May 31, 2013

They're imitating me again

Compared to Google Glass, these glasses are more like the "Visors" in Xmas Carol. They're still a far cry from the technology described in the book, but they're moving in the right direction. If you'd like to see where it's all going -- and read a bang-up story in the process -- pick up a copy of Xmas Carol. You won't be disappointed. I promise.

First openly gay college basketball player

John Aravosis has a nice story at AmericaBlog about the first openly gay player in college men's basketball. And he's an ex-Mormon and it's a Catholic college. Very cool in all directions. Check it out.

Leaving the Scouts for Bizarro World

There is a strange article at NBC news about anti-gay fathers pulling their sons out of the Scouts now that gay kids are welcome in the organization. They seem to think the inclusion of gays instantly transformed every troop into Sodom and Gomorrah.

Consequently, a few wingnut fathers had half-a-chat with their sons, and told them they could no longer be a part of their beloved Boy Scouts. The kids were crushed.
“I feel pretty bad about it,” Evan [a boy whose father pulled him out] told NBC News, noting he liked the camp-outs, and archery and slingshot activities he enjoyed in Pack 56. He said that he understood there was a vote that led to his parents’ decision. He explained that he understood it as: “It was between honor and God, and not honoring God. And [not] honoring God got more votes.” 
The poor kid doesn't even know why his father is pulling him from his favorite activities. That explanation reminds me of how some parents describe sex to their kids without ever mentioning, you know, sex. Here's another tale from the article:
“It was hard to explain to a 9-year-old the complexities of why I was telling him that we had to quit,” Miller said. “He told me, 'Daddy, it should be like church. Everybody should be welcome.'”
Miller said he then told Cody that the point of going to church is to seek forgiveness — not for being all-inclusive.

“I said, 'These people aren’t asking for your forgiveness,'” Miller, 51, told NBC News in a telephone interview. “What they're doing is saying, 'this is what I am and you have to accept me like I am. I'm not coming to try to change.'
Seriously, these are episodes from Bizarro World. I can just imagine the sparkling, new organization these fathers will create for their holy Scouts. They'll probably stage a crucifixion each week to keep the boys on their toes. Maybe dress them up in vestments now and then to play "mass".

Gay-hating men are so weird. I don't think they even understand what they object to. It's just a big, mushy, frightening thing in their brains. It scares them so much that testosterone rages through their bodies and clouds their brains even further. They seem to think they're fighting a war, or something.

Hey, dads. Get over yourselves. Gay people exist and we're not going away. You'll  have to accept us or go find a hole in the ground to live in. And congratulations on making your sons cry for no rational reason. You sure know how to be great dads! PS: Enjoy Father's Day. Maybe someone special will give you some valium.

May 30, 2013

Baseball in an alternate universe

Everyone knows we slipped into an alternate universe years ago so Obama could be elected. (I said this before Colbert, by the way.) Well, it's happened again.

The Mets beat the Yankees in the first three games of the "subway series". This is impossible, yet it occurred. This means we've slipped into yet another universe. There are so many; it's hard to keep track.

Please keep your eye out for anomalous happenings. For instance, if gravity disappears and you float up into the air -- that would be confirmation that things don't work the same in this new universe. If you see this or any other strange thing, please report back here.

I'll tell the demons and we'll see if they can fix it. Okay, as you were. But remain vigilant!

PS: The news is so stupid and ugly today, this is about the only post I can muster. Let's hope for better tomorrow.

PZ nails it

Just go read it.

May 29, 2013

Why my house is always cold

Although NY is about to enter a four- or five-day heat wave, it's nice and cool in my house. In fact, even in the dog days of summer, my house is always cool -- without A/C.

It's true. In the summer, people walk into my house and say, "Thank god! You've got the A/C on!" But I don't. It just stays cool in here. Why is that?

I think it's because there are demons all over my house. They're attracted to me because I'm an anti-Christian crusader. And you know how ghosts, goblins and demons make a place cold. In the movies, that's always how you can tell they've entered the room. Brrrrr. Demons!

I thank the demons and hereby offer my house as a demon hostel. Come one, come all. Move in and keep this place freezing. I love the demons!

Method to capture carbon dioxide and produce green energy

I read a lot of science stories. Sadly, part of this experience is that I encounter news that seems extremely hopeful -- but then I never hear about it again. This may be one of those disappearing wonders. But if it works, it could solve many of our problems.

The basic idea is that scientists have discovered a way to trap carbon dioxide while simultaneously producing hydrogen for clean energy and a product that can de-acidify the oceans. Talk about a free lunch! This would be marvelous if it's both true and cost-effective. Time will tell.

I sure hope it works. We're going to need an earthshaking discovery to avert climate-based extinction. Perhaps this is it.

Vatican raises a glass to homophobia

Without ever mentioning sexual orientation (because they know the EU would blast them for it), the Vatican issued a tremendously deceptive message. The "Statement of the Holy See delivered by Bishop Mario Toso, SDB, at the High Level Conference on Tolerance and Non-discrimination (including Human Rights Youth Education)" is riddled with hatred of gays. But it's couched in terms that make it seem as if it's the Christians who are being discriminated against. And why? Just because the poor, sweet, dears do hateful things to gay people. But, and here's the heart of the message, they just can't help themselves. Jeebus wants them to be hateful! It's their religious duty, or something.

The basic idea contained in the statement of the "Holy See" (I love that term) is that their compelling religious need to hate gay people is, well, it's being cramped by tedious legislation and cries of intolerance. Yes, it's the "you won't tolerate my intolerance!" argument again.

Here are the relevant portions of the Holy See's document. (Crossed-out remarks represent the actual meaning of words that follow.)
In recent years there has been a significant increase in incidents involving Christians who have been arrested and even prosecuted, for going after gay people with pitchforks and knives speaking on Christian issues. Religious leaders are threatened with police action after preaching about their godly hatred of all things gay sinful behaviour and some are even sentenced to prison for hate crimes against gays preaching on the biblical teaching against sexual immorality.

The second area where intolerance against Christians can clearly be seen is in regard to the entirely Christian urge to hurt gay people Christian conscience, particularly in the workplace. Throughout Europe there have been numerous instances of Christians being removed from the workplace simply for acting viciously and without rational cause seeking to act according to their conscience.

Participating OSCE States must therefore guarantee that Christians are allowed to be as hateful as their god wants them to be intolerance and discrimination against Christians is ended, enabling Christians to stalk and harm gay people speak freely on issues that the government or others may find disagreeable, and please their hateful god, even at work act on their consciences in the workplace and elsewhere.
I guess the Vatican is really down with the violence against gays, huh? They're probably cheering about the anti-gay attacks that took place in NY in recent weeks. And -- coincidentally, of course -- America's bishops, led by the ever-smiling, always anti-gay, almost-pope Timmy Dolan, are handing out a "special bulletin" calling for anti-gay sermons at masses nationwide this Sunday. This will be especially appreciated in New York, where so many gay bashings have happened lately. Timmy, you make this violence happen to gays. (This article provides the details.)

That's quite a hate convention church they've got there.

Hat tip: Joe Jervis

David Atkins on Michelle Bachmann leaving Congress

Nor will Bachmann likely disappear from the public stage. She'll simply pull off the Sarah Palin grift, moving effortlessly from elected office to some wingnut welfare sinecure on Fox News, The Blaze or elsewhere. That's the modern conservative movement in a nutshell: the Elmer Gantrys, the corporations that fund them, and the rabid aging flock of white wool sheep who follow them in the hope of repealing the civil rights movement, the sexual revolution and empathy in general.

May 28, 2013

A sad moment in a mother's life

The Chinese government wouldn't let Ai Weiwei travel to Venice to see his show -- so his mother went instead.

This is the show that depicts the horrors he experienced while enduring 81 days of Chinese captivity. His mother viewed the artwork quietly. Her visit was chronicled in the above-linked article. Here's an excerpt.
Weiwei's elderly mother, Gao Yng, on Tuesday viewed for the first time a series of dioramas depicting six episodes of pressure during her son's 81 days in detention in 2011. Gao walked quietly through the exhibit, peering through openings in the 1.5-meter (4.5-foot) high boxes. Inside them, Weiwei constructed in great detail scenes of his captivity.
His mother did not speak to journalists who documented the moment, but she was moved to tears as she left the exhibit in the church of Sant'Antonin.
A mother viewing the torture of her son. The Chinese government did itself no favors by enabling this poignant moment. It will live forever in the minds of decent people.

Catholic church blathers about "morality"

They just can't shut up, these Catholic leaders. Let's analyze this for a bit.

In Ohio, a Catholic school (actually, two schools) fired an unmarried female teacher when she became pregnant. So now the woman is suing the diocese in federal court because that's against the law. You cannot fire a woman because she becomes pregnant.

So of course the church, having done something immoral, uses this "opportunity" to expound about morality.
The archdiocese says she was fired because artificial insemination is immoral and violates church doctrine and a contract requiring all employees to "comply with and act consistently in accordance with the stated philosophy and teachings of the Roman Catholic Church." 
Umm, do priests have to sign such a document, or do they have such a promise in their vows? After all, it's widely known that the church doesn't immediately fire a male who rapes a child. In fact, they hardly ever fire such a priest, even after he rapes scads of other kids. That's a minor thing, apparently. But when a woman -- a single filthy woman -- gets pregnant, that's the signal to haul out the heavy artillery. This illustrates the church's priorities nicely.

This is a disgusting church. They still talk about morality, even though they violate all normal senses of the concept -- regularly, often and apparently, in perpetuity. Males don't do wrong; females do. This is a Catholic concept, illustrated through the church's words and actions.

I hope they get shafted by the courts. The woman (Christa Dias) "taught computer technology and had no ministerial duties." There's absolutely no reason why the church should meddle in her private life. That the church did so is immoral.

Try telling that to these bozos. Morality, indeed. They know nothing of the concept. How can anyone be Catholic?

Vatican to atheists: never mind

"You're going to hell, after all." That's the message the Vatican has for atheists. Remember last week when the pope said even atheists can go to heaven? Well, the Vatican would like you to know that he never, never, never said such a thing (although he really, really, really did):
But in an "explanatory note on the meaning of 'salvation,'" the Rev. Thomas Rosica, a Vatican spokesman highlighted that being "good" alone is not enough to be saved. People who know about the Catholic Church, he explained, "cannot be saved" if they "refuse to enter her or remain in her."
Ah. So the refurbished message is this: If atheists are "aware" of the church -- even if they also know that this is the church where the priests rape the kids and the higher-ups hide it -- they must join the congregation and salute the rapist priests. Only then will they be handed a ticket to heaven. What a holy message! Hallelujah.

Another mindless Catholic twit, Rev. John Zuhlsdorf, said on his blog:
“[The pope] was clear that salvation is only through Christ’s Sacrifice.  In other words, he is not suggesting – and I think some are taking it this way – that you can be saved, get to heaven, without Christ.”
But he did suggest it, Blanche. He did. Anyway, is Zuhlsdorf a mind-reader? If any clarification is necessary, the infallible guy should provide it. For now, we're just going to believe what Francis said: if an atheist is a good person, he'll go heaven!

Note that the article in the Christian Post, which I linked to above, is titled: "Atheists are still going to hell, says Vatican spokesman". Such a sweet, sweet church.

Tough noogies, fellas. I'm going to heaven, and that's that.

Hat tip to Jerry Coyne.

May 27, 2013

Robbie Rogers plays first game for Galaxy

Robbie Rogers, the first openly gay, active player in any major league sport in America, played his first game for Galaxy last night.
“Many years from now most people won’t remember the score of this game. But they’ll remember when he stepped on the field,” said former Galaxy executive Alexi Lalas, now an ESPN soccer analyst. “That’s cool. That’s important.”
The article says he received "polite applause" from the fans. I hope the applause grows louder as his gameplay improves. (He's been out of the game for two years and needs a bit of practice.)

A line has been crossed. And the sports world will never be the same. Good times.

How to have fun while complaining

It's pretty boring to write a letter or email of complaint to a company. In fact, it's downright tedious (especially when it's done online and you're talking to a bot). So I always try to inject some fun into the process.

For instance, I use sarcasm. I once wrote to a local TV station and said, "What my family loves about your news show is that you only cover yesterday's news. This way, we're never surprised. I can't tell you how much we value that. Keep up the good work!"

It's more fun than a straight complaint letter and yet it gets the job done. In fact, it might have a bit more punch because of the sarcasm. But what about the boring emails you have to write when you receive an incorrect or broken item? Lately, I've begun these emails as follows:

"The twins are sitting next to me and they're crying their eyes out." I tell them that the girls were so looking forward to receiving the item, and they haven't stopped crying since the wrong (or broken) item arrived. The fun thing is that it doesn't matter what the item is: a tire gauge, a ball-peen hammer, men's size 2XL tall sweatshirt -- anything. It always makes the little twins cry.

Remember this when you need to complain: have some fun. Life doesn't have to be boring.

Ai Weiwei's new show

As readers of this blog know, I'm a big fan of Chinese dissident artist and relentless provacateur, Ai Weiwei. There is a new show based on his experiences in Chinese detention. The man just won't give up. He is an everpresent goad to the Chinese government. I love this about him.
Mr. Ai’s vitriol against the Communist Party has made him a polarizing figure in the Chinese art world. Many artists quietly resent the attention Mr. Ai has received from the West, as well as his occasional denunciations of other Chinese, including former friends, who are unwilling to take the same uncompromising stand against the party. 
Won't. Back. Down. Militant artists are great, especially when fighting a behemoth like China. I admire this man so much. Check out the story. It includes "multimedia" (is that a tired term, or what?) of some of his latest artworks.

Coda: Where is the American artist who is Weiwei's counterpart? He or she is nowhere to be seen. That is so strange. American society is collapsing, the middle class is dying, and we no longer bother to educate our children. And oh yeah, we've decided not to address climate change. We'll just go extinct. It seems there should be an American artist who is covering the American decline like white on rice. Perhaps this artist exists and I just haven't bumped into his or her work. If that's the case, please enlighten me in the comments.

May 26, 2013

Portrait of a craven woman

I'm not sure this will have wings outside New York, but there's a story in the NYT today about Julie Hermann, who was hired as Rutgers' athletic director in the wake of the revelation that a coach humiliated and abused Rutgers basketball players. Turns out, she may be worse than the train wreck she replaced.
The woman hired to clean up Rutgers' scandal-scarred athletic program quit as Tennessee's women's volleyball coach 16 years ago after her players submitted a letter complaining she ruled through humiliation, fear and emotional abuse, The Star-Ledger reported Saturday night on its website. 
"The mental cruelty that we as a team have suffered is unbearable," the players wrote about Julie Hermann...
Doesn't anyone check a person's background before hiring them, especially in the wake of a well-publicized scandal? But the best part is the woman's response and attitude. She's right up there with wingnut Republicans.
The 49-year-old Hermann, set to take over the Rutgers' program June 17, told The Star-Ledger she didn't remember the letter. The newspaper said when it was read to her by phone Wednesday, she replied, "Wow." 
I laughed out loud when I read that. There's also this tidbit from her past:
At that news conference [to announce her hire], Hermann was questioned about a 1997 jury verdict that awarded $150,000 to a former Tennessee assistant coach who said Hermann fired her because she became pregnant
Here's a bit more about the complaints that were made regarding her behavior toward the young women on the team:
"Their accounts depict a coach who thought nothing of demeaning them, who would ridicule and laugh at them over their weight and their performances, sometimes forcing players to do 100 sideline pushups during games, who punished them after losses by making them wear their workout clothes inside out in public or not allowing them to shower or eat, and who pitted them against one another, cutting down particular players with the whole team watching, and through gossip.
When the Star-Ledger asked her about the grievances of the women she coached, this was her response:
"I never heard any of this, never name-calling them or anything like that whatsoever," she told the newspaper. "None of this is familiar to me." 
Seriously, someone needs to elect this woman to the House of Representatives immediately. She'd fit right in. And Rutgers, what the hell is wrong with you? You hired a pig to replace a pig. Jeez. The young people on Rutgers' athletic teams deserve better.

May 25, 2013

Great, funny article on gay marriage

You have to read this. It's heartwarming and I promise it will make you laugh.

Deemer's poetry

Since I don't have Charles Deemer's permission to put any of his poetry on my blog, I'll just direct you to this link. It leads to one of the many poems he's been writing lately. Click the banner on top to see more.

What I like is that he's engaging with the dying zeitgeist of our country, and the world at large. Humanity is going down a hole, and it will never find its way out. Deemer sees this and tries to find peace and creativity, without forgetting the (needless, ugly) pain that is going on everywhere.

Our old rules don't work. And if we don't figure something out very soon, we won't be here.

Why bees are dying

When this story was published on April 30, 2013, I thought the news media would plaster it everywhere. Didn't happen. It's been 25 days since this story surfaced, and yet you probably haven't heard a thing about it. Here's the scoop:
Commercial honeybee enterprises began feeding bees high-fructose corn syrup back in the 70's after research was conducted that indicated that doing so was safe. Since that time, new pesticides have been developed and put into use and over time it appears the bees' immunity response to such compounds may have become compromised.

The researchers aren't suggesting that high-fructose corn syrup is itself toxic to bees, instead, they say their findings indicate that by eating the replacement food instead of honey, the bees are not being exposed to other chemicals that help the bees fight off toxins, such as those found in pesticides.
So let's see, we took honey away from bees...and gave them high fructose corn syrup as a replacement for their natural food. You remember high fructose corn syrup, don't you? If you're eating a processed food right now, chances are it's got HFCS in the list of ingredients. It's in almost everything we eat these days. As far as I'm concerned, HFCS is the reason why Americans are obese. (I also think it's made the public stupid, but let's not go there right now.)

Anyway, apparently some nitwits decided to feed it to the bees. After all, what could go wrong? It's not like we need bees to produce food for us, or anything. I mean, they're just bees. (Note: that was sarcasm. We really, really need the bees.)

But this story wasn't picked up by the media. You'd think they'd have some interest in the actual, real-life reason why bees are dying. Nope. The only reason I can think of for the media blackout is that Big Syrup commanded that this be so. You're not allowed to tell the American public anything negative about this disgusting product. Or, I guess, you'll end up with your feet in concrete, at the bottom of a river.

Why else would this story be buried? There are tons of stories about why the bee decline is occurring. Tons. But they're not interested in running this one. Hmmmm.

Anyway, now you know why the bees are dying. I suggest you tell someone. Apparently that's the only way the news will get out.

Image of beekeeping in the 14th Century: Wikipedia Commons

Obama's schizophrenic remarks

I was going to write about the lack of sincerity in Obama's recent speeches, but Gaius Publius did it for me.

May 24, 2013

Never "make an issue" of your sexuality

I trolled the wingnut sites today to see what they're saying about the Boy Scouts of America changing its rules to allow gay Scouts. It was weird because I kept running into the same argument. I guess Wingnut Central commanded its minions to parrot this idea. Here it is, in all its glory.
Many homosexual Scouts have participated in Boy Scouts programs under the old policy (i.e., no gays allowed), and did so without making an issue of their sexual orientation.
Isn't that sweet? Gays mustn't "make an issue" of their sexuality. I guess that would be in keeping with how straights mask their sexuality at all times, never having public weddings or going out for a walk with their wives. And heaven knows they never admit to having children. They don't even wear wedding bands, lest it tip people off and reveal their sexual orientation. It's all kept mum; no tell, no harm. 

Right. Straights proclaim their sexuality loudly, often from the rooftops, using a megaphone. They can't stop telling you that they're straight. It's like an addiction. In fact, their arguments against gays in scouting are yet another announcement of their sexuality. It's all one big, brassy announcement that they're straight -- and aren't they marvelous for having chosen such a special, god-approved sexual orientation? It just makes you want to rush over and hug them.

But dog forbid a Scout lets anyone know that he's gay. That would be a sin -- and it would make the baby Jesus cry.

"Making" the bed

I've always found that phrase odd: one "makes" a bed. You hear it all the time. Mom: "Did you make the bed?! No?! Get in there and do it now!!" It's like the bed doesn't even exist until you fashion it from thin air, using sheets and a cover. Now it's a bed!

Anyway, let's dive below the phrasing and consider this activity. Why, oh why, do people "make" their beds? Fer hevvin's sake, you've been sleeping in the damn bed all night long. Let the poor thing breathe a bit. It's insane to bury your bed under covers, especially if you do this the instant you wake up.

I have my own system that I've used for decades. I sort of half-drape the bed, leaving open to the air the section where a body usually lies. Then when I get into bed at night, I just pull the covers over me. And everything's nice and fresh.

Don't "make" your bed. It's uncivilized. Any other opinions out there?

Luckily, this is right up Francis' alley

The Catholic archdiocese in Madrid says it needs more exorcists to help some of its faithful cope with the devil.

An archdiocese spokeswoman said Friday that Madrid only has one exorcist priest and that it is considering a plan to train more. She spoke on condition of anonymity in keeping with archdiocese policy. 

"The devil exists. That's a fact," she told The Associated Press. 
As I've said on many occasions, it must be terrifying to be Catholic. Everywhere you turn, hellish creatures are plotting against you. (And isn't it odd that no one but Christians can sense this devilish activity? I guess Satan only goes after Christians -- which is great news for the rest of us who are, you know, sane.)

But don't worry, Spain. Pope Francis is on the case.

NYT says it well

From an editorial in today's New York Times:
The Boy Scouts organization — by tolerating a loathsome belief, pressed by religious activists, that equates homosexuality with deviance — has committed itself to rejecting good, dedicated leaders. It should understand that scouting’s mission does not have to dovetail with right-wing agendas and bigotry. The scout movement was built a century ago simply upon interests “universal among boys” — outdoor skills and adventure — and on values of citizenship and decency. It’s a shame the Boy Scouts have allowed bigotry to tarnish this tradition.

BSA opens door halfway

It's hard to cheer. The Boy Scouts of America has decided to allow gay kids to be Scouts...but will maintain a ban on gay adult leaders. A story at the NYT tells how one gay Scout sees this change:
Tessier is on track to receive his Eagle Scout award — he only needs to complete his final project — but said he is troubled that on his 18th birthday he could transform from someone holding Scouting's highest rank to someone unfit to be a part of the organization. 

"That one couple hours (between 17 and 18) will make me not a good person," he said. 
It's that twisted. But hey, gay Scouts are in. Let's see how long the ban on gay adult leaders lasts. Not long, I would think. 

I do have another concern, one I don't see echoed in any of the stories about this change at BSA. As matters stand, I think there's good reason to worry about handing your gay kid over to a straight male Scout leader who could easily be a homophobe. I'll bet there are lots of anti-gay nutjobs leading troops right now. Remember, the BSA has been a safe haven for such men for a very long time. For this reason, the BSA needs to arrange for a competent gay organization to provide sensitivity training sessions for all current and future leaders. And that's just the start. We'll also need to monitor how gay Scouts are treated by adult staff (and by straight Scouts who have been brain-damaged by all the crazy talk that preceded this decision).

But for today, let's just sit back and wait for wingnut heads to explode. This should be fun.

May 23, 2013

Pope Francis says I'll go to heaven

Take that, bigots! The pope stated that atheists can go to heaven, as long as they're good.
LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - The Holy Father is full of surprises, born of true and faithful humility. On Wednesday he declared that all people, not just Catholics, are redeemed through Jesus, even atheists.

However, he did emphasize there was a catch. Those people must still do good
Well, obviously I'll make the cut. After all, I'm here every day, doing good by chronicling the appalling evil that is Christianity. By dedicating myself to fighting the church's filthy misogynists and anti-gay bigots, I am unequivocally doing good. No clear thinker can doubt this.

So if you're a wingnut reading this, know that I will greet you in the Afterlife. Boo-ya! Oh, wait a minute! Wingnuts won't get into heaven because they do bad, not good. Oh, well. I'll be there, anyway. At least we have that.

Upsetting day for gay Scouts

So the Boy Scouts are going to decide today whether to "allow" openly gay scouts to, you know, exist. No matter how things pan out, whether they're included or excluded, it's a really shitty day for gay people.

Who else has to suffer through moments when bigots get to decide if it's okay for them to exist? I really can't think of any other groups that go through this in the United States. Do we question whether Latinos, African-Americans, men or old people can join organizations? Never comes up (except in bigoted country clubs, of course). No full-fledged organization can deny the rights of any group in this country -- except gays.

That heavy weight is resting on the shoulders of every gay Scout today. Even if the vote goes the right way, they'll know they just inched inside the boundaries of this organization -- and they'll be aware that many don't agree that they should be "allowed" there.

Allowed? What kind of a screwed up world is this, that a child has to wonder if he's "acceptable" to others, simply because of who he is?

Being gay is great. Ask any adult gay or lesbian person. But getting to this point is like walking through a minefield -- with hate, rather than bombs, exploding all around you. And why is this the case? Because of Christianity, of course. It hates gay people with a passion unknown in its other endeavors. Only hating the gays gives Christians that special, holy thrill. Jesus would be so proud.

Let's hope the Scouts do the right thing today. These gay kids already know that their right to marry is on the chopping block. Let's at least let them enjoy their childhoods.

May 22, 2013

More like this, please

Arizona State Rep. Juan Mendez (D) turned a Tuesday afternoon prayer into something much more.
Indeed, he did. This is what Mendez said instead of the usual prayer:
"Most prayers in this room begin with a request to bow your heads," Mendez said, according to the Phoenix New Times. "I would like to ask that you not bow your heads. I would like to ask that you take a moment to look around the room at all of the men and women here, in this moment, sharing together this extraordinary experience of being alive and of dedicating ourselves to working toward improving the lives of the people in our state."
Is that great, or what? Mendez's words are more powerful than a tired, old prayer -- and the great thing is that this is so obvious. He may have opened some eyes. Let's hope so.

Everyone is talking about this

Yesterday, Wolf Blitzer illustrated the point I've been trying to make for the last two days. TV newspeople always think they're speaking to Christians. They're not, as a brave woman tried to tell Wolf.
(In case you can't view the video, he said this to a female tornado survivor: "We're happy you're here. You guys did a great job. You've gotta thank the Lord, right? Do you thank the Lord for that split-second decision?" The woman replied, "I -- I'm actually an atheist." For the record, Wolf did not say "Duh" after receiving this response. He should have.)
That's the whole story in a nutshell. American TV has become a Christian enterprise. This not only sickening, (drum roll) it's un-American. But you wouldn't expect Wolf to know that. The man has little understanding of the stories he "reports". He's extremely shallow and shows this all the time.

So, is Wolf embarrased by this? Of course not. After all, he's (drum roll) Wolf Blitzer!

Does Pope Francis believe in Beelzebub?

Pope Francis appears to have been captured on video performing an exorcism in St Peter’s Square.
I love hearing that any priest believes Satan is real. It's such an ignorant-git thing to believe. So you'd think I'd be happy when yesterday's low-hanging fruit about the Pope being an exorcist came along. 

But meh. I couldn't even blog about it. "After all," I thought, "everything the pope believes is a lie. So why get excited if he involves himself in an exorcism?"

But the more I thought about it, the more wonderful it seemed. I hope the pope does believe in the devil. It's such a colossally stupid thing to believe. In fact, I hope the pope thinks of Satan as his rival, his arch-enemy, a creature that haunts his days. Hoo boy. If that's the case, fun times lie ahead.

Also, too

I want to add something to what I said yesterday about the media's insistence on lathering disaster news with talk of god and miracles. It doesn't have to be this way.

Some people believe in god. I understand this and have no problem with the tendency of believers who survive a tragedy to say that god saved them. It's an awful, hateful message to those who weren't "saved", but hey, people can believe whatever they want. This is America.

The problem is with the media. If they took their jobs seriously, they could perform such a vital function. (I hear they used to, but this may be just a rumor.)

What I object to is the lumping together of religion and tragedy as one. It would be so much more useful if the media reported on the different ways that people respond to tragedy. Yes, some seek an outlet in faith. And by all means, report on that. But many others find solace through helping people. It should be made clear that these are two separate things.

On the one hand, there are people who talk to an imaginary creature when things get scary. But others respond by getting things done and helping people in need. The problem is that the media doesn't differentiate between the two streams: religious and secular. They just mush it all together, drape a flag over it and say "Here you go!" It would be much more helpful to report that people respond in different ways. Yes, some turn to prayer, but others don't -- they just get out there and help.

There are people that own restaurants and, upon seeing a major tragedy, shut down their place of business and bring a grill and tables to the affected area. Others rush to a Home Depot and buy many boxes of work gloves, to hand out to people picking through the rubble. Others go to half-destroyed houses and try to help the owners pull their lives back together.

Yes, at times these efforts are undertaken because a person's religion makes them feel they should help others. But much help arrives with a simple, secular message: I want to be kind to others because it's the right thing to do. The media doesn't report that second message.

It's not just a big ice cream sundae with god sprinkled over the top. The media could make this clear but they don't. This is what drives me crazy. With a little care and forethought, they could deliver an intelligent news flow -- but that never happens.


May 21, 2013

Terror god obliterates Oklahoma town

Tragically, Moore, Oklahoma was wiped off the map by a tornado yesterday afternoon. I can't imagine what the parents of missing kids are going through. Like most Americans, I feel tremendous sympathy for those affected by this event.

Like you, I turned to CNN to monitor the disaster. We humans have a hunger to know what happened to other people, what it was like for them, how many were injured or killed -- and in what manner. This is normal and helpful, in that it focuses attention on the community and gets donations and other aid flowing in. There's nothing wrong with any of this.

But as is the case during every national tragedy, every other word the TV reporters uttered was "god". It's sickening. The last thing people need in times of tragedy is lies. It's not helpful. I even heard reporters say that viewers should pray for the people of Moore. It's that accepted -- anyone can call for prayer at any time in our country. Americans lap it up and scream for more. God, god, god, god, god. Good, good, good, good, good. Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah. (Which eventually resolves into USA! USA! USA! for the simple reason that all American roads lead toward jingoistic nonsense. It's the American way. USA! USA!)

Okay, back to the TV coverage. This Christian viewpoint -- and make no mistake, that's what it is: Christian, not Muslim or Jewish or Wiccan -- saturates the media in times of disaster. It's useless and dumb and it makes no sense. Seriously, who is this creature they believe in, and how vicious is he? Let's think like they do, for a moment.

Looking at this event through the eyes of believers, god destroyed a largely Christian, American town. After all, nothing happens without god's explicit approval. But why did he do this? And did he really have to kill little kids? Why?

And there's another big "why". Why, after god destroyed the town, would people pray to him? What would be the aim of these prayers? Are they meant to calm the wrath of the avenger god who just destroyed the town, a hospital and two schools? (If that's the case, maybe they should also sacrifice a pet or two, just to be on the safe side.) Seriously, god just axed your town. And now you're going to get on your knees and pray to him? Why?

But of course, there is no god. Weather caused this tornado. Hot air, cold air and wind combined in a perfectly natural way to create a deadly menace. God didn't have anything to do with this or anything else. There is no god.

I don't get religious thinking. It never makes sense. Why don't religious people ask these questions? Wingnuts of the religious variety are fond of saying that Sandy wrecked NY because it's a godless place. So why did the "all-good, loving" god destroy this little town?

Prayer. It's nonsense. It's everywhere. It's America.

May 20, 2013

Irritating, braindead governor violates Constitution

This article lays out the story. An atheist was upset when "he discovered nine Gideon bibles in the cabin he had rented with his family at Amicalola Falls State Park in north Georgia. When he complained, park managers removed the Bibles while they sought a legal decision from the Attorney General's Office."

That was the right move: take them out. The bibles represent government sponsorship of a particular brand of religion. (And, surprise, surprise! That brand is Christianity! Who could have guessed?) Unfortunately, Georgia's braindead governor, Nathan Deal, reversed the decision and the Gideon Bibles were returned to the rooms.

Here's the fun part. When Deal did this, he said "any religious group was welcome to donate literature." Indeed. So now an atheist organization -- American Atheists -- has offered books on atheism and insisted they be placed inside the rooms, alongside the bibles. The state response is (ahem) allegedly forthcoming.

Listen, American Atheists is doing exactly the right thing. But those Gideon bibles should not be in Georgia's cabins and lodges. And nothing can make that right.

The only time a bible should be in one of these travel residences is when a dingbat religious person brings his or her own bible into the room. And then, as is the case with dog droppings, the religious person should be responsible for bagging the bible and taking it out of the room when they leave. You can't just leave filth behind for others to find.

Governor Nathan Deal is a caveman and he's violating the constitution. That should be clear to all.

God bless Aaron Swartz

This is important. There is now a new way to blow the whistle on evildoers -- despite president Obama's KGB-style war on whistleblowers. Now you can report "sensitive" information about the overlords in complete safety. No one will ever be able to track it back to you.

And best of all, Aaron Swartz -- the activist who was coerced into suicide by the US government -- invented the way to do this. Go, Aaron!

Hat tip: Ed Brayton.

May 18, 2013

I seem to be writing

The next novel calls. If I don't write it, you'll never read it. So I have to get cracking. Alas, this leaves little time for blogging. Have no fear -- I'll be back at some point. In the meantime, I want you to miss me terribly. Okay?

Consider this an open thread.

May 16, 2013

Why I'm an atheist

Don't get excited. The truth is I don't have much to say on this topic. I'm an atheist because the concept of gods is absurd. It has never seemed even slightly appealing or real to me, though I was raised in a Roman Catholic household.

The rest of my nuclear family believes in the nonsense. So do most of the people who live on this planet. I'm shocked that this is the case, but it is what it is. People believe in nonsense that a little child should be able to poke holes through. And they bully and kill in the name of their fairytale "god". Could anything be more reprehensible? To kill for a nonexistent being -- there's really no behavior worse than that. And yet it's going on all around the world.

How could there be a god that created Earth "for" humanity, when there are childhood diseases that disfigure, cause pain and even kill? How? They talk about an all-good, loving god. Get real, folks. If your god is real, he is a psychopathic monster. Progeria, anyone?

So there was no moment when I turned my back on religion. Even when I was six years old, religion seemed a highly suspect enterprise. As far as I could tell, it was just a bunch of old men telling fairytales. That everyone can't see this is shocking to me. Logic, people. Think for a moment. (Oh, I forgot. You're not allowed to think. Never mind.)

There has never been a scintilla of evidence to support the idea that there is a god. Nothing. And everything around us, the very universe itself as revealed through science, assures us that reality came into existence without the help of a sky god.

And that's it, really. There is no need for a god. The idea doesn't make sense and it creates a race of slaves who don't value their lives (or ours, or our planet) because they believe the important stuff will happen after they die.

Duh. How can anyone believe in gods?

Walking as exercise

Walking is boring. In fact, it's deadly boring, at least out here in the sticks. I mean, what is there to look at? People's McMansions? Plants? The occasional bird? Meh.

I grew up in Manhattan, where walking was fun. There were always zillions of people to look at, new stores cropping up, and the occasional street event to stare at. I used to walk many miles on a daily basis in the city, like every other Manhattanite. It's what you do in the city: you walk. (Ever notice that city dwellers aren't as fat as suburbanites? This is why.)

But out here in the woods, walking is mere walking. There are no frills. Oy. Anyway, of late I've dragged my sister into my routine -- and that simple move fixed everything. Now, we talk as we walk. And as a result, we don't notice anything out there. Hooray!

I started walking because I didn't want to reach the PZ point, where my heart collapsed from lack of exercise (due to sitting at a computer all day, natch). Now that I've been walking for a couple of months, I must say I feel better. It's kind of weird. For instance, at night when I watch baseball games on TV, I enjoy standing in front of the TV. It just feels wrong to sit in a chair.

It's even weirder than that. My sister and I find ourselves wanting to take a second walk in the evening. So far, we haven't acted on this impulse. But at some point I think we will. Exercise begets more exercise.

Still, it ain't half the fun it is in Manhattan. Guess I'll always be a city boy at heart. Do you walk for exercise? Does it bore you? Do tell.

May 15, 2013

So what's Timmy been up to?

Cardinal Timothy Dolan is like shingles -- painful and popping up all the time. If he's not attacking gays, he's attacking nuns. And when he gets bored of the latter, he attacks politicians. Which brings us to the subject of this post.

NY's Governor Cuomo plans to enshrine (no pun intended) federal abortion rights within New York law. This way if Republican nuts manage to overturn Roe v. Wade, abortion will still remain safe and legal in NY. As a result, Cuomo has awakened the sleeping Timmy monster.
New York’s Timothy Cardinal Dolan warned Gov. Cuomo to be ready for a holy battle if he tries to strengthen state abortion-rights laws.
Always with the false religion, that Timmy. But wait, it gets better.
When asked how Cuomo could still consider himself a Catholic in good standing while also promoting abortion legislation, Dolan responded: “That’s something that I talk turkey with him about.”
Always with the threats, that Timmy. But wait, didn't that remark sound a bit too strong? Maybe he needs to have his emissaries pull it back in the media. After all, was he really going to threaten Cuomo with excommunication? That is the thrust of his remarks; this can't be denied. Or can it?
Dolan spokesman Joseph Zwilling later said the cardinal did not mean to suggest that Cuomo would not be a Catholic in good standing if he went forward with the bill.
Of course not! Heaven forfend. Dear, sweet Timmy would never say anything vicious like that. Perhaps he "misspoke".
“The subject he talks turkey about was abortion,” Zwilling said.
Uh, no. It wasn't. The question he was asked concerned Cuomo's status as a "Catholic in good standing". He was threatening Cuomo's soul.

Now, there's no such thing as a soul, of course. So these remarks were as meaningless as everything else that Timmy says. But he definitely was threatening Cuomo's soul. 

Dolan is a beastly creature. He shows this every time he opens his mouth. It's too bad he wasn't elected pope. He would have tanked the church in 20 years, tops.

May 14, 2013

Major Tom's touchdown

Using my iPad and the free NASA app, I watched the descent of the Soyuz space capsule last night. It was bringing our troubador astronaut back to Earth. I worried all the way down, watching this flimsy-looking parachute (two, actually) that was the only thing holding the capsule in place. Brrrrr.

But it all worked out. Major Tom is back on Earth. And hey, it was really nice to watch it live. I love my iPad.

Noted in passing

Religion is like Tinkerbell. If you don't applaud, it will fade away. So don't applaud.

Aliens, evolution and speciation

Let's call life a spark. It is that spark that somehow emerges from matter, making it move, making living creatures.

Using this definition, let's consider something. If you've studied evolution, you know that speciation occurs when a group of creatures become permanently isolated from another group of the same type of creatures. Think Darwin's finches on various islands. The conditions differ and this causes changes in the finches that live on each island. Given enough time, the two groups become more and more different until they can be said to be two different species. That's speciation, and it's the reason there are so many novel creatures on Earth.

Let's combine and stretch these two concepts (life being a spark, and distance allowing for speciation) and apply this to the universe at large. Somewhere out there, conditions are right for life to have occurred on many, many planets. And those planets now host a panorama of life as diverse as the range of life we see on Earth.

From our vantage point on Earth, we would call the resulting creatures "aliens". They would be wildly different from us. But really, if the spark of life that occurred on Earth billions of years ago was transplanted to another planet with conditions suitable for life, it would also have evolved into "alien" creatures.

The important point here is that the "life", in both instances, is the same. It is the spark, the beginning of movement and continuation and purpose. We still don't know how this occurs, but that it does is evident.

What I'm trying to say is that it's all an extended experiment in speciation. That planet is so distant from our own. And the conditions there are wildly dissimilar to those we find on Earth. Therefore the life on that planet conforms to the "alien" conditions it encounters. But really, this is just an example of speciation brought about by isolation.

If this observation is true, all life forms are our brothers. Because all life comes from the same source: the spark that is inherent in matter.

Japanese conservatives as appalling as US counterparts

An outspoken nationalist mayor said the Japanese military's forced prostitution of Asian women before and during World War II was necessary to "maintain discipline" in the ranks and provide rest for soldiers who risked their lives in battle. 
That's the main thrust of this story, but you have to read the article to understand just how creepy this guy is. And it goes further than this mayor. He represents a conservative movement in Japan that is every bit as backward as U.S. southerners who think they fought a northern "war of aggression" over the "rightful" ownership of slaves.

Just go read it. It's scary because it makes you realize the US isn't an anomaly. The crazy is sprouting everywhere.

May 13, 2013

AP finally notices the surveillance state

The Justice Department has secretly obtained two months of telephone records of journalists for The Associated Press in what AP's top executive says is an unprecedented intrusion into newsgathering.
Suddenly, Associated Press cares about this issue. It's disgusting. Now that it's happened to them, it somehow leaps onto their radar. And now they really, really care. Stupid twits.

Chris Hadfield - Space Oddity

I know this is everywhere today, but it should be. So here it is.

Dr. Benjamin Carson: neurosurgeon and twit

Seriously, this guy is as dumb as a stump. He's a neurosurgeon and a Seventh Day Adventist and a young-Earth creationist. The full "Duh". Today, Jerry Coyne blogs about the fact that Carson was asked to give a commencement address at a Texas university, where many attendees walked out. Good for them.

I'd like to reprint a few of Carson's answers to questions, so we can laugh at him. For instance, he was asked about the "consequences" of believing in evolution. This is his response:
By believing we are the product of random acts, we eliminate morality and the basis of ethical behavior. For if there is no such thing as moral authority, you can do anything you want. You make everything relative, and there’s no reason for any of our higher values.
I just shake my head when people talk like this. It doesn't make any sense to suggest that if an authoritarian god didn't create us, then we can't know right from wrong. Duh. There's no connection between these two concepts. None at all. And then he throws in this idea of the loss of "higher values". Like going to church? And wasting our lives thinking about a nonexistent sky god? And feeling guilty all the time? And hating gays and women? Big losses, fella. Do go on.

Dr. Carson closed the interview with this:
Can you prove evolution? No. Can you prove creation? No. Can you use the intellect God has given you to decide whether something is logical or illogical? Yes, absolutely. It all comes down to “faith”–and I don’t have enough to believe in evolution. I’m too logical!
Yes, indeed. He's just too darned logical. I can't believe anyone lets this guy operate on their brain. And he's actually invited to give commencement addresses. Jeebus! Ah well, it's Texas. They can't help themselves down there.

As always, hat tip to Jerry. I love that he brings these things to my attention. No one else covers religious lunacy as thoroughly. Gods, my ass!

Artichoke Annie's fantastic voyage

Longtime commenter Artichoke Annie has been on a long cruise this month, and she's chronicling every step of the trip on her blog. G'wan over and check it out. Today's post has her on a camel as she visits a Bedoin tribe in Safaga, Egypt.

The idea of being on a 41-day cruise to truly exotic places is so appealing. I'm trying not to burn with envy, but it's difficult.

May 12, 2013

Beta Radio

I love this song. It seems to be an example of the beauty that can come from god-thoughts. Listen to the lyrics. The writer longs for magic -- and expresses this beautifully.

The group is Beta Radio and the name of the song is "A Place for Me". I think I'll buy this album (Seven Sisters). See what you think.

Animals understand fairness

Lately, I've been feeding the squirrels and small birds in front of my house rather than at the rear, where I'd been feeding them for years. I switched because a flock of geese congregates behind my house. Over the years, I've learned that if I feed them, more and more geese arrive until there are hundreds in my yard. I like geese, but not that much.

So for the past few weeks, I've been putting seed and peanuts in a planter out front. It's about 2 1/2 feet off the ground, as in "away from the geese on the ground". I figured the geese on the other side of the house would never know. Right. They saw birds flying away from the planter with seed and nuts in their mouths -- and this really upset them. Other animals were eating food that they saw as rightfully theirs. It was unfair.

As a result, Milo began to accost me when I left the house. (He's the leader of the flock and we've been friends for years.) He would step into my path to block my way and give me hell. It was just talk, mind you. After all, he's my friend. But I could see how upset he was.

I finally understood why he was doing this. It wasn't because I stopped feeding the flock, it was because I stopped feeding them while continuing to feed the other animals -- and that's unfair. Milo gets this, and it made him mad at me. I finally grokked his message. He's right. It's unfair and I can't treat him like that. So I've gone back to tossing the seeds and nuts out back. Whoever gets them, gets them.

This calmed Milo down right away. Why? Because I'm being fair to all. Animals understand this as well as we do. (And surely this is one of the traits that played into the development of a sense of morality in humans.) Fairness: it's not just for people.

May 11, 2013

Statins not so nice, after all

Statins are drugs that lower cholesterol. Zillions of Americans are on them. But it seems their effects may not be limited to lowering cholesterol. New research indicates that statins cause changes in the brain's neurons. This is not a simple, innocent side effect. It's serious and very creepy.

If you were put on statins and then began to suffer memory lapses, the side-effect described in this article may be the cause of your problems.

If I was on statins, I'd stop taking them immediately.

Vague nonsense the norm in U.S.

I really hate when there's a tragedy and someone on TV says "our prayers go out to the family and friends of whoever". Indeed.

Exactly how do these precious prayers "go out"? Were they inside before, and now you've released them like doves or balloons? And exactly what is this thing you're sending "out"? Will the recipients know when it "arrives"? I mean, do you put a special wrapper and a return address on "it" when you direct it to "go out"?

If people's minds weren't befuddled by nonexistent gods, they wouldn't say meaningless things like this -- and certainly not to people who've suffered a terrible loss. Saying a prayer is as meaningful as singing "Ring Around the Rosie". Why not make a dinner for the bereaved, instead? Or send them some cash or groceries. And with these, you know, real gestures, the people would actually get something. Special bonus: they'd know when the items arrived.

Prayers are cheap and meaningless. Plus, I'll bet most of the people who say they'll pray for others don't even bother to do so. Not that it matters, of course.

Is Bryce Harper the second coming of Babe Ruth?

The Washington Post created a terrific video that compares the swings of the Babe and the Bryce. I saw it yesterday on their site and it was amazing. Their movements are so much alike! Today, the video doesn't seem to be working. Here's hoping that's a temporary problem. (There's another article at the Post that describes his swing and compares it to Ruth. No video, though.)

But of course, this is the US. So obviously, all you have to do is go to YouTube to find something similar to the missing Post video. It's not as flashy or well-produced, but it has the same goal and delivers the goods. Check it out. Bryce is the Babe.

This kid is baseball itself. If you're a fan and you're not watching Bryce Harper, you're missing the biggest thing to hit the game in decades.

Photo credit:

May 10, 2013

Ultra-Orthodox Jews harass women in Israel

I've written about this before. "Ultra-Orthodox" Jews in Israel don't want mere women to be able to pray at the Western Wall (also called the Wailing Wall). Only men can talk to the imaginary being at the wall. Everyone knows that. And only men can wear the special imaginary-being accoutrements, such as shawls. Why is this the case? Because only men are special! That's why.

But recently the courts reversed longstanding policy and said women are entitled to pray at the wall. So did Israel's male ultra-Orthodox Jews obey this legal decision? Of course not!
Israeli police with metal barriers and human chains on Friday held back thousands of ultra-Orthodox protesters who tried to prevent a liberal Jewish women's group from praying at a key holy site, the first time police have come down on the side of the women and not the protesters.  
It didn't end well, either.
Israeli TV video showed a packed Western Wall plaza with police forming a ring around the women and others shoving back ultra-Orthodox men. Female police officers had aligned in a human chain around young women protesters who were peering out at the Women of the Wall.
Pruce said police escorted the Women of the Wall out of the area after they finished their service and boarded them on buses, which were then pelted with stones as they left the Old City
These guys really, really hate women.
Many Israelis also feel the ultra-Orthodox attempt to impose their values on the rest of society, with their activists pushing for gender-segregated buses and sidewalks, defacing billboards showing women or trying to force women to dress modestly
The Jewish "ultra-Orthodox" god must be a really swell fella. His followers, too.

Image: Wikipedia Commons

A pope-stravaganza

In an otherwise listless story about Pope Francis meeting Egypt's Coptic pope at the Vatican, we find this lovely tidbit:
Tawadros' presence inside the Apostolic Palace meant there were actually three popes inside the Vatican on Friday: Emeritus Pope Benedict XVI was in his retirement home in a monastery inside the Vatican gardens. 
And while the three men believe entirely different things, each is infallible. (Okay, the Copts don't claim this superpower. Still, it's fun.)

May 9, 2013

Rise of the dolts

King and Messiah are among the fastest-rising baby names for American boys.


How can you hit a 95 mph fastball?

Because there is a lag between the moment an event happens and the instant our brain is aware of it, you shouldn't be able to hit a 95 mph fastball. But scientists have figured out how we manage this trick.

Apparently our brain predicts where the baseball is going, and that's what we see: the prediction. In other words, we don't see reality as it actually is. Our brain performs this trick to help us survive. (After all, a huge rock falling off a cliff and heading toward you could mark your final day on Earth.)

If you'd like to learn the specifics of how this occurs, here's an article that explains it. I've written here before about how odd it is to see a slow-mo replay of a ball coming off a bat and going right for the pitcher's head. For what seems like a long moment, the pitcher isn't aware that a projectile is coming his way. That's evidence of the delay in the brain. But apparently the brain's prediction mechanism leaps ahead and alerts us (hopefully) before the ball can hit us. (J.A. Happ might shake his head upon hearing this news.)

The world is not as we see it. We see only what we need to see in order to survive. This brain trick is something that's always available to us. In fact, it's how you're able to cross a street (by predicting where the cars will be in the next 20 seconds). Are brains cool, or what? Evolution is an amazing engineer.

Keeping an ear out for cicadas

I can't wait to hear the first cicada. Here in the northeast, the brood is about to awaken.

The last time they awoke was either 13 or 17 years ago. I think we're expecting the 17-year brood this Spring. Personally, I'm hoping it's bigger than the last awakening. They cite these astronomically high numbers when telling us what to expect, but it was no big deal last time this happened.

In fact, it was kind of fun. Yes, you heard them in the trees but not incessantly. And there certainly weren't billions, or even millions of them in our neck of the woods. They were about as common as sparrows, I'd say. No more, no less. But that may have been the 13-year brood. This year could be different.

I think everyone over the age of 30 has a story to tell about the day a cicada reared up in their car as they were driving. That happened to me and it's such a shocking thing. You don't realize you have one in the car and then it lifts into the air and begins to "sing". The noise is deafening, especially inside a car. And cicadas are notoriously clumsy. They'll fly right into you, including inside your car as you're driving. I didn't crash and I don't know of anyone else who did. But it's an event that you'll always remember.

And then it was over and their bodies were scattered on the ground. They have such a short lifespan. It seems like a helluva way to live. Anyway, wake up, cicadas! If nothing else, the local animals will have a ton of good meals.

Got a good cicada story? Share it in the comments.

Image: Wikipedia Commons
Note that you can hear the cicada's song at the Wikipedia link above. Look for the "song" link in the right column on the page. It says "Calling song of the Magicicada Cassini" (which is the exact brand of cicada that's about to awaken).

Two things

First, the protestors in the post below were found guilty. We await news about the sentencing. I will write a supportive letter to the nun during her prison stay, if that's the way it goes (which seems highly likely).

The other thing is that, two posts back, I shouldn't have said "Hate seems to be the primary motivation of every evangelical sect." Obviously, not every evangelical sect hates gay people -- just most of them.

May 8, 2013

Religion makes some people do good things

And then they're arrested and put on trial. Why? Because: USA! USA! USA!

I love this story. As a protest, three old people made it all the way into a nuclear plant in Tennessee. Asked why they did this, Sister Megan Rice, one of the threesome, stated "It is manufacturing that which can only cause death."

She's 1,000% right about that. We're killing future generations by maintaining nuclear plants that produce highly radioactive material that can kill for 50,000 years. And did I mention there's no plan -- none at all --- to deal with the spent nuclear fuel that is piling up at every reactor on the face of the Earth? (Note how well this worked out for Fukushima.)

Although the three are religious -- to the point where they believe a "miracle" led them to the uranium-rich area of the plant -- they're also very cool.
The defendants spent two hours inside the Y-12 National Security Complex. They cut through security fences, hung banners, strung crime-scene tape and hammered off a small chunk of the fortress-like Highly Enriched Uranium Materials Facility, or HEUMF, inside the most secure part of complex. 
I really liked this part:
[Sister Megan] Rice said she didn't feel obligated to ask the Catholic bishop in the area for permission to act at Y-12. Challenged by a prosecutor about whether it would have been a courtesy to inform superiors of her plans, Rice responded: "I've been guilty of many discourtesies in my life."
You have to love American nuns. They're just great. But now these three are on trial and may face 20 years in prison! Yeah, that makes sense. They showed that anyone can make into the most secure part of a nuclear facility -- and some people find this problematic. Go figure. I think what really happened is that these three old people showed that the emperor has no clothes. And the emperor is not pleased. They should receive a citizenship medal, not be on trial.

God commands evangelicals to be evil

Richard Land, a leader of the Southern Baptist Convention, told reporters on a conference call Wednesday that evangelicals are hopeful the [immigration] bill will remain focused on immigration and steer clear of gay rights. But if gay rights does become part of the bill, he said, the Southern Baptist Convention will no longer be able to support it. Other religious leaders issued similar warnings. 
God says first, you must oppress the gays. Then and only then, can you focus on doing something good. But it must never help gays. Heaven forfend!

Does religion make people evil? Looking dispassionately at the evidence, it seems it does. Hate seems to be the primary motivation of every evangelical sect. Otherwise, what could make them detest 1/10 (possibly even 1/6) of humanity? Only god can command this much hate. All hail Jeebus!

And now for something completely different

Once again, the world is too boring to write about. So let's talk about great stuff to buy.

Now that it's Spring, the bugs have awakened. And as you know, you can't stop them from coming into your house. But have no fear. There's a great way to handle this and it doesn't harm the bugs. It's called BugZooka. I have one and often give them to people as presents.

It is so great to see a big, evil-looking spider and know that your trusty BugZooka is a few feet away. It takes the horror out of the process. And you can release the bugs outside, if you like -- totally unharmed. The other (evil) option is to soak a cotton ball in bug-killer and put that in the tip of the BugZooka. Then when you suck a bug in, it dies. But whatever you do with the bug, I think you'll agree that it's heaven to have the bug in the tube, so it can't crawl into a hidey-hole in your house -- and come out to haunt you again. Seriously, check it out. It's 25 bucks and works with a spring, rather than batteries. I can't imagine living without one in the warm months.

The other great thing I bought recently is a type of food storage container. It's called Kinetic Go Green Glass Lock. (Catchy, huh?) I wanted to toss all my BPA-laden, plastic food-storage containers and get something made from glass. This item is made of super-strong, thick, incredibly smooth glass with a BPA-free plastic cover. It's ready for everything, including taking it directly from the freezer and tossing it in the microwave. Strong like bull, this glass. The size I've linked to is 37 oz., which is a nice single-serving dinner size. And it's less than 24 bucks for a set of three of these storage items! They clean up easily, too. I'm super pleased. In fact, I just ordered a whole bunch more.

This is better than talking about the dreadful news, isn't it? So go buy stuff. (And no, I'm not involved in either company. This is just a friendly heads-up.)

Bought anything faaaaabulous lately? Do tell.

May 7, 2013

This is a wonderful idea

The names of those who died in the Holocaust are being collected for a memorial. There is a late rush to record all the names and stories before the remaining survivors die, and the information is lost.

It's wonderful that this is happening. There is something Jews often say -- to the world, to the future: "We must never forget." Truer words were never spoken. The day we forget this lesson is the day we lose our humanity.

Astronomy Photo of the Day

I found this on NASA's Astronomy Photo of the Day website. It's a site I visit daily. Is that shot gorgeous, or what?

Here's a permalink to a huge version of the image.

Morality much older than religion

Interesting article at CNN. It's an interview with Frans de Waal, director of Emory University's Living Links Center. He studies the origins of empathy and morality, and does this by looking at our closest primate relatives.
"...I find it very hard to believe that 100,000 or 200,000 years ago, our ancestors did not believe in right and wrong, and did not punish bad behavior, did not care about fairness. Very long ago our ancestors had moral systems. Our current institutions are only a couple of thousand years old, which is really not old in the eyes of a biologist. So I think religion came after morality."
I enjoyed reading the article. It traces the origins of empathy to mothers who must watch out for their offspring. That's caring, and it is probably the source of human morality. Religion is a late arrival on the scene. Though religious leaders will tell you otherwise, they didn't invent morality. In fact, that is religion's second-most ridiculous claim (behind the existence of gods, of course). If this intrigues you, do read the article. It's refreshing.

Scouts' gay ban offensive to some religions

We keep hearing that the "religious right" is offended by the idea of the Boy Scouts removing their ban on gay members and leaders. Today, Frank Bruni tells the other side of the story in a column at the NYT.
“From my faith perspective, singling people out for exclusion from the life of the church or the life of the community cannot possibly be part of God’s plan,” Ward [a Scout leader and elder in his Presbyterian church] told me on the phone recently.

He added, “If you look at the people Jesus tended to be most suspicious of, they were people who sat in positions of authority to say that they had the unique ability to judge others.” 
It's an interesting take on the situation. And it's a viewpoint we never read about in the news. Short version of Bruni's column: some religions are not obsessively focused on hating gay people. And since the Scouts’ bylaws "require equal treatment of every religion’s teachings", something is very wrong here.

May 6, 2013

Tebow is "most influential" athlete?

Tim Tebow, who did pretty much nothing during the 2012 season except fail on the rare occasions when he was put in a game, has been named the "Most Influential Athlete in Sports in 2012" by Forbes magazine. Duh.

The title is based on a poll. I have to assume they only polled Christian nitwits, because that's the only way I can understand the result. (Which can be summarized as "Yay! Stupid!") 

By the way, did you see Ed Brayton's post about the incredibly awful Tebow/Collins cartoon in the Chicago Tribune? Priceless. (He's channeling Hemant Mehta's post, so hat tips all around.)

Tebow. Influential. It's laugh-out-loud funny.

John Aravosis raises a good point

Go read this post about an African priest who was suspended by the Roman Catholic church for blowing the whistle on child abuse. Only in the RC church could such a thing occur.

Toward the conclusion of his post, Aravosis raises a good point:
If the Vatican doesn’t intervene and reinstate Anthony Musaala, we’ll know all we need to know about the new Pope.
Indeed. Let's see if popeyguy Frank puts the priest back to work. I'd like to think this will happen and that he will praise the priest, as well. But this is the Roman Catholic church. We shouldn't get our hopes up.

Bishop lacks sense of morality

The leader of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Worcester, Mass., has been arrested on drunken driving charges in Rhode Island.
Police say Bishop Robert McManus was arrested Saturday night after a hit-and-run accident in Narragansett, R.I. 
What are you gonna do? The bible doesn't say anything about hit-and-runs while driving drunk -- so it must be okay. I guess that's why this bishop didn't stay behind after hitting someone with his car. The story says they found him at his "vacation house". 

Roman Catholicism has nothing to do with morality. Absolutely nothing. This should be obvious to everyone by now.

Look, up in the sky!

The American public has noticed the existence of drones. Although they've been used overseas for years, people just didn't care. In fact, they didn't even think about it. After all, those drone strikes only affected "foreigners", not perfect, god-blessed Americans. Ah, but now the drones are coming home to roost. When something is literally in an American's backyard, he tends to notice it. Especially if it's hovering right outside the bedroom window.

You can almost see the coming drone cascade in the US. Now that anyone can send a drone to watch you shower, the obvious and sensible next step is to purchase a personal defense drone. It will become a standard thing for homeowners. After all, you want a drone to hover over your house and protect it, don't you? Don't you?

And it won't stop there. Soon it will be standard to have a personal safety drone hover over your kids as they walk to school -- so it can shoot anyone who violates their personal space. After all, what could go wrong?

Drones will be everywhere. And much sooner than you think. Dang, what's that outside my window? Martha, where the hell is my gun?!

May 5, 2013

Bill O'Reilly syndrome hits Egypt

As Egypt prepares to celebrate Orthodox Easter this weekend, controversial comments by a leader of the Muslim Brotherhood have sparked debate over whether supporters of Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi, who rose to prominence through the group, can wish their Christian countrymen “Happy Easter” without being considered un-Islamic
These folks really know how to focus on the important stuff, eh? This is just like O'Reilly's war-on-Christmas nonsense. He must be so proud to see Muslims championing a viewpoint identical to his own.

CNN on whether Christians are "persecuted"

This is a long article. I read the whole thing and was irritated by the first half, which quoted too many Christian bigots who oppose gay people. But it did include the other side (ours), and did so forcefully. (And then ended with a quote from the twits. Sigh.) Still, if you enjoy these sorts of arguments (Did Christ say homosexuality was wrong? No!) then you might enjoy reading "When Christians Become a Hated Minority". 

There's too much there to excerpt, but I'll toss out this tidbit about Christians saying they are oppressed when they can't shout their hatred of gays from the rooftops:
“That’s whining on the part of people who spend their days and nights attacking gay people and then some people criticize them and they don’t like it,” he says. “That’s pathetic. It reminds me of slave owners complaining that people are saying ugly things about them.”
So our side does make an appearance. I guess overall, I liked the article. As it suggests, at least we're talking about the "controversy". But of course, these gay-hating Christians are just bigots, pure and simple. And that's the truth.