Archive for February, 2013

Ratzinger, we hardly knew ye

Thursday, February 28th, 2013 | Religion & Politics


Today, Joseph Aloisius Ratzinger, better known as Pope Benedict XVI, will step down as Pope. I for one, am very disappointed.

As an atheist, I thought having a former member of the Hitler Youth, who personally covered up child abuse during his career at the Catholic Church, made an excellent elected leader for their organisation. As the infallible representative of God here on Earth, it makes it much more difficult for them to sweep such endemic abuse problems under the carpet as a few nutters gone astray (a tactic that has so far worked very well for the Islamists).

So it is with regret that I see Ratzinger quit the post that most people keep for life – and nobody is implying such tradition once again draws the line between religion and cult into question, so lets lay that one to bed right now. I didn’t think the man known as Hitler’s Other Pope would let anything get in his way.

I wonder what kind of retirement package you get as Pope. They probably haven’t put too much thought into this given it hasn’t happened in 600 years, but presumably he is still going to need security and other considerations, above that of the level of a Cardinal.

Also, at what point does he stop being infallible? Is that today? I hope he has squeezed out all the knowledge he can while we still has the chance.

Still, what is done is done. He had a great run – pissing off all the gays, women, non-believers, Anglicans, health workers and many other groups along the way. I only hope that their next leader is such an apt representative of an organisation that is brought an unparalleled amount of evil into the world[1][2][3][4][5].

Conditional tasks in Ant

Thursday, February 28th, 2013 | Programming, Tech

If you’re using Ant build scripts, there is a good chance that you will want to do some tasks conditionally – for example, if you’re using CI you will want to run your unit tests every time some code is committed – but you might only want to regenerate documentation or update a stakeholders’ preview build every night.

There is a lot of talk about conditional tags, but all these really allow you to do is set even more variables. You can use if/then/else from Ant-Contrib but that involves adding extra libraries and complicating the issue.

Actually, it turns out it is really simple to set up conditional tasks in your build process. All you need to do is call the task, but in the task header use the if attribute.

For example, I have a build task which calls all the other tasks.

<target name="build" depends="clean,checkout,nightly,phpunit,documentation" />

Even though I’m running this every time, I’m calling the “nighty” task. Below shows how I define that.

<target name="nightly" if="${env.NIGHTLY}">

Finally, in my Jenkins CI install, I make the project a parameterised build, and add a boolean called NIGHTLY that defaults to false. I can then also trigger a build by cron that specifies the NIGHTLY parameter as true, so that when it runs on a night, it runs the additional tasks as well.

Galileo Day Feast

Wednesday, February 27th, 2013 | Foundation

In celebration of Galileo Day we headed to Browns for the traditional Galileo Day Feast.

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Superstition – The Odd Delusion

Tuesday, February 26th, 2013 | Humanism

At this month’s meeting of Leeds Skeptics, Brian Quinn presented his talk “Superstition – The Odd Delusion.” We gave a similar talk at West Yorkshire Humanists in 2011, and I enjoyed it so much I thought it work booking for Skeptics too.

As Brian points out, superstition is actually far more common than religion. Many people touch wood, won’t open umbrellas in doors – or the most common of all – say good luck (though you could argue this could potentially have a psychological benefit).

I also really enjoyed his thoughts on religion, which after all is just a collection of superstitions. So, if you swap the word faith with the word superstition, you get to see just how silly some of the current issues in our society are – imagine talking about superstition schools, superstition communities or even inter-superstition dialogue.

The Master

Monday, February 25th, 2013 | Reviews

Recently, I watched the film The Master, that was released last year.

Overall, I wasn’t that impressed. While it was interesting, I think there are a number of points that let it down.

It’s loosely based on the life of L Ron Hubbard, founder of Scientology. Though it is also based on some other works, I don’t really think it would make any sense unless you were familiar with Scientology and its origins.

This really shows in the fact that the plot line doesn’t make much sense. Again, if you’re familiar with the origins of Scientology, then you can see what they have done. But if you’re not, I imagine you would by simply left wondering what was happening and why, when there doesn’t seem to be any apparent reason behind it.

Secondly, nothing really happens in the film. It doesn’t really feel like it’s the story of a man who gets taken in by a cult – because he just walks in there on day one and signs up to everything. It feels like just a series of things happening, with no interesting storyline behind them.

It is worth noting however that the film received almost universal acclaim from the critics – so what do I know.

Death; A Not So Glum Look

Sunday, February 24th, 2013 | Humanism

What did I do for Valentine’s Day this year you ask? Why, I went to the Humanist Society of West Yorkshire to listen to a talk about death.

To be fair, I then went home for a romantic meal and some quality time with Elina, but the talk itself was well worth attending too – the speaker Matthew Simpson, is a Celebrant and talked us through his take on death and how the Humanist approach differs from that of the religions.

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Margaret Bramham on The Gospels

Saturday, February 23rd, 2013 | Humanism

Recently, Margaret Bramham, a former Religious Education teacher, gave Atheist Society her take on the Gospels. Here are some photos.

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Short people

Friday, February 22nd, 2013 | Science

As you will probably know, human beings are getting taller.

I never really put much thought into it – humans are getting taller over time, big deal, it’s evolutionary useful, so it’s just happening. But the other day, it struck me that if it was happening by evolution, it must be doing so using evolution’s trusted method, natural selection.

This states that desirable characteristics, ie, those that help an organism survive, continue to grow because they are more successful at reproducing. This seems to point to one conclusion – being above average height makes you more likely to reproduce than someone below average height.

Could this be true? Do short people really no reason to live?

Thankfully, the answer, is no. As Scientific American explains, the increase in human height is almost certainly nothing to do with evolution, and everything to do with the improvements to our diet that have been made over the past few hundred years.

Malnourished children don’t grow as much as children who have a healthy diet. Given a healthy diet is a relatively new concept (indeed, in many parts of Africa, it still hasn’t reached there yet), that explains why humans have started getting taller over this time period.

MacPorts mysql5-server not working on boot

Friday, February 22nd, 2013 | Life, Tech

If you’ve installed MacPorts’ mysql5-server, you may find that it doesn’t work after a restart.

This can be resolved by running the following commands to make sure you’ve killed off everything MySQL related.

sudo port unload mysql5-server
ps -ax | grep mysql
sudo kill 

Once you have done this, load it again.

sudo port load mysql5-server

Not it should be working. This is fine, but quickly gets very annoying every time you restart your computer! A common cause is that you have a MySQL sock file in your tmp directory. Removing this may allow it to start automatically.

cd /tmp
rm -f mysql.sock

Once removed, restart your computer and see if MySQL works first time – hopefully, it will.

Club Officer Training

Thursday, February 21st, 2013 | Public Speaking


Last week, I attended the local Club Officer Training for Toastmasters. Not only did I learn some interesting stuff, but our Area Governor Shelagh also surprised me with one of the newly purchased trophies for winning the area humorous speech contest in September. Lets hope I can win it back this year!