Tuesday, 1 November 2011

Pitchforks and denial.

"Scientist" is second only to "firefighter" in prestige, according to a recent survey of the US population (first chart), yet, at the same time, the only country with a lower proportion of people who accept that evolution is true is Turkey (second chart).

What is going on?

Other worrying trends are a general decline in an active interest in ... just about anything (third chart). Only politics has shown any significant growth in the number of people who follow it closely in the news (consumer affairs and culture & arts have shown a small increase), and a continuing decline in the number of conservative politicians who accept that global warming has begun at all, let alone that it poses any risks.

Texan politicians were recently caught editing all references to human involvement in global warming, and even that sea levels are rising, from a scientific report into the state of Galveston Bay (all the scientists involved in the report had their names removed in protest) [Boing Boing]

In the New Scientist, we read that...
  • Michele Bachmann, a candidate for the Republican nomination for president, in 2008. Bachmann ... thinks that the human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine can cause mental retardation
  • Bachmann's rival, Texas governor Rick Perry, advocates biblically based abstinence-only sex education. He argues that evolution is "a theory that is out there - and it's got some gaps in it". On climate change, Perry says "the science is not settled... just because you have a group of scientists that have stood up and said here is the fact... Galileo got outvoted for a spell".
  • Rising Republican star Herman Cain claims there is no scientific evidence that homosexuality is anything other than a personal choice.
Republican politicians that dare to question even the most appalling anti-science stances, that "scientists say" CO2 is a carcinogen, that school children must be taught that astrology controls the weather. 96 out of 100 newly-elected Republican congressmen have openly denied that global warming is real, and vowed to oppose any measured designed to combat it.

The Republicans used to be the party of science. Abraham Lincoln created the National Academy of Sciences in 1863; William McKinley won two presidential elections, in 1896 and 1900, over the anti-evolution Democrat William Jennings Bryan. McKinley supported the creation of the forerunner to today's National Institute of Standards and Technology. Bryan's campaigns against evolution led to in the 1925 Scopes Monkey Trial, and drove more scientists toward the Republican party. In 1923, an exasperated Republican, Nobel physicist and California Institute of Technology president Robert A. Millikan, wrote that creationists were "men whose decisions have been formed, as are all decisions in the jungle, by instinct, by impulse, by inherited loves and hates, instead of by reason. Such people... are a menace to democracy and to civilization."

This is just... scary. That's all it can be.

We hear disparaging jokes about America falling under extreme Islamic laws, but what this articles is just as bad - when a single individual flatly denies reality, others edge away. When that individual owns a weapon, others feel unsafe.

But what if it's not just a single individual? I have this mad mental image of villagers with flaming torches and pitchforks, but they're not storming Frankenstein's castle, they're storming the particle accelerator, then the GP surgery, then the library, then the school science lab...

Then I have to remind myself - these villagers don't have pitchforks and torches, they have the largest nuclear-capable military on the planet.

You'll pardon me a little lost sleep.

[Charts sourced from New Scientist. Registration may be required to view]

Sunday, 23 October 2011

Cultural Zombies.

Zombies are getting more and more popular - movies, games, TV series, and mass-gatherings.

This weekend, 3000 zombies turned up to shuffle around Brighton, for no particular reason.

Zombies are also turning up at the various Occupy camps.

All of this is prompting folk that think that way to suggest that the popularity of zombies is an expression of something deeper in society, much as the popularity of alien invasion themes in the 1950s and 60s was an expression of the fear of Reds under the bed.

Dr Leaning, of Winchester University said, "We're living through the hardest economic times in most young people's memories...maybe zombies speak to austerity Britain in a way other monsters don't."

Nick Pearce, director of the left-leaning think tank the Institute for Public Policy Research (IPPR), put some more flesh on the bones of the theory.

"Even before the global economic crisis we saw young, unskilled young men finding it much harder to get a foothold in the labour market," he told the BBC, "and since the crisis we've seen a rocketing of youth unemployment."

"There is something in the idea that if you can't see a future, if you don't have a sense of progress for yourself personally, then you are stuck in the present tense, and this would lend itself to the notion of a kind of recurrent nightmare of repeatedly being a living-dead."

Me, I have a different slant on the phenomenon.

It's not economic, it's the way a lot of people interact with the rest of the world - it's easy to think, as you sit and type into the aether, that you are the last real, emotional human left on the planet - communicating purely through digital fonts robs so much expression from our communications that it is easy to think that everybody else out there has been zombified.

There's also a fear there - with pandemic scare stories continually cropping up in the media, zombie plagues make more "sense" than vampires, ghosts or aliens. Zombies tend not to be re-animated corpses any more, but people who have been changed by some malevolent microbe released by an uncaring capitalist entity, or by humans meddling in what they ought not (I Am Legend being an excellent example).

Whichever interpretation you go with, it not a good reflection on the world today.

I think I'll stick to Making.

Saturday, 22 October 2011

The End...?

It's October 22nd.

The world did not end yesterday.

I was going to post something sarcastic, but then I found the following in a newsletter from Randy Cassingham's THIS is TRUE. He said it much better than I could, so read, enjoy, then go subscribe to his newsletter yourself.


WHAT, YOU DIDN'T NOTICE?! The world ended today. It did too! Because some jackass said "The Bible Guarantees It!" you KNOW it happened. Because, you know, it was guaranteed! By the Bible!

I refer, of course, to Harold Camping. His prediction of "rapture" on May 21 flopped when nothing happened. I ran the story in TRUE, and in a blog post titled "The End of the World: 2011 Edition". When nothing happened, Camping retorted "IT DID TOO!" (which may be a slight paraphrase): May 21 really was Judgment Day, he insisted, and God has done all the reckoning He needed to (despite Camping preaching that the world WOULD, in no uncertain terms, end May 21 in a giant Earthquake; God apparently decided to be much more subtle).

Camping's own employees didn't buy it, by the way: "I don't believe in any of this stuff that's going on," a Family Radio receptionist at their Oakland headquarters told CNN in May, "and I plan on being here next week." But, she said, some co-workers did actually blow their life savings on nice cars or vacations in anticipation of the world (nay: the entire universe!) ending, because, you know, God would want them to have a nice ride to Armageddon. The receptionist noted that "about 80%" of Camping's own workforce didn't believe his prediction, and admitted that the calendar she keeps had lots of appointments scheduled for well after the supposed Armageddon.

So why did Camping change it to today? Apparently He (God, not Camping) needed to process a bunch of paperwork, which would take a few months, and the world will really, Really, REALLY end October 21. And this time he means it!

Yet YOU didn't even notice you're dead now. That just shows how observant you are!

Well of COURSE Camping is a whackjob. You know that as well as I do. My point is that he was able to convince scads of followers to quit their jobs and blow their life savings on spreading his message of the end of the world. Repent! Hurry! Time's almost up! Of course few listened to the gullible fools who now are jobless and broke in the worst economy since the Great Depression. Yet still, millions of people -- let's call them "lesser fools" -- STILL LISTEN to Camping's radio stations and the horribly errant words of a false prophet.

And why does THAT matter? I've actually heard people say that since the world is ending, we don't need to take care of it. OK, so Armageddon didn't happen THIS time (or the time before that, or the time before that, or the time before that, or the time before that, or the time before that, or the time before that, or the time before that, or the time before that, or the time before that, or [repeat literally hundreds of times!]), but SURELY it's coming really, really soon, so why worry about pollution, or climate change, or dumping old tires in streams, or living in a way that's sustainable for our children, their children, and the generations to come? They'd rather think that God made the world ...so that we could screw up His creation. This makes Biblical sense (or even common sense!) ...how? The bottom line becomes: if God *doesn't* destroy the world, WE will. Yeah, surely THAT is what God would want for his creation!

So my contention, as stated in my tagline on the first story on Camping, is that those who believe this garbage are fools, and "every rational person on Earth" knows it. It takes a pretty big ego to think the world will end in your lifetime.

But hey, don't worry: when I said it's the end of the world "2011 edition", you can count on another prediction in 3... 2... 1....


Subscribe to Randy's newsletter by clicking here.

If you were at all offended by what I quoted above, then that is an even greater reason for you to subscribe.

Monday, 3 October 2011

Want to be a millionaire?

I just an email.  It's a new, and slightly sick twist
on the age-old African banking scam.

Feel free to try and collect it yourself...

Dear Beloved,

I am Mrs.Annick Ahmar and i have been suffering from
ovarian cancer disease and the doctor says that i have
just two days to leave. I am from (eastern Province)
Russian but base in wets Africa Burkina Faso since
eight years ago as a business woman dealing with gold

Now that i am about to end the race like this, without
any family members and no child. i have $3Million US
Dollars in Africa Development Bank (ADB) Burkina Faso
which i instructed the bank to give it to St Andrews
Missionary Home in Burkina Faso .

But my mind is not at rest because i am writing this
letter now through the help of my computer beside my
sick bed. i also have $4.5Million US Dollars at Ecobank
here in Burkina Faso and i instructed the bank to transfer
the money to the foreigner that will apply to the bank
after i have gone that they should release the fund to
you, but you will assure me that you will take 50% of
the money and give 50% to the motherlessbabyhomes, charity
homes. In your country for my heart to rest. YOU HAVE TO


yours fairly friend
Thanks from
Madam Annick Ahmar.

Friday, 23 September 2011

Milestone coming

Quick post: I've just noticed that I have 690 subscribers. I need to make another milestone patch...


You may be aware, from other posts, that I have lost my job.

The county council closed a whole swathe of Middle School, ostensibly to improve pupils' education, but the evidence used was interpreted spuriously, because the real motive was to save money; they've removed a whole layer of management-level wages, admin staff, support staff, and even the teaching staff.

Anyhoo, the upshot is that I was made redundant - career-wise, I fall between two stools, being too expensive to compete with NQTs, yet too inexperienced at KS4/KS5 to compete with more expensive time-served teachers.


I'm out of work.

And, oddly, I'm quite enjoying it.

Last time I was out of work, it was incredibly stressful - zero income, we lost the house and it took a complete career-change to get me back into work. I ended up in a very dark place.

This time, though...

My wife's job is safe, and is enough for a living wage. I have a lump of cash in the bank that will tide us over "in the manner to which we have become accustomed" at least until Christmas, longer if I'm careful.

During the day, kids at school, on my own, home is a very different place. It's quiet, I don't get uninterrupted. I potter around, keeping up to date with the house work, finally starting to beat the garden into submission (although the pond liner has perished and sprung numerous leaks, so I need to replace that soon), and I'm being far more productive on Instructables. I'm confident of beating my personal target of "publish more projects than Christy" well before the end of October (she's currently on 133, I'm on 130, so as long as she doesn't have a publishing flurry...).

Life is good.

I've decided, though, that it can't go on (unemployment, I mean. Life can. I'm quite keen on Life.).

So, I'm looking for work, and I've decided to have another career change and I can afford, for the moment, to be choosy about which jobs I go for.

I'm still going to teach, but I want to switch subjects. I want to switch to Technology ("shop", to our colonial cousins), specifically "Resistant Materials" (although I'm not averse to Textiles or Food Tech...).

I spent a day in a high school RM department before the Summer, and the staff there said I had a "natural touch" for the subject, and a suitable vacancy has just come up.

Fingers crossed.

(That was a bit of a ramble, wasn't it? I think I need to get back to work to talk to real flesh-and-blood humans more...)

Tuesday, 13 September 2011


I can safely say that the world is much more amazing place than when I was a child.

Mobile phones, personal computers, more than three TV channels, instant communication with anybody on the planet, and affordable travel to any point on the globe in 24 hours.

Society evolves to cope with these changes, cultures move on, but we seem to be perpetually stuck with dickheads.

In fact, we seem to be suffering with them more and more. The gimme, I'm entitled generation. They all "know their rights", but cannot grasp the notion that there are responsibilities concomitant with those rights.

Individuals are excusing their own actions, not because they are right, but because they are not as bad as they might be.

In the UK's August riots, a youth was prosecuted because he went to the riots with a hammer strapped to his thigh. His defence? "But, I always carry it!"

The mother who went on holiday and left here children home alone, but is was OK, because it was "only for the week".

And somehow these "rights" become "permission" for all sorts of activity. The right to free speech becomes the right to burn down shops and rob passing tourists.

And this entitlement seems to be only one-way.

A mob believes it is entitled to wreck a community shopping centre, but how dare that community object! How dare the police intervene!

A stereotypical hoodie gave a telling sound-bite on the news - "We're exercising our right to protest Iraq, innit? Them police got no right to stop us." The Iraq war, of course, being over for quite some time, and nothing to do with the original trigger for the original protests.

By the same measure, people online claim the right to free speech, but they get upset when others use that same right to disagree with them.

They think that, because The Man doesn't listen to their whining demands, and act instantly, no matter what those demands are, or how busy The Man happens to be at that time, then they have some sort of "right" to protest because It's Not Fair, and that protest can be whatever they like.

So, they call a few people names - that's OK, because it could be worse.

They hack a website with some silly messages - nothing wrong with that, it could have been worse. They claim some sort of immunity from comment or retaliation, claiming there was nothing wrong with what they did, purely on the grounds that they could have done far worse.

What infantile, immature, irresponsible nonsense that is!

Think about it, entitled generation:
  • I stab you in the leg, but I could have stabbed you in the heart, so you have no grounds to object to my actions.
  • I steal your wallet, but it's OK, because I could have kidnapped your daughter.
  • I taunt a minority, but that's OK, because I could have started a pogrom.


Yes, this is a rant of sorts. Yes, this is a temper-tantrum of sorts.

I'm expressing my anger because just such an idiot attacked Instructables recently.

Naturally, several people objected, but this moron thought we should be thanking him for his attack, because he had warned the site that there was a security issue, but they hadn't responded quickly enough for his tastes.

He actually admitted that: his hacking attacks were the direct result of his own childish impatience.

Reality check, Ballboy.

A complete stranger sends you an email full of threatening instructions - are you going to follow them immediately?

Or are you going to spend some time checking things out? Personally, any emails I get along the lines of "act now to rectify this serious security issue" get reported as phishing scams before I get past the first line or two.

So, HQ don't immediately leap into action, smother this guy with gratitude and offers of a job*. The response? He hacks the site, popping puerile comments up all over the place.

But, "that's OK, because it could have been worse". HQ start to work on the problems, but not fast enough for the hacker's tastes, so he renders the whole site useless.

That's not enough for him, though. I objected to his actions. I called him what he is - immature and a vandal. His grandstanding and shouts of "well it could have been worse" do not persuade me that his vandalism is justified, so he took the coward's way out. He silenced me. He couldn't persuade me, he couldn't out-debate me, and he had only one other person even suggest he might be slightly right, so he "proved" he was better than me by replacing my avatar with a horse, and posting childish forum topics in my name.

To top that, he stole several hundred dollars-worth of pro-codes from my account.

I've got a message for Ballboy - FAIL.

You think that committing theft proves that you are trying to help? Your cowardly, bullying actions simply demonstrate that I was right about you all along.

*Speaking of jobs, this idiot thinks that hacking gets you a job. Reality check, Ballboy - maybe most people in digital security used to be hackers, but most hackers do not get jobs in digital security. There's a *reason* why this guy describes himself as "impoverished", and trying to get "donations" through blackmail is it.

Monday, 29 August 2011


Natural disasters are awe-inspiring things. Far beyond human influence or control, it is hardly a surprise that they have always been credited to (or blamed on) the supernatural.

I've noticed, though, that the way we react to them is changing.

For a start, we find out about more of them, more quickly. March's Tōhoku earthquake hit the news so quickly that cameras were in the air in time to watch the tsunami hit. In years gone by, it would have been hours, days, weeks before we found out about it. During the Christchurch earthquake, shortly before that, tremors were being tweeted before they finished, and people were blogging in between tremors.

The reactions to disasters change as well. From a spectacle distant to us in both time and miles, live updates mean we are aware of more disasters on a day-by-day basis, so sometimes it looks as though they are increasing in frequency, which delights that certain breed of extremist ready to welcome the death of thousands as a sign of The End, or a reason to persecute those who don't follow their own rules (remember how New Orleans was apparently hit by the hurricane as a punishment for harbouring homosexuals?).

On the upside, we can get help to the victims more quickly, although sometimes the nature of that help needs to be more carefully thought out. Although I'm sure the Haitians were delighted with the delivery of 600 solar-powered bibles, I am thoroughly bemused by the assumption of so many churches that the first need of starving, thirsty, homeless people is for a really nice copy of the bible - Massachusetts congregations ordered 5000 French bibles for all those poor victims.

Anyhoo, that's a different rant.

What I'm thinking about right now is the strange connections the internet gives to disasters these days...
  • One of the first friends I made on the internet had to evacuate during forest fires in California.
  • A friend's sister was caught up in forest fires in Australia.
  • An ex-colleague and several iblers were caught in the Christchurch earthquake.
  • My wife has family who moved from Hawaii because of the storms. They now live near New York.
  • My mother was in Egypt during the last lot of trouble there.
  • And, of course, there are all the iblers caught in the path of Irene...
What's weird is not that I am concerned for the safety of my friends, of course I am, but that these connection make me, in some small way, a victim of all these disasters as well.

Not that I feel like a victim, but I feel their effects more acutely than I did in the years BI (Before Internet), and, you know what?

Rather than making me feel as though the world is out to get me, rather than making The End look ever closer, it makes me feel somehow more human.

No, I don't fully grok that yet, but I think it's a good thing.

Thursday, 11 August 2011

Riots and rights.

I've been wondering how to approach the riots the started in London and spread to other UK cites.

I've worked it out: I'm sorry.

Although hundreds of people were involved, and probably millions of of pounds worth of damage has been done (not to mention the number of innocent families made homeless when mobs looted and torched the shops over which they lived), these people are not typical of Britain.

They show us in a bad light.

OK, so we've had riots in the past, frequently on a much larger scale, but they were riots with a reason. They were mass action against racism or government policy.

These riots stopped being a legitimate protest within a couple of hours.

Since then, they have been purely criminal. Mobs using a false sense of "entitlement" as an excuse to go shopping with a brick.

Nobody can pretend there is a political motivation to a woman caught on CCTV, sitting in a smashed shoe-shop window, trying on the displays.

No sane human can find the actions of the infamous "Bad Samaritans" as anything but abhorrent.

People have been trying to explain the riots, pin blame on something so that a quick fix can be pasted over the cracks and look like something useful.

"It's the internet, blame the social networks" is the most common cry, yet also the weakest excuse. Of course, folk used SMS, Twitter and Blackberry Messenger to get organised, but that's just the modern equivalent of yelling in the streets with a megaphone. Technology wasn't the reason or cause of the riots, just a tool of the criminals.

To me, the problem is deeper than that, and has been worming its way into the social psyche for years.

A sense of "entitlement" has taken over from a sense of social responsibility. People feel they are entitled, not just to being kept fed and sheltered, but to being entertained and pandered to. The acquisition of material goods becomes prioritised over mental and emotional well-being.

As a teacher, I have often heard children and parents declaring that they "know their rights", whilst simultaneously trampling or ignoring the rights of others. These are the same children who misbehave until somebody shuts them up by buying them a new game for the PlayStation, the same parents who think that it is more important to buy an iPhone for their 12 year old than it is to clothe them properly, or to encourage them to read or work hard at school.

Who needs to work for stuff when The Social will provide it anyway? Why should politicians spend their own money, when they can claim for luxuries on expenses?

This all sounds like I am blaming the welfare state, but I'm not. The welfare state, run properly, is a wonderful thing. When I was unemployed, it kept a roof over my head and food in my belly. It provided advice to help me get back on my feet and become independent again.

But, somewhere along the line, that last part has gone missing. People are too eager to take the material stuff, and leave the independent bit to waste away.

There is no quick fix to the causes of these riots, but there is a fix.

It is time to remind people, at every level of society, that for every entitlement, for every right, there is a responsibility.

A responsibility to ensure that everybody has equal access to their rights.

One of the great documents of human history is the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

The kind of folk who were at the heart of the riots are very keen on appealing to the idea of Human Rights to get their way, but I doubt they have ever actually read them. Shall we do that now?

Article 1: All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights.They are endowed with reason and conscience and should act towards one another in a spirit of brotherhood.

Is that what the rioters were doing when they set fire to people's homes? When they robbed Asyraf Haziq?

Article 3: Everyone has the right to life, liberty and security of person.

Tell that to the woman who had to leap from a fourth-floor window to escape a fire.
Tell that to the three men mown down and killed by a car, just because they did not want rioters to loot their local shops.

Article 17 (2): No one shall be arbitrarily deprived of his property.

And what would looting be?

Article 20 (1): Everyone has the right to freedom of peaceful assembly and association.

See that important word? "Peaceful". As soon as the original protest stopped being peaceful, the rioters threw away their own rights.

Article 29 (1): Everyone has duties to the community in which alone the free and full development of his personality is possible.

Hang on...

See that? I'd bet a year's pay that none of those people hiding behind the banner of "it's my right" have absolutely no idea that one of their "rights" is actually a responsibility to contribute positively to their community.

Part two also implies a responsibility to ensure that public order is maintained to allow society to function.

So, what we, the sane members of society need to do is to ensure that the deeply materialist, "entitlement" driven members of society are educated about the true nature of "rights".

Obviously, schools must do a large part of the work, but the greater part must be done by parents. They must instil in their children a spirit of independence from free help wherever possible, and a respect for the rights of others, including the wider community.

Stop using bribes to buy reasonable behaviour, start rewarding good behaviour instead.

Sunday, 24 July 2011


My school is now closed, all bar the paper work.

I've cleared out my personal belongings, tidied up, and left a hidden graffiti message to be found when they knock it down.

We've had the big party, and a lot of folk (including me) have sobbed on a lot of other folk's shoulders.


I still don't know how I feel about it.

It's such a big, involuntary change in my life, I'm tempted to liken it to a car crash or sudden bereavement. I'll get it straight in my head eventually, but it might take months.

Watch this space.

Sunday, 3 April 2011

The Backup Plan

As my (hoards of) readers will know, my career is reaching a crunch-point.

My school is closing down in a few months, and I do not currently have anything for September.

I do, though, have a backup plan.

If I do not get a job in time, I will be starting a business instead.

I will be setting up as a provider of Technology and Science-based enrichment activities to schools in Suffolk and Norfolk, under the name of MakerDay.

It's a different blog, on a different system, with a different email address...

Monday, 28 February 2011


There is a census on the way in the UK, and there are arguments around the net focussing on the question about religion.

Last time, 72% of the population of the UK ticked the box that said "Christian".

However, there are not 45 million people in church every Sunday.

Obviously, people are ticking the box because they think they ought to, or out of habit.

We need a better set of options, to get a better picture of British religiosity.

I propose:
  • Actively Christian
  • Christian by upbringing only
  • Actively Jewish
  • Jewish by upbringing only
  • Actively Muslim
  • Muslim by upbringing only

Along with ...
  • Atheist
  • Humanist
  • Atheist/Humanist
  • Don't care about religion
  • Other ____________
This will give a much more realistic picture of British religiosity because it will force people to actually think about their answer. They won't sit and think, "Well, I'm not a Muslim, and I'm not Jewish, and I kind of think there's a god, so I'll tick Christian". Instead, they will have to be a bit more honest with themselves.

The answers would be fascinating ...

Sunday, 20 February 2011


Since my last post, I have investigated further, and the Official UK Indoor rules are twenty pages long.

That's a bit much to expect kids to take in quickly, so I have written a set of "Lite" rules. Please, feel free to circulate them as much as you like.

Indoor Ultimate Frisbee Lite (“Indoor Lite”)

  1. The play's the thing: all players and observers must keep to The Spirit Of The Game. Teams shoukd self-referee. If any dispute requires a decision by a bystander or observer, that decision is binding.

  2. The game may be played with and disc agreed upon by both team captains.
  3. Teams of up to 8, with a maximum of 5 players on the field.

  4. The game continues for either an agreed length of time, or to an agreed score (for example, “first to five”).

  5. Before play, team captains agree the end zones and playing field, and choose ends to defend. An indoor game has no “out of bounds”, and play continues as normal if the disc bounces off walls, ceiling or fixtures in the room.

  6. When the opposing team gains possession of the disc, it is called a turnover.

  7. Ultimate is non-contact sport – intentional obstruction of, or contact with another player will result in a turnover. If a turnover is the result of a rule-break, the disc is handed to the nearest opposing player.

  8. At the start of play, each team gathers in their end zone. One captain throws the disc towards the opposing team. Nobody may enter the playing field until the disc passes the half-way mark.

  9. A point is scored when the disc is caught in (or above) the opposing team's end zone.

  10. After a point is scored, all players return to their own end-zone, and the player who caught the disc to score the point throws the disc to re-start the game.

  11. A player in possession of the disc may not move, but may pivot on one foot. “Travelling” results in a turnover.

  12. The player in possession of the disc must throw the disc within five seconds – any near-by player may count to five out loud. Holding the disc past five seconds is a turnover.

  13. If the disc hits the ground, possession passes to whichever team did not touch it last – if team A throws it and nobody catches it, team B gain possession. If team A throw the disc, team B block its flight and it then hits the ground, then team A regains possession. If team A throw the disc, but team B catch the disc in the air, team B gains possession and play continues.

  14. If two players catch the disc, whoever caught it first gains possession. If two players catch the disc simultaneously, a single round of rock, paper, scissors determines possession.

  15. Unlimited substitutions may be made after any point is scored.

House Rules.

Because Indoor Lite can be played in a wide range of venues, typically school gyms or halls, some “house rules” may be developed, such as “if the disc goes through the basket ball hoop, that's a point as well” or “if the disc falls behind the vaulting horse, possession turns over and everybody goes back to their ends to start play again”. Before play begins, any new or visiting players must be made aware of the house rules.


Friday morning, I taught a class how to play a tweaked version of Ultimate. I heavily adapted the Quebec City Rules to work in the school gym, with teams of 13.

A few minutes' coaching, a demonstration of the backhand shot, and we were away.

The class' form teacher turned up to see what was going on, and joined a team, so I had to join the other.

Ultimate is supposed to be a non-contact sport, but I got barged, pushed, tackled, even carried across the pitch. So did everybody.

Right now, late on Sunday evening, I ache all over.

It was the most thoroughly enjoyable lesson I have taken since my day in the RM department of my wife's school.

In fact, I have decided to formalise and simplify the Ultimate rules, and start an inter-House tournament at school.

I shall, however, restrict knowledge of the forehand throw to my own House team, though. ;-)

Oh, and my team won, 10-5.

Thursday, 17 February 2011

Sometimes, I don't understand spaceflight.

First off, let me point out that I consider spaceflight to be a Good Thing.

But, I really don't understand why it takes so many people.

ESA just launched Johannes Kepler to the ISS, and it took a huge crowd of people just to monitor the launch (see 40s into the video in the link).

NASA are no better, with tens of thousands of people employed to turn around each Shuttle, thousands more to watch each mission...


When McDonnell Douglas developed the DC-X & DC-XA, they only needed THREE people to run each flight, and a handful of people to turn the craft around in twenty four hours! Oh, and each of the prototypes cost around the same as the Shuttle's toilet.

Delta Clipper should have been the future of commercial LEO space flight, and then beyond.

They dropped the ball, badly, with Mars as well. NASA had sight of the Mars Direct plan twenty years ago, which would have landed long-term manned missions on Mars within a decade of the "go", using Saturn V or Shuttle launch hardwear with minimal re-tooling.

Instead, they threw away the dies for Saturn V, and used the Shuttle to ferry up parts for the ISS.

I don't know who was running NASA back then, but they were short-sighted idiots; if they had manned up to ignore the politics that killed off DC-XA and forced ISS on us all, LEO flights would be no more a luxury than a high-end cruise, and we'd have ten years worth of footprints in the sands of Mars.


Saturday, 1 January 2011


There seems to exist a sub-set of the general atheist population who's main reason for labelling themselves "atheist" is in active rebellion against "christians", rather than because they knowingly lack a belief in gods in general. It's self-definition through hatred of another group. Very negative, and, in my observed opinion, just another expression of that dark side of humanity we usually see as racism, or sport (soccer) hooliganism.

Fundamentalists are frequently easy targets, and I have been guilty myself of shooting those particular fish, but I do it in their barrel (if you'll forgive the distortion of the metaphor), so they have the option of shooting back.

Having a group such as "Thinking Atheists" (on Facebook) is, IMO, cowardly. The group posture together, bragging about their superiority over those terrible fundies, hooting at the perceived inadequacies of the fundies, but without the courage to face them on their own ground. Like the media image of redneck kids in pick-ups hunting lone coloured folk for a beating. As soon as they feel threatened by an outsider, they gang up on them to drive them off and bolster their fragile self-image.

Basically, it's a part of humanity that needs to boost itself by discriminating against others, and is running out of "others" they can get away with discriminating against.

Speaking as somebody who could legitimately carry the title Thinking Atheist, I could do without "their sort" using my world-view as an excuse to beat up on a vulnerable minority.