Free Plugins

Some free plugins for the DAW users out there, the only one that appears to be a bit of a pain is the Sonalksis one, they want you to install their download manager, so I’ve not bothered with that, plenty of other plugins can carry out the same functions, but it does look like a nice addition if you don’t mind the instalation.

I’ve not tried these plugins yet but the demos look good so I’ll give them a try.

Ultimate Drive opamp mod

Just popped a Burr Brown opamp in my Joyo Ultimate drive, It’s had a JRC chip in it for ages which helped reduce the noise level, the new opamp however has improved the tone and the range of the tone control seems to have improved, I can now go past 12 o’clock without things too brittle.

The next plan is to try the alpha mod and see how that affects the range of the controls, from what I’ve read it keeps them in ‘mojo’ territory and avoids any of the extreme settings possible on an unmodified pedal.  This should be fun…

Remember if you want a pedal moded, contact me through my website and I’ll see what I can do

If everybody needs good neighbours, why can’t I live on Ramsey Street??

It’s been an interesting few weeks; my fiancé and I spent a few days south of the border visiting some family and soaking the sun but before we went I had the dubious honour of meeting 2 of my neighbours who, despite having lived in close proximity for over over 20 years, I had never spoken to, and it was quite an experience, it began with a knock at the door…

Now when I knock the door (I hope) it gets the attention of the people on the other side of the door with minimal intrusion, and I think this is how most of us announce ourselves, and there is the way a policeman would knock your door if they wanted your attention NOW!!!  I was greeted with the second type of knock, now to put you in the picture I was home alone contemplating which room of the house should be decorated next.  With the urgency of the knock I decided whoever was at the door needed my attention pretty urgently so I answered expecting a policeman or perhaps a delivery guy in a hurry, and was greeted with… an old lady.

Not knowing what to expect now I waited for the person on my doorstep to tell me why she was calling, and her opening line caught me a little off guard:

Right then… who owns this fucking house anyway, you or your father?!?

To which I replied

That’ll be me.

As the lady drew a deep breath so she could continue her…tirade(?) I felt the need to ask a question of my own, now I should explain that as she had opened our first conversation with foul language it seemed obvious to me that schoolyard rules applied and I could respond in kind:

So… Who the fuck are you?

Having lost none of her stride despite my interruption she ‘explained’ in very strong terms that she lived in the first house in the row behind mine and that she and her friend (who happens to live next door to her) had some serious issues with a tree in my back garden: a large Scott’s Pine that was apparently shedding pine needles and pine-cones all over the path, and that if it wasn’t dealt with…

There will be consequences!!!

Now the above statement on it’s own, or the diminishing stature (she was about my height but standing on the pavement below my doorstep giving me a good 5 inches on her) of the person making it that bothered me, I should probably explain that while I did not feel threatened by her behaviour, the fact the conversation took place with her pointing her right index finger at my face, very rude on it’s own, but that she did so with a bunch of keys in the same hand and what I assume to be her front door key running the length of her extended finger.

Taking everything I’d experienced in that period of 90 seconds into account I abandoned the veneer of civility I’d been trying and failing to maintain I asked if she was threatening me, she confirmed she was, so I did the only thing I could: I slammed the door in her face but not before uttering the two most satisfying words in the English language-

Fuck off!!!

I allowed myself a few minutes to cool off, I Never walk on the path between our houses so wanted to know how bad the problem was so decided to cool off for a minute then walk round and check it out.  I got about four steps from my front door before I realised the old dear was a little slower on her feet than me and hadn’t gotten too far, while I don’t remember exactly what was said the conversation became a little heated, voices were raised and I’m pretty sure I told her to go and fornicate with herself.  In the midst of all this my next-door neighbour came out to run some errands and heard some of the argument, and I can only imagine how bad the whole situation looked.

The second part of the delightful conversation over I made it to the lane between the houses and she was right, there were indeed a number of pine-cones on the ground, lots of needles and standing amongst the mess was another lady in the winter years of her existence, she was promptly addressed by her loud friend

Here he is, Madge, he’s worse than his father!

While I can’t really quote the rest of the conversation ver batum, I’ll try paraphrase what was said quoting pertinent points as they arise.  In a nutshell it was Madge who was concerned about the tree, she didn’t like the pine needles falling into her porch area (understandable) and was concerned that in winter she might stand on a pine-cone, slip and be injured (also understandable).  She also explained that the consequences alluded to above by her loudmouthed friend meant complaining to the council, and not much else.

I explained to Madge that I understood what her concerns were, and admitted that as a hay fever sufferer I was rarely in the garden, I had no feeling either way about the tree and that I genuinely couldn’t remember the last time I’d walked the path between our houses, so hadn’t seen the mess in the street.  As my conversation with Madge was staying in the realm of civility her as yet unnamed friend decided to bring that to an end by constantly interrupting and even standing between myself and Madge making it impossible for us to speak, and I ended up asking her to be quiet several times, not knowing her name I had little choice but to address her as ‘madam’ which she didn’t like,

I’m not a ‘madam’!

I wanted to say “then stop acting like one” but I resisted that particular urge and replied

So tell me your name and I’ll address you by it.

she responded with

No!

This exchange was repeated couple of times, more or less ver batum, then she saw the light and identified herself as Mrs Mangle.  Since we were keeping it formal I informed her she could address me as Mr Gallacher, she was not impressed.  The conversation continued pretty much as it had before leading to me using the phrase

Jesus Christ on a bike, woman, will you shut the fuck up?!?!

I asked Madge what she wanted me to do, and she politely told me she would only be happy if the tree was removed from my garden.  I pointed out with a mix of seriousness and levity that I had neither the tools or skills to remove the tree, and that I hadn’t attended Hogwarts so coudn’t make the thing disappear.  As a compromise I offered to check the pavement every other day with her checking on the days I wasn’t and, if it needed swept, whichever one of us was checking it that day could sweep it up. Not good enough, she said

I’m 70 years old, I don’t see why I should have to sweep a council path

I pointed out that we lived very close to a wooded area and I also had leaves and other detritous blowing ito my doorway and the solution was to grab a brush and give it a sweep.  When i made this suggestion it was revealed that Madge had spoken to my father and had been told pretty much the same thing and had been no help.  I later checked this with my father who says Madge did indeed speak to him, but instead of the polite exchange she implied she’d had, it seems she hit him with a torrent of abuse, leaving me with the thought she should have told Mrs Mangle that such an approach wouldn’t work.

Back to the conversation at hand, despite my offer to help keep the path clear being refused I offered to grab a brush right there and then and sweep up, but was told not to because

we have a man from the council coming to see it this afternoon.

About now my exasperation became a bit more obvious, I pointed out that I had bigger worries than a tree that had been planted years before my family moved to the area (Mrs Mangle disagreed stating the tree was planted after we moved in… ‘cos she’d know), and that I was a neurology patient in constant pain, this was a mistake cos the gobby cow jumped on this admission of weakness and declared that I was “mad”.

It was about now that I chose to end the conversation telling Mrs Mangle that I did not want her on or near my property again, and if she approached my home the police would be called, she then stated that she felt I had been threatening and she wanted to call the police now, so I offered her my mobile phone with permission to use it… she declined.  I told Madge that when the “man from the council” appeared to send him round to talk to me.  No man from the council turned up that day.

The conversation ended with Mrs Mangle taking Madge into her house to “talk”.  As you can imagine I was pretty wound up so decided that I should investigate the legal situation, so the following day I visited or spoke to the following places:

  • Cumbernauld’s ‘One Stop Shop’
  • CAB
  • Strathclyde Police
  • Environmental Health (by telephone)

The housing officer at the one stop shop told me that since both houses were private they would not become involved in the dispute, and their records did not show any complaint having been made.

CAB advised that the council may become involved if the tree or any detritus from it became any kind of environmental hazard, but I shouldn’t take any action until either I was approached by the council, or unless I wanted to.
As for Mrs Magle’s aggressive behaviour, I should report it to the police, even though I wasn’t particularly concerned for my safety, in any argument involving a 30 something male and a 60 something female, any witness would probably view me as the aggressor, so having some sort of official record of the incident from my perspective was sensible.

I called in to the police station as suggested but was told the community officer was engaged with other duties and would call me.

When I got home I called Environmental Health who also had no record of any complaint and said all the action the ladies could take would be to cut the tree back to the edge of their property if it was overhanging, but nothing more.

So lots of raised tempers and voices, some apparently empty threats, and not a lot else… for around 10 days.  On a particularly hot day my fiance an I were in our spare room, it’s the coolest room in the house on a warm day, and there was a knock at the door, a polite one.  The chap at the door claimed he was from North Lanarkshire council, and was wearing the appropriate hi-viz vest, but didn’t identify himself or show me any ID.  He spoke with a Falkirk accent, not exactly local, and went on to tell me there had been a number of complaints about my tree, and that I was obligated under some legislation passed in 1982 to keep the adjacent pavement clear.  I asked him to define the number of complaints they’d received, but the answer wasn’t particularly enlightening

eh… we don’t get told… eh.. it just comes aff the computer like..eh

I decided to probe a little further and ask what help and advice the council could offer as I lacked the appropriate skills to deal with the tree, and was also not working due to poor health so couldn’t afford to pay any specialist to deal with it for me.  The answer was uninspiring; despite being responsible for all the wooded areas in the local area, as the tree was on private property he wasn’t able arrange it’s removal, so I should use the local phone directory and get quotes from companies who specialised in these things.  When I pressed the point about paying for it he shrugged and stated that he was just telling me what my responsibilities were.
He also commented that the tree’s overhang caused problems when driving street cleaning vehicles up and down, but didn’t mention whether or not he’d be having similar conversations with other home owners in the area who have trees and plants in their gardens that protrude over the property line and onto the public path.

While I wasn’t happy about the lack of any practical advice offered by a representative of my local authority, I decided not to sit on my hands and try and get an idea of what this might cost.  Ms Smith, my long suffering other half, had retrieved the Thomson Local Directory and had it opened at the correct page, so I started making phone calls.
The first was answered by a male who didn’t seem to know the name of his company or what service they offered
The second would call me back ‘cos she was at the bank
The third, Lorimer Tree Surgeons, was a very helpful, and the owner actually drove out (no obligation) to look at the tree and give me a verbal quote within a couple of hours.  I will point out that Mr Lorimer is an awfully nice chap and had the quote been more affordable I’d have happily given him the job because I have no doubt he’d have done it very well, sadly £350 + VAT was little rich for my blood.

So on the following Monday my future father-in-law and I set about the tree having borrowed some of the appropriate tools and got the bugger down!  during the process Mrs Mangle made an appearance but was was oddly quiet… Madge also appeared on her way out somewhere, but only graced me with a polite “…morning” before disappearing.

To end this boring tale, the tree has been down a week, today it was chopped in to logs to be taken away.  The garden actually looks a lot more roomy now and we’ve taken the opportunity to get rid of some other plants we don’t want and generally tidy it up a bit, but I suppose my main gripe is that a vicious, unpleasant person came to my door, was rude and threatening, and despite manners, decency, morality and in the case of the threats, laws that oppose such behaviour, she still managed to get what she wanted.  Some times being a nice guy kinda sucks.

Peace

Google Privacy Policy Changes

As many people known our new overlords at Google changed their privacy policy recently and the new rules came into effect on 1st March 2012.  Put simply it means that Google will be centralising all the information it has on from various different sevices you may use, such as YouTube, Google+ (‘cos everyone’s using that), and even the Google search engine.

The YouTube channel SourceFed released the following video on the topic:

Google’s representatives state this is to allow the user to enjoy a more streamlined experience with the various Google services they use, and in a live Q&A with Google’s Peter Barron, he was honest enough to admit that this will also involve targeted advertising, explaining that the advertising pays for the services we use (hard to argue with that), and that if it’s targeted, the user sees less advertising that if if it were completely random (again, hard to argue).

Worth noting, however, is that the changes being made may violate data protection and privacy laws in the European Union.  Concerns on this have been taken to Google by Franc’s data watchdog, the CNIL, who claim

“Google’s new policy does not meet the requirements of the European Directive on Data Protection”

The full article, again from The Guardian, can be found by clicking here.

It’s worth nothing that Google will not be recording any kind of data that it/they were not previously, only that how it is stored, and possibly being used, is changing.  While opinion on this is divided in to those thinking it’s a good thing, a bad thing, invasion of privacy, big brother watching, even Skynet, and despite requests from various governments to delay the implementation of the changes, Google have gone ahead as planned and the policy is now in force.

Reading about this over the last few days brought a couple of things to mind, the first being how many different Google products/services I use, some on a daily basis:
Google Search – I had to set up a google account to keep using YouTube
YouTube – now tied to the above google account
Android – mobile phone operating system
Gmail – I had to set up a Gmail account to use the Android app store
Google+ – not sure why I bothered as no one seems to be using it

There are other Google service which I’ve not used such as Google books, wallet, or blogger, and the new policy make me think that if I want any degree of privacy on the web, then I’d best keep my blog here at word press, and do  my digital book reading on Kindle, although that app does run on an Android powered mobile phone.

Another thing that came to mind was how a user could previously see what information Google already held on them, and how the assumptions they’ve made may not be that accurate:

Image

Interesting reading, but lets analyse:

Arts & Entertainment – Movies – Movie Reference – Movie Reviews & Previews
Arts & Entertainment – Music & Audio – Music Reference – Song Lyrics & Tabs
Arts & Entertainment – Music & Audio – Rock Music
Not too bad, I’m in a rock band, and I’ve taught guitar, and have indeed used the Internet when learning music for myself or my students.
Arts & Entertainment – TV & Video – Online Video
I have a YouTube account where I have uploaded short videos from various performances, and I usually follow news from the USA  there too.
Games – Computer & Video Games – Simulation Games
Does Mario-Kart count? OK then.
People & Society – Social Issues & Advocacy – Environmental Issues
I’m not too sure where this cam from, I did watch a video or two about people who deny global warming, maybe that’s it.
Your demographics
We infer your age and gender based on the websites that you’ve visited. You can remove or edit these at any time.
Age: 18-24
Gender: Male
OK… the age is a bit off but I won’t complain, and yes. I am male.  Good job, Google
If you’d like to know what “information” Google think they have on you, click here.
If you want to keep a little more privacy on the web, you can always search with bing.

R.I.P. Christopher Hitchens

Here we are mid way through December, and the Christmas preparations are going well.  This year will be a little different for my family; instead of getting together at my sister’s home, each part of the family will celebrate Christmas day separately, with the option of getting together to exchange gifts in the evening.  It’ll be the first time my partner (the “Miss Smith” referred to in previous posts) and I will be celebrating together without any other family members, and I can’t wait.

As is often the case in the run up to the winter festivities, there is some sad news to report: the author, journalist, debater, and all round formidable human being that was Christopher Hitchens has died.  I found this particularly poignant for me as I am currently reading his memoirs, the book ‘Hitch 22’.

I have been aware of Hitchens for several years, and recently read (probably) his best known book ‘God is not great: how religion poisons everything’, but reading his life story in his own word has given me a far better understanding of the fierce person’s early days, and while I don’t agree with many of his positions, I feel I am developing a better understanding of the man the more I read.

Know as one of the “four horsemen”, he was often referred to along with other out spoken atheists, the other three being philosopher Dan Dennet, neurosurgeon Sam Harris, and of course evolutionary biologist Richard Dawkins, Hitchens was never afraid to stand apart from them, most notably when Dawkins et al began referring to themselves as “The Brights”, Hitchens was very clear that he did not support this.

A simple YouTube search will show how passionate Hitchens was about what he believed in and also what he didn’t.  He regularly debated religious figures and other arguing in favour of theism, and it came as a surprise to very few when the term ‘Hitch Slapped’ was seen on many internet discussion forums and YouTube comments.

And this brings me to how I heard the news, I saw the video linked above on YouTube, and immediately felt very sad that the world had lost Hitch, but also relieved that his personal suffering had come to an end, he wrote in Vanity fair:

“Cancer victimhood contains a permanent temptation to be self-centered and even solipsistic…”
“…My chief consolation in this year of living dyingly has been the presence of friends,”

However the death of a man so outspoken is his opposition to organised religion has had the side effect of allowing the worst of those who do hold theistic beliefs speak out, knowing that he will never be able to answer, but some of us will speak up for him (but never quite as well) when we feel the need.  Watching the video linked above, I started reading through some of the comments, and many were of a heartwarming nature, thanking the late Hitch for inspiring them in some way, and many were simply variations on the R.I.P. theme, all very respectful, but there were also a few of the kind mentioned above, cursing his name, celebrating that he was now in hell, being punished for speaking out against belief in God, Yahweh, Allah etc. I can’t say I was surprised, for every decent religious person (and there are many I count as friends) there is one to whom the word ‘decent’ cannot be applied. I read the following comment from the YouTube user zaqwsx123xswqaz

What’s the big fuss?? This person died, so?? As far as I’m concerned, this news means nothing. People live and later die. Whatever they said or did during their lives, only God will be their judge, whether they believe in Him or not. They will meet Him sooner or later. Life goes on. Turn the page.

and had to reply:

“…only God will be their judge…”
Please offer some evidence for this statement, remember the bible doesn’t count.
Or if that’s too tricky for you, why not just accept that a very intelligent and passionate person, who had an effect on millions of lives has passed away, and allow those he affected to remember him without you proselytising for your invisible sky wizard?

Now I appreciate that referring to the deity this person appears to believe in as an ‘sky wizard’ could be seen as provocative, but I stand by the sentiment that Hitch influenced many people in many ways, and at the very least he got them to think about the beliefs they hold most dear, and that allowing those who respected him to grieve without forcing religion in to the equation was simply good manners. Sadly ‘zaq’ (as I will now refer to him/her) didn’t agree and felt the need to tell me why:

You just proved that you believe in a god: this dead person!! …”who had an effect on millions..” really?? Well, maybe that’s why I see his name everywhere in the news including here and that’s why I’m commenting, It’s curious to see how people put their belief in humans rather than in God WHO created them!! Personality-cult is everywhere, from politics to sports.

To which I replied:

I see you’ve still offered no evidence for the god character you mentioned in your 1st post.
No, I do not believe Hitchens was (a) god, he was known as an author, journalist and debater, and while he is gone now, we actually have evidence that he existed, such as his books, his work for Vanity Fair, and countless hours of video on YouTube. But better than any of that, there are people who have actually met him, more than can be said for the biblical “god”.

I have not yet received any further reply from ‘zaq’, and I doubt I will, I often find that even the more aggressive theists tend to back away when asked for evidence.  While  this short exchange was taking place another user garytcw replied to ‘zaq’ and myself with the following comment:

Steviemgallacher said “this dead person” affect millions people, and you make it out as a prove that “this dead person” is god?

You will go to hell for this. How dare you. Inspiring merely 1 million cannot possibly compare to God. I hope and pray you will rot in hell, in the most painful way, my God will judge you for it. Can’t wait to hear your scream from heaven.

So clearly not from the same sect as my new friend ‘zaq’, but equally fervent in his beliefs in some kind of creator, my reply was:

so this is an example of christian behaviour?
As I asked zaqwsx123xswqaz: can you provide any evidence for what you claim?
To paraphrase Hitchens; I’m just sorry there isn’t a hell for such hateful people to go to.

I’m usually very tolerant of others supernatural beliefs, and while I don’t hold any, I only assert my views when asked, or when some on tries to shove their views in my face.  There were a few other replies which spoke out agint this pair of believers, and assured me a wasn’t alone in my disgust:

@garytcw Another religious whack job. Spoken like a true religious bigot.

RELIGION POISONS EVERYTHING AND IN PARTICULAR THE MOST TOXIC OF THE LOT ARE THE DESERT RELIGIONS – JUDAISM – CHRISTIANITY – ISLAM.

leland61

and

@zaqwsx123xswqaz Take your sky daddy delusions somewhere else.

oliverlaw02

My own favourite recollection of Hitchens doing what he did best was when he was a guest speaker on the BBC’s ‘Intelligence Squared” debate show, debating whether or not the Catholic Church is a force for good in society,  Hitchens, together with amazingly intelligent Stephen Fry argued against the proposition, the case for was argued by Conservative MP Ann Widicombe and Archbishop John Onaiyekan.

My own memory of this debate is of Hitchens and Fry demolishing the arguments in favour, Ann Widicombe managing to be pompous and noisy without actually saying anything worth listening to, and the Archbishop, in a display of arrogance reserved only for those who think they know the mind of “God”, during the audience’s Q&A section of the event, actually had the balls (not that he would know what they were for) to accuse an audience member of “asking the wrong question”.  This debate was the most polite ‘Hitch slapping’ I have ever seen. A YouTube playlist of the debate can be seen by clicking here

In summary: The world has lost one of its finest intellects, Hitchens was many things, and perfect certainly wasn’t one of them, he was a heavy drinker, and a smoker, and perhaps those excesses contributed to his light being extinguished from this universe a little earlier than we would have liked, however he has left a wonderful legacy for us to enjoy and be inspired by in his writing, the hundreds, if not thousands, of hours of video on YouTube where he is sharing himself passionately with everyone who watches, and the inspiration he was to so many people.  You didn’t need to agree with him, many didn’t, but those who challenged him were met with a barrage of logic and reason that wasn’t easily toppled, and usually resulted in the challenger’s very own Hitch Slap.

I’ll try not to shed too many tears at the passing of this great man, I didn’t know him personally, and I’m sure he’d be the first to tell me stop wasting my time and enjoy this precious life that I have as it’s the only one I know I’ll get.  Others have commented that Christopher has left a gaping hole in the rationalist/atheist community (if there is such a thing), and like those others I don’t think we’ll see anyone in our lifetimes who can fill that gap. I’ll continue my reading of his memoirs, and try to learn from the experiences that made him who he was, and perhaps I’ll take something from the reading that will make me a better person.

Christopher Hitchens

Thankyou, Christopher, for all that you were and all that you have left behind, the world is truly a better place for having had you in it, and a slightly sadder place now that you’ve left.

Rest In Peace.

The Atheist “Challenge”

About a month ago I came across a YouTube video by a fellow WordPress blogger The Barking Atheist, the video was a response to a video containing 25 questions (actually slightly more, but who’s counting) for atheists.  I’ll link to the video below as well as the Barking Atheist’s response.  I don’t know if I have too much to add, but the fallacious nature of the questions annoyed me enough that i thought I’d express my thoughts,

I will point out that I’m not a biologist, cosmologist, physicist, chemist, geologist, or expert in any scientific discipline.

enjoy…

Original “challenge” video:-

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Frm3fNOFSuA

Barking’s response:-

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=19oPgXKpKh4

And the (more than) 25 questions:-

1a.How do you think life began?
As stated above, I’m not a scientist, but conditions on a primordial earth would have, at some point, needed to have been right for inorganic chemicals to react and form organic compounds which would have been the first building blocks of organic life as we know it.
1b.Does empirical science prove your answer?
yes, the Miller-Urey experiment (the barking atheist refers to this as well) carried out in 1952 was an attempt to replicate the event.  when the vials from the experiment were opened and examined in 2007 it was found the constituent chemicals had created over 20 amino acids, further information can be found here.
2.Why has every civilization believed in a creator?
That’s a very bold assertion, and offered with no proof.  While I can’t quote any off the top of my head, I’m pretty sure there have been cultures that have developed without the concept of god(s), and did just fine, until the christians decided to “educate the savages”
3a.What types of government structures have been created from an atheistic world view in the past?
None that I’m aware of, some government have rejected theistic worship, communism for example, instead setting up the political leaders as idols to be worshiped in some cases, but atheism hasn’t been the route of the system, it’s been the result of the rejection of theism, and it’s not universally true, Cuba is communist and has a thriving Catholic community.
On the other hand, The USA was founded as a secular nation, and that seems to have worked out pretty well, especially if you’re Christian.
3b.What positive ideals has atheism offered this world?
Atheism doesn’t offer anything, it’s a lack of theistic belief, nothing more, there are no dogma, ceremonies, rituals or holy books, it is not a religion or way of life, and should not be treated as such.
4a.By what authoritative writer or principles do you live your life?
I live by the principles my parents taught me when I was a child, and also by the laws of the country where I live.  I don’t feel the need for any supernatural agency to tell me that I’m a good person.
4b.Do you live by any standards?
As this is the second part of question 4 I’ll assume you mean moral standards; as humans evolved as a tribal species, our morals come from a simple understanding of what is good for the pack is good for the individual, and that fuels what we consider to be right and wrong today. So the standard I live by come from the society I live in, not an 1800 year old book.
5a.In your opinion should religion be removed from public?
Yes
5b.If so where should it be tolerated?
People should be free to practice their religious faith privately in their own homes (it’s in the bible y’know- Matthew 6:5 & 6:6), if public places of worship are to remain open, they should not be permitted charity status and should be taxed.
6.How did the universe begin? Can nothing create everything? What was the cause?
I don’t know how the universe began, to my knowledge no one does, but unlike the theist community I have no compulsion to put god in the gap and declare the question answered.  If we ever do understand what state the universe was in before the big bang, I’m willing to be it’ll be a million times more amazing than anything dreamt up by a 1st century sheep herder.
7a.Hypothetically if you had to choose a religion what religion would you choose?
Secular Humanism
7b.Why would you choose this religion?
I’m not a member of the humanist society, but I’m pretty sure I fill the bill already anyway, and you didn’t specify it needed to be a theistic religion.
7c.Would you tell others of your religion?
Yes, if I was asked, anyone who knows me probably knows my views anyway.
8.How can evolution explain features of irreducible complexity apart from intelligent intervention?
I’ll refer you the Barking Atheist here, he’s a Biology major and his answer covers it far better than I can.
9.How can natural selection produce something that is a prerequisite for natural selection to operate?
Can you phrase that question in a way that makes any sense?
10.Morality seems to change with the times in the atheist community why are morals so subjective within the atheist community?
You’d need to provide some examples of this, but if true, it’s not limited to atheists, unless christians still practice the stoning of disobedient children at the edge of the city or selling people in to slavery.
11a.What is the motive of freeing others from their belief in a God if they are
(i)happy and content with their belief and(ii)dont hurt others?
(i) I have no particular desire to free anyone from their beliefs but from my perspective (and to paraphrase Matt Dilahunty,  a man much smarter than me) I’d like to believe as many true things and as few false things as possible, this is because our beliefs inform our actions and our actions have consequences.
(ii) define ‘hurt’, lets take the ban on stem cell research in America during the G W Bush years, if this work had continued how much progress could have been made in treating the following illnesses:

11b.How can you tell who is not content and happy?
I don’t try to, I focus on what’d true and what isn’t.
11c.And why the main focus on Christianity?
In the western world most non-believers have a better knowledge of Christianity because it’s what they’ve grown up either surrounded by or as part of, either way they know it better than, for example, Islam or Hinduism.
12. If humans evolved from Apes why have the transitional species gone extinct but yet the Ape and Man still exist? Why the middle gap?
The phrasing of the question suggests you don’t know the topic, but I’ll indulge you anyway.
The first thing you need to understand is that human beings did not come from apes, humans are apes, this is important so take notes.  what we learn from evolution is that modern humans and modern apes share a common ancestor, in the case of modern man and chimpanzees the Common ancestor we share is Australopithecus afarensis. Transitional species have not died out, all species are transitional, including humans.
13. Can you give three examples where the narrative of Jesus and his message would be a negative influence if what he said was true?
I don’t know the theology/mythology well enough to give three examples, but the part where he said he wasn’t sent to replace the laws of the old testament wasn’t exactly his finest hour, was it?
14a.Do you think the world would be better if there was no belief in a God?
Yes, almost every war in the history of the human species has been fought over either resources or belief in spiritual figures for whom there has never been a shred of evidence, get rid of gods and we get rid of a lot of needless suffering, anti-Semitism, sexism, racism, sectarianism, and a load of other isms that I can’t think of right now
14b.What if there were no rules or standards to that belief system?
What belief system? I thought we just got rid of it.
15.Can you give five examples of Atheists being persecuted in America currently?
No, but I don’t live there,  more generally atheists are the least trusted demograpgic in the USA and it’s practically impossible for an atheist to be elected to any public office. Is that not bad enough?
16.Do you think the laws that govern America are for the most part just and appropriate?
I think the laws are, for the most part, ok, its the people enacting them that are the problem.
17.Can empirical science prove the missing link, big bang, or the abiogenesis theories? If not why are they taught in schools today?
There is no missing link, the big bang and abiogenesis are being better understood all the time by the scientist who are researching those fields.  what’s not understood is what existed before the big bang, and science has no problem with the phrase ‘we don’t know’, and manages to continue with the research without inserting the supernatural, ‘god did it’ has never met any standard of evidence in a science lab, and never will.
18a. Do you think if the story of Jesus was proven true that his resurrection would be the greatest feat in human history?
It depends which part of the story, if any, was proven true.  there may well have been a Jewish mystic (or several) kicking about with a band of followers in the first century, and the stories became amalgamated, got exaggerated and started the legend that became the stories of the bible.  If any one of these travellers was called Jeshua, and perhaps had delusions of divinity.  As for his resurrection…  I very much doubt it happened, everything we know about Jesus comes from the bible, there are no contemporary extra biblical sources that confirm these events, and the bible it’s self is full of contradictions and inconsistencies.
18b.If not what was greater?
how about man harnessing powered flight in 1903, then breaking free of earths gravity, setting foot and walking on an other stellar body just 66 years later?
19a. What came first the chicken or the egg?
the egg
19b.What does evolution say?
Evolution says nothing, it’s a biological process, not a conscious entity.  Genetics tells us the first chicken egg would have been laid by an animal similar, but not identical, to a modern chicken, probably a hybrid of red and grey ‘Junglefowl’ species.
20.What three things would you change if you were the creator of this world?
That is a huge question, I wouldn’t know where to begin.  I’d like to start with eradicating starvation and disease and work from there, but it’s a massive question that I really don’t know how to answer, and why would I be limited to changing only thee things?
21.If belief in an afterlife is a naïve wish for people that are afraid of death cant non-belief be a naïve wish for people that are afraid of accountability to God after death?
Only if you could prove beyond reasonable doubt that this ‘god’ character exists, and despite almost 2000 years of Christian dogma, you’ve not managed that yet.
22.In a universe without God or immortality, how is mankind ultimately different from a swarm of mosquitoes or a herd of cattle? Are humans of more intrinsic value?
Mankind is aware of his/her existence and aware that actions have consequences, and makes decisions based on this knowledge, most other animals exist purely on instinct and don’t have the capacity to think beyond the need to survive.
23a.Do humans possess the ability to feel love, affection, and empathy?
Yes, well most can, those that can’t are called ‘sociopaths’
23b.If so, explain how?
you’d really need a neurologist for this (and so do I, but that’s unconnected) I think emotions are chemical reactions in the brain, and we react to them.
23c.Can it be explained without using the metaphysical?
yes, use an MRI machine and you can see them too
24.Who contributes more charitable services and financial resource to the worlds suffering and impoverished? Atheist or Theist?
There really is no way to know, and this is where the religious community is potentially streets ahead, they have strength in numbers, phenomenal organisation, and can channel their efforts collectively much easier than non-believers, getting free minded people to work together is sometimes likened to herding cats, so there really is no way to collate accurate figures, but what would be more interesting is what any charitable money is used for; my experience is that money donated via religious organisations is often conditional, leading to the opinion that the donations are only offered as an excuse to preach.
Another recent incident that has come to my attention is the American Cancer Society bent over backwards, changed its rules and went well out of its way to block donations from Todd Stiefel of the Stiefel Freethought Foundation and  Foundation Beyond Belief, donations that would have totaled approximately $500,000, for no reason other than the money was coming from atheist sources. Further information can be found here and here
25a.What evidence would you need to prove that God existed and by what standard of evidence?
I don’t know, but if god does exist, then he/she/it does, and so far has chosen not to make its self known to me
25b.Do you follow this same standard in all of your current beliefs?
No, the standard of evidence varies depending on the claim being made, the more incredible the claim, the better the evidence needs to be.


Not meaning to be pedantic, but I count that as 39 questions, not 25 as many of the questions had more than one part. It seems someone hasn’t been taking their ten commandments too seriously, but it seems only to apply to a neighbour.

In my answer to question 5, I made reference to a couple of bible verses, verses I find are often ignored by the faithful.  I’ll quote them below to finish off:-

Matthew 6:5
And when you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners to be seen by men. I tell you the truth, they have received their reward in full.

Matthew 6:6
But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.

LLAP

These people want to look at my brain!

If you’ve read any of this blog before you’ll know a few things:

  1. Updates are sporadic at best.
  2. Topics vary depending what’s on my mind, which can be scary.
  3. When I land on a topic, I hit it quite hard, then ignore it for a while.
  4. I’ll allude to other things that are going on in my life but give almost no detailed information.

It’s point 4 that’s most relevent to today’s post.  In the past I’ve made a few references to my health, and that it’s not been too good recently, so I’ll provide a little background.

In January 2010 I started suffering from severe headaches, I’d suffered from migraines when I was a teenager, so assumed it was related to that, but when it didn’t let up after 3 weeks, my GP became concerned and began to prescribe stronger medications, none of which have had any noticeable effect.

In the summer of 2010 I was refered to the headache clinic at Glasgow’s Southern General, after waiting several months I was seen by a consultant on a Sunday afternoon, and after a very brief examination and discussion of the list of drugs I’d already tried (propranolol, Amitriptyline and Diclofenac), he decided I was indeed suffering from migraines, and he gave me a note (no drugs) to pass to my GP with information on what medication to prescribe going forward.  The drug prescribed was called Topomax, and would start with 25mg per day, then 50mg, then up to 100mg per day.

After a couple of month it was pretty apparent the Topomax wasn’t working, I was taking it as prescribed, but was still relying on large doses of Co-codamol (30/500 2 pills up to 4 times per day) simply to function, and the only obvious side effect was a change in my sense of taste meaning I could no longer appreciate the taste of my national soft drink Barr’s Irn Bru, and as someone who rarely drinks alcohol, that’s a problem.

After converstaion with my GP I was off the Topomax and on to a more time-tested drug called Pizotifen, a more common treatment with a proven track record, but for me, no noticable effect.

In early 2011 my GP decided to try the Topomax again, starting with 25mg working up to 100mg (50mg twice a day).  again this has had no effect other than altering my sense of taste, which brings us almost up to date…

You may remember my post from July 31st where I mentioned losing my job, around this time my GP decided to refer me to the headache clinic again, it was clear prescription medication was having no effect, and my condition was having a serious effect on my ability to earn a living.  On August 22nd I received a letter from the hospital confirming the referral.  Having had no further communication by September 22nd, I called the hospital to ask if there was any update, a very nice lady told me I hadn’t been given an appointment yet, but that I would be seen no later than October 22nd.  Not quite the answer I was hoping for, but still pretty positive.

As september became October I still heard nothing so around the 7th October I called the hospital again, but this time I didn’t get any sort of polite answer, I got a very stern lecture, just what a neurology patient needs, on how the appointment system worked (none of which I remember), and told I’d just need to wait because neurology is a very busy department.  Taking my life in my hands I called again on the 14th (Fridays seem to be a good day if you’re in a Klingon mood), this time I spoke to a girl, I think her name was Claire, who was much more helpful, she told me that I still didn’t have an appointment, but one should be assigned soon, and I was welcome to call again if I didn’t receive anything through the post.

The following Friday, the 21st, I was more concerned.  No appointment, no communication of any kind, so I decided to call the hospital, but instead of being confrontational, I know from a decade in a call centre that doesn’t do any good, and the person answering the phone is just doing his or her job, I’ll just ask if there are any update on my appointment, and then let them know if it’s likely to go in to November,  there are a few day that I won’t be available because I’ll be away from home, and would like to avoid any clashes of dates or any possibility of their time being wasted. So I made the call…
as suspected, there was no appointment for me, despite the following day being the latest possible day.  When I asked about it possibly being sometime in November, and me giving them a note of dates I wasn’t available, the young lady was happy to take note of these, and seemed happy I’d actually thought ahead enough to give them warning, and took note of the dates I would not be available, these were between 5th & 9th of November.

Having been a little under the weather for a few days last week, and with the headaches being particularly bad this week I called the hospital again  on the 26th, not a friday but you’ve got to mix it up a little, and I wasn’t alone in this view, the hospital had assigned me an appointment, this was starting to look good, it was 12pm, midday on November 8th.

THESE ARE THE PEOPLE WHO ARE GONNA LOOK AT MY BRAIN!!!!

Needless to say, I pointed out that I’d been on the phone a few days earlier and specifically mentioned a few days in November when I wouldn’t be available, hoping to avoid this type of problem, and was told there were no notes to this effect on “the system”, and it would be passed to management to be reviewed.  I don’t know if this means I’ll get another appointment soon, or if it means I’ll be placed at the back of the queue.  I’ll call again tomorrow to see if there is any kind of further update, I really don’t want to come off as harassing the staff at the hospital, I know they do a difficult job, but I’m in a frustrating situation, and just want to get it sorted out.

OK, rant over… for now.