Sunday, November 29, 2009

Euro denial poster boy

Move over Nigel Lawson and Christopher Monckton, there's a new boy in town for the climate change Cult of Denial to pin their hopes on. Introducing Nick Griffin, BNP leader, who will be joining the EU delegation to the climate change talks at Copenhagen. Griffin, who already has form for his denialist tendencies over the holocaust, has hopes of challenging what he considers to be dodgy science in an attempt to suggest to the electorate that his party isn't only about racist bigotry, but that it's also a party of ingnorant anti science Luddites.

Now the top ten Tory bloggers who deny climate change, and our own local Curly, have someone in Europe to represent their views.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Stupido schools

South Tyneside is today celebrating being the focus of a grand modern experiment based on Victorian educational values, where those who are considered too thick to work in traditional North East industries like call centres and hairdressers will be given an opportunity to learn valuable career skills like filling out job centre applications.

The modern new South Tyneside Stupido will be based in a state of the art out of date run down school building.

Local councillor Bob Foreskin welcomed the initiative:

"The recession means that traditional cheap immigrant labour is leaving the UK for higher pay in countries like Latvia and Zimbabwe. The Stupido concept means we can plug the market with cheap high quality unskilled kids that no one gives a flying fuck for. And as they're not proper schools, we won't have Ofsted whingeing that the kids can't read."

The new schools, already affectionately known as 'chav academies' will seek to train those children the mainstream system has failed, in useful trades such as basket weaving, chimney sweeping, asbestos reclamation and chemical tank cleaning.

Schools minister Ted Gonads said:

"We need to manage the aspirations of North East children, and children from other downtrodden areas we couldn't give a shit about, to meet the lower expectations we have in order to focus investment in key swing voter areas like the South East. Not everyone can be gifted enough to be on the X Factor, but even X Factor stars need someone to collect their bins."

Local fat cats also backed the idea. A spokesman said:

"We couldn't believe our luck when the government announced the Stupido system. Not only do we get the tax payer to foot the bill for our training, we also get to employ daft kids at cut price rates. It's a win win situation. For us rich folks, that is."

Local Tory candidate Kat Anal commended:

"We are excited that there is a real opportunity be able to alienate another generation of losers from the North East, and welcome Labour's support in bringing back good old Conservative values of profiteering and exploitation of oik kids. Err, and grammar schools. Or something."

The South Tyneside Stupido school will join other Stupidos from around the country in areas the government has decided aren't worth bothering much about except for cheap populist stunts.

Friday, November 27, 2009

The Rat Race Ale House

The Little Pub with a big heart

I've just spent a very enjoyable evening in a new pub. Bucking the trend of pubs closing, The Rat Race Ale House at Hartlepool railway station has opened with a very clear aim: good beer, good cheer.

I used to work with the pub's landlord Pete Morgan a while back programming old skool IBM RPG, but when he was made redundant from his job as an IT manager he decided to use his redundancy money to provide himself with a future he could enjoy.


A long time and lifetime member of CAMRA, Pete's love of all that is beer has found life in the Rat Race. He runs a free house so he's not tied to anyone or obliged to stock anyone's beers. That means no alcopops, overgassed lagers or insipid identikit beers. Pete is one of those guys for whom the phrase larger than life was invented for, and it comes through in his determination to provide a real pub experience. Many of the ales he stocks and plans to stock are beers he likes and from brewers he knows personally, and he is open to suggestions from customers for future guest ales.

The pub is unique - it doesn't have a bar. You enter and orders are taken at the table and you're introduced to the other customers. Once you have your drinks Pete moves among his customers like a host at a party. This is helped by the fact that the pub is small - it was once the Victorian station's waiting room and holds no more than 20 customers - so the atmosphere is intimate and friendly. The Rat Race is focussed on the beer; there's no jukebox, no bandit or quiz machine. If you do need distraction, there's two boxes of dominoes.

The main show is the beer and it's great. The temperature is perfect - many large real ale pubs and big chains don't get such a simple thing right. I enjoyed a couple of pints of the Kirby Lonsdale Jubilee Stout, about as perfect as a hand pulled stout can get. The Yorkshire Askrigg Ale was very popular and for good reason. The Jarrow Brewery's Rivet Catcher was also on the menu, but as it seems many of the customers were already familiar with Rivet Catcher the unfamiliar ales were getting all the attention. Although the pub's hours are short, the Rat Race also sells the beer in refillable cartons to take away to enjoy at home.

So if you're in Hartlepool, and looking for time to kill before catching the train, join the Rat Race.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Teh noob speaketh

There's a number of things which are guaranteed to make you look like a complete cock. One is to base your understanding of science on documentary The Great Global Warming Swindle. Another is to be a mayor and get snapped doing the X Factor cross with your arms.

A great way to look like a total nobend is to wind yourself up into massive moral outrage mode to criticise a console or computer game whilst at the same time have absolutely no clue about it, or gaming culture in general.

Cue Mark Bryant, the Bishop of Jarrow.

The bish, whose religion's core feature is the worship of a man who came back from the dead after a gruesome death, is complaining about a game essentially about people coming back from the dead after a gruesome death. True, Resident Evil's revenant baddies get whacked with extreme prejudice, normally by strong kick ass female characters, who despatch said resurrectants and assorted biologically mutated bad guys created by an evil multinational corporation.

But it isn't all about innocently shooting zombies in the face the bishop says:
"If people spend a lot of time in the company of games that are about the occult, then those influences are bound to rub off."
Wow. The occult. Believing in the supernatural. It's only right that a self respecting man of the cloth would challenge dabbling with spirits, the dead and the undead along with myths of mystical planes of existence. Oh sweet irony.


PS - an adult using l33t is a bit nobbish too.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Origins, Climate, Science and Ignorance

Today marks 150 years since Charles Darwin published On the Origin of Species. The model of evolution through the process of natural selection was laid down so definitively within that book that the core principles are as firm now as they were then. The quality of that work set standards for scientific rigour and principle. Continuing research builds upon a huge body of knowledge.

However, since then those who have felt threatened by Darwin's work have desperately tried to discredit Darwin and his theory by cherry picking writings in letters and books which seemed to confirm their own evolution denial bias, a bias usually informed by dogma. Evolution deniers have ranged from claiming Darwin admitted God did it to Darwin was responsible for the holocaust. Even a story about a death bed recantation did the rounds.

So it's with some sense of ironic timing that the CRU email leak has the climate change deniers drooling. I haven't by any means read all the emails (frankly some of it was boring, some of it way above my head), but to me it seems like a storm in a teacup.

Admittedly there's no doubt that the leak is damaging to the perception of climate science, as the Cult of Denial has already started cherry picking quotes out of context as evidence of either a dastardly conspiracy to falsify the evidence to satisfy evil lefty political masters in their machinations to tax us all to penury, or of money grubbing Ferrari driving playboy scientists chasing after the next research grant to fund their lavish lifestyles.

Oddly though, most of blogland's Cult of Denial acolytes haven't actually referred to scientific evidence or even challenged it, instead the right wing blog hive mind seems to have decided to cross link to each other's rehashing of emails in a kind of free market fundamentalist mutual masturbation.

As with Darwin's theory, the deniers are cherry picking emails and phrases out of context to confirm their own wacky theories. Free thought and objectivity don't get a look in.

Let's face it, if any of the data produced by the CRU had been falsified, then a keen-eyed denial cultist would have spotted it long before now.

Sure, there's some personal score settling in some of the emails which is less than professional, but not particularly out of the ordinary, or as bad as some the current commentary on the right wing denial blogs. Most seriously though are the apparent attempts to silence sceptic research, which on the face of it is troubling. However, we haven't heard from the scientists themselves yet so any judgement on this issue is premature. That doesn't seem to stop some bloggers triumphantly cracking one off though.

It would have been great news if the emails contained definitive evidence that climate change science had been debunked, but the leaked emails are not the killer blow to climate science the deniers are wetting themselves about. Not even so much as a lightly smoking gun. Other than the damage from the media frenzy fed by the right wing deniers (and partially by a panicky and obtuse George Monbiot), the reputations of some scientists will have been soiled, their methodology will get a kick up the backside and their material re-examined.

So on the face of it, the Cult of Denial's inquisitors, despite their self righteous whooping, are so far burning only straw men. Unfortunately many will not see this and the emails will be permanently carved into their mythology of climate denial, and like their mindless hockey stick criticisms will continue to be a pain in the backside of those with respect for objective free thought.

The science is still strong but it doesn't stand still. Like all science, the current knowledge about our climate and our impact on it will continue to change as new research becomes available and new and better conclusions are sought. Like evolution, climate science moves on with advances in our understanding of the world.

The Cult of Denial can't accept that, instead loudly shouting down change, trying to drown out the rational voices of the science heretics who threaten their cosy dogma.

It's been 150 years since Darwin published his landmark work, and it's still an achievement to be celebrated. But 150 years later we are still facing the closed minds of anti scientific ignorance.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Geek hedonism

Work commitments over the last week have meant that I couldn't stray far from home for long, never mind enjoy the fruit of the vine and the grain. But this last week hasn't been a disaster. Far from it, I've been in geek heaven.

First, last Tuesday saw the release of the long anticipated console and PC game Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2. Despite what gobshite Keith Vaz says, it's a fun way to pass a few hours, and not the moral quagmire the Vazman reckons it is. The section of the game in question is a key part of the plot, driving the context of what's to follow, and not playing it would be like skipping the cock scene in The Crying Game.

Admittedly, the offline campaign is straightforward and short, and whilst the story brought back some old friends, it's the online mode which most people have been waiting for.

A first person shooter addict, I've been a fan of Infinity Ward's Call of Duty games since the first one on PC in 2003. 2007's Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare saw me move from PC to console gaming as the graphic demands of newer games started to outstrip my wallet's ability to support the latest graphics cards.

New to the COD: Modern Warfare franchise is a 'Special Ops' co-operative mode, which is good for a short blast of fun with your friends against bot bad guys, but not as satisfying as say Rainbow Six 2's co-op mode, or playing with and against real people online, where kills mean points and points mean ranking up and weapons upgrades. Already at level 20 after four hours online play, I foresee some of my life sucked away working up the ranks.

Then yesterday, my preordered Blu-Ray version of the new Star Trek movie hit the doormat. Not only did it come in all it's high definition Blu-Ray surround sound glory (thank goodness I don't have neighbours), it also came with a 'digital copy' dvd, with a version you can copy to your iPod or onto Windows Media Player. This is a model I hope to see more of in future as it expands the flexibility of options to view your movie without having to jump through (or bend) digital rights management hoops to copy your purchase to other formats.

And the film was pretty awesome too.

Lastly, today saw an Xbox update with some new toys: Zune (Microsoft's media player), LastFM, Twitter and Facebook. Admittedly, most of these are little more than apps that tech heads have already seen on their iPod and iPhone, but it indicates that Microsoft have seen which way the wind is blowing. Sony should take note for the Playstation 3 or risk being left behind.

A quick test of LastFM revealed a stable and fast application (faster than the PC version) with a cleaner and more useful interface than its sibling iPod/iPhone app. Facebook was also competent, despite the lack of keyboard requiring some deft controller work. Once you've joined your Facebook account to your Xbox gamer tag, whenever you're on Xbox Live it shows your gamertag on your Facebook profile page. However, it is disappointing that you can't update your Facebook status with your recent game achievements (or at least I can't find an option to do this) in the same manner as the native Facebook games status update on the PC. Hopefully this will follow.

I'll have a play with Zune sometime, but I'm not sure I'll bother with Twitter yet as it's not something which has grabbed me. Maybe I'll set up an account to see what the fuss is about.

As long as it doesn't eat into the serious business of gaming.

Friday, November 06, 2009

Spooky goings on in the Alliance


Okay, I know I've missed Halloween, but I had a funny feeling come over me when reading the Alliance's announcement of their new prospective council candidate for Cleadon Park, Andrew Farrow. I'm not sure I would risk a bet on a Scooby snack, but is the local Rotary Club President also the same Andrew Farrow who was hexed by the evil spirits over cursed board game Ghosts?