A Week of Sun December 23 - 29, 2008  

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

And here we end the year...

I really like how this week ended with just a faint crescent moon. The year is waning, but soon the new year will begin.

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This Week's Reader December 28, 2008  

Sunday, December 28, 2008


The Free Will Argument
But this is a gross mischaracterization. Modern law has at least some basis in the “law of the jungle,” which, aside from rewarding the powerful, also ties cooperation to fairness and reciprocation. Recent studies on both chimpanzees and dogs have shown that they have a strong moral sense. They respond negatively to perceived unfairness as all intelligent life forms do–by refusing to cooperate. Packs, prides, and tribes are all bound together by this same tension between cooperation and competition. Cheaters and free-riders are punished and cooperators rewarded. Behavior, like other traits, has an evolutionary component, and humans only have self-reflection to separate us from animals. For both, it’s a constant tension between short and long-term self-interest, between the good of the one and the good of the many. Any part of this equation that’s not innate is learned socially. Social animals and humans have always been forced by circumstances to learn to work together and reciprocate. Morality is the inevitable outcome of the interplay between individuals and the groups to which they belong.

Civil Rights
Prop 8 proponents seek to nullify same-sex marriages
Sponsors of the California ballot measure that banned same-sex marriage are seeking to nullify thousands of marriages between gay and lesbian couples performed after the state Supreme Court ruled them constitutional.

The sponsors Friday filed responses to three anti-Proposition 8 lawsuits with the state Supreme Court. The briefs also defend Proposition 8 against opponents' legal challenges, including an argument that the amendment needed a constitutional convention to be added to the state's constitution.

US balks at backing condemnation of anti-homosexuality laws
"It's disappointing," said Rama Yade, France's human rights minister, of the U.S. position _ which she described as in contradiction with America's long tradition as a defender of human rights.

According to some of the declaration's backers, U.S. officials expressed concern in private talks that some parts of the declaration might be problematic in committing the federal government on matters that fall under state jurisdiction. In numerous states, landlords and private employers are allowed to discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation; on the federal level, gays are not allowed to serve openly in the military.

UN adopts anti-defamation resolution, draws critics’ ire
Washington, 21 December (IranVNC)—The United Nations General Assembly on Thursday adopted a non-binding resolution against the defamation of religion, ignoring critics who say that it threatens the right to free expression and can be used to silence religious minorities and dissenters.

Let's talk about clean coal
When power plants burn coal to produce energy, the coal doesn't just vanish into the atmosphere to cause global warming. No, there's a substantial amount of left-over sludge called coal ash, a nasty mess that is enriched for toxic heavy metals. It is seriously nasty stuff. This glop has to be stored, somewhere, usually piled up and walled-off, because it's not healthy for anything.

Behold what happens when the containment walls fail.

Timothy Shriver Says Yes on the Warren Choice
We are created by a compassionate God who “fashioned us with care and love in the palm of divine light” - yet has consigned the majority of the world’s inhabitants - those who, for mysterious reasons known only to the deity in question, have not been fortunate enough to be among the Chosen - to eternal condemnation. I continue to be astounded that any religious believer can hold this pair of beliefs in the same mind at the same time. Then again, what do I know? I’m still trying to figure out what the “palm of divine light” is (to be honest, it just sounds like more rhetorical flourishing to me).

Too Little, Too Late?
It took the church about 350 years to finally own up to its stupidity, and now it wants to play nice with Galileo’s memory, by sucking up to science, despite the fact that religion is still the greatest enemy of reason that exists on this Earth. (You know. The one that revolves around the sun? Yeah, that one.) Are we to fall for this? This is the same church, led by the same pope that says, today, that homosexuality is as much of a threat to the survival of the human race as climate change. Are we supposed to trust his analysis?

Who Goes There?
And recently the research team of Michael Persinger had the fortune of capturing a sensed presence event on EEG (which measures the electrical activity of the brain).

The subject is a woman who has had numerous episodes of sensed presence after a head injury. Persinger now presents a case report of her EEG, recorded while she experienced the sense of a man in the room with her when none was present. For some reason as yet unknown, 90% of time a sensed presence is of a member of the opposite sex. The EEG shows a burst of electrical activity in her left temporal lobe during the event, and of note she perceived the presence to be on her right side. (Brain activity corresponds to the contralateral or opposite side of the world.)

Hysteria in Four Acts
Despite many efforts to account for hysterical behavior by tying it to some specific underlying brain disorder, none has succeeded. For this reason, the psychiatrist Thomas Szasz famously claimed in The Myth of Mental Illness (1961) that hysteria was not a “legitimate disease.” But most psychiatrists who accept the reality of hysteria do not regard it as a disease. They see it, rather, as a behavioral disorder. It derives not from an identifiable change within a cell or neural pathway, as in the case of disease, but from provocative events within the uniquely human world of self-consciousness—the world in which one is aware of one’s own individuality and in which one’s perceptions of reality can be powerfully shaped by social structures, language, symbols, and the ideas and assumptions held by people of influence.

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Happy Birthday, Sarge  

Thursday, December 25, 2008

I hope you have a great day celebrating another year.

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Christmas Traditions  

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

When I was growing up my mom baked like a mad woman for Christmas. Not only did she make cookies of all kinds, she also made candy - chocolate covered cherries, peanut butter cups, peanut butter balls, chocolate covered pretzels, and chocolate candies. She made them in quantities in the hundreds. Our house was full of baking from Thanksgiving until the New Year.

Being just the right age, around eight or nine, I was the perfect helper. I rolled the balls for the peanut butter cups, filled the molds with chocolate, dipped pretzels, mixed chocolate covered cherry filling, popped the candies out of the molds after they were frozen and set, whatever needed to be done. My mom made candy trays and gave them out throughout the holidays, but we still had more than enough left over to last us several months.

Our Christmas tradition was to eat candy and drink eggnog all morning while opening gifts. I know, my parents were absolutely crazy to give four kids a sugar high on the most excitable day of the year. Then we would go to my grandmother's house for big Christmas dinner. I'm surprised I never got sick or I didn't grow up obese. But for my parents, Christmas Day was a day to indulge, and that's what they did. My favorite thing about Christmas day was that it was a time set aside for family. We never went to church or visited friends. We spent the entire day together and we always had a good time.

My mom hasn't baked like that for years. And I haven't really either. If I ever have a decent sized kitchen I'd like to make candy again, in much smaller quantities. I might skip the chocolate covered cherries though. I really got sick of the filling over the years. It's so sugary sweet that just a little of it would make me feel ill. They were my mom's favorite though, so I never minded making them too much.

This year I made cookies to get back into the tradition a little. I decided on two recipes mentioned in my previous post - Pioneer Woman's molasses cookies and fudgy dark chocolate chip with raspberry filling cookies.

The first two batches of molasses cookies didn't turn out well. What I didn't realize is that I needed to add 3/4 cup of shortening instead of 1/2 cup. I don't know how I got the measurement wrong, but the cookies turned hard after a day. Unfortunately these were two batches that I gave to a couple of guys in the office who worked after hours for a project of mine. I'm sure they won't want my cookies again. :/

The third batch turned out wonderful, I think. The cookies spread further on the baking sheet and I didn't need to cook them as long. I haven't tried one yet because I'm afraid that I'll eat them all.


IMG_3262Then I moved on to the fudgy cookies. They were extremely simple, so simple I felt like I was cheating. But once the batter was mixed I knew they were exactly the type of cookie I wanted to go with the chocolate raspberry pieces I had. The batter was the perfect consistency.


Since I had some sugar left over from rolling the molasses cookies I rolled the fudgy cookies in the sugar before baking, just for a little extra touch of sweetness.


In the end, both batches look similar, although they're both very different cookies.


Sometimes with the Dreaded Oven I forget how much I enjoy cooking.

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Happy Holidays!  

I won't be around much the next couple of days, but I wanted to wish all my readers a Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah, Festive Solstice, the Blessing of the Noodly Appendages, and goodwill in whatever you celebrate or don't celebrate this month.

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A Week of Sun December 16 - 22, 2008  

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

With the solstice now in the past, the days are lengthening and I should catch more sunsets.

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Off to bake more cookies!

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Flower Smeller Award  

Paul, over at Cafe Philos has bestowed upon me the Flower Smeller Award. I'm a bit dubious about it all. I wonder just how well Paul knows me. Me, the constant worrier, who has angst over the smallest choices, always looking forwards and backwards.

Okay, maybe that's a little dramatic... I certainly do strive to enjoy the moment, especially when I find myself fantasizing about changing past events. And I have learned that it's better to let things go than hold onto them. My rather lame motto is, "I'll do better next time," because I think they only positive thing that I can gain from past experiences, other than good memories, is a little more experience in the world and drive to handle tricky situations with more grace next time around.

And now, curse you Paul for making me pick more people to bestow this award on. I'm beginning to feel a bit like I'm perpetuating a chain letter, albeit a very nice chain letter without the crappy superstitious message.

I select PBS because she always finds a way to be thankful in the worst of situations, Venjanz because I really think it'd be interesting to read his post on this, and Vistaluna because he's one of the most fantastic, humble, intelligent, caring friends I have.

And now that my good deed for the day is done I'm off to eat babies, or whatever else atheists do during Christmas.

P.S. I'm still editing pictures. My weekly sun post should be out sometime this evening. For some reason I thought I needed a nap last night and never got around to getting back up.

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Holiday Preparation  

Monday, December 22, 2008

Christmas preparations are almost complete, but I still have cookies to bake and a couple of grocery store runs to complete. I was planning on making more of Pioneer Woman's molasses cookies and somehow making them a little more moist this time so they don't overcook. Last time I think they got to hard after a day. My oven overheats. I still cook everything at 100 degrees below what the recipe calls for.

I also picked up dark chocolate chips with raspberry filling and decided to find a nice chocolate fudgey cookie recipe to go along with them. The Joy of Cooking had a nice one, but it's too fancy (read that as too complicated for me to want to make them in a rush). So instead I'm making these. Mmm... cookies made with cake batter.

I have an abysmally small kitchen. There's about three feet of counter space and a small strip in front of the microwave. When I cook I use all available space including the sink and the stove top. It's the only thing that makes cooking a chore. I can't wait to have a house again and a real kitchen.

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Sunday Reader December 21, 2008  

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Zodiacal Light Over New Mexico

Orion Dawn Over Mount Nemrut

Pennsylvania Task Force Says NO to Video Game Legislation
There is good news out of Pennsylvania today, as the commonwealth will apparently not pursue video game legislation.

A working group assigned by the Pennsylvania legislature to study the video game violence issue has strongly recommended that no laws regarding video game content should be enacted.

LittleBigPlanet used to create 36-cell computer, game of life
"Some guys put together a 36-cell simulation of Conway's Game of Life inside a LittleBigPlanet level, and it's absolutely amazing," Nina wrote us. "If you actually go through and play the level, they provide you with all of the components—logic gates, their computer clock and edge detector, a multiplexer, etc—to build your own mechanical computer. "

Rule Shields Health Workers Who Withhold Care Based on Beliefs
The far-reaching regulation cuts off federal funding for any state or local government, hospital, health plan, clinic or other entity that does not accommodate doctors, nurses, pharmacists and other employees who refuse to participate in care they find ethically, morally or religiously objectionable. It was sought by conservative groups, abortion opponents and others to safeguard workers from being fired, disciplined or penalized in other ways.

Airborne agrees to pay $7M in multistate settlement
The maker of Airborne dietary supplements has agreed to pay $7 million to settle allegations by 32 states and the District of Columbia that it made false claims about the benefits of its products. While the company admitted no wrongdoing, under the settlement, Airborne Health Inc. will discontinue any claims about the "health benefit, performance, efficacy or safety" of its supplements in preventing and treating colds and other ailments.

Typo In Proposition 8 Defines Marriage As Between 'One Man And One Wolfman'
"The people of California made their voices heard today, and reaffirmed our age-old belief that the only union sanctioned in God's eyes is the union between a man and another man possessed by an ungodly lupine curse," state Sen. Tim McClintock said at a hastily organized rally celebrating passage of the new law.

If programming languages were religions...
Java would be Fundamentalist Christianity - it's theoretically based on C, but it voids so many of the old laws that it doesn't feel like the original at all. Instead, it adds its own set of rigid rules, which its followers believe to be far superior to the original. Not only are they certain that it's the best language in the world, but they're willing to burn those who disagree at the stake.

A Sun Pillar Over North Carolina

On Inerrancy
So, did God not want to communicate his message more clearly? Or did he want to, but lacked the ability to do so? Either option poses a serious challenge to belief in a benevolent, all-wise deity. Why would God even write a book - a single book, one whose origins lie in a long-ago time and a very different culture, one that is prone to mistranslation, misinterpretation and deliberate alteration? Why grant some people special access to his word, and convey the message in such a flawed and imprecise format? Why not just speak to all of us directly, impress his message on everyone's heart?

Why Life Originated (And Why it Continues)
In a recent study called “Why did life emerge?”, two scientists, son and father Arto Annila of the University of Helsinki and Erkki Annila of the Finnish Forest Research Institute, offer some insight into the general driving force of life’s origins in terms of thermodynamics. As they explain, all organisms are composed of molecules that assemble together via numerous chemical reactions. Just as heat flows from hot to cold, these molecules obey the universal tendency to diminish energy differences, so that the most likely chemical reactions are those in which energy flows “downhill” toward a stationary state, or chemical equilibrium.

Rom-coms 'spoil your love life'
"We now have some emerging evidence that suggests popular media play a role in perpetuating these ideas in people's minds.

"The problem is that while most of us know that the idea of a perfect relationship is unrealistic, some of us are still more influenced by media portrayals than we realise."

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A Week of Sun December 9 - 15, 2008  

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

I finally took some time to remove the power lines from a couple of photos (see the orignals below for pictures #7 & #8). Both have gone through some additional processing on Flickr as well, so they may look a little different than in original image. #3 is my favorite this week. I like #10 too.

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Monday Photography  

Monday, December 15, 2008

More pictures of the floppy dogs to brighten your Monday.



They look like they want to take a nap, and so do I.

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This Week's Reader December 14, 2008  

Sunday, December 14, 2008

A Halo Around the Moon

Lick Observatory Moonrise

Civil Rights
Assisted Suicide
The film follows Craig Ewert, a 59 year old British professor who suffered from motor neurone disease (MND), a disease that attacks the neurons and cripples the person, causing them to have to live on a ventilator. Mr. Ewert decided to travel to a Swiss facility in order to take a lethal cocktail to end his life, after making peace with his family, and he allowed the process to be filmed for this broadcast. It is a crime to assist a suicide in the UK, which necessitated the trip to Switzerland.

Celebrate, Respect Human Rights
On Dec. 10, 1948 the United Nations adopted the Universal Declaration of Human Rights — a far-reaching, “living” document that applies to all people of the world. Today, the UN and nations around the world are celebrating the declaration’s 60th anniversary, while also acknowledging that a lot of work still needs to be done to protect and further human rights.

Jon Stewart smacks down Mike Huckabee on gay marriage
..."I'll tell you this: Religion is far more of a choice than homosexuality. And the protections that we have for religion? We protect religion -- and talk about a lifestyle choice -- that is absolutely a choice. Gay people don't choose to be gay. At what age did you choose not to be gay?"

Torture in video-games -- a moral dilemma
Games writer and MUD inventor Richard Bartle was startled to discover that a new World of Warcraft mission includes the option of torturing a captive for information, using "some kind of cow poke." When he wrote critically about this, he was deluged with Warcraft-lovers who wanted him to, you know, chill out, it's only a game, you know. His thoughtful response raises a lot of difficult and meaty questions about fantasy play.

Editorial: FCC Commisioner wants DRM, ISP filtering, new job

Five commissioners head the Federal Communications Commission. Most of its decisions remain arcane and of interest only to specialists, but this year alone, the Commission has taken assertive steps against certain P2P throttling techniques and in favor of white space devices in high-profile cases have a direct impact on your end-user Internet experience. So, when one of the five commissioners gives a speech (PDF) in which DRM is praised as "very effective," ISP filtering is portrayed as a Great Leap Forward, and a government partnership with the RIAA to "educate" schoolkids is promoted, it matters. Fortunately, however, it won't matter for too much longer.

Fighting for peace
Myself, I've always been conflicted about military service. Growing up as a Jehovah's Witness, one of the many 'rules' was NO MILITARY SERVICE. If you joined the military, you were turning you back on "God" and putting your faith in 'Man'. No matter what country you were in. They were really big on the whole "you'll find Catholics killing Catholics and Protestants killing Protestants, but you'll never hear of JWs killing JWs"! I've always had a strong respect for those that choose to fight for the freedoms I enjoyed. I was hyper-aware, you might say, because I wasn't allowed that choice.

Well, I Swear!
I’ve wavered back and forth on the subject of swearing over the years. They’re only words, a fact I boldly, tediously proclaimed in my supposedly transgressive youth and sometimes need to remind myself now in middle age. I swear less than I used to. Not as little as my wife would prefer, of course, but still, like so many other youthful passions, less than in my salad days. I was admonished as a child that the use of profanity bespoke an impoverished vocabulary, a claim I knew to be false at the time. My vocabulary in school exceeded that of some of my teachers – yes, that sounds like terrible braggadocio, but it’s sadly true. Even then I knew that cursing, properly used, added power to one’s expressive range.

A Glimpse of the Garden
But despite its superficial advantage in motivating the flock, belief in hellfire more than loses out due to its horrendously evil implications. Carlton Pearson has glimpsed a better way - rejecting the moral absurdity of a God who permits innocent humans to suffer indescribably, then casts them into eternal damnation. He ought to take the next step and ask himself: why believe in a God that permits people, like those people in Rwanda, to suffer so terribly even during this life?

Chicks Drink. Blame Feminism.
The one thing Morris does almost get right is the role that sex plays in all of this. This will come as a shock to pearl-clutching journalists, but most women like sex. But despite all the other panicky articles about “hook-up culture” and how slutty chicks are these days, women are still judged more harshly than men for having multiple partners or short-term sexual affairs. So I suspect there are, in fact, a decent number of women who drink specifically to lower their inhibitions, and let themselves enjoy sex with a non-boyfriend.

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Which Enemy of the Christian Faith Are You?  

Thursday, December 11, 2008

I did this with my tongue firmly in cheek. I don't really consider myself anyone's enemy. Too bad I got the boring result.

You can take the test yourself here.

(via Mike)

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Happy Meme  

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Sean has tagged me with this Meme:

What makes you happy?

The rules are simple:

* List ten things you're happy about or thankful for.
* Tag ten people who you're happy to call friend at the end of the meme.

(10 people!?!)

1. I'm thankful for my in-laws. They're a great and I'm glad I didn't marry into a dysfunctional, crazy family.

2. I'm happy that I seem to be getting better at photography. There's still plenty of room to improve, but I'm enjoying the process.

3. I'm happy that all of my family members are all relatively healthy and happy.

4. I'm happy that it's Christmas-time and I get to plot and scheme and try to surprise a few people.

5. I'm happy that my hairdresser didn't shave my head when she butchered my hair this time.. I think?

6. I'm thankful that I've had a life filled with opportunities and that even when times were hard I always made it through, never had to starve or go without most necessities.

7. I'm happy it snowed yesterday and everyone in the office was talking about it.

8. I'm thankful for all of my friends that have been there for me over the years offering advice or just to listen.

9. Books. More specifically well-written, interesting books make me happy.

10. I'm happy that today is my fourth anniversary and that we've made it four years without falling out of love with each other. Sometimes we take a step back in the evolution, but we're continuing to adapt to each other and become better partners for each other.

I tag
CL Hanson
Mamacita Chilena
and anyone else who reads this

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Are American Elections Democratic Enough?  

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

I recently finished listening to this podcast from the National Constitution Center and it had a lot of new ideas. I wasn't really aware of a lot of the rules surrounding the election process, so it was enlightening in the least.

If you have some time, give it a listen. Right click on the Original audio source link and select save as to download it to an mp3 player.

Original audio source

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A Week of Sun December 2 - 8, 2008  

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Monday, December 08, 2008

The 29th Humanist Symposium is up at a Nadder and my article on gay marriage and adoption was included. Michael wrote this edition in haiku format.

Also, Chappy at An Apostate's Chapel is currently hosting the Carnival of the Godless Holiday Feast Edition.

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This Week's Reader December 7, 2008: Double Your Reading Edition  

Sunday, December 07, 2008

From Moonrise to Sunset
In this panorama of Earth and sky recorded on Thursday, November 13, the Full Moon rises along the eastern horizon at the far left. Of course, the Full Moon rises at sunset and that Thursday's setting Sun was also captured at the far right. In between, 17 digital images are stitched together to follow the horizon to the south in a lovely twilight portrait of the city of Lisbon, Portugal. The serene view takes in part of the longest bridge in Europe, the Vasco da Gama bridge, beneath the rising Moon and ends at the mouth of the Tagus River looking west toward the sunset and the Atlantic Ocean. The photographer's vantage point was Lisbon's 100 foot high Cristo Rei monument on the south bank of the Tagus, at the foot of the port city's other famous bridge, the Ponte 25 de Abril.

Chilean Skyscape

A Happy Sky Over Los Angeles

Venus in the Moon

Smile in the Sky

Here We Go Again
“City leaders have demonstrated their clear bias towards protecting and providing special privileges to their favored religious beliefs, in clear violation of the California and United States Constitutions. I would like to think that few Christians are so insecure in their faith as to support this action.”

Why I am no longer a Christian – Part 1
I was taught that God loved me so much that he let his son be killed for me. Yet, I knew that if I were to love someone, I would not create them with built-in conflict that guaranteed unhappiness on some level. If I were to give into my sexual urges, I would be sexually happy but spiritually distraught. If I were not to give into my sexual urges, I would be spiritually happy but sexually frustrated. I saw animals (who I believed God also created) roaming free with a single purpose in mind—to fulfill their nature. They were not conflicted to behave against their nature. Indeed, it would have felt cruel for me to deny any animal its natural needs—and yet I was to believe that God’s denial of my natural needs was out of love.

Christianity offers an explanation for this—that my nature was sinful, and that I differ from the animals because I have a soul. I was told not to question God’s ways, because “there is a way that seems right to a man, but the end thereof is the way of death.” I was also told to “lean not unto my own understanding.” I was told to just trust The Lord. My nature was evil, and The Lord had created a way to redeem my nature. The entire theory of salvation became extremely convoluted, with little branches and secret compartments to explain away all the various lapses in logic.

Civil Rights
Why churches fear gay marriage
The possibility that a whole new generation of American males is being raised by women without men is very challenging for the churches. I think they want to reassert some sort of male authority over the order of things. I think the pro-Proposition 8 movement was really galvanized by an insecurity that churches are feeling now with the rise of women.

Monotheistic religions feel threatened by the rise of feminism and the insistence, in many communities, that women take a bigger role in the church. At the same time that women are claiming more responsibility for their religious life, they are also moving out of traditional roles as wife and mother. This is why abortion is so threatening to many religious people -- it represents some rejection of the traditional role of mother.

Gay Adoption: The Real Agenda
Consider the implications of the policy in this case. It would mean removing the children from the home in which they have been raised -- "one of the most caring and nurturing placements" the guardian has ever seen. It would mean putting them through the trauma, once again, of being uprooted and placed with complete strangers. And because of the difficulty of placing kids their age, the CFCE said, it could mean the brothers would be permanently separated from each other.

And for what? Solely to shield them from the supposed perils of gay parents. Gays are treated as more dangerous than felons, drug offenders and known child abusers -- none of whom is categorically barred from adopting.

UFC to fighters: appear in videogames or you don't fight
Sports-themed video games are huge moneymakers for publishers, but using the likeness of a professional athlete in these games is proving to be an increasingly contentious undertaking. The upcoming UFC Undisputed 2009 serves as the most recent example of this, as reports surfaced yesterday that popular fighters Jon Fitch and Josh Koscheck were on the outs with the Ultimate Fighting Championship organization. The reason? They were being asked to sign away their likeness rights for life. For Fitch, the disagreement has become so intense that he had already been cut by the company.

Moral money managers now slamming games for GLBT content
With the holiday season upon us, shoppers are kicking their spending into high gear, and these consumers often consult gift guides for advice on what to buy. A popular choice? Creating lists that advise parents on what to NOT buy their kids. In the video game industry, we've all gotten used to seeing such lists surface around this time of the year; this week, we were treated to such an item by The Timothy Plan, a group that manages money based on Judeo-Christian principles. While profanity and violence were on the list, the group's attitudes toward homosexuality are what raised the most attention.

Atheist group sues state Homeland Security department
Edwin Kagin, a Boone County lawyer and the national legal director of American Atheists, said he was appalled to read in the Herald-Leader last week that state law establishes praising God – and installing a plaque in God’s honor – as the first duty of the Homeland Security Office.

The aftermath of the Mumbai attack
They say it’s over but how do we, the common citizens cope with this? It’s going to take some time for life to get back to normal and I am not sure that I want it get back to normal. We are a nation in mourning and will be for some time. I was not anywhere near the death and destruction, although a person I know was trapped in there the whole night. He got away unscathed but many didn’t. Images flash before my eyes. 60 innocents, men, women, and children, shot on v.t station as they alighted from trains. 17 men and women lined up in a hotel corridor and shot to death mercilessly. The Israeli rabbi and his wife tortured to death on wednesday night. Brave firemen rescuing people trapped in the Taj Mahal hotel rooms even as the battle raged on, unmindful of the bullets. A police jeep ambushed, killing three brave men. Hotel staff maintaining their calm and helping guests out of the hotel, risking their own lives. People huddled in their rooms, frightened to death. Terrorists shooting civilians on sight, killing hundreds. Two killers cornered at Girgaum chowpatty by policemen. NSG commandos storming the hotel and Nariman House…

The Lil’ Hos Go Down
Knowing my utter loathing for the whorelicious line of dolls known as Bratz, the entire concept of which seems to be to show little girls just how good life will be if only they will turn themselves into vapid pre-teen mall sluts, several people have forwarded me stories of how a judge has ordered Bratz dolls — all of them — off the shelf after the company that made them lost a copyright suit to Mattel, maker of Barbie. Their expectation is that I would be greeting this news with something close to joy.

Why “Twilight” is hurting America
This movie makes me sad at so many levels. But most of all, it makes me sad that thousands of teenage girls, including my niece, think this is one of the greatest movies ever. That this is how love is supposed to be. That it’s romantic to subsume your entire being for a boy with a spiky haircut and awesome abs. And that the only way to attract said man is to look a certain way. Edward never fell in love with Bella’s mind, her kindness or her wit. He noticed her because of how she looked and, moreso, how she smelled.

Hitler And Stalin Again
The point that struck me was that contrary to the usual Christian blather about how horrible atheists have been in the 20th century, it is the religion of Christianity, specifically that of the Inquisition, that compares more favorably to Nazism and Stalinism, than anything even remotely atheistic. The Inquisitorial Toolbox, as Kirsch refer to it, was left open and used repeatedly by the Nazis and the Stalinist Russians, and not because they were atheists, but because they were dogmatists whose primary directive was mind control of the population, not conversion to atheism.

Why Bother to Promote A Healthy Attitude Towards Nudity?
On the other hand, there are at least two, broad reasons for somewhat caring how nudity is viewed (shameless pun intended). First, the notion that nudity is scandalous, immoral, and even dangerous contributes to all sorts of socio-political absurdities. Janet Jackson once exposed her nipple for less than two seconds on national television and caused a controversy lasting several days that at its peak swept aside major news stories. A school teacher was reprimanded then fired for taking her children to a museum that displayed nude sculptures. A grandmother was prosecuted for photographing her two partly-clothed granddaughters bouncing on her bed. Here in Colorado Springs, a woman threatened to sue a drug store for “trauma” after she accidentally received images of a nude man from the store’s photo lab. And a man in another state was once convicted of sex offender charges for walking about nude in his own home without closing his drapes. All of these examples and others point to some of the consequences of our accepted, but ridiculous attitude towards nudity.

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Thursday, December 04, 2008

Just doing my part to stimulate the economy...

Actually these were mostly a result of Amazon's Cyber Monday specials. We might have a few more showing up tomorrow, but our Christmas shopping is almost done with hardly hitting a physical store.

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Winter Sucks!  

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

Friday, November 21, 2008 7:25 AM CDT

I made a pledge to stop being so negative after ranting about work for the past two weeks on Twitter, but I have to say it. Winter sucks.

Normally I like winter, or at least, in the dog days of winter (February), I tolerate it. The cold has never really bothered me unless it's really cold. And really cold for me, for those of you in Canada, is below freezing for weeks at a time. Okay, so that's not really cold, but it's cold enough. Even when it was too cold outside to really feel comfortable I could always curl up on the couch with a blanket and a book and be fine.

I even tried to talk Matt into moving further North a few times. I may not enjoy winter, but I absolutely hate summer. Early summer is all right. Once it gets above a reasonable temperature, which is not far above standard room temperature, I'm miserable. I've never been able to take the heat very well. I blame it on growing up with air conditioning.

But this year winter hit me suddenly. I'm freezing my fucking feet off and it's not even really cold yet. I don't know if it's getting sick right as the weather is changing or not pulling out my winter wardrobe quickly enough, but it's chilling me to the bone. I dread going outside to take pictures. Last year I was content to throw a robe over my PJs and run outside barefoot. This year I'm still shivering with a coat, gloves, scarf, and boots.

Hopefully I'll adjust, but it sucks to be longing for Spring before Thanksgiving is even over.

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A Week of Sun November 25 - December 1, 2008  

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

There wasn't much sun this week and I didn't look for photos very often since I was sick, but I think this set captures the feeling of the weekend very well.

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Reading List for November  

Monday, December 01, 2008

I admit it. I didn't finish The Canon. I just didn't like Angier's writing style. She skipped all over the place in a manner I found frantic. I'm happy that she's enthusiastic about science, but I couldn't get a coherent story from her without jumping around through three or four at the same time. I found myself skipping pages, then chapters, and finally putting the book down for good.

I also skipped the last story in Fisherman. I enjoyed the stories, but when she got into the Hanish, I lost interest. I haven't read any of her Hanish novels and the story just didn't grab me. After slogging my way through the second-to-last short story, I stopped once I realized the last story would be more of the same. I don't know if I should consider the book completed, but I finish the rest of the stories, so I'm claiming it anyway.

Despite that, I'm looking forward to Wave, a collection of essays, and I can't wait to start on The Universe, a similar book to The Planets, which I read earlier in the year. It's a collection of essays on astronomy mixed with science fiction short stories.

Read in November
Ultimate Guide to Digital Photography 2nd Edition - David Fearon
A Fisherman of the Inland Sea - Ursula K LeGuin
Water for Elephants - Sara Gruen

Currently Reading
The Wave in the Mind - Ursula K LeGuin

Coming Up Next
The Universe - Byron Preiss (Editor)

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Mmmm.. Babies  

More proof that atheists eat babies.

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