Archive for May, 2011


So… are fairies real?

I looked at the search terms for people finding my nice shiny new blog and it turns out that everyone that has found this blog from a Google search has been interested in finding the truth about fairies. Quite why Google has been sending such requests here is unknown, but I guess I might as well take the time to settle the question, just so those people haven’t come all this way for nothing.

So, fairies… fact of fiction?

Well, it’s actually a little more complicated than that. There’s a lot of mythos regarding fairies, and a lot of it is contradictory and so it’s hard to know exactly what people mean when they say “fairy”.

For example: Tinkerbell?

Tinkerbell

Definitely a fictional character.

In the same way that Micky Mouse isn’t an accurate representation of a mouse, you can’t expect tinkerbell to be an accurate reflection of a fairy.

You can see the resemblance...

The origin of Mickey Mouse

Poker, she'll love it

The Origin of Tinkerbell?

So what in the inspiration for the fairy cartoon?

Well, ancient remains of a wild fairy discovered in a bog in England may provide the answer! Although partly decomposed, this gives a good insight into the kind of creature may have inspired the fairy stories.

British Bog Fairy

British Bog Fairy

The fairy, which probably fell into the bog while singing, has been mummified by the bog and is thought to be over two hundred thousand years old.

Ancient wild fairies were pretty dangrous - she'd have your finger right off...

Small sharp teeth make the Bog Fairy a dangerous predator

Also, a fairy fossil has been discovered in an Australian cave. This is thought to be a different species of fairy, but of a similar age.

She may have been prettier when she was alive...

A 200,000 year old fossil of an Australian Leaf Fairy

Both fairies are female and look very much like small people. It is thought that the British bog fairy was a carnivorous creature that hunted mostly beetles and mice. Her Australian cousin has a more rounded tooth structure and is thought to have been a vegetarian.

It is thought that fairies were once quite common, however it is unusual to find evidence of them. Scientists believe that this is due to their fragile bodies being easily broken down by the elements when they die.

It is thought that faries were once part of daily life in the villages of England. In same way that coca-cola used to contain real cocaine, fairy cakes used to contain real fairy dust. In ancient times it was not unusual for a baker to keep a fairy in a semi-domestic capacity and to use the dust from its wings to make fairy cakes. The British Bog fairy also served as an alternative to keeping a cat as she would hunt and kill mice that tried to get into the grain store. When cocaine became morally wrong and hence illegal, its use was banned and now coca-cola must rely on sugar and caffeine for its addictive qualities. In a similar way, the fairy cake also resorted to using sugar to replace its active ingredient. However, this was for a very different reason.

In 1837, Thomas Hedley discovered that the essence of a fairy was actually fantastically good for making bubbles. It turns out; it was also very good at giving things a sparkling clean shine. He immediately founded a soap company in Newcastle, England. He hunted wild fairies and in his small factory he used them to make soap. He bought the rights to the word ‘Fairy’ from Fairbanks and launched the first all-purpose soap in 1898.

In 1930, Thomas Hedley was struggling as he had hunted the English fairies into extinction and now relied on those caught abroad to make his soap. Procter and Gamble took over the fairy soap company and decided to make a more efficient use of fairies. They began a large scale fairy breeding program designed breed a juicier and less flighty fairy. Today, large battery breeding cages filled with plump, wingless creatures are all that is left of the once glorious fairy.

10,000 faries a day are pressed into mushy juice

Fairy processing plant

They blink in the neon lights of the factories and are fed on high protein gruel until they are fat enough to process. The processing involves fairies being put into a metal cylinder and then pressed thru a mesh to release the essence. The husks are used as one of the ingredients in the food for the other fairies; the bright green juice is used as an additive for the cleaning products industry.

Now with 10% extra fairy!

Sparkling clean dishes? Magic!

So what about wild fairies? Are there any left?

Sadly, with the over hunting, increase in complaining, and the eradication of her natrual habitat, the wild fairy is all but extinct. There may be some still living in San Francisco or the wilds of Borneo, but wherever they are, they’re keeping well hidden…

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Mice in the grain store

Everyone knows that people in crowds behave differently from individuals. Individuals may be smart, but crowds are stupid. There’s something about being part of a large group that somehow seems to strip away the mental capabilities of the individual; they give up their decision making to the group and hence shrug off responsibility for their own actions. Suddenly they can behave like wild animals.

Crowds - Not as smart as mice
“Let’s smash stuff up!”

The IQ of a crowd is the IQ of the smartest member, divided by the number of people.

So what’s the IQ of the human race? Well, the highest IQ on record is Physicist and Engineer Kim Ung-yong with a score of 210. The earth’s population is 6.92 billion. So the human race as a whole has an IQ of about 0.00000003. You’ll not need me to tell you; that’s a poor IQ for a glass of water.

I figure we’re not even on the same scale as animals – we’re barely alive. Some kind of low level cell virus or something.

But seriously, what about those mice?

A Mouse

Do you know what happens when a few mice get into a grain store undetected? Well, with the food supply so good they make themselves at home. They have babies. Because the food supply is so easy, all the babies grow up healthy strong. They have babies themselves. If twenty mice pair off and have six little mice, then you’ve got seventy mice. All of which can breed. So then you’ve got 280 mice. Then 1120. The population explodes and there are mice everywhere. Hundreds! Thousands! Swarms of the little buggers. It’s good times for mice! The party just keeps rolling.

High in mouse - low in pollyunmouse

Mice rule the world!

The population keeps rocketing until one day, quite suddenly, the grain runs out. Ah – bummer.

So then what happens?

Well, there’s a problem. The surrounding countryside can’t support the massive population of mice. The farmer isn’t going to restock that silo because she’s gone bust (all that grain she had to sell, well, it’s kinda missing). So the mice empire crashes. Every plant and bit of wood for miles around is gnawed to ground and there are desperate mice fighting over bits of dirt and pebbles that aren’t even edible. Soon the ground is littered with the dying and dead. It’s the mouse apocalypse.

Maybe a few survive. These few manage to scratch out a living in the wasteland, but they’ll never have it so good again. Life for the survivors is hard.

So what should the mice have done?

Well, what if back when the first few mice snuck into the grain store they all got together and had a mouse meeting. Some important and clever mouse could address his comrades:Smart mouse knows what to do...

“Listen up lads, we’re on to a good thing here. We can live like kings for as long as we like. So long as we only take a small amount of the grain, and keep quiet, no one will ever know. We can stay here and build self-sufficient way of life that will last not only for us, but for our children, and for their children. We can ensure prosperity for our progeny for all time; until we finally evolve into something that can beat the shit out of a cat.”

They could set themselves up a little self-sufficient hippy commune and live in harmony with their environment. The farmer gets the grain, they take a small cut, life goes on and everyone is happy.

But mice don’t do that. They’re not that smart.

And honestly? Neither are we.

Oh, damnit! There goes the last of the brandy...

The higher purpose clause

What is the higher purpose clause?

Well, is an argument used by many religions, governments, and even individuals to justify doing something that is clearly wrong, on the grounds that it is for the greater good.

The Higher Porpoise Clause

Not to be confused with the Higher Porpoise Clause

“We’re going to build a new dam and flood your village to make a reservoir so the people in the next town have clean water.”

Well, shucks. It sucks to live in that village.

In many cases that’s as far as it goes, some authority or other balancing the needs of different groups and deciding to screw one in favor of the many. I guess that’s just progress.

However, the real danger of the Higher Purpose Clause is that it can easily be used to justify almost anything.

Let’s start with a trivial example

Imagine that there is a person with a bomb and they are about to kill ten people. The only way you can stop this person is to shoot them before they set off the bomb. You know that if you shoot, you will kill the aggressor. Chain of argument goes: this person is a murderer; I can save ten innocent lives; the only person who comes to harm is a killer; so I’ll shoot.

(I know, there’ll always be those who wouldn’t shoot – those who’d let the killer blow up the innocent people, but we’ll assume for now that you’re not one of those – we’ll see what happens to those people later)

Fine and dandy. You’d save the innocent many by killing the killer.

So let’s take the same scenario up a notch, shall we?

Let’s say that rather than one person set to kill ten people, you have a group of ten people about to kill one hundred people. You can save all one hundred people by blowing up the ten killers with a handy bomb.

Handy Bomb

Oooh, handy!

The moral argument is still the same, you save ten times as many people as you kill and every person that you kill is in fact a killer being prevented from acting out the murderous plan. Only there’s a catch. If you agree that you should blow up the ten, I’ll shoot you.

What?

You have just become the aggressor in the first example.  Therefore, while you feel morally ok about blowing up ten people, I feel morally ok shooting you to prevent it.

The problem here is a lack of information. If you knew the whole picture and you could see everyone’s intent, then a clear course of action for the greater good could be made. Even in this trivial example, it’s easy to get caught out. So what happens in the real world where things are so incredibly complex? Well… soldiers blow the shit out of hospitals and schools; they kill hundreds of thousands of civilians in a vague hunt for a handful of people they probably won’t even recognise if they found. Then politicians put a snappy strap line on it and sell it as Righteous and Good. The higher purpose clause at work – don’t worry about those foreign civilians, it’s for the greater good of the free world.

Hey, it's just like the real thing....

Bombing the hospital looses you 1000 points, but that's ok because you can get those back by boming the school...

So what’s the alternative?

Quite simply: Do no wrong.

Each act should be good in its own right, without further justification. It’s wrong to kill, so if the bomber is about to kill ten people, you let that happen. The bomber may do wrong, but that’s no reason to also do wrong.

The trouble with this philosophy is that if you follow it, you get fucked.

You can probably get away with it in a large city if you’re careful and lucky and hide in obscurity, because you’ll never need to do wrong. You can probably get away with it if you live on a mountain where nobody will trouble you.

However, we still live in a world where some people exist in poverty and others live like Emperors. If you’re reading this then on a global scale, you’re probably an Emperor (or at least, a well off noble of some kind). Without the will to defend yourself and your country, you will be dragged down into the darkness. So you must fight, or at least condone others to fight on your behalf.

“All it takes for evil to triumph is for good men to do nothing.”

So what’s the answer?

Honestly, I don’t know. I’d like to say that you should do something, but do no wrong. In practice that’s not how I behave at all.

If I’m walking down a dark alleyway in the night and I’m confronted by a man with a knife I have the same options. If I do nothing – I get fucked –  evil wins. If take care to do no wrong, I put myself at risk and I probably get fucked – evil wins. So what do I do? I fucking kill him. I don’t feel bad about that. If I were to invoke the higher purpose clause I could say that I am protecting innocent women; that if just made my escape and let him go then next time he might attack a girl that couldn’t defend herself. But that’s not it. That’s not why I’d do it. I’d do it because I would be fighting to win. I would be defending myself with no holds barred. If I let him go he might follow me. My intent would be to end any threat to myself. Because of this, if I knocked him down and he wasn’t getting up again, the situation would be altered and I could walk away.

The higher purpose clause would murder him while he was down. That’s why I don’t trust it.

The difference is – if he runs away – I won’t follow him.

So what’s the answer?

I guess you pay your money, take your choice, hope things all work out in the end…

The next town

I was reading a post by Steve the Taochild today about perspective. This reminded me of a little story about the way people look at the world.  

A man was walking along the road when he came across a monk sitting by the roadside.Monk by the road

“I am going to the next town,” said the man, “what can you tell me about it?”
“What did you think of the town from which you have come?” asked the monk.

“It was awful. It was dirty and cramped and full of liars and cheats!”

“Ah,” said the monk sadly, “I think you will find the next town is much the same.”

Later that day another man came along the road, he too met the monk.

“I am going to the next town,” said the second man, “what can you tell me about it?”

“What did you think of the town from which you have come?” asked the monk.

“It was beautiful. It had wonderful parks and the people were open and friendly.”

“Ah,” said the monk with a smile, “I think you will find the next town is much the same.”

It seems some people love to complain. They will complain about the weather, their internet connection, their partner, their friends, and even the dress sense of strangers. Avoid those people.

If you find yourself complaining about something, stop a moment and think. Complaining is a completely negative response. It regurgitates the problem again and again, reliving and retelling the same issue only makes it worse for the person doing the complaining, there is no real satisfaction to be gained from it. In all honesty, nobody really wants to hear it either. Maybe close friends will tolerate a little complaining now and then, after all, friends put up with a lot of shit, but I’m sure they’d rather not have to.

That’s not to say you shouldn’t let you friends know how you feel, if you’re upset you can tell them without complaining about it. Also, I’m not saying that you should accept bad behaviour or bad service from others; you can make clear your disapproval and request compensation without needing to complain.

Complaining is an inability to accept the way things are. Whining and complaining about the state of the world just makes the state of the world that little bit worse, because now it’s got some crying baby whinging in it as well. To make the world better takes positive action. Making your life better takes positive action. Impressing your friends takes positive action. Getting your money back from the cable company takes positive action. Complaining is always negative and will always get you further away from where you want to be.

Whenever something goes wrong or things don’t pan out the way you’d hoped, just take two simple steps.

Step 1) Accept the way things are
Step 2) Take positive action to improve the situation

It’s worth remembering that we can’t all have what we want all the time. Maybe your TV is broken and you can’t fix it. Maybe you can’t afford a new one, or even a second hand one. Maybe you’re just going to have to live without a TV. Now you could spend the next few days complaining to everyone you know about how crappy it is not to have a TV and how if that stupid dog hadn’t vomited on the old one you could be being brainwashed by Fox News right now instead of standing here whining about it. Alternatively, you could dust off a pack of cards, invite a few friends over and play poker and have a decent conversation about something. There is always something better to do rather than complain.

I’ve noticed that the more affluent and privileged a person is, the more likely they are to complain. In the dusty back streets in South Africa, where the going is tough, everyone is talking about what they’re going to do – how they’re going to make something of themselves. In the glossy malls of America, there are girls sipping latte and whining about the tariff on their cell phone or complaining that they can’t get quite the right shade of eye shadow.

Tinkerbell; killed by a complaint about cold coffee in McDonald's in April 2011

Fairy killings rise sharply every time Microsoft releases a new operating system. Bill Gates said to be saddened by the news.

Now and then I take a look at the way I behave and I think to myself: If I’ve got time to complain about things – I’ve got it too good. So I stop wasting time and energy killing fairies and use that time and energy making the world more beautiful (by killing Insurance salesmen instead).

What is Ma?

I have a hand. The hand is not me, but it is mine. I have a brain, this is not me, but is it (mostly) mine. I have thoughts, but again, these are not me. I have memories, they are mine, but they are not me.

There was a philosopher that used this argument for the existence of a soul, but the argument is flawed simply because I can just as easily say: I have a soul, but it is not me. I don’t think I have a soul, I think that idea is just wishful thinking that’s gotten tied up in dogma.

But I do know that whatever part of me I pick out, that part isn’t me. Even the sum of all those parts doesn’t quite cover it. There’s more to me than the sum of my parts. There’s more to you than the sum of your parts too. We have emergent properties that are more than we can really understand.

We have Ma. An emptiness that longs to be filled.

Ma is negative space. Ma is not something that is created by the elements themselves but rather it is the thing that takes place in the imagination of the human who experiences the elements. It’s the bit that’s not specifically defined and yet adds meaning and purpose to that which is defined.

Lao Tse explains it like this:Lao Tse

 Thirty spokes meet in the hub,
but the empty space between them
is the essence of the wheel.

Pots are formed from clay,
but the empty space between it
is the essence of the pot.

Walls with windows and doors form the house,
but the empty space within it
is the essence of the house.

[Lao Tse]

Perhaps in the same way, your body and mind form the human, but the empty space within you is what drives you. Most of all, it is the fear of that emptiness that is the essence of you. It is the fear of hollowness, the longing to be complete, that pushes people to create Gods and Souls. We are all defined by the emptiness within us and we constantly fight it.

Maybe when we know we are empty we can learn not to fight it but to use that space, in the same way we can make use of the space in a pot or in a house. We can make it ours. We can fill it with blackcurrent jelly. We can go live in it. There, we can find peace.

And, somehow, I’ve completely failed to turn a post about Ma into a ‘your mom’ joke… damn… time for a Socially Awkward Penguin:

Socially awkward pengiun

Ah... yeah... what I meant was...

Finding yourself

Omni omni omni...

I used to hear about people doing all sorts of things in order to find themselves. People attending religious camps, climbing mountains, trekking across deserts, and sitting alone in the dark staring at the wall. One guy even spent a whole winter living in a tiny wooden shack surrounded by hungry polar bears. I mean, seriously? Find yourself? Really? Here’s a hint. Put up one hand in front of your face. You’ll find it’s attached to an arm (unless you’ve had a nasty accident or something, in which case you may need to apply the principle to a different limb). Follow that up to the shoulder and you’ll find that you’re actually right there! You’re attached! You’re not going anywhere. Hey you’ve found yourself, have a beer and get on with your day, right?

I mean, what do you really find if you sit on a mountain top by yourself for three months? I guess you find out that it can get damn cold at night; that toilet paper is actually pretty cool stuff; that body odour really isn’t that big of a deal; that it doesn’t really matter that you felt like an idiot when the girl you fancied mocked you in front of your friends. But you knew that already, right? I mean, toilet paper? How cool is that?

Man, toilet paper is so cool...

I’ve been up the mountain; I’ve walked the desert and I’ve spent my nights watching the ocean. Somehow I knew I was lost, but I didn’t find myself in any of those places. I tried other places too. Turns out I’m not at the bottom of a bottle of vodka, nor am I upside-down in a BMW in a ditch in Germany (at least, not right now, anyway).

What lampost, officer?

Nice parking...

Everywhere I went I just found my history was already there, just waiting for me. I realized that it’s not about finding yourself at all. It’s about cutting loose all the things that are not you. All that shit that builds up in your mind that just isn’t that important but makes each day harder. I used to be real bad for that. My history lived behind my eyes. Everything I saw was colored by the glow of the bridges I’d burned and disfigured by the shadows cast by the dead. But one day I realized: That history isn’t me. It’s shit that happened, sure. I was there. But it isn’t me.

Maybe some people feel they need to be alone in the mountains to cut thru all their history and their current situation to find what’s left. I don’t think you need the mountain. I think you can find yourself, right now, right here. You don’t need that romantic, meditation imagery. You don’t need those scented candles and voodoo worry dolls. You don’t need all the commercialized pine forest relaxation aids and panpipe moods.  You don’t even need to finish reading this post. You just make a choice to cut loose.

So I put my hand in front of my face. I followed my arm up to the shoulder. You know what? I’m right here. I’ve been here all along. In the end, I guess, I finally found myself, but there was a slight problem. Turns out that I didn’t like me very much. Guess you can’t win ‘em all, huh?

Pet names

I’ll come right out and say it: I don’t like pet names.  Actually, with a name like mine you might say I have an issue with names in general, but that’s beside the point. Pet names piss me off and I’ll tell you why.

Pet names are patronising. They belittle you. If someone chooses to call you “Cutie” rather than using your name, it’s like they think they’re conversing with a dog or a young child. “Awww isn’t she adorable? Oh, she’s wet herself again; but it’s still kinda cute…”

Well, fuck you.

Who's a little cutie? Aww you are!

Until recently this hasn’t really been a real problem for me. Nobody tries to talk to me like that to my face. Maybe it’s the way I stick my machete in the table before I sit down? Who knows? However recently it’s happened a few times on the internet with people I don’t even know. Quite why a guy would start calling a stranger “baby” or “sweetie” as an attempt to strike up a conversation is rather beyond me.

I’m sure this didn’t happen back when I first started living in the networks; back when you needed to splice a copper phone line in half and twist your modem wires in so you could call a server in Belgium and trick it into letting you online. Back then the net was full of bulletin boards and text chat rooms where everyone would “asl?” and then pretty much ignore the answer.

I guess since having a profile picture has been common, people have started noticing I’m not a boy. For some reason that seems to encourage people to talk to me like they think I’m an idiot. I considered changing my profile picture to that of a cartoon, or even to a picture of Johnny Depp or something. But I decided that I don’t want to. I don’t want to feel I have to hide my face or my gender in order to not get patronized or spammed with offensive comments. However, since I can’t actually stab these idiots in the face; the only sensible option I’ve got is to block/ignore. It’s not even worth ranting abuse at them; they’re simply not worth that much effort.

I guess there must be girls out there who put up with this crap. If every time a guy talked down to a girl like she was some kind of cute pet, that girl just told him to go fuck himself, you’d think sooner or later the guy would either get the message or kill himself or something? So why are girls putting up with it? Seriously. You don’t need to let anyone talk down to you. If they call you “honey” when they say hello, the correct response is “Fuck off”.

In the meantime, I’m gonna get on with inventing that device that will enable me to stab people in the face over the internet…