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The Paranoid Android
...musings of a mechanically depressed robot...
Bradley and I got up at "0:TooEarly" last Sunday to get another training walk in for the fast approaching 100km hike for Oxfam. This one would start from where we ended last time, and go all the way to the end of the course (stages 9, 10 and 11 - about 30km.)

We met at London Bridge at 09:00 to chaos on the ticket machines... but managed to get everything sorted and a bacon butty breakfast before boarding the train.

We arrived in Hassocks (that still amuses me) at about twenty to eleven and set off.

We took the non lethal route to Check Point 8 (no walking along busy A-roads with no pavements and blind corners this time!) which was most pleasant... until the first hill.
lots of graphics under the cutCollapse )

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I'll be participating in the 100km hike in July this year in aid of Oxfam/The Gurkhas. To make sure I don't die after the first stage, some practice walks were arranged - and last Friday I walked stage 7 and 8. I also finally got to play with a gadget I'd been wanting to test for a while: The Garmin GPSmap 60CSx.

I was walking with four of my work colleagues; Bradley, Khan, Seb, and Simon. We got to Shoreham-by-Sea just after 15:00 and after a short taxi ride we were at the start point.

We kitted up; Bradley broke out his walking tights and I switched on the GPS.

We set off at a steady pace but it was just minutes before we came to our first hill... which was much more impressive than this photo seems to show!
big pictures under the cutsCollapse )
(left to right: Khan, Seb, Bradley, Me, Simon)

After the first hill (in which we climbed about 200m or over 650ft) I was ready to give up... but I struggled on. The scenery was beautiful, the sun was peeping through the clouds which stopped it getting too cold or too warm, and thankfully there was no rain.

We managed to lose the trail just the once (I had yet to load any maps on my GPS and the maps we had with us were not detailed enough) but over all it was good first go!

I've grabbed some data from the gadget and that's all under the next cut.
more big picturesCollapse )

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I foolishly reposted something I saw (repeated) on twitter as a Facebook status update. When will I learn?

The copy/pasta was as follows:
I mourn the loss of thousands of precious lives, but I will not rejoice in the death of one, not even an enemy. - Martin Luther King, Jr.

My excuse(s) is that it really was repeated all over the twittersphere - by minds immeasurably superior to mine - and it was late.

After doing a little research (google) I have gathered the following "facts":
The quote comes from a larger Facebook post by a J. Dovey that went like this:
I mourn the loss of thousands of precious lives, but I will not rejoice in the death of one, not even as an enemy.
"Returning hate for hate multiplies hate, adding deeper darkness to a night already devoid of stars. Darkness cannot drive out darkness: only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate: only love can do that." -MLK Jr.

The quote (that is - the bit in quotes!) has been confirmed as a Martin Luther King quote (Strength to Love, Pg 37)... but it appears that twitters limit of 140 characters and the general punctuation blindness of "teh intarwebs" meant the original posters feelings was first attached to the MJK quote, and then shortened.

Thing is: it doesn't matter (to me) who said it... the sentiment resonated with me which is why I felt the need to repost it. It appears to have done so with a number of people which is why there are over 40,000 hits if you google the phrase (yeah - some of those are posts correcting the MLK attribution but that's still a lot of hits for something that was first written yesterday.) I think the actual MLK quote is also relevant (and so very true), and perhaps that too needs to be reposted a little.

So the moral of this story... I'll leave that to another quote:
"Just because it's repeated on the internet - doesn't make it the truth" - W.Shakespeare.

ETA:
A more coherent version of the story can be found here

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Story ganked from Bart's journal

This just blows my mind.

There should be a law against:
1) Pulling numbers out of your ass in a debate.
2) Purposely making numbers up to further your debate.

There should also be added jail time for the spinelessness that is the following statement:
"...was not intended to be a factual statement."

What's the opposite of a factual statement? Yes kids, you're right, it's a lie

World politics is taking us all to hell, in the proverbial hand-basket.

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...or how I am an idiot who was nearly £4.5k in debt

I received an email last week prompting me to enter readings from my energy meters (gas and electric). I forgot - so I got a slightly ruder email today letting me know.

I scrambled under the stairs for the gas reading, then under a kitchen counter for the electric reading and, in normal Saturday morning dazed state, I entered my readings to the website.

My gas reading should have been 0503.1

I entered 5031

When the screen came back with my accounts current status it looked like this:


I've just got off the phone - and I have been (reliably?) informed that the direct debit of more than £700 should not hit my account on Monday, it should be a more reasonable £100ish.

ETA:
The very nice people at Scottish Power did indeed stop the huge direct debit, and my bank account is much healthier for it!

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On Friday 18 March I joined a few of my work friends on a trip to Valencia for "the Falles". Apart from a nightmare of a bus journey to the airport the trip there was okay and we arrived in good time for "La Nit del Foc" (The night of fire), a firework display the likes of which I could not have imagined before this trip.

But I get ahead of myself! On our way to this awesome display we walked along streets filled with children playing with fireworks, and on almost every other crossroad a Falles which is an amazingly detailed, beautifully crafted monument made from papier-mâché and cardboard.

When I say children playing with fireworks... I mean children who might just be the plus side of 5 throwing fire crackers and bangers into the streets that are filled with other children (and us). Showing ourselves as tourists we would jump, cringe, or both whilst the locals carried on as if nothing had happened. Older children and adults would set of fireworks that sounded like small bombs... again in streets filled with people! The highlight of this madness was when we spotted children jumping over a "fountain" type firework and Raz managed to capture a photograph of one of the children with his face down in the flow. It appeared that no-one apart from us considered this behaviour anything but normal.

The streets were also filled with stalls selling food and drink... so we made our way towards the city centre and had our first taste (of many!) of paella, and a beer to wash it down.


The town centre started to empty... and we followed the crowd to the outskirts for the main event of the evening...

Imagine a pyromaniac let loose in a firework factory. There were times when there were so many fireworks in the sky at one time that I experienced a white-out... and I have goosebumps recalling the experience as I type! The displayed probably lasted about 15 minutes, but such was the intensity that it seemed to go on for hours! Just when you might think it was over, you could hear the mortar-launch like sounds as another barrage was launched into the sky. The force of the explosions could easily be felt on the ground and in my chest, with some of the bigger ones producing a shock wave I felt on my face.

It was now about 2 a.m. and we headed back to the hotel. The maniacs in the streets were not so ready for their beds, and the bangers, fire crackers, and small bombs continued all night... making sleep so very difficult!

Saturday was the last day of the two week festival. The main events of the day would be another firework display at 2 p.m. in the town square, and the burning of all the Falles at midnight.

I've never heard of a daytime firework display... but this would be no normal display. The whole city descended on the town centre, and on the stroke of 2 the noise started. There was no "display" apart from copious amounts of smoke... but the noise was something else! It started loud and built from that. The power of the explosions rocked the windows, and some of our visiting party had to block their ears (mentioning no names - they know their shame!)

This lasted a full five minutes with the noise constantly building. There was a rhythm to it all, a kinda of insane musical quality. You could feel the energy of the considerable crowd around us and at the finale they all went mad - cheering and whistling - and I am not sure it was all entirely voluntary.

We had most of the day to kill now before the next instalment of madness, so we headed to a section of the town know for its restaurants where we met the rudest waiter in Spain.

After a very good lunch (despite the waiter) we went to see the "giant flower chick" ("L'Ofrena floral") stopping on the way to soak up the sun in one of the many plazas and have a nice cup of coffee and some of us partook of some churros. More wandering around around the rather beautiful city following our own Dora (master of the map and sense of direction!) was a fine way to work off the massive lunch! The madness of the first night continued... but by now we were (mostly) immune and it took the massive bangs of the bomb like fireworks in close proximity to cause a stir among us.

During our travels in the evening we found our favourite Falles (pictures to follow I hope) so we found a nearby restaurant and waited it out in style for the burning. The service here was much better as we made our way through about 6 courses and probably as many bottles of wine!

We found that the burning of our chosen Falles was going to be postponed as the fire-fighters had been called away to another location. It was our first hint that there was at least someone taking the public's safety seriously! We found a cocktail bar and partook of a few Mojitos until just after 1:00 when we headed back to watch the fire. We were amazed to find a spot right near the front! The streets were still full so this should have sent alarm bells ringing, but we'd caught the madness of the event!

About 1:30 the people who had created this magnificent monument doused it in petrol and under the gaze of half a dozen fire-fighters the fireworks were lit which would set the entire thing alight.

The speed at which the whole thing went up took my breath away. The proximity almost took several layers of skin away. It became apparent quite quickly - even in my half intoxicated state - that to stay where I was would end in tears, if not the local morgue! The heat was intense. The air was full of burning embers. It was truly insane.

There was a mass rush backwards and we continued to watch the monument, now little more than the inner wooden structure, burn itself out. The fire-fighters hosed down the nearby trees, buildings, telephone wires, and occasionally the crowd(!) to stop it from all going up in smoke. We were covered in soot and stank of smoke, but were all grinning inanely. The word of the night was "fuego!"

Heading back to the hotel we were all too keyed up to call it a night, so there was another stop in a cocktail bar for more Mojitos.

The constant explosions from the bangers rang out well into the night, continuing even after we called it a night and made it back to the hotel.

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It's bonus time.

This is normally the time of year when I clear down any balance on my credit card (Christmas can be expensive!) and if there's anything left I treat myself to something nice.

This year was a little different because my bonus was a little better than usual; not quite the £300k the papers were talking about, but not quite the £300 I've got the last couple years!

That's lucky because my washing machine has given up on me. I think it says something about how I might have grown up a little when I get excited about a new washing machine - but I am!

Okay, I might not be *that* grown up, because I have also bought myself an Xbox, and a Zune, and upgraded my PC with a solid state drive so that WoW loads faster (oh-em-gee does it load faster now!)

In my defence, the washing machine does cost more than all my new toys combined!

The problem with buying new toys is that you then want to buy the accessories that go with them. A case and a charger would be nice for the Zune. Some games for the Xbox (I am borrowing a friend's games at the moment - the Xbox came without a single game bundled!!) A rechargeable battery pack for the Xbox controller would also be nice. This all adds up - especially when the average new title for Xbox costs between £30-£50!

So now I am broke (well - I have spent all my bonus) but I have shiny new things to play with.

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If there are two things in the world that can make me believe we might just get through this without killing each other, it's xkcd and Pterry. No world containing such insight can be truly doomed.

After spending way too much time going back through xkcd's archives (it must have been at least 2 or three hours... I just lose time whenever I go near a xkcd link) I finished reading "Monstrous Regiment" and am now desperate to read "Night Watch," but alas I can't seem to locate my copy.

I have recently been hiding away from the real by spending a lot of time in the world of Azeroth. This will be countered this weekend when I spend some quality time with good friends in Zurich. There will be merriment and drinking and I shall walk from the sun to the end of the solar system (and may take pictures).

Happy New Year.

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I was never much of a fan of Ricky Gervias, but a recent WSJ blog entry attracted my attention, mostly because he wrote how I see things.

Of course, he couldn't help himself from being a bit smug. This is probably the reason why I don't like him much. In a message that appears to say "why can't believers and non-believers get along" he refers to believers as brainwashed, and science as the ultimate truth. If you really want to promote harmony between two parties, using loaded phrases is not the way to go.

Apart from that it was a well articulated piece about why atheists might be atheist, and specifically why Mr Gervais is... an article of opinion presented with a little humour. Unfortunately I didn't stop reading at the bottom of the article, continuing into the comments and there ended the articulation, sense, and all forms of decency.

Behind the safety of anonymous posting there was a lot of people belittling others beliefs and opinions, and much wrangling of word usage versus meaning.

If pushed into labelling my beliefs, I call myself an atheist. I am pretty sure in my belief that there is no god. The "agnostic" label appears to me to be too indecisive... as if tomorrow there may be a chance I might change my beliefs. I am entirely sure that I would admit to being wrong if someone proved beyond reasonable doubt that there was a god... but this proof will mean I require no belief. This brings me to conclusion that I will never have faith; I will never "believe in god". I'll either know he exists... or I will believe he doesn't.

It was said many times in the comments that both atheism and science are articles of faith as much as Christianity. I disagree. I don't need faith to believe that god does not exist, just a lack of evidence to the contrary.

To borrow some words from Tim Minchin:
"Science adjusts it’s beliefs based on what’s observed
Faith is the denial of observation so that Belief can be preserved."


The thing that really baked my noodle though was the repeated statement that atheists have no morals. Any notion I have about recognising right from wrong is actually an admittance that I actually do believe in a divine being, and any self labelled religious person who acts in such a way that they obviously don't know right from wrong is actually not religious at all, but an atheist.

You have to admire the propaganda machine that cooked that one up! All those people involved in the inquisition, they were not religious! No religious person would torture or kill someone. They were all atheists... which is ironic as that is what they were torturing and killing others for. The same goes for the Crusaders. Only an atheist would kill someone for not being a Christian. It's statements like these that almost gives Ricky a reason for the "brainwashed" comment. Of course, lumping every religious person in the same group as these obviously deluded commenters is no better than being one of these obviously deluded commenters!

The next best recurring theme from believers was "if you read this book/bible passage you'll change your mind."

No. - Just no!

The words in whichever book or passage referred to will have about as much effect on an atheist as "The Blind Watchmaker", or "The God Delusion" would have on a believer. Annoyance is probably one effect. Mind numbing rage is perhaps another.

I would love to be able to say that the atheist commenters were so much better... but for the most part their arguments were just as fallacious (but unhelpfully didn't fall into discrete themes). One thing that both "sides", and even Mr Gervias, got horribly wrong was that faith in a god and acceptance of science was mutually exclusive. Science has yet to prove the non-existence of god... and there is a persuasive argument that it never can.

The believers had a problem with the concept of a scientific theory (like the theory of evolution) saying if it's only a theory, then there's a good chance it's wrong.
The atheists has a problem separating the belief in god from organised religion (especially Christianity)
Both had a problem keeping it civil.

There was an interesting idea though:
What if the entire population of the world had its collective memory wiped... and all theological texts were removed, but all scientific texts allowed to remain, would religions be reinvented?

The ultimate question has to be... why do I get sucked into these things. I have just spent the last 4 hours reading other peoples drivel (and the last 10 minutes writing about it!)

Dilbert.com

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I did get my backpack back (that's a bit of a tongue twister!) and it had almost all my possessions in it. Perhaps unsurprisingly it was my iPod that was missing.

Most of the blame is mine; I was stupid enough to leave my belongings in a pub... but I really despise the person who raked through them and stole one.

After that bit of bad news... I had a further blow when I got home and my hot water was still not working. Dad had house sat for me so a repair man could fix it yesterday. This is the third time I have had to call them out in a month. So I am sat here, "working from home," waiting for the next repair man to turn up.

I suppose I should count myself lucky that the heating still works... but right now I might kill someone for a hot shower.

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Current Music: Moby - Dream About Me

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