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26th February 2017

Why not.

There are many people who complain that something has not been done correctly.

There are equally many people who complain that something has been done at all.

So to those people: if it hurts so much to see something done wrong, then do it right yourself.

29th October 2011

Been wasting time contributing to discussions on the internet (various places) about religion. I don't know why I allow myself to get so hot under the collar.

How is it that intelligent people can believe unquestioningly stories of impossible things happening just because they're written down in a book that somebody has told them is true?

Everything written down in books has been written by people. Things are also written telling you that those things are actually written by "God", or "inspired by God", or some such, therefore it must be true. But these things were still written down by men, who may have been making things up.

I believe that people are frightened. Not at anything specifically, just frightened of something, they don't know what. Death, probably, as one of those biological imperatives (not wanting to die is pro-survival). And maybe there's a bit of the fear of the unknown, and fear of not understanding, and of everything being so big and worrying. And they're afraid of the dark, and the quiet, and the sheer nothingness of Beyond.

So they make up comforting little stories, and make up reasons to believe those silly little stories, because otherwise the fear would be too much to bear. But in order to believe these stories, they need to shut out those nagging little voices which say, "It's all a bunch of lies, you know." And in order to shut out those little voices, they need to silence the other people who actually say the things that the nagging little voices say, that is, anyone who questions the belief systems they have built up.

People who believe in Creationism (in whatever of its forms) are intellectually unwilling, or unable, or both, to study or even consider the evidence in favour of evolution. Their attitude is: I don't understand the mathematics and science behind this theory, therefore it must be rubbish. Ben Goldacre says something along these lines in Bad Science (2008). There are ample popular science books which give a well-thought-out analysis of the mathematics behind evolution, but they can not get past the concept: "This mechanism (e.g. an eye) is complicated. It's so complicated that I can't understand how it works, let alone how it could be put together. Therefore someone must have Created it."

No good arguing back at such people. "You scientists," they scoff, "aren't so clever anyway. You had your religious faith in the Higgs Boson and built an extravagant temple to worship it at - and you didn't find it! That means all your science is rubbish! Therefore Creation must have happened exactly the way it was said in the Babble and so we were right after all!"

If anyone pesters me with claptrap about some tetchy old man in the sky with a cross face and a beard, I'm going to stick my finger right up his nose.

Why do I bother arguing with them? It's a complete waste of time.

I can see there's an excellent reason for religion. Many people are insufficiently socially evolved as to be able to act responsibly and unselfishly (i.e. morally and ethically). In order to get them to be nice, you have to set up a system of rewards and punishments. Religion is an efficient means of keeping these subhumans under control because all you need to do is to make them believe that if they do bad things on earth, then all sorts of bad things will happen to them after they've died. How wonderful is that? It's impossible to disprove! The knuckle-dragging mouth-breathers lap it up!

The administrators of religion are perfectly aware what a bunch of lies they are spouting, and they really, really don't like it if you question their doctrines, because they may lose control over their charges. And that wouldn't do at all.

29th October 2011

Interesting statistical anomaly.

Driving to work on the morning of Tuesday 25th October, I saw an interesting car number plate on the Bath Road, travelling towards Junction 12 on the M4. It was of the pattern: $aaZ \ nnnn$ (where $a$ denotes a letter and $n$ a digit).

For those who don't live in Britain and are unfamiliar with the registration plate system, here's a quick overview.

Number plates of vehicles on the road at the moment are usually in one of two formats:

$(1): \quad aann \ aaa$
$(2): \quad annn \ aaa$

The digits in format $(1)$ indicate the year of registration: either the last two digits of the year (from $02$ to $11$) or the same with $50$ added (from $51$ to $61$). The latter format signifies the second half of that given year. Hence you can tell exactly how old a motor is by those two digits.

The first letter in format $(2)$ also indicates the year of registration, for years before the second half of $2001$: so $Y$ indicates August $2000$ to July $2001$ and earlier letters indicate further back in time.

The rest of the letters indicate in some coded form the location where the vehicle was registered.

Well anyway, back to my story. Here was a vehicle with an unusual registration plate, and no indication where it came from (most foreign motors have a nation plate and the steering wheel on the wrong side. This one didn't. I gave it a good look as I went past it. It didn't turn down the motorway, but instead took the exit to Theale. I noticed the driver: a young woman with big black hair.

Trundling down the M4, a few miles further on I did a double-take, as I saw what I thought was the same car again. It had what looked like the same number, anyway: $aaZ nnnn$. The first letter and the first digit were the same. Surely it can't be the car that turned off towards Theale? So I stamped on the accelerator and hauled past this motor to look at the driver: a young woman, but this time with curly red hair. So it definitely was not the same motor. Well, well, I thought, two of these vehicles with odd number plates. Wonder how many more I'm going to see?

A few miles further on, there's another one. Older and more scruffy, driven once again by a young woman, although this time she had a companion (another young woman). That's three.

Then about ten miles further on, there's a van, about Transit-sized, again with one of those weird number plates. That's vehicle number 4. They must be all around after all. I didn't get to look at the driver because at this time I'd reached Junction 14 and needed to turn off.

I got to work without seeing any more of these number plates - until I turned into our car park and there in front of the office next door is yet another of these number plates. That's five of the things in one simple 26-mile journey of 40 minutes.

How much of a statistical anomaly is this? How frequent are these registration plates seen on the road? Well I've kept an eye out since (it's now the weekend). And (apart from the one that parks for the office next door), I haven't seen any more.

Five (okay, technically four) in one journey, and none since? That's what I call anomalous. Maybe there had been a convention attended by Northern Irish female students and they were all going home. Who knows?

So, what about that vehicle with the pattern $aaZ \ nnnn$? Three letters ending in a $Z$ followed by four digits. Well, it turns out that such numbers indicate registration in Northern Ireland (technically part of the "United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland", to give my country its full name, but viewed by many as an unnecessary bit tacked onto the end which may be better considered as part of a political union with the Republic of Eire, but let's not get into talking politics here). Oh yes, and some people have been known to use such numbers as vanity plates, as it is not easy to determine how old such a car is.

28th September 2011

Every textbook has something in it that's not in any others you've studied.

30th August 2011

Is it appropriate to call those with limited or no mathematical ability "muggles"?

I saw the term on a blog page by Maria Droujkova just now and it appealed to me.

Heard on the radio today: "If you get an unsolicited email offering you two free tickets to go and see Arsenal, whatever you do, DO NOT OPEN THAT EMAIL. It probably contains two free tickets to go and see Arsenal."

Hide this somewhere

For my funeral, I want an open casket affair.
I want to be dressed as Dracula, complete with costume fangs and theatrically-placed blood drips.
I want the ceremony to take place in the creepiest dankest spider-infested crypt that can be found.
I want the Catholic Mass to be performed backwards by a defrocked priest.
And finally, I want a stake hammered through my heart at the climax of the ceremony.

There once was a Yank in the UK
He'd been there since back in Y2K
While the girls made him smile
The food was quite vile
And the beer was utterly pUK

There was a young lady named Valerie
Who oft consumed many a calorie
Her clothing was roomy
Her health reports gloomy
And her food bill exceeded her salary

A Roger Waters parody

Isn't work horrid? Aren't I glad
That I don't have to do it.
Isn't time horrid? There's never enough
I must confess I blew it.
Isn't money horrid? But I don't care
I'm rolling in the stuff
Isn't war horrid? People say
I've said this often enough
Are you mental? So am I
And so's my old band friend
Every silly stupid thing
Will all come to an end.