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Monthly Archives: January 2009

What’s new: Sunday 1 February to Saturday 7 February

29jan 012

At SBHS. The pic frame is a new one from Windows Live Writer.

For the previous week visit What’s new: Sunday 25 January to Saturday 31 January.

What’s new on my other blogs

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Posted by on January 31, 2009 in site news

 

January 2009 – posts with 200+ views

Since Ninglun’s Specials doesn’t have as much to do as Floating Life I have decided to make it the main repository for my statistical fetish from now on. The month is shaping up to be very similar to last month, according to Sitemeter, with the Floating Life blogs much the same as December 2008 and English/ESL up on December, but behind the Floating Life group. More on that tomorrow on Ninglun’s Specials.

Today I will show here what posts have attracted 200+ views over the past month.

Floating Life (the blog, not the group)

  1. Australian poem: 2008 series #9 — "The Angel’s Kiss" 492 views in January
  2. How good is your English? Test and Answers 246
  3. The Great Surry Hills Book Clearance of 2005 225
  4. Dispatches from another America 215

English/ESL

  1. How should I write up a Science experiment? 757
  2. Studying the Gothic, or Emily Bronte? 636
  3. HSC English NSW Area Study Standard and Advanced — Belonging 1 406
  4. Belonging pages: HSC 2009-2012 358
  5. Mary Shelley, "Frankenstein" — and "Blade Runner" 330
  6. The "Belonging" Essay 261
  7. Physical journeys and Peter Skrzynecki’s poems 229

For full stats go to January 2009 Report 1 and January 2009 Report 2.

 
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Posted by on January 31, 2009 in blogging, site news, site stats

 

RadarSync and other geeky things

I downloaded RadarSync the other day. My ISP (Unwired) had recommended it. What it does is scan your program for outdated stuff, including drivers. It then enables you to download and instal whatever it finds. It is good, but also perhaps over-enthusiastic. Even so, it certainly made updating a few very old drivers much easier. Apparently they used to charge for that part of the service, but now it’s free.

McAfee Site Advisor gives an orange warning, by the way, because “some downloads … tried to change our system settings.” Well they would, wouldn’t they? I mean, what do you expect a new driver to do? Even so, use RadarSync selectively. But it is very useful.

Speaking of McAfee Site Advisor: IE 8 will not support it at the moment. Otherwise I rather like IE 8, in most ways better than IE 7. IE 8 is also incompatible with Google Gears and Yahoo tool bar at the moment.

WordWeb fans – and everyone should have WordWeb: there is a new version available.

One gripe – not about WordWeb. Have you noticed how many “free” apps want you to instal yet another useless tool bar? RadarSync does it; so does Foxit Reader. Sometimes they instal said bar even when you’ve said NO!

 
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Posted by on January 31, 2009 in computers, web stuff, www

 

Kevin, Peter, Malcolm … and Jim … on 2009 not being 1996…

Or why George W, John H, and all the merry crew of retirees and yesterday’s people are no longer relevant and perhaps never were.

Which would be too harsh, I suppose, but I can’t help wondering about all the economic pap we were fed for the past decade or two. You can’t help wondering what, had he been re-elected, John H would be doing right now. Surely he must deep down be dancing little jigs in some back room of his mind because he wasn’t re-elected, and can just sit and polish the gong George W gave him in his dying moments, while the good luck he traded off flies away.

To be fair, Peter van Onselen does point out in today’s Australian that Peter Costello was not totally off the mark towards the end:

NOT being listened to when you are right is one of the most frustrating things a person can experience. In this respect, Peter Costello is sharing a little of the experience of Cassandra, daughter of king Hecuba of Troy.

In ancient Greek mythology she had the gift of prophecy but was cursed by Apollo and denied the power to persuade.

In the lead-up to the 2007 federal election, Costello as treasurer warned that a financial tsunami was on the way, and Australians should be careful about who they voted for to run the economy.

To be sure, when predicting the tsunami Costello was first and foremost referring to what would happen if China floated its currency, the yuan.

That hasn’t happened yet.

But he was also referring more generally to what would happen if China’s economy faltered. Data released this past fortnight indicated China’s growth has dramatically slowed to 6.8 per cent. By Chinese standards that puts them in a virtual recession.

More important, Costello’s tsunami comments also made reference to the impact the US sub-prime mortgage crisis would have on world economies, including Australia’s. That impact is now known as the global financial crisis, the worst economic meltdown since the Great Depression.

Costello was ahead of the curve in predicting it…

In politics, Costello was alone in cautioning that an economic meltdown was on the horizon. While Labor was talking up the risk of high inflation, John Howard was campaigning on his promised ability to reduce unemployment to less than 4 per cent. With the financial crisis now in full swing, unemployment is expected by some to hit 9 per cent. Had the Coalition won the election Howard’s unemployment pledge would have sat neatly along side his 2004 election pledge to "keep interest rates at record lows"…

Now, it appears, Kevin Rudd is firing all his guns in the pages of the February Monthly. Paul Kelly outlines the argument:

KEVIN Rudd has put his ideological spin on the global crisis – arguing the great neo-liberal experiment of the past 30 years represented by Thatcher, Reagan, Greenspan and John Howard has failed.

Rudd has defined himself, his Government and his re-election strategy by declaring that only social democrats and the Labor Party can recruit state power to save capitalism.

He has thrown the Liberal Party on to the trash heap of history, saying it is "the political home of neo-liberalism in Australia" and that the former Howard government aimed to reduce state power "as much as possible".

Declaring that a failed 30-year epoch in world history has come to a conclusion, Rudd says the crisis means "one orthodoxy is overthrown and another takes its place".

The new epoch is about using state power "to save capitalism from itself". Rudd’s aim is to hold global neo-liberal policies responsible for the catastrophe and the Howard government as local upholder of these fatal ideas. His game plan is to position Labor as the long-run political and ideological winner from the crisis.

In his latest essay for The Monthly, to be published next week, Rudd turns the global crisis into a decisive ideological event. The resort to government intervention demanded by the crisis fits perfectly with Rudd’s philosophy. He presents Malcolm Turnbull with an ideological challenge by insisting the Liberals stand on the wrong side of history.

The significance of Rudd’s essay is that Labor will become the party of ideological attack and neo-liberalism and its backers will become the targets. This is a device to keep Labor united during the coming recession and the Liberal Party on the defensive…

Kevin Rudd has written (well too) for The Monthly before – but not as Prime Minister. Some may wonder about that, but I do plan to give what he says consideration. It may also be – but then I am naive – that the real significance of the article is not the party-political one Kelly refers to. What if it is just true?

Sojourners’ Jim Wallace, currently in Davos, would seem to be part of an ever-expanding choir. Mind you, he has been a member for years.

Every morning when I wake up in Davos, I turn on my television to CNN in my hotel room. And every morning, there is the same reporter interviewing a bundled-up CEO with the snowy “magic mountain” of Davos in the background. The question is always the same: “When will this crisis be over?” They actually have a “white board” where they make the CEO mark his answer: 2009…2010…2011…later.

But it’s the wrong question. Of course it’s a question we all want to know the answer to, but there is a much more important one. We should be asking, “How will this crisis change us?” How will it change the way we think, act, and decide things — how we live, and how we do business? Yes, this is a structural crisis, and one that clearly calls for new social regulation. But it is also a spiritual crisis, and one that calls for new self-regulation. We seem to have lost some things and forgotten some things — such as our values.

We have trusted in “the invisible hand” to make everything turn out all right, believing that it wasn’t necessary for us to bring virtue to bear on our decisions. But things haven’t turned out all right and the invisible hand has let go of some things, such as “the common good.” The common good hasn’t been very common in our economic decision-making for some time now. And things have spun out of control. Gandhi’s seven deadly social sins seem an accurate diagnosis for some of the causes of this crisis: “politics without principle, wealth without work, commerce without morality, pleasure without conscience, education without character, science without humanity, and worship without sacrifice.”

If we learn nothing from this crisis, all the pain and suffering it is causing will be in vain. But we can learn new habits of the heart, perhaps that suffering can even turn out to be redemptive. If we can regain a moral compass and find new metrics by which to evaluate our success, this crisis could become our opportunity to change….

If we wait until the economic crisis is over to get back to business as usual, we will have missed the chance we now have for re-evaluation and re-direction. Some of the smartest people in the world are assembled here on the mountain. But are we smart enough not to miss the opportunity this crisis provides to change our ways and return to some of our oldest and best values? Almost half the world’s population, 3 billion people, live on less than $2 a day — virtually outside of the global economy. Maybe it’s time to bring them in.

There are some interesting comments on the thread following that post.

Oh — and Malcolm? Well, he tries…

 
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Posted by on January 31, 2009 in America, Australia, Australia and Australian, challenge, generational change, globalisation/corporations, John Howard, Kevin Rudd, Malcolm Turnbull, Political, politics, right wing politics, USA

 

Friday poem 2009 #3 – Robert Frost “Design”

Not unrelated to the last two posts!

Robert Frost – Design

I found a dimpled spider, fat and white,
On a white heal-all, holding up a moth
Like a white piece of rigid satin cloth —
Assorted characters of death and blight
Mixed ready to begin the morning right,
Like the ingredients of a witches’ broth —
A snow-drop spider, a flower like a froth,
And dead wings carried like a paper kite.

What had that flower to do with being white,
The wayside blue and innocent heal-all?
What brought the kindred spider to that height,
Then steered the white moth thither in the night?
What but design of darkness to appall?–
If design govern in a thing so small.

Source: American Poems.

 
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Posted by on January 30, 2009 in America, faith and philosophy, poets and poetry, USA

 

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Friday intellectual spot 4: Jerry A. Coyne

Jerry Coyne is a professor in the Department of Ecology and Evolution at the University of Chicago. His new book, Why Evolution Is True, has just been published by Viking. That information comes from The New Republic, which has just published a review essay by Coyne: Seeing and Believing. He reviews two books — Saving Darwin: How to be a Christian and Believe in Evolution by Karl W. Giberson and Only A Theory: Evolution and the Battle for America’s Soul by Kenneth R. Miller. Again I owe Arts & Letters Daily.

How opportune too after my previous post!

… Together, Saving Darwin and Only a Theory provide an edifying summary of the tenets and the flaws of modern creationism, the former dealing mainly with its history and the latter with its specious claims. If these books stopped there, they would raise a valuable alarm about the dangers facing American science and culture. But in the end their sincere but tortuous efforts to find the hand of God in evolution lead them to solutions that are barely distinguishable from the creationism that they deplore….

…the most important conflict–the one ignored by Giberson and Miller–is not between religion and science. It is between religion and secular reason. Secular reason includes science, but also embraces moral and political philosophy, mathematics, logic, history, journalism, and social science–every area that requires us to have good reasons for what we believe. Now I am not claiming that all faith is incompatible with science and secular reason–only those faiths whose claims about the nature of the universe flatly contradict scientific observations. Pantheism and some forms of Buddhism seem to pass the test. But the vast majority of the faithful–those 90 percent of Americans who believe in a personal God, most Muslims, Jews, and Hindus, and adherents to hundreds of other faiths–fall into the "incompatible" category.

Unfortunately, some theologians with a deistic bent seem to think that they speak for all the faithful. These were the critics who denounced Dawkins and his colleagues for not grappling with every subtle theological argument for the existence of God, for not steeping themselves in the complex history of theology. Dawkins in particular was attacked for writing The God Delusion as a "middlebrow" book. But that misses the point. He did indeed produce a middlebrow book, but precisely because he was discussing religion as it is lived and practiced by real people. The reason that many liberal theologians see religion and evolution as harmonious is that they espouse a theology not only alien but unrecognizable as religion to most Americans.

Statistics support this incompatibility. For example, among those thirty-four countries surveyed, we see a statistically strong negative relationship between the degree of faith and the acceptance of evolution. Countries such as Denmark, France, Japan and the United Kingdom have a high acceptance of Darwinism and low belief in God, while the situation is reversed in countries like Bulgaria, Latvia, Turkey, and the United States. And within America, scientists as a group are considerably less religious than non-scientists. This is not say that such statistics can determine the outcome of a philosophical debate. Nor does it matter whether these statistics mean that accepting science erodes religious faith, or that having faith erodes acceptance of science. (Both processes must surely occur.) What they do show, though, is that people have trouble accepting both at the same time. And given the substance of these respective worldviews, this is no surprise.

This disharmony is a dirty little secret in scientific circles. It is in our personal and professional interest to proclaim that science and religion are perfectly harmonious. After all, we want our grants funded by the government, and our schoolchildren exposed to real science instead of creationism. Liberal religious people have been important allies in our struggle against creationism, and it is not pleasant to alienate them by declaring how we feel. This is why, as a tactical matter, groups such as the National Academy of Sciences claim that religion and science do not conflict. But their main evidence–the existence of religious scientists–is wearing thin as scientists grow ever more vociferous about their lack of faith. Now Darwin Year is upon us, and we can expect more books like those by Kenneth Miller and Karl Giberson. Attempts to reconcile God and evolution keep rolling off the intellectual assembly line. It never stops, because the reconciliation never works.

That is just an extract from a long article. Do take the trouble to read it all.

 
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Posted by on January 30, 2009 in faith, faith and philosophy, intellectual spot

 

I’m not an atheist but…

… David Attenborough is on the side of the angels here.

Sir David Attenborough receives hate mail over his belief in evolution, the British broadcaster and naturalist has revealed.

Sir David is preparing for more letters telling him to "burn in hell" when his latest television show, a documentary on Charles Darwin’s theory of evolution, is aired in the UK on Sunday.

"They tell me to burn in hell and good riddance," Sir David told Radio Times magazine.

The popular 82-year-old said people often asked him why he did not "give credit" in his programs to God for creating the natural world.

"They always mean beautiful things like hummingbirds," Sir David said.

"I always reply by saying that I think of a little child in East Africa with a worm burrowing through his eyeball.

"The worm cannot live in any other way, except by burrowing through eyeballs. I find that hard to reconcile with the notion of a divine and benevolent creator."…

He also declared it as "terrible, terrible" that some British state schools can teach children that creationism and evolution are equal alternative view points.

"It’s like saying that two and two equals four, but if you wish to believe it, it could also be five," Sir David said.

"Darwin revolutionised the way we see the world fundamentally, but his basic proposition is still not taken on board by a lot of people."

However, Sir David acknowledged "it would be a very bold scientist, and certainly not me, who believes it’s the be all and end all"…

God is not served through sentimental pap, simplistic answers, and lies, which is what some serve up. Faith acknowledges Attenborough’s challenge. It does not necessarily have any easy answers. Why should it?

 
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Posted by on January 29, 2009 in challenge, faith, faith and philosophy