Friday, 17 September 2010

So apparently the Pope is here.

Yes, yes he is. And he can fuck off home again, as far as I'm concerned.

Now, you all know how I feel about religion by now. I don't care what you believe, as long as you're not causing others any harm and you don't throw a strop if/when I disagree with you (and that applies to other atheists as well, you lot aren't immune just because I don't believe in gods either). I know some religious people. Some of them are friends, some aren't- a bit like the non-religious people I know. All this applies to your average Catholic.

Unfortunately for the Pope, he isn't your average Catholic. He's the leader of one denomination of a religion that supposedly encourages things like helping the poor. He also lives in a fucking palace. Obviously something is going dreadfully wrong here before we even start discussing the events of this week.

As I'm sure you've all heard, the Pope is in the UK this week on a state visit. This is a weird one, because in the past a visiting Pope has been classed as a religious leader and hasn't been funded by our government. This time, however, he is here as head of state for the Vatican City, and we're paying. I have no problem with paying for a head of state to visit- it's not going to be much out of each individual's taxes anyway. I do have a problem though- if someone is a head of state, they probably shouldn't be commenting on religious issues in what is essentially a secular country. I know the Pope is both a religious leader and a head of state. I don't care. Pick one, Benny, and stick to it.

(By the way, I am aware that the UK is technically not secular- we have state religions and all those other relics that are the downside to having castles all over the place, like the PM mustn't be Catholic and so on. Load of balls if you ask me. Your personal faith is not the government's business, it's your own, even if you're the Prime Minister.)

Then, of course, there's the big news story. Pope Benedict decided to visit a country where there are lots of non-religious people and do a little speech about how atheists are Nazis.

Except, you know, there's a few problems with that:

1. Hitler wasn't an atheist. He was pretty open about identifying as a Christian. P.Z. Meyer has a list of things he said about it here. Of course, we all know the things Hitler did weren't very Christian at all, but there we go. Nobody wants to be compared to Hitler, what with all the genocide and that.
2. If you really want to compare ordinary atheists with a dictator, at least choose the right one. Josef Stalin was an atheist and he was also a mad bastard.
3. Really? All of us? Bit extreme, that. This isn't even one of those "Richard Dawkins is just as bad as the people he's complaining about" moments. I get this feeling that 'the more aggressive forms of secularism' include things like 'making sarcastic YouTube videos' and 'being a smug twat when some bloke in the pub doesn't udnerstand evolution'. Dickish behaviours, to be sure, but hardly 'atheist extremism'. Nobody here is blowing themselves up in the name of the Flying Spaghetti Monster.
4. I don't think you can complain about others when you lead an organisation that promotes misogyny and homophobia, shelters paedophiles and spreads lies about condoms spreading AIDS because it doesn't approve of contraception. Again, I feel I should point this out- I know not every Catholic believes those things or wants to push their views on others if they do agree with official doctrine on those matters. This is specifically about the people in charge.

I am angry about this. So are lots of other people. I've been pinging from one topic to another in this post because there are so many reasons to be angry with the leaders of the Roman Catholic Church, and I don't know how to get all of it out of my brain without breaking something or producing a garbled mess (I thought the garbled mess was safer, as you can see). I'll leave you with this, because it sums it up rather well:

Another Tim Minchin song, because he is wonderful. Not safe for work, or indeed anywhere.

(quick side note: I quite like this 'end on an amusing video' thing. What do you guys reckon? Should I keep doing it? I like sharing!)

A friend of mine, who is a bit of an expert on history and politics, has told me that Stalin was publicly atheist but still a man of faith in private. I'm going to take her word for it, because she knows a lot more about the subject than I do. My point about Hitler being the wrong dictator for comparison when referring to the big bad atheists still stands, but I wanted to make sure people would see the correction here :)

Wednesday, 14 July 2010

This is terrible reporting and doesn't even make sense. Also, Gillian McKeith.

MSNBC and the Daily Mail are both reporting a 'science story' (HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA*cough*) about whether the chicken or the egg came first. Their answer: the chicken. And apparently some scientists said that. Riiight.

Let's have another look at this, shall we? First of all, the Mail quotes a Dr Colin Freeman as saying
It had long been suspected that the egg came first but now we have the scientific proof that shows that in fact the chicken came first.

Now, this guy is not just fucking wrong, he isn't even qualified to say stuff like that in the first place. He's not a biologist at all, he works in engineering.

And then MSNBC report the Mail article like the Daily Mail is a reliable news source. I've noticed US sites doing that a lot, actually. I mean, I know it's not something that's well-known in their country but you'd think they'd recognise this type of reporting from things like Fox News, which has a similar level of ignorant middle-class-white-guy fear-based bullshit.

Thing is, all birds lay eggs. These articles are written as if the only animal that ever laid an egg was a chicken, which is clearly not true at all. Not only are there thousands of other bird species out there, reptiles were laying eggs with shells for millions of years before birds even evolved. So no, mainstream media, the fucking chicken did not come first, the egg did.

Luckily PZ Myers at Pharyngula is already on the case. He has a great post up explaining what the shell protein actually is, rather than ZOMFG CHIKIN CAME FURST LOL.

Science reporting makes me rage so, so hard. It's rare that science articles ever get written by anyone who is even interested in the subject, let alone qualified to write about it. I could have done a better fucking job of this when I was doing my GCSEs- that's not blowing my own trumpet, just saying that a 15-year-old with no qualifications can write better science journalism than the people who get paid to do it now.

As usual, totally going to plug the Guardian. Some of their science stories are total balls too, but they have enough good stuff to make up for it, and the comment threads are always good if you like telling people they're Wrong On The Internet. And yeah, they have Ben Goldacre with his swearing and amazing anti-gravity hair. I have developed a bit of a crush on him, even though (probably because) he's really manic and odd.

On that note, just to finish off on a humorous note: Gillian McKeith, the poo lady, is trending on Twitter and trying to cover up the fact that she was rude to people over her (total lack of) qualifications. Fantastic. I cannot stand her, she is dangerous, and I hope this leads to even more people realising that her 'health' advice is coming from an unqualified quack who thinks photosynthesis can happen inside the human digestive system.

I'll just link one last thing for you:

Dara O Briain talks about Gilliam McKeith.


Tuesday, 13 July 2010

Oh wow, Switzerland. Really? Wow.

So, um, Switzerland will not extradite Roman Polanski.

I know, I know, they're all neutral and shit. I dunno though, maybe it's just me, but I would have thought people would expect a man to get in trouble if he did something like drugging and raping a 13-year-old and then running from the police for 30 years.

I mean, maybe I'm overreacting here. Polanski is old, and had a whole lot of bad things happen to him in the past, and makes famous films and... Nope, sorry, can't do it. Can't make excuses for him.

But apparently the Swiss authorities can, so that's just fine, I guess. Except it's not. But hey, you know, whatever. It's not like I had to go digging around to find the link to the story at all.

Gah. So angry.

Tuesday, 6 July 2010

Just a quick post to say...

Hello! I am still alive! Doctor Who, True Blood and the Dresden Files novels have kept me distracted and not blogging. Sorry about that. Normal service will resume shortly, possibly accompanied by photos of me dressed as a Time Lady.

Topics I hope to cover when I get my lazy arse back into gear:
- The Guardian's coverage of science and the hilarious response to some of the shitty articles
- What I actually do for a living, in an attempt to explain why science is important to everyday life when it's done right
- Women in fandom and other geeky spaces. I'd like to talk to a few people for this one, so if anybody out there can handle sitting in a room/talking online with me while I ask stupid questions about sexism amongst nerds, let me know! Also I stole the idea from like a million other people, but I'm all enthusiastic about it so... yeah.

Anyway. I still have a ton of fiction about centuries-old dudes with nice hair to get through, so I will be back soon.

Sunday, 25 April 2010

And now for something completely different

I thought I'd write something that I've been thinking about doing for some time. I've done a little bit about this before, back in the day when I was using Facebook Notes instead of having a feed to a REAL BLOG ON THE WIDER INTARWEBS. Basically, I read and watch a lot of science fiction, fantasy and general spooky-ooky explodey stuff. The older I get and the more I see of the internet, the more I realise that there are some fucking terrible plotlines and stereotypes that keep getting used. Instead of getting angry, I thought it'd be a nice change to make fun of them. Remember, this is all done by a colossal nerd- I have a lot of love for tacky 'supernatural mysteries' novels, for example- and it's all done in good humour. It's not meant to be an attack on your personal taste, yor favourite writer or your preferred celebrity sex object. Honestly.

I'm sure you'll all know of at least one example of these things from your own favourite books, films or TV shows. So here we go: a list of the cheesy shit that nerds fall for every single time. Enjoy.

Attractive young ladies with supernatural talents have difficult choices to make. The blonde vampire or the brunette one? The vampire or the werewolf? The red shoes or the black ones? Gosh, life is difficult for a 20-year-old American blonde who can do martial arts in high heels. So very difficult.

The older someone is, and the harder they are to kill, the more likely it is that the love of their life is human. Life's a bitch, I know. And this is responsible for the next one...

OH GOD IT IS SO SAD AND LONELY BEING 500 YEARS OLD. LOOK AT THIS SINGLE TEAR RUNNING DOWN MY PERFECTLY SCULPTED CHEEKBONE. I AM SO SAD. WHY GOD, WHY. I AM SO ALONE. NOBODY LOVES ME. EVEN THOUGH I AM REALLY, REALLY, RIDICULOUSLY GOOD-LOOKING. SO SAD. An hour and a half of this (all in caps since it's often shitty acting too) and some poor bastard's career is ruined as he embarks on a lifetime of being stalked by fifteen-year-old girls who send pictures they've drawn in felt tip of 'you and me together forever'.

You see that bloke over there in the black cloak? Yeah, the shifty-looking one. He's secretly one of the good guys. I don't care if he's flirting with your mother, he's definitely on your side.

Having no parents is actually pretty awesome, and hanging out with really old dudes is completely normal when you're an orphan. Can't get anything done without a teenage orphan and/or a wizard. Preferably both. Which is totally not creepy at all.

Oh no! That kindly old man has been killed by an enemy! Our quest is ruined! Oh no, wait, he's back again in a different outfit. Or he might be a ghost. Or a painting that moves, or with a new face, or some other shit like that. Either way, you're not getting rid of the grumpy old bastard that easily. (Totally obvious references to mainstream geekery right here, +1 internet if you can get them all)

If it's called Captain Jack, you don't know where it's been, and you should avoid it in case you catch something nasty. I'm just warning you.

Bad guys dress in black. They all seem to look like Alan Rickman, Jeremy Irons or Tim Curry. At least, they do if you can see their face.

Ceiling Dark Lord is watching you masturbate. Because he has no body of his own, you see, and is incredibly jealous. But one day he will rise again, and then we're all dead meat, unless you go over to the Dark Side and rule at his side, or whatever. You could, you know, if you're a protagonist. And if he didn't kill your dad, he probably is your dad.

Weedy people and tramps are generally the heirs to thrones that have been abandoned for centuries while the villagers tell tourists about magic swords and how awesome life was back in the day before these smug cunts at the palace took over while conveniently not using the title 'king'.

That brave soldier was a girl all along! Who would have known? What a shocker!


Please feel free to add your own, it's almost midnight and I have work in the morning. It'd be awesome to come back to this and see a growing list of silliness rather than an internet fight about how I'm just so mean for not liking your favourite programme ever.

Friday, 19 March 2010

Science. It works, bitches.

Unfortunately, I can't say the same for arguing on the internet.

I am currently getting back into things outside of being angry on the internet, which is why I haven't been blogging for the last six weeks. Sorry. I've been knitting and watching House, for the most part. And I've watched Inglourious Basterds and Watchmen, so that took up about a week. I mean really, it's about time somebody made a good film that doesn't take so long that you're going grey by the end.

I've been listening to Lady Gaga too, but I won't blog about her because enough people are doing that already. Actually analysing her poker face.


There's been some science journalism! Actual writing about science that isn't ZOMG EVILUTION or CLIMATE CHANGE IS LIES or RICHARD DAWKINS IS A MEAN PERSON BAWWW. To be fair, it's basically the good old Graun letting their Comment is Free people rage about how life isn't fair. Makes sense, given the Guardian's central dogma: Gosh, we should try and make things fair, those people over there aren't so fortunate, poor dears *wibble*

So. Not a lot of actual science, but lots of wonderful debate (well, internet arguments) about how science is marginalised, girls are discouraged and people just plain get it wrong. I would advise against reading the comment threads if you're easily annoyed, because for some reason people migrate over from the Mail just to go "You're all a bunch of Commies who want to destroy family values and make baby Jesus cry, good day to you."

Sharing time!

First: An article that pisses me off. Apparently Ann Coulter, that complete fucking maniac from America, has convincing arguments against natural selection. Right, and Sarah Palin has just come up with a way to make abstinence-only sex ed work for every teenager.

And here's the response.

A little bit about science and politics. This one is about a week old, sorry.

An article that caused a big old fight in the comments about whether engineers are sexist (probably depends on the individual engineer), whether girls are genuinely less able to do science (doubtful, although there's a case for ladygeeks being a little rarer than dudegeeks) and autism (just shut the fuck up and read a book already).

And lastly...

SCIENCE IS AWESOME YOU GUYS and we should appreciate it more because it's not very well loved right now. Biology, chemistry and physics are all sat in the corner with their funny-shaped dice being all uncool. Maths is there too. Poor maths.


A special bonus round from the BBC which many of you will have seen already.

Thanks, powers that be, for deciding that higher education isn't important after all. Research? Pfft.


That's right, take jobs from a useful department. I mean, it's not like Reading is in the middle of the UK's equivalent of the Silicone Valley or anything. Hey, do you guys remember that one time they closed the Physics department because it was totally expensive and nerdly? Who cares about research grants? We can totally save more money by just making all the expensive students piss off somewhere else. I don't know who the fuck does the admin for UoR but they need a right good kicking.

Have a good weekend everybody, try not to get quite as rage-filled and bitter as I am ;)

Normal service should resume soon, when I have a bit less to talk about all at once and can give 100% to one thing at a time.

Thursday, 28 January 2010

No surprises here

Well, here's an interesting article from the BBC.

The doctor who started the MMR scare acted unethically.

Yes. That, and he somehow forgot how to conduct a trial, making him unethical and also shit at science.

Paying kids a fiver for a blood sample taken at his son's birthday party? No wonder people believe him when he says MMR vaccines cause autism. He's clearly a really trustworthy dude.