Category Archives: Oddball entries

Manifestestations of a more confident atheism

I always subscribed to a view that the world as our social norms and cultures develop do so through a series of reactions and counter reactions to what has gone before. For each such cycle though you rarely go back to things exactly as they where before and thus society change over time. So in recent years there has been a sense of growing religious activity in response to the increasingly secular nature of modern governments, as we witnessed in the form of the takeover of the US republican party by the so called evangelical Christians and by the growth of radical Islam across the middle east and to a lesser degree a more assertive Hinduism in India in the form of BJP election victories some years ago.

One response to these developments have been that atheist has suddenly started asserting themselves more strongly in the public arena. Atheism have for a long time been slumbering, opting for a live and let live attitude instead of direct confrontation with the religious world, but with the recent developments I think it became clear to a lot of leading atheists that unless they started speaking out and advocating their world view things might get out of hand. Supporters of religious faiths, even in the west, have tried to paint religion as something not to be criticized. Attempts are being made to paint religion as similar to inherent traits such as skin color or gender, instead of self chosen beliefs by it adherents (and while there is an argument about how self chosen something being brainwashed into you from a you age is, there can be no doubt that at the end of the day we all exercise free will and have the chance to break free).

So in the last few years we have seen the start of this movement with people like Richard Dawkins best selling book The God Delusion and later on Christopher Hitchens book God Is Not Great: The Case Against Religion being released. Having read both I strongly recommend Hitchens book over Dawkins. Dawkins book is a bit to theoretical and academic in his approach, while Christopher Hitches book is more willing to tackle todays major religions more head-on.

Anyway, it was with great interest that I came across this little gem by Ricky Gervais, the well known comedian from shows such as The Office and Extras. The story outlines his own path to atheism and also includes a nice little gem of statistics on the religious faith of the US prison population (funny due to the oft repeated claim by religious leaders that morality and good behavior would cease to exist if not being bolstered by religion.)

Ricky┬┤s article made my think of my own path to atheism as it to was cemented at a young age of what I felt was a logical fallacy in the bible. That said my road to declaring my atheism was shorter as I grew up in a family where religion never played any major role and my fathers side of the family having been atheist for many a generation. Yet I remember when we where thought the ten commandments in school I started wondering about how, if those where the direct words of God, they by their wording seemed to clearly indicate that women where the property of men since it said you should not covet your neighbors wife, and putting women on the same level as oxes and donkeys in that regard. While I guess some would conclude that God is sexist and that women truly are the property of men, I instead came to the conclusion that it was probably a sign that these so called word of ‘God’ where actually the words of men of their time. And with that conclusion and further pondering I realized that if the only words in the whole bible claiming to be the direct words of God where false, then it was quite likely that if there was a God the people who had written these books and stories had most likely not the faintest idea about the will of such a being. of course only later did I also realize the Norwegian ten commandments I read was edited as they didn’t include the implicit endorsement of human slavery that I find the the English version.

Of course such conclusions only put me on a clear path to deism not atheism, but I guess I never found a compelling reason to believe in the supernatural. I love the quote ‘Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.’ which I think is from Arthur C. Clarke. It reminds me that a lot of the things we understand today was perceived as magical and mystical to those who went before us.

Anyway, I guess this little blog entry is my little way of making a stand for what I think is right :)

Ines, I love you

or ‘Ines of my soul/Ines del alma mia’ as the book is called in English/Spanish, made it onto my reading list as I was looking for something to read at the Oslo airport yesterday morning.

Always wanted to read something by Isabel Allende and this novel based on the colonisation of Chile was an interesting debut for me. Part of me love well done historic novels, another part of me tend to get a little saddened based on what is lost. That said I am no apologist, history is as the name implies history and while we still have to deal with the consequences of history today, there is little justice to be found trying to correct the past. Its better to spend energy trying to fix the issues of today than those of the past, although of course a lot of current problems have historic roots.

Anyway back to the book, it is written in the form of a self biography of Ines Suarez, a woman who played a key part in the establishment of Chile. It was nice to read a book with such a strong female character who maybe apart from a complete lack of doubt, seemed very believable in her ambitions, desires and dreams. I am sure the real Ines Suarez would be pretty happy about how she is depicted. Dealing with controversial parts of history, such as the colonial era is hard, but I think the book manages it pretty well. The books shows that as always, war is a dirty game and no matter how good your intentions are its next to impossible to come out of the endavour with clean hands. I definitely recommend reading this book to others.

Ladytron concert

Ladytron had a concert at Razzmatazz this Friday/Saturday. Turned out to be a less than great experience. The first flaw in my plan was that what I thought was the start time of the concert actually was the opening hour of Razzmatazz. So when I arrived at 2300 expecting to get in, I was told the doors would only only at 0100…so I ended walking around the block a couple of times before getting in. When I finally got into Razzmatazz, I found the concert wouldn’t start until about 0230. Fine and good, I got myself a beer and being early I managed to place myself close to the stage which I thought would be a good thing. Turned out I was wrong, the sound mixing was just horrible, I could barely hear the lyrics and the synth and guitar’s where on such high volume the sound got distortet every second minute. Ugh :(

When will venues like this one learn that ‘more sound’ is not the equivalent of ‘good sound’.

Offtopic – Vacation report

Wim and I just returned from going on a 4 day mini-vacation together. Having been struck by divine inspiration we had decided to do a long weekend in Saint Tropez. Since going was a relativly impulsive decision we set of from Barcelona on Friday after work without any bookings or plans. Or a clear idea about what do to in Saint Tropez either.

It rained heavily most of the evening and night, but we kept on going in the firm belief that Saturday would provide us with better weather. We ended up getting a room at a very cheap hotel about an hour out of Saint Tropez. The hotel had a ‘room vending machine’ instead of a reception so we just typed in that we wanted a room with two beds for one night and put in our credit card, and voila, 45 Euros later we had a receipt with the pin code allowing us to get into the room. Nice setup.

Next morning we drove into Saint Tropez proper and luckily it turned out we where not the only ones there driving a non luxury car. We quickly found some crazy expensive parking and started strolling around town, trying to get some sense of the town and figuring out what our lodging options where. After walking around for a few hours, asking at a few hotels, looking at the old city fortress and getting hit on the head by a gate pole we where settled in at a hotel very close to the central square of Saint Tropez. At that point we had come to the end of our ‘planning’ so we ended just walking around for a bit before implicitly deciding to dedicate the day to food and drink. We started the evening at a Irish pub along the harbour and discovered that it truly was possible to price the Guinness more expensivly than in Barcelona. Yet, being on vacation we did not let such a minor setback put a dampner on our thirst. Wim even took the chance to start flirting with one of the bar’s little ladies, but I will not detail that affair here :). After getting of to a solid start at the Irish pub we started looking around for a place to get some food, and relativly quickly found a place advertising cote boeuf, the famous french meat. And true enough, a hundred euros later we left the resturant well content after consuming a gigantic peace of very good and well prepared meat each. We then went back to the harbour to hang out with the jetset crowd and enjoy more drinks. We had a lot of fun and as it turns out Wim do not mind going uninvited onto huge luxury yatchs once he has about one bottle of Amaretto inside.

Although the hotel had alloted him a bed, Wim decided to spend most of the night on the floor of the room and was a tad slow on the communication side the next morning. Anyway we eventually made our way down to one of the town beaches for the mandatory vacation tanning session. As the day lazed on we consumed a small lunch and one of the local beach bars, and as it turned out the cute girl running the tiny clothing botique also modelled her own clothes so we had some entertainment during the meal. As the afternoon aproached some angry looking cloudes chased us back to the city center and a little shopping.

We ended up doing dinner at a small italian resturant in Saint Tropez before heading of to the VIP Room which was supposedly the happening place of the town. Having been denied access the day before due to being slightly intoxicated we where dead set on restoring our honour. After going there and being told the nightclub would open in about 30 minutes a few times and then going back to the harbour for some drinks and the club in the end looking totally dead (maybe not that strange for a Sunday night) we decided it wasn’t worth the time in the end, so instead we took an relativly early night in order to be ready for what we had decided would be the next step of our journey the next day.

Waking up we packed our stuff, jumped in the car and headed of to the tiny enclave of Monaco. By coincidence we found the Westminster hotel which is located 800m outside the border of Monaco (you don’t realize how small Monaco is until you tried walking around :).
The hotel was fantastic and the pricing very affordable, especially considering you have a stunning view of the sea from most of the rooms, including a lot of communal areas to sit around and enjoy the sun and even a nice terrace for the room. We walked into the old town in the evening to take a look around and get some food. The little town around the castle is very nice and pleasant and packed with resturants it turned out. After a nice meal we walked over to the famous casino and beating statistics I manage to take the 100 Euro I decided to spend and turn it into 400 Euro before leaving the Casino. Was a nice way to subsidize the vacation. Ended up taking it quite easy on Monday evening as we needed to do the short trip back to Barcelona the next day, but all in all it was a very fun trip.

Morocco trip

So I managed to get the Marocco photo’s
online tonight so I thought I document the trip for posterity.

Marrakesh

Stayed at the Atlas Asni
hotel. Not a backpacker place for sure, but not horribly expensive either. My impression of Marrakesh and most of the towns we found in Marocco was that they where effectivly two towns. You had the old city which was still within their original medival city walls and next to it a new modern city. Marrakesh featured a lot of beautiful architecture, especially the Bahia Palace stood out. While there Wim and I visited/got lured into the taneries, was an interesting visit both visually and smell wise :). We also got hijacked into a local leather and carpet shop and which both Wim and I was each a carpet richer and a bit of money poorer. Also signed up for an evening at Chez Ali which is a gigantic resturant and folklore show. The show was definetly interesting, but I couldn’t help but feel that it felt a little short due to little things like for instance giving you some insight into who the dancers and groups represented in terms of Moroccan society and maybe a bit more choreography to the horse show. But still definetly worth it. We also figured we couldn’t visit Marocco without riding a camel so we signed up for a trip with local trip organizers Sahara Expeditions. We signed up for their 2 day trip which included one night in a berber tent in the dessert. Turned out we ended up traveling with a fun group of people, including two crazy Canadians called Oryan and Jeff. While the camel trip and the desert stay was fun I did regret not signing up for the longer trip though, the trip we took did end up being mostly two days in the car back and forth with only hour or two of camel riding at each end. Also we noticed that there where a lot of cute backpacker girls signed up for the longer trip :). That said both Wim and I ended up quite cripled for a few days just from the little camel riding we did so maybe we did ok as it was :)

Back from the desert we rented a car and set of for Fes, deciding for a little detour past the d’Ouzoud waterfal on the way.

Trip to Cascade d’Ouzoud and Fes

We decided to go by the d’Ouzoud waterfall on our way to Fes. As it turned out we never found the actual waterfall, but we drove through some beautiful mountain terrain. We also ended up staying in the town of Khenifre instead of reaching Fes. Khenifre was maybe not a terribly interesting town from a sightseeing perspective, but it was a pleasant change in the context of people giving us non-inflated prices for things like the hotel room. I guess not being a tourist town had spared them from slipping into the mindset that every foreigner is a walking cash dispenser.

Fes and Rabat

Next day we drove into Fes to look around the old city. Fes being the old city of learning and religion I have to admit I where a bit disapointed in the town. Had expected more in terms of architecture for instance. Of course having caused a chain collision on the way into town I guess we might have been a little bit to edgy to really enjoy the town :). Drove down to Rabat in the afternoon and spent the morning after sightseeing around. Rabat is the administrative capital of Marocco and used to be the adminstration town of the french. It shows with one of the major landmarks in the town being the church built by the french.

Casablanca

Casablanca had three major events/sights. We did a guided tour of the Hassan II Mosque. It was a very beautiful building, but walking through the slums on the way to the mosque you couldn’t help but wonder if it really was money well spent in light of the problems of the country.

The second fun stop was Rick’s Cafe which was an attempt to recreate Rick’s Cafe from the classic movie Casablanca. Such things tend to easily end up cheesy, but I have to say that in this case it had been pulled of beautifully. Part of the reason for that is that it was clearly done as a labour of love and not primarily as a business venture.

The last don’t miss waypoint in Casablanca I have to recommend is the Bodega de Casablanca. Its a Spanish bar/resturant with a great menu and a great athmosphere. I ended up seeing more bullfighting and listening to more spanish music during the hours I was there than I has for all my years in Spain :). To top if off they have a nightclub in the cellar which seems to be the place to go for the young and beautiful of Casablanca. It comes with a great DJ and crew. Stay away from the places called nightclubs in Casablanca though, they are generally horrible places.

Marocco and free software

As a sidenote, what struck me in Casablanca was that it could be a great place to host GUADEC. So any local enthusiasts interested should definetly think about it and get maybe send a proposal to the GUADEC comitee :)

Off to Marakesh

So Wim and I are going on a vacation/hiking trip to Morocco this evening. We are flying into Marrakesh and will be staying there for a few days. Apart from that we don’t have any concrete plans apart from our return flight Sunday in a week :). At this point even the hotel reservation we thought we did seems a bit flaky, but hopefully we at least avoid sleeping in the gutter. Wish us good luck!

The Failure to Enjoy Terry Pratchett

For many years I have heard people I know, and whom I think tend to have similar taste to myself, say how funny the Discworld novells by Terry Pratchett are. Due to this I have multiple times tried picking up ‘The Color of Magic’ hoping to find it very funny. Instead each time I find the book extremely dull and boring. Neither creating ‘funny’ setence-words from the phonetics of the words like insurance or economics or a world whose concepts tries to be funny by outdoing absurdity itself really ever get me to laugh, hardly even smile.

So I guess Terry Prachett will continue to be an undiscovered ‘gem’ for me.