This Weeks Reader March 30, 2008  

Sunday, March 30, 2008

American Atheists in the Mini-apple
Ellen Johnson, president of American Atheists, kicked things off with a rousing and impassioned speech on political action, mainly addressing the fact that secular voters do represent a major voting block which should not be allowed to be ignored by politicians. She called for solidarity and strength, urging atheists to remain engaged rather than giving up, especially in the face of flagrant constitutional violations, and to resist caving to our frustrations.

Zombie Jesus Day
What we see, through Zombie Jesus, is perhaps the worst thing a zombie can do, and that's found a religion. Now this may seem to have nothing to do with zombies desiring to eat your brains, but in fact is quite an ingenious scheme to devour the brains of countless millions, and having them voluntarily, often happily, offer their brains for sacrifice. Yes, that Jesus Zombie is a clever bastard. Every day it feeds on brains.

Microsoft punishes Gamerscore cheaters with public branding
With the battle for high scores comes a high probability of cheating. When it comes to buffing one's Gamerscore on the Xbox 360, though, Microsoft has drawn a line in the sand. Microsoft's Major Nelson has documented the punishment for players caught cheating and it's surprisingly public. Following a recent round of "serious offender" identification, the company has come forth with a set of documented penalties.

Second Life lawsuit over purloined naughty bits settled
The not-nearly-as-sordid-as-you-might-think story goes like this. 19-year-old Robert Leatherwood allegedly stole scripts written by Florida-based Eros, LLC that gave people's avatars lifelike naughty bits and enabled them to engage in kinky, virtual sex. He then resold them without permission, which sparked a lawsuit from Eros founder Kevin Alderman over copyright violations last July. That was apparently when Leatherwood decided to stop selling the scripts, according to the Associated Press, and was likely part of the reason Eros decided to settle.

WoW bot maker sued after home visit from Vivendi attorney
However, Donnelly's bot is particularly powerful. While many popular bots, such as the infamous Fishing bot from Final Fantasy XI or the crafting macro-botting of Star Wars Galaxies, are limited to a single task, Glider can automate the majority of the game. "Glider works a lot like a regular player. It looks at your health, mana, energy, etc. It moves the mouse around and pushes keys on the keyboard," the software's web site explains. "You tell it about your character, where you want to kill things, and what to kill. Then it kills for you, automatically. You can do something else, like eat dinner or go to a movie, and when you return, you'll have a lot more experience and loot."

Rockstar and Amazon bring digital music distribution to GTA4
Citing the success of downloadable music sales as implemented in Rock Band as an inspiration, but boasting the ability to take songs outside of the game, Amazon and Rockstar are looking for similar results from players of Grand Theft Auto 4. "Music has long played an integral part of the game playing experience," said Ronn Werre, executive vice president of EMI Music's Sales, Licensing and Synchronization unit, in a statement. "We think giving players the ability to identify and buy their favorite tracks from Grand Theft Auto IV's popular radio stations is a great new music discovery tool for fans and an innovative new revenue stream for artists."

Grandma, grandpa get owned by Illinois' failed gaming law
The way the legal fees were paid has been an ongoing concern. In May of 2007 we discovered that the governor raided funds throughout state government to pay for the litigation. Some of the areas money was taken from included the public health department, the state's welfare agency, and economic development department. If you had cash, you gave your funds to pay for the failed legislation, whether or not the department had anything at all to do with the law itself.

Indian 'witch' tied to tree, beaten by mob
"I was appalled at what I saw because people should be more socially responsible than to do this," Tiwari said.

North Platte, Nebraska, to Salt Lake City, Utah
Taking I-80 through Nebraska is not very exiting. Nebraska is rather flat, the road is rather straight, the scenery is mile after mile of irrigation rigs and the occasional old-fashioned windmill-powered well pump with a few cows standing around. Wyoming offers little improvement at first, but as you head west you begin to see more hills which roll higher and higher until the snow-streaked mountains come into view. By the time you reach Western Wyoming, every bend in the road, every vantage point over every hill is more awe-inspiring than the last. Following a thin ribbon of highway down into one valley, then up and out gives one an understanding of the phrase "wide-open spaces". I considered taking some pictures, but realized that my camera's lens would only flatten the image into a narrow slice of depth-less frame that could not possibly convey the awesomeness of the sight. It was a partly-cloudy day, cold, and large patches of snow were still on the ground. In some places massive snow drifts had become isolated and were slowly disappearing allong fences or in gullies. The whole world as far as I could see was blue and white sky, brown and green scruff, covered with large patches of white, mottled like a cow's hide. In the mid-afternoon sun, the high cirrus clouds and the lower, heavier clouds in the distance helped cast a cool, bluish-white glow on the entire landscape. It looked cold.

Three Objections to Objectivism
This sounds very compassionate of her - until you remember that Ayn Rand believes that the free market is, by definition, infallible (see last point). In Objectivist philosophy, if you succeed it's because you deserve to succeed, and if you're poor it's because you deserve to be poor. Combined with Rand's repeated expressions of fierce disdain for "parasites" and "looters" and "moochers", it seems hard to escape the conclusion that a consistent Objectivist would never give any money or other assistance to others. After all, if they were deserving of your help, they wouldn't need it; they'd have already achieved success and security on their own through hard work and persistence. To an Objectivist, the way you prove you're worthy of help is by proving you don't need help. And the reason Rand was so upset about the starving citizens of the USSR wasn't because they were starving; it was because they were starving under the wrong ideology. In an Objectivist society, people might still starve, but we can at least comfort ourselves with the knowledge that they must have deserved it.

Reason: The Gold Standard of Politics (A Girl Can Dream)
What bothered me as I watched the speech live, streaming over, was not the emotional presentation and delivery (which I believe is genuine—I have no reason to believe otherwise); it was not the nearly perfect linguistic structure or perfectly situated word choice. No. It’s that in the 21st century, Obama still embraces a dogma (i.e, Christianity) and the physical representation of that dogma (i.e., Wright) that propagate nonsensical beliefs, superstitious drivel, blatant gobbledygook, and vacuous platitudes. These purposely distort information; they produce disinformation. They are exploitative and downright wrong.

Can a Christian accept natural selection as true?
I think that nobody is purely rational, not even cephalodesque Elder Deities that eat creationists at movie premieres. So I am unable to say that my theist friends are compartmentalising their beliefs any more than, say, I do when I contemplate quantum mechanics and hold to a classical view of causation at the macro level. But there is a problem with Providence, taken literally. If God wants so many organisms to die horribly, or refuses to act to resolve it (Fall or no Fall) then He is not a providential deity. So maybe Providence has some other meaning. Not for me to say. Good luck to those trying to come to an accommodation. I merely point out that formally NS is not a special problem for theists - reality is.

You’re Welcome
Everyday during breakfast, lunch, and dinner, we would shout over the table at each other about evolution. Goodness, it was loads of fun in retrospect, but I don’t think any creationist has raised my blood pressure so much since James. We would pick apart the arguments that were infecting his mind, pick them apart, but he would stubbornly change to something else like the start of the universe. It seemed entirely hopeless.

Praying parents' other 3 kids removed
Madeline Neumann, 11, died Sunday the Weston home of an undiagnosed but treatable form of diabetes as her parents, Dale and Leilani Neumann, prayed for her to get better. Her mother said she never expected her daughter, whom she called Kara, to die.

Any way you slice it - I'm OLD
But – now that Orrorin (said to be about 6 million years old) has been tagged as an “upright walker”, where does that leave the hypothesis? As the video makes clear, bipedalism would likely have come at the cost of considerable time. Are we talking about 7 million years (or more) since the split? I think it’s possible we will be hearing this in coming years.

Saturn and Titan from Cassini

Spoil-Proofing Elections
When Ralph Nader recently announced he was entering the 2008 presidential race, many Democrats groaned. It was his fault, they say, that George Bush defeated Al Gore in 2000. But Nader retorted that the Democratic Party has only itself to blame for the loss in 2000.

Mathematicians offer a different perspective. The problem, they say, doesn't lie with Nader or with the Democrats. It lies with our voting system.

Across the Universe
How far can you see? Even the faintest stars visible to the eye are merely hundreds or thousands of light-years distant, all well within our own Milky Way Galaxy. Of course, if you know where to look you can also spot the Andromeda Galaxy as a pale, fuzzy cloud, around 2.5 million light-years away. But staring toward the northern constellation Bootes on March 19th, even without binoculars or telescope you still could have witnessed a faint, brief, flash of light from a gamma-ray burst. The source of that burst has been discovered to lie over halfway across the Universe at a distance of about 7.5 billion light-years. Now holding the distinction of the most distant object that could be seen by the unaided eye and the intrinsically brightest object ever detected, the cosmic explosion is estimated to have been over 2.5 million times more luminous than the brightest known supernova. The monster burst was identified and located by the orbiting Swift satellite, enabling rapid distance measurements and follow-up observations by large ground-based telescopes. The fading afterglow of the gamma-ray burster, cataloged as GRB080319B, is shown in these two panels in X-rays (left) and ultraviolet light (right).

Steelers explain Wilson's release, Rooney clarifies statements
"I know many are asking the question of [why] we released Wilson and Harrison we kept," Rooney said. "The circumstances -- I know of the incidents, they are completely different. In fact, when I say we don't condone these things, we don't, but we do have to look at the circumstances that are involved with other players and things like that, so they're not all the same."

In Harrison's case, Rooney said the player was trying to take his son to be baptized.

"What Jimmy Harrison was doing and how the incident occurred, what he was trying to do was really well worth it," Rooney said of Harrison's initial intent with his son. "He was doing something that was good, wanted to take his son to get baptized where he lived and things like that. She said she didn't want to do it."

From Crib to Cubicle, A Familiar Voice -- Our Own -- Reassures
Carli Entin, an associate magazine editor, loves talking to herself whether it's "appearing" as a panelist on "Meet the Press," narrating her imaginary cooking show ("replace some of the water with coffee for a tastier cupcake"), or blogging.

At work, even when a colleague told her she stopped listening, that didn't stop Ms. Entin's side of the conversation or the fun she had engaging in it. Besides, her self-chatter can be efficient. "By acting out the conversation," she says, "I no longer need to have it."

AddThis Social Bookmark Button

Email this post


Design by Amanda @ Blogger Buster