Has multiculturalism gone too far?  

Monday, April 30, 2007


The Independent has an article up about how multiculturalism is betraying women which describes several cases in Germany where Asian women were told that they could not expect the same treatment under the law as European women. I was frankly shocked.

In the case of domestic abuse performed on a woman from Moroccan heritage, it looks like the German courts and politicians are trying to rectify the matter.

I haven't been able to find information on the other cases from other sources. The names they're reported under are probably pseudonyms. In any case I would think there would be something out there about them.

Even with only that one case though it's a chilling example how accommodating culture and religion can go to far. I'm not familiar with the German constitution, which from a brief glance on Wikipedia looks mostly to define the role of government, but I don't think most Germans would agree with unequal protection under the law. Violence perpetuated against anyone should be punishable, whether it's allowed under another culture or religion, period. It's dangerous to rule otherwise.

This is the sort of example I want to point out when critics of atheism ask how atheists can have a moral compass without religion to guide them. How can people that practice religion explain this kind of behavior? Religion doesn't make people magically good. People have to want to be moral and think about their actions. Morality is in the hands of the individual. Even with a guide book of laws, people will find a way to do wrong.

And while this may be an issue with Islam today, it was also an issue with Christianity not too long ago when the general public looked the other way on women sporting bruises as long as the act of beating wasn't public. And some Christians today still advocate violence on gay men here in America.

If religion really wants a moral leg to stand on then all of these actions should be condemned.

Hat tip to venjanz

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Carnival of the Godless #65  

Michael Klaas has the most recent installment of the Carnival of the Godless up at Light Remembered.

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Favorite 100 Songs: 1-25  

And here's the last (or the first if you want to think about it truly) of my personal favorite songs. I have listened to most of these songs repeatedly and they never seem to lose that special something I love.

So, what about you? What's your favorite or a few of your favorite songs?

1. Over and Out - Duncan Sheik
This song isn't on the track listing of Humming, but it's there at the very end. It was a pretty popular thing to do in the 90's, I think.

2. It Looks Like Rain - Jann Arden
The song beautifully captures a feeling without overdoing it. Everything in the song seems just right.

3. It's Not - Aimee Mann
A song about being stuck in a rut. Of course, it's much more poetic than my little sentence.

4. Shout Out Loud - Amos Lee
I saw Amos Lee on one of the late night shows (David Letterman maybe?) a few months ago performing this song and I loved it. People don't really live in communities anymore. We're all in our own little silos and we like it that way.

5. Fisherman's Woman - Emiliana Torrini
This song was written by Emiliana after her boyfriend was killed in a hit & run. In it she imagines that he's out to sea and she's at home waiting for him to come home.

6. Anywhere - Beth Orton
Beth records interesting music. This song has a touch of trumpets (or some sort of brass) and bass that makes it fun to listen to.

7. Nichiren - Duncan Sheik
I like how the strum of a guitar is used to sound like a drum in this song. It has a tribal type of feel to it.

8. The Beauty of the Rain - Dar Williams
I think it's the most beautiful song Dar has recorded.

9. Drive North - Perpetual Dream Theory
This song is probably my favorite love song - everything is right here, in this moment, with this person.

10. I Wish I Was the Moon Tonight - Neko Case
I could have chosen several songs from the album Blacklisted, but this one is as close as I have to a favorite.

11. Touch Me with Your Love - Beth Orton
Another interesting song from Beth. I haven't heard anything else like it before.

12. That Day - Natalie Imbruglia
You know when you have an epiphany, it's kind of like this.

13. Rise Up With Fists!! - Jenny Lewis with the Watson Twins*
Another Jenny Lewis song that's sort of gospel, but not.

14. Wish You Were Here - Pink Floyd
I had a hard time with Pink Floyd because I really enjoy their music. But it's hard to pick one song out. For example, Dark Side of the Moon is great, but I couldn't separate one song out for a list. They all belong together.

15. My Favourite Game - The Cardigans
This song was playing on the radio when I was driving home after I found out my niece died. It's always going to remind me of that. Later I saw the video and the car speeding down the highway made it seem almost surreal.

16. Speed Of Sound of Loneliness - Amos Lee
I didn't realize when I first heard this song that it was recorded by Nanci Griffith on Other Voices, Other Rooms. I think John Prine, who is a big influence on Amos, recorded it originally.

17. Attack - 30 Seconds to Mars
Sometimes you're just angry.

18. I Am the Highway - Audioslave
A song more about telling someone what you are not.

19. Babylon - Edwin McCain
I like the "funkiness" of the song. (It's not really funk though, I don't think. Don't take me literally.)

20. Samson - Regina Spektor
This song is just beautiful. It's a slightly different retelling of the old tale.

21. The Melancholy of Returning - Soren Laulainen
An instrumental that perfectly defines how I felt at one point. It still is really calming to me.

22. Raspberry Swirl - Tori Amos
This is probably my favorite Tori song, not necessarily because of the meaning of the song, but because I enjoy the disco-esque beat of the song.

23. Waltz (better than fine) - Fiona Apple
"If you don't have a date/Celebrate/Go out and sit on the lawn/And do nothing/'Cause it's just what you must do/Nobody does it anymore"

24. Whisky in the Jar - Metallica
Yes, I rated this one higher than One, but it's not because it's better musically. I just like it better.

25. Another White Dash - Butterfly Boucher
A song about traveling on the open road.

*Corrected artist - thanks anonymous

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Favorite 100 Songs: 26-50  

Friday, April 27, 2007

Here's the next list. My iPod battery died on me, so I was delayed posting yesterday.

Of all the musicians in history, what band do you wish you could see live that's no longer playing today?

I don't think I could even start speculating.

26. Home - Duncan Sheik
A love song

27. Theme - from Indigo Prophecy
Ok, this is a bit of a soundtrack piece from a video game. Yeah, it probably shouldn't count, but after playing through the game and hearing this in the background quite a bit, it grew on me. It's not much of a piece, mostly emotive.

28. Push It - Garbage
I remember the music video for this one and I thought it was great. Plus, it's a good song. I would have had more Garbage on the list, but they got bumped for other songs. They're really a great band.

29. One - Metallica
With all the other Metallica songs on the list, this one was obvious. I guess with the war it's fittingly current, but I always thought it was more about patient's rights and the right to die with dignity.

30. Freewill - Rush
I'm not a big fan of Geddy Lee's voice, but the music is just incedible. I was tempted to put in YYZ instead of Freewill or Trees, but it didn't make the list.. for now.

31. In These Shoes - Kirsty MacColl
This is a different pace and a different type of song, which is why I like it so much. Thanks to encephalophone.

32. Extrordinary Machine - Fiona Apple
It takes a few listens to get used to this song, but I really like it. For a long time it was my most listened to song in iTunes (even though it wasn't my favorite at the time). My iPod would always play this song within the first few songs when I set a list on random.

33. Angry Again - Megadeth
It's a catchy metal song. It's not the best musically, but there's just something I really like about it. I think it's the perfectly growly voice.

34. Ugly Side - Blue October
"I only want you to see my favorite part of me/And not my ugly side"

35. This Way - Jewel
Well, well, well, another love song. This one is sweet.

36. I Need Some Fine Wine and You, You Need to Be Nicer - The Cardigans
I love the title and the song is fun. Lyrics like, "I'm wasting my life/You're changing the world/I sit back and watch your head grow"

37. Operator (That's Not the Way It Feels) - Jim Croce
Dare I say another love song? I've always loved Jim Croce though. His songs are all the better for being stripped down and simple.

38. Caught a Lite Sneeze - Tori Amos
I saw this performed live on SNL (I think?) and the lady that was playing percussion was throwing herself around with such ferver that I thought she might pass out from exhaustion. Plus, an interesting use of the harpsichord.

39. Throw Me a Rope - KT Tunstall
The song sounds like it's about a long distance, or somehow distanced relationship. It's simple and well-sung.

40. Dear God - Sarah McLachlan
I've never heard the original XTC version of the song. I need to find it and download it at some point. In any case, you only have to listen to it to realize why I like it.

41. Creep - Radiohead
This song is known for its distortion-cranked guitar and for the lyrics. I remember liking it from the first time I heard it.

42. Lived in Bars - Cat Power
Another good song off the The Greatest CD. I have no idea what this song is about.

43. It's a Hard Life Wherever You Go - Nanci Griffith
This is her best song by far and it's all about lyrics.

44. Call of Ktulu - Metallica
Even though they spelled Cthulu wrong, they wrote and performed a song fitting of his sliminess. This is an instrumental, dark and mysterious.

45. Fake Plastic Trees - Radiohead
This song expresses a common human emotion without being trite and it's sung with such feeling.

46. Hearts and Bones - Paul Simon
I heard this was written for Carrie Fisher after thier relationship ended. It's a beautiful discussion/explanation of love. Yep, love song!

47. The End of Summer - Dar Williams
And as the story goes she dreams about going away to school on the moon. But the song is about saying goodbye to some time in your life and moving on.

48. Sandpaper Kisses - Martina Topley-Bird
This song also was in Indigo Prophecy (the game). At some points in the game you could turn on the radio or play the guitar and this was the song on one of the character's radio. It fit in perfectly.

49. Don't - Jewel
L,l,l,love song and very well sang and phrased.

50. Nobody Knows Me - Lyle Lovett
"This is a cheatin' song about Mexican food"

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What the Gender Genie said  



I've seen links to the Gender Genie in a few posts at blogs I read and I decided to give it a try on my blog.

Here are the articles I had it rate:

In the end, just another charity telethon - male
Why DRM is bad for you (last 6 paragraphs) - male
Favorite 100 Songs 51-75 - female
Favorite 100 Songs 76-100[sic] - male
How really not to be an asshole - female
How I became an atheist part I,II, and III - female, female, female

I'm relieved to know that I'm mostly female. I must put on my male hat when I talk about tech-y or news-related subjects.

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In the end, just another charity telethon  

Thursday, April 26, 2007

Trent Stamp of Charity Navigator has an article up about American Idol Gives Back, the charity drive and event sponsored by American Idol and broadcast on television last night.

I found myself cringing at times too. While I do believe the people involved wanted to do a good thing, I found it difficult to not feel uncomfortable when the kids were paraded out. It felt like they were coached at times and I believe one of the kids cried because he was embarrassed to be shown in such poverty.

I hope that their lives are better as a result. It certainly made me think more about my giving habits, but that was already something I've already been examining. I think Trent is right and that it won't make the public give regularly and permanently anymore than any other charity drive has in the past.

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59th Skeptic's Circle  

The 59th Skeptic's Circle is up at Pooflingers Anonymous.

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Why DRM is bad for you  

APC Magazine has an article up about Why Vista is defective by design. His arguments against DRM I find especially convincing:

Finally, all of this could be averted if the flawed reasoning that people are inherently criminals was actually thought about for a picosecond -- if the majority of people really were thieves, there isn't a business on this planet that would still be standing.

The fact is, while piracy is real (and is real eveywhere -- you can bet the local fruit shop loses a few apples a week), that the majority of the human race will buy products rather than steal them, because we all have an understanding that the world just wouldn't work otherwise.


The article also included a link to a Forbes article* which included this argument:

What the entertainment companies are finally realizing is that DRM just annoys their customers. Like every other DRM system ever invented, Microsoft's won't keep the professional pirates from making copies of whatever they want. The DRM security in Vista was broken the day it was released. Sure, Microsoft will patch it, but the patched system will get broken as well. It's an arms race, and the defenders can't possibly win.

I believe that Microsoft knows this and also knows that it doesn't matter. This isn't about stopping pirates and the small percentage of people who download free movies from the Internet. This isn't even about Microsoft satisfying its Hollywood customers at the expense of those of us paying for the privilege of using Vista. This is about the overwhelming majority of honest users and who owns the distribution channels to them. And while it may have started as a partnership, in the end Microsoft is going to end up locking the movie companies into selling content in its proprietary formats.

[...]

Unfortunately, we users are caught in the crossfire. We are not only stuck with DRM systems that interfere with our legitimate fair-use rights for the content we buy, we're stuck with DRM systems that interfere with all of our computer use--even the uses that have nothing to do with copyright.

I don't see the market righting this wrong, because Microsoft's monopoly position gives it much more power than we consumers can hope to have. It might not be as obvious as Microsoft using its operating system monopoly to kill Netscape and own the browser market, but it's really no different. Microsoft's entertainment market grab might further entrench its monopoly position, but it will cause serious damage to both the computer and entertainment industries. DRM is bad, both for consumers and for the entertainment industry: something the entertainment industry is just starting to realize, but Microsoft is still fighting. Some researchers think that this is the final straw that will drive Windows to the competition, but I think the courts are necessary.


That's scary. It's not sedition-act-blocking-my-political-free-speech scary, but it is an infringement on free rights. The entertainment industry has been able to spin DRM as copy protection - their right to protect their property. But when the property becomes yours, when a sale happens and money exchanges hands, who is protecting your rights?

Recently Shelly Batts ran into an issue when she posted a figure from a science article that she was reviewing. Under fair use she clearly has the right to cite the article, including graphics, as long as she gives the proper credit. Yet she was threatened with legal action by the publisher if she didn't take it down immediately.

She worked around the problem by creating her own figures in Excel and posting them. The publisher hasn't complained so far. Never mind that this is taxpayer-supported research or that the article was clearly posted in order to educate the community and explain why the media reports on it were inaccurate. I would call her article a benefit to the authors of the article and by proxy the publishers.

But when it comes to digital protection many companies don't care if they shoot themselves in the foot. The internet is the wild west. And they feel like they have to police it. When they step over the line and start policing things they have no right to, it's our job to make sure they are kept in check.

An individual often does not have the money or influence to fight a large company. But people can make a difference if they're willing to take a stand to preserve their rights. But most people see it as just a minor inconvenience.

What will it take to make people realize that DRM is not just bad for them on a personal, day-to-day level, but also bad for industry in general?



* The link to the Forbes article wasn't resolving for me. I was able to find it here.


Thanks to Dogic for the heads up.

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Favorite 100 Songs: 51-75  

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

And here's my next group. I originally divided them into groups of 25 because my stereo doesn't allow me to scroll through my iPod and navigating through 100 songs wasn't very fun. I had a lot of trouble with this group. It looks nothing like what I started with.



But.. here it is. Until it changes.. next week probably.

51. Pride and Joy - Stevie Ray Vaughan & Double Trouble
Stevie was a master. I'm not an expert on music and this may not be his best, but it's my favorite of his.

52. Hangar 18 - Megadeth
Another master guitar performance of another flavor

53. Sparrow - Simon & Garfunkle
A very Earth Day appropriate song, with lovely harmonies

54. Paper Bag - Fiona Apple
I especially like the lines, 'He said, "It's all in your head"/I said, "So's everything", but he didn't get it'

55. Trust - Megadeth
It starts out with a drum solo. How can you go wrong with that?

56. God - Tori Amos
Quirky and funny

57. On the Radio - Regina Spektor
I have to thank Scalzi for this one. I had dismissed this artist until I read his post on this song.

58. Things That Scare Me - Neko Case
This is almost bluegrass in music, but totally different in lyrics.

59. White Room - Cream
Great music, interesting song, and well, just a really cool vibe. I wish I could find the extended version of this song. Mine fades out during the end guitar solo.

60. The Dance - Charlotte Martin
Most of the accompaniment on this song is drums (maybe bongo), but it picks up for the chorus. It's about longing, sort of.

61. My Hallelujah - Megan Slankard
It's a lot darker than the impression the title gives.

62. Love & Communication - Cat Power
I really, really like The Greatest. I haven't been able to get into her other albums.

63. Jamaica Inn - Tori Amos
It's classic Tori, even if it's missing one of her great bridges.

64. Left of the Middle - Natalie Imbruglia
I just love the vocal. Her voice is so good on this song.

65. Life by the Drop - Stevie Ray Vaughan & Double Trouble
I think this song is a little different than other Stevie songs and I like the reminiscing.

66. Mercy of the Fallen - Dar Williams
This entire album is definitely more polished for Dar. I thinks she really hit her stride, but I don't mind her going back to more rough-edged, folk roots.

67. Holy Wars.. The Punishment Due - Megadeth
Even if you forgot everything but the guitar this song would deserve to be here.

68. Perfect Time of Day - Howie Day
Don't make excuses, just do it.

69. Beautiful Life - Ace of Base
This is a bit of a guilty pleasure, but I always liked this song.

70. You Are What You Love - Jenny Lewis with the Thompson Twins
This is a recent purchase, but I love the entire CD. It has a lot of the old gospel feel to it, without being gospel.

71. You Love Like - Megan Slankard
"You love like being alone"

72. The Trees - Rush
I heard this a long, long time ago, but it's always stuck with me. It's a beautiful, good analogy for a lot of issues. There is no perfect answer.

73. Crescent Moon - Cowboy Junkies
This song has an ethereal feeling to it. It strikes that whole medieval, fantasy, magic chord that I enjoy in stories.

74. Collide - Howie Day
Another love song.. I must count up my love song quotient at some point. I'm sure it'll be telling.

75. Suede - Tori Amos
I especially like the end of the song. It reminds me of my niece.

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Favorite 100 Songs: 75-100  

Monday, April 23, 2007

I read a post a few months ago about a certain blogger's top 100 songs. I thought, "I'm up to the challenge. Certainly I could pick out 100 top songs and post them."

The challenge was more than I realized at the time. It was very difficult to narrow it down and when I felt I had a good list I'd listen to it on my iPod... and then re-arrange the entire list on each listen. A new album would be released and sometimes I'd have to fit it in. I'd remember a great song I hadn't heard in a long time and I'd have to fit it in.

I know there are songs that should be there that I'm not remembering or that are yet to be released, but this is it, for now. This is my Non-Definitive, Top 100 Songs, For This Week Anyway List.

Please feel free to comment on the songs, whether you love them or hate them. And I'd love to know some of your favorites too. It's always good to discover new songs.

So...

76. Black - Sarah MacLachlan
I think this song is about corporations, but I've never known for sure. There are two versions - live and recorded - that are quite different. I like the recorded version for its haunting simplicity.

77. Proof - Paul Simon
I always liked the Rhythm of the Saints album and this song is one of my favorites from the album.

78. The Nurse Who Loved Me - A Perfect Circle
This had to have been written by James Iha. It has the same melodic quality of his Smashing Pumpkins songs.

79. I Love, I Love (Traveling II) - Dar Williams
This is a beautiful song about the singer explaining why she can't stay and must move on.

80. The Sound of Silence - Simon & Garfunkle
I always heard this was a song written about Kennedy's death. To me it captured what I think of as the 60's and I love the imagry.

81. Time in a Bottle - Jim Croce
Just simply a love song

82. Madrigals [Demo Version] - Howie Day
I like the feel of this song, although I'm not sure what it's about exactly. You'll hear that a lot in this list.

83. Coffee Stain - Sarah Harmer
Some songs tell a story without being a story.

84. Feel Good Inc. - Gorillaz
Ok, I'm a sucker for songs like this. I don't know why. It's catchy.

85. I Know - Fiona Apple
Beautiful written and sung

86. Song for a Winter's Night - Sarah MacLachlan
This is the closest I get to a holiday song on the list. It makes me think of spending time alone at a cabin, snowed in, in the middle of winter.

87. Hazy Shade of Winter - Simon & Garfunkle
Another song with good imagry, this time a little more upbeat.

88. Rooster - Alice In Chains
Good song, though a bit sad, considering

89. Slow Like Honey - Fiona Apple
This used to be my favorite Fiona Apple song, but it's dropped quite a bit in the last few years. I still love the lines, "When I'm gone like yesterday/When I'm high like heaven/When I'm strong like music."

90. New Orleans Bump - Wynton Marsalis
He's fantastic in concert. I wish I could find one song I slightly remember from years ago when I saw him in college. But now I'm not sure if I'm imagining it, it's so faded in memory.

91. Supernova - Perpetual Dream Theory
The lyrics are like poetry. I'm not sure what they mean exactly, but I take it this is a love song.

92. Brighter Than Sunshine - Aqualung
An optimistic love song.. go figure

93. DARE - Gorillaz
Yeah, I like this

94. Darling One - Susanna Hoffs
For me, a very touching song

95. Drift On - Butterfly Boucher
There are days I feel like this.

96. Drilled a Wire Through My Cheek - Blue October
Surprisingly catchy and just intersting.

97. Breathing Hope - Eleanor McEvoy
The only song that's ever come close to why I love music

98. Southbound Train - Nanci Griffith
This reminds me of the train trips I took in college

99. Fade Into You - Mazzy Star
Haunting, but I have no idea what it's really about.

100. Everything Changed - Abra Moore
Abra's voice isn't my favorite, but I do love her songs.

And there's more to come later this week...

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Boomer  

Friday, April 20, 2007

My mother-in-law sent this story to me. Furry Kids Refuge is where she adopted one of her dogs, a very sweet dog named Mocha. This is the dog that has to sit on my lap when I visit - all 80-90 pounds of her.

But this story is about Boomer.



Hi Friends,

My name's Boomer. At least that's the name that my foster mom gave me. I like it though. It suits me perfectly, because I'm always happy and have a quick tail wag for everyone. I even love cats and like to wrestle with them.

A year and half ago, give or take a year, I was born. Right from the start I know I was different from my siblings. They crawled around easily and were up and running in weeks. But somehow my legs just didn't work the same way as theirs. I learned early hat I didn't have normal legs like my brothers and sisters. My left front leg is only half a leg, with a hook on the end. It didn't matter to me, though. I learned to run and play anyway. Unfortunately because of the way I walk, my back and hips twisted up one me. I keptrunning anyway.

Then, when I was old enough I was given away to some lady. I don't remember her so good now. It just seems so long ago. It's a little fuzzy now, but I managed to get away from her. I wasn't free for long though, for I soon found myself in the Leavenworth animal shelter. I waited there for someone to choose me to be theirs, but no one did. Finally, the day came. I had watched many animals go into that room in the back and never return. Now it was my turn. At least there would be no more pain in my twisted up body.

But a miracle happened that day. A most wonderful woman swooped me out of that place and took me to the vet. Later that very day my foster mom came for me and took me home. It was like a whole new world. I had twelve acres to run on, horses to bark at, cats and dogs to play with and a family. I had my own family! It was like heaven, only the pain of my bent back and crooked hips continued to get worse.

It wasn't long until the work of my rescuer and president of my group got me an appointment with that emergency vet's place, on animal planet, Alameda East. Dr, Taylor said I could get a permanent implant and prosthesis to help make me a more normal dog. Only first I had to have knee surgery.

My foster mom and my rescuers got me set up for knee surgery at Mission Med Vet in Kansas. I had the surgery in March and am healing well. I even got to be on TV and in the newspapers. That was exciting.

After I am done with all my surgeries I get to be a therapy dog and help kids learn to deal with the same things I've dealt with. Maybe I'll even get to go to classrooms and teach children how to care for their pets. I'm really excited about that.

But first I need my implant and prosthesis. I get to be the sixth animal in the world to get it. One day they might use this for humans and they'll learn a lot from my surgery. But it costs a lot. We have some money saved but we used most of it for my knee surgery.

Will you help me get my implant and prosthesis? I get to be on the news again afterward. Maybe you'll even get to see me or meet me one day while I work my magic in my therapy work.

Thank you friends,
Boomer


If this is something you'd like to donate to or you would like to just find out more information about Boomer or follow his story, you can read about him here at the Furry Kids Refuge.

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How to really not be an asshole  

Thursday, April 19, 2007

A few days ago I read Chris Clarke's article on How not to be an asshole: a guide for men at Pendagon. It's a discussion about the attacks on Kathy Sierra that happened on the internet. I agree with the premise of the article. Many people have dismissed her claims stating "not enough evidence" or "the threats weren't serious." But however anyone may feel about it or about her, what was done to her wasn't right. It was stepping over the line. That has been clearly shown.

I did take exception to one paragraph in the article and the overall atmosphere of the comments. It went like this:

— If no woman in your life has ever talked to you about how she lives her life with an undercurrent of fear of men, consider the possibility that it may be because she sees you as one of those men she cannot really trust.

Men aren't evil. Men aren't the enemy. Assholes that think they can intimidate or have fun at the expense of terrorizing someone are.

I find it insulting to the human race in general. And I find painting all men with a broad brush of violence disturbing. I have respect for the men that are my friends, family, and especially my husband and I know that not one of them would step over the line into physical or psychological violence directed at a woman. I think they'd be horrified to even contemplate it.

It doesn't help his cause to villainize innocent people. It's fine to point out that dismissing Kathy out of hand is wrong. I don't even mind him telling people to shut up, because sometimes people need that. But [edit: removed don't] I think he crossed over a line himself.

I am not afraid of men. I don't live in an undercurrent of fear. Am I cautious of strangers? You bet! Do I fear someone just because he's a man? No. Would I fear a man that acts in an intimidating or threatening manner? Of course! But most men I've encountered don't.

I'm sure there are women that fear men and for good reason. I've seen the effects of domestic abuse. Maybe I've just been lucky. But I have to pin some of that luck on the very fine men that I know.

There's no reason a man should feel ashamed or be told he can't state his opinion just because he's a man. And that's the feeling I got from that article. The assholes that committed the acts in question, helped them cover up, and defended them, those are the people that are in the wrong.

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Carnival of the Godless #64  

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

The Carnival of the Godless #64 is up at Neural Gourmet.

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Interview me  

I received my interview questions from ƒåυνέ over at ...so I stabbed him in the head with a fork. If you'd like to participate, see the bottom of the post.



1. So you have a satisfying sex life?
Better than satisfying

2. Describe your most rewarding experience.
This one is hard. Probably the most rewarding time in my life was spent with my niece when she was young. It was fun to read stories to her and help her learn things. I never had a younger sister, and she was like that to me. I miss her.

3. If you were on a desert island, what three books would you want to have with you?
Starship Troopers - Robert Heinlein
(I can't remember the name and author - A Brief History of the World, I think.. will look it up and edit when I get home)
SAS Survival Handbook: How to Survive in the Wild, in Any Climate, on Land or at Sea - John Lofty Wiseman (hey, might as well be practical)

4. If you could change one thing about your life, what would it be?
5-10 years ago I could have given a laundry list. Now, not so much. I'm pretty happy with how my life has gone. Having my niece still be around will always be one thing I wish I could change.

5. If you were granted three wishes, what would you wish for?
Well, not to continue a trend here, but have my niece alive now and in good health would be first
For people to be more considerate of each other
To not have to work for a living


If you want to continue, here are the rules:
1. Leave me a comment saying, "Interview me."
2. I will respond by emailing you five questions. I get to pick the
questions.
3. You will update your blog with the answers to the questions.
4. You will include this explanation and an offer to interview someone else
in the same post.
5. When others comment asking to be interviewed, you will ask them five
questions.

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Should religion be debated?  

Friday, April 13, 2007


3 Quarks Daily has an article up about Taking Sides in the Recent Religious Debates. It's a defense of the arguments against books like Breaking the Spell, The God Delusion, The End of Faith, and Letter to a Christian Nation. I have not read any of the books. Perhaps by the end of the year I can get to them, but my book list is huge at the moment.

More interestingly he references another of his articles about a study in infants that shows how religion over-extends of some of the very mental mechanisms that underlie and make rationality possible. I'm reserving judgement until I can actually read the study. I'm skeptical of studies that aren't backed by good data, especially in the day and age of hearing how X is related to X health problem every other day in the news, but it is a thought-provoking article.

No one would dispute the right of free speech in America, but many have said that the non-religious should not be part of the religious debate. But even within religion people believe differently. It's the equivalent of asking a Christian to not comment on Islam or a Muslim to not comment on Hinduism, or a Protestant to not comment on Catholicism.

Abbas Raza puts forward this argument:

Leaving religion aside, we find the same things morally repugnant: incest, murder, rape, dishonesty, theft, etc., and we even find the same things beautiful: sunsets, poetry, music, Angelina Jolie, whatever. Why then is religion the exception? Well, because religion can be seen as just one more phenomenon in the natural world, this, I believe, is properly a scientific question, and the greatest value of the books I have been discussing has, at least for me, been to present new scientific work in anthropology, in psychology, in neuroscience, and many other fields, which bears on this question and is suggestive of possible answers.

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It takes a lot of work  

Thursday, April 12, 2007

Behold the honorable profession of belly sunning.



It takes years of practice to get the sun to hit the belly just right.

And people say cats are lazy. Phhbt!

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58th Skeptic's Circle  

The 58th Skeptic's Circle is up at Geek Counterpoint.

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A sad day  


Kurt Vonnegut dies at 84


Hat tip to venjanz

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flat tire  

Wednesday, April 11, 2007





:(


It's all fixed now. It's a good thing I ran over that thing in the parking lot (or near enough) and that the tire didn't go flat until after I was parked. I changed it mostly myself. Two guys stopped to help, but I already had the lug nuts loosened and the jack mostly up. It was nice though because my back was really hurting by that point.

The funny thing is the guy kept telling me that he wasn't helping because he thought I couldn't do it. Is that really what it's come to? You can't help a stranger because you're too afraid she'll take offense? He refused to let me buy him coffee afterwards too.

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Violent video games vs. national crime  

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Graph courtesy of Rosio Pavoris with data here


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Another look at religion  

Monday, April 09, 2007

One of my readers called me crazy for espousing to be an atheist. (I'm not picking on you encephalophone.) It was difficult to explain how going from "yeah there's )possibly something" to "no, I really think there isn't anything." Pharyngula has an interesting discussion up that references this article.

It may not be your cup of tea and that's fine if it isn't, but I found it pretty fascinating to read all of the responses. As usual there's a mixture of opinions and levels of articulation.

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what be your nerd type  

via Liatha

What Be Your Nerd Type?
Your Result: Gamer/Computer Nerd
 

You enjoy the visual stimulants of a video game, chatting on AIM, or reading online comics. Most of these types of nerds are considered dirty who lack hygeine, of course they always end up being the ones who make a crapload of money. And don't worry, that's just a stereotype; I'm not calling you dirty. ^_~

Literature Nerd
 
Science/Math Nerd
 
Social Nerd
 
Drama Nerd
 
Musician
 
Artistic Nerd
 
Anime Nerd
 
What Be Your Nerd Type?
Quizzes for MySpace

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How I became an atheist part III  

Sunday, April 08, 2007


I don't know when I finally gave up on believing in anything spiritual. I do know what influenced it. My mother-in-law runs into the craziest people. She believes them when they tell her crazy stories. They "prove" that they can do supernatural things through tricks. One told her that the body can't lie and he showed that her body responded positively to anything she believed was true. That's not proof!

I do remember when I first verbalized being an atheist. I was at a new year's party just a few months ago. I was a little drunk (a homemade martini and a bottle of wine will do that to you) and we were talking about religions and I blurted out, "I'm an atheist." I think I shocked myself. But I realized it was true. I am an atheist. I don't believe in the supernatural.

I still believe there are things that we can't explain or don't understand, but that doesn't mean that I believe in what people tell me it could be. I participated in a religion-induced lie for too long. I have to have something more than "faith" to go on. Give me proof that there's a god and I'll believe. Until then I count the probablity as too small to even consider.

It doesn't bother me like I thought it would. It doesn't make me feel any less special. It doesn't make me sad to know that I'm not going anywhere when I die. My body will be buried or cremated (hopefully cremated, but I don't really care other than the cost to my family) and I won't be alive anymore. That's OK. I have this life, as long as it is, to live. And that's enough for me.

I don't feel bad about not having a "divine" purpose either. I think we all make our own destinies with what we have. That doesn't mean that I can make everything I want happen, but that means I can try to do things with my life and try to be the type of person I want to be.

And I don't feel like I'm any less moral because I don't follow the code of law from an ancient book. I know right from wrong. I know there are gray areas that are hard to judge. I know that I'll make mistakes in my life and I'm accountable for those mistakes, even if they're accidental. And I don't think I'm a bad person because I make these decisions for myself.

Thanks to everyone who's read my history. It's been liberating to be able to share what I believe and how I came to believe the way I do. So many times I've been in conversations with people about personal belief and I haven't felt free to express myself. I don't want the knee-jerk reaction that because I'm an atheist I can't talk to someone who's religious. But I've censored myself because I don't feel it's acceptable. You've shown me that it is acceptable; that we are truly a society of free religion, or non-religion. I hope through this I'll be able to express myself better.

Other posts in this series:
How I became an atheist part II
How I became an atheist part III

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how I became an atheist part II  

Saturday, April 07, 2007

Even though I didn't consider myself an evangelical Christian anymore I still believed in God. The thought of being wrong and going to hell was too much for me to handle. But I didn't believe the Bible to be literally true to the exact word. I thought Jesus was misrepresented by later leaders in the church; there were still all of the positive teachings of Christ that were valid.

One of the guys I dated in college called himself an agnostic. He professed that he didn't really believe in a specific god, but that he thought there was the possibility that there was something out there involved in our lives. A friend of ours said that an agnostic was an atheist that was too afraid to admit that he was an atheist. I found their discussions interesting, even amusing, but I didn't participate much with my individual beliefs. I was in flux. I couldn't verbalize those changes going on inside.

I still believed in the spiritual. I thought without the supernatural there was nothing to make humans special. I explained it to myself by saying that there were plenty of things we couldn't comprehend or even theorize about and the supernatural was one of them. I loosely called it "magic."

I believed in the ability of people to influence the world through the mind, manifested in supernatural events. It was sort of like the verse in the Bible about moving mountains with faith. I still believed it was possible, but that my faith didn't have to be in God. I could do it through faith in myself.

It's not unlike what I hear about "The Secret," I'm afraid to admit. I had a group of friends that believed similarly. None of us had a set "religious" belief. We borrowed paradigms from different religions (though never Christianity) and our goal was to prove scientifically that "magic" was real. I played along, again as an enabler, not realizing that this was exactly the same thing I had grown up with dressed up in another package.

We tried little experiments and rituals, meditation, etc. Nothing more than could be explained by coincidence was ever discovered. I remember asking a friend of mine how you could tell the difference between magic and coincidence. He replied that it didn't really matter. It was all how you perceived it. That really threw me for a loop. It bothered me. If the only difference was perception, what did it matter what I believed?

My niece died unexpectedly at the age of 14. It was a huge shock to my family. I remember sitting in the funeral service, angry, thinking that Christianity was a death cult. People didn't want to let go of loved ones after death and so made up an afterlife to explain what happened, to deal with the loss and fear of death. I felt certain my niece did not go on to an afterlife; that she no longer existed except in our memories. I didn't say that to my family, of course. It was difficult enough of a time without me making it worse for my deeply spiritual parents.

Over the years I vacillated between believing in nothing and believing in "something" that I was never really able to define. But the more I looked at spirituality and the more I found out about those that professed to believe in the spiritual, the more I found fakers and con-artists.

Other posts in this series:
How I became an atheist part I
How I became an atheist part III

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How I became an atheist part I  

Friday, April 06, 2007

I was raised in an evangelical Christian household. My grandfather was a Southern Baptist preacher. I went to Christian schools. I wasn't allowed to wear shorts. I went to church 3 times a week at a minimum. When I grew up I wanted to be a missionary.

Christianity was something I fully embraced. I didn't know anything else. I was fascinated by other religions, but mostly as mythological stories. From an early age I was taught to believe I was special because I embraced God so whole-heartedly.

When I was 5 I was "saved" by asking Jesus into my heart. At 7 I was baptized in the Holy Spirit and baptized in water. Our church met at a local Day's Inn and I was baptized in the hotel pool. I spoke in tongues and I fell under the power of the Holy Spirit. I remember thinking that these things were real, but feeling like I had to pretend because I didn't know what else to do. It had to be something wrong with me not to experience it for real.

I remember once falling under the power of the Holy Spirit. I was too afraid to get up. I was terrified that someone would know I was faking it. I was too afraid to get up. One of my parents came in and started speaking to the children's pastor after a while and still I couldn't get up. I took that paralyzing fear as being under the influence of God. Eventually I just stood up, but I was down there a long time. That's the last time I did that. I was too afraid.

I went with our youth group to preach on the streets of our city. I was always polite and I felt weird being pushy, even though I wanted to be a missionary. My idea of being a missionary was like Ingrid Bergman in The Inn of the Sixth Happiness. I would show by example.

But I never became a missionary. Even though I had a full scholarship to a Christian college, my parents didn't like the idea of me leaving home for college at 17. The plan was that I'd attend a local university for a year and then I would transfer. Except that it didn't happen. It was probably my parent's worst nightmare. I fell in love and got engaged to an atheist.

I remember our discussions about religion. I told him he just needed to have faith. He told me he wished he had faith, but he couldn't fake it. He couldn't have faith in something that he couldn't see. My friends all thought he was an evil influence on me. My youth pastor, who I saw at a revival, told me that I should not be seeing an unbeliever. Eventually the pressure mounted and I started to doubt him and us. We parted ways, not very well, but eventually became good friends.

By the beliefs of my church anyone who didn't accept Christ explicitly by asking him to come into their hearts was going to hell. Jews, Catholics, Mormons, and many other denominations of Christians were going to hell because they didn't explicitly give their life to Jesus and profess him the son of God. It always troubled me that people that had never heard of Jesus were condemned to hell, but I was assured that God let them know about Him through nature (with a lower-case 'N', of course).

Despite the break-up and subsequently dating a nice, Christian guy, I had too many doubts to return to my church. The chinks were there: the history of the compilation of the New Testament and the books destroyed in the process; the Sumerian and Babylonian myths that were so close to the early Old Testament myths, yet were written down long before; the fact that I had to be subservient because I was a woman; and many more.

But the fact that I had faked much of my spirituality lay locked up inside me. I didn't think about it until much, much later.

Other posts in this series:
How I became an atheist part II
How I became an atheist part III

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blog against theocracy (apr 6th - 8th)  

Thursday, April 05, 2007

This weekend I'm participating in the Blog Against Theocracy blog swarm. To get this straight in the beginning, I am not against religion. I think anyone should have the right to believe however they wish as long as it doesn't harm anyone else. The objective of the swarm is to speak out about the separation of church and state. There should be no state religion, or theocracy, in America. No religion should be given preference over another and as such I believe religion has no place in government.

My goal is not to be offensive to those of you that believe in whatever you believe in. I plan to post some stories about how I came to be an atheist in recognition of my religious freedom. This is a new thing for me. I've never really publicly spoken out about it because it's just not something that most people like to hear.

Have a great weekend and check back at some point.

(Oh, and I have tomorrow off. My company recognizes Good Friday. No, I'm not complaining or going into work in protest.)

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what superhero would you be?  

Wednesday, April 04, 2007

via Sylvene

What Superhero would you be?
Your Result: Spiderman

Like Spiderman, you are cautious and aware of danger. You like science and fear rejection, inadequacy, and loneliness. You would have powers but you would also like to use your intelligence to outsmart opponents.

Invisible Woman
Marvel girl
Superman
Aquaman
Batman
Wonder Woman
Mystique
What Superhero would you be?
Take More Quizzes

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Ricky Gervais on Animals  

And, just in case you missed it, here's Ricky Gervais talking about Creationism in his stand up show Animals. There are jumps as it looks like the person who posted it cut and pasted for time, but it's still excellent.

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mystery tour of blogland  

Tuesday, April 03, 2007

Today I'm taking a Mystery Tour of Blogland. For me this entails typing a phrase into Google Blog Search, going to the first blog entry that occurs, then taking a phrase from the first blog entry to go to a new place, and so on.



I decided to start with the word "library" because I'm in the middle of reorganizing my library. Yes, I'm a geek, but not nearly as much of a geek as you might think.

And I was directed to ajaxian, a website for, well, they didn't actually say on the blog, but I'm assuming it's a blog dedicated to a web development technique (Asynchronous JavaScript and XML) for creating interactive web applications. I've heard of Ajax, but thankfully wikipedia clued me in on how little I knew. At least I'm learning something right off the bat from this little excursion.

The ajaxian article that the search referenced was Cruisers Behavior Library. I'm almost embarrassed to leave a comment as everyone here is so serious. But, you know, by going to this page I've committed to this tour, so I leave a weak hello.

Most of the page was programming terms and I didn't want to get stuck on only blogs dedicated to programming, so I picked a generic word - decorating.

And lo and behold there was Create My Event.com, a blog dedicated to "event planning ideas, trends, and resources," with an article titled Easter Egg Decorating Party. I'm not much of a party planner and I don't think anyone I know would enjoy this kind of thing, but it does remind me of something from childhood.

When I was in first grade we had a contest to make blown Easter eggs and bring them in to class to be judged. My sister poked holes in a dozen eggs and blew out the insides so that I could decorate them. I remember he asking me at one point if I needed so many, but I assured her I did. One I decorated with a hand drawn chick breaking out of an egg with colored pencils. I thought it was really good at the time, but I'm a horrible artist, so it can't have been very good. Maybe my sister drew it and that's why I remember it looking good.

At school the next day one of the girls threw the egg down on the ground, breaking it. I don't remember why, but I was pretty upset. Anyway, the teacher let me decorate a new egg. I remember making a face with little paper hearts, or something like that. It's almost so fuzzy that I'm wondering if this was a dream. But anyway, I won the contest and at the time even I knew it was because the teacher felt bad for me.

It's not the best memory.

I chose "Saturday night" for my next search phrase. And I went to the My Relax Place, which looks like some kind of celebrity photo and video site. I really wish these sites would post some kind of About section. The article was John Travolta’s Saturday Night Fever Dance Stances - Now and Then. Of course! I didn't learn much from this article either, but only because the first video (of the comparison) on the page was no longer available. Otherwise I'd be a John-Travolta-dancing-expert!

I chose "Ricky Gervais" as my next phrase. What could be bad about Ricky Gervais?

TV Squad didn't let me down with an article about Ricky's appearance in New York City this spring - Ricky Gervais makes his American stand-up debut in New York in May. The included You Tube clip is one of the best Creationist videos I've seen. Go check it out and come back.

So I chose "Creationism" as my next phrase/word, which took me to Red State Rabble. Red State looks to be mostly a science over fundamentalism type of blog. The article was Canada: Creeping Creationism with a link to the Toronto Star.

It's an interesting article and I do hope that teachers aren't feeling intimidated about teaching science.

From there I selected "small town America" and searched over to Best of the Blogs. Again there was nothing to explain what the blog was about, which made me think about my own blog description. "Just because you're paranoid doesn't mean they aren't really out to get you" is the tag line and I get the sense it's a political blog.

The article, Turning to Dust is about the death of small-town America. I read this article earlier today, so I feel like I'm in familiar ground. But there's something that I didn't like about the article when I read it that still strikes a sour note.

Living in a rural area is considered a sign that the person must be backwards. It isn't a new trend. Certainly there are ignorant people in rural areas, but that doesn't mean that those people are stupid, or any less people. I get a lot of flak for living in Kansas because of the political climate here. It irritates me because most of the time it comes from people who don't live here, often from people who have never visited here.

I don't live in a rural area. It's a suburb of a decent-sized city. I spent my early childhood in a small town - one elementary school, no high school, very few paved roads. The town is now almost a suburb of Chicago. I'm sure it's changed a lot. I think about visiting because I'm curious what's happened to it. But I was young. Most of my memories are hazy. It never really was my home in my memories.

I don't know that small towns are going to die out. In some places maybe. But cities are expanding out, swallowing them up too. With telecommuting becoming more commonplace people are willing to live further away. Housing prices have driven people to live further away. I think the small towns will change. We big town folks may make our way out there eventually, but people aren't going to abandon rural areas for the cities in droves until we have large areas completely devoid of residents. That's my take anyway.

From that blog I choose "Humans always have choices" and I got Positive Vibe Sanctuary, which I take is a personal blog about Alice, the blogger. Sort of like me, she writes about whatever she feels about writing. The article was Law of Attraction: If I Create My Reality: Why am I Getting This?! Part 1, a ramble something like what I would expect from The Secret.

It was difficult to read it all because I felt like screaming every once in a while. I think positive thinking is great. People can change their moods by putting things into perspective or being positive even when bad things happen. I get that. I can agree with that. But I don't think that we cause positive vibrations that attract good things and draw other people with positive vibrations to us. That's bullshit mumbo-jumbo woo, in my opinion.

Poor people, sick people, and people with great misfortune in their lives don't draw those things to them through vibrations. They can't get what they want through wishful thinking. If that were the case every child in America would have this figured out by now.

Hoping to skip my way out of supernatural magic-land I selected "neuro-psychology" as my next term and surfed to Mind Hacks. The article was titled Neuropsychology of hypnosis: referring to a recent Seed article. I didn't read much in the way of results of research, mostly notes that "more research" is necessary, but I'd be interested in hearing more. Hypnotism is one of those things that I believe is not real. I think there are people that can fall under the power of suggestion, but mostly I think people just play along with what they think they're supposed to do. Hopefully the studies will shed some light on what's happening in the brain.

And that ended my tour. I hope you guys enjoyed it as much as I did.

Mystery Tour of Blogland borrowed from YesBut

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EMI drops DRM  

EMI has announced that they will drop DRM on select songs within its collection for purchase on iTunes.

The storied British music company -- pilloried for its conservatism by the Sex Pistols in the 1977 anti-label protest song EMI (Unlimited Edition) -- took a surprisingly liberal step on Monday, becoming the first major label to drop so-called digital rights management, or DRM, software that restricts music copying. The company is gambling that music lovers won’t mind paying a little more -- $1.29 versus .99 -- for hassle-free, higher quality music files.

The mp3s will also be higher quality (256 Kbps versus 128 Kbps), which pretty much makes the cost increase worth it to me. I'm hoping this paves the way for digital music to lose the restrictions of DRM. I'm definitely going to look into EMI's catalog. They are restricting some of their portfolio, including the Beatles. So this isn't as big of a step as it seems, but it's still positive.

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Which Serenity Character Are You?  

Monday, April 02, 2007

via Pharyngula

Your results:
You are Kaylee Frye (Ship Mechanic)

You are good at fixing things.
You are usually cheerful.
You appreciate being treated
with delicacy and specialness.
























Kaylee Frye (Ship Mechanic)
90%
Zoe Washburne (Second-in-command)
75%
Malcolm Reynolds (Captain)
70%
Dr. Simon Tam (Ship Medic)
60%
Wash (Ship Pilot)
50%
Inara Serra (Companion)
45%
River (Stowaway)
25%
Alliance
15%
Derrial Book (Shepherd)
10%
Jayne Cobb (Mercenary)
0%
A Reaver (Cannibal)
0%


Click here to take the "Which Serenity character are you?" quiz...

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mondays  

I'm unlikely to post on Mondays as I'm usually catching up from the weekend. Most of my weekend is spent away from the internet, though I may be on the computer playing games (or reading, or outside like a healthy adult, or spending time with Matt or friends and family).

So I usually have at least 50 blog posts to catch up on in my reader as well as those blogs that don't allow subscriptions via RSS feeds (or the like). But, if you're ever browsing by on a Monday be sure to check out the 'My Daily Reader' frame to the left. It has everything I'm reading for that day (and all the past days). More than likely it has a link to your blog somewhere in there.

I hope everyone had a great weekend!

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