June 2003


A work colleague of mine went to a non-denominational church meeting held in a suburban warehouse. He went to hear Ken Ham speak on dinosaurs. He came away frightened.
What is so scary about 400 people held spellbound and muttering "hallelujah" as an eloquent speaker explains the intricacies of creation-science? What is so frightening about a man telling others about his personal viewpoint? The audience won't just mindlessly accept lies or erroneous logic, will they?
It is quite self evident that dinosaurs didn't live millions of years ago, but cohabited earth with humans in the last 6-7 thousand years. Secular scientists' own findings provide proof of this conclusion:
1. Paleontologists have discovered evidence of dinosaur diseases in the fossil record.
2. There were no diseases before the "fall of man" in the Garden of Eden, about 6-7 thousand years ago. (If you deny this point, you deny the bible and call God a liar.)
3. Therefore, dinosaurs must have lived on earth after the "fall".
As proofs go, this is absolutely indisputable. Any talk you hear about evolution is just brainwashing by a secular education system.

English is a funny language. It has a lot of irregular verbs. Here are some conjugations to show correct usage.

I have opinions.
You have biases.
He/she has prejudices.

I educate.
You influence.
He/she brainwashes.

I am a free-thinker.
You are eccentric.
He/she is deluded.

One more new word for the change-one-letter dictionary:
realigion: a set of strongly-held beliefs based on observable phenomena.

Where was I? Oh yeah, that's right. I was poking at Ken Ham and his fresh, new, young and invigorating earth. My response to my colleague was simple. Don't be scared. Fanaticism and fundamentalism have been around for a long time. On a historic time scale fundamentalists are not growing in power and numbers. They are gradually dying out.
Don't think of creation-science as a threat to human advancement; think of it as an urban fantasy story being played out in a live theatre for your benefit. See how the hero, Ken, is just one frail human who pits his whole life against the forces of darkness controlling the world. See how he struggles to encourage the few remaining faithful troops to stay true and strong in the face of insurmountable odds. This is an epic fantasy of Tolkien proportions all played out for you, complete with audience involvement. We should positively encourage fanaticism because of the rich tapestry of story it adds to our mundane lives.
My advice sounded reasonable until he said "Remember Wako".


"Nothing in all the world is more dangerous than sincere ignorance and conscientious stupidity." - Martin Luther King Jr.

For the office: "Errors have been made. Others will be blamed."


A few months back I took an on-line ink blot test (at emode.com). Why? Because I was curious. I read the results of psychological tests with a fair degree of skepticism. A lot of them seem to be of the form:

Which do you prefer, outdoor or indoor activities?
x Indoor
_ Outdoor

Calculating Results...

Test results for Virgil
This incredibly perceptive test has discovered that you are an indoor person. You are in good company here. Albert Einstein was a very famous indoor person.
i.e. a lot of these tests just repackage the answers you have given, without really telling you anything new.
Some will try to slot you into one of a number of character types based on your answers. These provide some chance of telling you something you didn't already know, but only to the extent that you match one of the types. If you happen to fall into the in-between spectrum, you get force fitted into the nearest available stereotype.
Of course, any one of these psychological tests is better than the horoscope or name-analysis tests. I have to admire the output of these tests for the way they tune into the self-vs-not-self nature of the way people think. They play on the things that we like to think are our own, but actually are true of most people. e.g. everyone likes to think they have an ability to appreciate beauty in ways that others don't; everyone has some deep, small insecurities that they don't let show. By listing a number of these identity-affirming generalities, along with a mixture of non-committal statements about possibilities, a horoscope can seem to be 90% correct.
Anyway, back to the ink blot. I'd always wondered about whether this type of test could really tell me anything. It beats the "how would you react in this scenario" tests, because it can't just regurgitate your input or simply classify you based on how you say you would react. It has to base its classification system on what I perceive as meaning in a random symmetrical picture. Here are the results:

Virgil, your unconscious mind is driven most by Curiosity.
This means you are full of questions about life, people, and the potential of your future. You spend more time than others envisioning the possibilities of your life things that others are too afraid to consider.
Your curiosity burns with an almost physical need to know and do more. It's only through new experiences that you feel a greater understanding of yourself or the world which ultimately is the greatest way for you to feel satisfied.
It is possible that the underlying reason for your drive towards curiosity is a deeply rooted fear of boredom. That means that you are probably more susceptible than others to feel like you're falling into a rut when life slows down into a comfortable routine.
You need to make sure you have stimulation in your life that makes you feel like you're innovating or being exposed to the ideas and experiences that truly inspire you.
With such a strong orientation towards curiosity, you're also prone to a rebellious quality that shows up when you feel you are just going through the motions, and are unable to really influence the world around you. But interestingly enough, your drive towards novel experiences also indicates an openness others don't have, but wish they did.
Unconsciously, your curiosity presses you to learn more, experience more, and get the most out of life.

The results seemed to hit pretty close to the mark - or did they? How much of the output was true enough about anybody? Would I have felt the same about any of the canned reports that could have been produced? I could go back to the test multiple times and try to answer it in a different way each time to get all the different output types. Then I could compare all of them and decide which seemed to fit me best. There are only two problems with that:
1. My self assessment would be biased by my own self-image - not objective like the test.
2. Considering the time it would take, I'm not quite that curious.


"But you read a lot of books, I'm thinking. Hard to have faith, ain't it, when you've read too many books?" - Terry Pratchett, Carpe Jugulum

For the office: "I started out with nothing and still have most of it left"


I have been listening to: David Gray - White Ladder (which I bought on Saturday - which I would not have bought if not for mp3 song sharing).

For the office: "Don't bother me, I'm living happily ever after."


I'm glad I have it. It is one of the things I like about myself. I often take it for granted, but every now and then it reminds me how useful it can be.
Yesterday morning I wrote a little program. I tested it with some dummy data. It worked exactly as expected. Today I fed some real data to it and it produced strange results - very strange. It seemed like it was possessed. I had no source code for the program with me at work, so I mentally filed away the symptoms and made a mental note to debug it this evening.
About an hour later, I paused from my work for a moment to review the problem symptoms. Within 30 seconds, the reason for the strange behaviour clicked. I won't have to do any debugging this evening, after all. I shall make one tiny change to the program and it will work.
I like my brain. It's my wetware pal who's fun to be with.

Murdered Sleep-in

The clock radio alarm is going off. brrrring-brrrring... brrrring-brrrring...
No, it's not an alarm. That's the phone. "Hello? Half the team has dropped out? You need him to play tennis... now? Yeah... I'll get him to the court in 20 minutes."
I was lucky. SonOfVirge entered the waking world in a positive mood. We got there by 8:30. I returned home.
Breakfast. Coffee. Blob. Browse. Muck about with camera. Chat.
Half the household had left before 7am on a peer-group-aided extreme shopping binge. A quarter was playing tennis. This remaining quarter was taking it easy.
I tell myself it was good that I had been forced to wake up and get out of bed. Sleeping in would only have left me with a headache. The tennis coordinator really did me a favour by ringing at that hour of the morning. It's strange that I didn't fully appreciate it at the time.


The Washington Post's Style Invitational asked readers to take any word from the dictionary, alter it by adding, subtracting, or changing one letter and supply a new definition. Some winners. This sounded like a fun word-game for me to play. I tried my hand at it:

infartuation: a whirlwind romance that breaks when you least expect it and leaves you feeling deflated.

sanguiner: a goth performance poet.

immatune: the contrived excuse sung on the day after the office party

lens flaying: the practice of focusing extreme heat on newbie artists who resort to the use of filters.

igtolerance: I don't care what it means. We don't do that sort of thing around here.

palindrone: A friendly parent-to-child speech that would be just as useful if spoken backwards.

The Morning After

It looks like Thursday 12th decided not to go through with his apocalyptic plans. Today is a bit of an anticlimax. Nothing to see here. Move along please.


Tonight is gold class, drinks and nibbles, mingle with the bosses, Matrix Reloaded, being-seduced-by-the-suppliers-of-big-expensive-tools night. All I have to do is look intelligent and avoid signing any binding business contracts. I think I can manage that by the time-honoured method of keeping my mouth shut (except when inserting food or drinks - nobody looks intelligent trying to eat or drink with mouth closed).


The sensitivity of the human mind to criticism is extraordinary. Having someone say "I think you're good at X" should never be interpreted as "I think you're wasting your time doing Y". Even if you're proud of Y and Y never gets mentioned, a compliment on X shouldn't provoke negative emotions.


Signs a Boy Band Member is Depressed:
"I got gloom! Yeah! Girl you know it! (Uh!) Wooo, melancholy!"
Changes name of new single from "Oh, Baby Baby Baby" to "Oh, Baby Baby."
Doesn't want to play his guitar or write music anymo-- er, never mind.

For the office: "Sarcasm is just one more service I offer."