Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Evolution versus Creation debates

"evolution" is one of my google alerts. Along with "The Evolution of Special Effects" and "The Evolution of Tom Cruise" I see scientific articles/blogs on evolution along with blog posters taking pot shots at evolutionary theory.

One that I took note of was a Jewish Blog called Chabad, which had a short piece on evolution followed by various people agreeing or disagreeing with the original blog entry.

In my mind, the article had nothing to do with evolution and the facts of the theory, but of how morally speaking, believing in God is better than believing in evolution.

I don't actually know if this is true or not. I have no idea (in general, I think truth is superior to delusion). The thing is, does that have anything to do with whether evolution is correct or not? The big, bright, shiny word that springs to mind is "irrelevant".

What if believing the laws of motion allowed you to launch missiles into third world countries? Oh wait! It does! We shouldn't believe in them! My reaction in a posted comment said pretty much that. What does the morality of the question have to do with evolution?

The funniest thing about the blog is that as I tried to post corrections to people's misconceptions, the moderator seemed to get annoyed with me and started disallowing my posts. That was after quoting me incorrectly and then removing the comment when I corrected him.

I guess with a moderated blog, you can allow and disallow whomever you like and colour the responses in a certain light. As obvious as that is, I hadn't considered it before and thought that moderation was more about filtering out bad language and abusive comments.

I have rarely worried about evolution dissenters before, after all, what does scientific illiteracy really matter? These people still use computers, cell phones and cars, all of which were produced through the same science that produced evolution. No one seems to notice that and by posting on line, they are nearly self refuting.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Kiwiwriters returns!

Far less mysteriously than it disappeared, Kiwiwriters is back up and running, albeit with old data.

If you've joined the site since September, please create a new log-in account. I just realized that this is perfect if you were unhappy with your original username. Now's the chance to fix it!

And, if you haven't thought about any writing for the new year, may I suggest the 20k Novella challenge we are offering for January?

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Kiwiwriters disaster!

Well, for the last week or so, Kiwiwriters has been completely down and out. Go to the link and nothing - just an error.

Now, since getting in touch with the hosting company, we realize that it's even worse than we thought. Not only is the current page no longer working because of a hardware problem on their main server, the backups are also corrupt.

The latest full backup that we have is from September! That's over THREE months old!

So, blog posts, discussion boards, news items, challenges, membership data etc.. etc... are all gone.

This entry is just to let you know, if you are a recent member, you will have to re-join kiwiwriters, since your username and passwords are all missing.

Sorry guys.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

testing google maps

I'm helping someone to put a google map point on their blog.

So, I will test it here first!

Una is doing a yoga class at the Massey Memorial near Miramar on Sunday, Nov 29th.

It is at this exact location:

View Larger Map

That's it.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Oh the news! Where to start?! Nano, Twitter and a sci-fi reading challenge


Firstly, it is Nanowrimo yet again, and here I am writing another novel (this will be my 7th - I've finished all of my Nanowrimos and SocNocs so far).

I've gone sci-fi again. This time, the story is set about 80 years in the future. The main character is Paul, a physical trainer. In the future where most people spend all of their time "inside", i.e. plugged into a virtual world, physical trainers take over people's bodies, exercising the limp and atrophied muscles that lay around while their owners are plugged in, which is most of the time.

Paul is a bit of a Luddite and spends as much of his time as possible "outside", living his life in the "real world" except where his job requires.

Paul is thrown for a loop when he lets someone take over one of his clients for a few minutes and the client ends up dead. He is then pulled into a civil war he never knew was happening where some people who spend their time "outside" are trying to bring down the network, which they feel is gradually leaching people of their humanity.

So far, I'm 1 day and 2300 words in. I'm quite excited about what I see as a good idea.

Funny story, I had a part of my whole novel idea (the "physical trainer" part) through October - it's an idea that's been sitting around in my brain for a few years, but I've never used it before. Then, I go to bed on October 31st, thinking about the story. While I sleep, my subconscious chews on it and when I wake up to write around 7:15 on Sunday morning, another story idea I had buried in my brain came up to merge with the first and I'm pleased with where it's going.

The 2nd idea , also a few years old is about someone living "outside" of the network when most of the world is plugged in. The outside is now a museum, where buses run and the infrastructure is maintained via high-tech trickery, but almost no one lives in the real world. It started with a scene where someone goes out to look around, day after day, week after week and is alone every day. One day, on a bus driving through empty streets, out of the blue, he meets another person who is doing the same thing as he is. This idea just seemed to gel with the first, so I've merged them together.

To change the subject - I've started to twitter. My username is traviscottreau (appropriately enough - I tried to put a dot in the middle to match my gmail account, but it wouldn't let me). I figured that I would use it to report my nano stats and keep in contact with other Nanoers.

And finally, a science-fiction reading challenge. I am a member of Shelfari, an on-line book club that I quite enjoy and while browsing on that site, I found a science-fiction reading challenge in one of the groups. There are 40 categories of books that you have to read in the next year. With a few double ups allowed (no triple ups allowed), it comes out to a minimum of 35 books that have to be read in the next year. I am keeping track of my progress on a google docs spreadsheet that I've made public for viewing. I'm quite excited about this, since I have a few sci-fi books at home that I haven't read and have been procrastinating about - why not add a challenge to get through them and announce it on my blog?

If anyone sees a category that I haven't filled in, but have a suggestion for, I'm more than happy to listen. I'll keep some progress on here and probably on twitter I imagine.

I am starting with "Brave New World" by Aldous Huxley, which counts as my "young adult" category in the challenge.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Evolution as simply as I can explain it

Evolution says that all life forms are related.

I have 2nd, 3rd and 4th cousins and if you go back further, my more distant cousins include everyone on earth.

In EXACTLY the same way, all animals are related to us if you go back even further, so are plants and bacteria. There is no difference in the relations except how far back in time you trace the ancestors.

Little changes creep in over time. We can easily see the physical differences between Chinese and Europeans. If you go back further, the differences are even greater and you have apes, monkeys, dogs, mice, worms and eventually plants.

Everything else is just details.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

To poll or not to poll...

From the mouth of the discovery institute comes "The More They Know Darwin, The Less They Want Darwin-Only Indoctrination" where they say that polls show that the more a country knows about the Theory of Evolution, the more they want to teach "alternatives" like Intelligent Design or Creationism.

Hmmm... I can't think of anything LESS relevant to the entire topic of evolution and education. Since when do we go out polling the population to see what should be taught in science classes? Imagine a physics professor in front of a group of university students saying, "Hey kids, instead of teaching the intended String Theory class, I'm going to give you how atoms are controlled by little fairies kept in bottles on the moon. The US population has decided that it should have equal weight."

Seriously - it is completely irrelevant.

Ken Miller was dead on when he said "If I had to give a prize for the best idea that anyone in the antievolution movement has ever had, I'd award it to whomever came up with the term 'Intelligent Design'."

The term itself is all anyone usually knows about it. After that, all the BS and sciency sounding jargon is enough to fool most people. What's the alternative to 'intelligent design'? Something un-intelligent and non-designed I guess.

Some things cheese me off. The Discovery Institute is one of them. They are a bunch of scientific minded individuals, who are smart enough to know better, but practice spinning lies to the population in hopes that they will convince some people to believe their BS. I doubt there are more than one or two in their think-tank who actually believe what they are saying. Certainly not Michael Behe or William Dembski, both of whom are complete and utter liars who aren't just misguided morons, but know enough to realize that what they are saying just isn't true.

You'd think that Behe would go away after having his books completely trashed by intelligent five year olds with a passing knowledge of evolution, or that Dembski would finally man up and produce some math that other people could actually see. Dembski's promise of an equation that can tell the difference between designed and non-designed items (genetics, mountains, sculptures?) has been in the works for 10+ years and is still just a no-show. Strangely enough - there are people who still take him seriously.

Scientifically speaking, intelligent design and creationism are the same as astrology and voodoo for what they add to an understanding of the complexities of life. The world would be a better place if they didn't exist.

Monday, August 31, 2009

New Zealand News

I love New Zealand. I moved here eight years ago and it was one of the best decisions of my life.

However, TV news is pretty bad . Two things that get me:

1. A half hour news program has 10-15 minutes of sports coverage. Rugby is the hot topic, even high school rugby gets in-depth coverage. Cricket is a close second.
2. If there is any sports related news, some scandal or even a high school rugby fight, it is presented not as sports new, but as regular news, eating into the ACTUAL regular news.

It is almost like the producers and writers are little kids who can't help but talk about the stuff they love, happily putting aside more important news, like shootings or catastrophes.

The only positive that I can say is that it is better than US news, which pretty much dumbs down information to the point where it's actually taking information away when you watch it.

Treating Maori like everyone else

This is an interesting quote from wikipedia on the state of Maori (for those not from New Zealand, Maori are the native population):

"Despite significant social and economic advances during the 20th century, Māori tend to appear in the lower percentiles in most health and education statistics and in labour-force participation, and feature disproportionately highly in criminal and imprisonment statistics."

A few things of note here - one, if you treat a sub-set of the population like they are different from everyone else and as if they always need government social help, they are going to continue to act like they do. You can't expect welfare to correct a poverty problem. At best, it's a stop-gap to make sure people don't starve.

There has also been a recent controversy over Auckland city council seats where Maori would automatically get seats on the Auckland super city council when all the "cities" of Auckland merge into one. This is the perfect example of treating the Maori like they need handouts from the government. If I were Maori, I would be dead set against it - it's a handout and an obvious one. It's an insult to Maori and tells them they don't have a clue about getting elected to seats in the first place. I find it amazing that Maori leaders are so up an arms and demanding that the seats be given freely. It is a victim's attitude.

The more that we treat Maori differently, the more we have Maori parties (we don't have an "Asian Party" for example, despite them being a significant minority), the more we make an issue of the differences between Maori and others in New Zealand, the longer the trends in health, education and employment will continue.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Anti-smacking referendum results

New Zealand recently had a referendum on hitting children, the notorious "Smacking" referendum, which, unfortunately cost nearly $9 M and did absolutely nothing.

The question on the referendum was "Should a smack, as part of good parental correction, be a criminal offence in New Zealand?"
- yes

Well - how can you vote against good parenting? You can't. A normal person would say "No" to this, which was by far the vast result as seen in this "Stuff" article. Nearly 90% said "no" in fact.

That doesn't mean that people are pro-smacking, not at all. It means that the question was loaded and there was no way to answer it sensibly.

Say I answered "yes" - that means that I just said that an aspect of good parenting was illegal.

Who the hell worded this question? What kind of morons are they hiring for the phrasing? I can't believe it got by an editor.

This isn't the only issue with the smacking law, it's meaningless anyway. Child abuse has always been illegal - it hasn't stopped abusive parents in the past!

I'm disappointed that the law was made and that a referendum that cost so much went through (seriously - they could have given the money to me - I would have done something with it - promise), and not only that, it isn't going to change the law anyway, since the referendum doesn't have that power. The prime minister said no to a law change.

Friday, August 14, 2009

Kiwiwriter's collection has arrived in the post

I've been involved with Kiwiwriters since its founding. My participation lately has waned, but every once in a while, I throw out an idea, usually just for the name of a challenge (the zing thing, the collection challenge).

The Collection Challenge finished months ago, but there was lots of work after that to organize a printed book (fantastic work from Cassie and Kerryn by the way) and getting the PDF file together, the introduction and the cover designed etc... It eventually went on sale at lulu, a self publishing site.

Cassie Hart, Kerryn Angell and guest judge Philippa Ballantine went to work and the end result was "The Challenge Collection", which I ordered as soon as possible and got in the mail recently (while I was on holiday actually, so I had to wait another week!).

While you can buy it, you can also download the collection for free. Check it out here.

I bought two copies - one for myself and another for putting into the Wellington City Library.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

There is no logic

Of course logic exists, but no one uses it.

As an experiment, I have tested various sayings and words. For example, UK and NZ people say they take a "maths" course, whereas people from North America say they take a "math" course.

Which one is better? Quick answer - neither. Words are arbitrary by nature and it doesn't matter if I call something a "blork" or a "bleen" as long as we all know what we mean.

However, note that all NA people take the "math" side and try to justify their use, and all the NZ/UK people take the "maths" side and try to justify their use.

The same is true for every other arbitrary spelling or wording there is - so, "boot" versus "trunk", "colour" versus "color" etc.. etc....

Even though we know these are arbitrary examples and don't really matter, emotion come out and I am amazed at how certain everyone thinks they are (Read "On Being Certain: Believing You are Right Even When You're Not" by Robert Burton for a very cool discussion of this phenomenon).

Imagine what happens with more complex issues, like capital punishment, legalized abortion, legalized marijuana, not to mention deciding if a religion is "right" or not. Can anyone actually KNOW they are right on any of these subjects? I contend that they can't really.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

The Chapter One Rewrite Club

Kiwiwriters has a new challenge posted that I thought was too fun to ignore. The challenge is called "The Chapter One Rewrite Club" and the challenge is this: Read and re-write the first chapter of Lord of the Rings and post your re-write on-line. Here I am, posting the first bit.

It runs from July 1st (now finished! I didn't write a thing!) to July 11th.

So, the beginning of Lord of the Rings starts with a Poem:

Three Rings for the Elven-kings under the sky,
Seven for the Dwarf-lords in their halls of stone,
Nine for Mortal Men doomed to die,
One for the Dark Lord on his dark throne
In the Land of Mordor where the Shadows lie.
One Ring to rule them all, One Ring to find them,
One Ring to bring them all and in the darkness bind them
In the Land of Mordor where the Shadows lie.

Which I have re-written:

The One Ring - a beat poem

A ring, just imagine, the thing that brings, doom
Like a groom leaving his chick behind in a room at noon
On his wedding day

Rings, three more, says the lore, for Elf lords
Rings, seven more, says the lore, for the Dwarf lords
Rings, nine more, says the lore, for the Mortal lords

Then the one, just the one, no more, says the lore, sits in Mordor
With the dark lord, on his throne, in that dark zone
Like a crone droning on whispering a Zen koan

Pour over the lore and if you can avoid a snore, it will say that the one is more
More than just a ring, but a thing that will bring, the doom to Middle Earth
Like the birth of the dearth, like the door's boom in a tomb
Shutting behind you

Monday, June 29, 2009

SoCNoC Novel - 2009

SoCNoC, or the Southern Cross Novel Challenge is in its 3rd year. This is my third one.

I have been behind on this SoCNoC more than I've been behind on any novel challenge, but a 5,000 word flurry of activity last night brought me to 46,861 words, only 3139 words off my 50,000 word finishing count. As long as I don't get distracted with anything else, I should be fine. There are a few big scenes planned, including an army attacking a city made of diamond weaved buildings. The words should just flow.

I have never been so ill prepared on one of my novels before and procrastinated in May for coming up with an idea and working out some kind of outline, so it's pretty random stuff. I decided to try an idea I'd had back in high school (this is a long time ago - probably 20+ years). Also, part way through the novel, I switched from third person to first person, just because it's faster to write. I don't know if it was a good idea or not, but here I am within striking distance, so it wasn't too bad.

I took the novel out just now and started reading it from the beginning - not something I do until well after I finish, but it was almost 30 days ago, so I decided I'd try and see how bad it was. To my surprise, I enjoyed the voice and writing style. It was clear and had some suitable metaphors, but wasn't overloaded with them. I was pleased. I know it gets much worse later when I was stuggling to get my word counts in, but really, I couldn't have asked for much more.

Storyline summary: Victor, the main character (his name is Victor because of a funny story I will tell in another blog later), finds himself in a new world full of aliens and alien landscapes. Very little explanation is given as to why he is there, but he finds himself talking to alien people who have left their worlds and come to this new one and who are opressed by a group of humans from earth who have come through from various periods in Earth's past. There are Romans and Phoenicians, Babylonians and Vikings, none of whom have a problem massacring aliens who they consider sub-human and just animals getting in their way. Not only that, but the humans have access to the super-technology of the world's original inhabitants who died of a plague a thousand years before.

All a little seat-of-the-pants but some of the scenes are just really fun to read over again.

One of my more satisfying efforts, although quite stressful. Throw into the mix that I moved house over June and had to work late a few days (5 days where I added exactly zero words and another half dozen or so where I added just 200-300, and I would say I did pretty well).

Friday, February 20, 2009

Fur Patrol - free concert in Frank Kitts Park

I really enojyed Fur Patrol this past Thursday downtown in Wellington. It's certainly the best free concert that I can remember going to, and I was stunned that there weren't more people there. They remind me of the 90's Irish band, the Cranberries, with a similar sound and lead singer. Love Julia Bains' clear, powerful voice. I feel bad I didn't get a photo of the drummer, Simon Braxton, since he did an excellent job on some creative and non-standard beats.

Julia Deans, lead singer and rhythm guitar

Andre Bain, bass player
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