Friday, February 24, 2006

doubt is good

Funnily enough I was having a conversation yesterday with a friend about the joy of doubt and how it leaves you open to new ideas and fresh insights, and then vincent t left a comment on my blog, so I checked out his, and found this quote:
Existence is frail and changeable. It is always unpredictable and full of doubt. But this doubt need not be negative. If all things were known about our lives much of the magic would be gone. Doubt brings with it the element of surprise, of continual newness. Sensitive and intelligent people are always full of doubt. They see it as a positive influence for spontaneity and continued growth. It is the element of uncertainty that adds the spice to living. How different life would be if we could predict tomorrow with moment-to-moment accuracy. How dull would be our world. How soon we would lose interest, cease dreaming, become bored. But life is not like that. It is always full of questions. It shows us dramatically that we can be certain of nothing. We cannot be sure of what the next moment will bring. This causes most of us to spend a large portion of our lives engaged in worrying about possible outcomes, most of which are beyond our control. It doesn't seem to matter that much of what we worry about never seems to happen anyway... we continue to choose to worry.

(excerpt from Personhood by Leo F. Buscaglia, PhD.)
What an excellent quote, it sums it up beautifully. Very Taoist, I thought - the Tao Te Ching advises the reader to go with the flow and not try to organise everything. PL Travers makes a similar point in What the Bee Knows - that only by embracing the unknown can we truly experience the numinous. And Joseph Campbell made the same point with regard to serendipity - fortuitous events will occur only if we make space for them in our lives.

I also like it when I have a ocnversation about something, and then stumble upon something relevant to it quite by chance - a nice instance of synchronicity.

Thursday, February 23, 2006

freaking out

Trading Spouses Margaret freaking out - Google Video

This is the scariest thing I've seen in a while. All I can say is, I'm glad there's a large ocean between me and this woman. I have to admit this video clip made me laugh a lot, but I feel really sorry for the kids. They look completely stunned and scared, and not by the Tarot cards etc., but by the way their mother is reacting. Well, I rebuke it in the name of the Flying Spaghetti Monster.


I teleported home one night
With Ron and Sid and Meg
Ron stole Meggie's heart away
And I got Sidney's leg

-- Douglas Adams
Quantum teleporter creates laser beam clones

As science fiction writers realised about ten years ago, if you teleport something you make a copy of it, you don't translate it from the place of origin to the destination. And the bits can get muddled up on the way. This could create some interesting ethical dilemmas. If you delete the original and retain the copy, is that murder? This problem is dealt with in a novel way in Empire of Bones by Liz Williams.

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

bona Lupercalia

Happy Lupercalia
Hey, those Romans really knew how to party. Naked young men running through the streets -- oo-er!

Whether your thing is hearts and flowers or depravity in the streets -- happy Lupercalia & Valentine's Day.

Wednesday, February 08, 2006


There are two kinds of religion, exoteric and esoteric. Exoteric religions are where the rules are imposed from above and you sign your freedom away and stop thinking. Esoteric religions are where you discover your own spiritual path, sometimes in the company of others. Followers of esoteric religions don't believe that we have found a one-size-fits-all solution, so we don't feel the need to impose our views on others.

low budget genius

LEGO Technic Difference Engine (Spotted by Green) - that's amazing.

The Science Museum spent shed-loads of money building their Babbage difference engine, and this guy manages to do it with Lego. Wow! That is seriously cool. (Ooh, am I being a bit geeky here?)

long live satire

Excellent post by Joe about the cartoon controversy.

I particularly liked this bit:
I am a very devout Seventh Day Cartoonist; I worship at the Cartoonist altar almost every day and believe in the Holy Trinity - Tom, Jerry and Bugs Bunny. I believe in the literal truth of the Complete Crumb Comics. I believe Matt Groening and Fred Quimby were sent down from Cartoon Heaven to be the Great Animator’s disciples on Earth and show us the way to a better, more tolerant and relaxed society by using satire, humour and cartoons. As such I resent the way some Muslims have attacked the Cartoonists. Where are my rights? These unbelievers deserve our wrath - fortunately we Cartoonists don’t believe in burning down buildings, books or threatening the safety of individuals, but we shall be writing to Steve Bell and Ralph Steadman about this. Eat our ink, unbelievers!

splitting the difference

BBC News: Middle East: Iran paper seeks cartoon revenge

The difference between publishing cartoons with the face of Muhammad on them and publishing cartoons about the Holocaust is that Holocaust denial is a big pack of lies, whereas printing a picture of someone's face is an artistic interpretation of their face. Also there's nothing remotely funny about millions of people being sent to the gas chambers.

Monday, February 06, 2006

flat web

Users Interleave Sites and Genres (Jakob Nielsen's Alertbox)
When working on business problems, users flitter among sites, alternating visits to different service genres. No single website defines the user experience on its own.

It is exactly this kind of problem that calls for the multilayered relational searching enabled by the Semantic Web (and hence OWL and RDF and stuff). I wish I understood all this Semantic Web stuff better though, it's fearfully complicated.

the floating world

She paints her face to hide her face. Her eyes are deep water. It is not for Geisha to want. It is not for geisha to feel. Geisha is an artist of the floating world. She dances, she sings. She entertains you, whatever you want. The rest is shadows, the rest is secret.

We went to see Memoirs of a Geisha on Saturday night. It was excellent. There were a few weird things, like why did Chiyo have blue eyes, and selling your virginity to the highest bidder is not actually part of the geisha lifestyle, but it was a beautifully made film. I read Geisha of Gion by Mineko Iwasaki last year, and Mineko's story was similar in a number of ways. According to Wkipedia, this is because the book Memoirs of a Geisha was largely based on Geisha of Gion. A pity the film-makers didn't just make a film based on Geisha of Gion. Though I did like the character of the Chairman, played by Ken Watanabe.

Friday, February 03, 2006


Pip has just pointed out that if someone was only interested in one aspect of my blogging (e.g. the geeky posts), they could click on the topic link at the top and subscribe to the RSS feed of the page. Cool.


This week I arr bin mostly investigating OWL and RDF and other ways of expressing ontologies.

It appears that there are ways of expressing terminologies / thesauri / ontologies using OWL and RDF.

Pip found this article about creating online search interfaces for museum collections: Finnish Museums on the Semantic Web: The user's Perspective on MuseumFinland.

And I found their selection of tools which you can download:
Download Semantic Web Project tools

I've also been browsing around FISH and writing entries for our in-house Wiki about all this.

Other than that, I've been answering emails and setting up Trac environments and trying to make e-learning Javascripts cross-browser compatible. I reckon if I just turned my email off for the most of the day, I'd get a lot more done.


And while we're on the subject of deities letting it all hang out, I thought I should include Sheela-na-Gigs for a bit of gender balance.

UzumeThen there's the fabulous Vulva Glove Puppets, each of which is named after a different goddess.

And the flashing goddesses, such as Baubo (Greek) and Uzume (Japanese).


I don't get this puritanical thing about not depicting deities with their assets on display. Pagans have never had a problem with it...

The Cerne Abbas Giant - a depiction of a Pagan god with a big willy. Hurrah for fertility.

Bes - an Egyptian ithyphallic god.

A statue of a Greek god, probably Pan (is that pose physically possible?)

Eye-watering depiction of Mercury from Pompeii

An ithyphallic image of Shiva from Nepal


1. What time did you get up this morning? 7.15. Too early

2. Diamonds or pearls? Pearls

3. What was the last film you saw at the cinema? Mrs Henderson Presents

4. What is your favourite TV programme? Depending on mood: Fast Show, Time Team, Babylon 5.

5. What do you usually have for breakfast? Bran flakes with goat's milk, and a cup of lotus blossom and orange flower green tea

6. What is your middle name? I don't have one

7. Favorite food? Italian, Indian, Chinese, English

8. What foods do you dislike? Celery, tomatoes, aniseed, liquorice

9. What is your favorite crisps flavour? Salt and pepper, sundried tomato and basil

10. What is your favorite CD at the moment? The Rough Guide to Fado

11. What kind of car do you drive? VW Golf Driver 1.8

12. Favourite sandwich? Goat's cheese on soda bread. Chocolate spread on toast.

13. What characteristic do you despise? pomposity, hypocrisy, stupidity

14. Favorite item of clothing? Hoodie

15. If you could go anywhere in the world on holiday? Peru

16. What colour is your bathroom? White

17. Favourite smell? Spring blossoms, mown grass

18. Where would you retire to? No idea.

19. Favourite sport to watch? Preferably none, but Sumo wrestling if forced to

20. When is your anniversary? Married 1-06-2002

21. Are you a morning person or a night person? Night

22 What is your shoe size? 8

23. Pets? 2 cats

24. When you were little, what did you want to become when you grew up? A window-dresser (when I was 6)

25. How are you today? Wishing that it was customary for humans to hibernate

26. What is your favourite flower? Snowdrops, cherry blossom, primroses

27. What date on the calendar are you looking forward to? Holiday in Corfu

Thursday, February 02, 2006

bacon and beer

I don't think the Danish economy will be that seriously affected by the current Middle Eastern boycott in response to the Muhammad Cartoons. After all, two of Denmark's major exports are bacon and lager, and neither of these products are permitted to Muslims.

Meanwhile Bendt Bendtsen, a Danish politician, claims that the cartoons are as offensive as some paintings of Jesus with an erect penis - maybe they are to some people, but the difference is that that artist has not had to go into hiding in fear of his life. Yesterday Jyllands-Posten staff had to be evacuated in response to a bomb threat. There is also an editorial explaining the paper's intentions in publishing the cartoons.

Apparently the offence was caused by the fact that the cartoons depicted Muhammad's face at all, not so much by the actual content.

This is an issue of freedom of speech. Other religions have to put up with depictions of their iconic figures, both inside and outside their religion, so I don't see why any religion should get special treatment.

Maybe Google could produce a special image search engine for the Muslim world which filters out this kind of thing.