Another rant about ignorance

Wednesday, 28 February 2007

creationism cafe

Last week I learned that 216 million Americans are scientifically illiterate. This statistic came out of a study by Jon D. Miller that was presented earlier this month at the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science.

What this scientific illiteracy means, according to D.E. Duncan’s article in Technology Review, is that 72% of Americans would not be able to understand an article on basic genetics or global warming or technology that might appear in, for example, the science section of the New York Times. But we are not alone. Miller found that Europeans and the Japanese are even slightly less literate than Americans.

Some people question the importance of understanding science. But you simply cannot exclude an entire field from your sphere of knowledge. I was discussing that very matter just last night as M and I linked the study of logic with mathematics and linguistics. If we had not had at least a basic understanding of all three topics, there would have been a big hole in our discussion. And chances are we would not have recognised it. Ignorance is a dangerous thing.

Duncan writes that over 40% of Americans do not believe in evolution. And about 20% think that the sun revolves around the earth rather than the other way round.

Meanwhile, down in Georgia, state representative Ben Bridges has been in big trouble for a memo that was distributed in his name to legislators in several other states. Bridges has denied any connection with the memo, which calls for a ban on the teaching of evolution in state schools. Nothing new, you may think, but don’t be so hasty.

The reason we must not teach evolution, according to the memo, is that the science is actually based on a deception derived “concept-for-concept from Rabbinic writings in the mystic ‘holy book’ Kabbala dating back at least two millennia.”

The memo references Fixed Earth, the website of The Fair Education Foundation, which would be excellent comedy if you could forget how many people buy into that bullshit. Fixed Earth, of course, takes down anyone who is not a fundamentalist Christian and refers to the Kabbala as “anti-Christ [and] anti-Bible”.

And now it’s time for a rousing chorus of “Blame the Jews! Blame the Jews!”

The memo was distributed by Marshall Hall, president of The Fair Education Foundation. He claims that Bridges saw the memo months earlier and gave him permission to distribute it.

Bridges has said that, although the memo did not come from him, he does not necessarily disagree with it.

I agree with it more than I would the Big Bang Theory or the Darwin Theory. I am convinced that rather than risk teaching a lie, why teach anything?

What a bunch of ignorant fucking losers.

Let me leave you with this reminder –

“Evolution is recognized as a central unifying principle of the biological sciences by the scientific community and the education community.”

– Glenn Branch, deputy director of the National Center for Science Education.


I’d like to be touched up, please

Monday, 26 February 2007

superman usa

The “backscatter” superman x-ray vision machine is out for a test run in Phoenix, Arizona. What the x-ray vision machine does, basically, is that it sees through your clothes. It can’t see through skin, however, so you will still be able to smuggle objects onto airplanes in your bodily orifices.

Some people who don’t like the x-ray vision machine (terrorists!) complain that it is invasive. Actually, I can see where they are coming from. I guess that if I wanted people in the airport to see me naked, I would just walk through the airport naked.

The x-ray vision machine fans (Fatherland Security) have set the machine to blur images in sensitive areas. I guess that means that they won’t be able to tell if you wax your pubes, but they’ll probably be looking to see if you have a tattoo on your tit or a piece of dynamite sticking out of your butt.

Thus far, passengers cannot be forced to reveal themselves to the x-ray vision machine. Only those who are picked out for further screening are being offered the opportunity. And they can choose to go for the old-fashioned pat-down search instead.

Fatherland Security claims that the x-ray vision machine can neither store nor transmit the images of nudity it creates. But the Associated Press tells us –

The TSA said that the security officer who works with the passenger going through the screening will never see the image the machine produces. The images will be viewed by another officer who will be about 50 feet away and won’t see the passenger.

Maybe I am just technologically retarded, but that sounds like some sort of image transmission to me.

The test run at Sky Harbor International Airport* is expected to last for up to 90 days. If Fatherland Security is happy with the x-ray vision machine, and they seem to be so far, then they will most likely leave it in place. LAX and JFK could have them too by the end of this year.

And someday the x-ray vision machine won’t be voluntary anymore and then it will be primary rather than secondary. But for now, no one at the airport is going to be seeing through my clothes – I’d prefer to be touched up, please.

* totally naff name; it’s real though


Keeping us in

Monday, 26 February 2007

closed

 

From last Friday’s San Francisco Chronicle:
“Going to Canada? Check your past: Tourists with minor criminal records turned back at border”

The article is about how Canadia doesn’t want anyone with a criminal record to enter onto their territory. It highlights the cases of middle-aged Americans who have been going to Canadia for years, but are now suddenly being turned away.

The thing is that Canadia has a long-standing rule denying entry to anyone who has committed a crime. So what has changed? What’s new on the border with our quiet northern neighbour?

The newness is a partnership called the Smart Border Action Plan that was started in 2002. For five years now, Canadian intelligence and Fatherland Security have been combining information. I don’t know what kind of information and I don’t know how much information, but the system is now refined and border personnel have access to data about all of us.

“They can call up anything that your state trooper in Iowa can,” says David Lesperance, a Canadian immigration lawyer.

Do you have a marijuana conviction from the 1970s? Were you ever caught shoplifting as part of a fraternity prank? These are the sorts of youthful indiscretions that will see you barred from Canadia for the rest of your life.

Lesperance believes that more such agreements will be signed with other countries, further interfering with our freedom to travel.

And before you say that people who haven’t done anything wrong don’t have anything to worry about, I will once again point out that we do not know the ultimate intentions behind any new regulations or agreements. Our borders are now under electronic surveillance, militarised, and getting a lot harder to cross. Think about that.


Shooting with Jack

Sunday, 25 February 2007

glock 17

Glock 17

 

“There are people in there already, so put on your ear protectors before you go in.”

And then Jack opened an ordinary looking door, we walked in and there we were. It was a small and dingy room opening onto a long concrete and metal-lined range. Someone shot a pistol and I jumped. Jack’s mouth smiled just a little bit, but his eyes were shining with glee. Looking at it from Jack’s side, being kind of middle America and ex-military, taking Miss 90210 out to shoot must have been pretty amusing.

Jack opened his briefcase and took out his Glock 17, two boxes of bullets, 3 clips, his holster and a pen. The theory part of my lesson lasted about 30 seconds.

“These are the sights. You line them up like this.” Jack drew a little diagram on the corner of our target paper. “You concentrate on keeping those sights lined up and pull the trigger. Focus on the sights and don’t anticipate the shot.”

I was a bit dismayed that it was that simple.

Then Jack went over a few safety points, the actual operation of the gun, and how I needed to hold the gun. He hung up the target and sent it about 5 metres away. “You’re ready to go.”

“What? I’m supposed to shoot already?”

I tried to stay focused on the sights. My hands were shaking just a little bit. And my first few shots were all within about 10 cm of the centre of the target. I was surprised that it was so easy.

During the course of the lesson, I also learned how to load bullets into the clips, how to put in and remove the clips, and something about clearing the chamber. I wore Jack’s belt and holster so as to practice drawing first. Jack hung a target that had silhouettes of two people on it and sent it maybe 12 metres away. I killed those two motherfuckers over and over again.

The hour went by pretty fast. By the end of it, I was reasonably comfortable with shooting the gun. However when I did something like not pull the slide back far enough and the gun then didn’t do what I had expected, I had to hand it back to Jack. I was still afraid of it.

Jack and I agreed that we would return to the shooting range together in a couple of weeks.

Interesting fact: getting a gun permit in the Czech Republic is a longer and more complicated process than in The Amerika. However, once you have the permit, you are automatically entitled to carry a concealed weapon.

Oh, and why did I come to the decision to learn how to shoot? I realised yesterday that I had decided to treat my Second Amendment right as a responsibility. That does not necessarily mean that I am going to carry a concealed weapon or amass an arsenal, but I should at the very least know how to use a gun.


Happy Belated Valentine’s Day

Friday, 23 February 2007

Sometimes it takes a bit longer to find that gift with just the right message.

valentine

Addict Galerie, Paris – Le Marais


Max’s Rules

Friday, 23 February 2007

anal lube

I realise that I am a pedant when it comes to the English language. For that I blame my mother, and then probably Jono as he has reinforced my pedantry for the past 5 years. One year at the Marine ball in Prague, I noticed a printing error on the souvenir beer glasses. I showed it to Jono and he then informed the rest of our table. One of our friends asked which one of us had spotted it. Jono answered, “What difference does it make? Pedant One or Pedant Two…”

Today I was flipping around the internet and found a blog entry entitled “Deja Vu All Over Again”. I cringed. It’s not the missing diacritical marks and it’s not even that the ‘v’ in ‘vu’ and the ‘o’ in ‘over’ should both be small. It’s the whole cliché thing that really gets to me, and the fact that people repeat the same stupidity over and over again without thinking and without realising how retarded they sound.

Another popular utterance that I abhor is “anyhoo”. I think the first person I ever heard use that bastardised word was Big Sister’s first husband, and he was an idiot. But I do hear intelligent people use it, and I really don’t understand why. It’s not cute and it’s not clever, it just sounds ignorant.

I believe that educated people should not say “ain’t”. I believe in good grammar and enunciation. I don’t approve of people who speak too quickly and I don’t agree with sms shorthand.

My rules, I make them up.


The anticipation of Max

Friday, 23 February 2007

woman gun

I am going to learn how to shoot a gun this evening. I have never shot a gun in my life. I have handled guns, most notably Uzi sub-machine guns, but no one has ever before dared to put a gun that was actually loaded into my hand.

My shooting mentor is big, strong, handsome and brave, and obviously a little bit crazy.

I’ll be shooting a Glock 17. I am pretty excited about the whole prospect – in a calm and sensible way – so I have been studiously preparing by reading about the gun on the interweb. My mentor sent me first to Wikipedia for the basics. Yesterday I sent myself to the Glock website.

This is my favourite sentence from the whole website:

Whether strong masculine hands or delicate female hands, the GLOCK pistol always feels as if it is made to measure.

I find that very reassuring. And I am looking forward to getting my delicate female hands on my mentor’s Glock tonight.