Link blog: hell, funny, agile, humour

John Norman, the philosophy professor who created the barbaric world of Gor

io9 interviews John Norman, the famous complementarian and author of the Gor novels.
(tags: bdsm fantasy book scifi gordon-brown john-norman complementarianism)

Advice God

Like Advice Dog, but Advice God! I'm snaffling some of these: "UNCONDITIONAL LOVE/WITH CONDITIONS".
(tags: religion atheism funny god humour)

YouTube – Christopher Hitchens drops the hammer

"It's considered perfectly normal in this society to approach dying people who are unbelievers and say 'Now are you going to change your mind?'" Well, yes, that's anticipating-as-if there's a Hell, say. But if we're going to apply the norms of discussion fairly, I like Hitchens’ idea of atheists going round religious hospitals. 🙂
(tags: christopher-hitchens death religion hell conversion)

Hell and linoleum | Andrew Brown | Comment is free | guardian.co.uk

"What would it feel like to believe that anyone really deserved eternal conscious torment? Is it even humanly possible?" I think that Georges Rey's "meta-atheism" is correct on this point: most Christians don't anticipate-as-if there's a Hell, though claiming to believe it and still worshipping a monster is bad enough. berneray's comment is good, read that as well.
(tags: hell christianity religion andrew-brown)

Random Thoughts on The Roles of Leading and Following « Swungover

Via CW at Lindy. There seems to be much more debate about this than there is in ballroom, perhaps because ballroom's more conservative anyway, perhaps because it's settled by "you're shorter, therefore you're going backwards so I can see over you".
(tags: dancing lindy leading following swing)

New Statesman – Making marriage harder

"the world would be a far happier place if marriage was harder and divorce easier" – an interesting proposal from the New Statesman's legal correspondent.
(tags: marriage funny law)

At last an IT supplier that tells it like it is – The Tony Collins Blog

"No platitudes, just straight talking on govt IT from Martin Rice of agile software company Erudine." I've heard tales of middlemen charging government the Earth to take an £100/year hosting account and install WordPress on it. Glad to see someone speaking up.
(tags: government economics politics uk waterfall agile IT)
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MerchantCircle take over Bloglines and start spamming

Many years ago, I signed up for Bloglines. It’s a service which aggregates the feeds from various blogging sites, so you can read them in one place without having to do the rounds of your favourite sites looking for updates. (On LiveJournal, your friends page serves the same function, and you can add the feeds of external sites if you’re a paying customer).

I left Bloglines for Google Reader when Bloglines became unreliable. Google Reader is nice: it looks clean, and there’s an app for it for my Android phone. I recommend it over LiveJournal, which is dying of spam; and Bloglines, for the reasons I’ll now get into.

A while back, Bloglines was taken over by a company called MerchantCircle. They sent me an email to say they were the new owners, which is fair enough. As far as I remember, I hadn’t logged into Bloglines since I moved to the superior Google Reader service, so I just ignored it.

Yesterday I got an unsolicited bulk email (spam) from MerchantCircle advertising a service not related to Bloglines. Worse, the link they offered to unsubscribe from their mailing list didn’t work, as it required a login and password (first mistake: removal links from mailing lists should authenticate the user sufficiently to get off the list). Worse still, giving the email address to which MerchantCircle sent spam to the “forgot password” box gave an error saying that the address was not known: MerchchantCircle don’t even know who they’re spamming. Logging back into Bloglines doesn’t give an “unsubscribe” option either.

I consider Bloglines/MerchantCircle to have gone rogue. I’ve removed the “subscribe with Bloglines” buttons from my blog, and advise anyone else who still has those buttons to do the same. Use Google Reader instead: Google don’t spam.

Edited to add: MerchantCircle have emailed back to apologise, saying they had a “weird glitch” in their email system which caused some Bloglines users to get MerchantCircle emails. In recognition of this, I’m downgrading them from “rogue” to “incompetent”.

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Link blog: psychology, consciousness, science, brain

Form Constants and the Visual Cortex | countyourculture

"There are common visual concepts which cut across boundaries of culture and time and reflect what it truly means to be human. Near death experiences are often associated with seeing a “light at the end of a tunnel”. In the Bible, God appeared to Ezekiel as a “wheel within a wheel”. Spirals and concentric circles are commonly found in petrogylphs carved by cultures long dead. Similar visual effects are reported during extreme psychological stress, fever delirium, psychotic episodes, sensory deprivation, and are reliably induced by psychedelic drugs."
(tags: science consciousness brain religion)

Is long-term solitary confinement torture? : The New Yorker

"The United States holds tens of thousands of inmates in long-term solitary confinement. Is this torture?" Well, yes.
(tags: psychology torture prison politics)

Boogie Nights

Or "A reflection on the history of porn", by interactive fiction author Adam Cadre. Cadre ends up saying that the way forward is to produce more "good" porn, something that people in the recent porn debates on my friends list on LiveJournal also suggested. (Links to nudity, and one small topless photo at the bottom of the main article.)
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LiveJournal comment notifications, part deux

LiveJournal coughs to their crimes, sort of

So, LiveJournal finally sort of owned up to getting blacklisted for helping spammers, as mentioned previously. This posting is their response to the situation. They say they’re doing the right things, although you do have to wonder what took them so long.

They didn’t name Spamhaus or properly explain why they’d been blacklisted, so I explained in the comments.

The spice must flow

Notifications are coming through now because LJ have changed the IP address of their outgoing mail server from 208.93.0.128 (the address of www.livejournal.com) to 208.93.0.49 (which calls itself mail.livejournal.net, but isn’t accepting inbound mail). The blacklisting for the old address is still in place. The spammy journals specifically mentioned in the SBL listing seem to have been suspended, though.

It’s not clear if this change of IP address is part of some agreement between Spamhaus and LJ or whether LJ think they can avoid the blacklist and continue to ignore complaints. If it’s the latter, I’m fetching popcorn. It’s the work of a few keystrokes for Spamhaus to block LJ’s entire address range, and I vaguely recall they’ve been happy to do that in the past for people who’ve taken the piss.

(Disclaimer: I’m not Spamhaus, I just used to hang out on news.admin.net-abuse.email in the 1990s, when it was cool).

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Link blog: japan, christianity, earthquake, pakistan

YouTube – PASTOR ULTIMATE FIGHT

OK, so remixing videos of Pentecostal services is like shooting fish in a barrel, but you've got to love the person who though of turning it into an 90s video game.
(tags: funny pentecostal video youtube charismatic christianity)

Blogging in App Engine

Still vaguely toying with ditching LJ, and this looked interesting.
(tags: appengine python blog bloggart)

William Hague accused of ‘anti-Christian’ foreign policy – Telegraph

"Cardinal Keith O’Brien accused the Foreign Secretary of doubling overseas aid to Pakistan to more than £445 million without demanding religious freedom for Christians and other religious minorities, such as Shia Muslims. " I think O'Brien has a point: nobody should be coerced into conversion, and it's clear that Christians need some protection from the Religion Of Peace.
(tags: religion politics aid pakistan islam christianity)

Stop Being Wrong: A Moral Imperative

C.S. Lewis wrote that "You would not call a man humane for ceasing to set mousetraps if he did so because he believed there were no mice in the house." Wrongbot points out that to behave ethically one must have correct beliefs as well as the right theory of normative ethics.
(tags: ethics philosophy rationality morality wrongbot)

Some Perspective On The Japan Earthquake: MicroISV on a Shoestring

"Japan is exceptionally well-prepared to deal with natural disasters", and apparently, the system worked.
(tags: japan earthquake engineering culture)

Fukushima is a triumph for nuke power: Build more reactors now! • The Register

"Japan's nuclear powerplants have performed magnificently in the face of a disaster hugely greater than they were designed to withstand, remaining entirely safe throughout and sustaining only minor damage. The unfolding Fukushima story has enormously strengthened the case for advanced nations – including Japan – to build more nuclear powerplants, in the knowledge that no imaginable disaster can result in serious problems."
(tags: science nuclear safety physics japan earthquake)
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LiveJournal comment notifications

Postings in news have been a bit cagey about what’s going on with comment notification emails. They’ve mentioned that there’s a “third party” involved. It turns out that LiveJournal have got themselves blacklisted by the Spamhaus Block List for providing spam support services, in this case, hosting websites for spammers.

This is why comment notifications aren’t getting through: the SBL is a widely respected and widely used email blacklist. They’re not saying LJ are spammers or indeed sending spam email, they are saying that LJ aren’t taking down journals set up by spammers, so they’re effectively helping the spammers to spam. Most email spam directs the mark to a website, so providing those websites is a serious matter to Spamhaus.

This is worrying: it means LJ probably aren’t responding to complaints about hosting the spammers’ sites. I think Spamhaus would have tried sending email to abuse@lj, though possibly not under their own names, as you want to be sure that reports from ordinary users are handled correctly, same way as restaurant reviewers don’t book saying “I’m Jones from the Times“. The detailed information from Spamhaus lists a huge number of spammy journals, and at least a couple of them were still there when I tried them. This doesn’t bode well for LJ’s future, to my mind.

livredor brought this to my attention. There’s a thread on a news posting discussing the problem. azurelunatic (who is head of anti-spam for Dreamwidth) has more here, and I’ve commented on their posting.

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UK Census 2011: what would Nicky Gumbel do?

Top Christian Nicky Gumbel, of Alpha Course fame, has a point when he says that cultural Christianity isn’t worth much if you’ve never never darkened the doors of a church (save for weddings, Christenings and funerals) or accepted Jesus as your personal saviour or been slain in the Spirit or whatever.

I’m not sure the success of the Census Campaign would do much more than annoy those Christians who like to bang on about how this is a Christian country in online discussions. But that seems a worthy goal, so I’m happy to support it.

You never know, it might even help get the bishops out of the Lords, which would be even better.

The poster on the right wasn’t endorsed by Gumbel or McDonalds (in fact, I’m told Gumbel got the quote from Keith Green): it’s a mashup from Hampshire Humanists which Crispian Jago found. His site has plenty of other census posters for you to enjoy.

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Link blog: homosexuality, christianity, law, foster

Misplaced outrage over High Court “ban” on Christian foster parents | Gavin Drake

Gavin Drake, a Christian journalist, points out that the judgement on foster parents doesn't do what the right wing press think it does (in fact, it does very little at all), and that the Christian Legal Centre are lying bastards (I paraphrase).
(tags: religion clc christian-legal-centre law foster homosexuality christianity)

Stephen Law: The case of the Christian would-be foster parents

"It's not the Christianity that's the obstacle. It's the bigotry (which happens to be religiously motivated)."
(tags: bigots homosexuality christianity law stephen-law)

Johns & Anor, R (on the application of) v Derby City Council & Anor [2011] EWHC 375 (Admin) (28 February 2011)

The full text of the judgement in the recent case of a dispute between some Pentecostal Christians and Derby Council over whether the Christians' views on homosexuality made them unsuitable to act as foster carers. Paul Diamond, the barrister who takes a lot of these "help! I'm being oppressed!" cases on behalf of bigoted Christians, gets a bit of a kicking from the judges, which is fun. The judges' reasons for their decision, and the limits of it, are worth reading for how they differ from the hysterical reporting in the right wing press.
(tags: religion christianity foster law homosexuality)

Mervyn King is right. If the banks face no risk, we shall all go down – Telegraph

"They are the trade unions of the modern era, sick dinosaurs that crush ordinary citizens, writes Charles Moore." Blimey, and this the Telegraph saying it.
(tags: uk banking corruption banks politics economics)

Hamlet and the Methods of Rationality

This is fun…
(tags: rationality hamlet parody)

Gender Differences and Casual Sex: The New Research «

Revisiting that "I've noticed you around, will you go to bed with me?" study (as popularised by popular beat combo "Touch and Go") and disputing the conclusion that women just don't like sex: "the only consistently significant predictor of acceptance of the sexual proposal, both for women and for men, was the perception that the proposer is sexually capable". It being a feminist blog, they then go against the science the other way and say that perception of risk is a much higher factor than the study suggested (the study thought it was an effect, but not the primary one).
(tags: science sex feminism gender)
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“Bigots never foster, part deux” or “What the Court really said”

I’ve got some links about this queued up in the link blog, but it seemed worth a proper post as well as the silly one about frogs.

What the Court really said

So, what happened in the recent case of Owen and Eunice Johns is that both sides (the Johns and Derby Council) asked the court for a ruling on an abstract point. Contrary to what you’ve read in the press about a “ban” on Christians fostering, Derby Council hadn’t decided that they couldn’t be foster parents, so the Johns were not seeking to overturn a decision, merely to establish a principle. (It’s also worth mentioning that many Christians do not have bigoted views on homosexuality, and so talk of a ban on “Christians” is too broad).

The full text of the judgement should be required reading for anyone tempted to spout off about the case. It’s a bit long, but there are moments of light relief, such as when the Court rounds on the Johns’ barrister, Paul Diamond, who was funded by the infamous Christian Legal Centre:

In his skeleton argument and in his oral submissions, Mr Diamond lays much emphasis upon various arguments, many of them couched in extravagant rhetoric, which, to speak plainly, are for the greater part, in our judgment, simply wrong as to the factual premises on which they are based and at best tendentious in their analysis of the issues.

The Court makes reference to previous cases of anti-gay Christians seeking legal relief, such as the Gary McFarlane case, in which the former Archbishop of Canterbury, George Carey, intervened. The judges consider the previous judgements both correct and binding on them. As such, at the end of the case, they don’t grant either side what they’re asking for, and it’s still up to the council to make their decision.

Old time religion

The courts are clear, both in this judgement and previous ones, that they are not ruling that anti-gay Christians are bigots: that’s my language, not theirs. For my part, I have Christian friends who probably share some of the Johns’ views. I think the best analogy I can find to that is the way much-loved elderly relatives sometimes start going on about “darkies” and immigrants and whatnot: it’s obviously nasty, but you feel more embarrassed for the relatives than worried about the effect on black or Asian people. Usually, it’s easier just to stay off the topic. (Edit: I elaborate on this analogy in discussion with tifferrobinson on an old post, here). However, when that sort of thing comes from the mouths of people paid to act for the State, I don’t think it can be allowed to stand.

A couple of Christian commentators have distinguished themselves by writing sensible stuff on this most recent court case: I commend to you Christian journalist Gavin Drake, who sounds even more annoyed with the CLC than me (perhaps because they’re letting the side down); and Peter Ould (who I remember from my uk.religion.christian days).

At the end of his piece, Ould goes into the consequences for bigoted Christians: their continued attempts to make hay in the courts are failing, and he suggests that they should switch tactics, and instead look to the legislature, though I have to say that I don’t expect them to do particularly well there, either: the Lib-Dems are liberal, and Cameron has been careful to disassociate himself from the crazy anti-gay right in his party.

Ould also points out the oddity of a monarch sworn to uphold the laws of God and a judiciary who no longer think that Christianity has a special place in UK law. I can’t help but agree: disestablishment would now seem to be unfinished business, and I’d be in favour of it. It’d get the bishops out of the House of Lords, and maybe it’d stop bigoted Christians from wasting the courts’ time with these fruitless lawsuits.

Edited: Bishop Alan Wilson also has some useful thoughts on the matter.

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Link blog: funny, census, pirates, piracy

Five weeks on a container ship. (1) – By Rose George – Slate Magazine

Fascinating stuff. Glad that's not my job.
(tags: sea travel shipping piracy pirates)

YouTube – STAR TREK TNG THE NEXT GENERATION Spoof (Adam & Joe)

Adam and Joe do TNG with Toys. I laughed.
(tags: adam-and-joe startrek parody video funny)

2011 census organisers brace themselves for millions pretending to be Christians

I don't find this sort of mockery of the Jedi faith to be at all humourous.
(tags: funny religion satire newsthump census)
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