Tuesday, November 09, 2010

Carl Sagan Day

Today we celebrate the life of one of the most loved astronomers of the 20th Century. Carl Sagan was born on this day in 1934, and died of cancer on December 20th 1996. He died before seeing his science fiction novel, Contact in the theatres, but was very involved with its making until he died.

Almost everyone interested in science of my generation has come across Carl Sagan. His TV documentary series Cosmos, made a positive impact to many people, and taught many people about astronomy, and science in general. Carl Sagan took us on a wonderful journey of knowledge and discovery from the Solar System to the Big Bang and beyond...

But Carl Sagan was also the founder of the Planetary Society, he was the inspiration for SETI, he worked on various projects for NASA, he wrote over 600 scientific papers on astronomy, he wrote a number of books on astronomy and science...

His best book, in my opinion, is "The Demon-Haunted World: Science as a Candle in the Dark". Here he talks about science, about the scientific method, about pseudoscience, and more. He exposes the lies of astrology and similar, and talks about scientific investigations, and the scientific method.

Today is not just a celebration of the life of Carl Sagan. Today is a celebration of his legacy, and his legacy is science. Promote science, skepticism, rationality...

Thursday, November 04, 2010

Online classes

At work today, just an ordinary day. Every day we get about 5 to 15 calls per day, from companies and people promoting their products and services. And of course, today was not different in number of calls. However, there is one call which stood out.

I answer the phone, and there is a woman's voice on the other end of the line, saying "Hello". So, I say Hello as well. The woman continues in atrocious English, or rather in a language that tried to sound and resemble English. Anyway, she said that she was calling from Spain or Pakistan... (yes, her language skills were that atrocious.) And what does she sell?

Online Qu'ran classes!

I am not joking. Anyway, I answered her thus: "No, thank you. I do not believe in god, allah or any of that other shit. Good bye." The woman managed to say "bye" before I hang up the phone.

And seriously, I do not know whether to laugh or cry at the above...

Thursday, October 21, 2010


It's official.
The greek atheists' english version of the blog is online and you can read it here: http://english.atheia.gr
The very good news is that we got pharyngulated: http://scienceblogs.com/pharyngula/2010/10/greece_has_got_atheists.php
Thank you PZ, for reading my e-mail and promoting our efforts.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Thoughts on christian non-answers...

In a greek forum I have many times argued with a fundamentalist greek orthodox. Whatever I ask, he avoids to answer, and he always brings forth the following arguments, to which I am presenting my own thoughts:

  • You do not know anything about the orthodox christian faith:  I have been born and raised in Greece, and I was baptized in the orthodox christian faith as a baby. My grandmother and my godmother were very faithful and used to force me and took me to church with them. They tried to make me believe in orthodox christianity, I even was sent to Sunday school, to catechism. It did not work. There was too much irrationality. From the story of Adam and Eve to the stories about the lives of the various saints, a lot of things do not make sense, and I could not make sense of those, could not see their logic. Because there is no logic in faith. As Carl Sagan put it: Faith is belief without evidence. As I grew up, I started to understand more and more, that really Sagan is right, that there is no logic in belief, in faith. One has to blindly believe, never question your faith and your beliefs, never question the reality of all these... Because the day you start asking questions, is the day that you start seeing faith for what it really is: a big fat lie. 
  • You do not understand the christian orthodox faith: On the contrary, I understand it very well. I have seen blind faith and what it can do. Unfortunately, blind faith only brings out evil. Because when you do not ask questions,  but you blindly follow what you are given, then you just become a pawn to an idea, an organization. And, in this case, you become a slave to that idea, a pawn, a foot-soldier lying for Jesus. This faith makes people feel guilty for simple human things, from swearing and cursing to having sex, and many other things. This faith keeps people ignorant and illiterate, fills their heads with misogyny and racism, I unfortunately understand it very well, and have witnessed many of its forms and expressions. 
  • Find a confessor/spiritual father from the church: this is a total non-answer! I do not want to go to a priest, confessor whatever from the church. I do not trust them. They know nothing about psychology, I do not think that they can help anyone. The only thing that those "spiritual fathers" will do is try to fill me with guilt for everything I do, make me feel inferior, try to imprison my spirit, and make me another foot-soldier for Jesus. I have explained many times that I do not trust confessors. With a 6 month seminary they go through, they cannot know and understand psychology. How can they diagnose a serious psychological illness such as monopolar/bipolar syndroms, schizophrenia, and more?
  • Read a book about the orthodox christian faith: This another evasive tactic. I do not want to read another book about the orthodox christian faith, What more can this book tell me from the Bible or from what the various priests and bishops say? And what is my stimulus to get one of these books and read it? Is there anyone giving me a good reason to do so? None at all. However, I have taken a look at various such books in bookstores. I have opened them and tried to read a few paragraphs, to see if they had something interesting to say, if there was something that would make me buy and read that book. So far, I have not found anything positive in those books. All they say is just the same old stuff that the christian faith says: repent sinners, you will burn in hell, do not do this, do not do that... In short, they are forbidding people from living their lives...
And of course, the last non-argument, and the one that is never going to convince me to become a believer:

  • You have to believe first in order to find god: if I have nothing to believe in, if I don't have evidence for what I believe in, how can I even start believing? How many faithful have really found god? There are a lot of faithful who have never found this entity. And there are a lot of atheists who were faithful, and never found god. When those people looked for god, looked for answers, they saw that there is nothing there. No god. There is absolutely no evidence at this moment for god, for the existence of such an entity. And I am not only talking about the christian orthodox faith, but about all religions. I have met a lot of people online, a lot of people who once were fundamentalists, creationists and the like. Some of them were even priests, or were trying to be, and have studied the scriptures, have studied apologetics, they had gone the whole way. But when they looked deeper, and tried to find god, they did not find what they were looking for. To their credit, these people did not close their eyes and go back to their blankets of faith. They went deeper, they followed their logic, their critical thinking, the evidence. A lot of faithful would say that those people did not believe enough, that their faith was lacking and other similar arguments. But those people did believe, they felt that faith, those beliefs with all their hearts, with all their being.
The above do not constitute answers, nor arguments for god and for a religion. They are evasions, apologetics, a tactic for those who do not want to have a rational and intelligent discussion, who do not want to engage in dialogue or debate. I am ready and willing to have such a discussion, but when I ask questions, and the answers are always the above, then how do these people expect me to start believing? How can they expect me to throw my logic, my critical thought, my freedom out of the window? Where are the arguments for the existence of god? Where is the evidence? And what evidence is there that the orthodox faith is the one true faith, and not another, like islam or catholicism, or even one of the cargo cults?

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Doctor Who - Season 5 - Matt Smith

And here we are with the 11th Doctor: Matt Smith! I finished watching Season 5 on Monday, and I must say that Matt Smith has managed to win me over. Of course, David Tennant is still my favorite doctor, but Matt Smith convinced me that he is the Doctor, almost since the beginning of the 5th season.

New Doctor, new companion, and her name is Amy Pond. A redhead, sometimes naive but full of life, Amy Pond is a bit of a mystery since the beginning. A mystery that does and does not unravel at the end of the series. The cracks are following Amy, but why? Or are they following the Doctor? But why is it that they appear whenever Amy is around?

Along with Amy, we have her fiancee, Rory Williams. I must admit that I was skeptical at first about Rory. I thought he was another Mickey Smith, and did not want him along. But Rory managed to surprise me, and show that he is nothing like Mickey, not in the least. Initially, he does not want to get into trouble, does not want the hassle; but soon he starts to like it, and shows both courage and a huge heart. Especially when it comes to Amy, for whom he sacrifices a lot. I think that Rory provided the glue to the whole relationship between Amy, the Doctor and himself. And I definitely want him there with Amy, as the Doctor's companions.

And then, we have the return of River Song, and her mysterious relationship with the Doctor. Who is River Song? How does she know so much about the Tardis? What is her relationship with the Doctor? River is a mystery even for the Doctor at the moment, as shown from this exchange at the end of the season:

The Doctor: River... who are you?
River: You're going to find out very soon now. And I'm sorry, but that's when everything changes.

And of course, along with the Doctor, we want to know the mystery that is River Song.

As for this season, it definitely was a good season. The first episode, the Eleventh Hour prepares the ground for the rest of the season, and for the main plot, which is the cracks in spacetime. What are those? What caused them? And why do they have the same shape everywhere they appear?

The return of the Angels from the 3rd season episode Blink, is one of the best moments of the season, and it comes with River Song. She seems to be everywhere in this season. This double episode managed to scare me. It was a bit claustrophobic, a bit terrifying...

And here we are talking about the end of the season. About the season finale, The Pandorica Opens/The Big Bang. What exactly is the Pandorica? Why does Van Gogh see the destruction of the Tardis? Why and how did all the enemies of the Doctor, from the Daleks to the Sontarans and beyond, manage to ally with each other?

Of course, we could not have the end of the season without River Song. She did say to the Doctor, in the Angels episodes, that she was present when the Pandorica opened.

But what did happen at the end? We already had our suspicions about the cracks in spacetime, and what caused them. However, the end of the season leaves us with more questions than it answered.

This was one of the best season endings I have ever watched. Although it gives some closure, it creates lots more questions. And I want River Song back in the next season.

Doctor Who is at the moment the best science fiction TV show, if not the best TV show. And really I have been won by Matt Smith's performance as the Doctor.

Waiting now, for the Christmas Special. Looks like Rory and Amy are going to spend their honeymoon on the Orient Express.

Thursday, September 09, 2010

Lords and Ladies - Terry Pratchett

I have stopped counting which book of the Discworld I am reading. There are over 30 books, if I am not mistaken, and I do have most of them. And those I do not have I will buy. Reading Discworld novels is a totally new experience. You never read it in trains, planes and automobiles of any kind, because people will think you are crazy since you will end up laughing and doing all sorts of weird gestures.

Lords and Ladies is no exception to the rule. This novel features our little coven, Granny Weatherwax, Nanny Ogg and Margrat. The three witches have come back to Lancre, and Margrat Garlick is going to marry King Verence II and become Queen. Of course, things are not so simple, as the Elves are coming back. And no, these are not the elves of fantasy novels, these are the elves of Discworld! They want everything for themselves, and do not care who they hurt. But they have not counted on our three witches...As the back of the book says, there is also an assortment of wizards, monkeys apes, dwarfs and other creatures.

This is Pratchett's take on A Midsummer Night's Dream. But there is more in this book; it is not just a humorous take on a classic. They are beautiful and graceful, or so they appear; but they are also egotistical, cruel and sadistic. They are the two sides of the same coin. On one side what we want and on the other side what we should avoid being. For what is beauty and grace without a soul? They also show that people will fall for money, power or for their inner desires; especially when those desires are not being released in some way, if there are things that are stopping us from pursuing our true dreams.

We make choices, and sometimes hard choices. Even if we regret those choices, even if we look back and see that we made mistakes, we should not linger in the past. We should move forward and continue living. This is what Granny Weatherwax has done; whatever her choice was in the past, she has stuck with it, and has continued to live. And Nanny Ogg? Nanny Ogg is the one who is living her life as best as she can. Never misses an opportunity, and neither should we. Margrat shows us that there is strength in everyone, and that everyone can find the strength to stand up and fight for what we believe.

Pratchett's books look innocent enough, but there is much more to discover reading them. The Discworld is not just a humorous take on our world, it is also a way for Pratchett to show us his own view of our world, and most of the times, it is a view that I agree with.

Wednesday, September 08, 2010

Storm Front - Jim Butcher

A few people had recommended to me to start reading the Dresden Files. I had seen the one-season TV series, and I was intrigued by it. Now, I can see that the books are probably a lot better than the series ever was.

The story is not an original one. A bad wizard is killing people, and Harry Dresden, our protagonist, lands in the middle of this case. A lot of people think that Harry may be the killer, because of his past. So, Harry must risk his life in order to find and stop the killer. And he must do it, before the killer manages to murder him in the same gory way as his other victims.

As I said, it is not so much the story or the world Jim Butcher builds in his novel, that are original. We have seen a lot of similar worlds and similar stories. What is original though is Harry himself. Because we go through the whole book from the perspective of Harry. It is written in the first person, by Harry. And Harry is not some larger than life character, nor is he someone who would go in a situation without knowing the consequences. He does know, and he is afraid. And a lot of other emotions go through him, and through the pages of the book through us.

The writing style of Jim Butcher is what makes this novel work. It is as if Butcher has been writing for a long time, he is confident with his characters, with Harry himself. He knows Harry Dresden, but he is also discovering him through the pages of the book. And with Jim Butcher we discover Harry and the world he lives in.

Well, I would like to see how the story of Harry continues, in due time. There are other books to sink my eyes in, before the next Dresden one.

Tuesday, September 07, 2010

Spiral of a dying star

Wonderful photo isn't it? Again the Hubble Space Telescope shows us an incredible photo. And no, we are not interested in the star that is visible here, but in the faint spiral at the left of the star.

The spiral is made from material ejected by a red giant star, a star that is at the end of its life cycle. It has already burnt all its hydrogen, transformed it through nuclear fusion into helium , and it is now transforming helium into carbon, again through a process of nuclear fusion.

The spiral is due to the fact that the red giant star has a companion, another star, and the gravitational influence of the companion star "pushes" the material into a spiral.

Another very interesting fact is that the spiral is being lit, not by the binary star, but by galactic starlight!

More on the Hubble photograph here: An Extraordinary Celestial Spiral
The short scientific article is here, free for download: A Binary-Induced Pinwheel Outflow from the Extreme Carbon Star, AFGL 3068

Thursday, September 02, 2010

Guilty Pleasures - Laurell K. Hamilton

This is Laurell K. Hamilton's first book in the Anita Blake series. Anita Blake's actual work is to be an animator. She animates dead people for a few hours so that their loved ones can say goodbye or get information or both. But, in the world of vampires, Anita Blake is also known as The Executioner. And that is because Anita has killed her fair share of vampires. Now, someone is killing vampires. And the master vampire of the city wants her to find out who and why.

As I said, this is Hamilton's first book in the Anita Blake series. I would say that this one might qualify as horror, as there are a few scary moments. And it has vampires. Okay, today's view of vampires is a romantic one, and Hamilton does not change that on one side. But, Anita knows the truth about vampires. And she has the scars to prove it. We see the vampires from Anita's side, and in her view, vampires are inhuman beasts.

Add in this book a contingent of zombies and ghouls, a vampire which is attracted to Anita, and tries to protect her, and you have a good mixture of horror, fantasy and crime fiction. And in this book it works.

Hamilton's writing style is quite enjoyable, and I loved seeing the world she builds through Anita's eyes. How she views the world, how she interacts with vampires, what she wants and what she can actually do. And there is the difference between most vampire books today. While a lot of writers still cling to the "romantic side", Hamilton does not. Although, in her world, vampires are seen by some people in that light, we see them in another light: we see them as they feed, as they kill, as they do a lot of ugly things. In Anita's words: "A good vampire is a dead one."

Hamilton gives a good background to her characters, the human ones at least, and that makes them more real, more believable. Her characters though are not perfect; and certainly Anita is not. And this one more point for the book as a whole. Because Anita is not a "larger than life" character; she is human, with her flaws, and her strengths, her advantages, and her disadvantages. This is also true of all the characters in the book. Even the vampires are not just beasts; they have their characters, with their strengths and their flaws.

I have been told that the later books degenerate from what has been a good start. I do not know, as this is the first book I have read. I will continue to read more of her books, and write about them.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Death Du Jour - Kathy Reichs

Temperance Brennan is called to a fire, where several people died. Not all of them though died in the fire, and the fire was definitely not an accident. On the other hand, Tempe has to find out the truth about a nun who lived at the time of the smallpox epidemic in Montreal.

This is Kathy Reichs: second novel featuring Temperance Brennan, and I liked this one much more than the first one. Having read this second novel, I think of the first one more of someone trying to find their pace, their style, their character in writing. And with the second one, Kathy Reichs becomes more confident in her writing. She seems to have found her pace, and her writing character.

Reichs sets a different pace with this book.And we are also interrupted by Tempe's search for the truth about Elisabeth Nicolet. Are the interruptions just for the sake of pacing the action or do they work in context? I think they work in context. We do find out more about Tempe's work, that it is not just murders, and crimes, but that it can be also for historical purposes. I did find myself in some pages of the book wanting to learn about Nicolet and who she was. The story of Elisabeth Nicolet is interesting on her own, we are shown glimpses of the past, of the society, of how people perceived certain things in that time period.

I liked the theme of the first novel, but really loved the theme of this second novel. The main theme is cults and how these can affect someone's life, how some charismatic people who think they are the new messiahs, lure desperate people into their delusion or scam. Sometimes these cult leaders are scammers, sometimes they are just delusional.

Kathy Reichs manages to show how dangerous cults are, how tehir leaders try and manipulate other people to do their bidding, even to the point of telling them who they can and cannot love. She has done her homework, extensive research into cults, before writing this novel. And this is one of the things that I love abouther books: no junk science, as far as I can tell.

And of course, I will read the next novel in the series. It already sits on my next to read book pile, ready to be opened and enjoyed.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Darth Bane: Path of Destruction - Drew Karpyshyn

I am a Star Wars fangirl. I admit that. I have almost all Star Wars novels and other assorted books. I love the Star Wars world, and especially the fight between Sith and Jedi.

Darth Bane: Path of Destruction is set about 1000 years before the events of the classic trilogy, about 3000 years after Revan saved the Republic in the KOTOR game.

Dessel is a miner on Apatros. Due to a killing of a Republic soldier, Dessel must run. He joins the Sith army and his potential in the Force is seen by one of the Dark Lords, Kopecz. He is taken in the Academy at Korriban, and there he takes the name of Bane and learns the ways of the Dark Side. Bane will be the destroyer of the Sith, but also the builder of a new Sith era. But for the rest, it's better to read the book.

As a whole, the book is one of the best in the Star Wars Expanded Universe, with good characters. You believe Bane, and you want him to succeed despite him being a Sith Lord. You want him to have his revenge, you want him to end the war and start his new rule. Except for Bane, there was also another Sith Lord I very much liked in this book: Kas'im, Bane's main instructor. And I would love to have even a short story about this Dark Lord, and how he became part of the Brotherhood of Darkness.

As for the writing, Drew Karpyshyn does well for a newbie writer. He has his problems, but I think that they are mostly associated with his writing for games rather than anything else. His action scenes were well described, well done, and were some of the best written parts of the book. Also, the chapters when Bane is on Ambria are also well written.

Some parts though needed to be a bit refined. Some of the dialogue seemed like it was written for games, it is too short, and at times, I was left with the impression that there were more things that should have been said. There were some chapters, especially when Bane is at the Academy on Korriban which needed something more. Too short? Too little detail? There was a bit of the "game" writing in that, which is not always bad, but needed a bit more colour, and more detail.

All in all, though, I thoroughly enjoyed the book. I was one of those people who played KOTOR at least 5-6 times in a row, and I love the Old Republic, and the whole Jedi vs.Sith adventure. I wish I had the time to play the online Star Wars The Old Republic game, but with my very limited time and my unreliable net connection at times, it's not very possible for the present.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

London and Durham here I come!

Well, it's almost time for me to start packing. It's vacation time. However, this year I am going to spend some of my vacation time doing Physics Experiments. I have registered for the Open University course SXR207 - Physics By Experiment. This is the last year they are giving this course, since the curriculum and the degrees are changing. But, I do not care much about that, I'll be able to transfer my credits to the new degrees anyway, so no problem there.

I will start my journey on Friday morning, from Athens to London. I'll be staying in London for one night, and I already have registered at a hotel for the night. I know London a bit, been there a number of times, and I love it. I love London, especially shopping in London. However, I wish that you guys did not get the Olympic games. It will NOT be any fun, believe me. I've been through the Olympics stuff in Athens in 2004 and it was painful to say the least.

On Saturday, 31st July, in the morning, I'll get up early and get the train to Durham. I've never been to Durham,. and frankly, I don't even know where exactly it is. Always good to see a new place. I hope I'll have some time to see a bit of the town, and any historical monuments or buildings they have, even if it's just a quick tour. I would like to be able to walk a bit around town and see what it has to offer. I know I have one afternoon off, so, if I am not too tired, I'll get to check the town.

Return to London, on Friday the 6th of August, after the end of the residential course. And back to Athens on Saturday the 7th of August. A short but very interesting holiday for me.

I'll get photos from Durham, especially the University. I love English Universities, especially since I did my MSc. in one.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

The Sorcerer's Apprentice

Some movies are so bad, that they end up being hilariously good. Some movies, though, are just bad. And this is the case for The Sorcerer's Apprentice. It is a bad movie, it really sucks.

What can anyone say about this movie? Yes, there were a few hilarious moments, and more than a few references to other movies, from Toy Story to Star Wars. Yes, there is Nicholas Cage, and Monica Bellucci at the end. But even those moments could not save this movie. Nicholas Cage is a good actor, and despite the stupid dialogue at times, and the cheezy moments or something, he manages to show his talent.

As for the script, well, I think that it was so cliche, so predictable, that you could guess the whole movie after the first few minutes. The dialogue was really stupid at times, and only a few hilarious moments saved it from being a complete and utter disaster. It was just total disaster.

The only person who knew how to act in that movie, and who made his character believable at times, was Nicholas Cage. But even a good actor cannot save a really bad movie from terrible dialogue and a done-to-death story. And at times he was just delivering his lines, just like reading with no feeling or interest in the role at all. Bellucci appears in the last very predictable minutes of the movie, but nothing at all from her either. Even the kiss at the end, between Cage and Bellucci, was cold, emotionless, just get it on and be done with it.

As for the boy that played David, he's not even handsome at all. What is a girl going to do at a bad movie if there are no abs to look at, at least? Not even that. At least New Moon had some good abs... despite being a bad movie (oh, and yes, need to see Eclipse. They say it's a bit better than New Moon). 

It was not even in the category, at least I had some fun and forgot myself for a couple of hours. Not even that. While I was watching the movie, there were times I wanted to dash out of the theatre, and I have had the same urge with very few movies. I wanted to just leave the movie theatre and maybe go for a meal or something. Something else than this movie. Okay, to be fair, it is not the worst movie I've ever seen, but definitely would not have gone if I had to pay for a full ticket. Fortunately, me and my friend paid half-price and we'll get a discount for a meal on TGI Friday's next Monday. At least this movie was worth something...

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Scienceblogs on FIRE!

With the PepsiCo incident, Scienceblogs lost a number of good science bloggers, and it is still losing a lot of people. And now, my favorite Scienceblog, Pharyngula is on strike.

My opinion on the PepsiCo incident is that it was a huge blunder by Seed Media. There was a conflict of interest between the scientists-bloggers and PepsiCo. What if a blogger wrote something against PepsiCo? What if someone took a post of PepsiCo's and showed how flawed it was? Would that have been okay? Or would have the management of Seed Media silenced the scientists because of the big money PepsiCo was handing over?

PZ Myers was saying that he does not want to leave Scienceblogs. He has a lot of effort invested in SB, and that he did not want to move his huge blog. But, because of the way the scientists-bloggers are treated, he is on strike. No more Pharyngula for now, and it is a huge pity. A huge loss for Scienceblogs and the Seed Media.

I hope they wake up, and address the problems. Losing bloggers like that, and good bloggers on top, is not going to help Scienceblogs; in fact, they are already losing credibility in the blogosphere, and the internet in general. WAKE UP SEED MEDIA.

I want my favorite bloggers back. I am not going to read anything on Scienceblogs, anymore, until the situation is resolved. And many people will probably do the same. I want Pharyngula back...

Monday, July 19, 2010

Of quotes and the Bible

In another post for this blog, namely the one on Small Gods, a member of blogger and probably fundamentalist Christian, has quoted a verse from scripture as a comment. You can quote all the scripture you want at me. I am not going to change my mind because of a book of myths!

Believers, and most notably fundamentalists, use circular logic in using the Bible as evidence. They argue that the Bible is the inerrant word of god. But when asked how they know, they answer, that it is written in the Bible! Where is the external confirmation that the Bible is the word of god? Where is the evidence that the Bible is the word of god?

If I am going to change my mind about the existence of any god(s) then it should be because of evidence. And not just any kind of evidence. Scientific evidence. The evidence on which computers and nanotechnology are built upon.

Saying that you have personal experiences of god(s), does not impress me. There are a lot of people out there who have varying degrees of personal experiences of the paranormal sort. Some see ghosts, some hear voices in their heads, etc. etc. And everyone who happens to have the personal experiences with god(s) usually communes with the kind of god s/he believes in. Never a Muslim has had a personal experience of Jesus or a Christian a personal experience of Buddha or anything similar. Christians commune with Jesus, the Virgin Mary or the Holy Spirit or some saint or other, but always of the same religion. And the same is true for every religion there is. So, no, personal experiences are not even remotely convincing evidence.

Another argument is with miracles. What miracles? I have not seen any miracle today. Some lightshows, where people see mysterious lights around a church or a holy place, and pareidolia, where people see the face of Jesus or the Virgin Mary with baby Jesus all over from Kit-Kats to toasts... No, that is not evidence either. Lightshows are usually explained by science. As for pareidolia, I am certain that I can see the face of David Bowie and Darth Vader too... Just our brains wired to see patterns. Our brains are wired to recognize patterns, and many times we see patterns even where they do not exist, or recognize some familiar things all over. Like in the clouds. how many times have we seen cloud formations that are similar to a familiar shape? That is also pareidolia, but we do not worship the clouds. So, no neither the lightshows or pareidolia cut it for me.

There are miracles of the medical kind. Sick people getting healthy and similar. And most of the times, because the doctors and nurses did everything they could for those people. Some ailments were due to psychological factors, and people believed they were cured when they in fact were not ill. Just their brains playing tricks on them. Some other "miracles" are not documented; people just say that this person or that got well because of the prayers, blah blah. But when asked for the evidence, mainly the medical records of these patients, they are non-existent or most of it is missing. And let's not forget that the human body is not as fragile as some people want us to think. We have an immune system and that system can be activated to fight off a number of diseases, even cancer. Yes, Virginia, there are people whose immune system fought cancer successfully. So, no miracles do not exist. There is no evidence of such.

Some use the fine-tuning argument. Really? The universe is fine-tuned for life? Oh, well then, we should be able to find conditions suitable for life everywhere! But wait, we know of exactly one planet with life: Earth. And then there are millions of things that are trying to kill us! From bacteria, wild animals to radiation from outer space, and more. So, where is the fine-tuning again?

Some others will use the morality canard. That we cannot be moral without a god of sorts. Oh please! Do you really need the fear of punishment and eternal torment to be human? To follow the humanistic principles? Do you need an oppressor and sky daddy, a tyrant, to tell you that you should not kill? Can't you think for yourself? And as for other moral issues, a lot of religions make me sick. Their stance on abortion, on homosexuality, on womens' issues is totally inhuman, racist and hateful on their part.

I am pro-abortion. The decision, the final decision, lies with the woman. What would a woman do with a baby she does neither want nor can take care of? There are many issues to consider, and I am certain that most women do not take this decision as lightly as some people may think. As a woman myself, I am glad that in my country, I have the option of doing an abortion. Of doing it with a proper doctor and not some quack out for a quick buck. That I can do it in a hospital where any complication can be treated properly. After all, it is my body and my choice in the end.

As for homosexuality: I do not care what anyone does in their private lives, as long as it is between consenting adults. Homosexual couples have, in my opinion, the same rights and obligations as heterosexual couples. They should get the same benefits, they should be able to adopt, they should be able to live their lives free from any prejudice. And most prejudice and racism against homosexuals comes from religion.

I will not go into the misogyny of most religions. Just read the Bible and the Koran, and there is not much else one can say or do. It is as if the people that wrote these books hated women.

So, no, I do not need a god to be moral. I do not need to be afraid of hell and punishment, to be moral. I do not need to be saved from sin. I don't believe in sin. Sex is not a sin. Neither eating meat on Friday is a sin. And the whole sin edifice collapses when we see that the original sin is nothing but a myth.

I adhere to the humanistic principles. Why? Because I am human, I grew around humans, and was educated by good people. I am not a sinner; I do not believe in sin. I am human. I made and still make mistakes; but I try to learn from them. And that is part of being human; that is part of life. I am not afraid of making mistakes; but I am afraid of not living my life, of being oppressed to worship some non-existent mythological being. I am afraid of not being able to express myself because of insane religious laws and practices.

I will not go into the whole creationism vs. science debate here, because, if I start on that there will be no end in sight for this post. Another time, I'll probably write about the creationist canards, especially when it comes to astronomy and physics which are more my passion. But let's just say, that creationism is full of holes, and the more someone tries to fill the holes, the more laughter ensues, with the stupidity and idiocy of creationists.

I am proud to be an atheist. I am proud of being able to think for myself, of not being afraid of a big tyrant in the sky. I am proud of using my brain constructively, of being able to really think critically.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

The Cranberries - Live in Athens 14/07/2010

I had not been in a concert in a while. I had tickets for the Cranberries since March or April, when they were issued. I was expecting this concert, as I had not seen the Cranberries live up to now. And I love this Irish band, and of course, I consider Dolores' voice to be one of the most beautiful I've heard.

The Cranberries performed in a little theatre in the centre of Athens, under a big rock, and that is why it is named Theatre of Rocks. It needs a bit more maintenance but as a small place for beautiful concerts it is a good place to go. The theatre was full, but we were comfortable.

The support group was a band named Rosebleed, who have a CD out, named White Balloons. It is a new but known greek band, with english lyrics. Their biggest hit has been a song named Until Next Time, and you can watch it online at their MTV UK site:  Rosebleed on MTV UK

I like Rosebleed quite a bit. They have good songs and they have inspiration; but they lack a presence on their live shows. Despite having good strong songs, they lacked movement on the stage. They did not even move from their place on the stage at all! Not even the singer!

But now, we cut to the chase and talk about the Cranberries themselves. they came out around 10:30, I think. They played for one and a half hours, although they could have played for another hour and time would have flown just like that. Just by listening to Dolores' voice. She was great. She moved all along the stage, singing and dancing and performing the Cranberries songs. From Animal Instinct which was the second song in their playlist to Just My Imagination and Salvation, the Cranberries performed a number of their best known songs.

But the best was still to come. And the best was the live performance of Zombie. For me that's their best song, and one that will remain carved in my memory for ever. It is a brilliant song, one of those that "irritate" in a good way, that you cannot forget. A song about war, and the hurt that it brings. The whole theatre was performing with Dolores. In your head, in your head they are dying... With their tanks and their bombs...

One of the best moments ever in a concert. An unforgettable moment, and I think that everyone who was in the concert yesterday night, will remember that moment.

So, the first part of the concert, closed with Zombie. But we wanted more. And they gave us more. Came back on the stage for the encore. A few more songs, and among them Promises, and again everyone singing together with Dolores. All the promises we made...

The final song of the evening was Dreams.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Small Gods - Terry Pratchett

If there is just one Discworld book that anyone should read, I would recommend this one: Small Gods. This is definitely one of the best Discworld books, and its subject is religion.

Brutha is a wanna-be priest and devout believer in Om. He is about the only true believer Om has. And that's what makes Brutha special, to a lot of people and supernatural entities. Om wants him because of the flame of belief, Vorbis and the Quisition because he will not question them, but what does Brutha want?

This is a book about religion, and its practices. Pratchett criticizes harshly both religion and the quest for power using religion, and rightly so. Even the story of Jesus Christ does not escape Terry's expert pen, and made me laugh! But this is something that readers should find out for themselves.

This is not a book to be read by fundies or anyone that cannot stand criticism to religion. Because Pratchett here, does show, through satire and comedy, the true nature of religion and gods. It is not we, the people, who need god(s); but god(s) and religion that need us. Because religions survive because of their followers, and devout believers. And this is the truth that Brutha will find in his journey and adventures. From devout believer to a kind of atheist Prophet, Brutha will be shown the truth about the nature not only of his god, but of all gods.

As for the rest, read the book. I highly recommend it. This is the best book I have read this year so far. There is not much more that I can say about the book, other than that I agree with Pratchett about his criticism of religion, about his attack on dogmatism, through the pages of Small Gods. Because gods are the product of people's imagination...

Tuesday, July 06, 2010

Dead Until Dark - Charlaine Harris

I admit I love vampire stories. Ever since I saw Christopher Lee as Dracula in a number of those unforgettable Hammer Horror movies, I have loved vampire and horror stories. So, I bought the first book of the Sookie Stackhouse series, Dead Until Dark in order to get my vampire fix. In fact, I have not read a vampire story in quite some time, and this one happened to be on the top of my very very big unread pile of books.

Vampires are out in the open. Their thirst for blood can be quenched by a synthetic blood product, named True Blood. Of course not everyone plays by the rules, but that's a tale for another day. Sookie Stackhouse is a waitress in Bon Temps, a small city in the Southern States of the US. Sookie has what she calls a "disability": she can read minds. Enter Bill Compton, whose mind Sookie cannot read. Why? Because Bill has a "disability" of his own: he is a vampire. Add murder into the picture, and you have an urban fantasy mystery novel.

Dead Until Dark is not a horror book; vampire books nowadays can rarely be put among the horror novels. As a book, it did not disappoint me; I was pleasantly surprised by some of the writer's ideas. I liked the idea about the vampire blood being used as a drug or what we learn about Sam. I am certain that Sookie's world has more to offer, and that this was just an introduction to the wonderful world of the night.

I loved the fact that the writer, Charlaine Harris, does not delve into unnecessary detail; Harris always gets to the point, giving the amount of detail that is needed for the story. I did feel that some characters were either underused or not well developed, like Sam for example. I am certain that Sam has a great backstory to his character. I certainly hope he has!. Also, I think that the trio of vampires were also underused, and might have given a bit of more spark to the story, if their relationship to Bill was disclosed or something similar. Another character I thought may need additional characterization, and might also be a more central character is the detective Andy Bellefleur. But it might be that those stories are going to be left for another one of the books.

All in all, I regard this to be an introduction to Sookie's world. And I expect more from the next books in the series. I have not watched the HBO TV series that the books have spawned; I probably will after I have read more of the books, and can compare it to the series.

Monday, July 05, 2010

Percy Jackson and the Sea of Monsters - Rick Riordan

This is the second book in the Percy Jackson series. Another well-written book; there is a huge flaw in this one, to which we will come later. First a few words about the book's story.

During the school year, Percy finds a new friend: Tyson. But Tyson is not any mortal child; Tyson is also a son of gods, but of the monstruous persuasion. Tyson is a Cyclops, and half-brother to Percy. But enough, about Tyson; back to our story. Percy arrives to Camp Half-Blood and finds Thalia's tree has been poisoned, and Chiron sacked because all suspicions fell on him. Camp Half-Blood is in danger; with the poisoning of the tree and the land, its magical protections are failing, and monsters attack the camp all the time.

The only thing that can save the tree, and restore the land, is the Golden Fleece. But where is it located? And what does the Golden Fleece have to do with Grover? Percy is going on another adventure, to find the Golden Fleece, rescue Grover, restore Camp Half-Blood and find out who poisoned Thalia's tree. This adventure will take him right in the middle of the Bermuda Triangle, or as the half-bloods and gods and assorted monsters call it, the Sea of Monsters. A number of mythological monsters will parade from the pages of the book; we will follow Percy into an ancient Greek adventure, set into modern times.

Now, however, as someone who has been raised in Greece, and always loved the Ancient Greek mythology, I must point out one particular flaw in this children's book: when Annabeth explains about the Golden Fleece, she says that the Golden Ram had carried Cadmus and his sister Europa, who fell while carried. But this is wrong, as the ram carried the brother and sister Phrixus and Helle; it was the girl Helle that fell in the sea from the ram, and the part of the sea where Helle fell and drowned in the strait, named Hellespont in her honour, according to mythology. Cadmus in fact, was the brother of Europa and father of Ino. Ino was the jealous stepmother of Phrixus and Helle, and why the two children had to flee carried by the Golden Ram. Europa is the woman abducted by Zeus in bull form, and the woman from which Europe got its name.

The rest of the book, as far as I could tell, did not have any more mistakes, as far as Greek mythology goes. Of course, I am not an expert, and there might be something that escaped me.

Generally, however, the book is enjoyable, and can be read by children and adults alike. What I like in this particular series of books, is the fact that the books may spark interest in Greek mythology, and gently guide children to read more about, not just mythology, but ancient civilizations as well. From the shores of the Nile to Mount Olympus and beyond, there is a wealth of knowledge and wisdom to be found and cherished.

Thursday, July 01, 2010

Toy Story 3

The third installment of the Toy Story series of movies is here and, of course, I could not miss the new adventures of my favorite movie toy stars, Woody, Buzz LightYear, and all their friends.

I wanted to watch it in 3D, but the only 3D screening that was available was dubbed in the greek language. And those of us who wanted to watch the original in 3D? Unfortunately, no go. Since I never watch dubbed films, even if the dubbing is excellent, me and my friends (who hold similar views to mine) went and saw it in 2D.

But, let's return to the movie itself. The toys are back in town indeed, with a new adventure, with a happy ever after ending [it is a children's movie after all]. Andy, the toys' owner, is leaving for college. He wants to take Woody with him, and put the rest of the toys in the attic. However, from a mistake, his mother thinks that the bag containing the toys is garbage and puts them with the trash. The toys manage to escape and decide they are going to be donated to the Sunny Side Day Care Centre. And here the adventures of Woody, Buzz, Rax, Jessie and all the other toys start; new adventures await the toys, and on the way, they will make new friends.

This is a movie about growing up, about change; it is a movie for children of all ages. It does not matter if you are 10 or 50 years old; this is a movie for all of us. It is a movie about ourselves mostly, about change and how we handle it, about how we treat not just favorite things like toys, but loved ones and, finally, ourselves.

There are some wild scenes with Barbie and Ken, and with Buzz:s spanish mode! This is a movie, where I really laughed at the funny scenes, in the theatre. And not just me, but the whole theatre was laughing. And at the time I went to see it, there were very few actual children present. The movie theatre was filled with adult children, like me. We wanted to have a couple of hours of fun and Toy Story 3 delivered on its promise. And also made us think.

For those of you that have not seen the previous 2 movies, I have one thing to say: What are you waiting for? Toy Story movies are for each and everyone of us, for the child in all of us, for that child that should not be hiding in the deep recesses of ourselves, but should be out helping us have fun and see the bright side of life!

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Atheist Union of Greece

On May 2010, some of the people and members of the greek Atheist blog and forum, have proceeded to form an official union of Atheists, with the purpose of promoting secularism, atheism, religious freedom, skepticism, science, rationality, critical thinking, etc. in Greece.

I am announcing the formation of the Atheist Union of Greece. For anyone interested, you can contact the secretariat of the union at the address: contact at atheia dot gr

The website of the Union is being built, and as soon as any more interesting news on the Union are published, I will make a new announcement.

Tuesday, June 08, 2010

Spam, and more Spam: from blogs to Nigerian scams

I've had some problems lately with spam comments in this blog. I must have deleted up to 10-15 comments at least in the past 2 weeks. Every now and then I get an e-mail in my inbox, and there it is: the spam message in chinese, with every kind of spamming links, from pr0n (as it is the word in the intertubez) to selling I don't know what.

If there is one thing I dislike, in general, from my mailbox to the forums I frequent to the blogs is spam. I understand that people want to advertise their product, and that they want to sell; but spamming sites and blogs is not the answer. Nowadays, there are ways of getting rid of spam, that is very effective.

For example, mail programs have spam rules, and put various spam messages into the Junk or Spam inbox. They don't always get it right, but they do at least 9 times out of 10. I do check my junk mail to see if there has been an error at times. For example, this morning one of the messages from ESA got into the junk mail, and I just redirected it to the normal inbox.

There is also the kind of spammer who is looking for victims; like the Nigerian scams, or the bank e-mails. If you point (without clicking) on to one of the links in the scam bank e-mails, you will see that those links re-direct to a different web address than the one you see on your screen. This is done in order to make you think that you are linking towards the bank's website, while, in reality, you get re-directed to a site where your username and password as well as other details can be keylogged and used by fraudsters.

As for the Nigerian scams, I had found once a little book with some of the most famous Nigerian scams around. I have regretted not buying it at the time; it must have been more than 6-7 years ago though. Nigerian scams have been here almost since the time of faxes; I have gotten a number of those letters by fax in the company. Maybe they have been around even longer, and the first ones were by snail mail? I don't know, but it might not be so far-fetched.

After all there are a lot of gullible people in the world, ready to believe anyone and anything.

Friday, March 26, 2010

Short story in 6 words...

I've tried writing some of my own stuff, like poetry and short stories, and I admit, I am not the best of writers. Probably, like most people, I have a few good ideas, but don't know how to put them down on paper. However, I did once write some short stories in 6 words, and here are the results:

Sun nova. Earth destroyed. No survivors.

Spaceship lost. New planet. New life.

I travel the stars and galaxies.

Mars terraformed. Colony established. Martian Federation.

In the end, we are immortals.

We create, we destroy, we Gods. 

Future brother returned from the past.

Universe imploding. Big Bang. New universe.

Aliens invade. Wars stop. Humankind saved. 


Thursday, March 11, 2010

Deja Dead - Kathy Reichs

This is the first book of the Temperance Brennan series, written by Kathy Reichs. Kathy Reichs, the writer, is a forensic anthropologist, just like the protagonist of her books; this also gives us, the readers, the opportunity to learn about forensic science, and how it is actually applied to solving crimes. I like it a lot when science is accurately portrayed in books, especially in novels like this one, that are very popular.

This is the book series, that the show Bones has been based on. But, careful, because the series and the books have very little in common. Even Temperance Brennan is a very different character in the two media; the only common denominators are the name and the occupation.
I really didn't mind it at all, and enjoyed the book.

In this first book of the series, Temperance Brennan, forensic anthropologist for the province of Quebec, is called to examine a badly decomposed body found in the grounds of an abandoned monastery. Is this just another murder, or is there more to it than meets the eye? Tempe thinks that there is a serial killer on the loose, and must convince Detective Claudel, who heads the investigations. When she finally manages to convince him, the body count has risen, and Temperance may be in grave danger.

I liked this first contact with Brennan's world. I liked the character of Brennan herself, who is both human and professional at the same time, and is not afraid to show either of these to the reader. All the characters are well portrayed, they have their own distinct personalities, and each one has something to give to the book, even the minor characters.

Reichs depicts a very believable situation in this book. From the crime scene descriptions to the action scences,. Reichs keeps the reader not just interested, but eager to turn the page and read further. I stayed up late to finish the last couple of chapters of the book, I wanted to know how it finished before sleeping.

One of the better parts of the book, is when Tempe, trying to find her friend Gabby, looks for her among the people of the night. We see another face of Quebec, and not just Quebec, but a face that is present in every city, whether small or big, that most people either willfully ignore, or hide it. The prostitutes are for once, portrayed as the human beings they are, each one with her own particular story, with their own customs, and their own hard and cruel world.

I liked Kathy Reichs writing style. I liked the book in general, and will read more of the adventures of Temperance Brennan. As for the TV show, I like that too, and will continue to watch it.

Friday, February 26, 2010

Last but not least...

Following the death of the RD forums, there has been a lot of hype over the internet. The news travelled fast, and if you search you will find a lot of posts in blogs, in articles and more. Peter Harrison was contacted by journalists and more, but whatever we, the old mod team, had to say has been said. In our blogs, in various forums, in various comments in blog posts.

But we don't want to blow this out of proportion. Because what a lot of people have not understood, is that it was never about the proposed changes. It was about the way both the mod team and the members of the forum were treated. As Sciwoman, an admin on the RDF said, this was a classic example of how not to do it.

I do not want to post any more on this, nor do I want to go to any more sites that are reporting the events. All I wanted, was to get the truth out about what happened. This has been done, by many people. I wish to thank anyone out there who helped to put the record straight. It is now time to move on. 

Goodbye RDF, and Welcome to Rational Skepticism. Most of the old mod team is now on Rational Skepticism, and for anyone still out there from RDF, but also anyone else interested in science and reason, we welcome you to the new forum. 

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Death of a forum: An ex-admin blogs about the defunct RD.net forum

Peter Harrison was for a very long time a moderator and admin of the forum. He put on a lot of his personal time and work to make the forum the incredible place it was. Peter was also the moderator that tutored every newbie moderator about the moderator control panels, what to do and what not to do, and many other things. He was the first person to congratulate me and tell me how happy he was that I would be moderating the Debunking Creationism subforum. I have a lot of respect for Peter, and last night he wrote a wonderful piece about the forum and how Josh Timonen and Andrew Chalkers killed the forum and the community.

The article can be found here: Death of the Dawkins forum - The world's busiest atheist forum closes

He has told the story much better than I could. The previous articles I wrote were more of a rant and an obituary. A rant because of the way both members and staff were treated by Josh Timonen and Andrew Chalkers; an obituary because those two site techs killed the forum totally with their actions.

I would like to say a big thank you to the moderating staff of the Richard Dawkins forum, all of them, from the ones that left before I joined, to the ones that were "sacked" on Monday. Thank you to all of you for making the forum what it was, and I am proud to have been given the chance to contribute as a moderator and member.

I would like to say a big thank you to all the members of the forum. You, people, were the heart of the forum, and what made it what it was. It was the busiest atheist forum on the net, maybe even one of the busiest and most active forums on the net.

Goodbye Richard Dawkins forum.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Death of a forum: death of the RD.net forum II

The Rd.net forum user hackenslash put this video up on youtube:

Death of a forum: death of the RD.net forum

Good morning everyone,

A lot of people may already know that until yesterday I was a global moderator on RDF and went by the same name as I write here: Darkchilde.

The RDF staff had no idea what was going to happen; we only knew that there was going to be a new site, and nothing much else. We made a couple of threads in the moderator's subforum, trying to pitch on ideas about the new forum, what we would like to see and other similar things. We also tried telling Josh and Andrew what the forum community is. But they did not listen, I think they were even worse than creotards in that respect.

Anyway, I  don't know if a lot people know what has happened; Josh and Andrew have deleted the New Forum discussion, because both members and staff were very unhappy with the decision, and were speaking their minds. Also because of this they took the forum down last night. Now members cannot post anything, just use PM.

This is going to cost to the RDFRS cause a lot, and the fools do not understand it. I am sorry, but I will not be supporting it any more. The site techs and admins have shown that they do not respect the people that have contributed so much there. I am not going to get involved in the new sanitized and borged new area of theirs. I like the chaos and feel of forums, I like the live community of forums, the banter, the silly threads, the serious threads... After all I am human, and that's what a forum community is about: being human, being able to let go and many times say things you were not able to say in your every day life.

For me, the RD.net forum became over the 2 years I have been there, like a second home, somewhere where I could let off steam, I could talk to like-minded people, and more. It also was a place that helped me get through the first anniversary of my little sister's death, in 2008.

I am sorry that Josh and Andrew feel they had to axe the forum. I don't know why, and right now, I don't care why. All I care is that I am so angry and frustrated, and going totally in emotional circles. Because I had invested a lot of work in the forum, I knew certain areas of the forum quite well, and the community therein. A lot of people contributing hours in order to post a rebuttal to creationist posts, or to debunk alien conspiracy videos... Hours to write one essay for the science competition Mazille started, and more.

Some people are trying to save a lot of the threads there. There are threads, like the debate threads, and the huge flood debate thread that should be visible and accessible to everyone on the net.

And all that for what? This is not just a rant, but an obituary. An obituary about the death of a wonderful community.

Goodbye forever, forum.richarddawkins.net

PS. RDF = Richard Dawkins Forum

Update: it seems that Josh Timonen has deleted one of the science mods, Mazille along with all the posts he made, just because he spoke his mind aloud. Mazille is one of the newest mods, and the one who made the science competition happen.  More updates on the situation as information comes in.

More blogposts about the RD.net death: Jerome - The End of an Era: Richard Dawkins Forum to Close

Update 2: Josh also deleted another user's account, CJ, along with all his posts. CJ was a global moderator until October of 2008. Seems like Josh really doesn't like all the criticism he is getting.

Frankly, after all this, I would not go back to the forum if it was reopened unless Josh and Andrew were fired, and people who respect the community are hired. Josh has shown that he is not interested in the membership, nor the volunteer staff, like me, like Topsy, Sciwoman, Ilovelucy, Mazille, Gallstones and more. However, with decisions like this he is hurting the Foundation, because most members were also a driving force that actively supported the Foundation. Don't count on any contribution from me on the next fundraiser, if things go like this. Josh has shown no respect for me or the other staff, and this is the only way I have of making my displeasure known. By blogging and by withdrawing any support for the foundation.

Oh, and please join me and other staff from RDF over at rationalia: http://rationalia.com

Monday, February 22, 2010

Is the Doctor more ethical than God?

What sparked this admittedly silly comparison is a thread on the now defunct Richard Dawkins forum, titled Is the Doctor More Ethical than Jesus?. Most people who voted, said Yes, the Doctor is more ethical than Jesus. But I take it one step further, and I thought to compare the Doctor with God himself.

As the Doctor himself has said, Timelords are living gods. They understand the fabric of time and space much better than all other races, and they traveled spacetime, correcting mistakes, helping people. At least, until the last Time War.

My answer is that the Doctor is more ethical than Jesus or God himself. Why? First of all, the Doctor would never committ genocide. He respects all life, even that of the Daleks, as he tried to help them on some occasions. He was very crossed with the Human Doctor in Journey's End, when he destroyed all Daleks, thereby committing genocide. The Doctor even tried to save Davros on that occasion, but Davros himself refused. As opposed to the Judeo-Christian god, who, according to the Bible, has committed genocide more than once. One example: in Numbers 31, god orders Moses to completely destroy the Midianites!

And to take this one step further, he does not punish the Human Doctor. He tells him that his actions were wrong, and finds him a place in the universe to be. He lets him be with Rose, the woman he loved, in a parallel universe.

The Doctor has no problem with people's sexuality. Jack Harkness was an omnisexual, as he was born in the 51st century, and he accompanied the Doctor on some of his adventures. The Doctor has no problem with homosexuality, as the Judeo-Christian god seems to have. There are a number of passages in the Bible, where homosexuality is considered a sin, homosexuals are considered monsters and are condemned to death.In fact these are some passages from the Bible that reveal the homophobia of christianity:

Leviticus 18:22 Thou shalt not lie with mankind, as with womankind: it is abomination.
Leviticus 20:13 If a man also lie with mankind, as he lieth with a woman, both of them have committed an abomination: they shall surely be put to death; their blood shall be upon them.

There are more where the above came for,  and it shows the inhumanity of many of religious views. 

How about women? The Doctor respects women, and has had many of them as his travelling companions. Just in the new series, he has had three: Rose Tyler, Martha Jones and Donna Noble. He respected and loved each one for their own worth. In fact, he tells Donna that she is more important and is worth much more than she thinks; he even snaps at Donna's mother because she always criticized Donna, and should offer her a word of support. 

What about god then? Oh the Judeo-Christian god is a misogynistic prick, who thinks that women are only worth for reproduction. That, we, women are inferior only because our genitals are found inside our bodies, and not externally... What a character! And how does this start? Because of a stupid myth, the one of Adam and Eve. The Bible is full of misogyny, and sexism. Let's look at just one example, in Deuteronomy:

22:23 If a damsel that is a virgin be betrothed unto an husband, and a man find her in the city, and lie with her; 22:24 Then ye shall bring them both out unto the gate of that city, and ye shall stone them with stones that they die; the damsel, because she cried not, being in the city; and the man, because he hath humbled his neighbour's wife: so thou shalt put away evil from among you.

So, if a woman is raped, and does not cry out she is to blame! Is this real justice?

I could go on and on, but this is a silly post and I know it. But in the end, the Doctor is more ethical than the Judeo-Christian god. And he is usually much more handsome, at least in the latest incarnations of Christopher Eccleston and David Tennant...

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Percy Jackson and the Lightning Thief - Rick Riordan

This article is about the book and not the movie. I have yet to see the movie, so I cannot compare the two.

Percy (Perseus) Jackson is a 12year old with learning difficulties, and has been expelled from a number of schools up to now. Percy however, is not just another child; he is the son of one of the most powerful gods of the Greek pantheon: Poseidon, lord of the seas.

Someone has stolen the master bolt from Zeus and the helmet of Hades. The gods are blaming each other and they are on the brink of war. Zeus thinks that Poseidon is responsible, Poseidon thinks that Hades is responsible, and Hades again, blames Poseidon. Percy is in the middle of it all, because both Hades and Zeus think that he was the means by which Poseidon stole the items. Percy, along with Annabeth, daughter of Athena, and Grover, a satyr, will travel to the depths of the the Underworld to find out the truth.

The book is aimed at children aged 11-15, but also to older children, those of us who have refused to grow old, who have kept a part of our childish wonder and awe, and love a good story. The story is similar to many other stories: a 12year old with problems, finds out that he is not just a child, but has some powers, and that he is destined for bigger things. The backplot that will tie all books together is apparent from the first book, as is the usual case.

Written in first person, but sometimes I got the feeling that it was not the 12year old Percy that was writing, but an older Percy, that is remembering his adventures and writing them down for whatever reason. I thought that some parts needed a bit of revision, but all in all it was good writing.

The plot was good, and as a book, it kept my interest. It has action, good and accurate descriptions, the characters are likeable and believable, especially since they are based on Greek Mythology. It is obvious that Riordan knows Greek Mythology, and respects it throughout the book. By respect, I mean that he does not alter myths and legends, and when he talks about events from mythology, his information is accurate. And this is one of the things I liked about the book.

I must say that I was a bit biased about the book, when I bought it. Because a lot of shows and books, have mistreated Ancient Greek Mythology, which is a small passion of mine. But I also like to read anything, whether fact or fiction, about mythology. I was wrong about my bias in this case, and I enjoyed reading it.

I love stories of ancient gods and legendary heroes; they are often very beautiful. And this was a good book for children, and as a big child I enjoyed it. So, next time I find myself in a bookstore, I will probably look for the second installment.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Torchwood - Children of Earth

Last Torchwood season was a special of 5 episodes, entitled "Children of Earth". This is the best episode up to now, this is exactly what I was looking to see from Torchwood. Surprises and twists, and if the series continues, I expect the same quality.

The story is simple but complicated at the same time. Extraterrestrials are using the children all over the world to communicate with humans. "We are coming": nothing more nothing less. But who are they? Have they been here before? Why are they coming? What is the link between them and the children? And what does Jack have to do with all this?

Spoiler warning, for the rest of this post. So, if you haven't watched the special, and you don't want to know some details, don't read ahead.

Their name is the 4-5-6 and they have been here before. They want children, specifically 10% of the world's children population. What do they actually want with the children?

Jack, Ianto and Gwen need to know what's coming. Torchwood has been destroyed, Jack has been jailed, Gwen, Ianto and Rhys are on the run. They do find some unexpected help, but is that enough before the 'units' are shipped?

When Jack tries to stop the 4-5-6, they respond, killing everyone in the building that houses them, including Ianto. Torchwood has lost, Gwen and Rhys are taken back to Cardiff, Jack is once again jailed.

However, the people that initially tried to kill Jack, free him. He finds a way to stop the 4-5-6, but this way has a terrible price for Jack: he has to sacrifice his grandson...

The deaths of Ianto and his grandson, as well as the deaths of Owen and Toshiko, weigh heavily on Jack. He spends a few months here and there on Earth, but he can't escape his feelings. He finds Gwen and Rhys to say goodbye, and leaves Earth.

Again Davies left us with a bitterness at the end of this season of Torchwood. It is after those events in Torchwood, that the Doctor finds Jack to say goodbye, and Davies has tied the timeline quite well.

I hope to see Jack and Gwen in the future, even as guest stars in the new season of Doctor Who. Can you imagine Rhys in the TARDIS?

My information tells me that the new Doctor Who series will start March 13th. One month more or less, and more information says that River Song will return in Episode 4. Can't wait.

I want more Torchwood. I want more Doctor Who.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Torchwood - Season 2

Second season of Torchwood, and I thought that the episodes might get a lot better. But we had mostly a repeat of Season 1. However, the beginning of the season is quite good, because James Masters (Spike from Buffy) is guest starring as Captain John, a time agent from Jack's past. 

But, after the first episode, we get the same quality as last season; fine but not what was expected, even if we also have Martha Jones for a few episodes in the series, and a very nice twist with the character of Owen Harper.


Owen is dead! However, Jack finds the second glove and brings him back from the dead. But that glove is different, and something comes back with Owen, from the eternal darkness. In the end, problem solved, but Owen is still among the living, a different kind of living dead. This twist I liked, but I felt that Owen was underused and underdeveloped, especially with him being a living dead. They could have build a story or a backplot around Owen and his condition, but all we get are sentimental moments and comedy relief!

Okay, we did know that Gwen and Rhys would get married. But did we have to watch another wedding-going-wrong-but-in-the-end-everything-is-fine episode? And of course all wedding cliches were there, and almost every damned series has a similar episode, with max 1-2 having an original twist or something. Gwen is maybe my favorite character for her humanity and strength.

I think that the best episode of the season is Adrift. When Gwen wants to find a 14-year old missing boy, Jack tells her to leave it alone. What is Jack hiding? And is it better to know the truth, or live with hope?

Toshiko is very intelligent and the writers could have used her technical expertise and inventiveness in much better ways, but she always underdeveloped, and mostly in sentimental scenes or episodes, like the soldier of the past needed to save the future stuff... She certainly ahs her own strengths, and the writers could have shown us much more from Toshiko.

Ianto is the only one who did not have his own episode in this season, mainly because he had the worst episode of Torchwood, Cyberwoman, in the last season. There isn't much to say about Ianto, other than he could have been developed better as well, and maybe show us something from the past, as he was working for Torchwood 1, until its destruction in the battle of Canary Wharf (Doctor Who, Doomsday).

Final verdict is that the best episodes of the season, are the episodes with James Masters as Captain John and the episode Adrift.

At the end of season 2, only Jack, Ianto and Gwen are left in Torchwood. Toshiko was killed by Gray, and Owen was disintegrated saving Cardiff from a nuclear explosion (he was dead anyway!) I am currently watching the 3rd season, which is a 5 episode special "Children of Earth", which is much better than the previous seasons.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Torchwood - Season 1

After having watched all seasons and specials of the Doctor Who series, I started watching the spin-off series, Torchwood, which features the character of Captain Jack Harkness.

Generally, it is not a bad series, and it is quite interesting. However, we are talking about Captain Jack Harkness and the worlds of Doctor Who. So, excuse me, if I wanted something more than just another series, which has not been delivered.

The characters and the setting are very good, and if the scripts were much better, we could have a lot of good and shining moments for the characters. What is missing especially is that twist in the script, that one episode that people will remember. But there is nothing in this season. Just some good episodes and some bad episodes (in the latter category, I would definitely put Cyberwoman...)

The series could have more episodes about Jack's past; after all he was born and lived in the 51st century, he was a Time Agent, he has been around the universe with our favorite Timelord, and there could definitely be a few stories about his past (and there could have been a couple of cross-overs with Doctor Who).


The best episode of the season is, in my opinion, "They Keep Killing Suzie". The Torchwood team has to revive Suzie for a couple of minutes, using a certain alien glove; however, Suzie does not want to die again!

That glove there, was very similar to Rassilon's glove from Doctor Who's End of Time. Of course, the Doctor Who episode was produced much after Torchwood's first season. 

Next, on my three best episodes list, is Out of Time. This is where we have good character development, especially for Jack, Owen and Gwen. But still, it could have been a lot better.


And the last episode that I liked more than the others, is "Combat". This is an Owen Harper episode, where we do see that Owen has more depth and hurt than anyone else on the team maybe, and that there is something hidden deep within Owen.

And last scene of the season, is the glowing hand of the Doctor, the sound of the TARDIS materializing, and Jack and hand disappearing...

Closing, this is not a bad series. The episodes are just okay, and I felt like there could be much much more. I don't know whether to categorize it as Undelivered Potential, Wasted Potential or both.