The Ice Cream Personality Test  

Saturday, May 31, 2008




Your Ice Cream Personality:



You are an incredibly modest person. You don't feel comfortable bragging about yourself... or even receiving complements.

You are a pretty cautious person. You look before you leap, and you don't leap often. There's a bit of a wild child within you, but it doesn't get out often.

You are a fairly open minded person with a wide range of tastes. You are quite accepting of unusual ideas and people.

You are a natural multitasker. You feel alive when you're doing more than one thing at a time.

You can be a big dramatic and over the top sometimes. You are bold in every way



(via Janet

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CFI Trumps Prophetic Revelations  

Friday, May 30, 2008

Shortly after I received my Prophetic Revelations comic I received something else in the mail. Something much more sinister.

Now rather than some childish comic, this was written for adults. The picture is much darker.* The black border and "Hell" in a large font adds to the effect. So who is this organization that is trying to tempt me into going to hell?

It's none other than CFI. Fortunately they immediately open with a positive and funny message. Whew. I was worried I might be attacked by a bear or a three-headed cheetah when I opened the pamphlet. I mean, I was really putting my soul in danger.

OK, not really.

I don't have a soul.

But look at the difference between the inside of the CFI pamphlet and the Prophetic Revelations pamphlet. There's actual text inside, not just a blurb about the speakers and some phrases with check marks. I get more information about the Free Inquiry magazine on the first page than I probably would have received in one session about the apocalypse.. well, more real information anyway. The apocalyptic seminar might have been more fun though.. at least to laugh at.

And there's a second page of text too! Wow! I feel almost like I've opened a real book, not just a picture book.

CFI asks for donations and they use a non-profit permit. But that doesn't bother me. They're not passing off a scheme. They're asking for donations outright and offering a magazine subscription and free book in exchange.

CFI 1, Prophetic Revelations zilch.

*Does anyone know if this is an Hieronymus Bosch?

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Jesus, Cats, and Some Wussy Comic Book  

Thursday, May 29, 2008

I've been hearing reports from a few people in the Aetheosphere that have received a true, genuine, Jesus-rug-thingy in the mail. Boy was I jealous. I never get mail like that. But then I received the mother load.

Oh. My. God. Are these not the worst drawn monsters of the apocalypse? I mean, come on. The center monster is an okay attempt, but the other three? Who has ever heard of a three-headed cheetah with wings - four wings at that? You can tell me. I'm really curious what drug-induced dream (other than Revelations) produced that.

And the bear? That's not even trying now. We're talking about monsters that will terrorize humans. You're supposed to be scared. If I saw these walking down the street I'd probably just laugh.

I open up the page and behold! the first rider of the apocalypse. Come on. My cat looks more menacing than him. (Hint: I'm not talking about the white one.)

I was almost tempted to go to see how ridiculous these meetings were, but there were just too many meetings to choose from. Christians, you have too many long, boring meetings. How am I to know which ones have the juicy details of my supposed short-term torture under the anti-christ and then eternal torture under that all-loving god you worship?

Look more meetings and finally we get to the meat of the comic.. er, pamphlet. Is it everything that I was hoping for and more? 666 and the mark of the beast? Check! Armageddon? Check! The Lake of Fire? The Four Horsemen? Check! Check!

Oh, and a little about the speakers. The first douche bag was once a rock 'n roll DJ. Is that not the most popular come-to-Christ story used? Why not be original and claim to be a former Satanist or, oh, I know, an evil atheist. That would be scary.

Look at that, Russia is getting bombed. These people can't get with the times. Shouldn't it be China that's now the super power behind the anti-christ or maybe North Korea? I suppose though that some people just can't let go of the cold war.

And look at that diverse group of people who have something to say about the seminar. They left out anyone Asian, of course. They're all a bunch of heathens anyway.

Notice this "comic" is mailed out under a not-for-profit permit. I'd be pissed, but I can't stop laughing. At least they're not trying to extort money, via the mail anyway. They're not really even trying to scare anyone. Maybe they realized I was feeling left out (as I am one of their DEAR FRIENDS) and wanted to give me a laugh.

Thanks Bible Mailing Service for cheering me up!

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Praise the Lord! Part IV  

Wednesday, May 28, 2008



In the summer of 1988 I returned to Heritage USA to work at Recreation Village. I worked with a good group of people and my boss was absolutely fantastic. Jim Bakker was about to be indicted and Jerry Falwell had declared bankruptcy. The place was a shattered mess financially, but the park went on almost as if nothing had happened.

My main duty was driving the miniature train around the park and giving a tour to the people visiting. My tour was mostly ad-lib. Once when riding with my supervisor I said something about how this used to be a great place before Jim Bakker pissed it away. My supervisor was shocked, of course, and I pointed to the intercom which was turned off. Still, it was true. We were all cynical about it at that point.

I also rented bikes, worked at the pool/golf shop selling snacks and rounds of putt-putt, the antique cars, and a few other miscellaneous things. It was an easy job. I loved being outside and having the whole park to roam. The trams were still running, but usually I walked or took a bike during my lunch break and just explored.

The miniature train at buffalo depot courtesy of Standing But Not Operating.

The main train depot many years ago. It's gone now. Courtesy of Standing But Not Operating.

Most of the regular employees like me left after the summer to start college. I stayed. I still had my senior year and besides, I liked it there. I worked driving the train on a limited schedule and later, when it neared winter I helped put up Christmas lights for Christmas City. The show still went on, even after everyone had left.

I also worked in the hotel at the Concierge desk selling tickets to the dinner theater. When it was cold my supervisor would stop the train outside and blow the whistle. I'd switch places with him so he could warm up a bit. The lights at night on the lake were beautiful and I'd drive slowly to keep the wind from freezing all of us. Even with the cold we always had a packed train during Christmas City.

Cars would line up outside the park almost back to I-77 for hours and pay a few dollars to drive through to see the lights. It was a pain for us locals.

Eventually the place shut down, or at least recreation village did and we were all laid off. I think the hotel kept running for several more years under new management after the bankruptcy. For a while it was managed by Radisson Hotels. Here's a map to show you how big the place was.



I tried to visit again when I was in college, but I was turned away at the front entrance. The gate at the back entrance was locked. Eventually I forgot about the place as I went on with my life.

I saw an interview with Jim Bakker back in 96 on 20/20 and I was actually convinced that he'd changed, that he was more humble, and that he wouldn't try the same things again. I was wrong.

When I saw he was preaching again in Branson, MO, I wondered what had happened to Heritage. I looked around and found Standing But Not Operating and a few other sites. It was only looking through the pictures again that I felt a pang of nostalgia. It's sad what happened with the place, but I kind of like the idea of it rotting away. It was a monument to the monstrous fraud of religion and maybe still a warning to those who would try to cheat people in the same way again.

PTL was not the only place to take advantage of people in the name of religion. It's still widespread. But it's perhaps the most notorious.

The rotting structures have mostly been replaced by residential homes in the last few years and the blight has mostly faded or been forgotten. The cycle has begun again.

Read the other parts of my story

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A Week of Sun May 21 - 27, 2008  

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Wednesday

Blue - 6:17 AM CDT

Thursday

We had a big thunderstorm and I tried to capture the lightning on stills, but I found it impossible with my equipment. Then I realized I had video, but the lightning had moved off by that point and I didn't get anything spectacular. - 6:20 AM CDT

Friday

Still overcast - 6:24 AM CDT

But there were some openings in the clouds to see the sky - 8:09 PM CDT

Saturday

These are the last shots I'll catch from my brother-in-law's balcony most likely - 8:04 PM CDT

The view is partially what inspired me to start taking photos of the clouds and later the sun - 8:15 PM CDT

I'm a little sad - 8:36 PM CDT

Sunday

Hazy gray sunset - 7:27 PM CDT

Monday

Again, not much of a sunset due to the clouds, but the clouds make a dramatic effect - 7:46 PM CDT

Tuesday

Overcast and rainy again - 6:17 AM CDT

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Happy Memorial Day!  

Monday, May 26, 2008



For all of you celebrating, have a great Memorial Day!

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The Neurotic Test  

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Your Score: Well-Adjusted



You scored low in all categories--so there's no need to worry! Not that you were worrying, anyway. You are so Well-Adjusted that I almost feel the need to worry for you.

Your low anxiety score implies that you are able to relax, can enjoy the here and now, and have a healthy amount of self-confidence.

Your low awkwardness score implies that you are socially capable, are personable and charming, and probably go to parties and have fun.

Your low neuroticism score implies that you don't exhibit subtle neurotic behaviors--your nails are probably an acceptable length, your pencils aren't covered with bite marks, and your bookcase isn't arranged alphabetically by genre. Congrats!
Link: The Neurotic Test written by littlelostsnail on OkCupid Free Online Dating, home of the The Dating Persona Test
View My Profile(littlelostsnail)

(via The Ridger, FCD)

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This Weeks Reader May 25, 2008  

Cats


Games
Microsoft deems "gayer" gamertag to be unacceptable
According to a letter Grant sent to The Consumerist: "...when i tried to sign into my xbox live account 'thegayergamer' I was told that it had to be changed. I figured that it was just from people reporting it as an offensive name being that the greater Xbox live community isn't exactly welcome to gay people, i spend a lot of time muting people on Halo3. I assumed that once i called Microsoft they would straighten things out. I talked to a supervisor there, Roxy, who told me that she didn't personally find the fact that my gamer tag had gay in the name offensive, but that the greater Xbox community did, so I would have to change it."

Gamers are different: a look at how gaming makes the mind
Koroush Dini, a child, adolescent,and adult psychiatrist, has written an amazing book called Video Game Play and Addiction. It's a much more even-handed look at the subject of children and games than we normally get, and it has been a fascinating read. One section that jumped out at me, and one that Dini has graciously allowed us to excerpt, is how gamers are different in terms of problem solving and how they approach problems and even social situations. "Gamers train for hours each day. They gradually incorporate certain mentalities through diligent practice. As a result, they do begin to adopt different views of the world," he wrote in the book. Here are some of his other findings..

Pyro achievements may come with the next TF2 update
A snooper over at the Control Point forums has found that the latest update to the game features a potential hint of things to coming. Tearing through the GCF content package for the game, the snooper found a section documenting the included achievements in the game which featured a new entry: "Achievement_Group_1600: Pyro Pack (%s1 of %s2)."

Previous updates were discovered by this very method, so a new set of upcoming Pyro achievements seems likely. I suppose that's one flame war that Valve will avoid. The company has not yet announced anything, of course, but we know that it has stated time and time again that it's going to continue to improve the game over time.


Why Wii Fit is Better than the Gym
8. It’s more fun than the gym can hope to be. Firstly, the range of activities are more diverse, from yoga to hula-hooping, and secondly, there are activities that aren’t actually possible in the real world. For example, when you were a kid, did you have one of those plastic games that had ballbearings in? You had to tilt the game to get the balls into the little holes. Imagine that, human-sized. You stand on the Wii board, and your every tiny shift of weight moves the TV version to roll the virtual balls into the hole. Or straight off the edge if you’re crap. Also, at no point in real gym life do you get to dress as a penguin, or float a giant bubble down a river. Take that, reality! You can’t compete with this rainbow universe.

International News
Teenager faces prosecution for calling Scientology 'cult'
Writing on an anti-Scientology website, the teenager facing court said: "I brought a sign to the May 10th protest that said: 'Scientology is not a religion, it is a dangerous cult.'

"'Within five minutes of arriving I was told by a member of the police that I was not allowed to use that word, and that the final decision would be made by the inspector."

A policewoman later read him section five of the Public Order Act and "strongly advised" him to remove the sign. The section prohibits signs which have representations or words which are threatening, abusive or insulting.

The teenager refused to back down, quoting a 1984 high court ruling from Mr Justice Latey, in which he described the Church of Scientology as a "cult" which was "corrupt, sinister and dangerous".

After the exchange, a policewoman handed him a court summons and removed his sign.


Schoolboy avoids prosecution for branding Scientology a 'cult'
A CPS spokesman said: "In consultation with the City of London police, we were asked whether the sign, which read 'Scientology is not a religion it is a dangerous cult', was abusive or insulting.

"Our advice is that it is not abusive or insulting and there is no offensiveness, as opposed to criticism, neither in the idea expressed nor in the mode of expression. No action will be taken against the individual."


National News
Oil prices
As gratifying as it is to point fingers elsewhere, the mirror is the main place to look for the reasons that oil prices are hovering around $125 a barrel. The nation decided to let the laws of supply and demand work. It was rewarded with two decades of low prices that led to larger cars, bigger homes and longer commutes. Meanwhile, with the Cold War's end, Third World countries suddenly saw the benefits of capitalism, fueling robust growth in places such as China and India. As in the West, oil fuels that growth, first for industry, then for consumers who, naturally enough, use rising incomes to buy cars. That trend more than anything else is behind rising prices. And it has just begun.

A keep-energy-cheap approach would have worked if supplies were unlimited and prices didn't tend to lurch forward, as in the 1970s and now, rather than to rise gradually.

An alternative would have been energy policies that discouraged consumption with gas taxes and subsidized alternative sources. But doing this would have required voters to be willing to accept short-term pain for long-term gain. It would have required leadership, vision and political courage — the very same qualities needed now to stave off menacing crises in health care and Social Security.


Politics
Hagee and Hitler and dangerous biblical scripture
And what if Hagee got the rest of his prophecy the way he wants it? What do his precious Jewish people gain from his Armageddon? Well, it’s not very pretty. You see, unless they happen to be Jews for Jesus, they and their children and grandchildren are all going to die in that much anticipated apocalypse. Aren’t they lucky to have a good American friend like Pastor John Hagee? And isn’t John McCain lucky to have his endorsement? He must think he is. On several occasions he has said that he is proud to have it. And wouldn’t it be great to have a President handling our Middle East policies who gets regular input from John Hagee, on what our next move should be? Want to know what his advice would be? He believes that a war with Iran is a necessary precondition for the kick-off of Armageddon – which is “imminent”.

Religion
Barefootin'
I went into detail about the contents of the envelope. She chuckled a few times.

“Doesn’t that sound like a con to you?” I asked.

She laughed again. “I can’t really say,” she replied. “Lots of people have faith in different things. I go to church every Sunday and tithe, so I can understand when someone sends money to a church. But let me look this one up for you to see if there are any other complaints.”

I didn’t know where she was searching, but my astute Sherlock Holmes mind interpreted the tapping and I assumed it was somewhere on the Internet. I waited patiently for a few seconds. “Well,” she said, “you’re not the first person to make a charge against them.”

Then I heard the tapping again. She said, “I went to their Web site. It looks like they actually do have a church building. So it’s not just a post office box.”

“But, tell the truth. It looks kind of fishy, doesn’t it?”

She repeated: “Lots of people have faith in different things. I’ve heard of churches that sell water that’s supposed to be from the Sea of Galilee.”

“Yeah, other crooks. I mean, have you ever heard of a Christian prayer rug? Does that sound kosher to you?”

She tittered ever so slightly. “Well, I can’t say. But you might want to report this to the IRS and have them look into it.”


Science
The Orgasmic Mind: The Neurological Roots of Sexual Pleasure
Achieving orgasm, brain-imaging studies show, involves more than heightened arousal. It requires a release of inhibitions and control in which the brain’s center of vigilance shuts down in males; in females, various areas of the brain involved in controlling thoughts and emotions become silent. The brain’s pleasure centers tend to light up brightly in the brain scans of both sexes, especially in those of males. The reward system creates an incentive to seek more sexual encounters, with clear benefits for the survival of the species. When the drive for sex dissipates, as it did with Marianne, people can reignite the spark with tactics that target the mind.

Skepticism

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Saturday Music  

Saturday, May 24, 2008

Venjanz sent this to me. The internet references are pretty neat and I like the song too.

Weezer - Pork and Beans

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Friday Music  

Friday, May 23, 2008

Drip Drop, Tear Drop - The Cardigans

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A Week of Sun May 14 - 20, 2008  

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Wednesday

Nothing more romantic than an airport sunrise, eh? - 7:57 AM EDT

Thursday

Overcast again - 7:12 AM CDT

Friday

Hazy clouds - 8:03 PM CDT

Saturday

An almost full moon - 8:20 PM CDT

I love the line between the clouds and the sun in the sky - 8:21 PM CDT

Sunday

It makes me squint even looking at the picture - 6:20 PM CDT

Monday

Dark clouds and sun - 6:28 AM CDT

Tuesday

Sun coming over the trees and a few birds - 6:32 AM CDT

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What I did on my summer vacation  

Monday, May 19, 2008


I almost titled this post "I went to South Carolina and I all I got was a lousy red neck", but that's another story.

So if you read my Aliens, Mummies, and The Visit post I promised an update on my visit to my parents. Did I come out as a raging atheist to my family? Well... no. But let's look at it a little closer.

The night before I left my sister called to talk to me about the visit. She's the only one in my family that knew I was coming. I wanted to surprise my mom on Mother's Day and the only way to keep a secret is not to tell the men in my family.

We were talking about my mom and her cat, Sissy, who died recently. In fact talking to my mom after Sissy died is why I decided to surprise her initially. I wasn't able to be there to console her, but I thought a visit might cheer her up a little bit even if it was a few weeks later.

Then my sister said, "I just told her that April needed a pet so she took Sissy." April was my sister's daughter who died nine years ago at the age of 14. It's a very difficult thing for us all to deal with still. And I thought, "Oh, shit." I was planning to come out to my sister first. But how do I tell her I don't believe in a god or heaven when she's counting on heaven to see her daughter again. So I scrapped that idea before I even started on the trip.

So I quickly re-examined my strategy. Well, I have two brothers. My oldest brother would probably be the best. He can't keep anything to himself and it'd almost be like he was breaking the news instead of me. Besides, my other brother's wife has recently been diagnosed with liver cancer, after surviving just about every other type of cancer. I'm not sure how he feels about religion, but I don't want to rock what could be a fragile boat.

So that was the plan anyway.

I spent Saturday afternoon with encephalophone, who kindly called me an intellectual. It was flattering even if it's not true. I do like to write about a lot of things here, but I don't consider myself very knowledgeable. But if an old friend can think I'm smart then I must be doing something right.

Then I drove up to my sister's house where I planned to stay for a couple of days. We spent time chatting over dinner and went shopping for a few things before heading home and settling in for the night. I slept well.

The next morning my mom called and I thought it would be fun to call her while she was on the phone with my sister. She had no idea that I was sitting in the next room. I was pretty sure she would be surprised.

When we arrived we parked around to the side so they couldn't see us. My sister entered first and told my parents she brought the surprise she had promised them and then I came into the room. Both of my parents cried. My mom told me she almost wished she'd said she wanted me there when she talked to me on the phone, but she didn't want me to feel guilty about not being there. She just kept saying that she was so happy her whole family was together for one day.

My brothers came and their families and I got to surprise them as well. And the rest of the day was a normal family gathering spent catching up on what everyone was doing.

The rest of the trip was uneventful except for three things.

1. I didn't see my older brother again to tell him candidly about my atheism. He's supposed to visit in August though with my parents and his son.

2. Several conversations I had with my parents where I played the part of "skeptic".

At one point my mom pointed to the natural disasters and wars taking place in the world as signs of the end times. I told her that's what they said in the 40's with World War II. Seriously, the end times has been predicted again and again and it has never happened.

At breakfast one morning I was talking about oil prices with my mom and she said they needed to use the resources in Alaska or increase fuel standards. I said it would make much more sense if we worked on developing a solution to use something other than gasoline for transportation, since oil would inevitably run out someday. She said that she thought the end times would come before oil reserves ran out. I argued with her saying that that's why we're in the predicament we're in today. Years ago we could have worked harder on a solution, but no one thought we'd reach the predicament we're in today. That sort of short-sited view of the world really pisses me off. "I believe the Lord is coming and if not, screw the next generation." I was happy to stand my ground on that argument at least.

My dad asked me what I thought of chelation. I was glad that I'd read some posts at The Rogues Gallery about it because I was able to tell him what it was and why I didn't think it would work for him. My dad has high blood pressure after a heart bypass a few years ago suffered a cluster or strokes. Not only would chelation be dangerous for him, but I am convinced that it would do nothing to help him feel better. The fact that some company is marketing pills that "mimic" chelation pisses me off. My dad doesn't have $100 a month to spend on them, regardless of how he hopes they'll work. I did feel a little guilty though for trying to destroy his hope, but goddamn it, I don't want my parents to be cheated!

The last conversation with my dad was about cursing in movies and violence in video games. He said he couldn't stand cursing in movies. I said I never really noticed it. He also thought that violent video games led to violent crimes, which has never been proven. I argued that children could act out from their imagination, whether or not they played video games or watched violent movies. While it's true I probably wouldn't let my kids see violence at a young age, it isn't because I think it'd turn them into homicidal maniacs. Most people can tell the difference between imagination and reality. Those that can't, we usually diagnose as having mental problems and will not need video games to make them do things we consider abnormal.

3. A visit to Heritage USA, which will be featured in a future post.

So yeah, I didn't come out, but I was able to disagree with my parents which is a huge step, coming from a very authoritarian background (sometimes I feel like a teenager around my parents.. like I can't have my own opinion as an adult) and there's still hope for the future. Yeah, it's still a cop out, but I'm making progress. I'm happier with the person I am while there. I'm an atheist, just without explicitly stating it.

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This Weeks Reader May 18, 2008  

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Cats
Wendell



Games
BioWare listens, SecuROM changed for Mass Effect
After a rather hefty backlash from fans, BioWare has confirmed that the upcoming PC version of their hit RPG Mass Effect will feature an different version of SecuROM anti-piracy technology than first announced. Originally, BioWare revealed that the software would require users to validate their game every 10 days, meaning that an internet connection would be required to play the single-player-only game. The game will now feature a one-time only authentication process instead.

Productive time-wasting
Well, I’ve got news for you. There’s a new puzzle game that you can play for hours on end and know that while you were spending hours not doing your homework/running errands/spending quality time with your s.o./writing a blog entry, you maybe did contribute to scientific knowledge.

It’s called FoldIt. The basic idea is that you get real protein structures and try to find ways of folding them up. This has, up until now, been done mostly by computers, but I think it is brilliant to try and tap into people’s problem solving abilities for this. Also, while you play, your computer is networked with the site, and the computers learn from your techniques.


History
'Wicked' American Decisions
One aspect of this oft-forgotten war is that it was quite divisive in its day. Whigs, particularly those in the north, opposed the war. Yet southern Democrats, smitten with the notion of Manifest Destiny and our perceived God given right to own "sea to shining sea," enthusiastically supported it. Such disagreements should not be glossed over. Abraham Lincoln, then a Congressman, remained forcefully skeptical about Mexico's alleged instigation of armed hostilities. Others, such as former President John Quincy Adams, felt the whole affair was simply an effort to expand slavery. Of the many opponents it was perhaps President Ulysses S. Grant, a young
army officer in the Mexican-American War


National News
California Supreme Court Strikes Bans on Same-Sex Marriage
Marriage is a "basic civil right" guaranteed to all Californians, "whether gay or heterosexual, and to same-sex couples as well as to opposite-sex couples," Chief Justice Ronald M. George wrote in a 121-page ruling. He repeatedly said the ruling was based on the California court's first-in-the-nation decision in 1948 to end the state's prohibition on interracial marriage, nearly 20 years before the U.S. Supreme Court took the same action.

Photography
Moon Meets Mercury



Racism
RACISM AGAINST MUSLIMS IN THE U.S. - (ABC NEWS)



Religion
Do Apocalyptic End Times Myths Hurt Humanity?
I first came across the ‘use it up’ theory when James Watt was Secretary of the Interior under Ronald Reagan. During one of his speeches, he stated that (and this is paraphrasing) “Christ will return soon and He will be unhappy if we have not used all of the natural resources placed here for humanity.” Which explains the continued starvation of federal agencies which preserve (NPS) and the starvation of federal agencies which monitor and regulate the use of America’s land.

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Friday Music  

Friday, May 16, 2008

Nanci Griffith - Its A Hard Life



Inspired by SI

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A Week of Sun May 7 - 13, 2008  

Wednesday - Kansas

Overcast with the slight glow of the sun on the horizon behind the trees - 6:38 AM CDT

Thursday - Kansas

Gold and blue - 6:29 AM CDT

Friday - Kansas

A bird caught in flight - 6:57 AM CDT

Saturday

I didn't have an opportunity to take a picture on Saturday.

Sunday - North Carolina

One thing about the Carolinas are that the trees are so tall. The sun is almost gone and yet the sky is still blue - 7:40 PM EDT

The only sign the sun is setting is that the clouds are barely tinged yellow - 8:08 PM EDT

Monday - South Carolina

I finally caught a true sunset, but the colors aren't as brilliant as they are in Kansas - 8:30 PM EDT

A farmhouse - 8:32 PM EDT

A tank of some sort - 8:34 PM EDT

Tuesday - South Carolina

Can you guess where this is? - 2:19 PM CDT

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I'm Back!  

Thursday, May 15, 2008

I spent 9 hours in the Memphis airport yesterday. I don't like Memphis anymore. You guys aren't the barbeque capital of the world, so serve something else... anything else, OK?

My flight was delayed while we fueled due to the possibility of thunderstorms in Memphis. Then we sat on the tarmac for 25 minutes burning the fuel because they miscalculated and over-fueled. Nice to see they're not concerned about the cost of all of all that fuel or the passengers they stranded in Memphis all day, huh?

I'm still tired, but I got more than three hours of sleep last night. Regular posting should resume next week.

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Carnivals  

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

I'm posting this a little late, but the 91st Carnival of the Godless is up at State of Protest and has a link to my Aliens, Mummies, and The Visit post as well as many other very fine posts. Go check it out.

Yes, I'm really up at 4:35 AM Eastern. I feel like a zombie myself at the moment. I'm catching a plane in a couple of hours, so I'll be back to my normal posting schedule soon.

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Week of Sun Post  

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Pictures this week will be delayed. The "high speed" wireless here at the hotel, which costs an additional $4.99, chokes when I try to upload a picture. Expect something maybe on Thursday if I don't go comatose as soon as I get home Wed night. :)

The trip is going OK. I'll post more details when I get back. I'm hoping for something interesting tomorrow.

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This Weeks Reader May 11, 2008  

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Cats


Black cats unlucky at shelters
A 2002 study in the Journal of Applied Animal Welfare Science that examined adoption rates over nine months in a California pound found that black cats were about half as likely to be adopted as tabby cats and two-thirds less likely than white cats. But for cats in general, the odds are not good: of the approximately 3,000 cats of all colors offered for adoption during that time, only around 600, or 20 percent, found homes. Those remaining were euthanized.

Games
Activision/Blizzard leaves, still hopes to profit from ESA
Activision has been feeling the weight of its upcoming merger with Vivendi, not only by dropping out of the ESA, but also firing shots at its largest competitor, EA. Despite the company's power, however, there are certain things it can't do on its own, and leaving the ESA seems almost selfish. Activision Blizzard won't take part in E3, but it will take advantage of the show's existence. It will no longer be a part of the ESA, but it will benefit from the ESA's lobbying efforts. In some ways the plus-sized company is asking for a free ride, and other smaller publishers may be watching to see if Activision Blizzard can get away with it.

Blizzard attempt to kill WoW bot bad news for copyright law
Public Knowledge doesn't seem to want to side with either party in these suits. "This is a case pitting distasteful gaming behavior against an unsavory over-assertion of copyrights," Sherwin Siy, Public Knowledge staff attorney stated. Blizzard is trying to stop a company from profiting from cheaters, but in doing so it may alter EULAs and TOS agreements, to the detriment of users.

"Under Blizzard's theory, a copyright owner could not only contractually impose the most onerous restrictions on its customers—restrictions that undermine rights guaranteed by copyright and First Amendment law—but could also enforce those conditions with the threat of copyright law's high statutory damages," argues Public Knowledge in its brief. "Blizzard's attempt to use contract to alter and displace those aspects of copyright law it does not like, while using copyright penalties to construe and enforce the terms of that alteration, is untenable, and the Court should not endorse it."


History
In Love With the History Our Teachers Never Told Us
He added: “In our version of America, we don’t go back nearly far enough. It’s the winners who make history, and that’s why we start with the Pilgrims: with the Anglo-American and New England version of the story. Culturally, we need to expand the story to include the Spanish in particular, but also the French and the Portuguese. Not only are we not an Anglo nation now, but we never really were. Early America, if you think about it, was a lot like America today — very diverse — and even the parts of the story we think we know, we don’t know at all.”

International
Suspended lashing for Iranian feminist
ran has handed a feminist a suspended sentence of 10 lashes and six months in prison, the Kargozaran newspaper reported yesterday, in the fourth such punishment for a women's rights activist in Iran within weeks.

The sentence for Rezvan Moghadam imposed by Tehran's revolutionary tribunal is suspended for three years, meaning it will be implemented if she repeats the stated offence within that time.


Law
Maryland Court Rejects Muslim Divorce
Maryland's highest court has rejected a talaq divorce performed by a Muslim man in order to prevent his wife from getting anything in their divorce under state law (see full ruling here). Under Islamic law, a man can divorce his wife merely by saying "I divorce you" three times. In this case, the man, Irfan Aleem, a World Bank economist, went to the Pakistani embassy and signed a piece of paper saying that so they would immediately grant him an official divorce and he would not have to split up his $2 million estate with his wife. The Maryland court said no, they will not recognize that divorce and he still has to go through the laws of the state in order to get one, saying, "the enforceability of a foreign talaq divorce provision, such as that presented here, in the courts of Maryland, where only the male, i.e., husband, has an independent right to utilize talaq and the wife may utilize it only with the husband's permission, is contrary to Maryland's constitutional provisions."

National News
They got horse racing in Heaven
Me? I'm truly baffled. Not by Eight Belles' injury and death. By the notion that God has a stable of race horses. (Yes, I expect it's a figure of speech, but listen to a lot of people talk and Heaven will be just like Earth.) Are there races there? Parimutuel betting? Who'd run against God's horse? Does he have favorites? Do they all win - is it heaven if they lose? Or do they just stand around all day - that wouldn't be heaven for the horses...

I don't mean to make fun, but... doesn't it sound like a bad movie? It's just ... baffling.


Nonbelieving Literati
Something or other
But not long after the third part (or, excuse me, chapter) I had to put in a bookmark and set the story down. My thoughts were flying left and right as I examined the injustices of sexism now - especially in media advertising, which has always been a sore spot. Who do you expect to see in a laundry detergent commercial? Who knows that Jif is the superior peanut butter brand? Where are the fathers like mine that grumble over a dirty house and always having to wash the dishes and enjoy, more often than not, to cook and go grocery shopping? For the injustices of sexism one way also mark poorly the other: if a woman's place is in the kitchen, then that is not the man's place. And this hardly allows people to grow to be whomever they can.

Photography
An Antarctic Total Solar Eclipse



The Gegenschein Over Chile



Politics
Wright v. Robertson



Religion
The Christ-Centered Marriage
The thing is, Jesus never actually participated in our marriage. Oh, sure, we prayed before making major decisions and we prayed for fellow believers who were experiencing difficult circumstances; we prayed before meals and in church; but we certainly didn’t pray before doing the routine things that married couples do every day: buying groceries, getting the car fixed, making love...

Sermonette #5: Breaking Out is Hard to Do
Accordingly, transitions in thought and lifestyle are neither smooth nor easy. Even when one has rejected the teachings of one’s parents and friends with regard to religion, sometimes one is still torn between what we want and believe versus what we have been taught is “right.” The baggage we have inherited from parents, friends and our worship communities has shaped our values. The baggage can still be upon our shoulders months or even years after rejecting the fundamental assumptions upon which the baggage is based. Even when one has critically dissected the issues and intellectually rejected the doctrines, we can still live, out of sheer habit, in accordance with what was rejected, and thereby create a discrepancy between what we hold in theory as true and what we live in practice.

X-mercy Story - Melody's story Part 1.
When I got to Mercy Ministries I had the Resident's Handbook thrust into my hands. I remember reading it and wondering why they were suddenly taking away any independence and self management I had. It is true that I went into the program seeking treatment for my illness, which I was coping with- but at the same time I knew it was holding me back. I had been responsible for seeking support from professionals in the past, I was studying at University, and yet it seemed like Mercy Ministries were trying to revert me into being totally dependent, totally controlled, and a child who was not trusted to make her own responsible decisions.

X-Mercy Melody's Story part 2
Two staff members, one of them being my Mercy Ministries counsellor had me in a room with them. They shut the door and pulled the curtains so that nobody could see in, then had me stand in the middle of the room while they laid hands on me, and cast the demons out of me one by one, calling them by name. They spoke loudly, then quietly, then loudly again, alternating between speaking in tongues and speaking in English. I wanted to cry. I didn't understand why they were yelling. I was so frightened. At one point, one of the staff members tried to reassure me "Don't worry," she said. "I am angry at Satan, not at you."

After the exorcism, I was told that I shouldn't have any more symptoms because the demons that were causing them had been cast out. Although I am embarrassed to admit it, I held on to what they had said. I wanted to believe them. That I had been healed, that I wouldn't have any more symptoms, that they had "fixed" me. And I was okay, for about two days.

When the next panic attack hit, being unable to manage it the way I had been taught by my doctors, I went to staff to ask for help. I was having a lot of problems with my breathing. They took me to their office, closed the door, and proceeded to tell me about how disappointed they are in me. I was told that they had already cast the demons out of me, therefore if I was having any symptoms now, it was for one of two reasons. 1) I was acting for attention, or 2) I had knowingly and willingly invited the demons back into me.

I was devastated. I couldn't work out what I had done wrong. Maybe I wasn't a good enough Christian? Maybe God didn't want to heal me? Maybe I really did have demons inside of me???


Sociology
Is Religious Faith Irrational?
And none of these beliefs make us fundamentally irrational people. It is entirely possible to have certain irrational beliefs -- even significant beliefs, even stubbornly held ones -- and still be a basically rational person in most other areas of our lives. It's not just possible. It's universal. We all do it. In fact, hanging on to mistaken ideas once we've committed to them seems to be a basic part of how our minds work. And despite that, we're still generally rational people, able to process information and analyze it effectively and make appropriate decisions about how to act on it... most of the time.

An Atheist Goes to a Wedding
So here’s what the preliminaries of the wedding made me think of. In all the crazy motion of life, a wedding is an attempt to fix a certain moment in time: If only for a few minutes, let us stop moving; give us a break. We humans, for whatever evolutionary reason, require our ritual occasions to put us back in touch with the rest of our species, both living and dead. Some of us may even choose to reflect for a short time, to revel briefly in our commonality. Let differences be forgotten for this instant; give our reciprocated animosities a break.

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See you next week  

Saturday, May 10, 2008

I'm about to head out to the airport. I'll be away until mid-week next week. Posts may pop up, but don't be surprised if you don't hear anything from this corner of the Aethosphere for a while.

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Aliens, Mummies, and The Visit  

Wednesday, May 07, 2008

Recently I came across this article by Matt Taibi about his time spent at a retreat sponsored by Cornerstone Church, the megachurch pastored by John Hagee in Texas. It's a good article, but a couple of paragraphs caught my attention.

Here I have a confession to make. It's not something that's easy to explain, but here goes. After two days of nearly constant religious instruction, songs, worship and praise — two days that for me meant an unending regimen of forced and fake responses — a funny thing started to happen to my head. There is a transformational quality in these external demonstrations of faith and belief. The more you shout out praising the Lord, singing along to those awful acoustic tunes, telling people how blessed you feel and so on, the more a sort of mechanical Christian skin starts to grow all over your real self. Even if you're a degenerate Rolling Stone reporter inwardly chuckling and busting on the whole scene — even if you're intellectually enraged by the ignorance and arrogant prejudice flowing from the mouth of a terminal-ambition case like Phil Fortenberry — outwardly you're swaying to the gospel and singing and praising and acting the part, and those outward ministrations assume a kind of sincerity in themselves. And at the same time, that "inner you" begins to get tired of the whole spectacle and sometimes forgets to protest — in my case checking out into baseball reveries and other daydreams while the outer me did the "work" of singing and praising. At any given moment, which one is the real you?

You may think you know the answer, but by my third day I began to notice how effortlessly my soft-spoken Matt-mannequin was going through his robotic motions of praise, and I was shocked. For a brief, fleeting moment I could see how under different circumstances it would be easy enough to bury your "sinful" self far under the skin of your outer Christian and to just travel through life this way. So long as you go through all the motions, no one will care who you really are underneath. And besides, so long as you are going through all the motions, never breaking the facade, who are you really? It was an incomplete thought, but it was a scary one; it was the very first time I worried that the experience of entering this world might prove to be anything more than an unusually tiring assignment. I feared for my normal.

And I had a thought. That soft-spoken Matt-mannequin was me.

Now I don't mean in the sense that I feared I was growing a skin about my that would take over alien-style. What I mean is that I spent so many years living a Christian life before I became skeptical of religion in general, that the skin was already there.

It's not just that religion was ingrained in me from birth. I think I have shed most religious indoctrination. But it's more in the way I interact with the world. I still have that skin of acceptability which I hide behind. You know, be respectful of religion and religious leaders, don't express disbelief or any kind of skepticism about religious beliefs, and especially don't encourage anyone else to pursue their skepticism.

On my blog it's easier. It's not face-to-face. I don't have to have a mask. Very few people know me as a person and those people who do I know don't care. But I've always been a little afraid that some day my family or religious friends would find this website and be totally appalled.

This weekend I'm going to visit my family for a few days and the ways in which I act differently are prominent on my mind. Unconsciously I've made a set of rules for myself when visiting.

1. No swearing
2. No drinking (except around my sister)
3. No talking about science or politics
4. No talking about religion
5. When my parents ask me questions or make judgmental comments about my lifestyle I must be evasive and quickly change the subject.
6. Do not get dragged into a conversation about: government conspiracies, the end of days, Christian persecution, or anything scientific.

These are the rules I devised myself to avoid controversy, to avoid having my Grandmother write me nasty letters (yes, she that sort of thing), and to avoid my parents' attempts to "save me". Some of the talking points above I'm glad to avoid (government conspiracies, anyone?). But in the process I have put a lot of distance between me and my family. I visit, but I'm uncomfortable the entire time I'm there because I'm like a mindless automaton.

And it's not their fault I'm like that. These are self-imposed rules and I imposed them for very good reasons. I don't want to be in a constant argument every time I talk to my family. I don't want to upset and worry them. I don't want to be the black sheep who isn't invited to weddings and other important family events.

I understand completely why people never come out to their families, especially older members of their families. It's not just the fear of not being accepted, but the fear of losing a relationship with someone. And I respect that.

In my case I suspect I've already lost any kind of meaningful relationship with my family by becoming so distant. I just don't know what else to do other than sit in mummified silence. So maybe a little experiment is due this weekend. I'll let you know how it goes.

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A Week of Sun April 30 - May 6, 2008  

Tuesday, May 06, 2008

Wednesday

Iridescence - 6:31 AM CDT

Thursday

Clouds and crescent moon - 6:29 AM CDT

I took a few pictures during the storms when the tornado alarms were going off. Funny thing about Kansas is that everyone goes outside when the alarms start up. We're crazy. - 7:17 PM CDT

7:34 PM CDT

7:52 PM CDT

Friday

Gray again - 6:32 AM CDT

Saturday

Clear - 8:09 PM CDT

Sunday

Somehow I completely forgot to take any pictures on Sunday

Monday

Light and shadow - 6:30 AM CDT

Tuesday

Cloudy - 6:18 AM

I kept expecting the sun to appear any moment, but it never did - 6:48 AM

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