Archive for December, 2007
With Riina’s family being in Finland and us not, Christmas will be in Nangiloc this year. Normally this means it’ll be a hot, dry Midwinter Solstice, but the drive from Melbourne to Charlton was enhanced with constant rain. ( I like driving in the rain — probably puts me in a minority I suspect ) About an hour before we got to Charlton ( the halfway point ), the rain really started coming down. Visibility was less than 100 meters and cars were pulling over to wait it out. At one point, cars with their headlights on would disappear until the wipers cleared some rain.
Then, suddenly, it stopped, and the sky cleared. There was debris all over the road from where water had flooded across bringing sticks, dirt and leaves. The road was completely covered in water in places.
As we approached Colignan, the sun was setting, making for some beautiful red/ orange / purple skies.
I couldn’t pick a favourite, so here’s another:
There’s another of dark skies and a wheat paddock on my Flickr page — taken at 110 km/h from the car. Worked out quite nicely. ( Riina took it! )
Watir ( “Web Application Testing in Ruby” – pronounced water ) is a sweet little system used to automate browsers for the purposes of testing your site. Unfortunately, it’s for IE on Windows. Despite being odd in that most Ruby software is Linux or MacOS it’s also frustrating because I don’t use Windows. Luckily the Tubes have granted us two alternatives, SafariWatir and FireWatir. They achieve browser automation in very different ways.
I’ve updated Booko to have a default new search engine: fishpond.com.au. Thanks to Tim Evans for finding bugs in it immediately.
Unlike Amazon, Fishpond ( or any Australian bookstore as far as I can tell ) don’t provide an interface for searching their site. Fishpond take the inconvenience one step further by not providing a standard way of finding a book by ISBN. You have to search for the ISBN, then get the Fishpond ID of the book. ( BTW — searching for an ISBN can return multiple results — the same book, but often with different prices. Apparently it’s due to having multiple suppliers for the same book. ) Aside from these annoying bits, Fishpond seems to have a very complete listing. They have an associate program too, so sending traffic to their sites may provide some return.
So, I wrote a searching module for Fishpond. Let me know if you find bugs.
The latest PISA results are out. Extensively quoting:
- Finland, with an average of 563 score points, was the highest-performing country on the PISA 2006 science scale.
- Six other high-scoring countries had mean scores of 530 to 542 points: Canada, Japan and New Zealand and the partner countries/economies Hong Kong-China, Chinese Taipei and Estonia. Australia, the Netherlands, Korea, Germany, the United Kingdom, the Czech Republic, Switzerland, Austria, Belgium and Ireland, and the partner countries/economies Liechtenstein, Slovenia and Macao-China also scored above the OECD average of 500 score points.
- On average across OECD countries, 1.3% of 15-year-olds reached Level 6 of the PISA 2006 science scale, the highest proficiency level. These students could consistently identify, explain and apply scientific knowledge, and knowledge about science, in a variety of complex life situations. In New Zealand and Finland this figure was at least 3.9%, three times the OECD average. In the United Kingdom, Australia, Japan and Canada, as well as the partner countries/economies Liechtenstein, Slovenia and Hong Kong-China, between 2 and 3% reached Level 6.
Speculating on just what it is that makes Finns do so well at running and performing well in education systems is a fun past time for Riina and I. One of my personal favourites is food. Finnish schools provide hot lunches for all students, every day. Kids are practically guaranteed of having a proper lunch — not a Mars Bar ( or Fani Pala — my favourite. Kismet is also great. ) and Coke. Having a good diet will no doubt help for concentration and learning. That’s got to be an advantage.
The Rudd team isn’t all bad apparently — along with getting on board Kyoto, religion will hopefully have a smaller role in our new government:
The Rudd team is not only younger than the Howard ministries of recent years. Despite Rudd’s acclaimed commitment to Christianity, the Godless of Labor’s front bench outweighs the God-fearing if a propensity to take an affirmation rather than an oath is a guide. Only 19 of the team, including Rudd, held the Bible, while the other 23 opted to affirm their loyalty. The Howard folk were Bible-bearers almost to a person.
Perhaps they’ll drop ludicrous ideas like School Chaplains.
Reuters and the The Age report that the Infallible head of the Catholic Church, Pope Benedict says that atheism is responsible for injustice and cruelty. Lenin and Marx are mentioned in reference to atrocities committed in the name of Marxism.
This is a common argument you hear from time to time. “If you want to live in an Atheist society, move to North Korea” is an old favourite. However, in societies such as North Korea, religion is replaced by a cult of personality and their own system of belief. These belief systems have the hallmarks of Religion including being idealistic, utopian & dogmatic.
One thing they don’t have, is people doing evil things “In the Name of Atheism”. The argument is old and busted.
Atheism encourages rational inquiry over superstition and it can hardly be said that societies such as North Korea or Nazism or people like Lenin or Stalin or Chairman Mao were suffering from an excess of rationalism.
Aside from being incorrect, it’s typically hypocritical. This is the organisation which protected child molesters from discovery and prosecution, the organisation which facilitates the spread of AIDS throughout Africa and other devout but poor countries by banning the use of condoms. This same organisation criticises Amnesty International for supporting the victims of rape during war who choose abortion. And that’s only in the last 15 years!
On the same front page of The Age, we get this, another example of what happens when you mix ignorance and faith. It should remind us of what the Dark Ages might have been like.
You might well say not all ( or even most ) religious people behave in this way. But this is exactly what “Faith” enables — people believing nonsense ( in this case, that their god would be offended that a teacher allowed children to name a teddy bear Mohammed, the most common name in the Islamic world ) with such fervour that they’ll call for the killing of a teacher. It allows people to fly planes into buildings and murder doctors specialising in abortion and believe that they’ll go to heaven for doing God’s work. You cannot argue with them, because their beliefs are not rational, it’s their interpretation of their holy book.