Wednesday, April 25, 2007


I'll be moving to Wordpress, later than all the cool kids. The new address is; see you there!

RIP Alan Ball

From Brian Glanville's obit in the Guardian:

...It was now that Ball came truly into his own, with his constant runs down the right. Within 90 seconds, he had left Schnellinger behind, ending with a shot which Tilkowski turned over the bar. On 100 minutes, Nobby Stiles sent him a searching pass. Ball would later say that he had "already died twice" and that he told himself, "Oh, no, I can't get that one! I'm finished!" But get it he did, putting over the cross which Geoff Hurst struck furiously against the underside of the bar. Bakhramov, the Soviet linesman, flagged for a goal and controversial though it was, it tipped the balance.

Friday, April 13, 2007

Cuss in Kinyarwanda

Profanity in 180 languages. Dazzling stuff. (Not Safe For Work - this happened after I first came across the link, by the way)

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Christos Anesti

Jesus said unto her, I am the resurrection, and the life: he that believeth in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live: And whosoever liveth and believeth in me shall never die.

(John 11:25-26. KJV)

Saturday, April 07, 2007

Embarrassingly, I had never heard his name before

While my government was devoting its energies to figuring out how to describe what was happening in Rwanda without using the word "genocide", Mbaye Diagne just saw what had to be done and did it, at the cost of his own life.

(Via Hilzoy, who continues to be mandatory reading.)

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Chrysostom on Wine

St. John Chrysostom had very definite views on wine:

Paul is not ashamed, and does not blush, after the many and great signs which he had displayed even by a simple word; yet, in writing to Timothy, to bid him take refuge in the healing virtue of wine drinking. Not that to drink wine is shameful. God forbid! For such precepts belong to heretics;...

I desire to ask one favor of you all, in return for this my address, and speaking with you; which is, that you will correct on my behalf the blasphemers of this city [i.e., blaspheming against God by saying that wine is evil.]. And should you hear any one in the public thoroughfare, or in the midst of the forum, blaspheming God; go up to him and rebuke him; and should it be necessary to inflict blows, spare not to do so. Smite him on the face; strike his mouth; sanctify your hand with the blow

I've given up the booze for Lent, but relapsed last night. This quote comforted me.
via (MarkShea, and Fr. John)

Monday, March 12, 2007

Yotube just keeps on giving...(Your mother smelled of elderberries edition)

a good man is hard to find

Calestous Juma profile.

Juma often gets asked when he will return to Africa. It's a barbed question, coming from a continent bedevilled by brain drain. But he views it differently. Nobody accused him of leaving Africa when he was at the UN, but it was then he felt he'd left Africa behind. "That was when I was disengaged." In his current position, he feels engaged once more. He goes back to Kenya at least once a year, and co-chairs a panel drawing up a continental biotechnology strategy, among other things. But he won't go back to live there any time soon. His wife was born and bred in Boston and his family is settled. "The only reason I'd like to go back is to be involved professionally in Africa."

(Guardian, via politicaltheory)

Monday, March 05, 2007

RIP Chris Lightfoot

Chris Lightfoot, of ex-parrot, is dead. Truly sad news. More here, here, and here. (via VirtualStoa and Crooked Timber)

Sunday, February 25, 2007

Concepts in Science explained (A Series)

Awesome piece of work by various ScienceBloggers. John Wilkins hosts. Apparently, it'll be updated regularly. You might like to begin at Theory.

Thursday, February 15, 2007

Wonderwoman II

Wangari Maathai was recently interviewed on Start the Week. She's got a new autobiography out. It looks promising.


Lene Hau stops light:
Lene Hau has already shaken scientists' beliefs about the nature of things. Albert Einstein and just about every other physicist insisted that light travels 186,000 miles a second in free space, and that it can't be speeded-up or slowed down. But in 1998, Hau, for the first time in history, slowed light to 38 miles an hour, about the speed of rush-hour traffic.

Two years later, she brought light to a complete halt in a cloud of ultracold atoms. Next, she restarted the stalled light without changing any of its characteristics, and sent it on its way. These highly successful experiments brought her a tenured professorship at Harvard University and a $500,000 MacArthur Foundation award to spend as she pleased.

Now Mallinckrodt Professor of Physics and of Applied Physics, Hau has done it again. She and her team made a light pulse disappear from one cold cloud then retrieved it from another cloud nearby. In the process, light was converted into matter then back into light. For the first time in history, this gives science a way to control light with matter and vice versa.

From the Harvard University Gazzette (via Unfogged)

Thursday, February 08, 2007

The Hallelujah Chicken Run Band (Reloaded)

Back in the day, when things were just as bad as they are now in Zimbabwe, The Hallelujah Chicken Run Band (led by Thomas Mapfumo) put out a dazzling series of songs; songs that both changed the face of popular music in Zim, and gained fame outside Zim.

Matt Yanchyshyn, of benn loxo du taccu, has a song (time limited mp3) off the 2006 reissue. Head over there and listen to aural proof of Zimbabwean resilience.

Meng Ziwen

From his obituary in the Times:
The death of Meng Ziwen, the Roman Catholic Bishop of Nanning, deprives China of its oldest prelate and a man whose long life encapsulated the challenges — and personal costs — of practising the faith in a country where the Communist Government still sets limits to religious conduct, despite China’s much-vaunted economic reforms.

Requiescat in pace.


Kenya v Scotland

Played at Gymkhana Club Ground, Nairobi, on 7 February 2007 (50-over match)

Result Kenya won by 8 wickets (with 73 balls remaining)

More here, and here.

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

An unusual refutation of Skepticism

SEARLE: Right...If you go back to the 17th century, and Descartes, skepticism -- the question of how it is possible to have knowledge -- was a live issue for philosophy. That put epistemology -- the theory of knowledge -- at the heart of philosophy. How can we know? Shouldn't we seek a foundation for knowledge that overcomes skeptical doubts about it? As recently as a hundred years ago, the central question was still about knowledge. But now, the center of philosophical debate is philosophy of mind.

IDEAS: Why the change?

SEARLE: We know too much. The sheer volume of knowledge has become overwhelming. We take basic findings from physics and chemistry about the universe for granted. Knowing much more about the real world than our ancestors did, we can't take skepticism seriously in the old way. It also means that philosophy has to proceed on the basis of all that we know...

John Searle in the Boston Globe.

Friday, February 02, 2007

The World is Closer than You Think

Bruce Osborn has, over the years, taken an amazing series of photos of Japanese parents and their children. More here, and here.

Saturday, January 27, 2007

Ethics via the the Biology of Consciousness? (or réchauffé Hume ?)

MY OWN VIEW IS THAT THIS IS backward: the biology of consciousness offers a sounder basis for morality than the unprovable dogma of an immortal soul. It's not just that an understanding of the physiology of consciousness will reduce human suffering through new treatments for pain and depression. That understanding can also force us to recognize the interests of other beings--the core of morality.

Steven Pinker in Time (via

Monday, January 22, 2007

(from the Holy Grail) Help, I'm being Repressed!

Excluding Exclusion

Deogol argued that the antipathy against exclusiveness (see here, here and elsewhere for material) was misguided and destructive. The argument is unsound, or so I've argued in comments.

Saturday, January 20, 2007

World Social Forum comes to Kenya.

Nairobi hosts the WSF this year. From the blurb:
WSF Nairobi 2007 will be an opportunity to showcase Africa and her social movements; Africa and her unbroken history of struggle against foreign domination, colonialism and neo-colonialism; Africa and her rich heritage of natural wealth, cultural, linguistic and ethnic diversity; Africa and her reputation for embracing communities from around the world; Africa and her contributions to world civilization; Africa and her role in the quest for another possible, more progressive global human society.

Thursday, January 18, 2007

Martin Amis is a pompous t**t

From today's Independent profile:

Have you made up with your old friend Christopher Hitchens after your spat over Stalin? MARLIJN EVANS, London

We never needed to make up. We had an adult exchange of views, mostly in print, and that was that (or, more exactly, that goes on being that). My friendship with the Hitch has always been perfectly cloudless. It is a love whose month is ever May.

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

The Union

This is the 300th anniversary of one of the most successful, if tumultuous marriages in all of history. Long may the Union continue, since nationalism just is tribal nationalism, and tribal nationalism is a bad thing.

Monday, January 15, 2007

Plantinga Contra Dawkins

This* appears to be Alvin Plantinga's response to Dawkins' The God Delusion. I say appears because it's not obvious why the review has been issued on a Norwegian website. However, it's written in the forthright style familiar to fans and (non-fans) of Plantinga's earlier work, and it employs the anti-naturalist argument Plantinga has expounded in many places. (e.g. here) So caveat lector and all, but it looks genuine.

Anyway, here's Plantinga's take Dawkin's complexity argument (Which seems to be the only new anti-theist argument that Dawkins advances):

Now suppose we return to Dawkins’ argument for the claim that theism is monumentally improbable. As you recall, the reason Dawkins gives is that God would have to be enormously complex, and hence enormously improbable (“God, or any intelligent, decision-making calculating agent, is complex, which is another way of saying improbable” (109)). What can be said for this argument?

Not much. First, is God complex? According to much classical theology (Thomas Aquinas, for example) God is simple, and simple in a very strong sense, so that in Him there is no distinction of thing and property, actuality and potentiality, essence and existence, and the like. Some of the discussions of divine simplicity get pretty complicated, not to say arcane.[1] (It isn’t only Catholic theology that declares God simple; according to the Belgic Confession, a splendid expression of Reformed Christianity, God is “a single and simple spiritual being . . . .”) So first, according to classical theology, God is simple, not complex.[2] More remarkable, perhaps, is that according to Dawkins’ own definition of complexity, God is not complex. According to his definition (set out in The Blind Watchmaker), something is complex if it has parts that are “arranged in a way that is unlikely to have arisen by chance alone” (7). But of course God isn’t a material object at all and hence has no parts. God is a spirit, an immaterial spiritual being, and therefore has no parts at all.[3] A fortiori (as philosophers like to say) God doesn’t have parts arranged in ways unlikely to have arisen by chance. Therefore, given the definition of complexity Dawkins himself proposes, God is not complex.

[1] See my Does God Have a Nature?

[2] The distinguished Oxford philosopher (Dawkins calls him a theologian) Richard Swinburne has proposed some sophisticated arguments for the claim that God is simple. Dawkins mentions Swinburne’s argument, but doesn’t deign to come to grips with it; instead he resorts to ridicule (110-111).

[3] What about the Trinity? Just how we are to think of the Trinity is of course not wholly clear; it is clear, however, that it is false that in addition to each of the three persons of the Trinity, there is also another being of which each of those persons is a part.

* Link removed by request.

Saturday, January 13, 2007

A singularly powerful argument for atheism

Somebody wondered whether Barack Obama was the anti-Christ. The consequences must be read to be believed. (via Jackmormon)

ANC Anniversary

January 8th was the 95th anniversary of the founding of the ANC. There's no finer time to remember Oliver Tambo, very much the forgotten man of the Struggle, who died only a year before the full democratization of South Africa.

Also, here's a BBC piece on the occasion.

Happy New Year

Best wishes for 2007, everyone.

GWOT has come to East Africa, as everyone now knows. It was probably inevitable, and may even turn out well. (Though not if the Americans keep missing targets and blowing up what look remarkably like civilians). What is annoying is the recent closure of the Kenya/Somalia border. As far as I can tell, this means Somalis fleeing the fighting are buggered. Since it's not impossible to vet refugees at the border, and leaving vulnerable people cooped up in Somalia is a bad idea, why doesn't the govt. just ask for help vetting and housing the refugees?