Friday, September 23, 2011

Tasmania votes for gay marriage

Misleading headlines 'r' us.

On 21st September 2011, the lower house of Tasmania's Parliament (House of Assembly) voted to "support gay marriage". Great. I support gay marriage too. What they didn't do was introduce a bill to both houses of Parliament to legalise gay marriage. Why not? Tasmania's upper house (Legislative Assembly) has two Labor Party representatives, one Liberal Party representative, and fifteen independents.

The Labor Party knew that they couldn't guarantee passage of a bill through the upper house, so they took the option of only presenting the motion to the lower house. Essentially then it means nothing. No law has been changed and opponents of gay marriage have ammunition to say that the Tasmanian Government were too scared to introduce a real bill which may have made a real difference and legalise gay marriage.

In closing, I fully support what the Tasmanian government has done. I just wish they had had the courage to make it an actual legislative change rather than just a "vote of support".

The fact that loving couples may or may not be married purely because of their respective genders is an outrage as far as I'm concerned. I married my wife because I loved her, not because I am a man and she is a woman. Why shouldn't a man (or woman) be allowed to marry the love of his (or her) life, just because of the partner's gender?

It makes no sense. But until States and (I wish) the Federal Parliament start passing bills/acts to legalise gay marriage we are stuck with ridiculously discriminatory marriage laws.

Faster than light? Maybe.

Some results from CERN seem to indicate that they have discovered a faster than light particle. As the Daily Telegraph have said, extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence:

Someone close to me has tweeted, "Don't get the fuss. If an atom can be in 2 places at once, or instant comm b/w atoms in diff countries, surely faster than light is poss?"

I sort of understand the sentiment, but finding a faster than light particle (if that's what has happened) is a huge deal. As much as quantum mechanics gives us really odd stuff, nothing in physics theory has ever needed something exceeding the speed of light. Sure, there have been loads of hypotheses which hypothesise (as they are wont to do) faster than light particles, but to actually find one would be earth shattering.

The great thing about science is that if something thought impossible is discovered, science will investigate the Hell out of it, and if it proves to be valid then science will modify existing theories to accommodate the new findings.

To give a trivial example, consider Newton's theories of motion. They are valid for almost all of our experiences. It's only when you look at extremes that Einstein's theories need to be taken into account.

If faster than light particles have actually been discovered, it's almost certain that Newton's and Einstein's theories will still explain 99.9999% of the universe. It's just that there will need to be an additional theory that covers the extra 0.0001%.

I hope it's true - the implications are amazing. But if not, then that's the great thing about science - it's self-correcting.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Abbey Road

Almost 32 years after first visiting London, and at least 20 more visits later, I finally fulfilled an adolescent dream. A couple of weeks ago I walked across the Abbey Road crossing. I'm the one in front:

Edited to add: I didn't mention how this video was captured. Abbey Road has a webcam, and for 24 hours after the event you can see yourself on the crossing:

Sunday, September 11, 2011

10 years ago today

My September 11th, 2001.

We had no children at that time. My wife was due home around 8pm or so. She rang me at about 8pm saying that she had been assaulted on leaving work, and had made her way to the local shops. I immediately jumped into my car and probably broke the Jerrabomberra to Cook speed record. After L spoke to the police we went to hospital because L was feeling like she had broken ribs.

Eventually the X-rays were taken and examined, and when we were given the all clear we were free to go. We drove home, and a few minutes before arriving at our house someone rang to say that two aircraft had impacted the World Trade Center towers. Hearing that it was obvious that it was a terrorist attack.

Of course when we arrived home we switched on the TV. I think we tuned into CNN because we figured that an American TV network would give the best information. The more immediate issue, even given what was happening, was to cancel all of my wife's credit cards and mobile phone. AMEX pissed me off to the extent that I still resent them because their automated system asked, after being the told that the card had been lost or stolen, required that we enter the "Member since date" which appears on the card. IT'S ON THE CARD WHICH HAS BEEN STOLEN - HOW SHOULD I KNOW WHAT IT IS? It took me a few goes, but I eventually guessed it.

There was plenty of misinformation - report of explosions in the middle of Washington DC, etc. I remember wondering how they would eventually either repair or demolish the damaged World Trade Center buildings. Then without warning the South tower collapsed. From that moment there was the feeling that it was only a matter of time until the North tower did the same, which of course it did. Soon after, bizarrely, we went to bed.

The next to morning we went to my wife's workplace, because she lost her address book/life story in the robbery which was part of the assault. Eventually after searching the nearby suburbs we found someone who resided nearby who had found the address book, which made it all a little bit better.

They never found the bastard who did it. Perhaps that is as well because I would have found a way to kill him, and if I wasn't careful enough I would have ended up in prison for the rest of my life.

9/11 was a disaster on many levels. My story forms a tiny part of it - my wife's is a much larger, but still tiny, part. As I sit here it's almost to the minute when we arrived home on that day. We are in a different home now and we have two beautiful daughters who were born since that day. I mourn the loss of life on that day, but almost equally I mourn the unnecessary loss of freedom to which we have submitted ourselves since then. We should not have to submit ourselves to the ridiculously intrusive TSA and other local security searches. We (the US, UK, Australia, New Zealand, most of Western Europe and many others) are free countries, where we deserve to be treated like the innocent people the vast majority of us are. The loss of freedom that has occurred since 9/11 is not worth the tiny increase in security which may (or may not) have occurred. Give me back my water bottle on board, give me back a metal knife on board, give me back a pair of tweezers on board, and I promise if someone tries to hijack my aircraft I will help my follow passengers, cabin crew and flight crew to stop the bastards from achieving their aims.

Rest in Peace those who died on 9/11.

Friday, September 09, 2011

I was going to put this in a Tweet, but I just couldn't fit what I wanted to say in 140 characters. Unless you don't listen to the radio or watch TV, you will know that we are approaching the 10th anniversary of the September 11th, 2001 terrorist attacks in the US.

Ever since that day airports have increased security, airlines have implemented ways of restricting access to the cockpit, and even high rise buildings have thought of ways to stop airliners crashing into them.


Prior to that day, pilots and cabin crew were taught to cooperate with hijackers. That's because prior to that day, hijackers always wanted to make their point by keeping their hostages alive.

Everything changed on 9/11 (please forgive the American date format). From 9/12 onwards no pilot, no cabin crew, no passenger will ever go along with hijackers. The hijackers of 9/11 rightfully used the knowledge that flight crew would cooperate with them to execute the most horrific scenario imaginable. This will never happen again. Almost every cent spent on increased airport security: TSA intrusive checks, liquid restrictions (this wasn't a result of 9/11, but it's still stupid), confiscation of anything vaguely sharp, etc., has been wasted. Spending millions/billions on protecting prominent buildings from airborne attack is equally as stupid.

Meanwhile, anywhere in the world I can board a train with absolutely no security, even after the Madrid and London bombings. It makes no sense.

Don't fight the last war. If a hijacker tries to take over an aircraft, there are hundreds of passengers and a dozen crew who will prevent that. This has been proved since 9/11 with the shoe bomber and other instances. There will almost certainly be more terrorist attacks in the future, but they won't be the same as 9/11. Please stop making airline travel so hard, and put resources to better effect.