Next: Science is now so complex that we can no longer ask What? We can now only wonder Why?

This Blog used to be about the question: What is Science?
Now, it asks: What is Happiness?

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

101st airborne strikes a blow for gay rights!

and it is my 101st blog!
and my favourite man of the cloth, Arch Desmond Tutu and I agree hugely on everything (except for the existance of God)
and here is what my hero Tutu has to say about Gay Rights in Africa.

This opinion piece was published in the Washington Post on last Friday, March 12 2010.

In Africa, a step backward on human rights

By Desmond Tutu
Friday, March 12, 2010; A19

Hate has no place in the house of God. No one should be excluded from our love, our compassion or our concern because of race or gender, faith or ethnicity -- or because of their sexual orientation. Nor should anyone be excluded from health care on any of these grounds. In my country of South Africa, we struggled for years against the evil system of apartheid that divided human beings, children of the same God, by racial classification and then denied many of them fundamental human rights. We knew this was wrong. Thankfully, the world supported us in our struggle for freedom and dignity.

It is time to stand up against another wrong.

Gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgendered people are part of so many families. They are part of the human family. They are part of God's family. And of course they are part of the African family. But a wave of hate is spreading across my beloved continent. People are again being denied their fundamental rights and freedoms. Men have been falsely charged and imprisoned in Senegal, and health services for these men and their community have suffered. In Malawi, men have been jailed and humiliated for expressing their partnerships with other men. Just this month, mobs in Mtwapa Township, Kenya, attacked men they suspected of being gay. Kenyan religious leaders, I am ashamed to say, threatened an HIV clinic there for providing counseling services to all members of that community, because the clerics wanted gay men excluded.

Uganda's parliament is debating legislation that would make homosexuality punishable by life imprisonment, and more discriminatory legislation has been debated in Rwanda and Burundi.

These are terrible backward steps for human rights in Africa.

Our lesbian and gay brothers and sisters across Africa are living in fear.

And they are living in hiding -- away from care, away from the protection the state should offer to every citizen and away from health care in the AIDS era, when all of us, especially Africans, need access to essential HIV services. That this pandering to intolerance is being done by politicians looking for scapegoats for their failures is not surprising. But it is a great wrong. An even larger offense is that it is being done in the name of God. Show me where Christ said "Love thy fellow man, except for the gay ones." Gay people, too, are made in my God's image. I would never worship a homophobic God.

"But they are sinners," I can hear the preachers and politicians say. "They are choosing a life of sin for which they must be punished." My scientist and medical friends have shared with me a reality that so many gay people have confirmed, I now know it in my heart to be true. No one chooses to be gay. Sexual orientation, like skin color, is another feature of our diversity as a human family. Isn't it amazing that we are all made in God's image, and yet there is so much diversity among his people? Does God love his dark- or his light-skinned children less? The brave more than the timid? And does any of us know the mind of God so well that we can decide for him who is included, and who is excluded, from the circle of his love?

The wave of hate must stop. Politicians who profit from exploiting this hate, from fanning it, must not be tempted by this easy way to profit from fear and misunderstanding. And my fellow clerics, of all faiths, must stand up for the principles of universal dignity and fellowship. Exclusion is never the way forward on our shared paths to freedom and justice.

The writer is archbishop emeritus of Cape Town, South Africa. He won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1984.

This article was forwared to me via the fabulous Internews Network, who time and time again confirm that the struggle for freedom and democracy involves us all thinking WIDE and acting LOCALLY.

Nothing Father from the Truth

My 100th Blog entry. It better be good!

I've gone thru my blog history and re-read it all. There's posts on everything from bad science to virtual travel, figments of imagination to arguments about pigments. But one topic keeps coming up and so spurred on by my DVD salesman confiding in me yesterday that he hates all Americans and that 'did I know that the Iraq war was all about oil', and he as a Muslim knows that Lucifer and the Free Masons are to blame, I have resisted my intention to write about the joys of X-plane and laminar flow. Instead....

17th March 2010
Nothing father from the truth..
When I was younger, so much younger than today, I always looked forward to December. It was my annual chance of being Father Christmas. I especially recall one year in Cape Town, it must have been 1987 and Sarah and her brood of cousins were a captive audience. I took the opportunity to give them all a jovial lecture of how privileged they were to be getting gifts and how we should all pause for a moment to consider those kids on the flats (poorer areas) who would not have any evidence that Father Christmas had been their way at all.
I particularly liked donning the cottonwool beard and red dress because that was all it took for the kids to totally suspend their disbelief. There were no questions asked about how I had managed to get to see all the billions of children all over the planet nor how I had known what each of them wanted for Xmas. I felt and acted like an all-knowing, all powerful, all nice god....and they believed every word I spoke. So did the adults. Well, if they knew it was me, they certainly didn't let on. It was after all the season of good will and nobody was going to rock the boat by telling the Truth! Heavens no!
The next day we had all forgotten about Father Xmas and were happily finishing off the spoils of the excessive feasting of the day before. Boxing day we call it and it's a short and necessary recovery period for us to get our brains and bodies back into reality mode as smotthly as possible. Relaxation and leftover food normally does the trick.
22 years later, I still fervently believe in Father Xmas. I give myself over to the absolute reality of the magic that he brings to each child whose cultural norms entertain this particular annual manifestation of a lesser god of good deeds and benevolence. The great thing about Daddy Xmas is that he pops up but once a year and then disappears. Make no mistake, my belief in him is no imaginary illusion, no faith-based blind belief. I can easily test the hypothesis - simply go up to any Father Xmas around town and peep behind the beard and you find a real human being who is trying very hard to be nice to children. He really does exist!
Then there is the first Xmas when your own child becomes a co-conspirator in the grand illusion. He or she knows by now that Father Xmas is really Uncle George but has loads of fun not telling the younger kids, content that in time they too will see the light and hand the baton over to the next generation.
I know not of any child whose parents have conspired to keep Father Xmas' real identity hidden from their children past about 4 years old. Even if they tried, little Joe is by now mobile and intelligent enough to have his own tug at the cotton wool beard and woe on the hapless parents whose child makes that fatal move at the company kids' party!
All good physical theories hold on the basis of being able to be replicated experimentally. There is ultimately no absolute surety that the next time you test it it will be validated again. On the other hand, a theory can be utterly disproven by finding only one instance where the prediction is contradicted. This applies to physical phenomena as well as experiments of the mind or logic. This is why the myth of Father Xmas has to die for each and every child eventually. There comes a time when there is incontravertable proof that he is just not divine.
The reason Father Xmas stays alive in the Christian culture is simply because nobody over the age of 4 years old thinks that he is really supernatural. With that out of the picture his fans can get on with enjoying all that the Xmas ritual can offer.
So, on my 100th blog, the question I ask is: When will we, as humans, realize that it is entirely possible to sing joyfully, meet our mates on Sundays (or Fridays or 5 times a day or in a trance), to do good deeds because it the right thing to do, feel humble in magnificent architecture, be inspired by poetry from books written 2000 years ago, have parties where we pretend that wine is magic, all the while accepting that what we are believing is no more real than Father Xmas coming down the chimney.
Ah! you say.....big difference! We can prove that Father Xmas isn't all powerful, all knowing and totally good. You can't disprove the existance of God.
Actually, we can.
It's those kids on the flats, the ones that don't have Xmas joy because they have been abused or simply have no food at all. Their existance proves absolutely that there can be no super being who is all powerful, all knowing and all good.
So, if your parents forgot to tell you at the age of 4 that the God, Allah, Big Mo and Jesus stories are all much like Father Christmas then by now you are probably not going to believe a word I say. Instead, you are happy to suspend your sense of disbelief and surrender yourself unto some greater power. Gosh.

Friday, March 5, 2010

Sun City Soon

I am still wondering if there is any meaning beyond sheer coincidence in the morse-like raindrop patterns I have been entertained with since the rainy season began. This is after all a scientifically correct blog and I must avoid any wild imaginings of extra-terrestrial conversations!
So, I'll put the morse on hold and see how else I can use the rain.

Dontalkdo has always been a bit prophetic. I forsaw with much disdain from vested interests the overturning of the low fat - high carb health fantasy of yesteryear. Pity that Dr Atkins hit the dust just as he was about to be proven right. It was on this blog that I predicted that the recent work in Brain Plasticity would preface a radical rethink in human behaviour and evolution. Last week the New York Times headlined - "Culture is the new Evolutionary Force" - Just as Norman Doidge MD predicted in his NY Times best seller 'The Brain that Changes itself'. My most consistent prophesy is the the one dealing with the demise of religion as we know it - the 'believing in God stuff'. This is going to be a self-fulfilling prophesy, something that religious folk are very familiar with. I am currently predicting that the Ugandan anti-gay laws will catapult the world into a new awareness of how our level of civilization and morality is measured by how we treat our fellow humans and animals - all of them. Before long we will see more and more the legalization of same sex marriage leading to a global acceptance of the power of Love over discrimination. This week alone same sex marriage has been legalized in Mexico and, wait for it, Washington DC.
My final prediction is that before the year is out I will have such a small carbon footprint that i will be able to make money by selling personal carbon points to ..... well, don't all line up so fast!
In this spirit allow me to present my gadgets of the week: a 15W Solar Panel and 10amp Charge controller, all bought at our local grocery store for the humble sum of $100.
Fat lot of good that will be in the rainy season! Ah! But I have a plan! Within minutes of the rain arriving a huge flood of water collects in our driveway and channels down a single open drain into the veggie garden some 30 feet below. That's quite a head if harnessed! So, phase 2 of my Alternative Reality Project is to link the Solar system to a small scale hydro generator. Could it be better? Water falls on my head, fuels my off sun energy and then waters the veggie patch - all without any pumps!
Initially I should be able to have a backup system for my computers and some low wattage LED lighting.
In time, and inspired by the USA Florida Solar Project featured in the NYT today, I hope to be able to kiss the grid goodbye and live happily ever after in an alternative energy reality.
If you want to play around a bit with the options in solar try the great simulation on this site:

and for a peep at where I hope to end up..... (Madrid Polytechnical Uni project)

This is Bob's solar house and a highly detailed look at what can be achieved with a lot of passion and basic tools.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

GOD SAYS NO! - Dis mos code exe!

Most of you will have heard by now that our combined efforts to say 'NO!'to the bizarre planned anti-gay law in Uganda resulted in almost 450 000 signatures to the petition that was presented to the Ugandan Speaker of Parliament, Mr Edward Ssekandi. If you believe in God then one of those signatures is by definition, His! We were hoping for 200 000! Well done, but the battle has only just begun.
Whilst a standard email is circulating requesting more ongoing support, financial and otherwise, I have decided to write a short note to give you an idea of exactly why this bill is so bizarre, anti-religious, immoral and AFFECTS us all.

Here are 2 extracts from the proposed law:

2. The offence of homosexuality.
(1) A person commits the offence of homosexuality if-
(a) he penetrates the anus or mouth of another person of the same sex with his penis or any other
sexual contraption;
(b) he or she uses any object or sexual contraption to penetrate or stimulate sexual organ of a
person of the same sex;
(e) he or she touches another person with the intention of committing the act of homosexuality.
(2) A person who commits an offence under this section shall be liable on conviction to
imprisonment for life.

3.3. Part III of the Bill incorporating clause 7 to clause 14 creates offences and penalties for
acts that promote homosexuality, failure to report the offence and impose a duty on the
community to report suspected cases of homosexuality.

14. Failure to disclose the offence.
A person in authority, who being aware of the commission of any offence under this Act, omits
to report the offence to the relevant authorities within twenty-four hours of having first had that
knowledge, commits an offence and is liable on conviction to a fine not exceeding two hundred
and fifty currency points (2500 US$) or imprisonment not exceeding three years.

(“authority” means having power and control over other people because of your knowledge and
official position; and shall include a person who exercises religious. political, economic or social

The above clearly expressed clauses mean that the following can easily happen to YOU.

Imagine that you are on a bus entering Uganda on a dream safari holiday. The chap next to you finds you attractive (as happens to all of us on planes and buses!) and fantasises about where things may go. After chatting for a while he places his hand on your knee. In the next seat sits someone who has strong homophobia and decides to report the event at the next police road block.
You and your friend are arrested. based on the evidence of the claimant, you receive a $2500 fine for not reporting a homosexual act and the other guy gets life imprisonment. Oh, by the way, he is also tested for HIV and if found positive gets the death sentence. It is that bizarre!
However, if you are a single woman traveller and some guy on the bus hassles you and keeps trying to grab your leg, your have no legal protection. Why? Because Uganda is a heterosexual, family oriented country that tacitly accepts that it is ok for married men to have affairs and additional wives as long as they are the opposite sex.

Those who advocate this law, includes the Ugandan contingent and some pretty serious, mostly US based evangelical Christian groups. They also often criticize the opponents of this law as being from the morally lax West, yet by any logic this simply does not hold.

Either you believe in God or you do not. If you are a Christian, as most Ugandans are, then you must abide by the word of Jesus, that all life is sacred and we may not kill. If you are part of the group of humans who reject the supernatural then you will also understand that the unstoppable secular global movement towards increased civilization and respect for human and animal life and their right to life is the opposite of barbarism. This is and has always been the way the world progresses. You can be true to your faith or true to right action or both in Uganda. Both exclude the death penalty and anti-human actions.

The Speaker asked of the journalists in public, 'How would you like it if your son or daughter arrived at home with a boy or girlfriend of the same sex?'

Read more:

My answer to that is simple: 'Sir, if my son or daughter came home with their same sex partner I would (and have) welcomed them as people who are celebrating the greatest gift we have, that of Love. Any less, I do not deserve the honour of being a parent.'

..and from the not so wild frontier.....

The rain is visiting us more regularly now. Maybe this is the beginning of the Big Rains. Or, maybe, the Little Rains. I had heard much about these monsoony happenings when we first came to Kenya, but am still waiting to experience anything that can be defined as more than 'a rainy day or two'.
So it was that I was typing away in my dungeon studio in our own corner of the Rwandan jungle (so to speak), that the pitter patter of rain drops on my window drew my attention. It was rather more a 'dee dee dee dee..dee..dee dah dee dee..dee dah dee dee..dah dah dah...
I am still sitting here wondering if there is something more to this than a great jazz beat. Maybe somebody is trying to send me a message?

Could it be Morse Code? I listened again and sure enough the same rythym and blues came through my window. A meaningful coincidence? Maybe...but maybe not. This time I wrote it down as a series of dots and dashes. It looks like this: .... . .-.. .-.. --- - .... .. ... .. ... --. --- -..

I also found a morse code chart! Have fun!