What is a skeptic anyway (continued)

I still don’t have time to write all I intended, but just wanted to point out, yesterday’s post was supposed to be longer. The “white genocide” in South Africa was only meant to be an example of something absurd that people believe in, to be used in the introduction, but it became the whole post.

A skeptic, in my own words because I’m lazy to look it up, is someone who uses critical thinking to question claims that are not supported by evidence, or like the white genocide claim, are supported by poor evidence pushed by biased propaganda sites. (In that case, people are being murdered on farms. The statistics support neither their conclusion nor that the victims are only white people.)

Skeptics are not people who:

  1. Question mainstream science. (Those are science deniers.)
  2. Question the shape of the earth. (Idiots.)
  3. Question human caused climate change. (Same as point one. Includes idiots as well as corporations who have money in the technology harming the planet.)
  4. Question mainstream journalism or claim that neutral news has a liberal bias. (Those are also idiots. Also racists but that bit is almost redundant because racists are always idiots.)
  5. Believe in Big Pharma. (Conspiracy theorists.)
  6. Claim that weed cures everything. (Gullible.)

There are a lot of people nowadays who claim to be skeptics. But if you are skeptical of something that is supported by evidence, you’re not a skeptic.

It is perfectly reasonable to be skeptical about claims in the existence of deities. On the other hand, it is not rational to have faith, and religious apologetics is never logical. But bullshit baffles brains.

Unfortunately that’s all I have time for today. (Work is hectic. We are preparing for a tender demo tomorrow, and there are last minute software changes and so on. It’s quite nerve-wracking.)

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What is a skeptic anyway? In the context of claims of a white genocide in South Africa.

This white genocide in South Africa must be the poorest example of a genocide ever! The area where I live is so safe, I can go for a stroll in the street outside the complex at 11PM, and not be killed. Not only that, but the majority of my neighbours, who are black, are friendly and polite. What kind of genocide is this? I mean… like… isn’t there some sort of genocide committee I can complain to about the lack of white people being killed? (It’s sarcasm, you stupid racist bastards.)

For those late to the party, there are people here who insist that a white genocide is going on. Before that, they used to post pictures of poor whites online and refer to white squatter camps. Recently one of them took offense to a comment I made here that pointed out this move forward by the racists. He claimed that this white genocide is very real. In between the rest of his ad hominem comment he claimed I should not call myself a skeptic, presumably because I don’t believe in the bullshit he believes in.

Nobody knows
The trouble you feel
Nobody cares
The feelin’ is real

Johnny,
We’re sorry,
Won’t you come on home
We worry,
Won’t you come on

(With apologies to Fine Young Cannibals)

Here’s the thing… If life is going on normally, and most white people here have never even heard of this so called white genocide, simply because white people aren’t being killed, it is clear that no such genocide is happening.

But even if we look at their previous claims about white squatter camps, we see something interesting… When you search the internet for white squatter camp, you are limiting your search results by two key phrases:

  1. White: So you’re only interested in white people.
  2. Squatter camp: That was the phrase used in apartheid, when black people were discriminated against by law. Many had to live in abject poverty, and so they lived in informal makeshift shanty towns, which were derisively called squatter camps. They are now called informal settlements, so when you search for the old name, you get results in line with the SEO keywords as used by white supremacists who have hijacked that term for their appeals to pity online, and filter out the majority of poor people here who… (Guess what?)… are not white.

What this means, is they have a victim mentality. While longing with nostalgia for the “good old days” of apartheid when their privilege was written into the law, these people push this fiction claiming that black people are now discriminating against them and persecuting them just as they used to persecute black people. When you search with such a filter, you get right wing propaganda in the results, where these racists like to make themselves victims, as they fight for their right to go back to apartheid. (Obviously that’s not gonna happen.) It’s madness. And it should be quite transparent to anybody with more than half a brain.

Unicellular brained Johnny also claimed that those people in the “white squatter camps” are just “taking care of their own” in response to my original comment pointing out how odd it is all these years after apartheid that those camps are for whites only. “Taking care of their own” says more about you, Johnny-boy, than it does me. I don’t see any reason to care only about people who have the same tone skin as myself. But maybe because I’m not a racist who believes white people are superior and only cares about white people.

So what is a skeptic?

A skeptic is someone who doubts claims for which there is no supporting evidence. It is quite sensible to be skeptical of this so called white genocide because it isn’t fucking happening.

Don’t call yourself a skeptic if you make outrageous claims, and don’t pretend that those who doubt those outrageous claims are not being skeptical. It’s stupid.

Mainstream news isn’t perfect, but it is mostly neutral. So the reason mainstream news doesn’t cover this supposed genocide is because no such genocide is taking place.

Sorry Johnny-boy, but you don’t get to accept propaganda claims at face value and then claim that someone who doubts it is not a skeptic. Kudos to Johnny for commenting outside of his little racist echo chamber though.

I had a lot more to write here, but it will have to wait until another time as I have work to do…

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There is no white genocide going on in South Africa

So a white supremacist found one of my old posts about the so-called white squatter camps, and took offense to my most recent comments there, which point out that online racists have since moved on… No longer satisfied by their emotional appeals to pity, their current claims are that there is some kind of “white genocide” going on in South Africa.

Let’s just be crystal clear: There is no white genocide happening here. If there were, I couldn’t walk outside or safely go to work. By the way, my employer is not white, and the staff where I work is 50/50 white and black.

If you claim there is a white genocide going on, you are racist white trash scum and that is a fact.

The tactic used by white supremacists here to play victim is not new. Americans on the alt-right do that too. Bigots everywhere love to play victims while they fight for their right to discriminate against others.

Don’t come comment your bullshit here if you are one of them. I’m tired of being polite to white trash. Just fuck off.

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Some recent photos

I bought a new phone last weekend, and it takes much better photos than the old one.

A couple of Aishah from the other day…

IMG_19700101_194237

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Last night, me with Josh and Aishah. They were fighting over me and I suggested a compromise holding them both while a photo was taken. Also, they are heavier than they look.

IMG_20180704_174628

IMG_20180704_174631

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If you credit god with your morality, do you also thank him for teaching you not to chew with your mouth open?

Assuming you have table manners, of course…

Over the years, I’ve heard and read the crazy argument from morality, the idea that our morals come from god via religious teachings, from many people, even my own brother. He was quick to remind me of my religious upbringing, as if that somehow gave me my moral values. I honestly don’t get it. Maybe he can’t remember back to before Sunday school? I can.

I remember the first time I attended, at six years old. I remember arriving late my first day, to everybody in class singing, “Jesus loves me, this I know, for the Bible tells me so”… and feeling isolated because they knew the words while I did not. I remember a couple of weeks later, going to Mass alone, until the rest of the family attended with me. My brother, being two years younger than me, missed those years when our family wasn’t too religious.

I remember sitting alone in Mass, thinking of the stories I’d heard about crazy old Uncle Steve and the crazy Old Apostolic church – looking for the holy spirit under the benches. I played a little game… looking around the church, under the benches, in the front of the church, the back of the church, and so on… Where is this god guy? I don’t see him. Maybe he’s hiding behind the alter?

I soon caught on. God is just an idea. An abstract concept (though I did not know that word), but one that I must believe existed in physical form and actually showed up around two thousand years ago. Same goes for angels. I didn’t buy it. I still believed in god then, but never really believed in Jesus, confession, or a while bunch of other things. I was never very good at being Catholic.

The point is, I remember. I remember already having my moral values before I ever attended Sunday School for the first time. I remember not being taught my morality there, but instead being taught a bunch of nonsense, a bunch of prayers to know off by heart, and when I was older, a bunch of harmful nonsense about contraception being wrong.

So my question stands. If you credit god with your morality, do you also thank him for teaching you not to chew with your mouth open? Because it’s the same thing… Like table manners, you learn most of your morality from your parents, and the rest from your upbringing, from the accepted rules and norms of society around you.

Today I’ve written only about the way we actually learn our morality. If you aren’t much of a critical thinker, and don’t look around and observe the way morality differs in geographical regions, even among the same religions and time period, you might still argue for some kind of god given objective morality. But you have to be willfully ignorant to think that.

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The most annoying kind of error message?

What is the most annoying kind of error message, from a technical perspective? Or from the perspective of an error that was reported from an end user where you are a developer or in technical support?

I’ve changed my mind over the years. It used to be “the operation completed successfully” or “catastrophic failure” but nowadays I rate those as amusing.

There’s always the dreaded NullReferenceException:

3264.4

But as a programmer, I see that more as an embarrassing error. If someone reports one of these to the company I work for, it probably means a sloppy programming error. It also happens to be the easiest error to get, when one is being sloppy. So it can be annoying. But it isn’t the worst.

Actually I have two errors that annoy the shit out of me. I can’t say which is worse, so I’ll describe both…

The “error in someone else’s code incorrectly reported to us” error

Sometimes we receive error reports from a client liaison, someone who deals with clients who integrate with our software.

To give you a hypothetical example:

  1. I wrote a piece of software, a service that takes some info about doodads that people claim to own, and then queries the World Doodad Consortium to check if the doodads are valid and really belong to those people.
  2. People then use my service, by calling it programmatically inside their own software.
  3. Then tech support sends me an email that says the doodad service is not working. The email contains a screenshot of software I have never seen, which is displaying an error message, “the doodad service is offline”.
  4. Actually number three is the paraphrased version of the error message. To see it, one must scroll through thirty pages of email messages, several replies, angry rants demanding that this should be sorted out immediately, and so on, from three weeks ago… all of which only reach me now.

The kicker: My software never, under any circumstances, ever returns an error with the text “the doodad service is offline”. Hence I do not have any way of knowing what the error means.

It might mean:

  • The World Doodad Consortium returned invalid results because there was an issue there. My service reported this as per the software manual that their implementing developer should have read.
  • Everything is working perfectly but the integrator’s code failed to parse the response and their code fell into a catch-all that displayed an irrelevant general error, because their code assumes that if anything goes wrong in this block of code, it means the doodad service must have failed.
  • Their code never called us at all, but put the request into a queue to send later, and then because of some issue, maybe they set up a new client installation and didn’t configure it correctly, the queue never gets emptied.
  • In rare circumstances, perhaps 0.1% of all errors reported, the service genuinely failed, by returning something unexpected, which crashed the integrating client software.

Of course I have to take every error report seriously, and find out at the very least if:

  1. The request actually reached the service.
  2. If it did, whether or not we returned a valid response to the client.

Of course, more than nine times out of ten the request never reached the service, and the error actually means something went wrong in their software. And in the rare cases where the requests can be found on this end, more than nine times out of ten it turns out that we returned a perfectly valid response. Hence these errors are annoying.

Of course, there are some factors to keep in mind: The person who reported the error is a client liaison. His or her job is to keep the customer happy. He or she may not have enough context to determine the error is probably on the client system. Furthermore, the person who reported the error from the client side may be a manager, who also has no context on how or why the error happened. It would be extremely unprofessional not to give all those involved the benefit of doubt and treat their errors as important. Failing to attend to them and take them seriously may involve losing an important client.

The “system is behaving as designed” error

I’ll illustrate this kind of error with a hypothetical email… Note that the subject and message body contradict one another.

Subject: User Jack Ass can not access the High Security Risk page!!!

Message: I created user Jack Ass on the Doodad system, and gave him access to the High Security Risk page.

But Jack can access the High Security Risk Page! He should not be allowed to access that page! Please investigate and advise.

I don’t think this kind of error needs any further comment.

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It can be depressing when one is surrounded by morons

The first time life felt truly hopeless for me was in 1990. I’d been forced by circumstances to serve in the apartheid South African army for a year.

I didn’t know what I wanted to study, so I ended up there by default. I was young (18) and naïve enough to buy their bullshit from the apartheid propaganda machine. They told us that refusing to serve, which would have resulted in more than a year of some other kind of community service, would put a black mark against our names, and we’d never be able to get work. In reality of course, those who refused to serve got nothing but respect. But I went there not knowing any better.

dumbasses

It was in the army that I realized this indisputable fact: Most people are stupid. Suddenly in a strange place, I found myself surrounded by thousands of idiots. I remember there was a son of a New Apostolic minister in our barracks – he was friendly and charming and would lead an evening prayer as well as come up with these impromptu sermons… besides the usual feel-good Christian crap, there was rhetoric used to justify the racist Group Areas Act because “we must keep the cultures separate” or something. His hatred for people of colour was badly hidden behind his Christian “love” in a style not dissimilar to American preacher Steven Anderson’s hatred for gay people. Funny how such homophobic views are always held by men who only seem to think of gay men, huh? Almost like it’s self hatred of someone in the closet… But I digress.

Most people just went along with the racist rhetoric there. Idiots. All of them. Then I recall one day sitting in a mess hall, with a army chaplain sitting just opposite me at the table. The bullshit coming out of his mouth was so bland, so dull, I kept dozing off. And some twit kept waking me up. It was terribly annoying.

I’d taken a Bible to the army with me, because someone had told me it was “good to read”. I opened it up to the book of James, and to be honest I don’t think I even made it three pages in before throwing that in the trash. It was then that I realized that even though the racist bastardized version of Christianity bore no resemblance to the real thing (much like current US evangelical Christianity), that didn’t matter, because the religion itself was a bunch of bullshit too. Bullshit everybody around me believed in, because they were idiots. They reminded me of ants, walking in lines like all the other ants, brainless drones just going about their business because that’s what drones do.

Once, after they fucked me around and I missed my flight to go on an eight day pass because they forced me to mow the lawn, I had to enter the office of a sergeant major to get my papers signed. (It was a shared office with the camp’s captain and some other arseholes sitting on the other end. All of them were there.) Their ranks meant nothing to me as I saw permanent force army people as escapists who couldn’t handle the real world. I just walked in casually, and went about my business. Then this idiot corporal started shouting at me, like some character from a movie where they shout in your face that you are worthless and so on, simply because I wasn’t standing at attention. I think I was supposed to be afraid or something. Caught between anger and holding back laughter, I almost spoke my mind. I almost told him that… “No, I am not nothing. I am the only one who matters here, and a year from now I will not remember your names. You exist only to remind me that idiots are everywhere, and I’m sorry but I can not fear a white trash man-child shouting nonsense in my ear. Also I have a headache.” I pictured saying it, knowing that all they could do was make me run around with a sandbag, and maybe do a few hundred pushups and sit-ups. Honestly, in those days, a bit of physical pain was something I enjoyed. I pictured it, but didn’t do it. Instead, after turning to stare at him for an ecstatic five seconds or so that made him shout even louder, I stamped my feet together in an over-exaggerated parody of the style I’d been taught, did a robotic about turn in the wrong direction, and marched out of that office like a storm trooper, holding back the laughter until I was out of earshot.

It was oddly on that eight day pass that I went to the church of my youth and told the priest I no longer believed in god. I was hoping he might say something to convince me otherwise, but he didn’t even try.

In a way, it was good to be an addict for a while. I found someone who I thought was a soulmate in Megan. Someone to get high with me, and drop out of the line of ants. Someone to laugh at the stupid human drones with me. Someone to say “fuck the world” with me and mean it. Because it is miserable being surrounded always by idiots. Sometimes I still feel that way, that nihilism is the only answer. And nihilism can be greatly enjoyable when one is high. The meth served its purpose for a time.

But somewhere along the lines, I changed. I read those stupid Facebook statuses asking what you would do if you could go back to the past and change something. And I realize, even if I could, I would not. I love the children we brought into the world, and would not risk changing anything that might lead to a different present where they aren’t here. I am no longer that person who thinks that only I matter, but instead find joy in seeing the world through their innocent eyes.

That’s why I am so glad that Josh’s sister is back. She wouldn’t exist were it not for Megan’s infidelity, but I am glad she cheated on me. I’m glad because I love Aishah as much as my own son. I regret nothing. And the world isn’t such a bad place after all. I work with some very smart people, and am glad to know them, glad to be a part of their team. Most people are still idiots though, and I have my days, or sometimes months of feelings of hopelessness. But right now, life is good.

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