worstall

Noblesse does still obliges.

The centre will be privately funded — although the Government will pick up the running costs. Being the Duke of Westminster — Britain’s 10th richest person with a fortune of £8.5 billion — his methods of fund-raising are not quite rattling a tin outside Boot’s on a Saturday morning. He has only accepted donations of between £5 million and £10 million from companies, private trusts and individuals.

“I have the ability to be able to do it, in that it is easier for me to kick the door down of a bank chairman and say to another firm ‘thank you for considering us but your gift is actually not big enough’,” he says.

So far £192million of the £300 million has been raised for the capital cost of the scheme; the Duke has personally pitched in £50million. Next year, the five-strong project team will ask members of the public to donate. The Duke of Cambridge is the project’s patron.

I have made a little bit of fun of the man before now, for in his list of titles and medals and awards there’s some prominence given to a Canadian TA medal (I think that’s right). But to be fair about it that’s one that is absolutely and unambiguously one that’s he’s earned purely and solely though his actions and efforts, not any accidents of birth or social position.

So Bosworth elected an idiot then?

Jul. 26th, 2014 05:48 am
[syndicated profile] tim_worstall_feed

Posted by Tim Worstall

A Conservative member of the Commons health select committee has said he is “absolutely convinced” of the benefits of astrology and called for it to be incorporated into medicine.

David Tredinnick said he had spent 20 years studying astrology and healthcare and said it had a “proven track record” guiding people through their lives.

The MP, a member of both the Commons health select committee and the science and technology committee, is a keen advocate of complementary therapies, and chairman of a Government working group on herbal medicine.

On Friday he said more should be done to raise awareness among patients and healthcare professionals of the benefits of astrology.

Oh dear.

Austria, Serbia and George W Bush

Jul. 26th, 2014 12:39 am
[syndicated profile] political_betting_feed

Posted by David Herdson

first world war posters   Google Search (2)

The descent into WWI is a 21st Century story

Sepia-toned silent images of black-coated or feather-hatted diplomats lend a reassuring distance to the events that plunged the world into war a hundred years ago this week.  It looks like a world long since vanished and in one sense, it is.  However, like much of that story, it is an illusion; all the more dangerous for the complacency that false reassurance breeds.

    Far from being a different age, the threats posed by rogue governments, state-sponsored (or at least, state-cloaked) terrorism and extremist violence are more relevant now than at just about any time since 1914. 

Indeed, when George W Bush had to respond to the Twin Towers attacks, he was placed in a very similar position to the Austrians after the assassination of Franz Ferdinand.

Both outrages were direct attacks against not just the soil and people of the respective great power but represented a symbolic attack too.  Equally, both were carried out by terrorist organisations that enjoyed the tacit patronage of their host governments to the extent that the line dividing them was distinctly porous: they shared objectives and beliefs, and not infrequently, personnel.

Understanding that is crucial to understanding both why the Austrian government sent such a harsh ultimatum, demanding that Serbia allow Austria to conduct its own inquiry.  Quite simply, there was no way a Serbian inquiry could be trusted to investigate properly as if it did, it would implicate itself.  Refusing the Austrian demand that Sebia cede its sovereignty might have given the Serbs a little cover under international law but as the initial act could easily be regarded as a casus belli of itself, only a little.

Here, the parallel switches to Iraq.  Most would now agree that the Iraq War was a monumental blunder on any number of levels.  Many thought it would be at the time, though we should distinguish between those who believed in managing the risk Saddam presented and the views of those who would bury their heads in the sand and try to wish the situation away.  Bush’s problem, like the Austrians’, was that the weapons inspectors were being given the run around in exactly the same way that Pasic’s Serbian government would have given the Austrians had they allowed them in.  Just as Saddam was trying to strike a balance between providing no evidence to the West that he had WMD’s and retaining the belief among his local opponents that he had, so Pasic could not afford to give an outright no to Austria but nor could he allow them to find anything incriminating.  Both countries could sustain the contradictory policies only until the terrorism of 1914 and 2001 changed the game.  A that point, both the Austrian and American administrations decided that a government that couldn’t be trusted on such matters was by definition a sufficient threat to justify war.

Of course, one principal difference between Serbia in 1914 and either Iraq or Afghanistan this century is that neither of those two had any meaningful international support whereas Serbia could rely on Russia, and by extension, France and probably Britain.  That, however, is more a distinction of detail than consequence given the breadth of international sympathy and strength of US feeling in the days following 11 September 2001.  Unlike Nicholas II (or more accurately, his ministers), no modern leader is likely to commit to the suicide of their regime and country on behalf of a bunch of fanatics (not that the tsar meant to either, but foresight of the consequences of a major war is clearer now than then).

Where do these lessons leave policy today?  That’s a much more difficult question.  It’s worth noting that after all the slaughter, it was the Serb nationalists who achieved their aim in 1918-9, not the Austrians; that after years of occupation, Afghanistan is by no means free of extremists even if Al Qaida is much reduced; that the downfall of Saddam has merely replaced one uncertainty with others in the Middle East; that Israel’s policy towards Hamas veers between scratching the sore and sticking a plaster on it but that the sore remains all the same.

Even so, it’s only when the fanaticism of terrorists is allied with the resources and prerogatives of a state that there develops a really serious threat.  The ideal solution is to prevent that alliance in the first place but even that asks difficult questions about external interference in sovereign states, ones that can only really be answered if there’s agreement on both principles and practices among the major powers.  If that fails, it follows that regime change should be a legitimate reason for military action in certain circumstance, even before a threat is made real.  Yet that too is dangerous: many initially extreme governments mellow with power, while war brings the chaos and pain in which extremism thrives.

It’s said that those who fail to learn the lessons of history are doomed to repeat it.  The problem is knowing which lessons to learn and heed.

David Herdson

David will not be able to respond to comments today as he’s getting married.

Violence

Jul. 25th, 2014 07:41 pm
supergee: (noose)
[personal profile] supergee
A graphic graphic. The young & impressionable should be protected from this stuff.

I'm okay (but my car isn't)

Jul. 25th, 2014 06:58 pm
kate_nepveu: sleeping cat carved in brown wood (Default)
[personal profile] kate_nepveu
Last weekend I tried to get my car inspected, but the gas station 'round the corner discovered that the hood wouldn't open. So this week I brought it to my dealership for a diagnosis, they ordered the necessary parts, and today I left it there and took their shuttle down to work. At lunchtime they called to say it was ready, and I took a cab up.

I picked up my car, left the dealership to run an errand and then head back to work, and then two businesses away from my dealership, *bam* suddenly there's a big pickup truck smashed into the driver's side of the front of my car.

That road is two lanes in each direction plus a turning lane, you see, and I was in the outside lane. The person on my left, in the inside lane, waved the pickup across to turn into the Wendy's (at least that's what the pickup driver said, and it does make sense), but the pickup driver didn't see me in the next lane over.

I'm fine—it was a low-speed collision since the pickup driver was starting from a stop and I wasn't going that fast because there was traffic on the road. No airbag deployment, no bruises, though I'm feeling a bit achy (this is doubtless exacerbated by the stress). Hell of an adrenaline comedown, though.

After the police came to fill out an accident report, I managed to get my car back down the street to my dealer's—just barely, as it turns out, because when the people at the dealership started it up again to put it where they needed it, they had a lot of trouble keeping it running. (The pickup driver followed me to make sure I got there okay. They were driving a work vehicle and I hope they don't get in too much trouble solely over this—they made a mistake, no question, but for me it's a very "there but for the grace of something" kind of mistake, and they were very polite to me.) And hey, at least I didn't need a tow since I was so close . . . though you bet I regret the money spent on the hood, now.

So it's in the hands of the insurance companies, now. I strongly suspect it's going to be totaled, because it's a 2003 Prius with 138,000 miles on it, and, well, take a look:

my poor smashed car )

I'm honestly a little bummed at the prospect. We've been putting money away for a new car, because mine's old and Chad's has had persistent electrical problems, so financially we'll be okay, but darn it, I was hoping to get at least 150K out of it just to say I had, you know? It's my first car, it fits me like a glove, and I think it probably could've gone for considerably longer if it weren't for this.

Anyway. If it's fixable, great, and if it's not, then I'll get a shiny Prius C out of it.

"Forbidden Fruit"

Jul. 26th, 2014 09:33 am
michaelchance: (Default)
[personal profile] michaelchance posting in [community profile] doctorwho
"Forbidden Fruit" by angstytimelord
PAIRING: past Jack/Doctor
RATING: PG-13
SUMMARY: Based upon prompt 25: Forbidden.

Has just been added to Doctor Who gen stories page of the Doctor Who Slash page.

Crossposted to Chance's Archive.

Free Kindle Books.
[syndicated profile] political_betting_feed

Posted by Harry Hayfield

Clifton on Blackpool (Lab Defence)
Result: Labour 501 (41%), UKIP 362 (30%), Conservatives 283 (23%), Liberal Democrats 33 (3%), Greens 25 (2%), TUSC 10 (1%)
Labour HOLD with a majority of 139 (11%)
Turnout: 23%

(Grateful thanks to Blackpool Council for their publication of the result and vote shares)

Edenthorpe, Kirk Sandall and Barnby Dun on Doncaster (Lab Defence)
Result: UKIP 1,203 (41%), Labour 1,109 (38% unchanged), Conservatives 479 (16% +2%), Greens 160 (5%)
UKIP GAIN from Labour with a majority of 94 (3%) on a swing of 20.5% from Labour to UKIP since 2012
Turnout: 28%

Staplehurst on Maidstone (Con Defence)
Result: Liberal Democrats 609 (36% +24%), Conservatives 603 (36% -21%), UKIP 311 (19%), Labour 117 (7% -8%), Greens 41 (2% -6%)
Liberal Democrat GAIN from Conservative with a majority of 6 (0%) on a swing of 22.5% from Conservative to Liberal Democrat

Longhougton on Northumberland (Ind Defence)
Result: Liberal Democrats 742 (50%), Conservatives 352 (24% +9%), Independents 206 (14%), UKIP 146 (10% +2%), Labour 48 (3%)
Liberal Democrat GAIN from Independent with a majority of 390 (26%) on a swing of 20.5% from Conservative to Liberal Democrat

Southcote on Reading (Lab Defence)
Result: Labour 1,019 (59% +3), Conservative 340 (20% -11%), UKIP 226 (13%), Greens 69 (4% -2%), Liberal Democrats 49 (3% -4%)
Labour HOLD with a majority of 679 (39%) on a swing of 7% from Conservative to Labour since 2011
Turnout: 26%

Aberaman North on Rhondda, Cynon, Taff (Lab Defence)
Result: Labour 356 (39% -42%), Independent 276 (31%), Plaid Cymru 228 (25% +6%), TUSC 23 (3%), Conservatives 20 (2%)
Labour HOLD with a majority of 80 (8%) on a swing of 36.5% from Labour to Independent

Birchills, Leamore on Walsall (Lab Defence)
Result: Labour 1,075 (48% -7%), Conservative 710 (32% -2%), UKIP 445 (20%), Eng Dem 20 (1%)
Labour HOLD with a majority of 365 (16%) on a swing of 2.5% from Labour to Conservative

Clewer North on Windsor and Maidenhead Royal (Ind Defence)
Result: Independent 878 (58%), Conservatives 486 (32%), Labour 158 (10%)
Independent HOLD with a majority of 392 (26%)
Turnout: 26%

I can get the goatee though!

Jul. 25th, 2014 09:12 pm
[personal profile] strangecharm
Since [personal profile] magister seems to have nicked my costume idea for the BiCon ball (theme: favorite fictional character) of "future Doctor Who," today [livejournal.com profile] tartful_dodger suggested I should be the future Master.

But the explanatory name badge is going to get me in trouble: "Hello I'm the Doctor" would've been fun, but I don't want to encourage the misinterpretation that'd be inevitable at BiCon if I called myself the Master.

Knitted Olaf

Jul. 25th, 2014 09:14 pm
happydork: A graph-theoretic tree in the shape of a dog, with the caption "Tree (with bark)" (Default)
[personal profile] happydork
I'm really pleased with how he turned out, but sadly he doesn't photograph brilliantly; he definitely looks more friendly IRL. If you're around at Nine Worlds in a couple of weeks*, he will be keeping [personal profile] such_heights-as-Anna company. :)

[*A COUPLE OF WEEKS ARGH NOT OKAY MY PANELLLLLLLL ARGH]

Tiny knitted Olaf under the cut )

21

Jul. 25th, 2014 03:57 pm
supergee: (starmaker)
[personal profile] supergee
I could be quite happy never again reading about The Blablabla That Changed Blablabla Forever, but this one fills in the blanks with books and science fiction and quotes me,* and I pretty much agree with it, except I hope they turn out to be wrong in including The Hunger Games and The Wind-Up Girl

*Saying something I went on to argue was wrong, but that happens.

Thanx to Moshe Feder

[ObMeme]

Jul. 25th, 2014 02:12 pm
yhlee: a plush raven on a plush fox (hxx Cheris Jedao)
[personal profile] yhlee
By way of [personal profile] likeadeuce:
Pick any paragraph or any passage less than 500 words [or more if you really feel like it] from any fanfic I've written and comment to this post with that selection. I will then give you a DVD commentary on that snippet of what I was thinking when I wrote it, why I wrote it, what's going on in the characters' heads, why I chose certain words, what this moment means in the context of the fic, and anything else you'd expect to find on a DVD commentary track. [Link to AO3 account here]

Hell, it's not even 2:30 p.m. I'm off to write foxboy crackfic. Bye!

a moment of enlightenment

Jul. 25th, 2014 01:51 pm
yhlee: wax seal (hxx Deuce of Gears)
[personal profile] yhlee
Kate Elliott on killing characters:
When killing characters I try to balance my understanding of world's brutality w/ my sense of the compassion due to human life
but sometimes I find that it is far more cruel not to kill a character

That is both really beautiful and completely opposite the way I do things; it would never have occurred to me to frame things this way. (I'm not saying she's wrong! I suspect it is far likelier that she's right.) When I kill characters, I'm specifically out to stab the reader. But then, I don't really see characters as people, which is why my villains and I are in alliance: we have a common goal.

Religion and Battlestar Galactica

Jul. 25th, 2014 06:06 pm
[syndicated profile] skepchick_feed

Posted by Olivia

There’s a lot of overlap between nerd communities and skeptic communities. one of the reasons for this in my opinion is because a great deal of fantasy and sci fi takes a clear all or nothing approach to religion. The following will be a pair of gross overgeneralizations but bear with me. Fantasy tends to present the gods in the same way that it does magic: there is clear evidence they exist, but it’s also clear that they are fantastical. They intervene in human life and have astounding powers. There’s little in the religions of fantasy novels to parallel our current conception of god or the way that religion operates in our lives.

Sci fi tends to be at the other end of the spectrum. It might deal with religion in a very metaphorical fashion, not touch on religion at all, or simply be highly critical of religion. It’s less likely to explicitly endorse a religion. Obviously both of these are legitimate authorial choices and there is amazing media out there that exists in both of these categories. And for most nonreligious audiences, this might seem like all the more thought we need to give it. However there may be more to the discussion about religion in media that is important and worth mentioning.

That’s why I want to talk about Battlestar Galactica. Full disclosure: I am only partway through the first season, so perhaps this all changes, but thus far its treatment of religion is far meatier than many other shows, especially sci fi/fantasy shows. I’ve talked to some people who find themselves turned off by many characters repeating that “god has a plan” or engaging in other ways with the gods of Kobol. What is more interesting to me is that the show neither endorses nor denies any of this. There are moments in which it appears that the show is endorsing a god (for example when Gaius “repents” at the urging of his cylon lover and at just that moment the fleet is saved by the president’s decision to abandon all vehicles without FTL abilities), but many of these have just as plausible alternative explanations (the cylons are actually manipulating everything, or Gaius is in fact totally hallucinating this woman and has no clue what’s actually happening).

A friend of mine wrote a post about religion in BSG a few years ago, and he contrasts BSG with Avatar (a movie in which there is clear evidence that the spiritual exists). He says “Avatar loses a level of character depth with this blatant truth of very specific supernatural things” and suggests that one of the most interesting things about BSG is that we can see how characters interact with religion. Some of them believe, others don’t, and as viewers this gives us more information about who they are as people than we would get in a show in which the question of religion is settled. 

I certainly agree that real people in the real world have to come to conclusions about religion for themselves without clear evidence one way or the other, and having characters that reflect this and grapple with the same religious questions that real people do is a benefit to the show. However not only do we get more character development because of this approach to religion but we also learn more about ourselves based on our reactions to those characters. We get a more true version of the world, one that helps us imagine our neighbors and family members and enemies in a deeper way. 

One of the benefits of media is that it allows us to temporarily inhabit the minds and perspectives of people unlike ourselves. It expands our conception of the world. Often, reading or viewing from the perspective of someone drastically different or even opposed to you can give you more empathy for them, or even allow you a glimpse into better ways to convince them that you’re right.

Because this is one of the purposes of media, BSG is an important piece of media for both atheists and the religious to view. It has interesting, complex characters engaging with religion at every point along the spectrum from fervently religious to “can’t be bothered”. I run into a lot of atheists who don’t understand why someone would be religious or don’t understand the mindset of someone who is religious. Engaging with a show that complexly imagines religion is a great way to begin to understand this. You can see how the religious ceremonies bind together the fleet and the community, how the gods give people hope, how some characters look to home through the gods of their childhood. There are intelligent characters who struggle with whether or not to believe, just as there are in our real world.

Conversely, for those who are religious, BSG gives a number of portrayals of people who either ignore religion altogether or who are openly atheist. There are good atheists and bad believers. It might be easy to brush off the show because it includes religion and characters who are vehemently religious, but unfortunately for us nonbelievers, that’s what real people are actually like. What it also does is give characters space to interact with religious beliefs without illustrating to the viewer who is clearly correct and who clearly isn’t. It allows religious viewers to see nonbelievers. At the end of the day, I’d rather have media that takes a good look at religion and the experiences that individuals can have with regards to religion than a show that takes a hard stance one way or the other.

 

james_davis_nicoll: (Default)
[personal profile] james_davis_nicoll
But I am so stressed out I can't feel my fingertips and I can't see a way out of the corner I am boxed into:

A: Work has dramatically slowed down in the last year.

B: For reasons I am going assume for the moment are not due to deliberate choice on the part of the companies I freelance for, none of checks I've expected this month have materialized (if I am not stress-confused, I think at this point the most recent invoice that has been paid is about 2 months old); when companies were actually issuing checks they were irregular and unpredictable. This isn't specific to one company: nobody is paying me. Nobody. And even if all the money I am owed showed up today, I'd just be treading water.

UPDATE IN MID POST: in fact I just got email assuring me at least one check will definitely not be showing up for at least a week thanks to the new system (another company told me privately my checks might be cut in a week and then sent out a public email telling freelancers to expect the delay to be a month). I'd walk away from book reviewing at this point if there was anywhere to walk to.

Actually, the above is not quite true: while Romantic Times pays very, very little they have never promised to pay any more than that and they do pay on time. So kudos to them; they are the one bright spot.

[I spend a lot of my time telling myself that this is not a repeat of what Guardians of Order did to me, even though a lot of the same notes are in this tune]

C: There are bills I have been deferring for as long as I can and expenses I have cut to the bone as far as I can but I'm pretty sure all the plates I have in the air are about to come crashing down.

D: Can't afford to create the Millennium Reviews book and frankly I don't understand a lot of what people are telling me how to create it.

(That said, editing all the reviews and adding new commentary for all 35 essays would take me two weeks to a month)

E: Review site ditto: I know how to create content for it but I can't see how to create it and the advice I am seeing doesn't mean anything to me.

Open to suggestions here.

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Mat Bowles

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Stuff and nonsense

I'm the Chair of the Brighouse branch of the Liberal Democrats & the membership secretary for Calderdale Lib Dems and run the web campaign for the local candidates. I have a job, a stepdaughter and a life.

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