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Today’s Lesson: the dictation tool on a Google tablet cannot cope with interviews

Today is the day that I start transcribing my ongoing interviews for my doctoral research.

I decided to see whether the dictation tool on my Nexus 7 could cope with transcribing the audio for me. This is what happened (in this snippet I was reading out the preliminaries before formally beginning the interview):

In my head in hole what’s the point i am at the dialogue my questions

It’s all about hair and natural history in there an app to make sure sarah sits and should you wish i had a letter from essex information and chest hair should you need it the first time is the state of the art of public asian per smith beaman club youtube data so late did you cancel but and i will not use your name ellesse you later 2013 directions so you can tell people to say all the users and computers yeah anderson is a good home north staffs am 4 saenz know that this is von tree and if you wish to withdraw a point on wye and up to 1 month after today if you later scared of that 70 um ok after that point out with weaver send that reasonable cost i will still not call you maybe if you actually know yet and this is lancaster university tf2 again ok and the other thing together and form. The phone and it says that there have the right to draw write a question for you transcription and again and maximum temperature 16 hold on to your kids are just in case 17

Well, there was no harm in trying, eh? :)


Heaven, by Rupert Brooke


by: Rupert Brooke (1887-1915)

Found at

FISH (fly-replete, in depth of June,
Dawdling away their wat’ry noon)
Ponder deep wisdom, dark or clear,
Each secret fishy hope or fear.
Fish say, they have their Stream and Pond;
But is there anything Beyond?
This life cannot be All, they swear,
For how unpleasant, if it were!
One may not doubt that, somehow, Good
Shall come of Water and of Mud;
And, sure, the reverent eye must see
A Purpose in Liquidity.
We darkly know, by Faith we cry,
The future is not Wholly Dry.
Mud unto mud! — Death eddies near —
Not here the appointed End, not here!
But somewhere, beyond Space and Time.
Is wetter water, slimier slime!
And there (they trust) there swimmeth One
Who swam ere rivers were begun,
Immense, of fishy form and mind,
Squamous, omnipotent, and kind;
And under that Almighty Fin,
The littlest fish may enter in.
Oh! never fly conceals a hook,
Fish say, in the Eternal Brook,
But more than mundane weeds are there,
And mud, celestially fair;
Fat caterpillars drift around,
And Paradisal grubs are found;
Unfading moths, immortal flies,
And the worm that never dies.
And in that Heaven of all their wish,
There shall be no more land, say fish

Why God never received a PhD…

A friend posted this in a Facebook group, and I had to share. I have no idea of the source, so I am quite happy to remove/add a credit if anyone can fill me in.

I’m afraid I am still in the midst of writing a final conference paper, but once that is done I shall be back… and probably post the papers in blogified form is anyone is interested.


Opinion on Atheism

This image made its way into my Facebook feed this morning… I had to share. It was originally posted on a blog called “Unfollowing Jesus“… no comment necessary really.

#Occupy2012 (feat. Noam Chomsky & Anonymous)

This probably won’t be my only post concerning 2012.. but I have friends who understand much more about it than I do, so I shall likely be just reblogging their stuff. I have just seen this video from The Juice, and thought it was a funny introduction to the whole thing:


Wise words on Atheism, Musicals and more from Trey Parker and Matt Stone

I read  a brilliant interview with Trey Parker and Matt Stone (creators of South Park, Team America, and The Book of Mormon) the other day, and I had to share some of my favourite quotations with my own commentary. The interview was conducted by A.J. Jacobs… who wrote the hilarious and stimulating ‘The Year of Living Biblically‘ which I have actually managed to cite in a couple of presentations and a refereed journal. I would check him out, as well as the full interview here.

Here we go:

Here are some things that Trey Parker and Matt Stone hate: Scientology, liberals, radical atheists, conservatives, the Motion Picture Association of America, Glenn Beck, the TV show Whale Wars, and Sean Penn. Also this interview.

This quotation pretty much sums up the ethos that has been spilling out through South Park over the past few years. I am loving the fact that our new flat has a Sky+ box, which means that I have a constant supply of South Park episodes from Comedy Central to keep me happy. This is, I think, the central charm of South Park… nothing is off-limits. These guys will ridicule any position which anyone holds to rigidly… and rightly so. They don’t do this maliciously, but make serious points about what causes us offence, and why. The vast majority of time, when we find ourselves taking offence when someone ridicules our own perspective, it is either because their criticisms ring true and we lash out, or because we hold to the view so rigidly that the sheer presence of someone who disagrees with that view calls it into question. We need to be constantly made aware of our tendency to do this, and for that I respect these guys greatly.

“Whatever libertarianism is, it’s not Glenn Beck. It’s barely us, but it’s not Glenn Beck,” Stone said.”Whatever side Glenn Beck is on, we’re not on it.”

Enough said really…

But the truth is that Parker and Stone, the creators of the decade’s most extreme mass entertainment, are shockingly … temperate. They say it themselves: “There is a middle ground, and most of us actually live in this middle ground.” Consider the short film that launched South Park — The Spirit of Christmas.On one side, Jesus demanded that Christmas be about remembering His birthday. Santa shouted that Christmas was about giving. They kung-fu-battled until they were rolling on the ground, strangling each other.”The boys were in the middle saying, ‘This is fucked up,’ ” said Parker. “Any side who thinks they’re totally right is fucked up. That’s the heart of every show.”


Consider, too, The Book of Mormon. For a play that includes the insertion of a holy text up a missionary’s rectum, it actually offers a nuanced view of religion. Mormonism may be odd, but it produces kind, thoughtful, mostly happy people. “They always look like they’re just about to break out into song anyways,” Stone has said.Religion has its upsides — a position that rankles hardcore atheists such as Richard Dawkins.”He’s such a dick,” said Stone. “You read his book and you’re like, ‘Yeah, I agree with that. But it’s the most dicky way to put it… I think the neoatheists have set atheism back a few decades. And I’m a self-described atheist.”One of South Park‘s best episodes featured Dawkins as a substitute teacher who ends up having kinky sex with the boys’ creationist teacher, Miss Garrison (formerly Mr. Garrison, pre-sex-change-operation). The show ended five hundred years in the future, when Dawkins-worshipping atheists are at war over whether their religion should be called the “United Atheist Alliance” or “Unified Atheist League.”You could argue that their so-called moderation is actually just nihilism. They take potshots at both sides without ever committing to any direction of their own. And there’s some truth to that. So what do they believe in? The central thesis of The Book of Mormon is that storytelling, myths, and fiction are the only things that can save us.

To comment on the above, this is pretty much exactly where I stand on the ‘New Atheism’. And so does the philosopher Julian Baggini, in his article ‘The New Atheist Movement is Destructive‘. Sure they get a lot of people talking about religion, and sure they do a lot to advance a kind-of positive worldview which isn’t based on supernatural postulates. However, one always has to wonder ‘to whom are they preaching?’ Time and again I am forced to conclude that it is other atheists… who seem to purchase their books and DVDs by the dozen, and revel in attending sceptical conferences around the world to join together around the central fact that ‘we don’t believe anything’. Pointing out evil deeds which have been done in religion’s name, inspired by religion, or perpetrated by religious people is not going to convince people that religion is necessarily bad. Likewise, pointing out the ‘human’ origins of religions will similarly have little effect. As Amarnath Amarasingam writes:

Another notable characteristic of new atheist writings is the tendency to present to readers basic historical information about religion, particularly Christianity, as if it were new information. It seems that religious illiteracy is now so pervasive that simply revealing what theologians and scholars have known and published for decades is enough to create skepticism (Prothero, 2007). Having settled on the belief that religion is about blind faith, the new atheists present this information as if it will be crushing to the fragile faith of believers. Hitchens (2007: 102, 105, 115), for example, lavishes on readers such unremarkable insights as: religion is man-made, the Exodus likely did not happen, and Moses could not have written Deuteronomy because it discusses his own death. Although there is much in Hitchens’ text to admire, and several philosophical arguments to take seriously, his presentation of basic historical facts about religion as if they are revelatory is rather perplexing, especially since most religious people (not to mention theologians and scholars of religion) have known about them for years. John Haught (2008: 31) similarly notes that Hitchens ‘‘seems unaware that exegetes and theologians have known about these discrepancies since antiquity, but they have not been so literalist as to interpret insignificant factual contradictions as threats to the doctrine of biblical inspiration.’’ In other words, just because religious people have learned to live with inconsistencies in their religious tradition, this does not mean that they practice blind faith. Hitchens’ claim that religion is man-made is particularly revealing as he believes himself, once having stated it, to have made a devastating critique of religion.

A particularly instructive case would be the ‘Church of All Worlds’, which my friend Carole could tell you a lot more about. Essentially this religion is based upon a 1961 science fiction novel by American author Robert A. Heinlein entitled ‘Stranger in a Strange Land’. The religion was dreamt up by college buddies and it has now blossomed into a fully-blown religion. All adherents are aware of this man-made origin, yet it makes absolutely no difference to the fact that it seems to work for them, and is what they want to do with their lives…

This has been a rambling way of saying that I agree once more with Parker and Stone’s stance on the new atheists. You can be an atheist without wanting to shove it down others’ throats. You can even respect other people’s beliefs…

Moving on:
“There’s the Family Guy structure, which is ‘We’re just going to keep doing crazy shit, and maybe there will be a thread through it, but it doesn’t really matter,’ ” said Parker. “Our structure is, we’ll come up with this funny thing, and then make this funny thing go on for twenty minutes. Sometimes it makes really crappy television and sometimes it makes cool television.”

I don’t know how many times I have had the argument about Family Guy with friends… it just isn’t that funny. Each episode has a couple of funny moments, but it is essentially a glorified sketch show which would have to rank far below South Park, The Simpsons… hell, even 30 Rock in my estimation.

And finally two quotations which I just appreciated in general:

Parker especially says his worldview has darkened. “I was always a very happy, optimistic person,” he said in the little room off the cafeteria. “I’ve only become an angry person in the last two years. I’m becoming Carl Sagan. I used to be like, ‘Oh, the wonders of the universe.’ Now I’m starting to say, ‘Humanity’s fucked. The universe is going to collapse on itself. Everyone’s doomed.’ I think it’s just getting older.”

Parker and Stone say they don’t know what’s next, either. In seven years, will we see a Dianetics-based Broadway show? Probably not, for fear of being pigeonholed as the “guys who make musicals about religion.” Same with a Koran-based one. “You might have trouble getting people to invest in that,” Stone said. “I would watch it, though.”

I must apologise that this had been so long and rambling. I’d encourage you to read the full interview. And to take my comments with a pinch of salt…

The Semiotics of Professor Email Signatures…

I’m quite pleased to discover where I stand on this chart with most academics :)

A Funny for You

The month of September was a manic month. 180 emails had built up in my inbox… I have been attending conferences, applying for PhDs, and getting a number of secret projects under way…

Things are becoming a bit more routine now, and as such I am working through various articles that I have flagged up for blogging. Before I start, however, I discovered this image which made me chuckle. A lot.

Hopefully my posts will increase in profundity as October goes on…