Thursday, 26 December 2013

Things That Drive Me Nuts - Christmas

Surprisingly, Christmas hasn’t been too bad this year, but traditionally I have been a bit of a Christmas grump. Christmas and new years is like a rude interruption to my year. The TV is completely crap although in recent years this has been alleviated by rampant piracy.

The biggest thing is I feel guilty when I receive presents. I think of all those people around the world who didn’t have the luck to be born in a great country like Australia with a supportive family, who I don’t hate. Christmas is an orgy of consumerism, any cultural or religious significance to this time takes a backseat. Most of us have so much we don’t need more.

Christmas was originally a pagan festival that was hijacked by the Catholic Church - a strategy they used many times. The pagan deities were replaced by Catholics saints, Yuletide was given a veneer of Christian respectability and eventually renamed. Over the years, commerce has also had a large influence over the Christmas we celebrate today.

I think Christmas can be redeemed. There are quite a few good things about it that go along with the irritating stuff. Most people make an effort to be nice, and it can be good sharing a meal with relatives and friends you don’t see very often.

Because we already have so much, I think we should stop giving each other presents and instead donate the money we would otherwise spend.

Sunday, 22 December 2013

I’m Drinking Again

Judging by the title of this entry you may think I have become an alcoholic…again - this isn’t the case. I will explain, it’s a long story.

As you may know I have muscular dystrophy. It is common for someone with my disease to have difficulty swallowing food, at least enough to sustain life. The solution to this is to have a peg tube inserted. This is simply a tube that attaches your stomach to the outside of your abdomen.

I had my first peg tube inserted over 10 years ago. Six months after this I my first peg change this is where they pull out the old peg and insert a new one. A couple of weeks after this my peg started leaking, basically vomiting into my lap. Over the next five years the leaks got steadily worse until eventually I would wake up in the middle of the night covered in vomit.

The solution to this was to have the peg resited a couple of centimetres to the left of my original peg. Then all we had to do is wait for the old peg site to close - it never did. There is more details about this in my earlier post Fighting Illness – How to Win.

Eventually, I had surgery to fix the old hole, but in the meantime I stopped eating and drinking anything through my mouth in an attempt to stop the leakage and allow the site to heal naturally. This also did not work while also having the side-effect that I forgot how to swallow. I also thought maybe I had simply lost the ability to swallow in a use it or lose it scenario.

I have made several attempts at drinking since then, but all have failed. This time I doggedly tried to drink every day after I got out of bed. Only a week later I am drinking again and even had a hot chocolate yesterday.

Monday, 16 December 2013

Going Solar

I bought a solar panel on eBay last week with the intention of building a sun tracking device and mounting the panel on that. This would ensure that the solar panel was pointed directly at the sun all the way through the day raising its efficiency by 30% during summer.

I did a bit of research and solar tracking might be a waste of time as you could get a similar increase in power simply by purchasing another solar panel. Tracking devices can also break down and you would need to do maintenance on the mechanism.

It is far easier just to slap the solar panels on the roof and forget about them (other than having a lower electricity bill and washing them a couple of times a year). I have decided to devote my resources to build an omnidirectional wind turbine instead.

It is amazing to see all the solar panels going up through suburbia - it will not be long until every house has solar panels on their roof. Many of these people have spare capacity on their inverters so they can add additional solar panels in the future. It would not be hard to connect a wind turbine to these systems.

Thursday, 12 December 2013

Things That Drive Me Nuts - Zealous Atheists

I was watching a December fail compilation a couple of minutes ago and I noticed one of the idiots wearing a jumper that said, “God belongs”… couldn’t make it the rest. Curiosity drove me to search for this on Google sure enough I found, God belongs in my city - a website devoted to promoting Christianity in New York City.

I then clicked on the about section and found this…

”In October of 2009, a youth group passionate for God in New York City saw an Atheist advertisement campaign in their subway system which stated, ‘A Million New Yorkers Are Good Without God. Are You?’ They were so stirred up by this, that they went to their Youth Pastor who then went to his network of Youth Pastors/leaders to ask, ’What are we, as the body of Christ going to do about this?.’ They prayed…”
Well you can assume the rest. Who was the idiot atheist who came up with that slogan and then stuck it on the subway wall? The number of people who say they believe in God is going down year by year. The idea of an all-powerful being that created the universe is becoming a redundant.

In the past when humanity was far more ignorant than what they are now, the only explanation for the world and our existence was God or gods. There is less mystery in the world than there was in earlier generations.

I’m not really comfortable with the idea of an all knowing all-powerful God. This quote sums up my feelings about God:
“Is God willing to prevent evil, but not able? Then he is not omnipotent.
Is he able, but not willing? Then he is malevolent.
Is he both able and willing? Then whence cometh evil?
Is he neither able nor willing? Then why call him God?”

― Epicurus
Why indeed. The existence of God can’t be explained by logic or reason. Any educated person who is willing to do some intense introspection and ignore tradition, has a good chance of becoming an atheist. Some people will go through this process and come to the opposite conclusion - there is nothing wrong with that.

There are religious people out there who continue to try to get converts. There are also groups of zealous atheists who try to convert people to their beliefs. These groups are both as bad as each other as they don’t allow for people to examine their own beliefs and come to their own conclusions.

I strongly believe this version of zealous atheism is counter-productive. It is actually apathy that is the greatest weapon of the atheist. I believe it is inevitable that increasing numbers of people will become atheist. Advertising atheism in this way will only harden the beliefs of the religious and antagonise them. Also telling people what to believe sometimes causes them to believe the opposite.

The last thing atheists need is for God to become cool.

Tuesday, 10 December 2013

Things That Drive Me Nuts - Creationism / Intelligent Design

Once upon a time everybody was a creationist. There was no better theory about how the universe was created. Then we started analysing and testing the world around us. We soon discovered that our world and us could not possibly have been created in the way the Bible describes.

The thing is the Bible is allegorical. (Allegory - the representation of spiritual, moral, or other abstract meanings through the actions of fictional characters that serve as symbols.) The Bible actually says that it is allegorical in more than one place. It is, and never was meant, to be taken literally. The Bible is a series of stories with lessons attached. It helps describe the way of life and beliefs that a society should have.

Belief in God requires faith - something that I don’t have. The idea of faith is believing in something that is not, or cannot, be proven. Some biblical literalists look for evidence to prove that God does in fact exist. They try to ignore or negate the need for faith. They forget the true meaning of religion.

Creationism at its maximum setting almost borders on evil. It tries to misrepresent the facts - you are an idiot if you do not believe. They ignore the facts and aren’t swayed by good sense, logic and reason. They take scientific facts to illogical extremes, all the while maintaining that what they say is science. An example of this is the label Social Darwinism - they tell people that believers in evolution also believe that survival of the fittest should be applied to all levels of society, with the disabled, old and infirm dying in the gutter. The logic then follows, if you believe in evolution you are basically a modern day Nazi - and you don’t want to be a Nazi, do you?

This group also tells us that it is the genius of God that is responsible for the creation of something like the banana. When, the real facts are that our modern plant varieties were produced by breeding and propagation techniques - it is a documented fact. They also tell us that fossils were put here to trick disbelievers and test people’s faith. Dinosaurs were on Noah’s Ark only to go extinct later. This does raise an interesting question - why are there no cave paintings of these incredible animals?

All this nonsense stems from the misguided belief that religion and science are mutually exclusive - there is no reason why this should be the case. After all, the Bible does not go into intricate detail as to how the world was created. If I was religious maybe I would believe that God used evolution as his tool to create all life on earth and maybe even the universe itself.

I’m not the greatest fan of religion, but I do feel it can have its place. Some people feel comforted by the existence of God. Religion can lead people to do great things. It was religious institutions that helped preserve western knowledge during the dark ages after the fall of Rome. Islamic scholars rediscovered the knowledge of the ancient world. This allowed the Renaissance to happen in the late Middle Ages.

I get extremely pissed off when religion, or any philosophy, is used to justify violence or to breed ignorance.

You don’t need to be religious to be a good person.

Friday, 6 December 2013

Walling Ourselves In

Driving through suburbia I have noticed a change in the character of some streets. An increasing number of people have high fences and a permanently closed gate that can only be opened using the correct remote. It is no longer possible to knock on your next-door neighbour’s door.

You might think, why is this problem? Don’t people have a right to secure their properties? Of course they have that right, but they sacrificing any sense of community. They are isolating themselves. I think this walling in is partially driven both papers like the Herald Sun and shows like A Current Affair and Today Tonight. Such tabloid journalism thrives on stoking people’s fears. Add to this the breakdown of suburban communities; many people don’t even know their neighbour’s names.

Maybe social media has taken the place of suburban communities. People have their friends and social contacts right at the tips of their fingers. I guess this keeps people in touch, but is it a replacement for a genuine community?

One good thing about this is that these gated houses no longer suffer Jehovah’s Witnesses or Mormons knocking on their door.