Tie Rack: Your New Illuminati Card

Here’s a conspiracy theory for you: Tie Rack are a decentralised, corporate-funded, international network of smugglers and drug runners. It stands to reason:

  • Do you really think there’s a market for a shop that sells only ties? Okay, I know that they also sell umbrellas and scarves: but really… most of their shops are at transportation hubs like airports and train stations – I wonder how many people ever say, “Well, I’m off to [important event] and I can’t find a suitable tie… but it’s okay, because I can get one on the way! Thank heavens for Tie Rack™!” I don’t buy it: they’ve got to be a front to something bigger.
  • And it stands to reason that they’re in the perfect place to be into smuggling: drugs, illegal documents, whatever… they have a store (which is open 24-hours a day) at every major international airport in the Western hemisphere. But where is the shop? It’s on the other side of customs and excise and passport control – by the time you get to Tie Rack, they’ve already taken your bottle of water and your nail clippers off you… plus: when have you ever seen security do a random stop-and-search on a man wearing a tie.
  • Do you really think that the lorry loads of ties that get transported into airports every day are searched for drugs and weapons? Of course not: they’re not getting on a ‘plane – or are they? Tie Rack’s expert network of traffickers turn up at the airport (and can be searched all that security wish: they’re clean) and then, while in the departure lounge waiting for their flight to be cancelled they decide to buy a tie (or perhaps an umbrella or a handbag). And that’s where they pick up what they’re transporting…
  • …few airports bother to do a drugs scan when you get off the ‘plane: why bother – the airport at the other end did it already, and most of the security guards, especially these days, are preoccupied with ensuring that no suspicious-looking Muslims get anywhere near an aircraft without a full body cavity search. The mules have already arrived with their package. For the price of an EasyJet flight across Europe you can bring cannabis and ecstasy from Holland or opiates from Turkey and nobody knows any better.
  • How’d they get started? Well, they’re the new arm of the Italian mafia! Even their web site proudly states that they’re “genuinely Italian”. Wikipedia reports that the company acts as a major retailer for the Frangi retail group… guess where Frangi are from: Sicily.

If I go missing in the near future, it’s because I’ve revealed Tie Rack’s dirty secret. You know what to do.

A Postcard From Heather

We’ve just received a postcard from Heather

Cheddar Cave

…which immediately got us out of The Game. For those that aren’t sure how that could have happened from an innocuous postcard, the blame goes to Jimmy, who took great pains to get us to associate the word cheese with The Game. Heather writes:

Hello Troma Geeks!

Thought you’d all appreciate this lovely cheesy postcard. Weather here remarkably like Aber, but seaside not so good. Difficult to have BBQ on sinking sand. Is also very good alcohol country – every pub is a CAMRA member & has a cask marque. All kinds of bizarre wines. Tell Jimmy I’ve found his ideal part of the world!


Thought I’d share that with you all this morning. Right: off to work…

Chinese Funerals And Sudo

Scott Adams has written a fabulous blog entry about strippers at Chinese funerals, but it’s not quite as funny as the latest xkcd comic. For those who aren’t sufficiently geeky (if you’re a geek: read the comic first then come back here), sudo is a command found on some computer systems that allows you to act as if you had greater (typically) priviledges than you wouild normally have. In the comic, the speaker attempts to do something, fails (because he’s not permitted to perform that operation), and tries again, this time using sudo.

Well; I thought it was funny.

If you’re still not laughing, watch How Lord Of The Rings Should Have Ended.

Strange Happenings In LiveJournalLand

Strange. First Faye’s comment on Andy‘s controversial blog post diappears. Now her entire LiveJournal is empty of posts (not just friends-only but gone, as far as I can see), but the account still exists.

Faye? What’s going on? Has the internet eaten you whole?

EDIT: The plot thickens. I’ve just remembered that I noticed this weekend that Faye changed her RockMonkey page recently: it’s now a lot tamer than it used to be, doesn’t link to ARSEnalScumDepreciationSociety, and one of Andy’s infamous spelling mistakes has been fixed. Perhaps the internet really is eating Faye up…

Arrow Tag

Here’s a fab little Flash game I just discovered: Arrow Tag. I’ve just won with a time of 14 minutes and 35 seconds. Think you can beat me?

Orgasms And Biochemistry

Just read a great article on brain activity during sexual stimulation and specifically upon orgasm: scanning people’s brains while they’re engaged in sexual activity with their partners has lead to some fascinating results. From the article:

In men, greater activity was seen in the insula, which deals with emotion, and particularly in the secondary somatosensory cortex, which rates the significance of physical sensations. This suggests that the sensory input coming from the genitals is being judged highly important and pleasurable by the brain.

Women, however, show very little increased brain activity, and only in the primary somatosensory cortex – which registers purely that a sensation in the genitals is there.”In women the primary feeling is there, but not the marker that this is seen as a big deal,” Dr Holstege said.”For males, touch itself is all-important. For females, it is not so important.”

I fascination turned to amusement when I read about some of the difficulties the participants had under experimental conditions, though:

The experiments also revealed a rather surprising effect: both men and women found it easier to have an orgasm when they kept their socks on. Draughts in the scanning room left couples complaining of “literally cold feet”, and providing a pair of socks allowed 80 per cent rather than 50 per cent to reach a climax while their brains were scanned.

A Town Called Eureka – People Enjoy This?

We’ve been watching a little of A Town Called Eureka of late, following the discovery that Matt watches it and so does my mum. We watched the first episode earlier this week, which I found to be well-performed and a great idea… but terribly realised. Nonetheless, I thought to myself, it was a pilot episode and they are often shaky, so last night we watched the second episode.

What follows is my annotated synopsis of the episode. If you plan to watch it, you might want to skip it, but I’d recommend reading my comments and then simply skipping it:

Start Of Spoilers
The episode starts where the last one left off, with Jack Carter having just taken up his position of sheriff in the town of Eureka, Walter Perkins has been killed by a tacyon-related accident, and his wife Susan has been killed in a fake suicide.

During the course of the episode, a partially visible glowing humanoid shape is seen around town, and sightings are accompanied by electromagnetic disturbances which shut down computers and damage lights, but only when it’s convenient to the plot for it to do so. Meanwhile, Susan reappears in town, and it becomes apparent that there are two of them which an atomic-level analysis shows are identical, which, of course, would not be the case even for identical twins or clones because of chemical changes due to diet, lifestyle, etc. A DNA test, which would have actually proven that one was a twin or clone, is not done, because it would be “too primitive” (even though it could conceivably achieve the correct result, albeit with less flashy lights and cool scientific equipment). Curiously, despite never having met and the clone having been made seven years ago, the two women dress identically at all times. It is later determined that one of the women must be a fully-grown clone made by Walter, and a scientist makes a throwaway remark that this would explain why the computer had said that the dead Susan was made of “younger” materials, but for some reason he didn’t bring this up earlier, instead claiming that the two were identical.

Normally rational scientists turn to supernatural beliefs in order to explain the electromagnetic disturbances and the humanoid figure, repeatedly talking about “ghosts”. It later appears that Walter, killed last episode, is not dead but is merely “existing in an alternate timestream” (which by itself is fine – this is a work of fiction, but I don’t appreciate the way that the scientists feel the need to use oversimplistic analyses and excessive buzzwords when talking to each other). In any case, they put him into a device resembling a magic eight ball (which they presumabley had lying around for just this kind of occurance) which will make him all fine again. His former wife, the original Susan, has since pieced together the full story: after they divorced seven years ago, he came to Eureka, made a clone of her, built the house that they had designed together and had a son. In the end, despite the fact that doing so will probably cause irreparable damage to the boy, the original Susan agrees to stay (after all, they only divorced once, then he made a clone of her which, when it died, caused great distress to her family, and now – despite being an intelligent woman, she’s decided that a woman who looks identical to his mother but knows nothing about him is a better adoptive parent for a young boy than, say, anybody else on Earth).

Oh yeah, and Jack Carter moves into a house with a personality and a will of it’s own but no overrides. Well, I suppose comic effect is allowed.
Spoilers end.
The problem with the show, I suppose, is that it doesn’t know what it wants to be. The idea behind it lines it up perfectly to be a great sitcom, but it’s hard to see the humour because it’s trying so hard to be a gritty drama. Meanwhile, unforgivably awful pseudo-science means that you want to hurt yourself, or, failing that, the screenwriter. The action seems distant from the characters: always as if everything will work itself out in the end and the actors just came along for the ride. Rather than actually having anything to do with the plot they just sit in the foreground and make jokes about the scientific buzzwords that they’re saying, and each other’s inability to comprehend them.

The show pisses me off.

A Town Called Eureka Presents “Troma Night”

Matt made a blog post about a TV series – A Town Called Eureka – which he’s been watching. In episode 4 (which has just been broadcast in the UK, two weeks behind the US schedule) several of the characters get together in a cramped space full of technology to watch films, once a week. Matt observes that everything in this segment of the episode just reeks of Troma Night – all that’s missing is a sponge-throwing and a Hollywood Pizza delivery to make the two identical.

I’ve put a copy of the relevent scenes online: click here to watch. You’ll need Flash Player version 8 or above and a reasonably-fast internet connection.

At Last

This article is a repost promoting content originally published elsewhere. See more things Dan's reposted.

At Last (matt-inthe-hat.livejournal.com)

Rating of posts in LiveJournal blogs. LJ Top is automatically generated.

In the same vein as I had the previous month and Matt promised to for a long while, Matt eventually completed the meme in which he replied to me, and various other friends, with (1) something random about me, (2) a challenge, (3) a colour, (4) something he likes, (5) an early or clear memory, (6) an animal, and (7) a question he’d always wanted answered. He wrote:


1. Your hair is longer than mine was. I was intimidated.
2. I don’t know how much Buddhism you’ve studied. If it’s a little then study some more and try some meditation. If you have studied Buddhism then learn to unicycle.
3. A light blue.
4. JTA mentioned it once in his blog and it stuck with me as a perfect example of one of your best characteristics: he called early one morning and asked if he and Ruth could stay on your sofa. Rather than asking what happened and if they were all right you said yes, got the bed ready and put the kettle on. Many people, when helping someone, want to fix the problem and force their help and solutions on others. You don’t and it’s refreshing.
5. My earliest memory was the pre-training meeting. My clearest was about a year later when I shamed myself in how I treated you. I apologised but I don’t think I apologised enough. I’m sorry.
6. If you were shorter you’d probably be an Ewok.
7. You’ve always seemed relaxed and easy about how attached you are to things, but do you plan on leaving Aberystwyth? Would you object to it if Claire suggested it? Where would you live otherwise? I know that’s three questions but I don’t care.

I responded almost immediately:

1. Aww. Someday I’ll get it cut and it’ll be less-long than yours was in it’s hayday.
2. Quite a lot. Unicycle it is, then.

7. Have always promised myself I’d leave before 10 years was up, and I’m still – give or take – planning to stick to that. Claire seems to approve, and even encourages it. We have a few ideas as to what we’ll do after we graduate: one idea that’s being knocked around is to move to Aberdeen, where she can get involved with the university (perhaps a postgraduateship).

Update – 27 February 2019: I replied again, to update on progress.

7. And I managed, give or take, although it wasn’t in Claire’s wake but despite it.

2. I’ve tried a few times but I’m going to have to give up. My unicycle’s sat rusting in the shed; I don’t think I’m ever gonna crack this one, sorry.

So yeah. Still can’t unicycle.

On The Implausability Of The Explosives Plot

I read a really great article over on the Interesting People mailing list today: On The Implausability Of The Explosives Plot. It’s well-written, only slightly cynical, and – crucially – exhibits a knowledge of chemistry and basic security policy that seems to be beyond the entire research teams of the scaremongering governments of today’s Western world. Plus, it’s amusing. Enjoy.

On a not-unrelated note, if you didn’t see The Power Of Nightmares when it was broadcast and haven’t seen it since, you’ve missed out. Follow the link.

In Praise Of Dreamhost’s Backup System

I’ve been impressed, again, by Dreamhost, who provide hosting for this and many of my other websites. During a fit of stupidity, I accidentally rm -rf *‘d Abnib Gallery. For those of a less techy nature, I deleted it: pictures and site and all. Whoopsie.

So I thought: perhaps they have a tape backup or something. I filled in their support form, which asks lots of useful questions like “How much do you know about this?”, with options ranging from “I don’t know anything, hold me by the hand,” to “TBH, I probably know more about this than you do!” and a nice scale of rating the urgency, as well as indicating how many calls they’re dealing with right now and a link to an outstanding issues page.

Within half an hour I’d been e-mailed back by a tech support person, who explained in exactly the appropriate level of detail that hourly and daily backups (with grandfather-father-son fallbacks) of everybody’s home directory are made into their hidden .snapshot directory. I took a peep, and lo and behold there was my backup. Very impressed.

Now, if only they’d improve the reliability and speed of their Rails hosting, I’d offer them a round of oral sex.

Pissing In The Pool

Had a rather unusual dream last night: I found myself swimming at my dad’s local swimming baths, with him (as, in fact, I did the weekend before last for the first time in years – we used to do so weekly). The swimming was particularly easy going: I was going at a hell of a rate for very little effort. Later, I got out of the pool to go to the toilet, but was surprised to find that my urine was coming out in many very different directions and spraying all over the place. Eventually, I was able to deal with this by strategically standing in front of three urinals and having each stream caught by one. And that’s all I remember of it.

Really; kids – you don’t want to be in my head. I don’t get it, and you don’t too.

Dinosaur Adventure Land


This is the strangest thing I’ve seen so far this week, and I’m a diggdot reader. Dinosaur Adventure Land (site navigation requires JavaScript) is a dinosaur-themed education park with all the usual things – fossils, a “back in time” ride, huge plastic dinosaurs: you get the idea – that you’d expect a theme park with it’s name to have. But there’s a twist.

Dinosaur Adventure Land is run by Kent E. Hovind. Mr.Hovind (I shan’t call him “Dr.” until he gets a real doctorate) believes the world to be less than six thousand years old. He believes this because it’s what he interprets the bible as telling him.

At his theme park, having learned about how different dinosaurs lived and hunted, he reveals to his guests that dinosaurs and humans at one point lived alongside one another. The mass extinctions evidently didn’t affect humans too badly, in his mind, but he also claims that some dinosaurs continued to live amongst us well into the 20th century. This explains, he says, occurances like bigfoot and the Loch Ness monster.

You can read Mr. Hovind’s theories for yourself, if you can’t be bothered to get his DVD (although I might – it’s uncopyrighted so perhaps I can download a copy). Here are some of my favourite crackpot theories from his mind:

  • Continental drift is a myth. Despite heaps of evidence to the contrary, including modern-day observations of plate techtonics, Mr. Hovind attempts to refute the existence of continental drift. If you point out to him that the continents are an awfully convenient shape, then, he’ll point out that “what the geologists don’t tell you is that very similar fossils are found on opposite sides of the ocean, suggesting a world-wide flood.” He fails to spot that this could also be evidence that the continents were joined when the life forms died and fossils formed, and later seperated.
  • The Earth’s magnetic field is static. Magnetic anomolies among the continental ridges, while provide evidence for geomagnetic reversal (a theory almost universally-accepted by geologists), do not exist or are insignificant, he claims.
  • All of the mammoths were killed almost instantly. Hovind teaches us that we’ve found many deceased mammoths, all standing up and with evidence that they died very quickly, and claims that this is evidence for his “great flood” theory (which I’ll mention later). He’s wrong, by the way – we’ve not found many intact mammoths and I can’t find any evidence that any were found standing up (the one he usually mentions, the Berezovka Mammoth, may well have died from drowning, but certainly wasn’t standing up). He also carefully skirts around the fact that dinosaurs’ (which, according to his theories, would have lived at the same time as mammoths) bones are found buried in a way (different depths, carbon dating, etc.) that would suggest that they lived over a huge period of time and did not all die out in an instant.
  • So what killed all these extinct species? A great flood! And not just any great flood: a comet hit the Earth, we’re told. A huge comet entered the solar system and (for some reason he doesn’t really clarify) began to break apart. Lots of chunks of water ice (recent evidence from probes like Deep Impact suggest that comets contain far less water ice than was previously thought, containing far more dust and rock and ices of other gases, like methane). The craters on the moon, Mars and other planets were caused by this immense icy meteor, as were the rings around Jupiter, Uranus and Neptune (wow; this really is a huge comet). The comet seperated further in the Earth’s atmosphere, and fell as snow… curiously, the ice particles became statically charged in the Earth’s atmosphere which caused them to be attracted towards the Earth’s magnetic poles, which is why they are icier today than other parts of the Earth – which makes no sense whatsoever. The melting snow created filled in the huge valleys that are now the oceans (presumabley there wasn’t very much water on Earth before this happened).
  • More evidence for a great flood! Mr. Hovind takes pretty much every bit of evidence for an “old Earth” and twists it with a huge dose of imagination in order to attempt to turn it into evidence for his “young Earth.” Fossils of sea creatures found in the Himalayas have been accepted (through biological analysis, carbon dating, and the techtonic record) to have been pushed up there when the Indian techtonic plate crashed (very slowly, but it’s very heavy!) into South Asia. Mr. Hovind, however, explains that the only way you could possibly get seashells up Everest would be with a great flood “washing” them up there. He uses the bible to demonstrate the infallability of the bible a few times to help demonstrate the correctness of his theory.

He goes on to “disprove” coal formation, which is also amusing reading, but the whole thing remains kind-of alarming to me when I think about the fact that people genuinely believe this stuff.


When we are confronted by evidence that contradicts our model of the way things are, we are confused. We can amalgamate this new evidence and relieve the confusion in one of two ways. The first way, which is the most comfortable, is to assume that our existing model (what we already believe) is correct and take the extra evidence as an exception to the rule. The second way, which is harder, is to adapt the model to fit the new evidence. Which one is more correct depends upon the situation, but something that is certainly true is that it is far more difficult to retrospectively adapt a model (where your model has been hard-set by, for example, years of belief in it) than it is to adapt a model which is less-strongly held.

Let’s have a simple example: a woman has a son who, on a particular occassion, gets into trouble at school. Her mental model includes predicates like “My son is a good boy,” and so this new evidence challenges that belief. Odds are good that she will extend her model with an exception, such as “…except when he plays with [scapegoat],” or even “…except that one time.” This is probably correct, and her model is refined with this “bolt-on” extra clause. If she continues to be bombarded by evidence, she is likely to have to change her model to accomodate it, eventually changing her original ideas: “My son is not a good boy.”

Retrospectively changing ideas is very hard: the human brain doesn’t seem to feel as comfortable with it. Suppose you had firmly believed that there was a deity who cared about you and would grant you a place in it’s heaven if you lived your life in accordance with a certain set of rules and traditions. Then suppose something somehow managed to persuade you that this deity probably didn’t exist at all. Changing your mental model to something new, contradicting yourself, and saying “I have been wrong for the last 20 years,” or whatever, isn’t an easy thing to do, so people don’t like to do it.

What people will sometimes do is to maintain their model with an ever-growing string of complicated and intertwined exceptions, making themselves into an apologetic for their cause. “God doesn’t condone homosexuality, because Leviticus 18:22 and Deuteronomy 23:17-18 forbid it! Oh; but don’t mind Leviticus 11:12 and Deuteronomy 14:10 – of course God doesn’t mind us eating shellfish in this day and age.”

Everybody does this: not just the theists. But it scares me that we seem to be seeing an increase in this kind of thinking from theists worldwide, and while it’s probably better than them taking their thousands-of-years-old holy books as literal and following them to the letter, it sets a bad precedent. If they can justify making exceptions to the rules they don’t like, it follows that they will eventually adapt their models, internally, to say “It is okay to change our models to fit our needs and still believe that we aren’t hypocrites.” It’s happening now to many people all over the world, and it disappoints me.

Car Gliding?

Was just looking at Gareth’s blog to read about his recent car trouble and noticed an interesting quirk in the way his blog is showing “tags”:

Car gliding?

It would appear that the thing Gareth writes about the most is “car gliding”. Cool. I want a go. I’m kind-of reminded of the Russian WWII Antonov A-40 experiment, where a light tank was fitted with wings to allow it to be “dropped” safely into battlefields after being dragged up into the air by an aeroplane.

Sadly, of course, this is just a quirk to do with the way his blog is interpreting “hang” and “gliding” as separate concepts. Interesting, though, that the things that appear to occupy his time the most relate to how much fun he has hang gliding or how shit each and every one of his cars is. Life in a nutshell.