Several things online have made me happy today, most of them related to the previously mentioned DreamWidth project.

Firstly, when designing the site navigation structure, they used a card sorting usability test to get it right, and came up with this navigation scheme, based around a design by [ profile] grrliz. I've used my LJ OpenID to login at the site, and while it's superficially similar to Horizon, it just makes sense. I was stoked about this project just fromt he basic ideas behind it, that they're actually following usability and accessibility guidelines? Yowsers. I uploaded a userpic. I was asked to provide "a description for visually impaired users". Userpics will get proper ALT text. If that means anything to you you know this is cool.

Secondly, they've got what appears to be a top notch comment importer:
When I import, your comments will be assigned to the OpenID you made them with, which means you take control of them if you want )
Such a simple, simple thing to do, but apparently beyond the ken of most other import tools I've encountered.

On the subject of importing or backing up, remember when I promised I'd write a backing up how to? Well, I never did. Don't really need to now, (my preferred online backup option) has upgraded their importer and launched Even Easier LiveJournal Migration. Seriously, you create an account, go to 'import', and follow the easy instructions. Mine is here if you want to bookmark it somewhere in case of LJ dying unexpectedly, I'll be turning off the search presence over there, don't want it to look like a mirror. Thanks for the heads up [ profile] foxfirefey. SRSLY people, you can mark the whole thing as private "your eyes only", just make sure you've got a copy of your journal, just in case?

Lastly, a completely non geeky post. I post a lot of anti-religion stuff when I'm in a ranty mood. I know that not all religious types are crazy bigotted loons, but idiots like Christian Voice tend to spoil it for the sane majority. Today, I got another reminder, several people linked to:

The Life and Opinions of Andrew Rilstone: An Immodest Proposal

Go read it. Really.

Anyway, my importer has finally finished, so time to shut down the PC. G'night all
In lieu of propper content, and because I'm a) doing more childcare than normal and b) getting addicted to the damn wii, have some links to posts by others that you should be reading.

Firstly, on the Atheist Bus campaign[1], three scientist bloggers, Dave Godfrey, Debi Linton and Strangefrontier who says:
Dear Christians on my friendslist, when you feel that atheist campaigners are generalising about your whole faith and railing against you, the real target is folks like Stephen Green. The problem is that he and others like like are so damn loud and have such a constant media presence, they drown out the normal, decent and sane* Christians. No matter what positive PR you throw out there, the attention will be given to some cunt shouting, "God hates fags!"
I especially liked Dave's line If he didn't exist I think the atheists would have to invent him, he's launched a case on which the crux is he has evidence of the existence of God. Well, like Dawkins, if you can give me some proof I'll change my opinion...

Anyway, next topic. Woolworths has shut down. Since he finished his degree, [ profile] doctorvee has been working for them, in a number of branches, and I heartily recommend his series of posts on the history of the company and the experiences of working there in its dying days. Like him, I loved Woollies as a kid but found them fairly pointless as an adult, they definitely had no clue what they were trying to be as a chain, and Wilkinson's have definitely displaced a lot of their business in Yorkshire. I had no idea that the company had started out as the early equivalent of a pound store, they only dumped their fixed price policy because of rationing during the war.

Sad news however. Number 6 is dead. In an era where his "I will not be pushed, filed, stamped, indexed, briefed, debriefed or numbered, I am a free man" speech has increasing relevence, it remains an iconic series and I really hope they don't mess up the reimagined version with Sir Ian as Number Two. RIP Patrick, you were great.

Cool news: Molecular Analysis Confirms Tyrannosaurus Rex's Evolutionary Link To Birds. They didn't die out, they evolved. Next time you eat a chicken dinner, that's one of T-Rex's relatives you're chomping down on ;-)

Want: Trends Are Cyclical: the Asus Eee Keyboard. It a complete fully functioning computer, all inside thin keyboard. How cool is that?

Have to say, I pretty much agree with Tim here, economic protectionism makes us poorer and damages our economy more than it benefits us. Buy British if you want, but if it's not the best deal, buy whatever, the economy benefits from the transaction regardless. ETA: Friday's More or Less is a politics special starring Vince! Yay!

Last up, [ profile] innerbrat wants to declared this year as the International Year of True History to commemorate both Darwin and Galileo. She's wrong to call it "true" history of course, everyone knows that real history started at about 1600, everything before that is pre-history, but it's a nice idea.

[1] From which I've taken this icon, I yoinked the LJified version from [ profile] strangefrontier but it was designed by [ profile] jonworth_eu_fd who coordinated the intial fundraising campaign before it all got a bit bigger than anyone expected. I'd forgotten how good a blogger he is until I found him on Twitter, Labour party members that can actually write well about politics are worth paying attention to, methinks[2].

[2] On a similar line, [ profile] blimpish_fd is back, one of the few Tory bloggers that doesn't make me want to shout at the screen at the idiocy and ignorance.
It is a time of year to reflect, to think upon what has come to pass, to learn from the past and thank those that brought us to where we are today. Today, especially, is an exceptional day for these endeavours, being as it is the birthday of one of the greatest and most influential men to walk those green and pleasant lands.

His works, agitation and beliefs revolutionised the world, and there isn't a day that goes by in which we are not all grateful for his work and influence. More on this divinely inspired man )
Merry Christmas
Sharing this day are of course several friends, and before I forget, also happy birthday to [ profile] draich_goch, [ profile] blacktone, Simon and anyone else I've forgotten about. Have a good one.
  • El Reg shifted the feed BOFH was on (again) and I hadn't noticed. Been in this sort of meeting a few times, in such a discussion, backing up the MD or the tech, the tech wins. Every time. ([ profile] reg_bofh is new syndication account BTW)
  • Sparkle has a job interview, and could do with the help of People of Faith, so, y'know go help her (it's a good job): I need to do a short presentation (as if it were to the local Church Council) entitled Teenagers: Faith in a Materialistic Age.
ETA: the last link doesn't need to be just for those who believe—lack of faith is as relevent I think.
For those of you with a faith based bent, Nicholas Whyte has some biblical translation discussion[1]. Which is interesting. For the rest of you? His Holiness [ profile] drjon gives us the Easter Bunny story:
(youtube link)

Meh, I'm going to go back to eating the Maya Gold egg that [ profile] snapesbabe bought me. On offer from the wholefood shop. Cheaper than buying a bar in Tesco. How cool is that?
[1] With a wonderful anonymous comment from a Wikipedian taking the whole thing too seriously as well...
It appears from entries on a few posts rad today that some of you are planning to celebrate St Patrick's Day this evening. Um, why? St Patrick's Day was last Saturday. Of course, I care not for such things but I was called upon to settle an argument at the bar last Saturday, one of the regulars was drinking Guinness, which was most out of character—it was explained why, and no one believed her, so I had to look it up online. (ETA: The Beeb site has a longer and better researched article on the same topic it seems)

Apparently they change it every so often as it's not allowed to happen during Holy Week (which has something to do with Eostre this weekend I'm given to understand), so it gets moved every so often. Looks like a bunch of marketeers missed a trick to not run it last Saturday. He was a bit weird anyway, why would you want to banish snakes?

So, y'know, have a very happy Monday anyway.  You might as well eat drink and be merry if you feel like it, why do you need some dead bloke to give you an excuse?
Today is one of those birthday things. I knew it was coming up, because the BHA invited me to their annual event but a) I'd have had to pay and b) it was in London, so have fun all that do go, I'm sure it'll be good. Fortunately, [ profile] bagrec reminded me this morning, so I half inched this image from him Charles Darwin. Evolution was, I used to think, something that we generally all just accepted, sure, there were a few minority extremists that thought otherwise, but anyone with a decent education, including the entire Catholic Church, just know it to be real, right? Unfortunately the internet reveals this to be untrue, and that someone who is an avowed Creationist has a good chance at the Republican nomination (although no chance at the actual Presidency) is something that really does bother me. Fortunately, there are voices of reason out there, including my better half, and we all know what Theory means, etc, right? Ah well, if you need a bit more explanation, ask a skientist, I recommend Debi the evolutionary morphologist if you don't have another one handy. I'm sure her hangover will allow her to answer questions in her comments ;-)

In other news, Anonymous vs Scientology had a good weekend of protests it seems, [ profile] deathboy went to the London protest and has a good report, and the Phoenix protest got /.ed. There's a little bit of me that dislikes the thing as a whole bunch of people, including people that have their own personal different brand of sky fairy, are ganging up on the Scientologists—I'm all for mocking all religions, but a dog pile seems a bit off when your allies are also batshit. Then I remember that they're Scientologists and that it's therefore OK anyway, right?

Last up, I've been promising various people for ages a post on markets, economics, and why I like them despite being a lot of a lefty, but while that's still on the planned list with a bunch of other stuff, Tim Harford continues his climb up my "top people" list by writing a post about why markets can at times fail, and how analysis of these "externalities" can help them get back on track and do a lot of good; "Green taxes" and similar are a method of dealing with externalities, and are generally much better than simply banning stuff.

Right, that's it for now, I have a fiancée to go snuggle for a bit before [ profile] shrublette gets home...
Quickie, aimed specifically at two people[1] but of general interest to all who value decent science education, [ profile] nannyo excellent post about her encounter with the people that run the Noah’s Ark Zoo Farm. I am very scared that that place exisits within the UK. On a similar vein, those that haven't seen it should probably read Scalzi's report of his visit to the Creation Museum. Does anyone have any brain bleach?

Heh: I do like this from the comments at Scalzi's report though:
Galatians 4:24
These things may be taken figuratively, for the women represent two covenants.
So, um, the bible, if literally true, is literally a metaphor according to St Paul?

ETA: [ profile] innerbrat has put on her day job hat and got into contact with them, removing the bit that she studies evolutionary morphology from her NHM email sigline. Go Debi!
[1] [ profile] innerbrat and [ profile] davegodfrey based on their regular postings on such topics.
Made by [ profile] innerbrat prompted by a discussion about the Out Campaign at [ profile] snapesbabe's relaunced public politics blog, [ profile] theyorkshergob.

theyorkshergob: Religion (or lack thereof) (again)

Posted without comment...
The Associated Press: Scientology Faces Criminal Charges:
A Belgian prosecutor on Tuesday recommended that the U.S.-based Church of Scientology stand trial for fraud and extortion, following a 10-year investigation that concluded the group should be labeled a criminal organization.
scientology belgium - Google News

Oh, ok, maybe a little one. Bwah ha!

*grabs popcorn*
(I think the "list of famous Belgians" might get a bit bigger over this one, right?)

ETA: Seen initially by way of [ profile] ladyegreen because I forgot to give credit...h
Charlie Brooker in Saturday's Guardian:
"Spirituality" is what cretins have in place of imagination. If you've ever described yourself as "quite spiritual", do civilisation a favour and punch yourself in the throat until you're incapable of speaking aloud ever again. Why should your outmoded codswallop be treated with anything other than the contemptuous mockery it deserves?

Maybe you've put your faith in spiritual claptrap because our random, narrative-free universe terrifies you. But that's no solution. If you want comforting, suck your thumb.
Gotta admit he's got a point there; I fundamentally respect your right to hold whatever belief you wish to hold. I also respect your right to either persuade me I'm wrong and/or that I'm going to burn in hell for being the atheist I am.

What I can't, and won't, do is respect the belief itself. Sky fairies don't exist, there are no gods, we have no immortal souls and there are no fairies at the bottom of the garden (well, except in the only good Torchwood episode, anyway). These delusions do nothing but placate fears or dislike for the world the way it is, they're a paliative. Get out there and do something with your life, make something of yourself--this is all there is, make the best of it.

Advantage of staying up North for a week[1]? [ profile] televisionfree me gets to watch the one or two interesting TV shows that multichannel world throws at you per week. Richard Dawkins, 8pm Channel 4, Monday night; The Enemies of Reason. Good good.

[1] It's an advantage. It's nowhere close to the main advantage, I would in fact put it very low the list of them; spending loads of time with ones new fiancee may be right at the top methinks. Did I mention we got engaged? I did? Ah well, I might repeat it again a few times just for good measure. Time to turn in--g'night all
Righty ho. Ages ago, I signed up for YouGov, and currently am nowhere near the threshold needed to get a payment from them; the old weighted sample thing means that internet geeks are much less likely to get selected than, for example, retired ladies, because they're sampling from internet users. But, I actually do enjoy doing the surveys for the most part (although BrandIndex I avoid), and today one of the pages worth of questions really cheered me up, so, given the limitations of LJ polls, I've replicated it under the cut.

I've made results viewable to just friends, because some might not like ticking boxes about their faith for anyone to know, I'm more than a little open about my atheism/Humanism, just as [ profile] el_steplador is very open about her Anglicanism (and appears to be enjoying the pilgrimage muchly, go check her journal), but, y'know.

[Poll #964678]

Yes, I'm aware that this is a completely unrepresentative sample, but it's curiosity rather than any sense of scientific enquiry.

Now, why did this cheer me up? They've specifically given options for 'atheist' and 'agnostic' for both belief and background. I ticked atheist and agnostic respectively, as my father is an Agnostic of the Dawkins school, and my mother is a soft Anglican. With any luck, this YouGov poll will give food for thought to a lot of politicians; I really like the background versus belief question, last survey I saw of relevence seemed to indicate people said they were Christian, but in fact didn't believe, it's just a background thing; I'd love to see a similar distinction made in the next UK census.

Oh yeah, if you fancy signing up for YouGov, and are in the UK, sign up here and they'll give me money as well as you for the first three months. Get paid to tell people what you think, for a reputable polling organisation, gotta be a good plan...
I've just written a brief op-ed on the Great Haribo Schism over at [ profile] pastafarians. Oh yeah, if I hadn't already mentioned it, [ profile] venganza_fsm, you know what to do...

Swords iconIn addition, [ profile] innerbrat has made the icon we talked about Sunday, one that will definately be of interest to [ profile] faeriecween and [ profile] freddiefraggles

And then we have [ profile] unimag's guide to American spotting online, well worth a read:
Food Obsession
No, this isn't an 'Americans are fat' comment5; I'm talking about posting pictures of food. And talking about food. At every opportunity. When a British person posts about having a meal, we post about what happened during the meal - anecdotes that were told, stupid stuff that happened, people getting insulted, Aunt Gladys choking to death on the meringue... entertaining things like that.

Americans, on the other hand, post about the food. With pictures of the food. If we're especially lucky, the people who were actually eating the food might get mentioned (in passing), but only if it doesn't shift the focus away from the food too much.
(via [ profile] metaquotes, which has been a bit poor recently)
So, I should celebrate Christmas because it's a Christian festival (wrong) and because Britain is a Christian country? ORLY?
Britain's generally tolerant attitude to religion is underlined by the small proportion who say the country is best described as a Christian one. Only 17% think this. The clear majority, 62%, agree Britain is better described as "a religious country of many faiths".
In fact, following on from earlier discussion, it would appear that I'm in the clear majority:
Most people have no personal faith, the poll shows, with only 33% of those questioned describing themselves as "a religious person". A clear majority, 63%, say that they are not religious - including more than half of those who describe themselves as Christian.
Regarding those who describe themselves as "Christian" but don't believe? Charlie puts it best:
this is more of an ethnic or cultural definition than a spiritual one
So, it's December 23rd, I'm up and about, had a shower and a bit to eat. I'm off to celebrate the True Meaning of Christmas. Shopping. With my family.

So, from the bottom of my heart, this little atheist would like to take this opportunity to wish you all a very genuine Merry Christmas, because the whole thing has nothing to do with that little kid who might have been born about 2000 years ago, during lambing season, at the time of a census. Both of which took place in March.
Just got back from lunch, so before the lunchbreak ends and I get back to paid work, a brief one. For those in the UK, buy this weeks 2000AD (Prog 2007, the winter special). For those not? Order it somehow.

This especially applies to those like [ profile] tyrell who don't take their paganism too seriously. Because this weeks Kipling is absolutely brilliant. Anything else would a) take time and b) be a spoiler, so just go buy the damned thing.
I'm ill. That's, of course, not Debi's fault. It's only a mild cold, but my concentration has gone to pot. That's not her fault either. What is her fault? Well, rather than spending the evening doing the things I meant to do? I've been hitting "random comic" at [ profile] jesus_and_mo. Today's offering:
What's wrong with believing God had to commit suicide in order to pay himself the debt humans owed him because their ancestors were persuaded by a talking snake to eat a forbidden fruit?
Just keep clicking around. Not, of course, for the easily offended. Or the humour impaired. But it's kept me happy all evening.

Of course, one of the things I should have been reading today waas the membership pack I received in the post for the British Humanist Association. I joined it last week after a discussion at [ profile] bagrec's (about the point that about 50% of Britain appear to actually be atheist by inclination) reminded me of my decision to do so when next I had some cash, I was prompted to when Linda Smith died and I found out she'd been their president.

Reading through the literature, I might find out more about becoming an Officiant. Might.

There should be another post to follow, about the spammers I mentioned last week, but, well, my ability to type straight has gone to pot :-(
My friends, a momentous occasion has come upon us. It is time, my friends, to join a new religion. I find this great new scheme has already been found in the mass media, and in this glorious interview he reveals himself:
Our pub quiz team is named The Church of Richard Dawkins. At a recent Oxford quiz night, we were told to change our name in case it was deemed offensive to any churchgoers present. Have you any suggestions for a " less offensive" name? RICHARD O SMITH, Oxford

And they call me intolerant! I am shocked that this happened in Oxford, of all places. I hope you win the tournament so resoundingly that you can dictate terms and call yourselves whatever you like. "Offensive" my foot.
I particularly also liked
Are people who advocate intelligent design stupid, and do you think natural selection will operate to remove them from future generations? ADAM KHAN, The Hague, Netherlands

The majority are ignorant, which is not the same thing as stupid. Natural selection will not remove ignorance from future generations. Education may, and that is the hope to which we must cling.
but the whole thing is definately worth a read. I shall forthwith petition to have this great man added to the list as our only living saint.

/silliness. And I am so glad the Independent has dumped that stupid subscription scheme that was never going to make them any money, it means I can link/exerpt rather than nick the whole thing wholesale...

And this was going to be cross posted but I'll have to do that later, seems I'm not actually a member of a few of the comms I want to send it to, and I'm due out in a bit...
Firstly, I did this a few days back but never posted, and I like the result:
Which Historical Lunatic Are You?
From the fecund loins of Rum and Monkey.
I'm Joshua Abraham Norton, the first and only Emperor of the United States of America!

Next, I heartily recommend [ profile] linkfrenzy to everyone, always a few worth a read in there. Today? A site called 23 Apples of Eris, and article called Habeas Corpus Remembrance Day:
On this day, Bureaucracy 66, 3025 (12 October 1859), His Imperial Majesty, Emperor Norton I, Emperor of the United States and Protector of Mexico, ordered the Congress of the United States to dissolve.
Weirdly fortuitous coincidence n'est ce pas? All this fuss the USians are making over the loss of Habeas Corpus, I'm wondering if Blair did it over here just as a trial run for Bush; make it work on a small scale. Is that what these isles have become, a testbed for El Presidenté Bush's authoritarian disrespect for the rule of law?

Anyway, time to leave the office and get to Exeter; going to play in [ profile] granjero's Warlord tournament (using one of his decks, natch), which should be good. I could sort of use the practice for KoHIT, as, y'know, travelling to Germany to take part in a major event, it's sort of a good plan to know what you're playing before you get there, right? Heh, this'll be my 5th KoHIT, and despite my rep as a "top" player, I've only ever played with a deck I built once...

Oh, [ profile] mapp et al? 23 Apples of Eris is [ profile] 23ae_rss. If I keep doing discordian references I may have to switch my stated religion...
Christmas isn't Christian.
These attitudes were carried to the New World by English Puritans, Quakers, Baptists and Scottish Presbyterians. In America, reprisals were as harsh here as back in Scotland. In Massachusetts a five-shilling penalty was imposed on anyone found feasting or shirking work on Christmas Day, and in 1621 the Governor of Plymouth Colony reprimanded some “lusty young men” whom he found on Christmas “pitching ye barr, and some playing at stoole-ball and such like sports”.
For the record, my annual attack of grouchyness at Xmas is prompted by people going OTT, enforced frivolity and people going on (and on, and on) about the baby Jesus.

Now, my atheism is well established, and my assertion that atheism is a faith, it cannot be proven thus should be treated and given equal privledges to religion is also something most know about me; I respect those of faith much more than I respect those who "don't know" or "haven't thought about it". But, please. Christians? It's not your festival. It was hijacked from a combination of different festivals by Pope Julius I, it combines Yule, Solstice, Mithras and a few other things. Jesus was most likely born (if we acknowledge he existed, which I'm prepared to but other historians more knowledgeable than me say otherwise) in March apparently. This isn't a Christian festival, in fact, true Christians shouldn't celeebrate it, so say the Church of Scotland.

So I, as an atheist who's quite happy to get stuck in with secular festivals based on the calender of seasons, can quite happily eat drink and be merry. So can anyone else. But can we put the nativity stuff away? I'll let you keep Easter, just accept that it's also Eostre, and I'll be eating lots more than the usual (excessive) amounts of chocolate.
matgb: Artwork of 19th century upper class anarchist, text: MatGB (Default)

British Liberal, house husband, school play leader and stepdad. Campaigner, atheistic feminist, amateur baker. Male.

Known to post items of interest on occasions. More likely to link to interesting stuff. Sometimes talks about stuff he's done. Occasionally posts recipes for good food. Planning to get married, at some point. Enjoying life in Yorkshire.

Likes comments. Especially likes links. Loves to know where people came from and what they were looking for. Mostly posts everything publicly. Sometimes doesn't. Hi.

Mat Bowles

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October 2015


Stuff and nonsense

I'm the Chair of the Brighouse branch of the Liberal Democrats.

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