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

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.

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.

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 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.

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
signed-by rogers.com


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.

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

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

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.

Joss Whedon on Humanism


Kingsford Goes to the Beach - video powered by Metacafe

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.”

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
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.

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.

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.

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]

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.

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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