Thanksgiving Leftovers  

Tuesday, December 01, 2009

What happens to the turkey when it's almost been a week and you're getting a little tired of leftovers?

Turkey Pot Pie

I started out with Pioneer Woman's Leftover Turkey Pot Pie, but deviated at the first ingredient and never looked back (only 2 tbsp butter).

I used left over gravy and left over sauce from the Creamy Herbed Potatoes, added pre-steamed baby carrots and peas and then the turkey. Since the sauce was a little light I added in some chicken stock, flour, and cream and brought to a boil. I poured it all into a pie crust-lined pie dish, added a little stuffing and mashed potatoes to the top and then added another crust. Bake for 30 minutes and you have a thanksgiving meal in a pie.

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Photography: Fall Foliage  

Monday, November 16, 2009

After shooting with Kandyce one of the lenses I became interested in was her Lensbaby Composer, which is a low-cost tilt-shift type of lens. Kyle Hepp uses a tilt-shift for a lot of her photography and the results are very good.

So I ordered a Lensbaby and set out on my fall photo shoot with the goal of photographing fall color. Only it was freezing cold and overcast. I tried again a couple of weeks later before the last of the color faded with a different aperture and I think the results are better. I'm not sure if it was because I wasn't sure how to use the lens or because the subject matter wasn't the best choice for the lens, but the pictures kind of hurt my eyes. Less blurring would probably help. Next time I'll try it on architecture to see how that works.

(The Composer adjusts aperture by changing out black disks against the lens. A tool is used to magnetically capture the disk and then a new one is dropped in. It's not as easy as selecting a different setting on the camera, so I didn't change the aperture while shooting.)



Original Source

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Photography with Kandyce  

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

One of my co-workers is a far, far cooler photographer than I can dream of being. She plays around with all kinds of equipment I can only dream of owning. Anyway, she took me out a couple of weeks ago to capture a few sites.

We found an old graveyard in the middle of the suburbs. I don't know if a church used to be on the site, but it looked like they were getting ready to move it or build a subdivision around it.

Then we visited the horses and a nearby barn.

Some of the pictures seem a little over-processed to me, but I liked the results enough to keep them.



Original Source

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Friday Breakfast Part II  

Friday, June 12, 2009

For the second part of breakfast I made two of PW's quiches, although these are normal depth, so they're one batch of her recipe. I added a couple of extra eggs and some extra cream though because they didn't seem full enough.

What's better than a pound of bacon? A pound of barbeque bacon? Yep, I found some at the grocery store. For the meat-lovers quiche I added the bacon, a cup of cheddar cheese, a little cilantro, and some ancho pepper. I cooked it for half an hour last night before allowing it to cool and refrigerating it. It was still very jiggly when I took it out of the oven and I hope it cooks the rest of the way today without any problems.

IMG_5797

For the veggie-lovers I added spinach, mushrooms, and chives to the base quiche and I forgot the mozzarella cheese until this morning, so it's going on top. Ooops. I do not like mushrooms, but these did look pretty in the quiche (or they did before adding the cheese).

IMG_5798

The colors on the pictures were really difficult to get right. They're sort-of edited, but the florescent lights are difficult, especially with green.

I'll have to add the after pictures later because I'm running late and I have an 8:30 meeting.

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Friday Breakfast  

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Friday Breakfasts have been resurrected at work and it's my turn tomorrow. So, I decided to make a couple of dishes from PW's site. And I have to say I'm impressed (as I always am) with her recipes.

The apple tart is simple and tasty. I cut my pastry dough into more pieces to make it easier for people to serve themselves.

Here they are before going into the oven. (Please ignore the ugly 70's-style oven. I don't want you to know my pain.)

IMG_5791

And the apples in what looks to be a caramel sauce. Don't let it fool you though, it's brown sugar and lemon juice - definitely not something you want to slurp down.

IMG_5793

And here's the first batch (minus a couple) ready to go.

IMG_5795

Tomorrow I'll post more about the quiches and my variations on PW's recipe.

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Thoughts of Closing  

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

I haven't posted in a while and I actually have given a lot of thought to closing the blog down. I still enjoy writing, but I haven't felt motivated to write here. But then I found out that my sister is reading the blog, and (OMG my sister is reading my blog!) I thought it'd be rather rude to shut down after she took the time to find me.

So, the blog will be up for a little while longer while I mull it over.

I'm still reading your blogs though and finding a lot of good content on the Internet even if I don't always comment.

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Sunday Reader May 24, 2009  

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Astronomy
Moon Rays Over Thurso Castle



Civil Rights
Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, Don’t Hope, Don’t Change



International
Irish Reform Schools: Thousands Beaten, Raped
"A climate of fear, created by pervasive, excessive and arbitrary punishment, permeated most of the institutions and all those run for boys. Children lived with the daily terror of not knowing where the next beating was coming from," Ireland's Commission to Inquire Into Child Abuse concluded.

[...]

The Catholic religious orders that ran more than 50 workhouse-style reform schools from the late 19th century until the mid-1990s offered public words of apology, shame and regret Wednesday. But when questioned, their leaders indicated they would continue to protect the identities of clergy accused of abuse _ men and women who were never reported to police, and were instead permitted to change jobs and keep harming children.

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Sunday Reader May 17, 2009  

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Astronomy


A Circumhorizontal Arc Over Ohio



Civil Rights
Bramwell’s Fifth
So yes, by all means, let’s abolish state marriage! We’ll let the straight folks go through the same tribulations we do — and then watch how quickly they demand to have state-sanctioned marriage right back again, if only to keep the state out of their family lives. Maybe then they’ll have more sympathy for where we stand, too.

The great paradox of state-sanctioned marriage is that it is very, very often not a state intervention at all. It’s a barrier against the state, and that’s one of the biggest reasons why we want it. We want the state to leave us alone in all the same ways that it very obligingly leaves you alone.


Domestic Partnerships in Nevada?
Recently at a Governor’s Town Hall in the very small and conservative Incline Village, NV, HRC’s Northern Nevada Political Co-Chair David Gordon asked about the domestic partnership bill. Governor Gibbons replied that the protections sought in the bill could already be achieved through private contracts. As David shook his head no, the governor replied, “Don’t shake your head no! I am an attorney. I know. Are you an attorney?” Of course, the reality is that private contracts cannot provide all the rights made available to married couples. Private contracts cannot exempt partners from inheritance or property transfer taxes, they cannot grant partners the right not to testify against one another in court, they cannot provide alimony rights, child support, or child custody rights when couples split up (all rights that are extended to spouses). On a less tangible, but equally important level, private contracts can never provide same-sex couples the dignity and respect afforded to married couples whose relationships are formally recognized by the state.

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Photography: Leaving on a Jet Plane  

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Cirrus showed up at work last week with a new ultra-light jet. A co-worker and I decided to see what all the fuss was about. It was raining, so the jet was restricted to a small garage.



Original Source

Too bad we never made it off the ground.

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Sunday Reader May 10, 2009  

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Happy Mother's Day to all of the moms out there!

Civil Rights
Maine legalizes same-sex marriage
Maine became the fifth state to legalize same-sex marriage Wednesday after Democratic Gov. John Baldacci abandoned his earlier opposition and signed into law a bill allowing gays to wed.

The governor's signature came less than an hour after the measure won final approval from the Maine Senate, which voted 21-13, with one absent, to pass the law. The House passed the bill Tuesday.


Games
Dragon Age ditches SecuROM, online activation

We have good news for Dragon Age fans out there: Bioware has announced that the game will only require a basic disc check for authentication if you'd like to play offline. Even better? No SecuROM.

International
Blink Changed My Perspective
Anyways, the whole thing made me realize something important. Just like I don't want to be racist, Chileans don't want to misunderstand me. The girl at Starbucks wasn't purposely trying to not to understand my Spanish. It's just that her subconcious has been so conditioned to believe that Gringo = English-speaking that her concious heard nothing but white noise when I was speaking Spanish. After a few minutes, once she realized that I did speak Spanish, she was able to understand 100% of what I said on the first try, even though my accent hadn't changed, the words I was saying hadn't changed, but all of a sudden, because her concious had finally made the switch, we could communicate. That's why Spanish speaking people who already know me, have no problem understanding me. I've also found that people who have been previously prepped, as in, my husband has told them "I'm married to a gringa who speaks Spanish," usually don't have a heard time with my Spanish either. Nor do my gringa friends' Chilean husbands and boyfriends because their unconcious now has probably been conditioned to think that gringas do speak Spanish.

Religion
Why We Need Earthquakes
This is not to suggest, as the scientist and philosopher Leibniz once argued, that ours is the best of all possible worlds. But ours may be the best of all feasible worlds, at least as viewed from a human perspective. This recognition will not stop people from bemoaning the next earthquake, but it should at least stop us from blithely assuming that the Creator could have done a much better job. - Emphasis mine - Ed

Sci Fi
John Scalzi - The Star Trek Movie Cheat Sheet
Star Trek: Generations (1994)
Plot Haiku:
It's Kirk and Picard!
They get together, and not
In a fanfic way!

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Reading List April/May 2009  

Wednesday, May 06, 2009

Image courtesy of jleworks


Now I feel like I totally did not study in April. Two were started in March though, so it was more like 1 1/2.

Read in April
The Dying of the Light - George R R Martin
The Motion Paradox - Joseph Mazur
Torn by God: A Family's Struggle with Polygamy - Zoe Murdock

Currently Reading
The Stuff of Thought - Steven Pinker

Coming Up Next
Spook Country - William Gibson

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Photo Assignment: Observed & Contrived  

Tuesday, May 05, 2009

For my final photo assignment I have four photos due. Two must be contrived (set up in some way) and two must be observed. I'm not very good at contrived. I always feel.. artificial.

The first two pictures in the set below are contrived and they're not nearly as good. Anyone recognize the hands? The second two are observed, familiar from the Science Fair set, but further edited.

The last picture I liked a lot, but it's not quite as good, so it was cut from the final set. I took it on a busy side road near our apartment. I kept stepping out in traffic as cars cleared the road. I probably made some drivers nervous.



Original Source

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Torn By God by Zoe Murdock  

Monday, May 04, 2009


I came across a review of Torn By God over at Letters from a broad and thought the book would be interesting. I was not raised a Mormon, but I was raised in a strict religious family and much like Beth, the main character in the story, I didn't know anything outside of that life.

Beth's father becomes convinced that in order to reach heaven with his family he must return to the roots of Mormonism, which includes the practice of polygamy. She watches her parents struggle with the tenants of their faith and their relationship with each other as her mother rejects that belief. Although her father never completely follows through with it, it's enough to tear the family apart, throwing her mother into a deep depression.

Beth and her brother, through the eyes of children, don't understand what's going on. Zoe brings the story out through conversations Beth overhears and her parent's journals.

In the end each family member comes to their own understanding of how to deal with religion in their life, but there isn't a neat answer.

I can relate to Beth because she grew up insulated, accepting her life as normal. And she was a normal child, even if most people outside of her faith would find her beliefs strange. I think all religions are strange to outsiders although most people don't notice it from the inside.

For example, glossolia, or speaking in tongues, is seen by most people as a pretty crazy practice, but growing up it was a normal part of life for me. I only find it odd now because I'm outside of the church.

And just like Beth, I found it difficult to reconcile certain beliefs and actions of the church. For me it was the conflicting ideas in the Bible, the greed of the tele-evangelists, and learning about the world outside the church. For others it's been the pedophilia or other sexual scandals within the church that have been the final straw.

But it's not the sensational that really drives people to doubt their religion. It's the every day small questions.

For a better understanding of Zoe and how the book relates to her life there is an excellent interview at A Motley Vision.

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Sunday Reader May 3, 2009  

Sunday, May 03, 2009

Astronomy
GRB 090423: The Farthest Explosion Yet Measured
An explosion so powerful it was seen clear across the visible universe was recorded in gamma-radiation last week by NASA's orbiting Swift Observatory. Farther than any known galaxy, quasar, or optical supernova, the gamma-ray burst recorded last week was clocked at redshift 8.2, making it the farthest explosion of any type yet detected. Occurring only 630 million years after the Big Bang, GRB 090423 detonated so early that astronomers had no direct evidence that anything explodable even existed back then. The faint infrared afterglow of GRB 090423 was recovered by large ground telescopes within minutes of being discovered. The afterglow is circled in the above picture taken by the large Gemini North Telescope in Hawaii, USA. An exciting possibility is that this gamma-ray burst occurred in one of the very first generation of stars and announced the birth of an early black hole. Surely, GRB 090423 provides unique data from a relatively unexplored epoch in our universe and a distant beacon from which the intervening universe can be studied.

Lyrid Meteor and Milky Way



Framed by Clouds



Games
Bioware: only we can create gay Star Wars characters
Dealing with sexuality and religion in video games has become something of a tender subject, but Bioware seems to be the latest company to fumble in its dealings with the topic. It seems that the terms "gay," "lesbian," and even "homosexual" were stricken from acceptable words in the official Bioware forums, and threads talking about creating gay, lesbian, transgendered or bisexual characters were shut down.

The curt response from community manager Sean Dahlberg is telling. "As I have stated before, these are terms that do not exist in Star Wars. Thread closed." That's apparently all the discussion Bioware was willing to have on the issue.

But Bioware fans know that while the terms may not exist in Star Wars, gay and lesbian characters certainly do. It was a pretty open secret that Juhanni, a woman in Knights of the Old Republic, had a female lover. Juhanni would respond to your character romantically if you were a woman. So Bioware can create lesbian characters, but discussions of gay or lesbian characters are verboten? Classy.

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Whew!  

Monday, April 27, 2009

I was so nervous when I hit the final button and waited and waited while the computer drive spun. And finally.. Congratulations, you passed.

I passed! I'm now a PMP (Project Management Professional), but I like to pronounce it as "pimp". Yes, the jokes are endless. I can now PMP out my team or use my strong PMP hand. (It's not really that funny, I'm just still really excited.)

Anyway, thanks to everyone who wished me well.

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Still Running  

I have an exam in a few hours. No lucky charms, I studied and that should be enough. But I don't mind people wishing me well.

Next week is another photo assignment and I still have to get all my photos mounted for the final portfolio presentation the following week.

I can see the light at the end of the tunnel, but it still looks like the train.

I'm really want to share my thoughts about Torn By God, but I want to do the book justice without throwing in process groups or scheduling formulas. I'll be back to posting more often soon.

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Sunday Reader April 26, 2009  

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Astronomy
Sky Panorama Over Lake Salda



Moon and Morning Star



Civil Rights
In Massachusetts, a husband's death shows how important marriage is -- and how absolutely ordinary and accepted same-sex marriage has become
Referring to my husband as my husband doesn't raise eyebrows or result in scorn or sarcasm, whereas when referring to him as my partner ten years ago carried the risk of bad service, indifference, or outright hostility. Customer service representatives at places like banks respect the terminology, whereas once we might have sheepishly referred offhand to our partner. (It was perhaps only six or seven years ago when introducing Peter as my partner, sometimes people would assume I met business partner, even when the context would indicate otherwise.) Twelve years ago something as simple as explaining to utility companies that two people weren't roommates but partners could be construed as being "in your face." Flash forward to the young associate at the Apple store who helped me with Peter's iPhone. Sexual orientation was irrelevant as he expressed sincere condolences for my loss.

Ten, even five years ago, people in my situation in Massachusetts would have faced prejudicial treatment in some of these interactions--in addition to having to deal with protracted legal issues because of being denied the right to be married--simply because marriage equality was an unknown, often feared, and that fear was exploited by our opponents for political gain. Coming of age in a time when AIDS felled so many so quickly, I was aware of far too many horrible, heart-wrenching stories in which the surviving partner was completely shut out and cast aside by next of kin. Now, we are legally next of kin. For all the wonderful things that marriage equality does for the living, it maintains our dignity in death.


Government
A Consequentialist Argument against Torture Interrogation of Terrorists
The individual law enforcement officials, of course, can make their own moral choices and take their own risks. But if it is state policy to torture the terrorist, then the policy should be rational and the torture interrogation proceed with a reasonable chance of success.

Terrorists selected for such a role—like most American POWs in North Vietnam—can probably stand up to commonplace tortures from untrained staff for a long time. The use of sophisticated techniques by a trained staff entails the problematic institutional arrangements I have laid out: physician assistance; cutting edge, secret biomedical research for torture techniques unknown to the terrorist organization and tailored to the individual captive for swift effect; well trained torturers, quickly accessible at major locations; pre-arranged permission from the courts because of the urgency; rejection of independent monitoring due to security issues; and so on. These institutional arrangements will have to be in place, with all their unintended and accumulating consequences. Then the terrorists themselves must be detected while letting pass without torture a thousand other criminal suspects or dissidents, that is, avoiding a dragnet interrogation policy.

The moral error in reasoning from in the ticking bomb scenario arises from weighing the harm to the guilty terrorist against the harm to the prospective innocent victims. Instead, the harm to innocent terrorist victims should be weighed against the breakdown of key social institutions and the state-sponsored torture of many innocents. Stated most starkly, the damaging social consequences of a program of torture interrogation evolve from institutional dynamics that are independent of the original moral rationale.


Politics
I think…
A larger point is that Fox News is simply not conservative. The fact of the matter is, I find NPR and even News Hour more conservative than Fox - but in a different sense, I suppose, than the standard boiler plate conservatism that has so infested American politics. What I mean to say is that the conservatism of Fox News tends to be wrapped up in loud, divisive, trashy television that is cheap and ugly and reactionary and essentially all things distasteful that conservatives should look at with scorn and antipathy.

Religion
Religion and the Difference Between Possible and Plausible, or, Why You Shouldn't Jump Out of Windows
There's a point that a lot of atheists make about this argument, which is this: Believers don't apply this sort of thinking in any other area of their lives. In most other areas of their lives, believers base their actions, not on what might be hypothetically possible, but on what is most likely to be plausible. Their car might start running on sugar water, the rocks in their backyard might have turned into candy, if they jump out the window there might be invisible fairies waiting to gently carry them down to earth... but they don't act as if these things are true. But with religion, people will happily argue that it might hypothetically be true... and therefore, it's reasonable for them to act as if it were true, and the rest of us have to take it seriously.

Science
Department of awful statistics
But I expect that four years from now, we'll still be having the same conversations with proponents of "cancer clusters" and Democrats convinced that they can scientifically prove that Democrats are better for GDP by doing ham-fisted regressions of Democratic presidencies with a few tightly correlated economic variables. What's the mechanism? What makes electric power lines cause cancer, but not the earth's vastly more powerful magnetic field? What policies did Harry Truman and Bill Clinton have in common (but not with Richard Nixon) that caused this marvelous confluence? Well, maybe we don't know the mechanism exactly, but never you mind: just look at that bee-yoo-ti-ful correlation!

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Human Rights?  

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

I haven't posted anything except my Sunday Readers in a while. It's not been my intention to be away from writing, but I've been pulled in so many different directions lately that when I do get some free time I tend to want to vegetate. I still enjoy reading your blogs though and I'm sure I'll be back to posting regularly soon.

I received some email over the weekend that I wanted to comment on from Serge Crespy. It must have been a response to last week's Reader because I can't think of any other reason why he'd send it to me. I suppose it didn't get published in the paper, so maybe he was hoping I'd give him the spotlight. I'm not really sure.

You can read the email below and form your own opinion, but what I really wonder is why all of these cranks use such awkward language.

from Serge Crespy
to ordinarygirl19@gmail.com
date Sun, Apr 19, 2009 at 7:20 PM
subject "SAME-SEX MARRIAGE CONFUSION"
signed-by rogers.com

COPY

Article #1:

Appearing in "The New York Times - The Opinionator"
4. 54. April 12th, 2009.... Orlando Sentinel & Other U.S Newspapers:
(Without Prejudice)

Dear New York Times Editor:

Same-Sex marriage confuses Human Rights; the exclusive right of humans to "CREATE", not, "MUTATE"! Creation of the human species, when scientifically produced in a petri-dish, leaves no doubt whatsoever that only an ovum "married" (joined / combined / shared / matched) with sperm results in an embryo (LIFE). Any attempt to combine an ovum to another egg, or, to "unite" sperm to another's sperm is simply a sub-conscious attempt to "mutate" LIFE. Wrong! Wrong! Wrong!


Article #2:

A rebuttal to a reader commenting to the above view / Orlando Sentinel:

.... It appears that for some individuals dissecting the basic nature of man and woman for personal gratification has become "A Human Right". We all have the right to "CREATE" and the right to "MUTATE", Robin; thankfully, for hundreds of thousands of years, the majority of men and women have chosen the former lifestyle; the "traditional" approach to enjoying and creating (practicing for) "LIFE". There is a difference, Robin; a gyroscope and a compass can assist greatly in the understanding of sexuality.

Sincerely,
Serge Crespy
(contact information removed)


So, let's start the dissection. I hate to break it to you, Serge, but humans do mutate. All species mutate. It's an important part of our evolutionary process. Mutations can be detrimental, and often they're quickly weeded out of they are, but they can also be beneficial, ensuring the survival of the species. Mutation isn't a pejorative word in that sense. Humans have no rights to or not to mutate. They just do.

Creation of life doesn't have to involve an egg or a sperm. Many species replicate without sexual organs or sexual offspring. Humans, of course do require eggs and sperm. That's pretty well known by most people. What's not known by most people is that creating offspring is "marriage". I think most people call that sex.

It's also true that if you told most people they were "married" after having sex they'd not be happy about that suggestion. Humans don't need marriage to procreate. Marriage is a human invention that benefits our society, for the most part, but marriage does not have to lead to procreation just as procreation doesn't have to lead to marriage.

I've been married for almost five years and have yet to create offspring. If my eggs combined with my husband's sperm they did not survive due to some defect. My husband and I have no desire right now to have children so we use birth control. Does this make me wrong, wrong, wrong? Do you believe the only point of marriage is procreation? What about companionship, love, the sharing of resources, or any of the other reasons why people get married?

Same-sex couples don't cause mutations any more than opposite-sex couples. In fact, they might cause mutations less if they create less offspring. I don't understand your insistence that sex between two people of the same sex is a mutation. It's not. Or if it is, it's a mutation that exists throughout nature. Do you know there are species that are only one sex. Or that are all both sexes? How does that make you feel, Mr. Crespy to know that there are entire species of same-sex fish? How did that come to be? Certainly humans had no part of making them the way they are today. So, if we use nature as an example, sexual relations between the same sex are not unnatural.

Also, why does everyone have to produce offspring? Certainly there are enough people in the world producing children that a subset of the populate has no need to reproduce. Do single bachelors need to produce offspring? Is it a requirement for everyone to couple up and produce offspring? No.

Perhaps giving homes to children needing parents is a better alternative to people who have no desire for biological children of their own, if they want to have children through another means. Why would anyone have a problem with that idea?

Okay, I must confess I don't understand how a "gyroscope and a compass can assist greatly in the understanding of sexuality". Please explain this to me because obviously I know so little about sex that I can't even begin to understand the correlation, at least not with a little peak into your mind on the matter.

I also wasn't able to find the articles you referenced. Links would help in that matter. There don't seem to be any articles published by The Opinionator (a New York Times blog) on April 12th.

But here's a thought for you. Maybe instead of coming up with absurd arguments against same-sex marriage you should instead think a little bit about the people you're trying to block from marriage. What are the real reasons you think gay sex is wrong? Because you don't like the image? Because it offends your sensibilities? Because it's against your religion? None of those reasons are good reasons for impinging on the rights of others. Our society has evolved, perhaps even mutated, to accept that people are different and there is no benefit to making everyone conform to one standard. Not long ago we as a society did terrible things to people that were different from us, and we still continue to meddle in the business of others. But why is it okay for you to dictate what you think marriage should be but not okay for anyone else to dictate how you should live your life?

Wait, did I say not long ago? Because we're still doing terrible things to people that are different than us. We still find others to blame because they are different or it is convenient. We dehumanize them by calling them terms like mutants or witches. It leads to the behavior displayed in the video below.

My readers should know that it's very graphic and shows several people being beaten and burned. These people were accused of being witches, unnatural, unacceptable by their society. Is this really the type of behavior we want to endorse?

(via Hemant)

I cried after watching this video because it was so disturbing. How could anyone beat helpless people and burn them to death? Is their fear so strong about someone who's different? Rationally these people were not witches, even if they believed themselves to be so. They had no power to curse or bless. Rationally we know that if our neighbors look at us funny it doesn't not cause us to lose our jobs or miscarry our children. Rationally we know that allowing gays to marry will not lesson our own marriages or cause the world to end. It will not cause our children to be born with three arms. It will allow gays to marry. It will allow them to make decisions when their spouses are ill. It will allow them to share insurance and social security. It will not make anyone anything less than what they are today.

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Sunday Reader April 19, 2009  

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Books
Amazon de-ranks so-called adult books, including National Book Award winner
"American Psycho" is Bret Easton Ellis' story of a sadistic murderer. "Unfriendly Fire" is a well-reviewed empirical analysis of military policy. But it's "Unfriendly Fire" that does not have a sales rank -- which means it would not show up in Amazon's bestseller lists, even if it sold more copies than the "Twilight" series. In some cases, being de-ranked also means being removed from Amazon's search results.

Amazon's policy of removing "adult" content from its rankings seems to be both new and unevenly implemented.


Civil Rights
Gay Marriage = Religious Freedom


Games
California bill: limit video games to one hour in day care
Yet another bill has been introduced that would seek to make playing video games a crime, although this one has an interesting twist: if you're running a day care, you can only allow children to play video games for up to one hour. No more. Yes, there are some who want to make this a law.

"For children in full day care, screen time, including, but not limited to, television, video games, and computer usage, shall be limited to a maximum of one hour per day and shall be limited to educational programming or programs that encourage movement," the bill reads. The reasoning? This is in response to the amount of children in California with obesity problems.


Humanism
Joss Whedon on Humanism


Humor


Kingsford Goes to the Beach - video powered by Metacafe


Law
A Reticent Justice Opens Up to a Group of Students
The event, on March 31, was devoted to the Bill of Rights, but Justice Thomas did not embrace the document, and he proposed a couple of alternatives.

‘Today there is much focus on our rights,” Justice Thomas said. “Indeed, I think there is a proliferation of rights.”

“I am often surprised by the virtual nobility that seems to be accorded those with grievances,” he said. “Shouldn’t there at least be equal time for our Bill of Obligations and our Bill of Responsibilities?”

He gave examples: “It seems that many have come to think that each of us is owed prosperity and a certain standard of living. They’re owed air conditioning, cars, telephones, televisions.”

Those are luxuries, Justice Thomas said.

“I have to admit,” he said, “that I’m one of those people that still thinks the dishwasher is a miracle. What a device! And I have to admit that because I think that way, I like to load it. I like to look in and see how that dishes were magically cleaned.”


Religion
An Alien God
But instead Darwin discovered a strange alien God - not comfortably "ineffable", but really genuinely different from us. Evolution is not a God, but if it were, it wouldn't be Jehovah. It would be H. P. Lovecraft's Azathoth, the blind idiot God burbling chaotically at the center of everything, surrounded by the thin monotonous piping of flutes.

Which you might have predicted, if you had really looked at Nature.

So much for the claim some religionists make, that they believe in a vague deity with a correspondingly high probability. Anyone who really believed in a vague deity, would have recognized their strange inhuman creator when Darwin said "Aha!"

So much for the claim some religionists make, that they are waiting innocently curious for Science to discover God. Science has already discovered the sort-of-godlike maker of humans - but it wasn't what the religionists wanted to hear. They were waiting for the discovery of their God, the highly specific God they want to be there. They shall wait forever, for the great discovery has already taken place, and the winner is Azathoth.

Well, more power to us humans. I like having a Creator I can outwit. Beats being a pet. I'm glad it was Azathoth and not Odin.

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Sunday Reader April 12, 2009  

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Civil Rights
Vermont
Now let’s see how all the people who use “judges shouldn’t legislate” as an excuse for not being able to handle same sex marriage find a way around this one. I’m sure they will try to find a way to explain how this still isn’t the right way to do it. Of course, when you believe there’s no right way to do it, you’re not going to be happy no matter what. Personally, I’m happy for Vermonters.

Philosophy
Building an argument on emotional biases happens, but that doesn't make it true
It's the same thing biologists have been saying since Darwin. Nature may be a bloody tyrant that is ruthless in its execution, but that does not imply that human beings must model their behavior after natural selection. Rather, what we should do as sentient beings is act to create a society that balances the harshness of evolution with a culture that tries to elevate virtues like reason and social justice and equality. Similarly, if emotion tells us to recoil from harmless behaviors, maybe we should counter that with practiced reason, rather than simply succumbing to our biases.

Recipe
Macaroni & Cheese
There’s nothing that can be said.
But there is much to be eaten.
Come, my child…come. I shall take you by the hand and take you where you need to go.
I shall show you the food that is solely responsible for my bones and tissues multiplying and growing at a young age.
It’s macaroni and cheese. And it’s the only food I consumed until I was about fourteen years old.


Religion
Pope warns of 'a desert of godlessness' in Good Friday address
Pope Benedict XVI last night attacked the rise of aggressive secularism in Western societies, warning them that they risked drifting into a 'desert of godlessness'.

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Greater Kansas City Science & Engineering Fair  

Tuesday, April 07, 2009

Last week I had the opportunity to participate in the 58th Greater Kansas City Science & Engineering Fair. Just being at the fair was a lot of fun.

This was my first year judging and I was assigned to the 5th Grade Physical Science exhibits. There was a wide range of submissions, but most of them were excellent.

I was also very impressed with the senior exhibits. Some of the subjects reminded me a little of the "baby nobels", although not quite as ambitious.

There were almost a thousand projects on exhibit to judge. These are projects that have already placed in school and local competitions. I only had 11 to judge and it was difficult to pick the best from our group.

The competition took place at Union Station, an old train station which was refurbished in 1997. Being a transplant I don't have much connection to the history of the area, but it is a beautiful building. And I loved that it's used as a science center. I don't get feeling that the endeavor has been profitable, which is unfortunate, but I'm glad it hosted the Science Fair this year.

I took a few quick pictures before and after judging. The building architecture is first, then the senior projects, then the projects from younger grades.



Original Source

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Sunday Reader April 5, 2009  

Sunday, April 05, 2009

Civil Rights
Iowa Court Says Gay Marriage Ban Unconstitutional
The Iowa Supreme Court issued a unanimous ruling Friday finding that the state's same-sex marriage ban violates the constitutional rights of gay and lesbian couples, making Iowa the third state where gay marriage is legal.

In its decision, the court upheld a 2007 district court judge's ruling that the law violates the state constitution. It strikes the language from Iowa code limiting marriage to only between a man a woman.
[Way to go Iowa! - Ed]

Games
Utah Attorney General to Thompson: Bring it on, Jack
So, my attitude is rather than waste money on bills that are going to be unconstitutional like what Jack Thompson was pushing a couple of years ago [in Utah] in criminalizing the sale of these types of mature-rated video games, my attitude was, why do that if we’re going to lose? [Thompson's earlier bill] lost everywhere that it was proposed and we’re going to end up paying significant attorneys’ fees [to the video game industry]. Let’s put that money into educational programs. Let’s teach parents on how to use the rating system. Let’s have parents be parents and use the system. It works. That’s been my attitude from the beginning and that’s why I did the PSA, to better inform and educate parents about the system itself and how to use it and to make the decision as parents on what’s appropriate for your kids to be playing.

Photography
Sunrise, Lake Superior

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Reading List - March/April 2009  

Wednesday, April 01, 2009

Image courtesy of moriza

It's been a slow month for reading. I should be studying, but I haven't really been, so I don't have a good excuse. I'm looking forward to finishing these though.

Read in March
Losing My Religion - William Lobdell

Currently Reading
The Stuff of Thought - Steven Pinker
The Dying of the Light - George R R Martin
The Motion Paradox - Joseph Mazur

Coming Up Next
Torn by God: A Family's Struggle with Polygamy - Zoe Murdock

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Music Tuesday  

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

One of my favorite musicians is Emiliana Torrini. The tone of her voice is beautiful no matter what she's singing. She has a new album out that I haven't purchased yet, but I plan to download it from Amazon soon.

Anyway, she was interviewed about the album in the videos below.





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Sunday Reader March 29, 2009  

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Games

"DRM is a waste of time," says World of Goo producer

"Don't bother with DRM—it's a waste of time," he boldly said. "You just end up giving the DRM provider money." While name-dropping BitTorrent sites, he added, "Anything that is of interest gets cracked, and the cracked version ends up having a better user experience than the legit version, because you don't have to input in some 32-character serial number."

ACLU challenges Cleveland Heights-University Heights schools over removal of magazine from library
A principal's decision to remove a magazine from a middle-school library has drawn criticism for the Cleveland Heights-University Heights school board from the American Civil Liberties Union.

The ACLU said the First Amendment was violated when Brian Sharosky, principal of Roxboro Middle School, confiscated the November issue of Nintendo Power magazine. The magazine covers the world of Nintendo video games, from previews and ratings to secret codes and short cuts.

"Literature should not be removed from a school library simply because one person may find it inappropriate," said Christine Link, ACLU of Ohio executive director, in a statement last week. She called for the board to "immediately order that the magazine be reinstated."


Religion
Study: Cancer patients of faith more likely to get intensive treatments
Yet even Taylor, who has counseled many dying patients, says she was surprised by the findings of a study in today's Journal of the American Medical Association, which examined the choices of dying cancer patients who rely strongly on their religious faith to cope with their illness.

These patients were three times more likely than others to receive intensive, invasive medical procedures — such as being hooked up to a ventilator or getting cardiopulmonary resuscitation when their hearts stop — even in their last week of life, the study shows.


Science
Fixing a Genetic Flaw
n international team of researchers has successfully treated dogs with the canine form of Duchenne muscular dystrophy (DMD), a rapidly progressing and ultimately fatal muscle disease that afflicts one out of every 3,600 boys. The researchers used a novel technique called exon skipping to restore partial function to the gene involved in Duchenne. The study, published in Annals of Neurology, gives hope that a similar approach could work in humans.

Sexuality
Is It Ok For My Christian Daughter To Masturbate?
Studies show that 87% of the women who become prostitutes did so because of unbridled masturbation as a teenager, and over 90% of girls who become pregnant as teenagers did so because of masturbation loosened their morals and made them more apt to engage in unprotected fornication.

Masturbation will make your daughter very comfortable exploring her body, and it will not be long until she begins to envision other people partaking in the deviant behavior with her.
["Studies" hmmm? - Ed]

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Photography: The Dogs  

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Here are a few more pictures of the dogs from February. I was just starting to use manual mode for pictures and the results were mixed. It's difficult indoors without a tripod and without a flash. I used a monopod for some shots.

IMG_4984_Edited

IMG_5008_Edited

IMG_5068_Edited

And, a nice sunset to end the day.

IMG_5060_Edited

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Sunday Reader March 22, 2009  

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Astronomy
Sunset at the Portara



Science
Climate Change Myths and Facts
Consider a few of Will's claims from his Feb. 15 column, "Dark Green Doomsayers": In a long paragraph quoting press sources from the 1970s, Will suggested that widespread scientific agreement existed at the time that the world faced potentially catastrophic cooling. Today, most climate scientists and climate journalists consider this a timeworn myth. Just last year, the Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society published a peer-reviewed study examining media coverage at the time and the contemporary scientific literature. While some media accounts did hype a cooling scare, others suggested more reasons to be concerned about warming. As for the published science? Reviewing studies between 1965 and 1979, the authors found that "emphasis on greenhouse warming dominated the scientific literature even then."

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Friday Music  

Friday, March 20, 2009

I still haven't played Portal, but I keep seeing videos and musical tributes about it, so I take this as a hint that I should. Of course the real reason is that everyone says it's a good game. Anyway, here's another video taken from the "ending song" in the game.

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My "Out at Work" Policy  

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Image courtesy of SamFam

CL Hanson at Letters from a Broad has a post up about whether she expresses her atheism at work. She's created something of a meme and so I thought I would participate.

I have too many jobs to count, so I'm just going to list a sampling.
  • In college I was trying to work out what I was. I stopped attending church shortly after I started college, but I still considered myself a Christian. I dated an atheist and then an agnostic pretty seriously, but I had a hard time expressing myself. Mostly I just absorbed information and thought about my beliefs internally without talking about them much. I had a Mediterranean Religion course that opened my eyes to the similarities between religious myths that was pretty influential in making me a deist at the least. And I was exposed to new ideas from befriending non-believers. None of them had horns.

  • At my first job I was still in the closet about my doubts about religion. The company I worked for had an overtly religious atmosphere. I worked as an intern during college and my job was supposed to be setting up PCs and training users on software, but I was somewhat hampered. My boss didn't think I should do some things because I was a woman. Once he told me that he didn't think I should be connecting cables to computers when I set them up because "women shouldn't be on their knees." Haha! It was funny at the time, but kind of disturbing that he didn't want me to do manual work because of my sex. When I was hired after graduation they required me to sign a morality statement. Firing offenses included adultery. Now, I don't think adultery is right, but I also don't see how it's my company's goddamned business what I do outside of work. I refused and they put my hiring papers on hold. I talked to a lawyer, but it was completely legal (or so he said). So being a wuss, I eventually signed it. I needed the job. I found another one and left three months later.

  • I didn't talk to anyone about my religious beliefs at any of my jobs for many years. I remember once on Ash Wednesday thinking one of my co-workers had some dirt on her forehead. Yeah, I felt stupid. But no one was overtly religious at work and that suited me fine.

  • When I was still into spiritualism (but not religious) and living in Boston I talked to a couple of co-workers about psychics and astrology and other woo. But the more I talked about it, the more ridiculous it sounded. It was part of what tipped me towards naturalism.

  • I worked at a mortgage company several years ago (2005 - 2006) before the bust. Almost all of my co-workers were secular and liberal. The culture was somewhat of a shock. But it felt good to be around people who thought along the same lines I did. I missed it when I left.

  • At my current job I don't talk about religion. I have a few co-workers who are atheists and I've developed friendships with them. But I don't think religion is at topic for work. I feel like making my personal beliefs public would encourage people to be more vocal about religious beliefs. I have one co-worker who is vocal (more about politics than religion, but they're pretty intertwined), and it's uncomfortable. Not just for me, but for people that I suspect are religious. Whether or not I should express my own beliefs is something I've changed my mind about over the years a couple of times, but I'd rather work be about work. That doesn't mean I won't develop friendships at work, but I'm pretty careful to keep my work life separate from my non-work life. Except now a lot of co-workers are on Facebook and could easily find this blog. When someone from HR pinged me on Facebook I admit I felt a few minutes of panic.
So, I suppose to sum up, I don't say anything about religion at work. If I find someone who I suspect is an atheist or agnostic, I will express my opinions with an open invitation. I don't even know how I found out about "Team Atheist" here at work, but it's nice to know they're out there.

In a lot of ways I fear discrimination for being an atheist. I don't know if my fear is founded, but I don't want to risk finding out.

The problem with staying silent is that I think it's important for atheists to be seen as "real people". We're not different or alien. And I think the biases and stereotypes tend to melt away when personal relationships develop. So should I be an out about being an atheist?

I don't lie about who I am, I just don't display it in flashing letters. But I don't keep religious symbols and I don't claim to pray for anyone. I sometimes find situations awkward because the pat phrases are empty to me and I need a non-religious way to express myself. When someone says, "I'm praying for you," or "God Bless," I simply thank them for thinking of me, if I say anything at all. And I use those words, "thank you for thinking of me," not "thank you for praying for me." It'd be rude to tell them I don't appreciate their sentiment even if I don't believe it'll do any good (in a spiritual way) because I do appreciate the sympathy and concern that's expressed.

So, chicken? Yep. Polite? I hope so. Doing the right thing? I'm still evaluating that.

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Photo Assignment: Color  

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Apologies for the lack of posts lately. I've been tired even though I've been sleeping more than usual. In fact, all I want to do lately is sleep, even with all of the nice weather. I'm not sure if I should blame Daylight Savings Time or if there's something else going on. Every few years I get run down and no matter how much I try to catch up on sleep I never feel rested. It'll pass eventually.

Anyway, my current photo assignment is on color. The assignment is vague, just take shots that highlight color. I started a couple of weeks ago when it was still pretty brown around here, but with Spring around the corner, hopefully flowers will start blooming soon.

For my mid-term I printed the first picture below (thanks to Kyle for the lab tutorial - it helped me print the colors without completely de-saturating them). The second photo I selected was from a sunrise last year. I just couldn't beat the color. I chose the first photo in the Light series and my favorite photo from an aborted series also from the Light assignment. Then I chose two from the Spring Fever assignment (the third and the last).

I don't know how well I did on the assignment, but I think I did pretty well based on a few of the comments from the instructor. This will be my first grade for the class and I'm a little nervous. The grades are distributed via email and I haven't received one yet. There's a second set of appointments on 3/24 before the instructor finishes giving grades, so he might be waiting on those first. This week is spring break for the normal class session (not for my PMP class though).

The color assignment is still in progress and will be critiqued in class the first week of April. I need to get out and get some more photos. I'm not satisfied with most of these. I think I'll keep the scarf and the sunset, but I still need two more.



Original Source

Oh yeah, I forgot to mention that Gregory Crewdson was at the Nelson Adkins last week and I went to his photography discussion (it was more of an interview than a lecture). I thought some of the discussion was overly pretentious and I'll certainly never be able to set up a photo shoot like he does. But, some of the things he said about capturing the moment and not worrying about context I found pretty interesting. It's more about the approach of taking pictures than the technique, but I think it'll help me as a photographer.

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Sunday Reader March 8, 2009  

Sunday, March 08, 2009

Entertainment
Afternoon Inquisition 3.2.09
Do you believe Michael Vick should be allowed to play in the NFL again? Do you believe that a double standard for athletes and celebrity entertainers exists? Does thata double standard apply more to football players?

Government
How Texas Helps Its Teens Get Pregnant
Wiley and Wilson used the Freedom of Information Act to obtain the sex education curricula from 96% of Texas’s school districts. They then analyzed the curricula to reach the startling conclusion that an overwhelming majority of Texas schools are utterly failing to teach comprehensive sex education to their students and are instead substituting irrelevant, false or misleading information in place of medically accurate sex education. Or, put bluntly and without political correctness: All but a tiny minority (3.6%) of Texas schools are helping their teens get pregnant either by lying to them about sex or by teaching them irresponsible, proved-to-fail sexual practices.

What makes this news especially difficult to swallow is that “An August 2004 Scripps Howard Texas Poll found that 90 percent of Texans support ‘teaching students with age-appropriate, medically accurate sex education that includes information on abstinence, birth control, and prevention of sexually transmitted diseases’”(.pdf p.3). Thus, the Texas schools are going against the wishes of the vast majority of Texans in providing kids with irrelevant, false or misleading information on sex.


International
Chechnya leader tells why 'loose' women deserved to die
Some in Russia say Kadyrov's attempt to create an Islamic society violates the Russian constitution, which guarantees equal rights for women and separation of church and state. But the Kremlin backs him, seeing him as the key to keeping the separatists in check.

Few dare to challenge Kadyrov's rule in this southern Russian region of more than a million people, which is emerging from the devastation of two wars in the past 15 years. The fighting between Islamic separatists and Russian troops, compounded by atrocities on both sides, claimed tens of thousands of lives.

Kadyrov describes women as the property of their husbands and says their main role is to bear children. He encourages men to take more than one wife, even though polygamy is illegal in Russia. Women and girls must wear headscarves in all schools, universities and government offices.


Nonbelieving Literati
NL: The Welsh Girl
Freedom to be without "shackles of nationalism" - the familiar fetters of cynefin. Perhaps Kris Kristofferson was right: "Freedom's just another word for nothin' left to lose". At least, perhaps freedom's another word for being unfettered - even to a place you love.

Patriotism, love of country, is a thorny issue for all three characters, even Esther. Yes, she lives in her homeland, but she feels its colonial status and yearns for escape - to America with Karsten, she dreams at one point; to England with a soldier; maybe even just away, anywhere with the young Welshman who wanted to marry her but for whom she had no affection until after he left... And yet she knows she won't go elsewhere, that the cynefin passed through her mother will bind her to the farm. And she wants that as much as she doesn't - she's always wondering why she has no heritage, no birthright, and the farm her father hates while he serves it - "isn't this my birthright, she wants to cry out", and she hopes the child the English soldier left inside her will be a daughter. Karsten is accused of being loyal to "landscape, at least", but his escape from the POW camp is motivated much less by patriotism, something he barely comprehends, in fact, than by a desire just to be alone for a change, and to erase the stain on his honor (a stain that, as Esther sees, can be erased though her honor is gone for ever). Several times in the book Esther ponders the meaning of patriotism, once when Karsten asks why she doesn't turn him in, why she betrays her country.


Nonbelieving Literati: The Welsh Girl - Peter Ho Davies
But when she goes off with Colin she finds the experience much different than she was hoping for. It starts out alright riding away quickly through the night, walking in the pool, drained and closed for winter, but then rapes her and she's left confused, in shock. She's not even sure it's really rape. It was brief, she escaped, and she's alive to sort through what's happened.

This green and pleasant land
Identity does appear to be the key. Human nature being what it is, we like to congregate in insular groups; no doubt a survival trait inherited from our distant anthropoid ancestors. Outsiders are expressly excluded from the group, thus protecting the group members from potentially harmful pathogens and possibly dangerous individuals. Even today this tendency is clearly visible in our culture. As you might expect, I’m keen to point to the exclusiveness of certain religions in relation to this idea, but patriotism is a perfect example of how readily people will align themselves with a group or faction almost arbitrarily. The stance of this group becomes their own personal stance, psychologically strengthening their position.

Religion
Guest Post by William Lobdell: "Without a Doubt"
I have a different theory. I think there are so many closet doubters because people sense there’s no God who personally intervenes in their lives. But they can’t take the final step toward deism, agnosticism or atheism because the religious ties that bind us are thick. I know. I was a closet atheist for four years.

A Look at Liberal Christianity
I agree with the author that the Bible is fallible and open to interpretation. I also agree with him that the Bible simply “gives us a historical understanding of how men and women have understood God and salvation.” If one accepts those things, then how does one determine whether those understandings are right, meaningful, misguided, dangerous or evil? How can the author support claims that his interpretation of the Bible is the right one, but another interpretation, i.e., a misogynist one (which he rejects), is wrong? The reality is this: when one seeks to determine which biblical interpretations trump the others, one inevitably turns to sources other than the Bible. That being the case, why not simply dispense with the Bible completely, or at least relegate it to a much lower level of authority?

Science
Is Science Communication Doomed?
First, have women evolved to enjoy shopping? This may be a question that none of you ever considered, because you’re smarter than that, but nonetheless it is a question that appealed greatly to one particular group of people: namely, the Manchester Arndale Shopping Centre. Certain corporations have learned that an easy way to get your name in the news is to pay a scientist of relatively low integrity to crunch some numbers, fudge some facts, and publicize some stupid bullshit made-up “research” that somehow benefits the client. It’s advertising, but with a sciencey glow.

It’s advertology.

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Photo Assignment: Light  

Tuesday, March 03, 2009

At least I'd call it an assignment centered around lighting. But then all photography is centered around lighting. The assignment was to take 3-4 pictures of the same place at different times of the day. I took 4: Morning, Noon, Evening, and Night. I tried to capture a couple of different locations, but for one reason or another one of the pictures never came out as well. So I opted for the pink elephant on my deck because the pictures turned out with the best exposure and detail.

This was my first print assignment. The college allows printing throughout the class as long as I provide my own paper (worth the cost of the class!). They have a few Epson Stylus Pro 7600, 7800, and 7880 printers. I have a few pictures I'd love to get printed before the end of the year in addition to my assignments. I used Ilford Galerie Smooth Gloss paper for this assignment, but I also have the Smooth Pearl paper to play with.

Anyway, printing is such a different story when it comes to pictures and I learned a lot about color and how it looks when printed. I spent a lot of time toning down the colors so they'd print correctly.




Original Source

I'm pretty happy with the way the pictures turned out. I wish my more creative shots would have turned out better, but I'm happy with a lot in these pictures.

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Reading List - February/March 2009  

Monday, March 02, 2009


Image courtesy of Isaac Leedom


I'm juggling three textbooks in addition to my regular reading, so the reading has tended to be on the lighter side, by which I mean fiction. It's so much easier for me to read fiction, where I can get swept up in the story.

But, my next few books are all non-fiction, so I'm not sure how that will work. I've already almost finished Lobdell's book - it's like a fictional book because it's captivating, even though it's a biography. Pinker has been interesting so far, but weighty. The Universe has been on the shelf for many weeks now and I wonder if I should try it again later when I'm not so busy.

Read in February
The Handmaid's Tale - Margaret Atwood
The Welsh Girl - Peter Ho Davies (Nonbelieving Literati)

Currently Reading
The Universe - Byron Preiss (Editor)
The Stuff of Thought - Steven Pinker
Losing My Religion - William Lobdell

Coming Up Next
I haven't decided yet.

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Nonbelieving Literati: The Welsh Girl - Peter Ho Davies  


There's more than one main character in the book, despite the title, but I want to concentrate on Esther, the female lead in the book. I like how the author uses her story to explore female sexuality in the middle 20th century.

At first she's caught up in the fairy tale. She dreams of a new life away from the Welsh countryside. She wants to see the world and put her English education to good use, but she feels bound to her father and their farm. She feels little attraction to the local boys because they have no drive to leave, no ambition. But she finds the attention of an English soldier tantalizing, a way to get out, I think, more than anything. And after a couple of weeks she begins dreaming of her escape.

She wonders what it is Colin wants to tell her so much. For a second she lets herself dream ... of a ring, of him on bended knee, asking her to marry him, carrying her off to his home in the East End, to wait for him there in the bosom of his family ... his sister who'll be her best friend ... his mother who'll be like a mother to her ... waiting for the end of the war as if for some decent period of courtship.
But when she goes off with Colin she finds the experience much different than she was hoping for. It starts out alright riding away quickly through the night, walking in the pool, drained and closed for winter, but then rapes her and she's left confused, in shock. She's not even sure it's really rape. It was brief, she escaped, and she's alive to sort through what's happened.
Rape, as she understands it, is a particular form of murder, when a man kills a woman. It's connected to sex, but the main thing is the murder. No one - in the films she's seen, the books she's read, the whispered stories at school - no one survives rape. She is still unclear if the sex is so violent that it just kills you on the spot, or if the man has to actually strangle you or shoot your or stab you afterwards, and she had thought in the midst of Colin's roughness, the blunt, searing pressure of him between her legs, that she was bout to find out. But then he had left her, and she felt such relief. She had survived, clambered out of the pool as if from a grave. And this is how she knows she hasn't been raped. The idea of being forced doesn't enter into it - hadn't she gone willingly enough? Besides, what was it to be forced to do something she didn't want to do? She'd been forced all her life by one circumstance or another - by poverty, her mother's death, by the needs of the flock. Being forced to do things is such a part of her daily life, and as for this, she'd at least wanted some part of it - the kissing, her hand in his. If she's been raped, she thinks, then she wanted it more than most things in her life, although that isn't saying much. [...]

If she had to call it anything, she thinks now, groping for the word, she'd call it a misunderstanding. He meant one thing, she meant another.
But she isn't in the movies and all she can hope for is that the worst is over.
She has seen a few of his mates in the street, sappers she recognizes from the pub, and felt their eyes, heavy, on her. He's talked, she's sure, but she's less certain what he might have said. Not the truth, she thinks. Something more colorful, boastful. And if he's told his friends, she wonders how long before someone in the village hears something. It's this she fears more than anything, dimly sensing that what he did to her can't in the end be rape if no one else knows. She suspects that what kills the poor girls raped in films and books, finally, is shame. All those hands over moths, all those horrified looks. But the sappers will leave soon - today, tonight. Everything will be in the past then, able to be forgotten, provided no one else knows.
She's able to relax once the soldiers leave, although she still feels afraid. It's not the act of rape itself that haunts her, but her dreams leaving with Colin. And the final realization of that comes when she finds out she's pregnant.
And then too, finally, she feels as if she might really have been raped. All this time, thinking she's escaped Colin, thinking she's escaped with her life. yet she'd been right to start with, when the word had sprung to her mind as he'd pressed her against the mildewed tiles of the pool. He had wounded her, she thinks, and not a small wound, the drops of blood in her drawers, but something deeper and stranger. What a wound it is that stops your bleeding. And in her heart there's a morbid fear that what he's given her is a lingering death, nine months long, that she won't survive childbirth, that she'll die and he'll have raped her after all.
And so she finds herself pregnant, alone, loathing the man who did it to her. She's been terrified the small town will find out her secret and now there's no way to hide it. Instead of being the victim, she's become the accused. She has no recourse but to accept the shame.

We haven't come much further from those days.

The next book we'll read in the Nonbelieving Literati is Starship Troopers by Robert Heinlein.

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Sunday Reader March 1, 2009  

Sunday, March 01, 2009

Astronomy
Mauna Kea Milky Way Panorama



Moon, Mercury, Jupiter, Mars



Games
Review: Dawn of War II riles RTS genre with frantic combat
Though it may share some similarities with its Warhammer 40,000-inspired predecessor, Dawn of War II is a completely different game that offers one of the most action packed and highly replayable RTS experiences in recent memory. Relic has uprooted some of the genre's mainstays in a move that has proven to be as controversial amongst fans of the original as it is innovative. But the company's decision to stray from the norm has resulted in a unique and refreshing game that will not only keep RTS fans busy until StarCraft 2, but may even have them forgetting all about Blizzard's upcoming titan.

Appeals court: Governator's video game law unconstitutional
While this latest ruling could be appealed to the Supreme Court, the continued effort after these losses would seem almost Sisyphean; the courts have never been kind to bills that seek to put special legislation on video games. "Is there anything out of limits for the Legislature to prohibit to minors? What about games where people eat unhealthy foods and get fat?" Judge Alex Kozinski asked when hearing the appeal. "Why not a law targeting games that teach children bad living habits, such as eating unhealthy food or using plastic bags?"

Identifying Yourself As A Lesbian Gets You Banned On XBOX Live
I had a similar incident, only my account was suspended because I had said in my profile that I was a lesbian. I was harassed by several players, 'chased' to different maps/games to get away from their harassment. They followed me into the games and told all the other players to turn me in because they didn't want to see that crap or their kids to see that crap.

Government
Colorado state senator: ‘HIV testing for pregnant moms rewards sexual promiscuity’
“What I’m hoping is that, yes, that person may have AIDS, have it seriously as a baby and when they grow up, but the mother will begin to feel guilt as a result of that,” he said. “The family will see the negative consequences of that promiscuity and it may make a number of people over the coming years begin to realize that there are negative consequences and maybe they should adjust their behavior.”

Sexuality
To See Or Not To See
Since when does nudity equal pornography? I’m not advocating that people should roam naked in the streets, but, really, our society has got to get over its infantile views of the human body and sexuality. When we grow more comfortable with human bodies in non-sexual contexts, then we will be much better equipped to handle them in sexual situations. Surely, that would be a good thing for all of us.

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Pixelblocks: Airplane  

Thursday, February 26, 2009

A friend of mine at work received these amazing blocks at work called Pixelblocks (as a gift from someone pretty amazing, I must say). He's been building a model from the book about once a week or so.

A few weeks ago I went by and all the pixelblocks were in their container, so I decided to start one. I opened the book and picked the first model to start on. Well, it was pretty ambitious. After about 10 blocks I gave up and went back to my desk to work, thinking I'd make it back over there later in the day. Work got hectic and I haven't been back there for a few weeks, but when I came into work on Monday, this was sitting on my desk.

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You made my day. Thanks, Keith

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Kickball!  

Wednesday, February 25, 2009


So, how many of you out there remember P.E. class in school? Yeah, that's probably a mix of groans and fond memories out there. I had my own mix. When I was pretty young and still in public school I remember there would be special times when the entire gym was set up with all sorts of equipment for climbing and swinging. That was pretty cool. But about middle school, when I was in a private religious school P.E. turned into something not really fun for me.

Due to class size we had a joint P.E. session, usually with about a 4-5 grade spread. I was in the second to lowest class. And, since we had to do an activity that everyone could participate in, we spent most of the time playing kickball. If it wasn't raining or below 40 degrees we were out in the church parking lot with that bright red ball.

And I hated it.

It wasn't so much that I wasn't a good kickball player, I wasn't good, but that wasn't why I didn't like it. I wasn't good at basketball either, but I played on the school team throughout middle school. I loved practice, but I dreaded playing in the games. Fortunately because I wasn't very good I sat on the bench a lot.

I grew to loathe playing kickball because day-in, day-out I was forced to participate in an activity that I didn't like. I guess if it was an occasional thing I might have endured it and forgotten about it.

But, that's not the end of the kickball story. Oh no. Tomorrow we have a team event at work. And you guessed what it is, I'm sure. We're going to play kickball!!1 Why kickball I have no idea, but I'm dreading it.

So, I've been hoping that it will rain. And right now the forecast is calling for, "Cloudy with a 50 percent chance of showers and thunderstorms." So maybe I shouldn't worry about it. But, if we do go forward with this lame (yes, I will say it because that's what I think of it) event, what should I do? Should I just endure it? Find a way to avoid it? Embrace it as an opportunity to get over a childhood trauma? Protest?

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