Is This Feminist?
(tags: problematic satire feminism funny)
Life in life – YouTube
Someone implemented Conway’s Game of Life cellular automata inside another Game of Life. Cool.
(tags: meta automata life conway)
A Life Worth Ending
“The era of medical miracles has created a new phase of aging, as far from living as it is from dying. A son’s plea to let his mother go.”
(tags: dementia medicine parents dying death aging)

Infant male circumcision is genital mutilation | Martin Robbins | Science |

“Men should have the right to choose circumcision, not have the choice forced upon them. Infant circumcision without consent or immediate medical justification is an unjustified violation of basic human rights, that shares more in common with ancient coming-of-age rituals than responsible medical practice.” Seems fair enough to me: the only reason we permit this is because of the common error of “respecting” religious opinions.
(tags: circumcision medicine surgery genital-mutilation religion science)

How Doctors Die « Zócalo Public Square

Doctors are better at making end of life choices for themselves than they are for their patients, as they’re often hamstrung by patients, families and “the system”.
(tags: death medicine health healthcare ethics dying doctors medical)

“Richard has been teaching contemporary and historic social dance for over thirty years. He leads workshops around the world and is currently a full-time instructor at Stanford University’s Dance Division.” Some interesting stuff on teaching, DJing and whatnot.
(tags: dance swing waltz dancing ballroom lindyhop stanford)

Open letter to Bell Pottinger | Bloggerheads

PR firm Bell Pottinger has been editing Wikipedia articles using fake accounts on behalf of their rather unsavoury clientele. When caught out, they responded that they’d done nothing illegal. Great public relations there, chaps.
(tags: astroturfing bellpottinger wikipedia lobbying uk news public-relations)

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 |

"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)

Eurozine – Multiculturalism at its limits? – Kenan Malik, Fero Sebej Managing diversity in the new Europe

Kenan Malik seems pretty sensible: "we need to make the distinction between diversity as lived experience and multiculturalism as a political process", "what I'm attacking is not simply multiculturalism, but also anti-immigrant sentiment, which are two sides of the same coin. Both sides of the debate confuse peoples and values." Via andrewducker.
(tags: europe multiculturalism society politics)

Man shot dead for eating popcorn too loudly during Black Swan – Telegraph

I feel we should encourage this sort of thing: even in the Arts Picturehouse, which is relatievly free of chavs, you occasionally get people giving their hilarious running commentary. For example, at a recent screening, when baddie character was lying mangled at the foot of a cliff at the end, a voice behind me said "That's what happens if you're naughty". I was too slow to murmur "That's what happens when you talk in the cinema", alas. L'esprit d'escalier, as they say.
(tags: news popcorn random film death shooting guns)

The Real Fort Smith: The Fact & Fiction Behind True Grit

How much of True Grit was true?
(tags: western film true-grit history)

Less Wrong: Five-minute rationality techniques

Reader Digest rationality. Some good tips there.
(tags: rationality psychology less-wrong)

Kill or cure?

"Help to make sense of the Daily Mail’s ongoing effort to classify every inanimate object into those that cause cancer and those that prevent it." Marvellous. Now there's no need to read the Heil.
(tags: cancer science health funny daily-mail journalism)

Hitchens: ‘We’re all dying, with me it’s accelerated’ – News, People – The Independent

Video and article. Martin Amis comes in carrying a bottle of beer half way through. We'll miss Hitchens, and no mistake.
(tags: hitchens cancer religion atheism christopher-hitchens)

Cult Divided On Whether To Let Women Become Telepathic-Vision Clerics | The Onion – America’s Finest News Source

Not the Church of England, this time. Via andrewducker.
(tags: funny onion religion telepathic cult)

Charlie Rose – Author Christopher Hitchens

The full interview with Hitchens (video, 1 hour long)
(tags: video christopher-hitchens cancer hitchens)

Hitchens Speaks Of God And Death During Interview | The New Republic

Commentary on Hitchens's statement that we should not believe any reports of a deathbed conversion, because even if it occurs, it would be because his mind had gone: "What is it, finally, that divides the believer from the atheist? … Levi and Hitchens imply that a person’s capacity to determine the truth depends on his or her ability to think calmly, coolly, dispassionately."
(tags: religion atheism death philosophy cancer hitchens christopher-hitchens primo-levi auschwitz)

TTA Press – Interzone: Science Fiction & Fantasy – Crystal Nights by Greg Egan

An Egan short story I'd not seen before. "You know what they say the modern version of Pascal’s Wager is? Sucking up to as many Transhumanists as possible, just in case one of them turns into God". Nice.
(tags: sci-fi ai sf science scifi fiction egan artificial-intelligence greg-egan)

Preventing Lesbianism and “Uppity Women” in the Womb? No. | Focal Point | Big Think

That story that's been doing the rounds about about a pill to prevent your kid being a lesbian turns out to be bullshit.
(tags: homosexuality medicine science)

What I think about global warming : Stoat

What Dr Connolley thinks of global warming: the science is well established, the sceptics want to argue it isn't because they don't like many of the suggestions for what we should do about it.
(tags: science global-warming climate)

The 2010 Bulwer-Lytton contest results are out! Read the worst first line of a story that people have been able to come up with this year.
(tags: writing literature funny language humour fiction bulwer-lytton)

What isn’t wrong with Sharia law? | Law |

"To safeguard our rights there must be one law for all and no religious courts."
(tags: islam feminism islamism secularism uk religion politics sharia)

Drowning Doesn’t Look Like Drowning

Spotting the "instinctive drowning response". People who are drowning don't look distressed or yell, apparently, as their bodies are working too hard at staying afloat.
(tags: health drowning safety swimming death)

This posting is about terminal illness and assisted suicide and the recent lecture by Terry Pratchett on the same.

Terry Pratchett (assisted by Tony Robinson) recently gave a lecture entitled Shaking Hands with Death. It’s on BBC iPlayer (possibly only viewable in the UK), on Youtube, and you can read the Guardian‘s edited transcript. It is funny and moving. I recommend it.

Pratchett has posterior cortial atrophy, a variant of Alzheimer’s disease which currently effects his vision and motor skills while leaving his memory intact. Eventually, though, Alzheimer’s will deal with him as it does with everyone else who has it.

The burden of the lecture is that Pratchett wants to be able to chose the time and manner of his death, and wants anyone who helps him to do so to avoid prosecution. He says:

I would live my life as ever to the full and die, before the disease mounted its last attack, in my own home, in a chair on the lawn, with a brandy in my hand to wash down whatever modern version of the “Brompton cocktail” some helpful medic could supply. And with Thomas Tallis on my iPod, I would shake hands with Death.

Currently, the helpful medic (or any other helper) would probably be breaking the law. What Pratchett suggests is that there should be a tribunal which would pre-emptively exonerate such helpers:

The members of the tribunal would be acting for the good of society as well as that of the applicant – horrible word – to ensure they are of sound and informed mind, firm in their purpose, suffering from a life-threatening and incurable disease and not under the influence of a third party.

The sound mind and firm purpose are important to Pratchett, who prefers the term “assisted death” to “assisted suicide”. He tells his listeners how he wrote about suicides as a young reporter. The phrase the coroner always used was that a person had “taken his own life while the balance of his mind was disturbed”. What he wants is for a quick death to be available to those whose balance is level.

It’s hard to see how one could deny someone like Pratchett the opportunity to die in the comfort of their home. There would have to be precautions, limits which would put some helpers we might think were morally justified on the wrong side of any new law. I think limiting euthanasia to people with a terminal illness who are able to express their desire for it is one of those precautions: there would still be hard, tragic cases where we’d might wish the law were laxer, but the government must also protect the vulnerable from pressure to die.

Pratchett has his opposition: Archbishop John Sentamu says we must not listen to opinion polls or dying celebrities (though, we must, of course, listen to bishops). We should, says Sentamu, listen to disabled people. clairlewis, a disability rights activist, gives her opinion over at Heresiarch’s blog. Unfortunately, her arguments seem completely unrelated to Pratchett’s request.

The comment from someone called “KeepOut OfMyLife” puts it best, I think. Being poor and disabled is hard, and someone who is struggling to cope may consider suicide. Their desire to die could be alleviated if their standard of care were better. It would be negligent to hand these people the means to die without improving their care, just as it would be negligent to hand a gun to someone who was deeply depressed. But this isn’t the case that Pratchett wants the government to deal with. In fact, a government could (though, given the budget deficit, will not) improve care for people with disabilities and allow people with terminal illness to get help in dying when they chose.

clairlewis‘s argument appears to be that terminally ill people should not have what they want until disabled people get what they need. While I can understand her frustration that disabled people are ignored while Pratchett is able to use his clout to get a hearing, preventing Pratchett and others like him from having the death they want will not help anyone else.