toastthefuture

The future as at best a haze. We can make or break it. My rants, visions, ideas and dreams hope to make a better future. Lets learn to live a better life. Raise your glasses (no it doesnt have to be alcohol - I am using orange juice!), and toast the future!

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Truly Amazing Experience - A Flocking Urge

Now, this experience struck me as worth blogging, on my somewhat neglected blog (I know, I know - but I have other stuff to do than tell you every sordid and probably quite boring detail of my life).

I was standing in a London park, specifically near Lancaster Gate, at a green in front of the fountains/pools that eventually lead to a balcony overlooking what I think is the serpentine . A flock of birds had alighted behind me on the pavement, which was clear for a moment, and they were quite clearly scavenging for food. Eventually, someone starts walking the path, and the birds up and flock.

Right around my head. And that, was a very, very weird experience indeed, as for a moment as the flock passed me, there was a forceful, almost overwhelming urge to turn in the direction they were headed and run. Not like a mere "I would like to do that", but a compulsion that I felt was not my own.

Do flocking birds have some kind of telepathic consensus? It sounds barmy to me. Although it is possible that a tuned circuit could be created in the neural pathways of a brain, it has never been proven. But that one species could influence another in this way sounds even more likely, especially those from such biological different branches.

I cannot explain this, and would love to hear from others. How is it birds do fly with such precision, in flock, in formation? How do they communicate when flying at speed, where sound is likely to be snapped away, or do they "communicate" in the conventional sense at all, and just behave like a loosely networked hive mind, a cluster of thinking elements (or motes) with a shared objective?

I will point out that I am teetotal. I do not take drugs. I happily eat meats, and do not attempt any odd dietary habits apart from trying to steer clear of bananoffee pie (that stuff is both wonderful and dangerously sugary). I was only in the park to wander around, and sit and read a book in a quiet area of shade, and eventually meet with some friends.

I probably would not have blogged this (which occurred a few months ago) had I not noticed the following: NKisi Project. I came across the site after reading up on the recent BBC Horizon program regarding chimps and people. And it really made me think, maybe I should not discount the experience at all. After all - the NKisi people do say they carried out a double blind test. Maybe birds possess some functions we do not.

Sunday, October 01, 2006

On so called "Intelligent" Design

Intelligent Design Made Mankind?

I love this artical, and really could not have put it better myself. What a superbly put together paper, pointing out some pretty irrefutable reasons why "intelligent design", aka "creationism" aka religeon, is mostly bunk. It is also hilarious.

Who in their right mind would design a system that had a terrible stench if it was not washed every day, or had a film known as "plaque" that needed to be brushed off to stop holes forming, or had two extremely important bits hanging outside the case in a soft vulnerable bag called a "scrotum"?

Definately worth a read, and a giggle.

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Justifying accusations of violence

Recently, there have been a number of statements accusing the Muslim faith of standing for hatred, violence and inhumanism. Some came from Cartoonists, and politicians ("murderers, women mutilators and limb amputators"), and one also came from the Pope, quoting ancient texts.

The interesting fact is the timing of such a quote, as is expanded upon here.

The first thing to bear in mind is that this kind of violence is not unique to the Muslim world, and the Christians and Jews have been both as horrific - although this neither mitigates nor justifies the actions of the Muslims.

The Muslim world should learn something. When accused of violence, when Mohammad is caricatured with a bomb for a turban, then shooting people, burning stuff and blowing people up only justifies such an image. If accused of murder and violence, demonstrating exactly such qualities only makes more people stand up and agree.

The Jewish world is also (in Israel) demonstrating the cheapness with which it views human life, and that it is prepared to kill many, many innocents for purposes of an ideal.

The group who I really fear, right now, are the far Christian right groups who seriously believe it is the end of days, and as such, are happy to supply bombs to Israel to blow us all to kingdom come. The BKs (Brahma Kumaris) also beleive in the end of days, ready for the next cycle, but they refuse to use violent means to acheive such a thing.

Not all Jews, or Muslims or Christians are extreme, dangerous, and violent, only a minority, and those who are riot inciters. I strongly suggest that the peaceful majority representations of each religion take such cases, and put them in the straight jackets and padded cells they belong in. These violent people are sick, dangerous and need psychiatric care.

Saturday, September 16, 2006

The Euston Manifesto

I have recently heard about this particular concept, and I have to say, after reading it thoroughly, I am a subscriber.

As a humanist, I firmly beleive that there should be no apology for tyranny. Be it that of the Terrorists, that of the Baath Regime, or that of Isreal's oppression of Palestine, and that of the Palestinians using terrorism as a method of retaliation. I will show no apology for Bush and Blair removing the Baath Regime (which did need removal) with a show of extreme force and continued aggression, I will find no valid reason for the murderers of 400 children in a Russian School, the torturers of many possibly innocent muslim prisoners in Abu Graihb and secret US prisons in European countries. I will see no excuse for the allowing of every and all such practices, be they instigated by Christians, Muslims, Jews or atheists (I not include Bhuddists as they seem to stay very far from such violence). I will not excuse the violent yob culture that plagues the UK (so called 'chavs') as being a product of their poverty, such that the poverty may have contributed - but they are human, and should still understand enough to take responsibility for their actions. I will not excuse the offensive comments of the current Pope, nor the violent reaction of some Muslim groups. I will not use one act of tyranny to justify another, a simple principle that is taught to school children at a very young age, and seems to be forgotten as they reach adulthood or gain any amount of power.

I will not excuse any radical or racist elements (racists of any creed, culture or colour - white men are not the only racist), tyranny does include enforcing segregation on ones children or peers, tyranny definately includes any form of the abhorent "honour killings" which may never be excused, tyranny includes the Falun Gong's statements concerning multicultural relationships.

I will not defend the tyranny that was the British Empire, while I am a UK citizen, we did pillage many countries, I will also not defend the witch hunts or crusades or the mass raiding of other cultures. Ok - some items that may have been destroyed by radical governments were preserved in the British Museum (which I do see as a good thing, I despise lost teaching, art or artifacts), but that does not justify flooding countries with Opium to steal them. I will not defend our part in our coming to the America's and destroying the natives, nor our part in taxing the settled people to the point of war.

I will defend democracy, and hope for freedom of opinion and pluralist government to take hold globally. I reject the Chinese Governments form of voting, where only members of The Communist Party may actually vote on any items. I reject any election tampering. I reject that our representation in the Uk is truly democratic, and with it reject the constitutional monarchy system. I would support a concept that is slightly different from the current democracies, in that there will not be a "figurehead" who takes all the power and responsibility, and where different functions such as education, defence, health, road maintenance are inividually given votes for which party gets the "controlling" stake as such, and functions such as treasury are managed by equal representation. I do however reject any party who puts tyranny at their core, such as the BNP.

I strongly support open source, and try to use it at every juncture. I reject the tyranny of monopoly, and anti-competative behaviour. I support an interplay/a balance of community led projects and a tapestry of corporate software with them.

Probably the most important aspect of this document to me is the Freedom of Ideas. Quoting from the manifesto:

Freedom of ideas.
We uphold the traditional liberal freedom of ideas. It is more than ever necessary today to affirm that, within the usual constraints against defamation, libel and incitement to violence, people must be at liberty to criticize ideas — even whole bodies of ideas — to which others are committed. This includes the freedom to criticize religion: particular religions and religion in general. Respect for others does not entail remaining silent about their beliefs where these are judged to be wanting.


I strongly suggest people read this document. I view as a noble set of ideals indeed.
The Euston Manifesto

Friday, July 28, 2006

This is democracy?

The UN, many differnet countries gathered trying to solve a very serious conflict.
We have been here many times before. The majority opinion is that some sort of neutral peacekeeping intervention is necessary.

But two countries, and sometimes only one, use the opposite of a vote to prevent the will of the people. One of these countries already prevented such a force from intervening some 10 years ago, or even more recently when the whole nasty mess may have been prevented much earlier before fostering so much hatred and extremism.

Both of these countries claim to be "western democracies". One of them has a leader, who even after an elected gathered assembly have made their choices, uses the opposite of a vote to oppress the majority will.

This is not democracy at all. A veto is the opposite of a vote, and in any nation, or organsiation that claims to be democratic, a veto should have no place. Veto's are undemocratic, and undermine a collaborative effort by allowing one dissenting individual the power to prevent the rest from acheiving a goal which has majority support.

Yes George W Bush, I am mostly talking about you. But saying that, our very own Tony Blair really is not helping. Please stop being Bushes poodle. Please find some will power and free thought of your own.

Saturday, July 22, 2006

Can it be that the "Special Relationship" is nearing an end.

BBC News - Minister condemns Israeli action

A UK Minister, Kim Howells, of the Foreign Office, Uk, has strongly criticised Isreal action, and whats more, has pointed out the gaping problems in US Foreign Policy

"I very much hope that the Americans understand what's happening to Lebanon. The destruction of the infrastructure, the death of so many children and so many people. These have not been surgical strikes. "

Whats more, this viewpoint has been backup up by number 10 - and the official spokesperson for Tony Blair, who states that the prime minister would not take exception to these comments at all.

Unfortunately, in our Countries criticism of Israel, our own actions of the past have come back to haunt us when a Lt in the Israeli Army stated "
We told them to leave the towns and villages. We gave them notice of when we were going to attack.", and went on to say "No army in the world is doing that. I didn't see the British or Americans doing that in Iraq warning the people to leave and then bombing."

While
Lt Colonel Yishou Efroni has a point, and the Isreali's claimed to have used leaflets and loudspeakers to advise people to evacuate, they have somewhat missed the point, that much of the world didnt think it was right of the Uk or the US to go to Iraq either, and that justifying one wrong based on the precedent of another is a seriously flawed and somewhat dangerous route to start down. I am sure such justification is what the Japanese military took in the second world war when they carried out the most terrible of their monstrosities in Nanjing, China (which makes Pearl Harbor look like a "Surgical Strike").

Well, I was out in London today, joining the Stop The War protests, as I did before the Iraq war.

I urge Mr Blair not to join the affray on this one, unless it is to send a contingent of peacekeepers to force Israel to stand down, route out Hezbolla and rebuild the Lebanese infrastructure. Both Hezbolla and the Israeli Administration should stand trial and receive lengthy punishments for their behaviour.



Homophobia, hate, violence and Religeon go hand in hand

BBC UK - Gay and Christian Police Row

This artical goes over a brewing row between the GPA - The Gay Police Association and the CPA - the Christian Police Association, after publication of an advert showing a bible beside a pool of blood, with the words "In the name of the Father".

Like it or not, religeon is a number one cause of homophobic behaviour, in both Christian, Jewish and Muslim religeons, to the extent of those like Sizzla who actively talk of seriously violent behaviour towards gay and lesbian people.

The CPA protest they are not homophobic, and yet, in the same breath, they say they do not reject Gay members, but require them to become celibate to join it as they beleive "homo-erotic behaviour is inconsistant withour world view".

Look, if the person is not physically trying to butt rape you personally, by holding you down, or having sex in public (which would be absolutely no more acceptable were it heterosexual sex), then doing what they do in closed doors is doing you no harm. Many anti-gay biblical mentions were there because of many men having to live in tents in the middle of the desert (as are so many other wierd biblical laws) and have absolutely zero relevance in todays society.

Those who use religeon as an excuse for discrimination, and worse still violence, are no more than hooligans. I welcome the current tube ad-campaign on ridding the work place of sexual discrimination. Unfortunately, I welcome less the "bible texts on the underground" campaign.

Hopefully, this kind of behaviour will allow the religeous groups to cut themselves enough rope to hang themselves with their own stuffiness and irrelevance. Get lost - we dont want you, we dont have a morality that involves not blowing the living daylights out of each other because we write his name that way and they write his name another, we dont have rules that say "dont each fish on a thursday" (!???) or that discourage learning and questioning and human development. We have our own moral code, of non-interference if it isnt hurting anyone else, and helping out where we can, of not going to war except in proportional retaliation to another violent incursion (Isreal - you are NOT proportionate - you are responding with massively over the top violence), of learning as much as we can and gaining understanding, of building links between communies and not finding reasons to seperate them.

Not only is it time to firmly state that I do not need religeon to have a very strong moral sense, but time to say that the religeous were never that much of a moral lot to begin with. The Christians, Jewish and Islamic religeons historically have mass genocide to answer for, and to be fair, are still no less reponsible for bloodshed todya than they were then. Who are the suicide bombers? The scientists, engineers and educated? No - mere religeous zealots who's only education have been the twisted words of sneering old men who are actually more interested in personal power than piety and world peace.

The religeous say god is love, if this is so, why are they required to conduct so much hate and violence in his name?

What can I say, religeon and oil, two things this planet would be vastly happier and vastly safer without.

Yahoo Music

BBC News - US Yahoo offers copy-free music

Yahoo are one of the first ompanies to offer mainstream, non-DRM'd music. Isnt it a shame the site does not work in Firefox. You cannot listen to the radio, and clicking the buy button (yes I really was interested enough to attempt to buy some Ulrich Schnauss), leads to a page with an internal server error 500 page.

Come on Yahoo! You can do better than this.

Now how long is it before google follow suit with a version that runs on my mobile, PDA, Firefox, Opera and IE with full album text search and related albums? I for one will be ready with my credit card for when they do.

Monday, June 26, 2006

Harrow Borough Councils Recycling Strategy

The London Borough of Harrow, one of Londons best and safest Boroughs, has recently changed the playing field on the topic of recycling.

There has been calls for recycling for many years, and most councils now offer collection services, although LB Harrow have now taken this to a new level.

Houses will be given a green box for recycling which can take paper, glass, plastic, maybe shoes and textiles (this one we know), and also a brown box for compostable vegetable and waste. However, while these will be collected weekly, non-green/brown waste collections will take palce only once a fortnight.

However, if that wasnt enough, Harrow have pushed the point home with penalties for not recycling. Thats right - if the green boxes are not used at all, residents face a bill of £75. If they continue not to use them, then being a repeat offender, they may actually face £1000 fines. While this comes across as heavy handed, it will seriously cut down the amount of landfill the borough has, a wise move given the amount of landfill London is producing.

But there are questions. Are flats and walkups covered? Having lived in such accomodation, we were never covered by any green boxes scheme. For some this means taking it over to a supermarket centre in a car - not a great option.

I invite comments on this one, let me know what you think, or your answers if you are an LB Harrow resident.

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

China's Business with Africa

It seems that at the moment, the BBC has taken note of massive business deals betweeen China and African Nations.

This has been criticised due to the human rights violations that many of these nations governments are most definately guilty of.

But lets take a step back here. If is well known that Africa needs investment, and business, and this business deal is good for China, and good for African Nations, all of whom have economies which are still developing. Is the Wests criticism of this really worth noting?

Lets step back for a while and see how this works out, or are the west actually more afraid of the challenge it may create on our own economies? We most definately know the French are with the C.A.P. and limitations on Chinese clothing.