Friday, January 11, 2008


I wonder if all women are experts in the fine genre of Banzai Cooking - which involves blowing up the kitchen and eating whatever dish that manages to escape.

Monday, January 07, 2008

Don't overdo it

I like this comment from Alan Alda on the brilliant World Question Center.
I would have labeled myself an atheist until recently when I began to get an ugly taste from the whole Dawkins hysteria. Suddenly some sort of faction-cult solidified when atheists united. Of course, this way of going about things is inherently American - and by and large understandable considering the evangelical power factors threatening the so-called democracy over there.

Once you start referencing yourself with a capital letter (Atheists, in this case) you're broadcasting to the world your membership of a particular order. I don't view atheism as anything like that - for me it is the natural state, not a team I decide to fight for. I fear the only result from this rally is even more division among people.

I once read an elegant argument of the 'rubbishness' of agnosticism, because it basically says that there is a 50% chance of God being there (as in true/un-true). I can see the point. To a true scientist (Atheist) the chance is 0% because no decisive evidence is available. It is a nice argument but it is too categoric since 'evidence' in itself is open to discussion. And in any event, there exists no 'objective' framework to judge the state of divinity anyway. Miracles do occasionally happen, right?

So, I think Alda is spot on - Atheism (capital form) has now become politicised and is, to some, a religion in itself. It risks discounting the basic analysis of anything that does not fit a priori within scientific descriptive categories. The problem lies in automatically assigning the value 'wrong' to anything not proven true within existing limits of knowledge. Moreover, on a directly humanistic level, vigilant Atheists (again, notice the self-important capital letter) seem to regard religious and spiritual people as stupid by definition - which I think is....hmm...exaggerated, at least :)

To most people religious or spiritual feelings are not at all associated with logical thought - when science geeks try to force a connection on their subject it is really a superficial comparison that, while it shows the unscientific character of religion or spirituality, shows absolutely nothing about that subject's mental capacity in general. You are able to believe in spite of your scientific convictions. Often, Atheist science geeks have a hard time grasping this.

In any event, see this as a critical bark up my own tree, since I do not hold religious beliefs at all. I do, however, become curious about spirituality and mysticism from time to time. I also try to respect people that hold religious views - it's when they start contradicting scientific methods that I get grumpy. I have also been quasi-religious or at least interested in historical religions when I was younger, so I can relate to the chasm between religious feelings and logical thought. And since this chasm is so deeply personal, it should stay entirely in the personal domain - get that stuff out of politics, for sure. But it you think you can abolish it by pointing to science, you are the stupid one =)

Friday, January 04, 2008

Scifi memoirs

I've become quite the science fiction aficionado the past year or so. I always was, actually, but recently I've seen scifi being referenced and almost emulated in blogs and online writings. Thanks to the bogosphere and Wikipedia, most scifi worlds and writers are now being celebrated permanently, one might say.

There was a time when I fell over great scifi stories entirely by accident - no readily accessible media bothered to mention let alone recommend science fiction.
Now it is ubiquitous...and Gibson is even making me feel as if certain parts of it are in the PAST, when 'Spook Country' makes an effort to describe technological phenomena that I already know a great deal about. Weird.

Have a look at IO9, a new scifi blog splicing the playfulness of Neatorama with the intellectual coolhunting of BoingBoing.

Thinking back, I guess these are science fiction books that I remember most vividly:

Jon Bing - 'The Chronicles of the Starship Alexandria'

This series is maybe the earliest scifi literature I remember where I have not forgotten the author's name. I doubt that these have been translated into English, but for a Danish lad of 9-10 years these are thrilling tales of weird worlds and inventions.

Brian Aldiss - 'Helliconia Spring'
Actually part of a trilogy, however I suspect I only read the first novel back as a young teenager. The vastness of the environment and the strange mixture of detached science and struggling characters captivated me, I recall.

Larry Niven - 'Ringworld'
I must have read this when I was 13 or 14...I remember thinking 'Wow'. A grand space opera, bordering on fantasy. Douglas Adams without the silliness. I am planning to revisit this one soon.

Alan Dean Foster - 'Midworld'
A scifi ecological thriller. I was crazy about nature and strange species and stuff like that. This book is full of it :)

William Gibson - 'Burning Chrome'
Although I think that word of 'Neuromancer' got to me first, I seem to recall it being off the shelves at our library due to popular demand. There was however one available copy of 'Burning Chrome' in the entire Eastern part of Northern Jutland, and so this became my first cyberpunk experience. Luckily perhaps, because the short story pieces probably suited a young teenager better than the poetically heavier descriptions of 'Neuromancer'.

William Gibson & Bruce Sterling - 'The Difference Engine'
I never finished this at the time. At 14-15 years of age I suspect some of the very rich social and environmental descriptions in this book turned me off. At least that is what I remember. I am quite sure they would thrill me today. The book did actually serve a noble purpose since it primed me for the title below - several years later. It shares some of the neo-/pseudo-Victorian vibe.

Neal Stephenson - 'The Diamond Age'

I liked 'Snow Crash' like everyone else but this is probably his best true scifi work. An amazing story filled with emotion, technological gadgets, social perspectives, and murky motives.
And guess what? I never finished it! Why? I simply forgot it on the plane, coming home from a trip to Thailand in 2001. I am still missing the last 50 pages, goddammit!

Recent honorable mention:
Iain M. Banks - 'The Algebraist'. Very refreshing (and quite funny) after a long time of absence from the spacier part of science fiction.

Today, in a strange cooincidence, IO9 suddenly talked about this which I suddenly recalled was also one of my favorite book series when I was 12-ish. Of course, at the time I was reading the Danish translation, first of which was named "Telekattene". This is a childhood space mythology not to be missed - bring it to your pre-teens now!