Monday, December 10, 2007


Xena: Mock Execution Princess?

In many episodes of the tv show Xena: Warrior Princess, Xena cut off the flow of blood to the brains of her enemies to interrogate them. From the second she started, the victims had roughly 30 seconds to live.

Yet no-one's referred to it as a mock execution or torture, or said that she shouldn't be doing it.

In the show, the techniques are useful, and are done for the "greater good", rather than being done needlessly.

Does this mean that the show promotes torture, or that the viewers are ok with it? Perhaps because it was being done mostly during the Clinton administration?

I don't think so. Xena, like many vigilante (anti-)heroes, acts outside of our sense of ethics. As well as blood deprivation, she sometimes killed her enemies when she didn't really need to do so. She did what many of us idly wish would happen to the bad guys. They "have it coming". But when it comes to real life, we realise we can't act in this way. Asking whether terrorists "have it coming" clouds the issue. The right question is whether allowing torture is a good idea, and the answer is no.

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Sunday, May 06, 2007


The long tail of Crocodile Hunting?

In The Crocodile Hunter - Collision Course, one of the funniest parts of the film was when the CIA was doing a background briefing about Irwin. Irwin had been to many political hotspots, including South America during two coups, in Kenya when the USA embassies were bombed, and in East Timor soon after its civil war. He has had access to America's military. The Australia Zoo is expanding at the cost of tens of millions of dollars. And you don't get that kind of money from cable television. Therefore, he must moonlighting as an enemy agent.

Every one of the statements made is true, but the conclusion is absurd. It is a good warning on the perils of bad logic. A similar, but real-life, conspiracy theory can be seen here asking how wikipedia can only operate with 2 full-time employees and a million-dollar budget that mainly pays for equipment, concluding that it must be a CIA front.

The flaw in the argument about Irwin is assuming that his only source of revenue is from cable tv. While talking about an ad series promoting Australian quarantine, he said that the A$175,000 he charged was tiny compared to his other fees for commercials - he'd have to add a zero or two. Steve Irwin may be a litle bit into hyperbole, but in this case it sounds plausible.

Irwin wasn't in it for the money, though. The more money he raised, the more conservation he did. The more conservation, the more documentaries and attention. The more attention, the more money to play with.

What a vicious circle.

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Tuesday, March 27, 2007


Take CAIR before making donations for Citizendium

Citizendium, an online encyclopedia project similar to but different from Wikipedia, has just made some of their articles visible to the public. I'd view it as an interesting experiment, but I'm worried about their current (temporary) funding model.

They are being funded through the Tides Center. Legally speaking, you give money to the Tides Center, and they say that they'll give the money to Citizendium, minus what Citizendium calls a very reasonable administration fee. But Citizendium makes no promise that that money will be spent on administration, and I do not know that they can make such a promise.

The Tides Center funds a variety of groups. One of them is CAIR. The group is involved with a SLAPP lawsuit involving the "Flying Imams" trying to identify John Doe fellow passengers who acted in good faith with what they reasonably perceived was a potential danger.

If Citizendium can guarantee that money will go where it should, I'll be glad to hear it. And the sooner it becomes independent of the Tides Center, the sooner I'll be confident that Citizendium can write without a conflict of interest on the Tides Center, the Tides Foundation and those that fund or are funded by them.

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Friday, October 07, 2005


Washington, DC

Big building
A building I saw during a tour of congress. I'm curious as to what it is.

Eagle, woman and snake
Statues of an eagle, a woman and a snake winding around a column. Surprisingly, the snake seems not to be a baddie - it is representing knowledge.

Woman on chariot

A statue of a woman on a chariot with a clock as the wheel.


I'm not sure what it is. Probably the local mosque.

Wollemi pine

While waiting for a tour of congress, I checked out the nearby glasshouse. In a room dedicated to endangered plants, I saw a Wollemi pine, a plant that doesn't live far from Sydney.

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Saturday, September 10, 2005


Woods Hole and New York

Photos from Woods Hole, MA and New York, NY.

A sinister statue
The statue in this picture featured in the Left Handed DNA Hall of Fame in 2001.

A righteous statue
Fixed! Now only the number on one of the buildings looks wrong.

Birds on a wire
Birds on a wire. Woods Hole, MA.

Frozen water
What part of "9.8 metres per second per second" doesn't the water understand? Woods Hole, MA.

Sculpted snow
Snow sculptured by the wind. Woods Hole, MA.

View from bus
Photo taken on bus between Woods Hole and New York.

View from bus
Photo taken on bus between Woods Hole and New York.

Art in NY
Art work in New York central park.

Times New Square
Times New Square


Old dictator, dead terrorist
Fidel Castro, the world's oldest dictator, and Yasser Arafat, the world's oldest terrorist (and dead as well).

Charlie Chaplin and I
A pretty lousy Charlie Chaplin imitation, and the one on the right isn't much better...

Wayne Gretzky and Michelle Kwan
Wayne Gretzky, hockey player, about to check Michelle Kwan, figure skater. I fear for the former...

Bill Gates
Along with Woody Allen, Bill Gates is one of the shyest figures in the museum.

Ex-Meow mix meta-photo
A photo of photos at the former Meow Mix.

This is a building, to use the technical term.

The site of the former World Trade Center buildings.

What amazed me when I saw the area was that it looked more like a construction site than a place of death and destruction.

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Wednesday, July 13, 2005


London and Bergen

Photos from London and Bergen, Norway.

Trafalgar square
Trafalgar square.
London symbol
The symbol for London on a gate.
Tower of London
Part of the Tower of London.
Bergen statues
Statues in the city square of Bergen.

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Tuesday, July 12, 2005


Bergen to Oslo

Photos from Bergen to Oslo, travelling with "Norway in a Nutshell".

Snow, ice, and award-winning fjords. 'Nuff said.

Norway trip photo
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Sunday, July 03, 2005


Oslo pictures

Pictures and notes from the Oslo part of my trip.

But you only read this blog for the articles, so you won't be clicking on the hyperlink below, will you?

Ok, looks like you did.

Holmenkollen troll
Do not feed the troll. He's not hungry. Holmenkollen ski jump and museum, Oslo.

Fur ski and long ski
Just to the left of the blue picture, a pair of skis, one ski short and with fur underneath to provide push, the other ski long for gliding. Holmenkollen ski jump and museum.

Ski poles with utensils
Ski poles featuring weapons or kitchen utensils. Holmenkollen ski jump and museum.

There must be a rational reason for this building being where it is. Photo taken from Holmenkollen ski jump.

Oslo from Holmenkollen ski jump
No, I can't see my house from here. But if I lived in Oslo, I might be able to. Photo taken from Holmenkollen ski jump.

Abseil rope off ski jump
I'd like to say I abseiled down this. A private group did so. Holmenkollen ski jump.

Holmenkollen ski jump
It doesn't look that scary from this angle.

Holmenkollen ski jump
Or this angle.

Holmenkollen ski jump
Hey, that's nice. It slopes up at the end.

Holmenkollen ski jump
This angle looks benign too.

Holmenkollen ski jump
Now this photo gives a good reckoning of the ski jump. Holmenkollen ski jump.

National Theatre Oslo
National Theatre, Oslo. At least I think it is. It's a fancy building near the National Theatre subway station. A google image search for Oslo National Theatre found another photographer of the same opinion.

Clothing display, probably within Oslo town hall.

Oslo town hall clock
Oslo town hall clock. As well as being able to tell the time, it can indicate the current zodiac sign and apparently the current phase of the moon.

Andjam ice skating
Me ice-skating in Oslo.

Oslo traffic light
Oslo traffic light. Scandinavians are very law-abiding people, so in order to send out a firm message on jay-walking, they have two red non-walking pedestrian figures. Between Grefsen station and Haraldsheim YHA.

Oslo pedestrian crossing sign
Oslo pedestrian crossing sign. Dig the hat and the walking style, man.

Norway rat
Rattus Norvegicus, I presume? Googling suggests the rat actually originated in Northern China, and also has the name of wharf rat. Maybe it got the name from Norway's history as a shipping nation. Between Grefsen station and Haraldsheim YHA.

Photo from Oslo train
Photo taken from train going from Oslo central to the airport.

Oslo flight photo
Photo taken during flight from Oslo to Copenhagen.

Another Oslo flight photo
Another photo taken during the flight. Has anyone seen lines in the snow like this? If so, what are they?

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