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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