Home > History > Front page updates May 2006
Salaga-doola, menchika-boola, Bibbidi-bobbidi-boo. (6/5/2006)
Replace these magic words with "religious nuts", "unvaccinated children" and "deadly disease". Put them together and what have you got? Measles.
There was a tour across Australia last month by representatives of Amma (Sri Mata Amritanandamayi Devi) which has resulted in an outbreak of measles. Thirty-eight case have been identified so far (seven in the last week since the CDNA issued its last media release), and anyone who attended any of the functions is being advised to see a real doctor for a real health check. You might think that thirty-eight cases in four weeks isn't anything unusual, but there were only eleven cases reported throughout Australia during the whole of 2005 according to the National Notifiable Diseases Surveillance System, so there is certainly something going on here. According to one television news report, group hugging was part of the ritual. Perfect conditions for passing on diseases.
It comes as no surprise that followers of some recently-invented mystic spiritual religion should reject medicine and its benefits, because there is a lot of New Age (rhymes with sewage) nonsense in the anti-vaccination dogma. What makes the tragedy stand out more in this case is that the leader of the cult is very big on platitudes about the value of children and how they should be protected.
"We hope that this coming year will bring a new dawn—one wherein we will wake to the laughter of children and the chirping of birds, instead of to the crying of children and old people and the sound of gunfire".
"It is good for you to spend some time with children. They will teach you to believe, to love and to play. Children will help you smile from your heart and to have that look of wonderment in your eyes".
"A child can attract anyone's attention; even the most cold-hearted person will have some feelings towards a child, unless the person is a demonic monster. This attraction is due to the innocence of the child. When you are free from the grip of the ego, you, yourself, will become as innocent and playful as a child".
This last quote is especially poignant. The first sentence seems to be directed straight at the anti-vaccination liars, because only a demonic monster would deny the gift of life to a child. To deny access to vaccination is deny to many the chance of a life without suffering. But what would they care? It's not their children getting sick.
Har! Har! Hearty Har! Har! So sue me for saying it. (6/5/2006)
Schadenfreude must be the second-best feeling in the world. (The best, as everyone knows, is a cold beer on a hot day. As this is a family web site, the third best will not be mentioned.)
I had that wonderful feeling on Thursday this week when I read in The West Australian newspaper that multi-level marketing company Omegatrend had called in the administrators to try to revive the lifeless husk of a pyramid with 13,000 people signed up but only 1,000 actually selling anything. While I feel sorry for the distributors who won't get any of the money back that they have wasted on tapes, seminars and unsold products stacked in their garages and for the suppliers who are owed $2 million and are probably going to lose the lot, it is hard to feel sorry for the scamsters who set up the scheme. One reason that it is hard to feel sorry for them is that they have probably been clever and foresighted enough to arrange their financial affairs so that the pain is borne by others. I wonder how much of a surprise it will be to the distributors lower in the pyramid when they are told that the monster pins running the outfit, the people at the very top of the earning tree, don't have a spare couple of million lying around to pay their debts. Did I mention "lying" and "a couple of million" in the same sentence? How could I be so cynical?
The picture at the right is Omega Centauri, a globular cluster of stars about 17,000 light years from Earth. This distance is symbolic of the distance between promise and truth in MLM. If you click on the picture you can hear the Omegatrend theme music.
Attending (to) the Policeman's Ball. (6/5/2006)
Like "Schadenfreude", another German word that has been adopted into English is "doppelganger". It seems that I have one of these, if in name only. Mr William P O'Neill of the hardly-credible Canadian Cancer Research Group has been trawling Google for mentions of my name, and he came up with a story about someone who has the same name as me. Here is how he announced his findings (anonymously, of course) to the breathlessly-waiting Usenet community:
Don't forget when reading LiarDicth's posts, Peter Bowditch is a convicted liar!
He is also a convicted hooligan! See Australian Federal Court homepage and query Bowditch. Seems besides beating his wife and kids, Peter Bowditch of Gebesse Computer Consultants? likes to beat fans at football games!
I was actually aware of this story long ago. It seems that the Mr Bowditch in question had a few too many drinks at a rugby league match in Darwin, Northern Territory, Australia, on September 8, 1985, and decided to taunt the supporters of the opposing team. He apparently used strong language and unseemly gestures. Up until this point Mr Bowditch had merely been exercising his rights under one of the lesser-known clauses of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights which allows (and even, according to some law scholars, mandates) the freedom to get drunk and annoy the other side's fans at football matches. Members of the local constabulary intervened and according to court records Mr Bowditch "assaulted a member of the Police Force in the execution of his duty", such assault being crystallised when Mr Bowditch "grabbed one of the constables by the testicles". While many (if not most) people would merely see this as an example of ribald entertainment and something you would pay to see, the police take interference with police privates quite seriously. Mr Bowditch was subsequently sentenced to a short period of incarceration plus a relatively small fine. He appealed against the sentence imposed by the magistrate, but his appeal was not upheld. You can read the details of the appeal here.
So was the Peter James Bowditch involved in this legal matter the same Peter James Bowditch who is at this very minute typing words about the matter for publication on a web site? Before answering that question it is worth considering Mr O'Neill's record when commenting about me and the law. In the first message he ever sent me in which he identified himself (he had written anonymously before to comment about my wife) he said:
Please be advised that in the event reference, link, or mention of the above website, group, or related individuals is not removed from your website by the close of business Friday, February 18, 2000, a libel action will be filed with the World Court seeking exemplary and punitive damages.
I pointed out at the time that he seemed to have a misunderstanding of the function and jurisdiction of the World Court, and it seems that he is now making similar mistakes about Australian courts. You don't have to read very far into the court record cited above (only past the first word, actually) to see that the action happened "IN THE SUPREME COURT OF THE NORTHERN TERRITORY OF AUSTRALIA" (caps in original) and a little more reading shows that the appeal was against a magistrate's ruling, so it is just further evidence of Mr O'Neill's dismal grasp of the legal process that he mentions the Australian Federal Court. Of course, using the name "Australian Federal Court" to refer to something officially named the Federal Court of Australia just adds another data point to the ignorance collection. Then there is the matter of referring to something which the written appeal decision called "Deliberate assault on Police in execution of duty" as "beat fans at football games". The police may well have been fans, but that had nothing to do with Mr Bowditch ending up in court.
All of this is a mere bagatelle,* however, and is just in keeping with the record of inaccuracy of Mr O'Neill, his very good friend the Gutless Anonymous Liar and others when commenting on my affairs. None of it answers the question: "So was the Peter James Bowditch involved in this legal matter the same Peter James Bowditch who is at this very minute typing words about the matter for publication on a web site?" Again, we must return to the source document, the public record of the appeal, for some evidence. You don't have to read very far before coming across the words "Solicitor fo (sic) the appellant : NAALAS". So who is NAALAS? This law firm no longer has a web site but thanks to the Wayback Machine it is possible to see what the site used to look like and it appears that I lack one very specific qualification which is necessary to be a client of this firm. I will leave it up to you to guess what that qualification might be. Place your mouse cursor over the rectangle below to see a clue. (Note that the word is "cursor" not "curser". The latter is a name for the sort of person who attracts police attention in Darwin.)
* One meaning of the word "bagatelle" is "Small brown paper sack carried around by Italians into which they can vomit after eating dodgy pasta". This sounds like something which would also be useful while looking at quackery and anti-vaccination liar web sites.
Speaking of schadenfreude ... (6/5/2006)
Mr O'Neill appeared on television recently. You can see the four parts of the show here.
A true champion! (6/5/2006)
It is rare to see someone who is so on top of his game that he is almost unchallengeable. If there was an Olympic Gold Medal in "Lying about Vaccinations" then the writer of this would only have to show up to win and set a time record which could stand for years.
From: "allan munro"
Date: Wed, 03 May 2006 13:53:23 +0800
I have just read your website and was completely dismayed at such utter nonsensical gibberish. If you had done your research properly you would be aware that vaccinations are extremely dangerous. The AIDS epidemic is due to the vaccinations. Vaccines are known to contain monkeys, birds, dogs, mercury, aluminium, the HIV virus and numerous other contaminents. MMR can cause autism and DPT can cause cot death. Stop spreading disinformation. Spread the facts. You moan about the liars who have legitimate concerns about vaccines. I think you are the one who is lying. Either you are poorly read or you have a hidden agenda to persuade ignorant people that vaccines are beneficial.
Congratulations. You have managed to fit more lies about vaccination into fewer words than almost anybody who has ever written to me before.
I cannot award you full marks however, because you used the unqualified word "monkeys". They don't put the whole monkey in, just the kidneys and pus. Never forget the monkey pus.
Someone misses the point (6/5/2006)
I don't think that the person who sent me this email really understands what I am doing and what this site is about,. Still, I replied courteously.
Date: Thu, 04 May 2006 15:18:55 -0500
Do you have any studies that back up the effectiveness of Tahaitian Noni to prevent vaginal yeast infections and what amount should you take in a day?
RN Clinical Coordinator
No I don't, and I would imagine that the people who promote this worthless fraud won't have any studies either.
Do you take it orally or apply it topically?
Hillsong complaint (6/5/2006)
What is this thing Hillsingers have about email formatting? Again I have left the appearance unchanged rather than converting to the house style.
Date: Mon, 01 May 2006 10:28:16 +1000
From: "bev auton"
Subject: Hillsong Church
Heart felt Jcnme
Delayed update (13/5/2006)
There are certain things which I can't do to this site before May 16 and which I want to do as soon as possible after that date (hint - think three months after February 16), so this week's update will appear on Wednesday, May 17.
Other people's opinions (17/5/2006)
Not everything on this site was written by me. As I have been going through the pages in the site converting them to the new format, I have been rereading some of the works by other people which have been featured here over the years. Because I am running both late and short of time this week, I offer some of these for reconsideration. Some of this material was written a long time ago, but it is still both relevant and instructive today.
Antony Flew - Theology and Falsification (17/5/2006)
One of the tactics used by people with weak philosophical positions is to find someone from the other side and announce their apostasy and conversion to a new faith. Antony Flew wrote what has been described as "the most-read philosophical work of the late twentieth century". Every couple of years some god believer announces that Flew has renounced atheism. Every couple of years Antony Flew denies the allegations. Here is his essay from 1950 that caused all the fuss.
Let us begin with a parable. It is a parable developed from a tale told by John Wisdom in his haunting and revelatory article Gods. Once upon a time two explorers came upon a clearing in the jungle. In the clearing were growing many flowers and many weeds. One explorer says, "some gardener must tend this plot." The other disagrees, "There is no gardener." So they pitch their tents and set a watch. No gardener is ever seen. "But perhaps he is an invisible gardener." So they, set up a barbed-wire fence. They electrify it. They patrol with bloodhounds. (For they remember how H.G. Wells's The Invisible Man could be both smelt and touched though he could not he seen.) But no shrieks ever suggest that some intruder has received a shock. No movements of the wire ever betray an invisible climber. The bloodhounds never give cry. Yet still the Believer is not convinced. "But there is a gardener, invisible, intangible, insensible to electric shocks, a gardener who has no scent and makes no sound, a gardener who comes secretly to look after the garden which he loves." At last the Sceptic despairs, "But what remains of your original assertion? Just how does what you call an invisible, intangible, eternally elusive gardener differ from an imaginary gardener or even from no gardener at all?"
Stephen Jay Gould - The Median Isn't the Message (17/5/2006)
Every quack with a guaranteed cure for all cancers and every person who supports them will tell you that real doctors are always telling people with cancer that they will be dead in a few months and that they should just go home and die. No real doctor ever says these things, but the facts should not be allowed to spoil a good sales pitch. The quacks will then trot out some anecdotes about people who were sent home to die in a few months but who lived beyond the end of their sentence. In the real world, people realise that estimates are estimates, guesses are guesses, and statistics are about variation as well as measurement.
In 1985, Stephen Jay Gould was diagnosed with a form of cancer which had a median survival time of eight months from diagnosis to death. He set out to find out what this really meant, and this essay is one of the best answers ever written to the quacks' claim of miracle cures.
My life has recently intersected, in a most personal way, two of Mark Twain's famous quips. One I shall defer to the end of this essay. The other (sometimes attributed to Disraeli), identifies three species of mendacity, each worse than the one before - lies, damned lies, and statistics.
Consider the standard example of stretching the truth with numbers - a case quite relevant to my story. Statistics recognizes different measures of an "average," or central tendency. The mean is our usual concept of an overall average - add up the items and divide them by the number of sharers (100 candy bars collected for five kids next Halloween will yield 20 for each in a just world). The median, a different measure of central tendency, is the half-way point. If I line up five kids by height, the median child is shorter than two and taller than the other two (who might have trouble getting their mean share of the candy). A politician in power might say with pride, "The mean income of our citizens is $15,000 per year." The leader of the opposition might retort, "But half our citizens make less than $10,000 per year." Both are right, but neither cites a statistic with impassive objectivity. The first invokes a mean, the second a median. (Means are higher than medians in such cases because one millionaire may outweigh hundreds of poor people in setting a mean; but he can balance only one mendicant in calculating a median).
H. L. Mencken - Memorial Service (17/5/2006)
There are many people who want to tell you about their god, but they rarely seem prepared to recognise that other people have had other gods at other times. In this 1922 essay, Mencken wonders where all those other gods have gone to.
Where is the grave-yard of dead gods? What lingering mourner waters their mounds? There was a day when Jupiter was the king of the gods, and any man who doubted his puissance was ipso facto a barbarian and an ignoramus. But where in all the world is there a man who worships Jupiter to-day? And what of Huitzilopochtli? In one year--and it is no more than five hundred years ago--50,000 youths and maidens were slain in sacrifice to him. Today, if he is remembered at all, it is only by some vagrant savage in the depths of the Mexican forest. Huitzilopochtli, like many other gods, had no human father; his mother was a virtuous widow; he was born of an apparently innocent flirtation that she carried on with the sun. When he frowned, his father, the sun, stood still. When he roared with rage, earthquakes engulfed whole cities. When he thirsted he was watered with 10,000 gallons of human blood.
Umberto Eco - Path to the truth is littered with useful failures (17/5/2006)
Every pseudoscientist (and I include pseudomedicine in the pseudosciences) knows that once things have been discovered they have been discovered for ever and can never change or become outdated. Evidence of the uselessness of "science" is the fact that scientists sometimes change their minds and even admit that they might have been wrong. If someone can be wrong in the past then surely they can be wrong now. Professor Eco explains why failure and being wrong are essential for progress.
Many readers probably don't know exactly what black holes are and, frankly, the best I can do is to imagine them like the pike in Yellow Submarine that devours everything around it until it finally swallows itself. But in order to understand the news item from which I am taking my cue, all you need to know about black holes is that they are one of the most controversial and absorbing problems in astrophysics.
Recently I read in the papers that the celebrated scientist Stephen Hawking (perhaps better known to the general public for the strength and determination with which he has worked all his life despite a terrible illness that would have reduced a lesser person to being a vegetable) has made a statement that is sensational. He maintains that he made an error in his theory of black holes (published in the '70s) and is now preparing to propose the necessary corrections before an audience of fellow scientists.
For those involved in the sciences there is nothing exceptional about this, apart from Hawking's exceptional standing, but I feel that the episode should be brought to the attention of young people in every non-fundamentalist or nonconfessional school so that they may reflect upon the principles of modern science.
David Hume - On Miracles (17/5/2006)
The Australian news media has been filled lately with stories which generate strong emotional responses. The big story has been the (successful) attempt to rescue two miners trapped a kilometre underground for two weeks by a rock fall. Two other stories involved children. In one, a young girl from East Timor has been given some particularly spectacular medical treatment. In the other, a little girl who achieved fame some time ago by surviving terrible injuries sustained when a car ran through the wall of her kindergarten was again attacked by a motor vehicle. In all three instances the word "miracle" was mentioned many times, although in all cases the success came from the hard work of dedicated, well-trained human beings, with hardly a deity in sight.
While that may have been some sort of secular use of the word "miracle", it is a brave man even today who suggests that belief in religious miracles is either unnecessary or even silly. Bishop John Shelby Spong manages to irritate a lot of people today with these views, so it was very courageous for Scottish philosopher David Hume to point out the ridiculousness and redundancy of Biblical miracles in 1748.
There is, in Dr. Tillotson's writings, an argument against the real presence, which is as concise, and elegant, and strong as any argument can possibly be supposed against a doctrine, so little worthy of a serious refutation. It is acknowledged on all hands, says that learned prelate, that the authority, either of the scripture or of tradition, is founded merely in the testimony of the Apostles, who were eye-witnesses to those miracles of our Saviour, by which he proved his divine mission. Our evidence, then, for, the truth of the Christian religion is less than the evidence for the truth of our senses; because, even in the first authors of our religion, it was no greater; and it is evident it must diminish in passing from them to their disciples; nor can any one rest such confidence in their testimony, as in the immediate object of his senses. But a weaker evidence can never destroy a stronger; and therefore, were the doctrine of the real presence ever so clearly revealed in scripture, it were directly contrary to the rules of just reasoning to give our assent to it. It contradicts sense, though both the scripture and tradition, on which it is supposed to be built, carry not such evidence with them as sense; when they are considered merely as external evidences, and are not brought home to every one's breast, by the immediate operation of the Holy Spirit.
And that reminds me ... (17/5/2006)
When I was in graduate school the particular course stream I was taking had students from a variety of academic backgrounds. I had observed that many of them had no idea about how to include citations and references in the work they submitted (which caused me some concern about the quality of teaching they had received in their earlier education). From day one of my undergraduate studies I had had the importance of consistent and accurate citation style beaten into me (not literally, of course). Some might say that this was because psychologists wanted to be thought of as scientists and were therefore enforcing academic rigour, but many of the members of my graduate school cohort had science qualifications and some were even working as professional scientists.
After a few months of this I decided to ask one of the instructors about it and was told that any form of referencing was acceptable as long as there was some of it there. I also asked about referencing common knowledge, material which any educated (or even reasonably well-read) person would be expected to recognise, such as quotations from the Bible or Shakespeare. I was told that these things didn't need referencing as the readers (graduate school academics) would know what I was talking about.
The next piece of work I submitted just happened to be marked by that particular full professor. In it I made a passing mention of David Hume's comments about the value of inductive reasoning. The paper came back with the sentence ringed in red pen and the comment: "What do you mean? Reference please". I sighed.
I recently heard mention of this professor again, and I find that he is no longer in the graduate school but is now teaching philosophy. I hope that he has actually read some philosophy in the intervening years.
More other people's opinions (20/5/2006)
This has been a very busy week with actual pays-the-bills type work getting in the way of really important stuff like this site, so again this week I will refer everyone back to some things which have been published on this site but written by other people. Everything should be back to normal soon, although the temptation to be distracted by fistfuls of dollars may be hard to resist. I am also trying to find time to read The Da Vinci Code to see what all the fuss is about. It seems that I am the only person in the world who hasn't read it, and this is severely limiting my ability to carry on dinner-table conversation. (In 1987 I made a business trip to the US and Canada, and at the time Crocodile Dundee was just about the biggest picture in cinemas across the USA. I hadn't seen it. In my two weeks there I met only one other person who hadn't seen it, and every business meeting, regardless of the education, stature, title or income of the participants eventually turned to a discussion of this great film about Australia. Qantas had the film on their program but did not show it on my flight from Sydney to San Francisco. I saw it on the flight home, but that was a bit late to help me to do more than nod politely in all those meetings with senior executives of large software and computer companies.)
Oliver Wendell Holmes - Homeopathy and Its Kindred Delusions (20/5/2006)
Homeopathy was invented around the start of the19th century, and it took almost no time at all for educated people to realise that it was nonsense. This paper was written in 1842, and it is a matter for some amazement and concern that this quackery is still hanging around a century and two thirds later. (My choice of Holmes as a guest writer was not in any way influenced by his friendship with Henry Bowditch, of course.)
It is necessary, for the sake of those to whom the whole subject may be new, to give in the smallest possible compass the substance of the Homeopathic Doctrine. Samuel Hahnemann, its founder, is a German physician, now living in Paris, at the age of eighty-seven years. In 1796 he published the first paper containing his peculiar notions; in 1805 his first work on the subject; in 1810 his somewhat famous "Organon of the Healing Art;" the next year what he called the "Pure Materia Medica;" and in 1828 his last work, the "Treatise on Chronic Diseases." He has therefore been writing at intervals on his favorite subject for nearly half a century.
And while we are talking about homeopathy ... (20/5/2006)
This letter came in recently. Brad rose to meet the challenge and he has now sent me some 200c belladonna pills, so I will be adding pill-taking to the other things I have to fit in over the next week or so. The results will be reported here unless 200c belladonna causes me some grief, in which case I will recant and immediately accept that all the laws of the universe have been overthrown.
From: Brad Miller
Date: Tue, 09 May 2006 03:14:56 +1000
Ha! Can't you do better than that? I would have thought that someone of your undoubted intelligence would have at least tried homeopathy out to see if it had any effect!?
I have tried it. There is a picture at http://www.ratbags.com/rsoles/history/2004/12december.htm showing me trying it.
Tell you what - I'll supply you with Belladonna Atropa 200c on pillules and you take 1 pillule every hour for 12 hours and we can see what happens.
PO Box 1166, Parramatta NSW 2124
Bet you don't take me up on this!
You lost the bet.
Bet your just a big flaccid windbag!
I will be watching the PO box. Put up or shut up.
Double dare you - come on put your money where your mouth is.
It's not my money, it's yours. The address is above. Get wrapping and posting.
Nah, I guess all skeptics are alike - big tough bullies with a pussy soft centre - full of fart but no follow through.
Will the pills make me fart?
Guess I won't be hearing from you
You guess wrong.
Bertrand Russell - Why I Am A Rationalist (20/5/2006)
Russell wrote this about 80 years ago. He subtitled the article "The Rational Habit Of Mind Is A Rare One", and unfortunately such a thing doesn't seem to be any less rare today. Periodically humankind goes through what historians like to call an "age of reason". It would be nice to think that future historians might look back and say something like "The most recent age of reason is still going and looks like going on forever". I always was an optimist.
I am, in this age when there are a great many appeals to unreason, an unrepentant Rationalist. I have been a Rationalist ever since I can remember, and I do not propose to cease to be so whatever appeals to unreason may be made. We have listened to a speech, by which I think we were all much moved, about the pioneers in the past who have done what they could to promote the cause of freedom of thought. I suppose it is for me to speak about the great need of continuing this work in our own day, and about how much there is that remains for all who sympathize with its objects to accomplish. We are not yet, and I suppose men and women never will be, completely rational. Perhaps, if we were, we should not have all the pleasures that we have at present; but I think complete rationality is so distant a prospect that we need not be much alarmed by it, and the nearest approach that we are likely to get is sure to be all to the good. I certainly find that there is a very great deal of irrationality still about in the world.
And while we are on the subject of rationality ... (20/5/2006)
This email came in this week. I think I am in trouble with some higher power. You can read what I had to say about Benny Hinn here.
Subject: Benny Hinn
Date: Thu, 18 May 2006 10:45:19 +1100
From: "Marie Garae"
I command you Satan to leave this man in the name of Jesus. Your plan to ruin the lives of people through this proctologist on this earth has been defeated when Jesus died on the cross. So therefore do not waste your time to carry out a mission through this man writing against God and not Benny Hinn. Satan, Jesus is greater than you and the power of God through his Holy Spirit is mightier.
Satan you are already defeated, Amen.
Thank you Jesus.
Marie L Garae.
And while we are thinking about Benny Hinn ... (20/5/2006)
Here is about 15 seconds of the Millenial Power healing a woman of the sin of lust in a pub over the road from a hall where Benny Hinn was collecting large volumes of cash. The healing medium in the film clip received no cash and had to buy his own beer.
In April 2007, Hinn complained to YouTube about this original creation by Richard Saunders and claimed that it violated Hinn's copyright. He was bluffing (a polite word for it), and negotiations with YouTube are going on to have it restored. You can see more here.
Jonathon Swift - The Grand Academy of Lagado (20/5/2006)
Almost every day I am assailed by "scientists" who have proved that MMR vaccine causes autism or that fluoride in the water supply is put there to enslave the citizenry or that medical isotopes are really small nuclear weapons or that molecules are infinitely divisible. This sort of thinking is not new, as Jonathon Swift pointed out in Gulliver's Travels.
The first man I saw was of a meagre aspect, with sooty hands and face, his hair and beard long, ragged, and singed in several places. His clothes, shirt, and skin, were all of the same colour. He has been eight years upon a project for extracting sunbeams out of cucumbers, which were to be put in phials hermetically sealed, and let out to warm the air in raw inclement summers. He told me, he did not doubt, that, in eight years more, he should be able to supply the governor's gardens with sunshine, at a reasonable rate: but he complained that his stock was low, and entreated me "to give him something as an encouragement to ingenuity, especially since this had been a very dear season for cucumbers." I made him a small present, for my lord had furnished me with money on purpose, because he knew their practice of begging from all who go to see them.
Important news (20/5/2006)
I can't reproduce the email below in the magnificence with which it hit my inbox, as that would make it unreadable. You will have to believe me when I say that it had strange coloured text sliding around in front of an extremely busy and complicated background. Luckily, my email program lets me see inside messages and I was able to extract the important contents. As this crucial advance in man's march towards understanding involves a three-dimensional star, I thought I would share it with you. None of those old-fashioned two-dimensional stars here.
The first worldwide Centre for BELIEF, PEACE and UNITY is being established in a 3-dimensional star. You can visit our website at www.emunaeilat.com to see what we are doing and what we are all about, and follow up for updates and new information.
In light and love,
The value of human life (27/5/2006)
There was a wonderful story in the papers this week about a man with no legs who had climbed Mount Everest. He had lost his legs in a climbing incident in New Zealand, and we can all assume that he is eternally grateful to the people who rescued him, helped him down from the mountain where he was in real danger of dying, and got him to somewhere where his life could be saved. Well, it would be a wonderful story if it wasn't matched by the story about how while the legless climber was getting to the summit another man was dying a few hundred metres from the top of the mountain. While David Sharp was dying something like 40 climbers walked by without offering assistance, because getting to the top of a mountain was more important to them than helping someone else.
I am not a stranger to dangerous recreational activities. I used to compete in motor sport and my chosen form was rallying where in the case of accident competitors out there in forests don't have access to handy officials, ambulances, medical attendants or any other form of support except other competitors. It is almost unthinkable that someone would not stop in a rally to help a competitor who appeared to be in danger. (I say "almost unthinkable" because I actually saw it happen once. We came across a car which had rolled, and while we were getting the driver and navigator out of the wreck and making sure that they were unharmed another car went by and the driver shouted abuse at us for partially blocking the road. I am rarely moved to violence but I had to make sure that I didn't come too close to that particular driver at the evening meal break. We had our real revenge by winning the event so comprehensively that we only had to turn up at the final Sunday set of stages and finish without hitting anything to win. I made the point at the presentation that we had done this without claiming the time lost while helping the stricken competitors.)
An indication of how deeply this priority of success over compassion pervades mountain climbing was the reaction to Sir Edmund Hillary's disgust at the callousness of the people who didn't bother to stop. He was accused of not knowing enough about how mountain climbing is done to be qualified to have an opinion. In case you have forgotten, Hillary was there on the occasion of the first ascent of Mount Everest, and he did it without the benefit of guides who had been there many times before or the permanent ladders, ropes and stairs that today's tourists take for granted. George Mallory died while trying to climb Everest in 1924, but I can imagine his answer to the question "Why would you stop to help someone in trouble on the mountain?" I can almost hear Mallory saying: "Because he's there".
The usefulness of the Internet (27/5/2006)
People keep telling me how useful the Internet is for finding stuff, and there have even been suggestions that libraries of real books could be replaced by computers which will teach kids everything they need to know. I wanted to find the photograph of Tensing Norgay taken by Hillary on the summit of Everest in 1953 to illustrate the article above. This would have to be one of the most recognisable images of the 20th century, but the best that Google seems to have in its images collection is the 64x64 pixel version at the left. The image at the right appears on a couple of web sites, but I am reasonably sure that the original photograph was not in colour, so I suspect that this is either a re-enactment, a fake, or an advertisement for PhotoShop. (Perhaps it was made by the same people as those faked moon landing shots. But I digress ...)
And as for my new copy of the Encyclopædia Britannica on CD - the best I can say is that I am glad that I only paid $9.95 for it from my bookshop's bargain dump table and not the $89.95 on the original price sticker.
Update - June 3, 2006
Google is apparently not as good at indexing pictures as it is at indexing words, and I should know to look at original sources anyway. Reader Anna Simpson pointed out that the photograph in question appears on the Royal Geographical Society's web site where I would have found it if I had been smart enough to look in the right places. Thank you, Anna. You can see the original colour photograph at http://imagingeverest.rgs.org/Units/92.html
The Da Vinci Code (27/5/2006)
OK, I've read the book so now I can talk about it. Rather than clutter up the place with repetition, you can read my review of the book here.
Someone wants to buy something (27/5/2006)
The following email came from someone in Germany. While this person's English is far better than my German I am still surprised that anyone reading this site, regardless of their native language, should think that I would sell something as useless as Noni juice.
Ladies and gentlemen
before par months to me an offer about Noni Jioce I did with pleasure order to account number and valid price-list rehearses ten liters 100% Noni juice send me please Prices list to Noni Juice Pur
Perhaps I should refer the German-speaker to the person who sent me this email. It might as well have been written in a foreign language for all the sense it made in English.
In response to your comments about the trickery and misguided information you have received about Noni Juice it is apparent you are misguided and misinformed about exactly what Tahitian Noni Juice is and the health benefits that thousands continue to discover every day.
Ignorance is bliss but have you paused for a moment to ponder on why there is so much hype about something that appears so simple as a fruit juice as you put it on your message board.
There are tremendous health benefits to drinking Noni juice and not only are there testimonials from individuals like myself and my family but from doctors and scientists who have researched to discover the true benefits of the juice. Don't be mistaken as with any business if you choose to get into the juice for the business there is an investment and there is marketing involved.
However, think about it Coca-Cola did not become Coca-Cola by not sharing their product through networking and marketing. It's a thought to ponder but I would challenge a skeptic like yourself to first try the product before you slander it saying its a fluke!! It's actually a bit foolish for one to speak of something for which they have no point of reference or true experience. If you'd like accurate and credible information about Tahitian Noni Juice and its benefits then please feel free to visit my website at www.tni.com/roci.
People with the same name (27/5/2006)
When I was allowing genitally challenged young men to write to me because they had found and misunderstood my collection of penis enlargement spam I provided a copy of the famous old hoary Make Penis Fast joke chain letter as a suggested solution to their problems. I don't know how many copies of this joke are floating around the 'net, but someone is worried by them and wrote to me about it. The problem is that one of the made-up names on the letter is the same as his name. I am well aware of the problem of casual observers inferring identity of person from identity of names (there has been talk on Usenet of how I must be the Australian Aborigine who behaved badly at a football match in 1985 and have moved many thousands of kilometres away from Darwin and changed my skin colour and ancestry to hid my shame), so I didn't hesitate to make a suitable change to prevent further embarrassment to my correspondent. Now he just has to contact the hundreds of other web site owners who mention it in the same joke context.
Or even with similar names (27/5/2006)
I used to receive the occasional email really intended for Ratbag Games in Adelaide. Some of the writers of these emails displayed even poorer grasp of the English language than the German speaker mentioned above or the poor inchless AOLers who used to click on the link on the penis enlargement page, and most of them either congratulated me for writing such cool games or asked questions about upgrades and new versions. Apparently the appearance of this site did not provide any clue that it might not be the home of a games software company. (There also used to be a place called Ratbag Handbags once, but I never got any emails asking for my famous Hermès knockoffs.)
It now looks like I will never receive any of these emails again, as it seems that Ratbag Games is no more. Their web site has been dead for some weeks now and Google doesn't report any new location. Of course, this might cause me to receive even more misdirected emails as desperate PlayStation owners look for the latest version of Dirt Track Racer and can't find the developer's site.
For connoisseurs of coincidence and woowoo, there is a connection between dirt track racing and me, and it isn't just that we chose similar domain names to make web sites with. The picture at right shows a younger me (with much better reflexes than I have now) setting up my Datsun 1600 rally car for a left-hand hairpin turn somewhere northwest of Wingham. It was me, the track was dirt, and I was racing. (And for those who sit on the wrong side of the car to drive - I'm the one without the beard.)
The Chaser's War on Hillsong (27/5/2006)
One of each week's delights on Australian television is a program on the Australian Broadcasting Corporation network called The Chaser's War on Everything. On Friday, May 26, 2006, Hillsong Church received an accolade. The video can be seen on the Chaser site at http://www.abc.net.au/tv/chaser/war/video/
You can see some more about Hillsong here.