Category Archives: Writings

UK Voting

Graph showing the difference between the popul...

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On May 5th the people of the UK will have to go to vote. At almost any other point in time this would not be notable at all; however this year, as a result of the coalition government formed at the last General Election, we have the opportunity to change the way we vote and how our vote is counted via a referendum.  Pretty heady stuff.

To explain, currently the UK uses what is known as “First Past the Post” voting. This can be explained as “the party with the most votes”. On the face of it this is incredibly fair – if you get 80% of the vote (or whatever you get) then surely you should win. Right? The problem is that the winner is not the person (or team or party) with the majority of the votes, simply the highest number of votes. So if the choice is between a low number of candidates or parties, say 3, the winner will get the highest number as well as the majority of the vote. If the option is between a high number of candidates, the winner may not have a clear majority, simply the highest number of votes – even if the “highest number” is a low number. In the case of 10 possibles, anyone with more than 10% of the vote will win. The downside of this is that the people who voted for the remaining 9 candidates have not just “lost” the election, they are also effectively having their views disregarded and are un- (or under-) represented.

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How To Be An Atheist

As this year comes to an end, the atheist blogosphere thing seems to be hotting up.  Lots of posts about why people became atheists, lots of

The Out Campaign: Scarlet Letter of Atheism

The Out Campaign

posts about what it means to be an atheist.  Probably something to do with the Rebirth of the Unconquered Sun, which comes but once a year and makes people reflective.

In the spirit of giving, I thought I would share some thoughts with you.  Because I am just that kind.  So, back to me.  I had given Christianity a fair few good goes up until my late teens.  My mum is a lapsed Catholic (though she unlapses for special occasions like funerals) and my dad was probably Protestant.  So I was baptised in my local church (St Peters) and then never set foot in the place again.  My sister was christened in a different local church and my brother in a different one again.  I have the feeling that it was the act of baptism that was important to my mum, rather than anything else.  We never discussed religion in the house and, to all intents and purposes, it didn’t really exist.  But I still had a faith of sorts – though it was a mish mash of things and tended to only get dusted off for Sunday School (which was weird – you had to attend the normal service and then get ushered out part way through.  I used to wonder what happened at the second part of the service that was adults only.  I decided they were taught magic spells and when I was older I’d be able to learn them too.)  Sunday School was all right – lots of rote learning and quizzes and running around the church yard.  And then I didn’t bother – except when the local vicar gave morning assemblies at school.  But, and here’s the thing, despite never going to church and despite not thinking about religion or God or the Bible, I was still a Christian.  D’ya see?

Later on I got taken to a Fellowship Church service by a friend and ended up getting “Baptised in the Spirit” (which is from Acts, I think).  My aim in this second baptism was to get the gift of Tongues.  This is known as Glossolalia and appears to be a nonsense language.  Regardless, I didn’t get it and felt very cheated.  So I didn’t bother with that again.  Truth be told, the whole thing made me very uncomfortable and they had me make up a prayer on the spot as I recall.  A gift for bullshit allowed me to freestyle a prayer which lasted for 5-10 minutes (or, in real terms, for flipping ages) and it seemed to convince them.  And yes, I am well aware that I was probably doing it wrong.

Later again, I returned to the Church of England.  As an aside, CofE is the best of all the various cults – you get to be a Christian but don’t have to prove it or anything like that, it’s very laid back and no one asks any difficult questions.  And I got confirmed there which means I can take communion whenever it’s offered.  It was not long after that that I began to question my half-hearted lame beliefs.  For a short time it was a bit scary – the idea of not believing felt a bit like free-fall.  But I got over it and have been much happier ever since.  I now know that luck/coincidence can happen.  I now know that making wishes to my imaginary friend not only doesn’t work, but that they are entirely unnecessary.  And I don’t feel guilt over sleeping in on Sundays!!

Despite all the chat and the arguments, it’s really easy to be an atheist.  You just don’t have to believe in god or gods.  Which sounds hard, but isn’t.  Christians do not believe in Allah.  They don’t believe in any of the Norse gods or the Indian gods or the Native American gods or the Sumerian gods or in the Flying Spaghetti Monster.  And this goes for the believers of any religion – they don’t believe in anyone else’s gods.  So the unbelief is already there and it just needs a little tip to go into full unbelief.  So there you go, lose the shackles of belief and you, too, can be an atheist.  There are no mandatory meetings (no holidays either unfortunately) and you don’t have to twist your head around any of the weirder writings (a man is his own father and the herald of his own birth, really?  your father was a swan and your father was a rain shower?  Really?) and you don’t have to feel guilty just for existing.

Let’s make 2010 the year of reality and throw off the shackles of your Bronze Age beliefs!

So You Want to Start an Online Community…

Optical fiber provides cheaper bandwidth for l...
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This is going to be a very non-specific post.  A thread I have been posting in over on LinuxQuestions.org has made me think – and you know what happens when I start thinking?  That’s right, I get sleepy.  And then I get writing.  This being the internet and bandwidth and server space being free or low cost, every day someone decides that they will start up the next killer website/forum/mailing list/IRC channel/blog.  This will be the <whatever> to end all <whatevers> and will bring in the clicks by the thousand.  These people get very excited and start to post links wherever they can find a suitable site.  And then what?

<as a fair man, this is only aimed at people who want to do something to bring in the public – starting any of these things as a personal project or somewhere their friends can hang out online means that these words do not apply>

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Hunting for Answers

Nobleman in Hunting Costume, preceded by his S...
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Among the most elusive of all interview subjects, big game hunters must rank in the top 5.  Once, this was a popular past time for the rich, with the ever thinning population of most animals it has now become something of a rarity.  Many former hunters have become wardens, to ensure that enough of the pairs breed sufficiently to not die out.  Who knows, maybe future generations again will be able to hunt these creatures again for sport.

Through painstaking research and meetings in darkened rooms, in lonely huts and, once, in a 1970’s roller disco themed restaurant I had managed to make contact with one of the few remaining big game hunters.  Hunting is now limited to preserves that have a quota: these quotas are carefully balanced to provide funds for the preserve, a regular and controlled thinning of the herds and, of course, sport for the hunter.  Less scrupulous people, however, will take their sport where they can find it. Read the rest of this entry

And On The Third Day

Jacob de Backer, Memorial Triptych to Christop...
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It wasn’t until the third day of the attack that we realised we were even under attack. For the first two days we all saw the Perseid meteor shower through our telescopes and marveled at the beauty of the light show. And then they landed. They were huge, tentacled creatures with mandibles: razor sharp and fearsome. We fled our homes and our roots, becoming nomads in our bid to survive. Revelations did not prepare us for this.
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Short Thoughts on Easter Monday

  • I am not smarter than a 10 year old.  On the other hand, I can quite easily beat one in a fight and I can get served in pubs.  So who wins now, eh?
  • Google may be far more evil than Microsoft and Apple put together.  But they have convinced us otherwise.  Which doubles their evil.
  • Our politicians do, indeed, think we are stupid.  Unfortunately we prove them right every election day.
  • My tolerance for noise seems to decrease every year.  By the time I am 60 I won’t be happy unless I am living in one of those sensory deprivation things.
  • In just under 5 weeks I am getting married.  And then am having 4 weeks off work to recove.. I mean enjoy my honeymoon.
    • The spammers are going to love the fact that I am off – comments may get disabled for that period….
  • I have so many ideas for great novels.  if only I had the time, skill, knowledge and patience to do something about it.
  • Britain needs more public holidays.  Or at least, better spaced out holidays.
  • Every year is the year of the apocalypse.  Why can’t they get it right?  Who do I complain to and can I get a refund?
  • I have too many scruples.  This means I can’t get rich by fleecing the public.  I need a scruplectomy.
  • The traditional British spring weather is rainy.  Unfortunately, so is the traditional British summer, autumn and winter weather.

I hope these thoughts give you as much pleasure as they do me.