Friday, June 17, 2016

People like to confuse ethical "rights" and legal rights

It is amazing how people think that they have "freedom of speech" on some internet site like Quora or youtube.

I won't go on about how this is a false interpretation of the whole right to freedom of speech. That's a separate, albeit important issue.

I think that people often misunderstand the difference between their "rights" in an ethical sense, and "rights" in the sense of written laws.

This misunderstanding goes back to some vagueness in the English (as well as the German) language, at least to some degree. Being / having a "right" denotes logical, ethical and/or legal correctness, depending on grammatical usage and context.

I think we should make an effort to clarify which sense of the word we talk about. Failing to do so just makes a lot of debates, which are already emotionally charged, even less productive.

Coming back to that "freedom of speech" issue, yes it displays a certain relation to other people's opinions when people such as, for example, Robert Barron's team on youtube will block you for having a different opinion. They are perfectly within their legal rights to do so, and youtube as the site owner grants them that right as well as the technical means for its implementation. I still think it's ethically flawed, and it probably suggests a lack of good counter-arguments on their part. I have a certain ethical "right" to speak my mind, and we should voice it as such whenever someone cuts us off for no good reason. But we should not conflate that with a constitutional right.

It simply is a different thing.

Friday, June 3, 2016

Dog brains

Essentially, dogs all have the same intellectual capacities, regardless of size. But their heads vary enormously in size. So I assume that their brains have different sizes, too. So brain size does not matter.

Good for me, huh?

Saturday, May 28, 2016

The danger of veganism

Over the past few years, I have become convinced that you can eat a vegan diet that is mostly healthy, while minimizing your carbon footprint and contributing less to animal suffering.

So that is a good thing.

Still, I was always a bit uneasy about the whole thing.

The problem is, veganism has a name. A cutesy (though somewhat stupid), easy to remember name.

That makes it incredibly easy and seductive to change your diet (as hard as that is), and then to think, that's it, now I've got that whole ethical lifestyle thing down.

Where there's a name, people like to identify with it. People don't incorporate veganism into their lives - they ARE vegans. That's dangerous business.

Just do a youtube search for veganism and try to determine how many channels there are, just about that one topic.

The truth is, of course, that nutrition is only one part of a much larger set of issues. You will never have that ethics thing down, because that is an ongoing process, and you will always have to weigh the proposed benefits against your convenience, your resources, and your preparedness to actually change yourself.

You will never live a perfectly ethical life. You will never reduce your footprint to absolute zero. As long as you are alive, you will produce suffering.

So now you don't eat meat. But you drive a car. Or maybe you don't own a car, but you use public transport, and then there's that rare instance when you call a taxi. And that money you have in your bank account? You can be sure that some part of it will be invested in a company (which will invest it in another company, etc), and somehwere down the line it will end up in some field office of the mafia. You can try and buy your clothes from some "fair" company, but good luck checking their actual practices, and better luck not buying any gas or electricity that has any bad impact.

You will always have your hands dirty. It's unavoidable. That is the one catholic teaching that I, strangely, agree with.

Thursday, May 26, 2016

A list of short (horror) films


Skypemare (

I really liked that one. It's not your usual slasher story, and I totally didn't see the twist coming.

genre: horror
overall rating: 9 *********
scare factor: 7 *******
acting: 9 *********
plot: Two girlfriends have a video chat on Halloween, while a killer is on the loose...


2AM: The Smiling Man (

A really good, short, scary/funny horror film. Well executed and with good atmosphere, and a nice unconventional basic idea.

genre: horror
overall rating: 10 **********
scare factor: 9 *********
acting: 8 ********
plot: A man on a lonely alley has a scary encounter with an uncanny smiling man.


Vienna waits for you (

In Vienna, you don't rent apartment. Apartment rent you.

This is intense, well written, intelligent and quite scary. The only downside is the less-than-optimal SFX, especially towards the end.

genre: horror
overall rating: 9 *********
scare factor: 8 ********
acting: 6 ******
plot: A young woman moves into an old apartment that not only has a will of its own, but also seems to change its tenants.

The Cut (

I clicked on it because I fell for the clickbait. Otherwise it's just indistinct.

genre: horror
scare factor: 4, but that's only because of the music; the video itself is a 0
acting: undecidable due to constant darkness.
plot: A man shaves in his apartment.


Apartment 41 (

Watchable. The basic idea is quite fine, but the unbelievable twist ruined it, and the topic has been done to death (haha).

genre: horror
overall rating: 6 ******
scare factor: 5 *****
acting: 5 *****
plot: A woman moves into an apartment and gets terrorized by a ghost.


Audition (

I didn't find this scary, but it has atmosphere and style and is based on a somewhat not-too-bad idea.

genre: horror/thriller
overall rating: 6 ******
scare factor: 2 **
acting: 7 *******
plot: He invites her for an audition, but his intentions are less than noble.


Blink (

Yeah, well. Whatever

genre: horror
overall rating: 5 *****
scare factor: 4 ****
acting: 8 ********
plot: A man's terrible nightmares invade his real life.
comment: There's really not an awful lot to say. You'll guess the plot twist after 2 minutes.


Cougars (

 More funny than scary. Lesson learned: If you don't have a budget, don't try special effects. Some good atmosphere stuff going on in the beginning, but it ultimately builds up to nothing.

genre: horror
overall rating: 5 *****
scare factor: 1 *
acting: 6 ******
plot: Young girl's mother is a cougar. Turns out the daughter ain't much different.



I'm sure this works great as a piece of narrative, but the off-screen narration ruins the movie, and the acting is mediocre.

genre: horror
overall rating: 5 *****
scare factor: 1 *
acting: 3 ***
plot: Guy with OCD has an incident.


now,here (

A pretty good twist, a neat location and a cute girl... But the production values and bad, bad acting make it stink, sink, and rot.

I wrote a comment on that video on how it might be improved. Find me there... Do you agree with me?

genre: horror:
overall rating: 5 *****
scare factor: 2 **
acting: 2 **
plot: They go to a derelict house for a photo shoot, and bad things ensue.


Project Arbiter (

As of writing, I haven't even watched this to the end, but it looks pretty darn good.

genre: sci-fi
overall rating: 9 *********
acting: 7 *******
plot: Something about WWII and the Wunderwaffe. Frankly, I didn't pay too much attention because I was so caught up in admiring the visuals. The only annoying thing is when they try to talk german. I'm a german native speaker, so this really took me out of it.



Nicely done, to the point and simple.

genre: sci-fi
overall rating: 9 *********
acting: 8 ********
plot: A young boy and his older brother discover something alien lurking in a field.

Monday, January 11, 2016

How to be A True Atheist (not funny!)

JP Sears posted a video entitled "How to be an Atheist (funny)" - see below.

Personally, I appreciate a lot, though not all, of his "funny" videos. This one is in-between. Not that it "hurt me as an atheist", or anything like that -- I just thought that his commandments for atheists didn't really hit home. It's certainly not easy to make fun of such a diverse group, though.

So, without further ado, here are about 10 or so commandments that I personally find funny:

  1. Do not be an agnostic. Agnostics are cowardly, wimpy crybabies. More importantly, they are not True Atheists, and we obviously cannot have that.
  2. Speaking of which, a True Atheist is a feminist or an antifeminist, (both for purely rational reasons, of course), but never both at the same time, and never none of the two, since that would constitute a form of agnosticism, and (see above).
  3. Speaking of which, once you have decided whether you are a feminist or an antifeminist, members of the other group shall instantly become lesser atheists to thee, since they do not adhere to the One True Atheism.
  4. Speaking of which, thou shalt have a True Atheist stance on everything. Remember: your Atheism is not just atheism, but Atheism. Capital A. See?
  5. Speaking of which, a True Atheist is always skeptical of about 84% of all things.
  6. Among the 18.3% of things a True Atheist cannot be skeptical of are to be found, in order: God's nonexistence (duh), the superior priority of rationalism above everything else, strictest lipservice to the scientific method, and the fact that Richard Dawkins said it all.
  7. A True Atheist never attacks the person, but only their moronic ideas. Of course, believing in those implies complete stupidity and a lack of morality on part of the believer, and you can easily let it show by being snide and displaying an unholier-than-though attitude. When questioned, you then revert to being butthurt, all the while repeating your old ideas-not-people sthick, thereby saving your True Atheist Ass.
  8. When someone talks to god, it's called prayer. When god talks back, it's called psychosis. What is it called when multiple gods talk back to you?
  9. The sky is empty. Been there, done that, got the vertigo.
  10. Attendance at SkeptiCon is not optional.
  11. Screaming discussions on youtube channels with lots of CAPITALS and exclamation MARKS are NOT OPTIONAL!!!!!!!!1111!
  12. Meditation, however, IS optional.
  13. Don't get caught.

P.S.: I think the problem of JP's video boils down to Poe's Law. Satirical humor doesn't work when the satirized content might just as well comprise everything in the satire. Or in other words, if your target is indistinguishable from its own parody, then satire makes no sense.

Sunday, January 10, 2016

Questions we had after watching "Star Wars: The Force Awakens"


These are some questions and remarks that came up when I discussed The Force Awakens with my girlfriend, straight after we watched it. We were really saddened by the fact that so much was left unexplained, and that the movie seemed to have no regard whatsoever for its protagonists, and was more concerned with imitating episode 4 (plus bigger bangs and booms) than with creating a good story and memorable characters. It's way ahead of the abominable prequel trilogy, and it has a fair bit of humor, which is nice - but it still has miles to go towards anything resembling a good movie.

  • How can two people fit into that teeny tiny TIE fighter?
  • Why would a scavenger sell spare parts to a local dealer for meagre food rations? In an economy that spans a whole galaxy, there should be something like competition, and money. At the very least, there should be some explanation why that local dealer has so much power.
    • Why was a traitor needed in the fortress, after Han Solo had declared that he had somehow found the Millennium Falcon, and that the First Order can do the same thing at any time?
    • How did that finding the MF thing work, anyway?
    • Why was the fortress' owner (weird eye lady) pictured as completely trustworthy? A shady but somewhat likable character would have made for much more drama.
    • That whole lightsaber scene, where Rey hears a baby cry, touches the lightsaber and has some visions felt like it had potential, but that potential was never explored. She's in an area she has no business being, gets trapped in a room, the house owner follows her... only to then have said proprietor preach a bit and hand her the lightsaber. What??

    • How did Leia Organa shed maybe 3 tiny tears after the death of her (I suppose) long time partner, the father of her son, and a life long friend?
    • What really happened between Han Solo and Leia Organa?
    • Why was there basically no interaction between the two, apart from some dramatic staring into each other's eyes?
    • How much money did Mark Hamill make just by staring intently at the camera for 30 seconds?

    • Who came up with that terrible name "Snoke" for the Supreme Leader?
    • Is Gollum the Supreme Leader?
    • Why did me and my girlfriend both struggle to remember the names of the protagonists?

    • If weird-eye-lady has held her fortress literally for millennia, as Han seemed to suggest, then how does she not have the connections to avoid its destruction at the hands of the *cough*Empire*cough*FO in just one instance, because of one shady spaceship?
    • Why does the *cough*Empire*cough*FO put so much emphasis on one lonely remaining Jedi, who has essentially exiled himself from the galaxy?
    • How did weird-eye-lady simply accept the fact that her whole shiny fortress was destroyed within seconds?
    • How did the *cough*Empire*cough*FO come to be?
    • The location of a person is basically a coordinate tuple with 3 numbers. How does one need a two-part map, with one part cut out from the rest in a weird shape, in order to find Luke?

    • Why did Ren (or was it Ben? or Ken?) kill Han Solo within a minute or so? Wouldn't it have made for much better storytelling to have him succumb to his father's strength, try to redeem himself, but ultimately fail?
    • RenBenKen thinks his father is weak? Seriously?? You do know who you're talking about, right?
    • Apropos: I do not believe for a second that RenBenKen boy is able to face up to his father in that way. The guy is essentially a coward hiding behind a stupid mask. His father is the Badass Who Shot First. Sorry, I'm not buying it. It's not possible.
    • Just how did this RenKenBen guy end up where he now is, anyway? Did he ramble the galaxy with his father, but then somehow decide it's time for some dark-sidey business?
    • Why does BenRenKen boy wear a stupid mask, anyway?
    • How did Han Solo end up with his new spaceship?
    • Yes, we know that Renkenbenny will show up in the next movie. But it would have been nice to get at least some evidence of his escape to make it at least a little bit believable.
    • How does a sanitary man take part in an offensive with blaster guns and all?

    Friday, November 13, 2015

    Don't be fooled by da vegan scammerz!

    Every so often, I happen upon videos of vegan recipes, where it is claimed that the thing in question "tastes just like the real thing".

    Examples are down below.

    As an omnivore with some recurring vegan leanings -- an on-and-off vegan, so to speak --, I can tell you one thing with almost 100% certainty: While those foods often do taste real great, they usually taste nothing at all "like the real thing".

    The worst offender in this category was a "mousse au chocolat" that we did on a vegan cooking course. It was made with avocados and dates (and chocolate of course). Yeah it was sweet and chocolatey, but it completely missed the mark with regard to consistence and overall fluffiness (and alcohol, which was sorely missing, because, duh, vegans apparently can't drink a little of the goodey stuff, either).

    While I realize and -- to a degree -- respect what those people are trying to achieve, I believe they're doing their own cause a disservice.

    Look, I had a wonderful, wonderful "egg salad" with toast last night, based on tofu and lima beans. It tasted excellent. But calling that thing "egg salad", and expecting anything like real eggs, was just setting myself up for disappointment. Things don't work that way. Tofu does not an egg replace, pretty much regardless of what means of torture you apply.

    Why can't it simply be "delicious creamy tofu salad"? I believe that vegan recipes deserve their own identity, and have a right to their very own, very unique taste.

    Examples of "meat-alike" vegan recipes: