Google+ the first days


For the last few days I have been trying out Google+ and I have to say I am pleased with what I am seeing. That is not entirely fair as I have always been a great supporter of Google. Not that really matters to anyone but I would like to have it said anyway.

Google+ v Facebook?

I see that there is a lot of speculation going on about whether Google+ is going to be the new Facebook. I will not look at this from a business perspective but all I can say is that so far I can imagine both having their own charm. At the same time, looking at all the other tools that Google already has, I could imagine a that in the future this can all be brought together to have yourself you own social portal. A place to share, read, work, be in contact with your friends, follow the news and all the other things that Google has made available.

At the same time, I like Facebook as well and over time it has proven to be one of my sites of choice both from a social and business perspective (although admittedly these two are harder and harder to separate lately). However with the Google+ to Facebook app, I can follow and update everything that’s going on Facebook. The immediate convert can go for even more drastic measures and export his or her photos from Facebook to Picasa for sharing on Google+

Google+ Features

Personally I have not seen anything on Google+ that can not also be done on Facebook, with a little more or less work. Facebook has lists, Google has Circles. Sure enough I am pretty simple when it comes to matters like privacy or being overblown with comments etc, it’s all fine.

Profile

The Google plus profile page is nice and clean, with not to many distractions. I am curious to see how that’ll pan out after the official launch and when the advertisements are incorporated. So far all good.

Circles

Circles is what the lists are in Facebook, a way of organizing your friends business network, family and whatever you may come up with. It is handy and at the same time I can already see how it is very easy to get over the to with. I could imagine some good use for it, but at the same time nothing too new under the sun here.

Stream

Stream shows you what everyone in your network is posting and sharing. I am particularly happy with the ability to filter out according to specific streams and like facebook those that overdo it and crowd your stream too much can be blocked or hidden.

Further Features

Further features include the possibility to share photos, videos, post status updates and more. There is a buzz option which shows you stream from twitter, wordpress blogs etc works great and a +1 button which I do not quite get yet but seems to be similar to a like button.

For the immediate convert there is already a number of facebook related apps available such as the option to see and update your facebook home page, an option to export to your facebook photo albums to (picasa) google+, an app to export your facebook friends to your google+ account.

Looking Back

Looking back on the first experiences I am pretty happy with it and so far Google+ is seems to be the one with the least amount of deep sighs in trying to get things to work the way I want it. Whatever the experts say I could see this proving to be serious competition.

Looking Forward

Given all the other things Google I already use: email, calender, search, specialist search, docs, picasa (as a backup for flickr), google earth, google reader, notofications, google sites, you tube, google talk and translate I could imagine a merge of all these functionality and see myself having one big social portal with everything in there.  For the time being, Google+ has won my heart.

Want an invite? leave your email address as a comment.

Wear and tear used to deny ACC claims | Stuff.co.nz


Bodily wear and tear is being used as a reason by ACC to turn down genuine claims, surgeons and legal advocates say.A 21-year-old Timaru woman is among an increasing number of people being told their injuries are not the result of accidents, but of pre-existing conditions, and therefore would not be covered.However, ACC said the number of people being turned down has increased only because ACC was assessing claims more carefully.Wellington orthopaedic surgeon Robert Kusel said he and his colleagues at Boulcott Hospital’s orthopaedic clinic had noticed an increase in the number of patients being denied ACC cover for surgery, many on the basis of “degeneration” in the injured joint.”They’re now using the age-degenerative reason to decline more people that really have a pretty bona fide case.” ….

…. An ACC spokesman said the corporation was turning down a slightly greater number of surgery claims but that was because it was looking more closely at claims.

“A lot of them aren’t wholly or substantially due to an accident.”

The number of disputed claims upheld in ACC’s favour had remained steady at 70 to 75 per cent.

“When you’re talking about a couple of hundred being wrong out of 57,000 [a year], that’s not a bad batting average.”

via Wear and tear used to deny ACC claims | Stuff.co.nz.

COMMENT

In all fairness, there will probably have been claims in the past that should probably have been denied. But at the same time, serious question marks can be placed before the stated statistics of the ACC spokesman. How many denied claimants end up “fighting” the decision of a denied claim? Experience is telling me that people very often rather walk away and find a way to get medical treatment funded themselves than to go against the big machine that that may need in the past. Involvement in mediation and tribunal cases tells me that more than once the evidence to support ACC’s decisions is thin if there is any evidence at all. General statistics to me do not count as such an that was recently confirmed again.

The first party to decide on whether ACC can deny a claim is ACC itself in the mediation. for many going through the process poses a hurdle they’d rather not go through, either all alone or with a representative or support person. You don’t like the decision ACC made and you are left with a tribunal (Dispute Resolution Services) that use to be a part of ACC. After that what is left is the court room.

The fact that a number of denied claims go unchallenged does not mean by any means that ACC was probably right. here are more and more people looking at private insurance as a safety net for ACC and many simply do not want to gp through the ordeal of mediation, tribunal and/or the court. There are other factors at play here that are of equal importance, conveniently left out by the ACC spokesman.

The situation appears to be pretty much like this:

  • ACC denies certain claims as per default almost pointing to general a statistics;
  • A substantial number of claimants take this for granted either because they do not understand the ACC decision or because they do not feel there is any merit fighting it;
  • A smaller number of claimants are willing to fight it, and end up going through the Tribunal. They will see themselves confronted with a number of legal requirements, that will very likely require assistance that needs to be funded. At the same time the options of claiming these costs back when it turns out you are right are getting less and less favorable.
  • SO: going against an ACC decision actually requires an investment that many, especially in the current economic climate can not afford, and it is not that the options of free or very low cost representation are widely advertised (myself included) and in general hiring a lawyer is a costly operation. So people are made to choose to “invest” money in their procedure with a risk of not being successful at all times. That money that could otherwise be used to fund their treatment. (The fact that ACC denies your claim does by no means mean that your pain is not genuine).
  • You may well be required to spend hundreds if not thousands  of dollars on specialist reports with again a limited option in claiming back these costs.

This is the situation up until the tribunal, and does not even cover  a court procedure. This has nothing to do any longer with ACC being right or wrong in their decisions and all with an in my personal opinion unjust system in which your ACC levies are actually very likely funding nothing more or less than a litigation machine. Money that could have been used on treatment.

The almost habitual denial of certain claims is a symptom of an in my view derailed system. I do understand that there are financial troubles for ACC but that should not be a reason to trade in justice for convenience.

Preacher arrested in UK for calling homosexual conduct sinful :: Catholic News Agency (CNA)


London, England, May 4, 2010 / 08:36 am (CNA/EWTN News).- In a case which has disturbed religious freedom advocates, a preacher in the English town of Workington was reportedly arrested for describing homosexual conduct as a sin after a public sermon. A Baptist from Workington, the 42-year-old Dale McAlpine was preaching in the town on April 20. He said he never spoke about homosexuality during his public sermon, which was delivered from the top of a stepladder, the Telegraph reports.

McAlpine said that he later quietly listed homosexual practice among a number of sins referred to in 1 Corinthians during a debate with a woman passerby.

She was then approached by a Police Community Support Officer (PCSO), who spoke with her briefly.

The officer approached McAlpine and identified himself as a homosexual who was a Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender liaison officer. He said a complaint had been made against the Baptist.

According to McAlpine, the PCSO warned him not to say homosexual conduct is sinful because it would be a crime. The preacher told the officer that it is not a crime to describe same-sex practice as a sin.

Police officers later arrived on the scene during another of McAlpine’s sermons. They arrested him and charged him with causing “harassment, alarm or distress” contrary to Section 5 of the Public Order Act. They claim he made the alleged offending remark in a voice loud enough to be overheard by others.

According to the Telegraph, the act was introduced in 1986 to tackle violent rioters and football hooligans. Its use against a preacher has caused concerns among Christians that it is being used to curb religious free speech.

Read there rest at  Preacher arrested in UK for calling homosexual conduct sinful :: Catholic News Agency (CNA).

COMMENT

I wonder hat is next in the UK, also keeping in mind the coverage by Investigate Magazine last year on the developments in the UK. Can we soon expect the Bible to be blacklisted in the UK, because it contains material that may not be politically correct or disturbing to some members of society? Or will the UK have it’s own cleaned up and compliant version of the Bible?

If the reported facts did not indicate otherwise one would think this is a very bad joke.

University of Oxford Researcher Discover Heaviest Element Known to Science


Oxford University researchers have discovered the heaviest element yet known to science.

The new element, Governmentium (symbol=Gv), has one neutron, 25 assistant neutrons, 88 deputy neutrons and 198 assistant deputy neutrons, giving it an atomic mass of 312. These 312 particles are held together by forces called morons, which are surrounded by vast quantities of lepton-like particles called pillocks. Since Governmentium has no electrons, it is inert. However, it can be detected, because it impedes every reaction with which it comes into contact.

A tiny amount of Governmentium can cause a reaction that would normally take less than a second, to take from 4 days to 4 years to complete. Governmentium has a normal half-life of 2 to 6 years. It does not decay, but instead undergoes a reorganisation in which a portion of the assistant neutrons and deputy neutrons exchange places.

In fact, Governmentium’s mass will actually increase over time, since each reorganisation will cause more morons to become neutrons, forming isodopes. This characteristic of moron promotion leads some scientists to believe that Governmentium is formed whenever morons reach a critical concentration. This hypothetical quantity is referred to as a critical morass. When catalysed with money, Governmentium becomes Administratium (symbol=Ad), an element that radiates just as much energy as Governmentium, since it has half as many pillocks but twice as many morons.

You Better Watch Out, You Better Watch Out … Richard Dawkins’ Coming to Town


WHY DO YOU BELIEVE WHAT YOU BELIEVE?
A plea for an open debate

Recently I have browsing and reading material looking at the matter of creation versus evolution, sometimes more accurately depicted as a discussion between science and religion. And now, with Richard Dawkins, a militant atheists as he once referred himself as, coming to town to do a lecture it is perhaps good to post some thoughts on how this discussion is actually nothing more a series of orchestrated attempts to polarize two camps that are actually perfectly aligned to work closely together. They are in my view complementary.

No Conclusive Evidence for Either Camp

I guess the big attraction of evolution theory for atheists is the premise that it no longer need a creator. Modern day evolutionists understand evolution to be “design out of chaos” without the aid of a mind or intelligence. In her TED talk Susan Blackmore outlines the simple beauty of this theory and how you don’t need a designer for evolution to work.In all fairness, while that may seem like the beauty of the theory it is important to understand that that is what it is A THEORY! I note that the fact that you don’t need a designer according to the theory  does not necessarily mean that there is no designer.

Although often presented as the poster boy for atheism, Darwin himself was not so sure, and in any event later in his life claimed that he was never an Atheist. In one of his letters in 1879, I found published on the web he writes:

Dear Sir

It seems to me absurd to doubt that a man may be an ardent Theist & an evolutionist.

… In my most extreme fluctuations I have never been an atheist in the sense of denying the existence of a God.— I think that generally (& more and more so as I grow older) but not always, that an agnostic would be the most correct description of my state of mind. http://www.darwinproject.ac.uk/entry-12041

In another letter, writing to the author of “the scientific creed”, he writes:

Nevertheless you have expressed my inward conviction, though far more vividly and clearly than I could have done, that the Universe is not the result of chance. But then with me the horrid doubt always arises whether the convictions of man’s mind, which has been developed from the mind of the lower animals, are of any value or at all trustworthy. Would any one trust in the convictions of a monkey’s mind, if there are any convictions in such a mind? http://www.darwinproject.ac.uk/entry-13230

What has happened though over a long period of time is that the ultimate outcomes of evolution theory are being presented, understood or read as fact and that is where things go wrong. Conclusive evidence for creation out of random change is simply not available. Sure there is a lot of material that could indicate that but the same applies for the existence of a creator, in fact a creator as in God, the God of the Bible. Yet it is good to understand that in that sense atheism, when presented as a factual proposition is in fact just an alternative belief-system.

The other way around, creationists and the intelligent design movement, acting as the other camp, have obscured and unnecessarily polarized the discussion from their end. I do not think that anyone, especially Christians are helped by the critique brought forward by the creationists, ID proponents where they have used false arguments. As was clearly shown in the Kitzmiller v Dover case, the fundamental mistake made by these groups was that they used the argument that since the scientific evidence for the ultimate outcomes of evolution theory is not there, evolution does not exist.  I think that no one in his or her right mind will be able to deny that evolution is a fact for sure within species and a there is good evidence for a broader approach. At the same time this does not mean that therefore the ultimate consequence of creation out of nothing and by random chance is proven and also that there is conclusive scientific evidence for a common ancestor: two matters that seem to be at the center  of the discussions. Creationists and ID proponents all too often try to make us believe that there are issues with the WHETHER question of evolution as opposed to the HOW which is what the debate really should be about. The falsity of the argument is that absence of evidence is not evidence of evidence!


The other way around no one is helped by anyone asking for scientific proof for the existence of a God creator and for a living God that is present in our current day and time. The issue was addressed by Judge Jones decision in Kitzmiller v Dover. This case concerned the question of whether or not intelligent design should be taught as part of the science curriculum. Inevitably this leads to questions
like is intelligent design theory actually scientific or just the propagation of a religious concept. Judge
Jones, a highly religious man himself, came to the conclusion that ID is not science. According to the National Academy of Science:

  • Science is limited to empirical, observable, ultimately testable data.
  • There is a requirement of repeatability of process to get the data and if the theory derived from the data is correct similar outcomes should be the result.
  • Explanations that can’t be base on empirical data are not part of science.
  • The rigorous attachment to natural explanations is an essential attribute to science, by definition and convention.

Causes outside the natural world are a “science stopper.” So, there you go, from a formal strictly scientific point of view, a supernatural explanation is by definition and convention excluded. That does not mean however that such an explanation will ultimately be the one that makes the most sense, it just means that where Intelligent Design proponents try to argue with scientists, within the scientific realm, one will not get anywhere. Although admitted or known, Intelligent Design proponents seem to overlook this important fact or one step further, try to change the rules. This was clearly shown in the Kitzmiller v Dover case in the US:

In deliberately omitting theological or “ultimate” explanations for the existence or characteristics of the natural world, science does not consider issues of “meaning” and “purpose” in the world.

… While supernatural explanations may be important and have merit, they are not part of science.

… Moreover, defense expert Professor Minnich acknowledged that for ID to be considered science, the ground rules of science have to be broadened to allow consideration of supernatural forces.

Dan Dennett advises us that evolution could be seen as “design out of chaos. But what is chaos really? Personally I think that chaos is nothing more than a part of the divine creation of which we do not have a full grasp or understanding. Just as scientists may refer to religious people as non-rational because they use God as an explanation for what we do not understand, the same could be said about scientists that use chaos as an argument or explanation: chaos is nothing more than an implicit admission that “we do not know (yet) how certain matters exactly work. And that is how a religious person could look at chaos: part of God’s creation we have not been able to understand in naturalist or materialist terms.

Science and Religion as Complementary Disciplines

The great thing about science is in it’s limitation to looking at the natural and natural explanations only. That is the strength of science that we do not want to jeopardize. By this limitation we are continuously driven to find explanations i the natural world. Allowing the supernatural into the equation could easily lead to scientific slackness. The scientific drive could easily be taken away if we considered everything we cannot explain naturally as supernatural, why bother looking for answers if you can just back and call things supernatural and therefore not understandable. We would not have been where we are today, regardless of what value we put on that, i we had allowed the supernatural explanation into science.

However the non-scientific nature of Intelligent Design evidence does not say anything about the intrinsic value of the arguments brought forward by those that support the theory that God created the universe and all that is was and will be in it. Where it concerns evolution; by Message of 22 October 1996 of Pope John Paul II, the Catholic Church made the announcement that evolution is compatible with a Christian Belief. Some fundamentalist Christians may not want to support this proposition but on average there is the Christian option of supporting evolution as a process without subscribing to “philosophical naturalism” which encompasses the view that everything has a natural cause an that organic life is nothing more than the result of unguided random forces. When evolution is turned into such an all encompassing theory we are no longer talking about science but about philosophy and one could even argue that such a theory is nothing more or less than an alternative belief system. It is good to understand that Dawkins and others have, like creationists and ID proponents a conflict model in which one camp excludes the other. While these conflicts attract the attention and are probably great for the sales  of books and for publicity reasons, it does not necessarily represent the large field in between these two polarities in which there is room to consider dialogue and even integration.

In the end it is personal

In my professional capacity I have often said: “it is the law that guides a case but it is the facts that make a case.” Another way of looking at it is that you will need to go where the evidence takes you and not try to have the evidence take you where you want to go.That however is not what is being presented in the media which needs to sell and therefore ignores this middle field to focus on the extremes of the continuum where the attention grabbing “battles” are fought with all the fundamentalist dirtiness that comes with that. There is a well known saying that “all is fair in love and war.” Somehow I think that has been taken to new levels up to a point where we may need to rethink this piece of common “wisdom.”

For me personally the body of evidence leads me to a God creator, in fact the God of the Bible and Christianity. The body of evidence is coming from a wide range of sources and are both of a direct and indirect nature. At the same time I am well aware that this same body of evidence could just as easy be used to disprove God and Christianity.  I guess there is a subjective element in weighing the evidence. At the same time that is a fact of life we will have to live with. What would be great if that is not used as a reason to draw swords but as a reason to reason, on the basis of mutual respect and a willingness to learn and develop. For fundamentalist Christians I suggest trying to open up to the world of science and do not judge but listen and learn, an for the militant atheist, do exactly the same. We all have each other a lot to offer. And on an individual level it is important to consider the body of evidence and not just that which you want to hear. All too often I hear people cry out from a position of ignorance make claims about the camp they emotionally do not want to be in, atheists and Christians alike.

While I do believe that weighing the evidence has a subjective element to it, I also believe that it is important to consider all the evidence and whatever happens do not judge those that come to different conclusions, especially if you are a Christian. For both the atheist and the Christian it is good to ask yourself:

CAN YOU CONVINCINGLY EXPLAIN WHY YOU BELIEVE WHAT YOU BELIEVE?

I know I can and I will so keep coming back if you want to hear my take on all of this. Did you check the evidence? I know I did an still do. I suggest you do the same. A good start is checking out the other posts in the religion and spirituality category or the renaissance and journey sub category. And keep in mind when you read any of the other posts in these categories that I was once out there on a mission to prove that religion was a fraud  and now writing from a Christian perspective. Science and experience got me to believe again.

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Scam threat to NZ firms – technology | Stuff.co.nz


In a typically 21st century crime, fraudsters have used scam emails and fake websites to steal more than €3 million (NZ$6m) of carbon credits from international businesses.

The Economic Development Ministry said businesses in New Zealand were at risk from the fraud, but it was confident none had fallen victim.

It has written to all companies with carbon credits registered on its database, reminding them to guard their account details and passwords.

The ministry said hoax emails were sent to businesses in several countries aimed at persuading them to click on links that took them to fake websites, where they were asked to key in their account details and passwords.

Such “phishing” scams are commonly used to defraud banks, but ministry spokeswoman Emilia Mazur said it was believed to be the first time the US$135 billion (NZ$196b) carbon credit market had been targeted.

Quoting Hans-Juergen Nantke, head of German carbon credit registry DEHSt, Reuters reported that carbon credits had been stolen from six German firms and that others in the European Union and in Australia, Norway and New Zealand had been targeted.

These countries were at risk because they allow credits to be transferred overseas.

The ministry checked its database at the request of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change. Mazur said no New Zealand firms had transferred credits overseas since the scam came to light. None had reported thefts.

She was unsure how the fraudsters planned to cash in the credits. “I personally wouldn’t know what to do with carbon credits. They don’t seem to take them down at McDonald’s.”

via Scam threat to NZ firms – technology | Stuff.co.nz.

COMMENT

All I can say is that the the scheme itself should have never been there in the first place as it is based on cooked up research and now we find that it is actually causing new scams to arise. It was a matter of time I guess.

DIERCKX & ASSOCIATES LTD » Fake Celebrity Profiles on Twitter


The NZ Herald reports

Kiwi celebrities are being targeted by social networking frauds, who are forging Twitter and Facebook accounts in their names.

False profiles are being created in the names of sports stars such as All Black captain Richie McCaw, Black Caps skipper Daniel Vettori as well as broadcasters and TV personalities.

The fictitious sites are fooling fans and friends into believing the profiles are real.

Internet safety watchdogs say creating a bogus website is illegal under the Crimes Act, and those targeted should take their concerns to police.

Identity Theft, Harassment

The article mentions that people who fin themselves a victim of such practices as described in the article, should go the police as it is according to Martin Crocker a crime to act as someone else. What Crocker appears to overlook or deliberately does not mention is that it is not as clear cut as it may seem.

Read the rest at DIERCKX & ASSOCIATES LTD » Fake Celebrity Profiles on Twitter.