Google often changes its logo to match the day – public holidays, festivals, even sports get their own logo de jour.
On June 6th 2008 Google remembered the birthday of Spanish painter Diego Velasquez.
I like Velasquez. Las Meninas, the painting suggested in the logo, is a wonderfully rich image that draws in the viewer, and almost forces him or her to wonder, to ask questions, to participate in the painting. It really is one of those rare paintings you can lose yourself in.
On June 6th 2009 Google remembered the invention of the game Tetris. Tetris was a milestone in computer games. It is simple to play, highly addictive, and has probably been played by more people than any other video game.
But hang on. Important as those things might be, June 6th is the anniversary of D-Day.
2009 is the 65th anniversary of the day on which allied forces, mostly men from the US and UK, landed on beaches in Normandy and began to roll back the horror of the Nazi domination of Europe. The beaches were more heavily defended than expected, and losses were horrific.
The film Saving Private Ryan gives a frighteningly accurate portrayal of the conditions under which the landings took place.
I am not the only person to think there is something wrong at Google HQ if D-Day can be consistently considered less important to remember than a painter or a video game. (There is something wrong at Wikipedia as well, but that’s a post for another time).
Time to change search engines.
No s%#t, Sherlock.
A study from NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland looking at climate data over the past century has concluded that solar variation has made a significant impact on the Earth’s climate. The report concludes that evidence for climate changes based on solar radiation can be traced back as far as the Industrial Revolution. Past research has shown that the sun goes through eleven year cycles. At the cycle’s peak, solar activity occurring near sunspots is particularly intense, basking the Earth in solar heat.
Solar activity has shown a major spike in the twentieth century, corresponding to global warming. Recent cooling corresponds to a cyclic decline in sunspot activity. Comparable up and down changes in atmospheric temperature have been observed on Mars, Jupiter, and most other places which receive light and heat from the sun.
June 1 is the beginning of the North Atlantic hurricane season. Benita Dodd, of the Georgia Public Policy Foundation, notes that:
Odds are a mild hurricane season will be blamed on … global warming. Odds are an active hurricane season will be blamed on … global warming.
One of my friends is a dizzy blonde beauty therapist. She spends a considerable amount of time ripping hair off people’s private parts.
Last night she showed me a brochure for a new product – lightening gel for sensitive areas.
Apparently with so many people now permanently hairless down under, looking one’s best everywhere has become a major concern. You don’t want to look brown. Pink is the go.
So you smear this cream on your rectum and it goes a nice pink colour. Celebrites are ordering with confidence, according to the South Beach website.
The process is also known as anal bleaching.
But why would you do it? Who would be looking?
The fire broke out in a tyre depot next to the daycare centre in Hermosillo in northern Mexico.
Of about 180 children at the centre at the time, 29 are reported dead from asphyxiation.
May God grant them a place in His heavenly Kingdom, and give comfort to their families.
And perhaps someone could investigate why a childcare centre was built right next to a business storing large quantities of highly flammable materials.
Global temperature has (possibly, no one is really sure) risen by about half of one degree over the last hundred years.
Given that seals have survived the last several million years of climate changes, varying from ice ages to periods considerably warmer than now, their ability to survive this miniscule change is hardly surprising.
Unless you are a raving climate catastrophist who looks for horror stories around every corner. In which case you would have been pleasantly suprised by growing numbers of protected Russian seals. Or horribly disappointed.
In further news, disobedient sea otters and polar bears also continue to increase in number.
Yesterday Qohel was at the number one position on Bing for ‘leading conservative blog.’ Today it has dropped out of their listings completely.
Bing’s webmaster tools report they had trouble finding my sitemap last time they crawled the site. I’ve checked that and pinged Bing with the sitemap address. But Qohel is not showing as blocked, and surely a missing sitemap could not cause an already listed site to disappear completely?
From Quadrant Online:
From the editorial of Island magazine, Autumn 2009 edition:
Ruth Sunderland discusses the gender issues she feels are being ignored in the endless analysis of our current economic crisis. She writes: ‘This mess was made by men’ and goes on to argue that women should be vitally involved in the development of solutions. In this issue of Island I have invited activists and radical thinkers, Susan Hawthorne and Ariel Salleh, to engage in a conversation about this very dilemma. It seems timely for us to listen seriously to those who think outside the square, especially when it is clearly inside-the-square thinking which has precipitated these disasters.
Extracts from “Thinking Beyond, Thinking Deep” by Susan Hawthorne and Ariel Salleh in Island magazine, Autumn 2009 (not available online):
… in a time of global warming it’s crucial to spell out the links between ecology and women, North and South.
Australian commitments under the Kyoto Protocol’s Clean Development Mechanism may cause Indonesian women to lose their communal livelihood as forests are turned into externally financed carbon sinks. This kind of policy is neocolonial and regressive.
The European study on men’s consumption choices causing more global warming than women’s, reminds me of very fine US research by Pat Hynes in which she found that when men spend, they buy luxuries – cigarettes, alcohol, petrol, pornography and women’s bodies for their individual use. Whereas when women spend they buy survival goods – food, shelter, medicines and schooling for themselves, their children and others who depend on them, including male partners.
This, of course, is why women’s personal items, fashion, perfume, make up etc, typically occupy seven times more space in shopping malls and retail centres than men’s personal items. And women don’t drink, smoke or drive.
Sad, really, because the Defence Department is notoriously difficult, and department staff and military personnel both seem to have respected Joel Fitzgibbon’s abilities.
The trigger for his resignation was a lack of clarity about contact between Mr Fitzgibbon and his staff, and his brother Mark, head of Australian health insurer NIB, and US health insurance giant Humana. In particular, Mr Fitzgibbon failed to declare accommodation paid for by NIB.
This was the last in a long series of failures to declare gifts including accommodation and travel.
Defence Department staff again affirmed they had no knowledge of any departmental investigation of links between Fitzgibbon and possible Chinese spies. This was reported in the Australian as PURE FICTION: Media reports of spy affair inaccurate, which is hardly the same thing.
As I have said before, Fitzgibbon is either totally brainless (and he’s not) or he lied repeatedly about his relationship with Chinese/Australian business woman Helen Liu. People who think they need to lie usually have something to lie about. Fitzgibbon had to go.
I wrote about the taxpayer funded Australian film Samson and Delilah a couple of weeks ago.
Gary Johns has written a review of the film. The review appears in today’s Australian.
Here’s a bit to get you started:
The film opens with a typical day in Samson’s life. He wakes to reggae music from his brother’s band playing on the porch of the archetypal concrete box house. He sniffs a can of petrol. There’s nothing to do, no work, no school. Instead, Samson follows young Delilah around as she cares for her grandmother. He is clearly taken with her, but cannotor will not say so. Instead, Samson throws stones at Delilah to catch her attention.
The next day, Samson whacks a band member over the head with a lump of wood, and in retaliation his brother beats him senseless. Samson takes his filthy rubber mat and blanket across the road and camps outside Delilah’s concrete box. Delilah’s grandmother dies, Delilah is beaten by other women in punishment for the death; the two steal a four-wheel-drive and head for town. In town Delilah is kidnapped by youths, possibly raped and certainly beaten. Nevertheless, the next day she returns to Samson who has taken shelter under the bridge on a dry river bed. He did not think to look for her. Next day, they wander out into traffic and she is run down. He did not think to look for her. The ambulance people return her, patched up.
One critic said it was “one of the bravest Australian films I’ve ever seen”. And so it was, as a documentary. Except in one respect: Delilah enters a church (suspiciously like the John Flynn church in Alice Springs) and then wanders out under the stern eye of a clergyman, who offers no help. If this is meant to convey a message about the missions, it fails. The missions saved more than souls in outback Australia, they saved lives.
Thornton says: “As far as telling a story that’s realistic, I needed to go all the way and not hold back on how grim things are. Most 14-year-olds in Alice are walking around with the knowledge of a 90-year-old, from what they’ve experienced. They’re bulletproof.”
No they are not, they are traumatised and despondent.
Any answers, Warwick? How did you escape? What is your optimistic story? How did you learn to read and write? Do you live on country, totally dependent on the white man’s petrol and canned food?
Like many films and documentaries before it, Samson and Delilah succeeds in showing the hopelessness and violence of life in remote aboriginal communites. Like those others, it offers no solutions.
Despite the rantings of deranged critics, writing from the comfort of their Melbourne apartments, this film offers neither joy nor hope.
Film makers can be agents of change. They can and must do better than simply preaching or pointing accusing fingers.
The ABC’s Chaser’s War On Everything guys have come up with some funny stuff, although they have always picked soft targets.
But the occasional funny bits have been offset by the far more frequent not in the slightest funny bits which are juvenile and offensive.
Now making jokes at the expense of dying children?
This vastly worse than anything that has ever appeared on the Footy Show.
The Chaser has well and truly run its time. Can it, please, Aunty.
From the Pakistan Daily Times, this story about the methods the Taliban use to produce their desired educational outcomes:
The Taliban blew up another girls’ school in Mohmand Agency on Monday. According to sources, Taliban had wired the government-run girls’ school with an improvised explosive device in the Shewafarash area of Lakro tehsil, which they detonated early on Monday morning. No casualties were reported. Security has been tightened in the region after the Taliban destroyed two health units and the same number of girls’ schools in the past week.
via Robert Spencer’s Jihad Watch
That won’t win them friends amongst local people.
..the longer American children are in school, the worse they perform compared to their international peers. In recent cross-country comparisons of fourth grade reading, math, and science, US students scored in the top quarter or top half of advanced nations. By age 15 these rankings drop to the bottom half. In other words, American students are farthest behind just as they are about to enter higher education or the workforce.” That’s a sobering thought. The longer kids are in school and the more money we spend on them, the further behind they get.
Australia does not participate in PISA, but I would be surprised if our results were much different.
There is no evidence that throwing money at education, or any of the popular demands like smaller class sizes, a laptop for every student, etc, make the slightest bit of difference to learning outcomes.
What does? Making schools compete for students.
This leads to more involvement by parents, more concentration on learning as opposed to fluffy fillers, more cost effective personnel and resource management, and employment of more effective teachers.
The voucher system is one way of achieving this. Bring it on!
The Tragedy of The Diocese Of The Murray.
You have never cared about me. Nobody likes me. But I am still your bishop, so do what I say. Or give me $1 million and I will leave.
That was the message from Bishop Ross Davies to members of the Anglican Diocese of The Murray at their annual meeting (synod) a week ago.
The Anglican Diocese of The Murray is a small (by Australian standards) diocese in South Australia.
I have known Ross Davies for nearly thirty years. He is an intelligent man, and a capable speaker and administrator.
He was consecrated bishop in March 2002.
At that time I was Rector of Naracoorte and Rural Dean of the South East. I was on the Bishop Election Committee. So was Bishop Ross, who was then Vicar-General of the diocese.
It was not appropriate for him to remain on the committee after his name was put forward. But he did remain, and did not excuse himself when his nomination was being discussed.
Nonetheless, he was elected, and I was happy with the result.
I preached at the Bishop’s consecration at St Peter’s cathedral. Shortly after, I was asked to be the first Dean of The Murray. I declined, believing I was still called to serve in Naracoorte. A year later I was asked again and accepted.
The bishop and I are both conservative anglo-catholics. We were of similar mind in terms of the central issues of the faith, and the role of the Diocese of The Murray in the life of the Anglican Church of Australia, and the wider Anglican Communion.
These, and our long standing friendship, were strong reasons for me to want him to succeed.
Problems began very quickly after the consecration. The Bishop had difficulty keeping his temper, and those who disagreed with him were treated like enemies. Both clergy and lay people reported feeling hurt and confused by his behaviour towards them.
Over a period of time I raised some of these concerns with him, only to be sworn at myself, and told that I had been ‘opposing him at every turn.’
I still supported the Bishop, though often with considerable embarrassment and internal conflict, in relation to some of his public actions, such as participation in the consecration of bishops for the Traditional Anglican Communion, and at his treatment of people who did not instantly agree with him, or were slow to do as he wished.
Eventually ill-feeling in the diocese rose to such a point that I wrote to the Archbishop of Adelaide and to the Primate, listing some of the major issues, and asking them to speak to Bishop Ross.
This did not happen.
As time went on the situation became completely unworkable, with the Bishop increasingly expressing resentment against the people he was called to serve, experienced clergy leaving or being sacked, and lay people refusing to come to church if the Bishop was present.
Claims that allegations of a pattern of predatory sexual abuse of women by the then Vicar-General had been ignored, or worse, deliberately covered up, were the last straw for many faithful worshippers.
The Bishop has been largely absent from the diocese for the last eighteen months.
A number of parishes have made it clear he is no longer welcome. It has been reported that the Diocesan Council has passed a vote of no confidence in his leadership. But Bishop Davies has refused to leave until he is given a payout of close to $1 million.
The Archbishop of Adelaide has complied with a request from the diocesan council of the Diocese of The Murray to open an independent investigation into Bishop Davies’ behaviour. The investigator may then recommend that a tribunal be set up which would have the power to dismiss Bishop Davies.
Bishop Davies disputes the Archbishop’s right to set up such an investigation, and the authority of any tribunal established as a result.
The categories of behaviour which a tribunal can investigate are very limited. They do not include simply being unable or unwilling to do the job of Bishop.
However, Bishop Davies is an employee of the diocese. If he is not able or willing to do the job he was appointed to do, and all attempts at negotiation have failed, the diocese is within its rights to dismiss him.
This has been suggested before, and the response has been that this would be a harsh and unforgiving thing to do. It would not.
There is much to be forgiven. And much has been forgiven. But the question is the suitability of Ross Davies to be Bishop.
It is not unforgiving to recognise that someone is not suited to the position to which he has been appointed. The last five years have been miserable for Bishop Davies and his family as well as for the diocese. The longer this crisis continues, the more harm will be done.
It is time to call an end.
It is a popular pastime to portray large pharamceutical companies as monstrous villains because they refuse to give away their products for free.
Research to develop new drugs is expensive and uncertain. It takes on average ten years and $1 billion to get a new drug approved for sale in the US.
Profits from existing drugs make that research and development possible.
Obvious, then, that if we want new development in medicine, we need to help pharmaceutical companies to make a profit.
Instead, review and approval processes, and endless litigation, drain so much money that it is made almost impossible for drug companies to fund ongoing high levels of research.
Demands for affordable health care, and even worse, free health care, (both of which mean ‘If I get sick someone else should pay for it’) may force the end of our recent history of medical miracles, and cause reduced care for most, and no care at all for many of those most in need.
New internet search engines come and go so often that I don’t usually even bother to look at them.
Usually they fail because they do not return relevant usable results. Returning sites clearly related to the search terms entered has been Google’s greatest strength.
Yahoo was for too long compromised by the fact that you had to pay to be listed. That was fine for Yahoo, but meant that many sites useful to searchers could not be found.
That changed, but by the time it did, Google had already established a lead that was too hard to make up.
Another thing Google did well was to make a clear distinction between organic search results and paid search results. Again, this helped users/searchers, so they kept coming back.
But there have been two new entries over the last month which are worth considering.
The first is Wolfram Alpha.
This is not a general search engine. It returns information, not links. But what it does, it does very well. It’s never heard of me, but generally, if you need factual information, or information which can be calculated, Wolfram Alpha is a good place to start. It also has a sense of humour.
The other major newcomer is Microsoft’s Bing.
Microsoft Live Search was always hopeless. I don’t know why, but it just never seemed to return results which were useful.
Bing does a much better job. It is quick to load, pleasant to look at, and clean – that is, the screen is not jumbled up with a whole lot of useless junk about the latest nude pics of Britney Spears, or why the world is falling apart because of misbehaviour by Australian footballers.
Most importantly, Bing returns relevant and useful results.
My impression is that Google gives more weight to blogs (John Ray agrees), or certainly that Google visits frequently updated sites more often. Perhaps this is because there doesn’t (yet) seem to be any way to send a blog ping to bing. There is a form you can use to submit your site to Bing if it does not appear in their results, and this form might also work as a ping, though I am just guessing about that.
From my brief experiments, it also seems to me that Google gives more weight to incoming links than Bing, while Bing gives more weight to page content. Both methods are reasonable. Google’s will return longer standing, popular results. Bing’s will return sites where the content matches the search terms more closely.
I like Bing. It seems to return more results that relate closely to what I was looking for.
However, for now, Google will stay as my home page.
I couldn’t get maps on Bing to work. But my major reason for staying with Google is that I search for news more than anything else. When you hit the ‘news’ button on Google without entering any search terms, it returns a wide variety of news stories from a wide variety of sources, in a well organised way. Bing returns nothing. This is a major shortcoming, one I hope will be fixed soon.
Results for search term ‘leading conservative blog’ (without quote marks).
Google: Qohel is first page, third place.
Yahoo: Qohel is first page, first place.
Bing: Qohel is first page, first place.