May 31, 2015

More from Ireland

A friend who lives in Ireland wrote me the day after Ireland approved gay marriage. I loved what she said and asked her permission to post it here. She said yes, so here you go:
Today was historically significant here in Ireland. Ireland is often viewed as a reactionary, religious backwater; e.g. civil divorce has only been legal since 1996, and abortion is still not legal. Women in Ireland can travel to England for abortions, they can legally sneak around the law as a result of the X case.  A young girl, aged 13, became pregnant after rape. Social services wanted to send her to England for an abortion. Recently, Savita Halappenavaar, who was refused an abortion even though her life was at risk, died at Galway General Hospital.  Her husband said they were told that the pregnancy could not be terminated because "this is a Catholic country". 

While Ireland fought for independence, a glorious ideal, it developed into a theocracy after the war in 1921, and a subsequent Civil War that ended a year later. It did have some trappings of a democratic country, but the government always had to allow for control from Rome in family matters. It is said that in 1936, when then-President DeValera wrote the Constitution, that he modelled it on the much-admired American Constitution, but that although he had almost complete autonomy, he had to accept the input and the control of the archbishop, or as I refer to him, the "evil archbishop".The Constitution, while exalting the family, allowed for the state, in a multitude of situations, to show a lack of compassion for what amounted to state-sanctioned cruelty. The constitution was fundamentally unfair to women, to unmarried fathers, to orphans, to gay people, etc. The church apparatus, with the evil archbishop as its totem, destroyed attempts to socialise medicine here. The "mother and child" scheme threatened the Church's power. Interestingly, Ireland happily jumped on the fanatically anti-communist witch-hunt bandwagon in the United States in the 1950's.

However, today, Ireland should be proud of itself! The people have voted in a new Constitutional Amendment allowing gay marriage. Previously, gay couples could have some sort of civil contract, but now they can get married if they want. I think that rules on surrogacy will still have to be worked out but I am really happy about this new development - although it won't change the past for those who suffered through criminalisation, cruelty and bullying, it will certainly make for a happier future. 
Indeed. Thanks to my anonymous friend for allowing me to share this with readers. 

May 30, 2015

Acronym insanity

You know what acronyms are, right? Like DOD for Department of Defense. Acronyms are the initials that become so well-known, they virtually become the "names" of organizations or concepts. Well, here's a doozy for you and it's absolutely perfect for our braindead era:

I ran into this gem while reading an article about an AI expert who is calling on others in the field to oppose: 
"lethal autonomous weapons systems (LAWS)—armed robots that enter the battlefield without human masters and make decisions about who to kill."
LAWS. Could any acronym be more appalling than this one? LAWS are the robots in the sky who will come to kill you. You can't invent irony this deep and delicious; you just have to encounter it cold turkey.

And as for the call for all AI researchers to oppose this, hell yes! Haven't you heard of SkyNet? You're creating it, fer god's sake.

Knockin' on heaven's door

After decades of searching, I finally found the solar light I envisioned in my dreams. You can get it here. This is a shot of the lights:

I wanted a light that I could put out in the sun all day to absorb the sun's energy, and then take inside for an evening of dim light. Just try looking for a "dim light" on the web. (Maybe that's changed recently but my old searches were fruitless.) But I finally found it!

Yes, this light does stupid things like blink and flash and fade. For the record, things are not allowed to blink or change colors in my house. That way leads to a disordered mind. I almost threw the light out after turning it on for the first time because I couldn't stop the damn flashing and color-changing behavior.

I experienced this problem because (of course) the directions are inadequate. The trick to a steady colored light is to press not a color swatch (of which there are many) but the words red, blue or green on the top of the remote that comes with it. Finally, I got the steady light I was seeking.

And the best thing of all is that it has a dimmer switch. You can depress it to lower the light to an almost nonexistent glow -- just what I was looking for.

It was a long search but it was worth it. Now if they could only come up with a way for my walls to glow in any color I want, and supply a dimmer switch with it, I'd be the happiest camper in the world.

PS: I bought the 10-inch globe. It cost about $93 - money well spent.

May 29, 2015

Baseball kid

There were very few baseball games last night. But I did manage to bump into this kid on my TV. Ain't he cute?

May 28, 2015

Have you heard of this?

I went to see my doctor yesterday because I had an earache. It began months ago as an itch deep, deep, deep in my ear -- so deep that it couldn't be scratched. Drove me crazy. But recently the itch turned to pain, and then it spread to my jaw and upward to my temple area. I just figured I had an ear infection. Get some antibiotics and I'd be fine. But when I got to the doc's office, it was like a visit to medical Bizzarro World.

First the assistant met with me. When I told her my symptoms, she said I probably had an allergic earache. She said everyone was coming in with this problem. Allergic earache? Who's ever heard of such a thing?

When I saw the doctor, he agreed with the assistant and said every other patient was arriving at his office with one of these allergic earaches. He added that at the moment, he was suffering from it, too. I thought this was incredibly odd. In all my many years, I've never heard of this problem.

The worst part is that the cure involves taking my least favorite drug: prednisone. If you've taken it, you know why I hate it. Gonna be a whole lotta shakin' goin' on. It makes you so jittery.

Anyone out there ever heard of allergic earaches? Have you had one? Sheesh.

May 23, 2015

Just a note

People often arrive at this blog via the Amazon Kindle page for Xmas Carol. It includes a short bio of the writer (me, Keith O'Connor) and a link to this blog.

Sometimes I wonder what people think when they arrive here this way. I mean, there they were, on Amazon looking at a horror/sci-fi novel and wondering whether to buy it, and ZOMG! They're suddenly on a gay atheist blog.

So here's the thing. I am a gay man and there are churches out there that attack gay men and consider anti-gay hatred to be a central tenet of their faith. How someone can believe that their god wants them to hate a group of people they've never met is beyond me. But Christianity in general -- and the Roman Catholic and Mormon churches in particular -- have made anti-gay animus a primary focus of their day-to-day religious practice.

Every time we gays try to achieve equality in a country, the Roman Catholic church charges in like a feral pit dog and says dreadful things about us. But all we want to do is love the person we, you know, love. How anyone comes to think that they have a right to attack us because of this is unclear. Their statements against gay people and gay marriage are literally incoherent. There's no argument there, just animus.

So I didn't choose this fight. I'm merely defending myself against hatred and discrimination. When someone keeps punching you, you fight back. Consequently, on this blog I point out all the horrible things that churches do in the name of their nonexistent gods.

Luckily, this fits well within this blog's territory because I go after anything that's batshit crazy. And religion is one of those things (along with fighting vaccinations for kids, believing the Earth is 6,000 years old, believing in ghosts, witches and demons -- and mushy thinking in general). It all gets pilloried here.

The point is that I don't attack religion without cause. I fight religion because it attacks me and mine. Nuff said.

Ireland did it!

It's been marvelous to see Ireland, a country that's 87% Catholic, approve gay marriage by public vote. That's tellin' em! I would love to be a fly on the wall in the Vatican -- or hell, even a fly on the wall of St. Patrick's Cathedral in NYC -- to hear the gnashing of teeth up close and personal.

The Roman Catholic church fought this day with their usual psychopathic intensity but it was all for naught. Hahaha. That's the second best thing about this. (The first is that gay men and lesbians can marry in Ireland, of course.)

My favorite rundown was provided by Grania Spingies at Jerry Coyne's blog. Go read it if you want some joy.

Ireland, you did well. Very very well. I loved everything about the campaign and it was great to have Panti Bliss sprinkled on top. What a grand day this is.

(Let's laugh one more time at the Vatican: hahahahahahaha. Fun!)

May 22, 2015

If the Vatican's evil motivations intrigue you...

Paul Vallely has an interesting op-ed in the NYT today. It's about Pope Francis and the canonization of Archbishop Oscar Arnulfo Romero. To my mind, it's about the evil conservatives who run (ran?) the Vatican and the lengths to which they'd go to malign someone with a good heart.

You have to know a bit of Roman Catholic history to appreciate this fully, but the wonderful upshot is that Francis is really a sock in the head to the bad guys. That's the primary, most delicious point. If you despise the Vatican of the past two decades, you'll love the linked op-ed. If not, skip it.

May 20, 2015

Sanders shakes it up

This weekend, my nephews returned from college and they were so excited about Bernie Sanders. This is the first political peep I've heard from them. Bernie woke them up! And they say all their friends at school feel the same way. It's Bernie time -- and it's no wonder.

In an article posted yesterday at Think Progress, I found this:
Bernie Sanders (I-VT) wants to see a “revolution” in higher education funding.
The longtime Senator and newly minted presidential candidate unveiled a bill Tuesday that would completely eliminate undergraduate tuition at four-year public colleges and universities. The bill would also expand work-study programs and allow graduates who collectively hold more than a trillion dollars in student debt to refinance at a lower interest rate. At a press conference outside the US Capitol, Sanders called the current burdens on students and graduates a “national disgrace.”
“We have to make sure that every qualified American in this country who has the ability and desire to go to college is able to go to college, regardless of the income of his or her family,” he said. “It is totally unacceptable that Americans are drowning in $1.2 trillion in student loan debt. It is unacceptable that millions of college graduates cannot afford to buy their first home or their first car because of the outrageously high interest rates they are paying on student debt.” 
It's about time someone said something sensible about student debt. And Bernie's going to say lots of other sensible things. I've always said that it's insane to believe that a progressive can't win an election. It's just that no one ever lets them try. And kids could upset an election easily because: internet. They get it.

Go, Bernie!

May 19, 2015

Where the heat went

People who make a living by pushing the idea that climate change (AKA global warming) is a fantasy are getting a bit of pushback from the data. (Darn that data. It's such a nuisance for wingnuts. Can't they just be left in peace with their fantasies?)

The story goes like this: the Pacific Ocean should be heating up because of climate change...but it's not. "See?" the idiots scream, "I tollja climate change was just a demonic illusion! Praise Jeebus, who will always protect us!"

Alas for the wingnuts, it seems that scientists will have the final say in this matter. Unlike religious fabulists, scientists look for real-life answers to real-life problems in, of all places, real-life data. They knew the heat that should be in the Pacific Ocean had to go somewhere, so they followed its trail. It turns out the heat traveled to the Indian Ocean, where it is waiting patiently for its day on the stage. Read the linked article to find out how it got there. To sum up: mystery solved. But as the article notes:
The finding by the team appears to be both good and bad news. The good news is that it adds credence to global warming theories—the bad news is that it means that it is possible that at some point in the future all that heat in the ocean could be released back into the atmosphere, creating a sudden temperature spike which would almost assuredly cause massive worldwide problems for those of us that caused the problem in the first place.
We are entering a very frightening era and we do not have rational, informed leaders to guide us through the coming crisis. It's not Satan that's coming, as so many gay-hating religious people fear, it's deadly heat. The times, they are a'changing...and we are so unprepared.
The finding by the team appears to be both good and bad news. The good news is that it adds credence to global warming theories—the bad news is that it means that it is possible that at some point in the future all that heat in the ocean could be released back into the atmosphere, creating a sudden temperature spike which would almost assuredly cause massive worldwide problems for those of us that caused the problem in the first place.

Read more at:

May 8, 2015

Religion encourages this sort of thing

As loyal readers know, I'm trying to sell my house. What this means in a daily sense is that crowds of strangers have been walking through my home. Sheesh.

But rather than complain, today I want to share with you the strangeness of some of these visitors' thought processes.

One woman who came through told me she was going to put in an offer that very day. From speaking with her, I knew she had a husband, so I said, "I imagine you want your husband to view it too -- I mean, before you make the offer." After all, if a couple buys a house, surely both marriage partners want to see it beforehand. Makes sense, no?

She told me her husband had no need to see it because he respected her clairvoyant powers. You see, when she spied the house online she knew immediately that this was Her House. So there was no need for hubby to see it.

Another family came through and asked, haltingly, if the house was haunted. I mean, what do you say? My sister answered her as if this was a normal question. She assured the woman that we had been the only owners of this house, no one had died here, and the house was not haunted. It's probably a good thing that my sister didn't let me answer the question.

But really, why wouldn't nitwits believe in ghosts and paranormal powers? After all, their churches tell them there are demons and guardian angels and a Holy Spirit and a devil too. And of course, there's the god fellow Himself, who is the King of Ghosts. Once you let nonsense invade your brain and convince yourself that it makes sense, you are lost in the wilderness.

In a sense, I can't blame the idiots. This dreck is everpresent in American "culture". There are "ghost-hunting" shows on TV. And movies present clairvoyant characters as if they're a normal part of everyday reality. There are endless bible and Jesus shows, and there are ranting pastors (and Republican candidates for president) who reject reality in favor of their favorite fairytale. The idjits never had a chance.

I guess these visitors to my house are what passes for true Americans these days. And to think that we used to believe that humanity would grow up at some point and leave silly childhood games behind. Not. Gonna. Happen.

Unless we ditch the gods. Ditch yours today.

PS: I found Casper's image on I kid you not. (Couldn't credit the artist, who is not mentioned on the site.)

May 6, 2015

Bruni on Roman Catholicism and women

In this morning's NYT, Frank Bruni takes exception to the pope's statement that he is "outraged" by the inequality women face in the workplace. Uh, the all-male church thinks women should be equal? Rather than say "hahaha", which isn't Bruni's style, he takes aim and shoots.

Here's just one paragraph:
Pay isn’t the primary issue when the symbolism, rituals and vocabulary of an institution exalt men over women and when challenges to that imbalance are met with the insistence that what was must always be — that habit trumps enlightenment and good sense.
I really look forward to this guy's columns. He's such a talent. (And we really really needed someone to step up after Frank Rich hid himself in a magazine that no one reads.)

May 4, 2015

The bog finally warms up

On the left is a photo I took one month ago while I was on my daily walk. It's an image of a bog, a place that in warmer months makes frogs very happy. You should hear them!

The photo below is what the bog looks like today (a couple of days ago, actually).

Nice. It was 84 degrees today. I don't know what happened to the in-between weather -- you know, the time they refer to as "spring". But whatever happened, summer seems to be on the way. Woot!

"Unexpected" aurora over Norway

As a photographer was about to give up on a night of looking for auroras, this monstrous aurora suddenly filled the sky. It lasted only a few minutes. I can't imagine what it's like to see this in person. It must be a marvelous moment that you remember forever.

As usual, I found this at the APOD site. (That's NASA's Astronomy Picture of the Day site.) I recommend visiting there every day. You never know what you'll find.

(Click pic for larger version.)

May 3, 2015

Bernie Sanders could bring huge, positive change to U.S.

Bernie Sanders, a kind and honest man who tells the truth, is in the primary race against the meaningless creature we refer to as "Hillary Clinton". In other words there is still hope.

I mean seriously, if it's Hillary v. Jeb, it will be a contest between an empty pants suit and an empty pants suit. Bernie, on the other hand, will tell it like it is. And finally, in an era of blatant income inequality, people may be able to hear his words and understand them.

This morning, I came across this at HuffPo. In the article, Bernie asks a question I've been waiting to hear for the past 20 years: what's wrong with the idea of making the United States look more like Scandinavia? In Norway, Sweden and Denmark, health care is a basic human right, guaranteed for all. And there is no charge for college or grad school. Doesn't that sound a tad better than what we've got here, where people can't afford their medications and where kids go into lifelong hock to obtain a college education?

He's a breath of fresh air, Bernie is. Let's hope the unthinkable occurs and this man can best Hillary in the primary. Jeb v. Bernie could be a lot of fun. In fact, it could wake the whole country up -- for good.

May 2, 2015

Who would know best?

AP's running this story today:
ROME — Pope Francis on Saturday praised the zeal of an 18th-century Franciscan missionary he will make a saint when he visits the United States this fall but whom Native Americans say brutally converted indigenous people to Christianity.
I've written about this before. Don't you find it odd that the pope -- who doesn't know a thing firsthand about this Junipero Serra person he's about to crown a saint -- would go forward, given the Native American storyline on Serra? I mean, who would know better whether Serra was a saint or a monster? The pope who never met him, or the descendants of the people Serra brutalized?

If he was a "saint", don't you think he'd have a better rep in the community where he was active? That the pope would move forward on this is bizarre. But then, Roman Catholicism is quite mad.

You can read my original post here. It provides all the lurid details. The guy was a genocidal monster. And as I said in the earlier post, he's about to become Saint Genocidal Monster. It's disgusting.

May 1, 2015

Still here

(Sorry I haven't posted lately. It's the craziness of moving -- a process that is taking forever. For today, all I've got is one mini-post. Here you go.)

The other night on the local news, a particularly dimwitted female anchor was reporting on the earthquake in Nepal. She said there had been an "avwalanche" which was caused by an "earthcake". The woman can't even read words, never mind understand them.

The next story was about Chipotle's new and highly idiotic move to ban GMO ingredients. Kids, everything, including you, is the result of GMOs. It's how evolution happens. There's no danger in eating this stuff. Yes, it's been genetically modified but that has absolutely no bearing on you. You're eating it, not getting genetic pointers from it. Anyway, this same anchor read the GMO story and then said, "That's so great! Because I love Chipotle's and now it's going to be even healthier".

Seriously, I know it's the local news but in this case "local" means NYC. I can remember when the the city's local news anchors were smart and well-informed -- which only means that I'm really, really old.

I'll always return to this blog and I'm sure there will be future periods when I blog like mad. However, that time is not now. Hang in.