Category Archives: Annoyance

Airports and security

Random little postage today, the other day on google plus i commented on a post by Brian Brushwood in which he said this.

‘Just minutes ago at the airport, I opted out of the full body scan, as I
always do. During the full-body pat down, I remained cheerful and
friendly (again, as I always do). But something happened today that
I’ve never before experienced:

TSA agent Charles (I won’t give
his last name, as I don’t want to cause any kind of punishment or
retribution), asked me why I chose to opt out. I gave him my usual
answer, that I’m one of those misty-eyed constitutionalists… One of
those crazy folk who believe that if we’re going to have a
highly-intrusive search, it should be awkward for both of us.

“Oh,
but you’re thinking of those older scanners, that showed the whole
naked body. These are totally different; they just show a yellow
square.”

This gave me pause, because my position is more nuanced:
understand, I’ll dance completely naked through the TSA checkpoint on a
dare. I could care less about people seeing my naughty bits. It’s the fact that the fourth amendment states, unequivocally:

“The
right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and
effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.”

It means that unless you’re under suspicion for a specific crime,
the government has no business checking through your stuff. None at
all. Your business is your own. It doesn’t matter if you’re in line at
the bank, at Taco Bell, or at the airport, the government only has the right to search you if they specifically suspect you of being involved in a crime.
This was so important to the founders, they wrote it into the
constitution… right alongside the right to speak your mind freely and
protect your family with a weapon.

I hate the normalization of
these intrusive searches. And I hate the scanners even more: They’re a
magic trick. A way to make something highly intrusive and
unconstitutional feel completely civilized and normal. And me, refusing
to play their silly game is my little quiet protest against it.

I
did my best to explain my position, and was shocked by his response:
with the friendliest of tones, he patiently explained to me:

“Well, if you ask me, it’s about time the constitution was re-written. That was hundreds of years ago.”

…There
was not a hint of hostility in his voice, and not a sliver of malice.
It was as obvious as pointing out that they sky is up and the ground is
down. And if he is this comfortable sharing this opinion with his hand down my pants, I have no doubt it’s a popular sentiment among his co-workers.’

The post got plenty of comments and i decided to comment about my recent flight, which was my first ever time on a plane.
  This was my essay/comment.

Very good post, wish us english folks had a
constitution like you guys, it seems the majority of our laws are made
up as they go along.

Recently on my first trip abroad (Las
Vegas(For the magics)), i had my first full body scan and had a nice
surprise when i got out the little scanning booth(?) the guard asked me
to remain still and to raise my arms and then proceeded to call for
assistance as the scanner had found metal of some kind unbeknownst to me
within my right bicep. I was pretty freaked out i didn’t move,
obviously. I kept my cool as much as i could followed orders, bare in
mind i was a airport virgin at 23 and got rescanned with everyone
staring and i could hear the guards ask each other if they had stab
vests on. I picked up on alot at that moment from the folks making
comments to twitchy looking guards who were seemingly growing in
numbers. NOT FUN.

At that moment when i go rescanned they in
fact detected nothing and was thrown through like the obvious piece of
shit i was to them.

Nothing seemed to say welcome any better i’m
sure. So yeah maybe i may want them to feel some of that indignity and
awkwardness next time.

Sorry about the rant, i just had to share and that is the short version.

Thank you kindly.’

Thinking about it now my comment on his post is more of a blog post than a random comment. Hopefully this makes sense to you all.


Cheers.

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Hitchens

So it seems Christopher Hitchens has died. Not good… The guy did some amazing work and wrote some very interesting books such as one called ‘God is not great’. The guy has inspired many people i’m sure.

I’m quite unsure what to write my mind has gone blank and i just feel awkwardly sad. So here is the article from Vanity Fair for which he worked for for quite a while.

By Gasper Tringale.

Christopher Hitchens—the incomparable critic, masterful rhetorician, fiery wit, and fearless bon vivant—died today at the age of 62. Hitchens was diagnosed with esophageal cancer in the spring of 2010, just after the publication of his memoir, Hitch-22, and began chemotherapy soon after. His matchless prose has appeared in Vanity Fair since 1992, when he was named contributing editor.

“Cancer victimhood contains a permanent temptation to be self-centered and even solipsistic,” Hitchens wrote nearly a year ago in Vanity Fair, but his own final labors were anything but: in the last 12 months, he produced for this magazine a piece on U.S.-Pakistani relations in the wake of Osama bin Laden’s death, a portrait of Joan Didion, an essay on the Private Eye retrospective at the Victoria and Albert Museum, a prediction about the future of democracy in Egypt, a meditation on the legacy of progressivism in Wisconsin, and a series of frank, graceful, and exquisitely written essays in which he chronicled the physical and spiritual effects of his disease. At the end, Hitchens was more engaged, relentless, hilarious, observant, and intelligent than just about everyone else—just as he had been for the last four decades.

“My chief consolation in this year of living dyingly has been the presence of friends,” he wrote in the June 2011 issue. He died in their presence, too, at the MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston, Texas. May his 62 years of living, well, so livingly console the many of us who will miss him dearly.

This article is from http://www.vanityfair.com/online/daily/2011/12/In-Memoriam-Christopher-Hitchens-19492011

Memory Implant / Nanna

This kind of reminds me of the film Johnny Mnemonic. I think its just because of the stored memory information and recall thing. Awesome film, Dolph Lundgren and Keanu Reeves, a film with those guys has to be good right?

Anyway…

Scientists have designed a brain implant that restored lost memory function and strengthened recall of new information in laboratory rats — a crucial first step in the development of so-called neuroprosthetic devices to repair deficits from dementia, stroke and other brain injuries in humans.

I hope this gets developed for Humans as i believe there is a really high probability i will get dementia as most of my grandparents/great-grandparents etc have had it.

The Link to the whole article is here. That is if you want it from the source.

Though still a long way from being tested in humans, the implant demonstrates for the first time that a cognitive function can be improved with a device that mimics the firing patterns of neurons. In recent years neuroscientists have developed implants that allow paralyzed people to move prosthetic limbs or a computer cursor, using their thoughts to activate the machines. In the new work, being published Friday, researchers at Wake Forest University and the University of Southern California used some of the same techniques to read neural activity. But they translated those signals internally, to improve brain function rather than to activate outside appendages.

“It’s technically very impressive to pull something like this off, given our current level of technology,” said Daryl Kipke, a professor of bioengineering at the University of Michigan who was not involved in the experiment. “We are just scratching the surface when it comes to interacting with the brain, but this experiment shows what’s possible and the great potential of interacting with the brain in this way.”

In a series of experiments, scientists at Wake Forest led by Sam A. Deadwyler trained rats to remember which of two identical levers to press to receive water; the animals first saw one of the two levers appear and then (after being distracted) had to remember to press the other lever to be rewarded. Repeated training on this task teaches rats the general rule, but in each trial the animal has to remember which lever appeared first, to inform the later choice.

The rats were implanted with a tiny array of electrodes, which threaded from the top of the head down into two neighboring pieces of the hippocampus, a structure that is crucial for forming these new memories, in rats as in humans. The two slivers of tissue, called CA1 and CA3, communicate with each other as the brain learns and stores new information. The device transmits these exchanges to a computer.

To test the effect of the implant, the researchers used a drug to shut down the activity of CA1. Without CA1 online, the rats could not remember which lever to push to get water. They remembered the rule — push the opposite lever of the one that first appeared — but not which they had seen first.

The researchers, having recorded the appropriate signal from CA1, simply replayed it, like a melody on a player piano — and the animals remembered. The implant acted as if it were CA1, at least for this one task.

“Turn the switch on, the animal has the memory; turn it off and they don’t: that’s exactly how it worked,” said Theodore W. Berger, a professor of engineering at U.S.C. and the lead author of the study, being published in The Journal of Neural Engineering. His co-authors were Robert E. Hampson and Anushka Goonawardena, along with Dr. Deadwyler, of Wake Forest, and Dong Song and Vasilis Z. Marmarelis of U.S.C.

In rats that did not receive the drug, new memories faded by about 40 percent after a long distraction period. But if the researchers amplified the corresponding CA1 signals using the implant, the memories eroded only about 10 percent in that time.

The authors said that with wireless technology and computer chips, the system could be easily fitted for human use. But there are a number of technical and theoretical obstacles. For one, the implant must first record a memory trace before playing it back or amplifying it; in patients with significant memory problems, those signals may be too weak. In addition, human memory is a rich, diverse neural process that involves many other brain areas, not just CA3 and CA1; implants in this area will be limited.

Still, some restored memories — Where is the bathroom? Where are the pots and pans stored? — could make a big difference in the lives of someone with dementia. “If you’re caring for someone in the house, for example,” Dr. Berger said, “it might be enough to keep the person out of the nursing home.”

On a more personal note, my Nanna has really bad dementia and has suffered many strokes and is only about 80. She keeps suffering mini strokes and is in a really bad state and cannot do anything for herself anymore. She can hardly hold her arms up and cannot eat or drink on her own. I know this is partially due to age but i feel she would just have a more enjoyable life if it wasn’t for Dementia. My family aren’t even recognisable to her anymore and this to me is just heartbreaking. To me it would seem in her mind she would think no-one visits or cares about her, as she is in a dementia nursing home. Its not a fair thing, i guess life isn’t fair. I want her last moments knowing we are there for her and love her. But at times it seems futile because she doesn’t know anything anymore. Pity nothing can be done but have her without dignity and alone. I know its more fathers day then Grandma’s day but i would like her to know i’m there and miss and love her. I don’t like dementia or the idea that i or anyone else could get it, regardless of whether i know them or not. Its just a bad thing.

Sorry about the personalness i just felt i had to get it down and out of myself.

Thanks.

Derren Brown

Derren Brown: Miracles for sale.

Already it sounds awesome, pity i’m at work late so it looks like sky + has a job to do.

Its on channel 4 Easter Monday at 9PM.

Just watch it, knowing the rest of Mr Browns work this should be a good watch indeed.

Here is the article from his blog. http://derrenbrown.co.uk/blog/2011/04/new-derren-brown-tv-special/

This is the special about faith-healing that some of you will have heard about. It has been the most intensely difficult project that I have attempted: to train an ordinary member of the public as a faith healer, then take him out to Texas, the heart of the Bible Belt, and try to pass him off as the real deal. We filmed this at the end of last year amidst concerns that we had bitten off far more than we could chew.
The film we made is driven by a desire to expose what I consider to be a foul and dangerous fraud at the expense of the sick, the needy and the faithful all over the world. It is not a comment on the church, or belief, or even, before some people get upset, the idea that God can or can’t heal. It is about a specific fraud, a greedy trick that has nothing to do with God whatsoever, beyond the fact that his name gets shouted around a lot. We made the show with the involvement of Christians and pastors who had been involved in that particular scene.
No faith healer has ever been able to provide evidence of a single miraculous healing ever having had occurred. Some when pushed have offered a few success stories, but when those ‘healed’ people have been approached, they turn out to be the same as before, worse than ever, dead, or not to have had the ailment in the first place. What does seem to happen, though, is a cleverly-engineered emotional event brings people into a state of hype that releases adrenalin, which acts as a pain killer. People in the audience with low-level ailments that can respond to such pain relief – combined with a huge amount of expectation and a desire to be healed, or ‘close to the magic’ – will commonly find themselves pain-free and step forward when asked to. There then follows, at the larger events, a filtering process where stewards send back anyone with a serious or visible ailment (such as an arm missing) and test the remaining arthritics and bad-back sufferers to see if they can display a convincing pantomime of having been healed (touching toes and so on). There are other tricks to seemingly cure the blind and deaf which I will also demonstrate on the show. These poor people are then brought up on stage in their heightened state to bounce around and think they’re healed while the truly afflicted are left to believe God hasn’t taken much of an interest. It’s very disturbing to see the rows of the seriously disabled on drip machines, in wheelchairs and even hospital beds, ignored and invisible, safely behind the TV cameras’ reach at the big-name events. Or to hear of the chronically afflicted being carried to these rallies around America by families who spend every last penny they earn in hope that the man on stage might channel a little of God in their direction. A wake of despair is left behind by these charlatans, made up of hundreds of thousands of people who receive no healing or only temporary pain relief, and are encouraged to blame themselves for not having enough faith when they find nothing’s improved.
And then there’s the money. This is the hub of the whole operation. The financial motivation seems to be closely linked to something called the Prosperity Gospel, which has to be the most perverse and self-serving piece of scripture-twisting I have ever come across. It was loudly preached by Oral Roberts and made popular in the 90s, and takes the rather lovely idea of ‘sow and ye shall reap’ and re-defines it as a financial incentive. Jesus bestows his blessings in the form of money. How do you get these blessings? You first give money. More than you can afford, otherwise it doesn’t count. Jesus will repay you hundredfold. If he doesn’t, you probably didn’t give enough, or perhaps you have secret sin or not enough faith. And to whom do you give your money? Your preacher, naturally. You might want to read that through again if this logic is something new to you. Not surprisingly, the big name preachers earn far more than any Hollywood A-lister from this system. Proof of the fact that Jesus bestows his blessings in the form of money? The stinking richness of your pastor. Perhaps his fleet of private jets might just convince you. And these donations come in not just from a mesmerised flock gathering twice on a Sunday, they flood in from millions of people on mailing lists which form the backbone of the big business of faith healing. The TV rallies, the crusade events, are all designed to encourage people to sign up and send in a sizeable chunk of their earnings every month. Cash floods in tax-free (for as long as you say it’s a church you are pretty much left alone by the IRS) and is spent on lifestyles that in some cases reach beyond imaginable luxury. People imagine perhaps that the money goes somewhere worthwhile to support God’s work. It’s disheartening watching the sick and the elderly put cash they can’t afford into the donation buckets at these vast crusades when I hear of how one big-name healer spent thousands of dollars after a rally, in said cash, on hotel room service and rent boys.
The healers perform their shows over here too: I recently went to see a couple of the current main men at venues in London and have never felt such a heady mixture of disgust and deep pity. A girl behind me screamed to her friend ‘There’s your proof God can heal!’ as we watched a man climb out of his wheelchair on stage; in her delight, she missed the moment later when he collapsed unhappily back into it once the cameras had been swiftly pointed away from him. At least it was his own chair: another common trick is to quietly stick someone with a bad back into one of the healer’s own wheelchairs to ‘make things comfortable’ for them, so that once they are brought before the crowd, the glistening man of God can command them to rise from a chair they didn’t need in the first place. Praise the Lord.
The project was hugely difficult because a big business like faith healing is almost impenetrable. We tried to speak to those who had worked alongside the current big-name healers, as we knew of a few who had been allowed in the inner circles of trust and knowing the depths of the corruption had eventually turned against it. But these are people who live in fear. They were told for years by their charismatic, ruthless leaders that they lived under a curse and that to leave the clan would result in God ending their lives. Disturbingly, that may not always be too far from the truth: we heard of a couple of witnesses who had been brought to testify against a healer and had died mysteriously of heart attacks the night before the trial. Something dark may be afoot.
There is, as one might hope, a growing scepticism in Britain amongst Christians towards these so-called healers. Although I don’t hide my own lack of religious belief, my repulsion at this scam comes as much from my days as a Christian as it does from simply being a human being observing ego- and money- driven fraud. It was a gruelling journey to penetrate the world of that fraud in the small way we could, with our own particular journey of seeing if an ordinary guy could pass as a real healer. I hope that the ranks of intelligent believers will feel the same concern at our findings as the rest of the viewers.

Scary Video

I find this video scary because it seems to be quite serious from the point of view of the creator. Its a Christian lady blaming the recent earthquake on the Atheists of Japan. Really quite scary that people like this exist.

I have been on twitter and tweeted this video a few times.

Thanks to Simon Adams who found this.

Don’t let this ruin your day.

Busyness.

So i haven’t posted a while again. This is because i have not found much time for it and because alot of my time is going in to seeing how i can best get my laptop sorted. And i have been mega ill so haven’t been so bothered to come on here and type.

Hopefully i get some more stuff done when this illness passes finally and when i have my laptop sorted. Then i can get podcasting again too, i have more ideas for the Podcast which i want to put into action as it is still an ongoing process. Hopefully it may sound good next month… We’ll see.

Not fun.

Sorry i have been away for so long. My laptop is now well and truly dead because the screen has completely buggered up. Woo hooo 😦

So yeah and my itunes feed seems to have screwed up but hopefully i get that sorted and i have already created a new feed ready.

So if you are interested Boom

Hopefully everything gets sorted out soon and i have some kind of new laptop or more time to use my parents computer arghhh.