Show posts

This section allows you to view all posts made by this member. Note that you can only see posts made in areas you currently have access to.

Show posts Menu

Topics - arthwollipot

Recipes / Welcome to the Recipes subforum!
February 22, 2024, 05:38:17 PM
Please post all your healthy recipes right here.
Sports / New Sports Subforum
September 27, 2023, 09:20:48 PM
So here we are - a place for all your sporting discussions beyond the realm of board and video games. Please remember your membership agreement when posting here. Good-natured rivalry is welcome, but please keep it friendly.
Forum Games / Forumvision game at ISF
July 25, 2023, 01:54:09 AM
Those who have been around long enough might remember the Forumvision games that we played here once. Forumvision is a game based loosely on the Eurovision Song Contest. It is played over 12 rounds - each round, each player anonymously submits a song in the form of a YouTube video, and everybody gets to give each song a score out of 12. The highest score "wins", though "winning" is not generally considered to be the goal of the game.

The game has been played at the International Skeptics Forum since 2009 (beginning back when it was still the JREF Forum), and we are about to start a new game - the 25th on that site. It is now mediated by a custom web browser app designed and implemented by the person who originated the game, El Greco. This app streamlines the moderation of the game, calculates and posts the scores, and generally makes the game a lot easier to play than it ever was when we played it here.

I invite you to come over to ISF and play the game. It's a great way to discover new music that you've never heard before, and a tremendous opportunity to discuss and geek out over music while leaving snarky ranty comments about other peoples' musical tastes, which are always terrible. :grin:
Skepticism / Science Talk / Psychic Scammers
July 24, 2023, 09:41:20 PM
Scammers posing as popular psychics target social media users

QuoteCelebrity psychic Cael O'Donnell has built an extraordinary audience on social media with claims he can channel spirits and forecast the future.

But his huge following has led to an issue hurting him and his fans.

Scammers have used Mr O'Donnell's identity to trick people out of money ranging from $70 to $1,000.

"I've counted 50 fake accounts across social media that are pretending to be me," Mr O'Donnell said.

"I've even got people pretending to be my talent manager and taking fees to book me to fake events."

So-called psychic fraud is on the rise in Australia, according to the Australian Competition and Consumer Watchdog.

Scamwatch has this year received 63 reports of clairvoyant scams totalling more than $260,000 – a 219 per cent increase on last year's losses...

Richard Saunders gets a single quote near the end, in which they have (undoubtedly) cherry picked the most charitable sentence of the interview he gave. But in general the article is not particularly critical of the psychic industry.
Forum Administration and Rules / Modboxes
July 16, 2023, 08:51:28 PM
Our friendly and hard-working techs have repaired the modbox tags after the latest software update, so I thought I'd take the opportunity to go through them and explain what each of them means, so that they cannot be misinterpreted. There are four:

The "warning" modbox is an instruction from a moderator. It is used to give an indication that a moderator has considered something to be on the verge of breaking forum rules. Warning modboxes should be heeded, and the instructions therein followed. Repeatedly ignoring warning modboxes could lead to an official forum Warning being issued, the accumulation of which could lead to more serious sanctions including suspension and ultimately, permanent banning. The modbox itself does not constitute an official Warning.

The "error" modbox indicates that something has gone wrong with the forum software, and the mod/admin team are aware of the issue and are in the process of dealing with it. No response is required, though  it does mean that you no longer have to bring issues to the attention of the team.

The "info" modbox is used when the mod/admin team wish to bring something to the attention of the members. No action is required.

The "okay" modbox indicates that everything's perfectly all right now. We're fine, we're all fine here now, thank you.

Hopefully this helps to make communication from the Mod/Admin team clear and transparent. If you have any questions about the use of these modboxes, please ask here - do not bring it up in the threads in which the modboxes are used.
Podcasts / Stuff The British Stole
July 13, 2023, 11:55:02 PM

The third season of this great podcast has started with the story of a small regional high school with a literal Egyptian mummy head in the library. For over a hundred years this severed mummified head has been a part of going to school at Grafton High School in New South Wales, but nobody actually knows where it came from or why. And yes, spoiler alert, it is a genuine Egyptian mummy, dated to the Greco-Roman period.

Previous episodes of the show have featured the Elgin Marbles, the Benin Bronzes, the Motunui Epa from New Zealand, and the Pekingese dog - one specimen of which was taken from the Beijing Summer Palace and gifted to Queen Victoria, who named it "Looty".

Definitely worth a listen.
Tech Talk / Threads
July 05, 2023, 07:59:16 PM
Meta has released this new rival for Twitter today. It's linked to your Instagram account, and its stated goal is to be compatible with the Fediverse and apps like Mastodon. I'm on it, at my usual nym. Anyone else?
Member Creations / Limericks - One Line Per Post
June 14, 2023, 08:24:24 PM
So here's the game. I'll post the first line to a limerick, and each subsequent poster posts the next line. Points will be deducted for egregious breaches of the traditional rhyming scheme and meter. When all five lines are complete, start a new one. Extra points for following directly from the previous one.

There are no points. It's just for fun.

Got it? Okay, here we go:

A man from New York arrived home
Hi. My name's Arthwollipot, and I am your new moderator. Thank you to Belgarath and the other members of the mod team for allowing me this opportunity.

You won't hear much from me in a while - I'm going to just observe for a bit just to get my feet under me, but expect me in the future to be a little more active in enforcing the rules as written. You all agreed when signing up to this forum to abide by the rules, so I'm going to hold you to it. I encourage everybody to read them again, since for many of us it has been several years. In particular I would like you to take a look at the Forum Disruption and Verbal Abuse section.

The rules can be found here:

In particular I will be looking for instances of this:

QuoteBickering: When one or more posters in a thread stop responding substantively, and instead primarily make abusive or insulting comments. This often takes the form of an escalating, two-sided use of accusations, insults, derision, namecalling, sarcasm, mockery, and other forms of abusive language.

Spill-over: When a poster starts threads or interrupts other threads in order to further the bickering or abuse started elsewhere. This is an abuse of the forum when it creates sufficient "noise" to defeat bystanders' reasonable attempts to ignore the disruptive posters involved. This applies to posts and topics on this forum only. For example, if two users on this board engage in an abusive exchange on a different message board, and continue it here, only the posts on this forum apply to determinations of "spill-over". For our purposes, "spill-over" means abuse or bickering in a topic on this board that is continued in or distributed among other topics on this board.

Remember, these are rules that you have already agreed to. I will not be playing favourites - if I find that anybody has breached these rules, I will be taking action. Conversely, if you believe someone else has broken these rules, please use the Report function to bring it to the attention of the moderators.

I will still be participating in discussions in my capacity as a regular everyday member. If I do not make it clear that I am posting in my capacity as a moderator, you should assume that I am not. If it is unclear, I will make it clear.

I look forward to continuing the engaging and productive discussions on this forum. Allez!
General Discussion / It was twenty years ago today...
January 17, 2023, 06:36:35 PM
I will always remember that dark day. It was literally dark because smoke was blotting out the sun.

The bushfire that changed Canberra forever

It was intense. I was at a friend's place playing a roleplaying game at the time, when I got a phone call from my family saying "you'd better come home, it's getting pretty serious". In Mawson, we were a fair way from the fire front, but we rescued some other friends who lived in Duffy at the time - they ended up staying with us for about six weeks while they waited for the safety inspection on their home. It survived, but they lost their garage and all of its contents. Coincidentally, and unrelatedly, my grandmother also passed away on that day.

It was one of those days that will always stay with me.
I've received a message at ISF from member Swagomatic, who said that he got a new phone and forgot to sync his Google Authenticator, and so can no longer log on to this forum. Is there something we can do to help?
Forum Administration and Rules / Spoiler tags broken
August 22, 2022, 09:10:25 PM
Spoiler tags don't apppear to be working.

Sorry but you are not allowed to view spoiler contents.
Skepticism / Science Talk / Sag A* Imaged!
May 12, 2022, 09:58:14 PM
Supermassive black hole at centre of Milky Way seen for first time

QuoteEvent Horizon telescope captures image giving a glimpse of the turbulent heart of our galaxy

An image of the supermassive black hole at the heart of the Milky Way has been captured, giving the first direct glimpse of the "gentle giant" at the centre of our galaxy.

The black hole itself, known as Sagittarius A*, cannot be seen because no light or matter can escape its gravitational grip. But its shadow is traced out by a glowing, fuzzy ring of light and matter that is swirling on the precipice at close to the speed of light.

The image was captured by the Event Horizon telescope (EHT), a network of eight radio telescopes spanning locations from Antarctica to Spain and Chile, which produced the first image of a black hole in a galaxy called Messier 87 in 2019.

Prof Sera Markoff, an astrophysicist at the University of Amsterdam and co-chair of the EHT Science Council, said: "The Milky Way's black hole was our main target, it's our closest supermassive black hole and it's the reason we set out to do this thing in the first place. It's been a 100-year search for these things and so, scientifically, it's a huge deal."

So damn cool!
The Hubble Space Telescope, veteran as it is, has spotted the furthest individual star ever.

QuoteNASA's Hubble Space Telescope has established an extraordinary new benchmark: detecting the light of a star that existed within the first billion years after the universe's birth in the big bang – the farthest individual star ever seen to date.

The find is a huge leap further back in time from the previous single-star record holder; detected by Hubble in 2018. That star existed when the universe was about 4 billion years old, or 30 percent of its current age, at a time that astronomers refer to as "redshift 1.5." Scientists use the word "redshift" because as the universe expands, light from distant objects is stretched or "shifted" to longer, redder wavelengths as it travels toward us.

The newly detected star is so far away that its light has taken 12.9 billion years to reach Earth, appearing to us as it did when the universe was only 7 percent of its current age, at redshift 6.2. The smallest objects previously seen at such a great distance are clusters of stars, embedded inside early galaxies.

NASA press release
Skepticism / Science Talk / Artemis
March 18, 2022, 01:42:43 AM
Artemis 1 has started its journey!

Nasa's mega moon rocket to inch its way from factory to launchpad

QuoteSLS rocket, which stands taller than the Statue of Liberty, to move four miles in Florida journey expected to take about 11 hours

Nasa's next-generation moon rocket was due on Thursday to make a highly anticipated, slow-motion journey from an assembly plant to its launchpad in Florida for a final round of tests in the coming weeks that will determine how soon the spacecraft can fly.

Rollout of the towering space launch system (SLS) rocket with its Orion crew capsule perched on top marks a key milestone in US plans for renewed lunar exploration after years of setbacks, and the public's first glimpse of a space vehicle more than a decade in development.

The process of moving the 5.75-million-ton, 32-storey-tall SLS-Orion spacecraft out of its vehicle assembly building at the Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral was scheduled to begin at 5pm local time, weather permitting.

The megarocket – standing taller than the Statue of Liberty – will be slowly trundled to launchpad 39B on a giant crawler-transporter, a four-mile journey expected to take about 11 hours. The spectacle will be carried live on Nasa Television and the space agency's website.

Who's excited?
There's a really old thread about this, but I thought it'd be interesting to revive it. Tell us your favourite object (or class of object) in the universe and a little bit about why.

For me, it's the red supergiant stars. These things are truly massive. KY Cygni is over 1,000 times our sun's radius, but since it's over 5,000 light years away it's hard to tell precisely. UY Scuti is even more extreme - some estimates put its radius above the theoretical maximum limit for stars. These objects really push the boundaries of what can exist.

Here's a good video from the highly recommended channel Kurzgesagt (11:58 but well worth it):
Forum Administration and Rules / Forum update
March 13, 2022, 11:04:16 PM
I've been re-reading old threads, and I came across this, originally posted by The Latinist when he was still with us.

Quote from: guest13271 on June 11, 2020, 06:07:57 PM
The search function is completely broken.  It's because our database is so large; the indexing function is unable to process such large tables.  I tried changing out the indexer, but I never was able to get it working. SMF 2.1's search functionality is much more robust, so it's just another one for those things that will be fixed when the software is finally updated. I promise, Belgarath and I are working on it.

Is there still a plan to update the forum software? Obviously The Latinist will not be working on it. I would like to see it happen, because I actually like this place and do not want to see it disappear, though that looks increasingly likely with every passing week.
General Discussion / Doors or Wheels
March 10, 2022, 12:57:57 AM
Are there more doors or wheels in the world today?
Skepticism / Science Talk / On Functional Stupidity
December 22, 2021, 06:57:33 PM
Feature article today on the website of Australia's national broadcaster, the ABC:

Are some of us destined to be dumb and is there anything we can do about it?

QuoteMost of us are healthier, wealthier and better educated than ever before.

We have greater access to knowledge and expertise than any previous generation.

Yet, people keep doing stupid things — from rejecting the science of climate change to embracing the idea that vaccinations are part of a giant global conspiracy to take control of our minds using micro-implants and 5G.

Why? Well, the late, great British philosopher and polymath, Bertrand Russell, thought he knew at least part of the answer.

"The fundamental cause of the trouble," he wrote, "is that in the modern world, the stupid are cocksure while the intelligent are full of doubt."

Add to that, the conspiratorial rabbit holes of the internet and the increasingly unsocial side of social media and you pretty much have life today.

But those who study human intelligence say it's not a lost cause but we need to rethink some of the assumptions we have around intelligence and ignorance.

And take a good, hard look at ourselves and the role we play in the race to inanity.

So, to help you play your part in the struggle against stupidity, here are some helpful tips.

The article goes on to highlight the difference between general intelligence and IQ, and why they don't always correlate, the difference between lies and bullshit, and advocates for the importance of skepticism and critical thinking. Should be nothing more than a primer for those of us at this forum, but perhaps you know someone who might benefit from reading it?
Skepticism / Science Talk / SpinLaunch
November 11, 2021, 11:14:57 PM
Scientist 1: I wonder if there's a better way to put a payload into orbit. Chemical rockets are expensive and dirty and you have to calculate the weight of the fuel... I dunno. It feels like there should be another way.

Scientist 2: Have we tried just yeeting it?
Iceland's four-day working week trials an 'overwhelming success', report finds

QuoteTrials of a four-day working week in Iceland have been lauded an "overwhelming success", with research revealing the initiative helped increase productivity, and led to an overall improvement in workers' wellbeing.

The trials, run by Reykjavík City Council and the Icelandic government, were held between 2015 and 2019, and ultimately included more than 2,500 workers — or about one per cent of Iceland's working population.

As part of the project, employees from a range of professions — including offices, kindergartens, social service providers and hospitals — moved from a 40-hour working week, to a 35- or 36-hour working week, but received the same pay.

Research into the trials, published this month by researchers from the UK think tank Autonomy and Iceland's Association for Sustainable Democracy (Alda), noted that following the trials' success, trade unions "achieved permanent reductions in working hours for tens of thousands of their members across the country".

In total, roughly 86 per cent of Iceland's entire working population has "now either moved to working shorter hours or have gained the right to shorten their working hours", the report found, adding that such reductions were won in contracts negotiated between 2019 and 2021.

"This study shows that the world's largest-ever trial of a shorter working week in the public sector was by all measures an overwhelming success," said Will Stronge, director of research at Autonomy.

"It shows that the public sector is ripe for being a pioneer of shorter working weeks – and lessons can be learned for other governments."
General Discussion / Friday Live Stream
February 23, 2021, 05:10:20 PM
I thought I'd start this thread for discussion of the Friday Live Streams, which I get on the podcast patron feed. Because I wanted to say this:

They're going to get a lot of emails from Australia about one of the answers in the quiz in the latest stream. Wallabies aren't just small kangaroos. They can be of the same genus (but aren't always - "wallaby" is an informal term not a taxonomic one), but even then kangaroos and wallabies are distinct species. They resemble small kangaroos, but they are not small kangaroos.
Well this is pretty huge:

Facebook bans misinformation about all vaccines after years of controversy

QuoteCompany will remove posts with false claims and groups with repeated violations will be shut down

Facebook has banned misinformation about all vaccines following years of harmful, unfounded health claims proliferating on its platform.

As part of its policy on Covid-19-related misinformation, Facebook will now remove posts with false claims about all vaccines, the company announced in a blogpost on Monday.

These new community guidelines apply to user-generated posts as well as paid advertisements, which were already banned from including such misinformation. Instagram users will face the same restrictions.

"We will begin enforcing this policy immediately, with a particular focus on Pages, groups and accounts that violate these rules," said Guy Rosen, who oversees content decisions. "We'll continue to expand our enforcement over the coming weeks."
I couldn't find a thread for this, and it's too big for the "too small for their own threads" thread, so here goes.

George Pell is a very senior Vatican official from Australia - in fact, our most senior Catholic who was charged with child abuse last year, and on the final appeal, acquitted by the High Court, which is Australia's equivalent of America's Supreme Court - the final judicial authority. That's the background.

He was also interviewed by the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse in 2016 and always denied allegations that he knew that specific priests were abusing children.

He knew.

The full report was unable to be released while the trial was ongoing, but now that it has ended, the complete and unredacted report has been released, and it is damning.

There is a full comprehensive summary of the situation below, but content warning - it is kind of hard to read while still keeping the rage down.

History will not be kind to George Pell, as royal commission reveals its secret findings
The forum software has a plug-in where it will automatically display a YouTube video if you just paste the link. That's great, but it also does that when you enclose the link inside url tags. Sometimes I don't want the video to display in the post, I just want to post a link to it. That is currently impossible. The weird thing is that it is not substituted until it is actually posted. It displays as a link in the Preview so I often try to do this and forget, and have to go back and edit the post to remove the link.

Is there any chance that this could be changed?
Tech Talk / The Story Of Mel
October 23, 2019, 10:46:55 PM
I know there are some programmers here who would appreciate this, but it's just as good if you are, like me, not. It's a great read.

The Story of Mel dates from 1983, and it's quite long so there's the link (don't worry it's not that long, just too long to quote in full), but it starts like this:

QuoteA recent article devoted to the macho side of programming
made the bald and unvarnished statement:

    Real Programmers write in FORTRAN.

Maybe they do now,
in this decadent era of
Lite beer, hand calculators, and "user-friendly" software
but back in the Good Old Days,
when the term "software" sounded funny
and Real Computers were made out of drums and vacuum tubes,
Real Programmers wrote in machine code.
Not FORTRAN.  Not RATFOR.  Not, even, assembly language.
Machine Code.
Raw, unadorned, inscrutable hexadecimal numbers.

Lest a whole new generation of programmers
grow up in ignorance of this glorious past,
I feel duty-bound to describe,
as best I can through the generation gap,
how a Real Programmer wrote code.
I'll call him Mel,
because that was his name.
Personally I feel that voting in elections is a civic duty - a responsibility of every citizen of a country, and that even if you don't live in a country (like Australia, Belgium, Switzerland, or any one of eight other countries where compulsory voting is enforced) you should take an interest and vote in your elections.

Australia has had compulsory voting since 1924 for non-indigenous citizens and for everybody since 1984, and the minimum age requirement has been 18 since 1974.

Let me be clear - I'm not suggesting Australia has a perfect electoral system. It doesn't. There are a lot of ways in which it can be improved. But I think our system does solve certain issues that other countries' elections have, and I'm specifically referring to America here since that's the one I know most about. Voter suppression, for example, is impossible. You can't make it more difficult for certain segments of the population to vote when every citizen is required by law to vote. Compulsory voting is not a panacea - the gerrymander for example is still a problem (the Queensland government of Sir Joh Bjelke-Petersen in the 70s and 80s gerrymandered pretty hard.

To anticipate some questions:

What happens if you don't vote?

There is a fine for not voting. However, I will clarify and say that there is a fine for not showing up at a polling booth and getting your name marked off. What you do once you have been noted as attending the booth is entirely up to you. You could turn in your ballot paper blank, or write a densely-packed conspiracy rant all over it. This is known as voting informally, but as it turns out most people actually do submit formal votes. I think the rate of informal votes in the last federal election was less than 5%, but I might have to look that up to be more precise.

What if you just don't care?

Then you can vote informally. Or, and there are indeed some people who do this, you can choose to pay the fine. It's not a large fine - as I mentioned in the other thread I think it's about AU$25, but I've never paid it so again I'd have to look it up to be sure. But in my experience, one of the consequences of compulsory voting is to make people more engaged with the process, not less.

How difficult is the process of actually voting?

It's deliberately made very easy. There are polling places everywhere - mine is within walking distance of my home. They're usually in school halls. There are staff from the Australian Electoral Commission (aka the AEC - a non-partisan body whose function is to organise and run elections) to help if you need it. Most if not all polling places are wheelchair accessible. Elections are always held on a Saturday. The whole system is set up to streamline the process and make it easy for everyone.

At our last election, I walked to my polling place, queued for about five minutes, had my name marked off the electoral roll (no ID was required) and was given my ballot papers - one for the Senate and one for the House of Representatives. And here we get to one of the issues with our system, though it is minor. The Senate ballot paper is huge. It's about a metre long and in my electorate there were about 96 candidates. I don't remember the exact number.

Australia uses a form of proportional representation, specifically a Single Transferable Vote, in the Senate. This means that you rank candidates in order by writing numbers in the boxes. Although there are alternatives, I prefer to number every candidate - all 96 of them. If I trusted the political parties to distribute their preferences in a way that I agreed with, I could vote "above the line", but I don't. So I number every candidate and party. If you want to know more about proportional representation, here's Dennis the Election Koala to explain it.

That took a few minutes, and filling out the House of Reps ballot paper is a lot simpler so it took less than a minute. And then I put each paper in the appropriate ballot box, said thanks to the nice volunteers from the AEC, and headed outside for my Democracy Sausage. Then I walked home. In all, it took about half an hour.

I could write more, but this OP is already pretty long, so I'll open the floor to questions. :D
General Discussion / Why do you like Halloween?
September 30, 2019, 09:24:55 PM
Thread started because Captain Video didn't want me to talk about it in his decorations thread.

Why do you like Halloween? What do you get out of it? Go there for the setup. Continue the discussion here.
Games / Subnautica - Spoilers Ahoy!
April 04, 2019, 09:11:01 PM
This is a continuation of the discussion in the What Games thread. Spoilers will not be tagged!

Okay. I'm pretty sure I've thoroughly searched all the wrecks above 300m, but I've still clearly missed the one that contains the second fragment of the Power Cell Charger. I've found and activated the gate that connects the two islands, but the quarantine facility on the mountain island has a second gate that clearly needs to be activated from the other end. I've also found another deep cave south of the starting area which is guarded by a bunch of bone sharks and has a field over the entrance to keep water out. It has a bunch of alien robots and another inactive gate, but nothing else as far as I can tell.

I'm pretty sure my next step is going to have to be really deep. I could take the Seamoth down since it's fully upgraded to max depth, but that's only 900m and I'm pretty certain I'll need the prawn suit to get deeper, but I can't build that yet since I don't have aerogel. Also, I really want the Cyclops for its ability to be a mobile base so that I can get food and water when I need to.

I've done a bit of reading online, and I'm pretty sure my next step is going to be to take the Cyclops into the Lost River, which is where I'll find the Disease Research Facility. But it's fucking terrifying down there.

My habitat is currently at the edge of the northeast mushroom forest. But I'm also contemplating setting up a second habitat south of the starting area with another scan room, to see if I've missed any wrecks.
China's 'artificial sun' reaches 100 million degrees Celsius marking milestone for nuclear fusion

QuoteChinese nuclear scientists have reached an important milestone in the global quest to harness energy from nuclear fusion, a process that occurs naturally in the sun.

The team of scientists from China's Institute of Plasma Physics announced this week that plasma in their Experimental Advanced Superconducting Tokamak (EAST) — dubbed the 'artificial sun' — reached a whopping 100 million degrees Celsius, temperature required to maintain a fusion reaction that produces more power than it takes to run.


The Chinese research team said they were able to achieve the record temperature through the use of various new techniques in heating and controlling the plasma, but could only maintain the state for around 10 seconds.

Ten seconds is a pretty long time for 100 million degrees. If this pans out, it is a significant step towards stable power generation.
General Discussion / Left or right handed?
July 06, 2018, 04:28:52 AM
Are you left or right handed? Or ambidextrous? In my experience many people who claim to be ambidexrous do different tasks with different hands. Very few of them can do the same task equally well with both hands.

I'm very right handed. But damned if I can form guitar chords with my right hand - that's a left-hand thing. But I can use a computer mouse almost as well with my left hand as with my right. I learned that after I started suffering repetetive strain in my right wrist as a result of mouse use.

Most people, I think, are clearly one handed or the other, despite the occasional task they can do with the other hand. Which are you? Left, or right? Tell us what other-handed things you can do in the thread. If you are genuinely ambidextrous, choose that option.
General Discussion / Nature is amazing
July 02, 2018, 06:33:04 PM
Feel free to post your amazing-nature links here. I'll get started.

Spider web spectacle enthrals early morning walkers in nature reserve

Alert for arachnophobes - there are pictures of spiderwebs in this article, but no clear images of the spiders themselves.

QuoteA mass colony of tent spiders have created a mesmerising display in a nature reserve on Australia's east coast, capturing the imagination of locals.

The intricately-formed spider webs have been described as resembling masses of floating jellyfish or tiny suspended spaceships which glow in the early morning light.

During regular daylight hours, they are almost impossible to see.

But at dawn and in the late afternoon, the webs reflect rays of sunlight and appear almost iridescent.

Volunteer Dave Comish helps to maintain the Kooloonbung Creek Nature Reserve at Port Macquarie in New South Wales, where the spiders have set up residence.

Mr Comish said when he first saw the astounding, shining display, he thought the mid-north coast town had been experiencing unseasonal weather.

"On a heavy dew in the mornings, it looks like it's been snowing.

"They are a beautiful looking thing," he said.
General Discussion / Pronunciation
February 17, 2018, 10:16:14 PM
How do you pronounce the word cache?

"Caysh", "cash" or "ca-shay"?

I have always said "caysh". "Ca-shay" seems to be more of an American thing.
Forum Games / The Three-Word Story
August 05, 2017, 08:40:19 AM
This is a game that has been running forever at some other forum which I won't mention. Each post must be exactly three words, and must contribute to the ongoing story (no non-sequiturs!). I'll start:

Once upon a
Tech Talk / Cryptocurrency
May 21, 2017, 10:34:04 PM
Does anyone here know a lot about cryptocurrency? A couple of friends and I are starting up an Ethereum mining operation, but the learning curve is pretty steep.

Anyone done any mining before? Have any simple tutorials they can share? Thoughts, opinions?
Headlines gone mad: how coverage of ANU's Eagle Rock controversy fed the outrage industry

Essentially, some women were sexually harassed at an event at the Australian National University while dancing to Daddy Cool's song Eagle Rock. Subsequently, the residential college at the university issued a statement saying that the song would no longer be played at official events.

The Fairfax media turned this into a scare headline, saying that the ANU had banned the song, citing it as a case of "political correctness gone mad".

QuoteUpon writing the articles, I was well aware that simply banning a song would do nothing to address the undercurrents of sexism and misogyny that oppress women in university colleges. My intention was not to have the song banned but instead to draw attention to the normalisation of pervasive sexist culture in universities; a culture that often robs women of their capacity to give consent. My other motive was simply to ensure that no other female would have the same experience as me.

However, when Fairfax publicised these events in their own articles, they did so using the sensationalist headline "ANU college bans song to stop male students dropping their pants". Instantly, the experiences of myself, along with so many other women who have experienced sexual harassment at ANU, had been trivialised, reduced to no more than another example of the so-called nanny state and "political correctness gone mad". This led to a bombardment of ridicule on social media, as well as by public figures, with both Miranda Devine and Mark Latham claiming that banning the song made ANU "like the Taliban".

Sadly, using such misleading and incendiary headlines to create political correctness controversies is all too common in mainstream media.

Now, my question is this:

Is it really the political left that is manufacturing outrage?
Member Creations / My Fantasy Novel
March 31, 2017, 05:10:47 AM
So I'm writing a fantasy novel. I'm putting chapters up on Patreon - one per week, for free (patrons get access to my blog posts and occasional additional stuff). Here's a link to the first chapter:

His First War

It'd be great if a few people could go over there and help out with ideas and so forth.
Member Creations / My Trashy Fantasy Novel
March 10, 2017, 02:11:02 AM
I've set up a Patreon for my writing. The first chapter of my novel is up, and a blog post describing some of my inspiration and motivation for those folks who choose to contribute a little to my upkeep. I'll be putting up a chapter a week. It'd be great if you would go check it out. I've made it as easy as possible to find so that I don't have to put commercial links on places that might not be okay with that sort of thing.

I don't think this is one of those places, so here it is:
Has anyone here used Patreon as a content creator?

I'd like to start using it to distribute the trashy fantasy novel I've been writing, but I have some questions.

I initially figured I'd be able to distribute chapters, and patrons could pay $1-2 per chapter. I'd publish a chapter a week, each paid, and then for higher-paying patrons I could do additional things - scans of my notebooks, periodic Q&As, etc. However, looking at the Patreon help files it seems that the done thing is to publish basic content for free, and only charge for additional content.

I've never used Patreon before, either as a creator or as a patron, so I don't know what "the done thing" is. Is it reasonable to ask for payment for each chapter of my novel? I was going to give away the first chapter for free, like as a teaser, anyway. But I just have no experience with the system and the culture.

Any thoughts?
Has someone been messing around with the themes? I suddenly find that my SGUWhey is all right-justified, which has the effect of a gigantic left margin instead of being centred in my screen. Is it just me? I've tried switching themes to the default (which doesn't seem to be affected) and back, with the same effect.

Tech Talk / Relational Database vs. Single Table
January 28, 2016, 01:20:35 AM
Okay nerds, I need help.

I've studied relational databases once, a very long time ago, and I can't work out whether that's the tool I need for the task I need to do, or whether I can go for just a single table.

My LARP/Battle Gaming group needs a Player Roster. On this Roster I need to store basic contact information. But I also need to store other data. Specifically, I need to store data on whether each player is qualified with each of a limited list of weapons or not, and if so when and by whom (again, from a limited list of players permitted to qualify).

So basically for each record I need these fields:

Player Name
Contact Details bla bla bla. Lots of fields here, some mandatory, some not, some free text, some checkboxes.
Qualified with weapon 1? Yes/No. If yes, on what date and by whom?
Qualified with weapon 2? Yes/No. If yes, on what date and by whom?
Qualified with weapon 3? Yes/No. If yes, on what date and by whom?
etc for about eight different weapon types.

Is this the sort of thing that I'd need a tool like Access for, or can this be done as a simple set of linked Excel worksheets? I'd like to use Access to get the powerful query and reporting tools, but my Access-fu is rusty. And I'll be using LibreOffice rather than Access anyway.

Games / D&D Puzzle Help
October 20, 2015, 07:47:15 AM
So I'm running an online D&D game, and I'd like to come up with a challenging puzzle for my players. I've got a couple of weeks before they get to the relevant encounter, so I thought I'd get some help with it, since I'm personally not that great with puzzles.

Here's the setup:

Wizard's tower. Players need to get to the top level to find the McGuffin. Lower three levels are connected in a loop - you go up from the Entrance Hall to the Ballroom, you go up from there and get to the Basement, you go up from there and you get to the Entrance Hall. I want a puzzle to escape the loop and open up the way to the upper levels of the tower.

There are two Bad Guys and a bunch of Mooks in the Ballroom, and I want them to be musing over the puzzle when the players arrive. Perhaps both have been given a different part of the solution, and both need to be read together, or put together with something that's already in the Ballroom, to open the way.

Any thoughts/ideas?
General Discussion / Introvert or Extravert?
September 25, 2015, 10:28:23 PM
Wikipedia defines Extraversion as

Quote... "the act, state, or habit of being predominantly concerned with obtaining gratification from what is outside the self". Extraverts tend to enjoy human interactions and to be enthusiastic, talkative, assertive, and gregarious. Extraverts are energized and thrive off of being around other people. They take pleasure in activities that involve large social gatherings, such as parties, community activities, public demonstrations, and business or political groups. They also tend to work well in groups. An extraverted person is likely to enjoy time spent with people and find less reward in time spent alone. They tend to be energized when around other people, and they are more prone to boredom when they are by themselves.

And Introversion as

Quote..."the state of or tendency toward being wholly or predominantly concerned with and interested in one's own mental life". Introverts are typically more reserved or reflective.


Introverts often take pleasure in solitary activities such as reading, writing, using computers, hiking and fishing. The archetypal artist, writer, sculptor, engineer, composer and inventor are all highly introverted. An introvert is likely to enjoy time spent alone and find less reward in time spent with large groups of people, though he or she may enjoy interactions with close friends. Trust is usually an issue of significance: a virtue of utmost importance to introverts is choosing a worthy companion. They prefer to concentrate on a single activity at a time and like to observe situations before they participate, especially observed in developing children and adolescents. They are more analytical before speaking. Introverts are easily overwhelmed by too much stimulation from social gatherings and engagement, introversion having even been defined by some in terms of a preference for a quiet, more minimally stimulating external environment.

If you are neither Extraverted nor Introverted, or you display some qualities of each, then you are Ambiverted:

QuoteAlthough many people view being introverted or extraverted as a question with only two possible answers, most contemporary trait theories measure levels of extraversion-introversion as part of a single, continuous dimension of personality, with some scores near one end, and others near the half-way mark, see the Big Five personality traits. Ambiversion is falling more or less directly in the middle. An ambivert is moderately comfortable with groups and social interaction, but also relishes time alone, away from a crowd.

On another forum, someone wondered what percentage of posters were introverts, so I set up a poll to see. It produced interesting results. Let's see whether they are mirrorred here.
General Discussion / Post Length
August 29, 2015, 02:53:58 AM
This is something that has come up in some other threads recently, and I thought I'd make a thread specifically to discuss it so we don't have to derail those other threads.

Specifically, long posts. Some people (including myself) tend not to read the really long posts, and would prefer people make short, sharp posts that say exactly what you want and no more.

I can see a place on a forum for long OPs, but once you're into the replies section, I think posts should be kept short if possible.

Long OPs have the effect of turning the forum into a collection of blogs - the OP being the blog post, and the rest of the thread being the comments.

Your thoughts?
It seems that linked videos are always embedded now, regardless of whether you include the "s" in "https" or whether it's under a URL tag or NOEMBED tag. This is pretty disruptive to the Forumvision game. Is there any way it could be fixed?
General Discussion / Wrest In Peace - New Site
January 19, 2015, 12:29:29 AM
A friend of mine, known to his forum buddies as Wolfman, has started a new site and has asked for help drumming up new members. He has given me permission to post this introductory post. From the next paragraph on are his words, copied from ASF:

I've launched an ambitious new project, and want to not only make my fellow ASF members aware of it, but to ask for your help both in letting others know about it, and perhaps in being an actual contributor.

Some background. While I enjoy sites like JREF ISF and ASF, I have some things that I also don't like so much about them, and think could be better. I've been working on a book called "Wrest In Peace" (to be published by the Humanist Press within the next year), which promotes critical thinking in dialogue and debate on issues of religion, science, social issues, etc.; and when the JREF decided to discontinue their support of these forums, I decided it was time to take the next step, and start a new website. Something different, that addressed the issues and concerns that I have with other online sites and forums:

1) Relatively homogenous membership. Not just this site, but most other such sites -- be they atheist, religious, political, or whatever -- tend to have a membership where the majority share the same values/beliefs. For example, the majority of ASF members would be atheists/agnostics, and self-identify as skeptics.

Now, that's not necessarily a bad thing, it can be useful to have a group of people who share your ideas and beliefs, who provide support and encouragement. And I've enjoyed my time here.

But such sites also tend to turn into echo chambers, with everybody saying the same things, and convincing each other that they are right, and everyone else is wrong. Those who come in with contrary or different ideas are treated as outsiders, and often attacked fairly strongly.

Wrest In Peace is intended as a site for people of all backgrounds and beliefs. Oh, I'm sure there are those with more extreme viewpoints who will condemn such an idea, but for those with more moderate positions, there's value in listening to ideas and arguments different than your own...and perhaps in having flaws and weaknesses in your own arguments pointed out, too.

2) Too many discussions degrade into pissing fights. Personal attacks, insults, threats, etc. Derailing of threads. I've seen countless discussions here that started off really well, but then were destroyed by personal disagreements and infighting.

Wrest In Peace will have much stricter rules than here. Zero profanity. Zero tolerance for personal attacks, insults, threats, etc. Given that there will be such a wide variety of beliefs, and that I want this to be a site that primary and high school students can use, this is absolutely essential.

So, what if there's someone that you really, really hate...and they feel the same way about you? What if you simply can't control yourself, and feel absolutely obligated to rip them a new *********? Well, then I have the "Mud Pit". The Mud Pit will be an area in which most of the civility rules will be suspended, and you can go at each other like animals. However, participants in the Mud Pit must all agree in advance to participate (you can't just go there and start a new thread to attack someone else); and only those designated as part of the fight can participate. This will be a closed forum, only those with approval can post (and others will have to get special permission to view the forum). I hope it won't be used often, but in those cases where we have otherwise valuable members who just can't seem to control themselves around particular issues/people, it provides an outlet that doesn't damage the rest of the forum, and allows them to avoid being banned.

3) "Debates" are often more like digital fistfights. Too many people involved, all screaming at each other. Topics that go all over the place. Too much focus on "winning", rather than on "informing".

The heart of Wrest In Peace is going to be special, organized debates. But these will be quite different from debates here, or most other places online. All debates will have at least three or four different positions, to show the wider range of possibilities (rather than the typical dichotomous choice shown in debates). For example, in a debate on abortion, rather than simply pro- or anti-abortion arguments, we could have a Christian who is pro-abortion, a Christian who is anti-abortion, an atheist who is pro-abortion, and an atheist who is anti-abortion.

And to prevent derails and descent into the typical online madness, these debates would be closed to everyone but the designated participants...there will be a separate area where others can discuss the debate.

Nor will these be real-time debates...they will be done on the forum, with each participant maybe making one post every one or two days. A single debate may last weeks, or even months. The advantage of this is that it means each participant will not only have the opportunity to research evidence for their claims, but also to research and rebut claims being made by others. Debates will only finish once A) the participants have agreed they are finished, or B) I decide that they are just repeating themselves, and nothing new is being added.

The objective is that rather than having debates where the goal is to have a 'winner' (and to 'prove' the other person is wrong), we have debates that focus on educating those who are reading them. They can better understand each claim, and the evidence for/against each claim...and then, based on that, make more informed decisions of their own.

Wrest In Peace also has some other rather cool features:

1) Both a blog and a forum. There will be blogs written by myself and other authors (Mattus Maximus from the ISF forums has already agreed to contribute some articles), on issues related to critical thinking.

2) Variety of ways to interact -- There is the blog; there are the forums; and there's also a built-in live chat window, so people can chat with each other in real time. All with one-step registration (one registration covers the blog, forums, chat, etc.).

3) Bad Arguments -- I have set up a special section called "Bad Arguments", which will address common-but-erroneous arguments that are often repeated in debates with others. My first article about this addresses the claim that "it takes religion to make good people do evil things"; and there will be many more. I hope that eventually, this can serve as a kind of "" for bad arguments.


The site is new, and doesn't have many members yet; but I expect that to change fairly quickly. I anticipate that the debates in particular will be a major factor in attracting new members. I will be seeking debate participants who have a fairly large online presence (Facebook, Twitter, their own blog, etc.). Then, when they participate in a debate, they'll naturally invite everyone who knows/follows them to come and check it out, and support them. In this way, we can get people from quite a few different backgrounds coming to the site.

In addition, as I said, I will also be publishing a book, with the same title, that should hopefully help to further publicize the site.

I've already contacted organizations like the Christianity Today magazine, the Ex-Muslim National Association; as well as quite a few bloggers (from atheist, Christian, mystic, Muslim, Buddhist, and other backgrounds), and response overall has been fairly positive, most of them see value in something like this.

Our first debate has been tentatively set for about two weeks later (subject to finding all the required participants), and will be looking at the book "The Secret", and it's claims about the 'Law of Attraction'.

The Future

Nobody has ever accused me of lacking ambition, and I have big plans. First the site, then my book. Then after that, I hope to start organizing live Wrest In Peace events, with a similar goal of having topics and debates that feature different perspectives. But these won't be a "come and learn about new-age thinking" kinda' thing...any belief or claim that is presented will be done by presenting a variety of arguments both for and against that claim, with accompanying evidence. Like the website, the goal of Wrest In Peace events would be to A) teach critical thinking skills, and B) present people with enough information and evidence on particular claims and beliefs to be able to make their own decisions and conclusions as to what they think is right.

My mantra is, "Not teaching people what to think, or what to believe; but how to think, and why they believe what they do."

How You Can Help

I need help. This is not intended to be a one-man show, and will never be successful if it is. Now, some of you will, I am sure, feel that this is not for you...or is a complete waste of time. And that's fine.

But I'm confident that others will see value in it. So, if you're in the latter group, here's what you can do to help out:

1) Link to on your Facebook, Twitter, blog, or other social media. It would probably be useful to link to my first blog article, "Himalayan Revelation", as an introduction to others.

2) Join the site, and start posting in response to blog articles, or on the forums. I've tried to get some content in place already, but the more people we have active and involved, the more attractive it is to others coming to join.

3) Volunteer to write blog articles, or participate in a debate. I have more stringent requirements in both regards, if interested, contact me for more details.

One important item -- Wrest In Peace is not just about religion. Critical thinking encompasses all areas of our lives, so the site will be seeking to address issues in a wide range of topics. So if there's an area that you think you have a lot to contribute, let me know, and we'll see what we an do.

4) Help me organize debates. This is the most difficult and time-intensive aspect of the job. For any particular debate topic, I have to find multiple participants who are knowledgeable in their respective area, who can present well-written arguments. Finding those people is a challenge, so I particular welcome those who can help with this.

5) Publicizing the site. Help me to contact media, blogs, or organizations who could be interested in this site, to have them share it with their members/followers/readers, or even to get them participating in the blog/debates.


There are no guarantees that this will work, and I know that. But it's worth the effort. Don't bother writing that, "This will never work", because I don't care. I'd far rather be the guy who tried and failed, than to be the guy who never tried.

There are many who will not find anything useful or attractive in this site. Don't bother writing to tell me that, because I honestly don't care. I have never expected this to be something that would appeal to everyone; but I know that there are people who find value and interest in a site like this, and have actually gotten very good feedback and response from quite a few people.

But if you have suggestions or ideas about how to improve the site, or let more people know about it, or find qualified blog/debate participants...then please, do contact me!

And if you yourself would like to be involved, absolutely let me know!

Thank you for your time, and for reading all the way through to the end. I'd include a notice not to respond with "tl;dr"...except that everyone who would write that would never get far enough to read this, anyway!

I look forward to your responses, and to seeing some of you at my site (several members here have already signed up there).
Forum Games / SGU Forumvision Redux - Part 2
December 05, 2014, 09:21:44 PM
This thread will be populated with the information carried over from the old Forumvision Redux game.

I just got back from a Brisbane holiday, so I'm quite dead right now. I'll update the thread when I return to work on Tuesday.

I believe that the consensus was to wait for UnixTechie to return, and then continue - was that correct?
Forum Games / SGU Forumvision?
July 12, 2012, 02:52:21 AM
Over at some other place I won't mention, there is a game that is currently in the middle of its third incarnation. It's based on the Eurovision Song Contest, and it works like this:

There are twelve players and one moderator. In each round, all of the players submit a song (via YouTube) to the moderator, who shuffles and anonymises them and presents them back to the players for voting.

Players give each of the songs submitted by the other players one of the following scores: 0, 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 10, 12. They don't score their own submission. You can't give two songs the same score - you have to give one song 12 and one song 0, even if you hate (or love) everything in the round. Traditionally, the players also provide short comments on the entries, and sometimes guess at who submitted what. The one who scores the most total points is the "winner" of that round - though they don't actually win anything except bragging rights. The game runs for twelve rounds. (There is also a bonus round, where each player submits a song chosen specifically for each other player. The moderator sends to each player all the songs submitted for them, and they are scored as usual.)

Scores are submitted to the moderator rather than posted in the thread. The moderator compiles and posts them all at the same time to avoid favouritism and OMGUS voting. Over at that other place we also have someone who is better with numbers than I am who does all sorts of fun statistical stuff with the scores.

Is there anyone here would might be interested in a game like this? At the other place, games tend to run for a long time - Forumvision 2 lasted for over a year realtime due to peoples' schedules and delays in rating and submitting - so it's a bit of a commitment. However, it's a great way to discover new music, and it's always fun engaging in snarky banter about other players' clearly inferior musical tastes.

I would obviously be the moderator for the first round (unless someone else wants to volunteer). How about it? Interested?