Gates of Rome by Conn Iggulden, Book 1 in the Emperor Series

Gates_Of_RomeHaving already read the Conqueror series about Genghis Khan by Conn Iggulden, I was looking forward to the Emperor series. I must say I was a little disappointed as it did not have the same intensity.

To be fair, the Emperor series was Conn’s maiden attempt at writing epic historical fiction, and The Gates of Rome, his very first book. I suppose once Conn had cut his teeth on this genre with Emperor, he excelled on the Conqueror series.

Not much is known about the early life of Julius Caesar, but from inferences in the biography by Suetonius, Iggulden was able to create a fictional account of what may have occurred. Iggulden as he usually does, takes great liberties by introducing Gaius and Marcus as boyhood friends who grow up together learning the arts of war on Gaius’s father’s estate. Gaius as we know, is in fact Gaius Julius Caesar and Marcus is Marcus Junius Brutus who was the leading figure in Caesar’s eventual assassination.

In Iggulden’s fictional version of events, the two boyhood friends are separated in their early teens, with Marcus joining a foreign legion in Greece and Gaius entering politics in Rome under the patronage of his uncle Gaius Marius, who was a rival to Sinna, another famous Consul.

The rivalry between Sinna and Marius is loosely based on historical facts, but the eventual showdown between them in Rome is total fiction. After Marius takes control of the city, Sinna who was away on a foreign campaign, returns to defeat him. In the aftermath of this civil war, Julius Caesar is evicted from the city, joins a naval legion and swears to return and seek revenge for the killing of his uncle by Marius.

And that’s where the first book ends. I have not started the second book yet, but hope it gets better than the initial installment.

Facebook shows the finger to South African Government

It’s no secret that I despise authority, and they rarely come more contemptible than the SA government.

This week Facebook released the Global Government Requests Report which reveals that although they acceded to data requests from many governments around the world, they flipped the bird to our very own snoop-meisters. Understand that I loathe the act of releasing information on citizens to governments by social media, but in this one instance, I applaud Facebook for telling these bullies to “go fuck themselves.”

Here’s a sampling of figures from the report to give you an idea how we compared with other prominent countries, but you can also view the full report at the link above to see which countries got fucked the most:

From mybroadband

From mybroadband




world2A much used figure of speech, but as it turns out there aren’t really 24 hours in a day.

There are actually only 23 hours, 56 minutes and 4.1 seconds in a day. This is the time it takes for the earth to rotate on its axis, and is known as a sidereal day.

But saying I’m available 23h 56″ 4.1’/7 just will not cut it, will it?

On death


Having just returned from attending my aunt’s funeral, my mind is morbidly fixed on death.

I can’t help cursing the public health care system that failed her like it does to countless others. Mercifully she succumbed to cancer within days of being released from hospital. That might sound callous, but I would like to think that death is preferrable to an indeterminate period of suffering and mental anguish for helpless family members.

After enduring hours of sermonizing at the funeral, I’ve got to thinking about my own eventual disposal as it were. I’ll have none of this piousness, hollow platitudes and pity from vultures in dog collars.

It’s time to write down some guidelines for well-meaning family and friends on how to send me off permanently. The details still have to be worked out, but it will involve lots of music, alcohol and laughter.

Until I’ve got it all figured out…

Thank you…

I’ve been remiss in not often thinking about all those people who work late into the night and on weekends, while the rest of us get to enjoy life.

I’m referring to those who keep the wheels of industry turning, those who provide essential services such as in the hospitals, the doctors, nurses, firemen, policemen, paramedics, and those who serve us at shops and restaurants. Off course I’m forgetting to mention the many, many others, but you know who I mean.

And oh, the men in uniform who are supposed to keep your country safe, protecting the innocent from the wars created by the petty ideologies of stupid politicians. You too.

Thank you, thank you, thank you.



Where religions come to die…


internetreligiondiesOr this…


But from all appearances, it’s not gonna go easily. Perhaps religion is dead and buried already; what we’re still experiencing is that god-awful stink.

Meanwhile, Nigel Barber over at the Huff & Puff Post thinks religion will only be defeated by 2038, mostly through the rise of living standards.

Using the average global growth rate of GDP for the past 30 years of 3.33 percent (based on International Monetary Fund data from their website), the atheist transition would occur in 2035….

If national wealth drives secularization, the global population will cross an atheist threshold where the majority see religion as unimportant by 2041….

Averaging across the two measures of atheism, the entire world population would cross the atheist threshold by about 2038 (average of 2035 for disbelief and 2041 for religiosity). Although 2038 may seem improbably fast, this requires only a shift of approximately 1 percent per year whether in religiosity or belief in God. Using the Human Development Index as a clock suggests an even earlier arrival for the atheist transition.

I’m still skeptical however. 2035 seems way too optimistic. What’s the point of defeating religious belief if other forms of credulous belief persist?

But then again, one victory at a time.

Aggravation at an intersection

Fixing traffic light10 things that vex me to some degree or the other at traffic intersections, in decreasing order of annoyance.

  1. Traffic lights that don’t fucking work due to power-outs, poor maintenance or, idiots who have ridden them over.
  2. Impatient morons who take off before the traffic lights change, in order to get to the next set of RED traffic lights a few seconds before you.
  3. Traffic cops who lounge in their vehicles when they should clearly be directing traffic.
  4. People handing out flyers and pamphlets, especially when there’s a whole bunch of them queuing up to get to your car window, each with a different bill… and then to be faced with more of them with the same useless pieces of paper at the very next intersection, and the one after.
  5. Do-gooders (or not) collecting money for their churches or temples or other religious organization. Really people, if you’re going to be standing out in the hot sun collecting funds, then at least desist from trying so hard to convince me that prayer works.
  6. Hawkers selling cheap Chinese junk that nobody wants, but some are coaxed to buy in sympathy, and “support” informal trading. What kind of an idiot buys electronic products at an intersection? I really wouldn’t mind so much if they actually sold something useful. Fruit and vegetables aren’t too bad, except when they try to slip in some rotten apples in the carefully made-up packs.
  7. Students who don garish, often absurd outfits (men wearing tutus and dresses are common) and plead for money so that they can attend some sporting event, or go on vacation or some other pretence. Even worse, are the guys (and sometimes gals) who actually collect money to pay for their weddings. Why should I have to pay when I’m not even invited, so that you can impress your friends and family with a formal wedding which you can’t afford? True love means never having to splurge on a wedding… or something like that.
  8. People who insist on crossing the street after the traffic lights have changed, then stare angrily at motorists who now have right of way.
  9. Panhandlers who insist on washing your windscreen, after making it quite clear that you don’t need the “service.”
  10. Adults who beg. I honestly feel for you, but there’s just too many of you at too many intersections, all day, every day, and I really can’t support you indefinitely. I’m however quite happy to hand out loose change occasionally, when I do have some available.

Back to basics

English: Science icon from Nuvola icon theme f...I originally created this blog to rant about strange beliefs, political douche-baggery and things that are not so vile. And to promote science in the process off course. Off late I seem to have posted more about stuff of little or no consequence

Back to basics then…

It’s disconcerting, no infuriating when people bash science and level all sorts of wild accusations at it whether to protect their own narrow reasoning, or to promote it, or even benefit materially from it. Even more infuriating are people who wax lyrical about faith, and worse still are those who debase science to promote ideological thinking and false beliefs.

Recently Steven Pinker wrote a brilliant article in the New Republic, where he reveals why science is not the enemy. [Science is not the enemy of the Humanities].

To whet your appetite, here are some choice passages:

  • One would think that writers in the humanities would be delighted and energized by the efflorescence of new ideas from the sciences. But one would be wrong. Though everyone endorses science when it can cure disease, monitor the environment, or bash political opponents, the intrusion of science into the territories of the humanities has been deeply resented. Just as reviled is the application of scientific reasoning to religion; many writers without a trace of a belief in God maintain that there is something unseemly about scientists weighing in on the biggest questions. In the major journals of opinion, scientific carpetbaggers are regularly accused of determinism, reductionism, essentialism, positivism, and worst of all, something called “scientism.”

  • Scientism, in this good sense, is not the belief that members of the occupational guild called “science” are particularly wise or noble. On the contrary, the defining practices of science, including open debate, peer review, and double-blind methods, are explicitly designed to circumvent the errors and sins to which scientists, being human, are vulnerable. Scientism does not mean that all current scientific hypotheses are true; most new ones are not, since the cycle of conjecture and refutation is the lifeblood of science. It is not an imperialistic drive to occupy the humanities; the promise of science is to enrich and diversify the intellectual tools of humanistic scholarship, not to obliterate them. And it is not the dogma that physical stuff is the only thing that exists. Scientists themselves are immersed in the ethereal medium of information, including the truths of mathematics, the logic of their theories, and the values that guide their enterprise. In this conception, science is of a piece with philosophy, reason, and Enlightenment humanism. It is distinguished by an explicit commitment to two ideals, and it is these that scientism seeks to export to the rest of intellectual life.

  • The second ideal is that the acquisition of knowledge is hard. The world does not go out of its way to reveal its workings, and even if it did, our minds are prone to illusions, fallacies, and super- stitions. Most of the traditional causes of belief—faith, revelation, dogma, authority, charisma, conventional wisdom, the invigorating glow of subjective certainty—are generators of error and should be dismissed as sources of knowledge. To understand the world, we must cultivate work-arounds for our cognitive limitations, including skepticism, open debate, formal precision, and empirical tests, often requiring feats of ingenuity. Any movement that calls itself “scientific” but fails to nurture opportunities for the falsification of its own beliefs (most obviously when it murders or imprisons the people who disagree with it) is not a scientific movement).

  • To begin with, the findings of science entail that the belief systems of all the world’s traditional religions and cultures—their theories of the origins of life, humans, and societies—are factually mistaken. We know, but our ancestors did not, that humans belong to a single species of African primate that developed agriculture, government, and writing late in its history. We know that our species is a tiny twig of a genealogical tree that embraces all living things and that emerged from prebiotic chemicals almost four billion years ago. We know that we live on a planet that revolves around one of a hundred billion stars in our galaxy, which is one of a hundred billion galaxies in a 13.8-billion-year-old universe, possibly one of a vast number of universes. We know that our intuitions about space, time, matter, and causation are incommensurable with the nature of reality on scales that are very large and very small. We know that the laws governing the physical world (including accidents, disease, and other misfortunes) have no goals that pertain to human well-being. There is no such thing as fate, providence, karma, spells, curses, augury, divine retribution, or answered prayers—though the discrepancy between the laws of probability and the workings of cognition may explain why people believe there are. And we know that we did not always know these things, that the beloved convictions of every time and culture may be decisively falsified, doubtless including some we hold today.

  • Just as common, and as historically illiterate, is the blaming of science for political movements with a pseudoscientific patina, particularly Social Darwinism and eugenics. Social Darwinism was the misnamed laissez-faire philosophy of Herbert Spencer. It was inspired not by Darwin’s theory of natural selection, but by Spencer’s Victorian-era conception of a mysterious natural force for progress, which was best left unimpeded. Today the term is often used to smear any application of evolution to the understanding of human beings. Eugenics was the campaign, popular among leftists and progressives in the early decades of the twentieth century, for the ultimate form of social progress, improving the genetic stock of humanity. Today the term is commonly used to assail behavioral genetics, the study of the genetic contributions to individual differences.

  • And the critics should be careful with the adjectives. If anything is naïve and simplistic, it is the conviction that the legacy silos of academia should be fortified and that we should be forever content with current ways of making sense of the world. Surely our conceptions of politics, culture, and morality have much to learn from our best understanding of the physical universe and of our makeup as a species.

Now please do yourself a massive service and read the article in its entirety at the link provided above.