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UK Voting

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On May 5th the people of the UK will have to go to vote. At almost any other point in time this would not be notable at all; however this year, as a result of the coalition government formed at the last General Election, we have the opportunity to change the way we vote and how our vote is counted via a referendum.  Pretty heady stuff.

To explain, currently the UK uses what is known as “First Past the Post” voting. This can be explained as “the party with the most votes”. On the face of it this is incredibly fair – if you get 80% of the vote (or whatever you get) then surely you should win. Right? The problem is that the winner is not the person (or team or party) with the majority of the votes, simply the highest number of votes. So if the choice is between a low number of candidates or parties, say 3, the winner will get the highest number as well as the majority of the vote. If the option is between a high number of candidates, the winner may not have a clear majority, simply the highest number of votes – even if the “highest number” is a low number. In the case of 10 possibles, anyone with more than 10% of the vote will win. The downside of this is that the people who voted for the remaining 9 candidates have not just “lost” the election, they are also effectively having their views disregarded and are un- (or under-) represented.

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The Bible – On The Waterfront

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Isn’t this exciting? We’re out of the tedium of Genesis (world created, man falls, many people live and die. Oh, and attempted forced buggery and a spot of incest). We’re into Exodus now; the Bible has got going, that tricky first chapter is out of the way and the real action can start!

When the chapter begins, both Joseph and the Israelite-friendly Pharaoh are both dead. The new Pharaoh didn’t know Joseph and so has no idea that he has to be nice to the Israelites. Which is a really odd bit of continuity, did the previous guy not leave any notes? Did all his advisers die (silly question, if this is in the time of the pyramids, the answer is probably yes), but still. He tells the midwives that when they attend a birth they should kill the baby if it’s a boy. The midwives don’t do this (they fear God, apparently) and say that the women are too lively and give birth before the midwife gets there. And the Pharaoh believes this! New Pharaoh master plan: cast the boys into the river. Genius.

The hero of this chapter is Moses and the story of him being put into the river by his mother is a well-known one. Or so I thought. I had always been told that he was set adrift in his “ark of bulrushes” and that the Pharaoh’s daughter happened to find him. However, lets look at the text, shall we? (Exodus 2:3-5) Continue reading ‘The Bible – On The Waterfront’ »

In Which I Bow To The Inevitable

The front of the Amazon Kindle DX

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No, I haven’t bought an iPhone, don’t be silly. Anyway, I’m happy with my Symbian based Nokia 5800XM and when I tire of it I’ll get an Android based phone.

No, the inevitable is a little different. For background, I love to read and always have done. As a child, if I didn’t have a book, I would read the back of the cornflake packet. And that is not an exaggeration. As a result, despite losing/giving away/selling/etc many many books over the years, I have more than 700 of them at home. And there is no sign that this number will reduce. Serendipitously, I read something that meant that this could change…

Amazon have finally brought the Kindle to the UK. In fact, if you go to the Amazon UK homepage, there’s an announcement stretching down the centre of the page. We can finally read books on a book sized device that isn’t a book! In fact, there are two models on offer – the all-singing, all-dancing 3G/Wifi version and the Wifi only version. I have gone for Wifi only as I can only imagine needing to download books via a wifi connection and not when I am out of range. Also, I am cynical about the “Free 3G Wireless” offer – in this country it usually means for a time or as long as you don’t use it more than we like.

So, with a capacity of 3,500 books, from late next month, I can stop clogging up our house with dead-tree media and can also carry loads of books with me. The only problem will be “which one do I read first?”

everything in this post has been written by me as a personal post. I am not being paid by Amazon or any of their businesses to write this. though if Amazon do want to give me money and gadgets so that I’ll write about them, I will not complain or stop them.
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The Bible – Joseph is an Evil Genius

Benjamin embraces Joseph

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Joseph‘s story continues… Ten of his eleven brothers travel to Egypt to buy food to get them through the famine. Incidentally, something has occurred to me: in the tales of Joseph, God seems to be more bothered by getting Joseph into a position of power than in either preventing/alleviating the famine or in making the Israelites get through the famine. If Israel is the chosen land, why on earth are they the ones who have to go begging? If I chose a land, I’d make damn sure that they had enough to eat; were free from ills and didn’t get invaded once a week. If God is all-powerful and all-knowing, why not skip to the end and give Israel everything that they need? Anyway…

Joseph recognises his brothers and pretends not to. It’s not enough for him to crow over them, he wants to really lord it over them. So he jails them and sends one back to get the brother. No he doesn’t, he lets all but one go and they have to bring the youngest brother, Benjamin, back with them. Seriously – chapter 42 lets us see every discarded plan. So, when the 9 brothers return home, they realise that they have been sent home with all the grain they bought and the money they bought it with – this sends the family into a panic because it looks as though they have cheated Egypt. Reading through this chapter, by the way, I get the impression that the brothers have done some growing up and realised that they what they did was wrong, but they are tied up in the story they told when they sold Joseph. Joseph however has not moved on – he has wealth, power, respect and a new family and yet he still wants to make sure his brothers suffer. Joseph is meant to be something of a role model, by the way. As are Doctor Doom, Doctor Octopus, Lex Luthor, and I think you get my point. Anyway, Benjamin is not sent to Egypt, their father decides to hold him back in case he is captured or killed and makes the father unhappy. And the brother who is supposedly in jail? He’s still there.

Upshot is, they return to Egypt, with Benjamin, and more money and gifts for Joseph. And lo, they have a meal.
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2 Piles of Excellent Please

As a notoriously lazy person, I like to receive free things for very little effort. It makes me almost want to exert myself. So,when  one of my satirical stops launched a competition to receive 3 free signed copies of new detective novels and all they wanted was for entrants to retweet stories, well, I was all over that. Especially as the stories were already in my Twitter feed, so I didn’t have to find them.

The NewsGrind is a satirical online newspaper. It’s updated daily, is very funny and you should be reading it. In fact, I’ll wait while you do that now.

Done? Good. Well, they ran a competition to win 3 signed copies of Nick Brownlee’s novels, Bait, Burn and Machete (available via Amazon). They are set in Mombasa (a region under-represented in fiction) and here’s some knowledge for you:

Nick Brownlee is the author of the acclaimed Jake & Jouma series of Kenya-based crime thrillers. His debut novel Bait introduced the unorthodox crimebusting partnership of ex-cop turned fishing boat skipper Jake Moore, and veteran Mombasa detective Daniel Jouma. The sequel Burn was published in 2009 and the third book in the series, Machete, which sees the two men face their deadliest opponent yet is on sale from July 1.

So that is one pile of excellent. The second is a bit rude and is below the fold. Continue reading ‘2 Piles of Excellent Please’ »

The Bible – St Augustine on Science and Scripture

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Another little aside from our regularly scheduled programming. I found this from somewhere – I think it was Twitter or my RSS feed but can’t find the link – if it was via you, please step forward to claim your cash prize (please note: “cash prize” may be moon-speak for “link back”). The quote was found on Pib’s Home on the Web:

St Augustine said:

Usually, even a non-Christian knows something about the earth, the heavens, and the other elements of this world, about the motion and orbit of the stars and even their size and relative positions, about the predictable eclipses of the sun and moon, the cycles of the years and the seasons, about the kinds of animals, shrubs, stones, and so forth, and this knowledge he hold to as being certain from reason and experience. Now, it is a disgraceful and dangerous thing for an infidel to hear a Christian, presumably giving the meaning of Holy Scripture, talking nonsense on these topics; and we should take all means to prevent such an embarrassing situation, in which people show up vast ignorance in a Christian and laugh it to scorn. The shame is not so much that an ignorant individual is derided, but that people outside the household of faith think our sacred writers held such opinions, and, to the great loss of those for whose salvation we toil, the writers of our Scripture are criticized and rejected as unlearned men. If they find a Christian mistaken in a field which they themselves know well and hear him maintaining his foolish opinions about our books, how are they going to believe those books in matters concerning the resurrection of the dead, the hope of eternal life, and the kingdom of heaven, when they think their pages are full of falsehoods and on facts which they themselves have learnt from experience and the light of reason? Reckless and incompetent expounders of Holy Scripture bring untold trouble and sorrow on their wiser brethren when they are caught in one of their mischievous false opinions and are taken to task by those who are not bound by the authority of our sacred books. For then, to defend their utterly foolish and obviously untrue statements, they will try to call upon Holy Scripture for proof and even recite from memory many passages which they think support their position, although they understand neither what they say nor the things about which they make assertion. [1 Timothy 1.7]

- This translation is by J. H. Taylor in Ancient Christian Writers, Newman Press, 1982, volume 41.

So what is St Augustine saying here? Bear in mind that this was written by a man who lived from 354-430 AD and yet it is as true now as it was then. He is saying that Christians would be foolish to challenge scientists with the alleged science found in the Bible. He puts forward the view that if you try to correct someone by mistakenly using the Bible as a foundation for the correction when it pertains to their field, they are far less likely to believe anything else you say about the Bible.

The quote comes from The Literal Interpretation of Genesis and is of note to all the Young Earth Creationists and to those who mistakenly believe that the Bible can be used to show that much of our scientific knowledge can be found there. St Augustine was a prolific writer, a thinker and philosopher and also appears to have been a very down to earth speaker. For example, as he lay dying a man came to him to ask that he lay hands on his son to cure him. St Augustine replied that if he had any power to cure the sick, he would surely have applied it on himself first. He is now on my “to read” list.

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