Tuesday, December 30, 2008
And here we end the year...
I really like how this week ended with just a faint crescent moon. The year is waning, but soon the new year will begin.
And here we end the year...
I really like how this week ended with just a faint crescent moon. The year is waning, but soon the new year will begin.
The Free Will Argument
But this is a gross mischaracterization. Modern law has at least some basis in the “law of the jungle,” which, aside from rewarding the powerful, also ties cooperation to fairness and reciprocation. Recent studies on both chimpanzees and dogs have shown that they have a strong moral sense. They respond negatively to perceived unfairness as all intelligent life forms do–by refusing to cooperate. Packs, prides, and tribes are all bound together by this same tension between cooperation and competition. Cheaters and free-riders are punished and cooperators rewarded. Behavior, like other traits, has an evolutionary component, and humans only have self-reflection to separate us from animals. For both, it’s a constant tension between short and long-term self-interest, between the good of the one and the good of the many. Any part of this equation that’s not innate is learned socially. Social animals and humans have always been forced by circumstances to learn to work together and reciprocate. Morality is the inevitable outcome of the interplay between individuals and the groups to which they belong.
Prop 8 proponents seek to nullify same-sex marriages
Sponsors of the California ballot measure that banned same-sex marriage are seeking to nullify thousands of marriages between gay and lesbian couples performed after the state Supreme Court ruled them constitutional.
The sponsors Friday filed responses to three anti-Proposition 8 lawsuits with the state Supreme Court. The briefs also defend Proposition 8 against opponents' legal challenges, including an argument that the amendment needed a constitutional convention to be added to the state's constitution.
US balks at backing condemnation of anti-homosexuality laws
"It's disappointing," said Rama Yade, France's human rights minister, of the U.S. position _ which she described as in contradiction with America's long tradition as a defender of human rights.
According to some of the declaration's backers, U.S. officials expressed concern in private talks that some parts of the declaration might be problematic in committing the federal government on matters that fall under state jurisdiction. In numerous states, landlords and private employers are allowed to discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation; on the federal level, gays are not allowed to serve openly in the military.
UN adopts anti-defamation resolution, draws critics’ ire
Washington, 21 December (IranVNC)—The United Nations General Assembly on Thursday adopted a non-binding resolution against the defamation of religion, ignoring critics who say that it threatens the right to free expression and can be used to silence religious minorities and dissenters.
Let's talk about clean coal
When power plants burn coal to produce energy, the coal doesn't just vanish into the atmosphere to cause global warming. No, there's a substantial amount of left-over sludge called coal ash, a nasty mess that is enriched for toxic heavy metals. It is seriously nasty stuff. This glop has to be stored, somewhere, usually piled up and walled-off, because it's not healthy for anything.
Behold what happens when the containment walls fail.
Timothy Shriver Says Yes on the Warren Choice
We are created by a compassionate God who “fashioned us with care and love in the palm of divine light” - yet has consigned the majority of the world’s inhabitants - those who, for mysterious reasons known only to the deity in question, have not been fortunate enough to be among the Chosen - to eternal condemnation. I continue to be astounded that any religious believer can hold this pair of beliefs in the same mind at the same time. Then again, what do I know? I’m still trying to figure out what the “palm of divine light” is (to be honest, it just sounds like more rhetorical flourishing to me).
Too Little, Too Late?
It took the church about 350 years to finally own up to its stupidity, and now it wants to play nice with Galileo’s memory, by sucking up to science, despite the fact that religion is still the greatest enemy of reason that exists on this Earth. (You know. The one that revolves around the sun? Yeah, that one.) Are we to fall for this? This is the same church, led by the same pope that says, today, that homosexuality is as much of a threat to the survival of the human race as climate change. Are we supposed to trust his analysis?
Who Goes There?
And recently the research team of Michael Persinger had the fortune of capturing a sensed presence event on EEG (which measures the electrical activity of the brain).
The subject is a woman who has had numerous episodes of sensed presence after a head injury. Persinger now presents a case report of her EEG, recorded while she experienced the sense of a man in the room with her when none was present. For some reason as yet unknown, 90% of time a sensed presence is of a member of the opposite sex. The EEG shows a burst of electrical activity in her left temporal lobe during the event, and of note she perceived the presence to be on her right side. (Brain activity corresponds to the contralateral or opposite side of the world.)
Hysteria in Four Acts
Despite many efforts to account for hysterical behavior by tying it to some specific underlying brain disorder, none has succeeded. For this reason, the psychiatrist Thomas Szasz famously claimed in The Myth of Mental Illness (1961) that hysteria was not a “legitimate disease.” But most psychiatrists who accept the reality of hysteria do not regard it as a disease. They see it, rather, as a behavioral disorder. It derives not from an identifiable change within a cell or neural pathway, as in the case of disease, but from provocative events within the uniquely human world of self-consciousness—the world in which one is aware of one’s own individuality and in which one’s perceptions of reality can be powerfully shaped by social structures, language, symbols, and the ideas and assumptions held by people of influence.
When I was growing up my mom baked like a mad woman for Christmas. Not only did she make cookies of all kinds, she also made candy - chocolate covered cherries, peanut butter cups, peanut butter balls, chocolate covered pretzels, and chocolate candies. She made them in quantities in the hundreds. Our house was full of baking from Thanksgiving until the New Year.
Being just the right age, around eight or nine, I was the perfect helper. I rolled the balls for the peanut butter cups, filled the molds with chocolate, dipped pretzels, mixed chocolate covered cherry filling, popped the candies out of the molds after they were frozen and set, whatever needed to be done. My mom made candy trays and gave them out throughout the holidays, but we still had more than enough left over to last us several months.
Our Christmas tradition was to eat candy and drink eggnog all morning while opening gifts. I know, my parents were absolutely crazy to give four kids a sugar high on the most excitable day of the year. Then we would go to my grandmother's house for big Christmas dinner. I'm surprised I never got sick or I didn't grow up obese. But for my parents, Christmas Day was a day to indulge, and that's what they did. My favorite thing about Christmas day was that it was a time set aside for family. We never went to church or visited friends. We spent the entire day together and we always had a good time.
My mom hasn't baked like that for years. And I haven't really either. If I ever have a decent sized kitchen I'd like to make candy again, in much smaller quantities. I might skip the chocolate covered cherries though. I really got sick of the filling over the years. It's so sugary sweet that just a little of it would make me feel ill. They were my mom's favorite though, so I never minded making them too much.
This year I made cookies to get back into the tradition a little. I decided on two recipes mentioned in my previous post - Pioneer Woman's molasses cookies and fudgy dark chocolate chip with raspberry filling cookies.
The first two batches of molasses cookies didn't turn out well. What I didn't realize is that I needed to add 3/4 cup of shortening instead of 1/2 cup. I don't know how I got the measurement wrong, but the cookies turned hard after a day. Unfortunately these were two batches that I gave to a couple of guys in the office who worked after hours for a project of mine. I'm sure they won't want my cookies again. :/
The third batch turned out wonderful, I think. The cookies spread further on the baking sheet and I didn't need to cook them as long. I haven't tried one yet because I'm afraid that I'll eat them all.
I won't be around much the next couple of days, but I wanted to wish all my readers a Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah, Festive Solstice, the Blessing of the Noodly Appendages, and goodwill in whatever you celebrate or don't celebrate this month.
With the solstice now in the past, the days are lengthening and I should catch more sunsets.
Off to bake more cookies!
Paul, over at Cafe Philos has bestowed upon me the Flower Smeller Award. I'm a bit dubious about it all. I wonder just how well Paul knows me. Me, the constant worrier, who has angst over the smallest choices, always looking forwards and backwards.
Okay, maybe that's a little dramatic... I certainly do strive to enjoy the moment, especially when I find myself fantasizing about changing past events. And I have learned that it's better to let things go than hold onto them. My rather lame motto is, "I'll do better next time," because I think they only positive thing that I can gain from past experiences, other than good memories, is a little more experience in the world and drive to handle tricky situations with more grace next time around.
And now, curse you Paul for making me pick more people to bestow this award on. I'm beginning to feel a bit like I'm perpetuating a chain letter, albeit a very nice chain letter without the crappy superstitious message.
I select PBS because she always finds a way to be thankful in the worst of situations, Venjanz because I really think it'd be interesting to read his post on this, and Vistaluna because he's one of the most fantastic, humble, intelligent, caring friends I have.
And now that my good deed for the day is done I'm off to eat babies, or whatever else atheists do during Christmas.
P.S. I'm still editing pictures. My weekly sun post should be out sometime this evening. For some reason I thought I needed a nap last night and never got around to getting back up.
Christmas preparations are almost complete, but I still have cookies to bake and a couple of grocery store runs to complete. I was planning on making more of Pioneer Woman's molasses cookies and somehow making them a little more moist this time so they don't overcook. Last time I think they got to hard after a day. My oven overheats. I still cook everything at 100 degrees below what the recipe calls for.
I also picked up dark chocolate chips with raspberry filling and decided to find a nice chocolate fudgey cookie recipe to go along with them. The Joy of Cooking had a nice one, but it's too fancy (read that as too complicated for me to want to make them in a rush). So instead I'm making these. Mmm... cookies made with cake batter.
I have an abysmally small kitchen. There's about three feet of counter space and a small strip in front of the microwave. When I cook I use all available space including the sink and the stove top. It's the only thing that makes cooking a chore. I can't wait to have a house again and a real kitchen.
Zodiacal Light Over New Mexico
Orion Dawn Over Mount Nemrut
Pennsylvania Task Force Says NO to Video Game Legislation
There is good news out of Pennsylvania today, as the commonwealth will apparently not pursue video game legislation.
A working group assigned by the Pennsylvania legislature to study the video game violence issue has strongly recommended that no laws regarding video game content should be enacted.
LittleBigPlanet used to create 36-cell computer, game of life
"Some guys put together a 36-cell simulation of Conway's Game of Life inside a LittleBigPlanet level, and it's absolutely amazing," Nina wrote us. "If you actually go through and play the level, they provide you with all of the components—logic gates, their computer clock and edge detector, a multiplexer, etc—to build your own mechanical computer. "
Rule Shields Health Workers Who Withhold Care Based on Beliefs
The far-reaching regulation cuts off federal funding for any state or local government, hospital, health plan, clinic or other entity that does not accommodate doctors, nurses, pharmacists and other employees who refuse to participate in care they find ethically, morally or religiously objectionable. It was sought by conservative groups, abortion opponents and others to safeguard workers from being fired, disciplined or penalized in other ways.
Airborne agrees to pay $7M in multistate settlement
The maker of Airborne dietary supplements has agreed to pay $7 million to settle allegations by 32 states and the District of Columbia that it made false claims about the benefits of its products. While the company admitted no wrongdoing, under the settlement, Airborne Health Inc. will discontinue any claims about the "health benefit, performance, efficacy or safety" of its supplements in preventing and treating colds and other ailments.
Typo In Proposition 8 Defines Marriage As Between 'One Man And One Wolfman'
"The people of California made their voices heard today, and reaffirmed our age-old belief that the only union sanctioned in God's eyes is the union between a man and another man possessed by an ungodly lupine curse," state Sen. Tim McClintock said at a hastily organized rally celebrating passage of the new law.
If programming languages were religions...
Java would be Fundamentalist Christianity - it's theoretically based on C, but it voids so many of the old laws that it doesn't feel like the original at all. Instead, it adds its own set of rigid rules, which its followers believe to be far superior to the original. Not only are they certain that it's the best language in the world, but they're willing to burn those who disagree at the stake.
A Sun Pillar Over North Carolina
So, did God not want to communicate his message more clearly? Or did he want to, but lacked the ability to do so? Either option poses a serious challenge to belief in a benevolent, all-wise deity. Why would God even write a book - a single book, one whose origins lie in a long-ago time and a very different culture, one that is prone to mistranslation, misinterpretation and deliberate alteration? Why grant some people special access to his word, and convey the message in such a flawed and imprecise format? Why not just speak to all of us directly, impress his message on everyone's heart?
Why Life Originated (And Why it Continues)
In a recent study called “Why did life emerge?”, two scientists, son and father Arto Annila of the University of Helsinki and Erkki Annila of the Finnish Forest Research Institute, offer some insight into the general driving force of life’s origins in terms of thermodynamics. As they explain, all organisms are composed of molecules that assemble together via numerous chemical reactions. Just as heat flows from hot to cold, these molecules obey the universal tendency to diminish energy differences, so that the most likely chemical reactions are those in which energy flows “downhill” toward a stationary state, or chemical equilibrium.
Rom-coms 'spoil your love life'
"We now have some emerging evidence that suggests popular media play a role in perpetuating these ideas in people's minds.
"The problem is that while most of us know that the idea of a perfect relationship is unrealistic, some of us are still more influenced by media portrayals than we realise."
I finally took some time to remove the power lines from a couple of photos (see the orignals below for pictures #7 & #8). Both have gone through some additional processing on Flickr as well, so they may look a little different than in original image. #3 is my favorite this week. I like #10 too.
A Halo Around the Moon
Lick Observatory Moonrise
The film follows Craig Ewert, a 59 year old British professor who suffered from motor neurone disease (MND), a disease that attacks the neurons and cripples the person, causing them to have to live on a ventilator. Mr. Ewert decided to travel to a Swiss facility in order to take a lethal cocktail to end his life, after making peace with his family, and he allowed the process to be filmed for this broadcast. It is a crime to assist a suicide in the UK, which necessitated the trip to Switzerland.
Celebrate, Respect Human Rights
On Dec. 10, 1948 the United Nations adopted the Universal Declaration of Human Rights — a far-reaching, “living” document that applies to all people of the world. Today, the UN and nations around the world are celebrating the declaration’s 60th anniversary, while also acknowledging that a lot of work still needs to be done to protect and further human rights.
Jon Stewart smacks down Mike Huckabee on gay marriage
..."I'll tell you this: Religion is far more of a choice than homosexuality. And the protections that we have for religion? We protect religion -- and talk about a lifestyle choice -- that is absolutely a choice. Gay people don't choose to be gay. At what age did you choose not to be gay?"
Torture in video-games -- a moral dilemma
Games writer and MUD inventor Richard Bartle was startled to discover that a new World of Warcraft mission includes the option of torturing a captive for information, using "some kind of cow poke." When he wrote critically about this, he was deluged with Warcraft-lovers who wanted him to, you know, chill out, it's only a game, you know. His thoughtful response raises a lot of difficult and meaty questions about fantasy play.
Editorial: FCC Commisioner wants DRM, ISP filtering, new job
Five commissioners head the Federal Communications Commission. Most of its decisions remain arcane and of interest only to specialists, but this year alone, the Commission has taken assertive steps against certain P2P throttling techniques and in favor of white space devices in high-profile cases have a direct impact on your end-user Internet experience. So, when one of the five commissioners gives a speech (PDF) in which DRM is praised as "very effective," ISP filtering is portrayed as a Great Leap Forward, and a government partnership with the RIAA to "educate" schoolkids is promoted, it matters. Fortunately, however, it won't matter for too much longer.
Fighting for peace
Myself, I've always been conflicted about military service. Growing up as a Jehovah's Witness, one of the many 'rules' was NO MILITARY SERVICE. If you joined the military, you were turning you back on "God" and putting your faith in 'Man'. No matter what country you were in. They were really big on the whole "you'll find Catholics killing Catholics and Protestants killing Protestants, but you'll never hear of JWs killing JWs"! I've always had a strong respect for those that choose to fight for the freedoms I enjoyed. I was hyper-aware, you might say, because I wasn't allowed that choice.
Well, I Swear!
I’ve wavered back and forth on the subject of swearing over the years. They’re only words, a fact I boldly, tediously proclaimed in my supposedly transgressive youth and sometimes need to remind myself now in middle age. I swear less than I used to. Not as little as my wife would prefer, of course, but still, like so many other youthful passions, less than in my salad days. I was admonished as a child that the use of profanity bespoke an impoverished vocabulary, a claim I knew to be false at the time. My vocabulary in school exceeded that of some of my teachers – yes, that sounds like terrible braggadocio, but it’s sadly true. Even then I knew that cursing, properly used, added power to one’s expressive range.
A Glimpse of the Garden
But despite its superficial advantage in motivating the flock, belief in hellfire more than loses out due to its horrendously evil implications. Carlton Pearson has glimpsed a better way - rejecting the moral absurdity of a God who permits innocent humans to suffer indescribably, then casts them into eternal damnation. He ought to take the next step and ask himself: why believe in a God that permits people, like those people in Rwanda, to suffer so terribly even during this life?
Chicks Drink. Blame Feminism.
The one thing Morris does almost get right is the role that sex plays in all of this. This will come as a shock to pearl-clutching journalists, but most women like sex. But despite all the other panicky articles about “hook-up culture” and how slutty chicks are these days, women are still judged more harshly than men for having multiple partners or short-term sexual affairs. So I suspect there are, in fact, a decent number of women who drink specifically to lower their inhibitions, and let themselves enjoy sex with a non-boyfriend.
Sean has tagged me with this Meme:
What makes you happy?
The rules are simple:
* List ten things you're happy about or thankful for.
* Tag ten people who you're happy to call friend at the end of the meme.
1. I'm thankful for my in-laws. They're a great and I'm glad I didn't marry into a dysfunctional, crazy family.
2. I'm happy that I seem to be getting better at photography. There's still plenty of room to improve, but I'm enjoying the process.
3. I'm happy that all of my family members are all relatively healthy and happy.
4. I'm happy that it's Christmas-time and I get to plot and scheme and try to surprise a few people.
5. I'm happy that my hairdresser didn't shave my head when she butchered my hair this time.. I think?
6. I'm thankful that I've had a life filled with opportunities and that even when times were hard I always made it through, never had to starve or go without most necessities.
7. I'm happy it snowed yesterday and everyone in the office was talking about it.
8. I'm thankful for all of my friends that have been there for me over the years offering advice or just to listen.
9. Books. More specifically well-written, interesting books make me happy.
10. I'm happy that today is my fourth anniversary and that we've made it four years without falling out of love with each other. Sometimes we take a step back in the evolution, but we're continuing to adapt to each other and become better partners for each other.
and anyone else who reads this
I recently finished listening to this podcast from the National Constitution Center and it had a lot of new ideas. I wasn't really aware of a lot of the rules surrounding the election process, so it was enlightening in the least.
If you have some time, give it a listen. Right click on the Original audio source link and select save as to download it to an mp3 player.
The 29th Humanist Symposium is up at a Nadder and my article on gay marriage and adoption was included. Michael wrote this edition in haiku format.
Also, Chappy at An Apostate's Chapel is currently hosting the Carnival of the Godless Holiday Feast Edition.
From Moonrise to Sunset
In this panorama of Earth and sky recorded on Thursday, November 13, the Full Moon rises along the eastern horizon at the far left. Of course, the Full Moon rises at sunset and that Thursday's setting Sun was also captured at the far right. In between, 17 digital images are stitched together to follow the horizon to the south in a lovely twilight portrait of the city of Lisbon, Portugal. The serene view takes in part of the longest bridge in Europe, the Vasco da Gama bridge, beneath the rising Moon and ends at the mouth of the Tagus River looking west toward the sunset and the Atlantic Ocean. The photographer's vantage point was Lisbon's 100 foot high Cristo Rei monument on the south bank of the Tagus, at the foot of the port city's other famous bridge, the Ponte 25 de Abril.
A Happy Sky Over Los Angeles
Venus in the Moon
Smile in the Sky
Here We Go Again
“City leaders have demonstrated their clear bias towards protecting and providing special privileges to their favored religious beliefs, in clear violation of the California and United States Constitutions. I would like to think that few Christians are so insecure in their faith as to support this action.”
Why I am no longer a Christian – Part 1
I was taught that God loved me so much that he let his son be killed for me. Yet, I knew that if I were to love someone, I would not create them with built-in conflict that guaranteed unhappiness on some level. If I were to give into my sexual urges, I would be sexually happy but spiritually distraught. If I were not to give into my sexual urges, I would be spiritually happy but sexually frustrated. I saw animals (who I believed God also created) roaming free with a single purpose in mind—to fulfill their nature. They were not conflicted to behave against their nature. Indeed, it would have felt cruel for me to deny any animal its natural needs—and yet I was to believe that God’s denial of my natural needs was out of love.
Christianity offers an explanation for this—that my nature was sinful, and that I differ from the animals because I have a soul. I was told not to question God’s ways, because “there is a way that seems right to a man, but the end thereof is the way of death.” I was also told to “lean not unto my own understanding.” I was told to just trust The Lord. My nature was evil, and The Lord had created a way to redeem my nature. The entire theory of salvation became extremely convoluted, with little branches and secret compartments to explain away all the various lapses in logic.
Why churches fear gay marriage
The possibility that a whole new generation of American males is being raised by women without men is very challenging for the churches. I think they want to reassert some sort of male authority over the order of things. I think the pro-Proposition 8 movement was really galvanized by an insecurity that churches are feeling now with the rise of women.
Monotheistic religions feel threatened by the rise of feminism and the insistence, in many communities, that women take a bigger role in the church. At the same time that women are claiming more responsibility for their religious life, they are also moving out of traditional roles as wife and mother. This is why abortion is so threatening to many religious people -- it represents some rejection of the traditional role of mother.
Gay Adoption: The Real Agenda
Consider the implications of the policy in this case. It would mean removing the children from the home in which they have been raised -- "one of the most caring and nurturing placements" the guardian has ever seen. It would mean putting them through the trauma, once again, of being uprooted and placed with complete strangers. And because of the difficulty of placing kids their age, the CFCE said, it could mean the brothers would be permanently separated from each other.
And for what? Solely to shield them from the supposed perils of gay parents. Gays are treated as more dangerous than felons, drug offenders and known child abusers -- none of whom is categorically barred from adopting.
UFC to fighters: appear in videogames or you don't fight
Sports-themed video games are huge moneymakers for publishers, but using the likeness of a professional athlete in these games is proving to be an increasingly contentious undertaking. The upcoming UFC Undisputed 2009 serves as the most recent example of this, as reports surfaced yesterday that popular fighters Jon Fitch and Josh Koscheck were on the outs with the Ultimate Fighting Championship organization. The reason? They were being asked to sign away their likeness rights for life. For Fitch, the disagreement has become so intense that he had already been cut by the company.
Moral money managers now slamming games for GLBT content
With the holiday season upon us, shoppers are kicking their spending into high gear, and these consumers often consult gift guides for advice on what to buy. A popular choice? Creating lists that advise parents on what to NOT buy their kids. In the video game industry, we've all gotten used to seeing such lists surface around this time of the year; this week, we were treated to such an item by The Timothy Plan, a group that manages money based on Judeo-Christian principles. While profanity and violence were on the list, the group's attitudes toward homosexuality are what raised the most attention.
Atheist group sues state Homeland Security department
Edwin Kagin, a Boone County lawyer and the national legal director of American Atheists, said he was appalled to read in the Herald-Leader last week that state law establishes praising God – and installing a plaque in God’s honor – as the first duty of the Homeland Security Office.
The aftermath of the Mumbai attack
They say it’s over but how do we, the common citizens cope with this? It’s going to take some time for life to get back to normal and I am not sure that I want it get back to normal. We are a nation in mourning and will be for some time. I was not anywhere near the death and destruction, although a person I know was trapped in there the whole night. He got away unscathed but many didn’t. Images flash before my eyes. 60 innocents, men, women, and children, shot on v.t station as they alighted from trains. 17 men and women lined up in a hotel corridor and shot to death mercilessly. The Israeli rabbi and his wife tortured to death on wednesday night. Brave firemen rescuing people trapped in the Taj Mahal hotel rooms even as the battle raged on, unmindful of the bullets. A police jeep ambushed, killing three brave men. Hotel staff maintaining their calm and helping guests out of the hotel, risking their own lives. People huddled in their rooms, frightened to death. Terrorists shooting civilians on sight, killing hundreds. Two killers cornered at Girgaum chowpatty by policemen. NSG commandos storming the hotel and Nariman House…
The Lil’ Hos Go Down
Knowing my utter loathing for the whorelicious line of dolls known as Bratz, the entire concept of which seems to be to show little girls just how good life will be if only they will turn themselves into vapid pre-teen mall sluts, several people have forwarded me stories of how a judge has ordered Bratz dolls — all of them — off the shelf after the company that made them lost a copyright suit to Mattel, maker of Barbie. Their expectation is that I would be greeting this news with something close to joy.
Why “Twilight” is hurting America
This movie makes me sad at so many levels. But most of all, it makes me sad that thousands of teenage girls, including my niece, think this is one of the greatest movies ever. That this is how love is supposed to be. That it’s romantic to subsume your entire being for a boy with a spiky haircut and awesome abs. And that the only way to attract said man is to look a certain way. Edward never fell in love with Bella’s mind, her kindness or her wit. He noticed her because of how she looked and, moreso, how she smelled.
Hitler And Stalin Again
The point that struck me was that contrary to the usual Christian blather about how horrible atheists have been in the 20th century, it is the religion of Christianity, specifically that of the Inquisition, that compares more favorably to Nazism and Stalinism, than anything even remotely atheistic. The Inquisitorial Toolbox, as Kirsch refer to it, was left open and used repeatedly by the Nazis and the Stalinist Russians, and not because they were atheists, but because they were dogmatists whose primary directive was mind control of the population, not conversion to atheism.
Why Bother to Promote A Healthy Attitude Towards Nudity?
On the other hand, there are at least two, broad reasons for somewhat caring how nudity is viewed (shameless pun intended). First, the notion that nudity is scandalous, immoral, and even dangerous contributes to all sorts of socio-political absurdities. Janet Jackson once exposed her nipple for less than two seconds on national television and caused a controversy lasting several days that at its peak swept aside major news stories. A school teacher was reprimanded then fired for taking her children to a museum that displayed nude sculptures. A grandmother was prosecuted for photographing her two partly-clothed granddaughters bouncing on her bed. Here in Colorado Springs, a woman threatened to sue a drug store for “trauma” after she accidentally received images of a nude man from the store’s photo lab. And a man in another state was once convicted of sex offender charges for walking about nude in his own home without closing his drapes. All of these examples and others point to some of the consequences of our accepted, but ridiculous attitude towards nudity.
Just doing my part to stimulate the economy...
Actually these were mostly a result of Amazon's Cyber Monday specials. We might have a few more showing up tomorrow, but our Christmas shopping is almost done with hardly hitting a physical store.
I made a pledge to stop being so negative after ranting about work for the past two weeks on Twitter, but I have to say it. Winter sucks.
Normally I like winter, or at least, in the dog days of winter (February), I tolerate it. The cold has never really bothered me unless it's really cold. And really cold for me, for those of you in Canada, is below freezing for weeks at a time. Okay, so that's not really cold, but it's cold enough. Even when it was too cold outside to really feel comfortable I could always curl up on the couch with a blanket and a book and be fine.
I even tried to talk Matt into moving further North a few times. I may not enjoy winter, but I absolutely hate summer. Early summer is all right. Once it gets above a reasonable temperature, which is not far above standard room temperature, I'm miserable. I've never been able to take the heat very well. I blame it on growing up with air conditioning.
But this year winter hit me suddenly. I'm freezing my fucking feet off and it's not even really cold yet. I don't know if it's getting sick right as the weather is changing or not pulling out my winter wardrobe quickly enough, but it's chilling me to the bone. I dread going outside to take pictures. Last year I was content to throw a robe over my PJs and run outside barefoot. This year I'm still shivering with a coat, gloves, scarf, and boots.
Hopefully I'll adjust, but it sucks to be longing for Spring before Thanksgiving is even over.
There wasn't much sun this week and I didn't look for photos very often since I was sick, but I think this set captures the feeling of the weekend very well.
I admit it. I didn't finish The Canon. I just didn't like Angier's writing style. She skipped all over the place in a manner I found frantic. I'm happy that she's enthusiastic about science, but I couldn't get a coherent story from her without jumping around through three or four at the same time. I found myself skipping pages, then chapters, and finally putting the book down for good.
I also skipped the last story in Fisherman. I enjoyed the stories, but when she got into the Hanish, I lost interest. I haven't read any of her Hanish novels and the story just didn't grab me. After slogging my way through the second-to-last short story, I stopped once I realized the last story would be more of the same. I don't know if I should consider the book completed, but I finish the rest of the stories, so I'm claiming it anyway.
Despite that, I'm looking forward to Wave, a collection of essays, and I can't wait to start on The Universe, a similar book to The Planets, which I read earlier in the year. It's a collection of essays on astronomy mixed with science fiction short stories.
Read in November
Ultimate Guide to Digital Photography 2nd Edition - David Fearon
A Fisherman of the Inland Sea - Ursula K LeGuin
Water for Elephants - Sara Gruen
The Wave in the Mind - Ursula K LeGuin
Coming Up Next
The Universe - Byron Preiss (Editor)
No reader today. I'll combine the reader items I have tagged from this week with next week.
I'm still sick. I feel, well, disgusting. I won't even go into it.
It's snowing. It's been snowing since last night and I can't even get excited about it.
Here are a couple of pictures of the floppy dogs from Thanksgiving to tide you over.
The turkey is wrapped and ready to go. The potatoes are mashed. The stuffing is baked (though not browned yet), the casseroles are done, and the wine is spiced. The gravy is in the crockpot getting thick and we're about to take off for Thanksgiving.
I'm thankful though for my family, my in-laws, and my husband. I'm thankful that during this time when people are worried about the future, we still have plenty. I'm thankful for good friends and good food. The only thing I'm not thankful about is that somehow yesterday I developed a cold.
I hope you all have a great day, wherever you are, whether you're celebrating or not.
Chappy has tagged me with the Six Things Meme.
These are the rules:
1. Link to the person who tagged you.
2. Post the rules on your blog.
3. Write six random, arbitrary things about yourself.
4. Tag six people at the end of your post and link to them.
5. Let each person know they’ve been tagged and leave a comment on their blog.
6. Let the tagger know when your entry is up.
#1 & 2 are done. On to the rest.
1. I love making the traditional Thanksgiving dinner. I've never had a turkey that's as good as a home-cooked turkey. You cannot get turkey that isn't processed unless you make it yourself, at least I've never found any. I only make it at Thanksgiving and occasionally Christmas because with two people in the house, there's too much to eat. So I prefer to make it and take it over to someone's place to share.
2. I still bite my fingernails. I've tried to stop for 20 years.
3. I don't have a favorite food or favorite color. In fact, I find it difficult to pick a favorite of anything. My tastes change too often.
4. I do have a favorite flower though, and it's stock.
5. I'm the youngest of four, by many years. I used to get picked on for being too young. Now I can pick on them for being old.
6. My university gave me foreign language credit for taking classes in programming languages. I took one year of Spanish in junior high school. I always wished I was more proficient in at least one more language, but I'm too lazy to do anything about it.
In accordance with rule 4, I am tagging the following people:
I wasn't very happy with the way most of the photos turned out this week, but some of them aren't too bad. #3, 5, and 9 are my favorites.
Last Tuesday was an anniversary for my husband and I. It was the date four years ago when he proposed to me. It's also the birthday of one of my best friends, which is why I actually remember the date.
Another friend also reminded me this year that it was also the 30th anniversary of the Jonestown deaths. Thanks, dude. Way to go ruining one of my favorite days of the year.
I'm old enough to remember Jonestown. I was pretty young when it happened, but I know it was a big blow to the religious community my family belonged to. Although Jim Jones had been completely discredited by the time of the deaths, his movement, always viewed as somewhat eccentric, was seen in a good light by the charismatics. Here was a man who was making things happen in the name of God.
And even now, watching the documentary there are many positive things that he and his followers did. I find it sad that a movement, which could have been positive and peaceful, ended up being such a tragedy.
It was earlier in 1978 that my parents moved to North Carolina to join the movement of another Jim. Fortunately Jim Bakker never called on his followers to give up their lives. I never thought of PTL as a cult, but as I was watching the video of Jonestown I noticed many parallels between the two movements. Both men exhibited an extreme paranoia of the government and an ego maniacal sense of godhood. Both wanted to build an empire.
But for all I reject the teachings of the community, PTL was still a positive experience for me. People worked hard, often many hours without sleeping to make sure everything was perfect for Jim. Yet, for the most part we were happy. We were a community pursuing the same purpose. Parents felt safe about having their children there.
I think that there must have been an underlying sense that something wasn't quite right. How many people really questioned what we were doing? I know my mother had questions, but we stayed in the community. We continued as if nothing would ever change.
How many people at Jonestown felt the same way?
I guess I'll never know how far I would have gone in the name of religion. My gut reaction is that I would have never gone so far as to harm myself or my friends or family. But what makes a community turn from productive and happy to paranoid and deadly?
You are a Career Girl!
You may not be a CEO yet, but you're well on your way to success. You take your career seriously, and you wouldn't stop working for any guy! An independent woman, you pay for your own car, clothes, and housing. And men appreciate that - at least, the ones as driven as you are.
Anticrepuscular Rays Over Colorado
Conservative, Strict-Constructionist Judiciary
Even though the courts may issues rulings with which I do not agree, I am pleased that our judicial system recognizes that society progresses and evolves and that laws need to be understood afresh within that changing context. Though we hold our Founding Fathers in respect, a dynamic view of the judiciary recognizes that their views and writings are not divine writ. They may have been insightful, but they did not envision our contemporary society with its plethora of issues, nor are their views without flaws that subsequent generations have had to address. They themselves understood this, which is why they build an amendment process into the Constitution. I am pleased with a dynamic posture of the judiciary, for a fixed view of the Constitution and Bill of Rights is not justice. A static posture is blind legalism which, as the decades pass, creates an unjust judicial system that lacks wisdom and fairness.
Spore designer promotes used games, doesn't mention EA's DRM
I had a remarkably similar reaction to reading this article about why used game sales are a good thing on Soren Johnson's Game Design Journal. He makes many good points: GameStop is a part of this industry, and having specialty game retailers is a good thing, more people buying games means more people are playing games, and people who buy used games may buy new games in the future. Good man, these are things I like to hear from the industry; if you buy a new game you should be able to sell it, and if someone wants to put a game on eBay or sell it to GameStop they should have that power. You're preaching to the choir, and it's good to see someone in the industry stand up for consumers. Who is this Soren Johnson guy, anyway?
Yeah, he works for EA Maxis. He was a designer/programmer on Spore.
'Playing Gods' satirizes religious violence
A typical steely grey wrath card would "Bring down the Darkness: Kill two sects," while a sunny yellow conversion card recalls Elijah's showdown with a priest of Baal in the Bible (1 Kings 18:38). "Another god's follower challenges you to prove you exist; you fry him with lightening in front of a crowd. Gain one sect."
Is It Historic Because He’s Black?
I asked my mom about this.
“What’s so historical about electing Barack Obama President of the United States?”
In a hushed voice, she answered, “Don’t you know he’s black?”
“Yes, Mom. I know he’s black. That doesn’t answer the question.”
Or does it?
Obama Isn't a Citizen!
So here's the deal, you pus-brained paranoiacs: You are the true enemies of America. This country is founded on democracy and the rule of law. You are undermining both of those right now, and that makes you an enemy of my country. That makes you my sworn enemy as well, because I have in fact taken an oath to defend my country and its Constitution against all enemies, foreign and domestic. I for one am sick of your bullshit, and especially your pretense at being "real America" while you relentlessly attack our Constitution's guarantees of freedom, equality, democracy, and the rule of law. So please shut the fuck up right now. About 7 years ago I demanded my money back from a benefit concert I went to because the person in charge felt the need to announce that "George Bush is not my president." I hated it when liberals did it, and I hate it just as much when you conservatives do it. Whether that person liked it or not, Bush was her president. And whether you like it or not, Obama is going to be your president. So shut up, grow up, and deal with it like adults, not like the whiny little bitches we all know you conservatives really are.
The Roman Catholic Church - Still Screwing Up!
I personally have this to say to the Rev. Roy Bourgeois. I don’t believe in your god or your religion. But I do very much admire your courage to stand up for womens’ rights in this matter. Because as long as there is there is something in our society that men can do that women are not allowed to do, it diminishes us as a people.
is religious fervency hormonal?
When the service was over, I stopped in the ladies room before driving home and was glad that I had a tampon in my purse from last month. As I took the tampon out of the wrapper, it hit me. I was crying because I had PMS, not because God was speaking to me. Had this happened before? How many times? Had all of my spiritual awakenings been the result of hormone fluctuations? I didn’t want to think about it, but I couldn’t stop myself.
Over at The Apostate's Chapel there's been a lively discussion over California's Proposition 8. Here are some of the arguments offered up by the opponents of same-sex marriage (these are actual quotes):
I was a little bummed that all of the leaves are brown now and falling off the trees. But with the leaves mostly gone I can see the amazing shapes in the branches of the trees. Especially in silhouette, they're striking.
I'm experimenting with new places. The gray days have caused me to experiment with other kinds of shots. I still miss shots because the sun sets so fast now. I found an incredible new location for sunsets not far from work, so hopefully I can catch a few beautiful sunsets in the next couple of weeks.
I also learned that it's not a good idea to run out into a corn field after the rain in heels. It's a good way to ruin a brand new pair of shoes. Note to self: Keep a pair of old tennis shoes in the trunk.
Do you enjoy word games? Is your vocabulary above par? Do you want to improve your vocabulary? Well then Free Rice may be the game for you. The game was invented by John Breen to teach help his son study for his SATs, but with a twist. For every correct answer, 20 grains of rice to feed the hungry, primarily in Bangladesh.
Breen pays for the donation with a rotating ad and his site has led to the distribution of 17 billion grains of rice, or over 850,000 people fed for a day.
So if you have a few free minutes today, give it a try. See how far you can get with your vocabulary. Improve your mind and also do something good for the world.
These posts were too fun to let them die permanently, so my reader is back. I hope you enjoy the selections.
On the Trail of 2008 TC3
The Conservative Devaluation of Marriage
Over the past several centuries, Western conceptions of marriage have broadened. These days, the ideals of married life include companionship, shared goals and love - the union of spirits as well as bodies. These are ideals that heterosexual married couples strive to achieve and maintain in their relationships. These are ideals that same-sex couples want to share, but continue to be denied because American society persists in viewing marriage primarily as a sexual union. Yes, sex is an important and enjoyable facet of marriage, but it is only one component of a relationship that encompasses far more than the exchange of bodily heat and fluids. Same-sex couples don’t want to get married to have sex - they’re already doing that (just as most heterosexual couples are, regardless of marital status). Same-sex couples want to get married so that they may enjoy all of the legal, financial, social and interpersonal benefits of marriage that heterosexuals enjoy. I’m still waiting to hear a good reason why those benefits shouldn’t be extended to them.
GM: General Mess
GM’s third quarter results are very telling. They burned through $6.9 billion of cash in the past three months. (Yes I know- you didn’t think we would hear the term “burn rate” again after the dot com bust). At this rate, GM will be technically insolvent in about three months. A $25B loan might float the company for about one year. Then what?
LittleBigPlanet IP-infringing levels being silently deleted
Kotaku is reporting on the clamor that began with the popular LittleBigWorkshop forum and is quickly spreading across forum communities like NeoGAF and GameFAQs. Users are reporting that copyright-infringing levels, even those with no unsuitable content, are being silently deleted. "My level was moderated (read; deleted) and now I can't re-publish," wrote one frustrated gamer. "There was absolutely nothing offensive whatsoever in the level at all and I was given no explanation as to why they moderated it or why they won't even let me republish, even after making changes."
Today is Veterans Day. It's not Memorial Day. It's not a day to refuse to fight wars - some wars are necessary. What it is is a day to honestly assess the price of the war - any war - to those who fight it and come home, and to promise ourselves to do the right thing by them. Because it is the right thing. Because we owe it to them. Because we sent them into harm's way, and they were harmed, and our contract with them is to take care of them.
The Post-Election Show: Is It Time to Pop the Champagne
Just in case you missed last week’s headlines, the herd announces the election of a new American president. SI asks if Barack Obama’s election will have positive ramifications for freethinkers, humanists and atheists. OG and Chappy speak their minds and SI pulls their ideas together, then ponders whether the election results will change the role of the Religious Right in American politics.
To know more about a god, look to its creators. Why are human beings jealous? The answer, as in many things, lies in evolution. If our male ancestors were unconcerned with their mate's fidelity, they might well end up using their time and energy to raise other men's children, rather than propagating their own genes. That variant would soon die out of the gene pool. By contrast, the ancestors who jealously guarded their paternity are the ones whose genes were passed on to us. A similar principle holds for our female ancestors: those who demanded that their mate spend his effort on caring and providing for their own children, rather than the children of another woman, would be far more likely to pass on their genes than those who were indifferent. In both cases, in the brute calculus of reproductive success, jealousy wins and free love loses out.
God on Trial: The Rabbi Speaks
The Hand Scanner Of The Beast
We at Recognition Systems understand that these fads alone may not completely allay the fears of these concerned individuals and would like to offer a solution that completely eliminates any concerns regarding the “mark of the Beast” In the Book of Revelations, chapter 13, verse 16, it is written, “he forced everyone, small and great. rich and poor, free and slave, to receive a mark on his right hand or on his forehead”. The Scriptures, regardless of version, consistently refer to the “mark of the Beast” being found or placed only on the RIGHT hand or forehead. Therefore, we suggest that any individual having concerns regarding the “mark of the Beast” be enrolled and use the hand scanner with their LEFT hand turned palm up.
You may have noticed that I've started editing my photos. I'm not doing very much. Occasionally I'm sharpening or boosting the color, but sometimes the color is almost too bright on its own. The pictures from Friday have not been color-edited. The sky really did look like it was on fire.
I've had more people stop me while I'm taking pictures to ask me what I'm taking pictures of or to give advice about the shot. One guy asked for my card and said he'd send me list of locations in this area that are good for sunrise pictures. I gave him my business card, but he never emailed.
I'm hoping that means that he just chickened out (or it's stuck in the spam filter - I keep forgetting to check). I really hope that he's not crazy or anything since he knows my name now, a general idea of where I live, and where I work. I didn't even get his name. But more than likely it's not a big deal.
Now that the sun has moved further South I'm still looking for new spots to take sunrise and sunset pictures. There are a few fields near where I look that might work, but it's getting hard to get set up before the sun has set and I'm not feeling very motivated lately to get up before 6 am.
I also imported all of my pictures from early this year into Flickr and wow, I can really notice the difference with the new camera. I think my shots are more interesting now too. Anyway, I can hope I'm improving. Thanks to everyone who's offered encouragement over the months. It's been a long project and I can't wait to show you my favorite shots at the end of the year.
One thing that really struck me when reading a prior Nonbelieving Literati selection The Flight of Peter Fromm is the blood. Throughout Christianity, even back to its Jewish roots, there's the concept of the blood sacrifice as an absolution of sin. These days the idea of blood sacrifice is no longer socially acceptable, so the sacrifice has become more of a symbolic thing.
But, there are still many, many Christian hymns that are, to excuse my wording, blood-drenched. Take for example the hymn that I haven't been able to get out of my head for the past three weeks - Power in the Blood.
Yesterday I voted for some Democrats and Republicans and even Independents. The most disturbing thing is that my polling location was the host of this. I really need to go for the laughs next time, but I'm afraid I'd just get pissed off.
These aren't as nice as last week, but they're not bad. The sun is shifting more to the South and before the time change, I was on the road to work during the last phases of the sunrise.
One of my favorite spots to take pictures in the morning is now a construction area. It's where I caught the what I think were the hawks in flight and the fields of gold. Ah well, there have to be more places, right?
The last picture is the moon and Jupiter. You may have to enlarge the picture to see Jupiter, but it's the small point just above the moon.
After a brief tour of Catawba County, I drove into Burke County to the South Mountains State Park and hiked one the easiest trails, the High Shoals Falls Loop Trail. Much of the hike was straight up steps built into the side of the mountain. But the views were well worth the effort.
This is a nature hike, so there are lots and lots of trees, leaves, rocks, and water. The view from the top was breathtaking.
I really miss the mountains. Next time I visit I'm going to try for one of the scenic overlooks.
Read in September
The Android's Dream - John Scalzi
Hart & Boot - Tim Pratt
Remembering Hypatia - Brian Trent (Nonbelieving Literati)
The Canon: A Whirligig Tour of the Beautiful Basics of Science - Natalie Angier
Ultimate Guide to Digital Photography 2nd Edition - David Fearon
Coming Up Next
A Fisherman of the Inland Sea - Ursula K LeGuin
Water for Elephants - Sara Gruen
I enjoyed the ideas and the story in this book, but the characters drove me nuts. It's not really the writing that I have a problem with so much, but the notion that people can be characterized as "good" and "evil".
I have a problem with absolute good and evil or good and evil personified. In fiction I'm more lax in my judgments, but I think that Trent could have made a better point if he wouldn't have made his characters so one-sided.
Issues rarely have only two sides. They're too complex to be divided into right and wrong, good and evil. Yes, I can sometimes say with absolute certainty that something that is being done in the world is wrong. But that doesn't make the people behind it evil.
The mob may perform horrific acts when goaded by dishonorable words and actions, but they are in the end still people. They're the people like the ones I interact with everyday. They're people just like me.
Cyril and Peter were like Gargamel and Azrael - cartoon characters, except without the comedy. They had their own dreadful inflictions, but nothing they did was ever remotely portrayed as human.
I realize it's a tried and true tactic to make a person into something alien or hateful in order to dehumanize him or her. When we go to war it's considered patriotic demonize the other side. But rational, intelligent people should be able to look past the devil horns.
Even so, every group to some extent, personifies the people who are outside the group as different whether they're not as smart, not as moral, not as trustworthy, not as charitable, or in some other way not as virtuous or not as good. It's an instinctive urge we all feel.
To give over to that urge is the real tragedy. In the end it's really ideas that are the true enemy.