Saturday, December 31, 2005

Aradia Is A Cheap Date

Aradia and I were going to dinner tonight, it being New Year's Eve and all. She had a couple of drinks with dinner, but nothing terribly heavy. But, being the cheap date she is, this is the conversation that ensued on the drive home.

Aradia: *Burp*
Me: Feel better?
Aradia: I burped cinnamon. I didn't eat anything cinnamon. *maniacal giggling*

We've been home a few minutes now, and she's still giggling maniacally in my ear, whilst cursing the credit card companies for the bastards they are.

I love her more every day.

Thursday, December 29, 2005

Fun Meme

Forum Flaming And The Art Of The Insult

Friend of RI and personal buddy Ranson had something to say to a trollish fellow forum reader recently, and while most would have settled for a little flame war or something of the sort, he wanted to show a bit more eloquance. This is something that's missing from blogging, forum activity and the Internet in general, I believe. So, to promote this eloquance, here's the full text of his post, originally seen at, although you'd have to register to see it.

Like the poorly repaired crack in the wall of a waste treatment plant, you have reappeared after a year to add your foul murk to the waters of this good board. While we have all asked why, no real answer has been forthcoming, whether because you seek to deceive us, or you feel that we would not understand. And, yet, we have to admire your perseverance; it is not just anyone that is willing to bodily fling themselves against a brick wall, over and over, bloodying their flesh and concussing their brain in hopes of someday making it through the wall. Truly you have demonstrated to us the internet giant that you are. Your persona is forceful enough to intimidate the boldest of squirrels, and perhaps even overly timid rabbits.

The sharpness of your wit cannot be contained by the traditional classifications of “sharp” or “rapier-like”. No, your vaunted, energetic barbs deserve a class all their own, perhaps “spork-like”, or “blunted jelly-spoon”. While a slash from such might not immediately cut an opponent to the quick, it will likely eventually pierce any plastic shopping bag that they can muster as a defense. Should they brandish brown paper, however, it is possible that your scathing attacks may fall short.

Your quest to become a true member here has been, at best, quixotic. In fact, there are great parallels between yourself and Don Quixote, excepting the facts that his quests were noble at heart, he was a romantic figure, his friends were loyal, he had friends, and the works about him are considered classics of western literature. The only comparisons seem to be that you both seem generally disheveled, disconnected from reality, and people often want to savagely beat you with sticks and laugh.

It is true, we lament your presence here, loudly and often, but none could compare to the first lamentations to reach your ears. Such was the wail voiced by your mother at your birth, when she realized the true horrors that had been wrought from her sixteen minutes of lust with Guiseppe the organ grinder’s syphilitic simian companion. Would that her attempts to end her pregnancy had succeeded rather than simply adding coat-hanger scars to the malformity that already existed.

Alas, since those efforts failed, you are here now. You have mentioned in the recent past that you are a graduate, though not of what level. Given your command of the English language, logic, history, and civics, I would suggest that your local school system be sued for gross incompetence. Allowing you to pass from one grade to the next was a criminally negligent act, though I cannot fault them for trying to remove you from their purview as quickly as possible. I do suggest, however, that any educator that granted you a passing grade be tarred, feathered, and drawn & quartered for, however innocently, imparting you with the confidence to try and communicate with others. With this act, the level of harm to society is virtually immeasurable.

One of the things I try to encourage on this board is blood donation. It is an easy thing to do, and aids in the pursuit of a better society. I urge you not to. I fear that the bilious tar that runs in your veins would taint and injure whatever poor patient might receive it, should the viscous corruption somehow accidentally make its way through the system. More so than AIDS should they fear your contamination of the blood supply. Junkies and prostitutes, while also denied the right to donate, refuse to associate with you, should they lose their social standing by being seen with a lower class of person.

Like Prometheus, this board has granted the gift of fellowship. As with the gift of fire, this fellowship has come with a punishment. It is because of you that we now feel chained to a rock, our liver torn from our body, all because we sought to share a gift. Just when we heal from that pain, again we are torn into, suffering for trying to make our corner of the world a place to grow. Unlike the Prometheus of old, however, we have the means to break our chains and seize our tormentor. It is not with pride or triumph that a Titan smites a bird, but instead pity and regret. Pity, that an inferior being should try to dominate the makers of the world; regret that we did not do it sooner. Make no mistake: this is no myth, and you are no eagle. You are an annoyance, and one rightly removed.


Beautiful, isn't it? Disturbing at times, but beautiful nonetheless.

Letter To The Editor of SciAm

In the editor's blog of Scientific American's website, the editor John Rennie wrote an article about how he feels the Flying Spaghetti Monster is too antagonistic towards the religious, and thus sets back the goals of scientists in relation to evolution. At the end of his article, he invites letters of disagreement. Here's mine:

Mr. Rennie,

You asked at the end of your FSM article if you were wrong, and I have to say that, at a basic level, you're not. FSM and the Darwin Fish ARE antagonistic to the religious. They always will be, because they say that there are those out there that believe differently. The religious, at least not the brand grown down here in the South, don't care about evolution. They literally don't care what the evidence is. You have to thrust it into their faces aggressively for them to even notice the fact that there might be a different idea out there. And being told that you are potentially wrong about something, like the origin of man, is never an easy pill to swallow. Tack on the existance and final disposition of one's soul, and pretty much all reasonable responses go out the window.

For instance, I make no bones about being an atheist myself. My lab partner at work told me the other day that in her entire twenty-nine years of life, I'm the first openly atheist person she's ever met. This is a college graduate from South Carolina, and she's never met an atheist before me. She has a biology degree and only had evolution mentioned to her in passing during one of her core classes. Let me reiterate. She has a biology degree and doesn't understand evolution, much less know about the bulk of evidence that supports it. She also intimated to me that I shouldn't tell other people about my atheism, because it's none of anyone else's business. Of course, when the breaktime talk gets around to church-related stuff, she's right in the middle of it.

So, you see, there's a very obvious double standard here. It's a veritable "separate but equal" situation, without the "equal" part. Somehow, I don't think you would advocate toning down the symbols of African American pride in this country. Don't ask atheists to tone down their own symbology. Because I'm an atheist, I'm supposed to keep my big mouth shut about my beliefs. And those include evolution. Atheists and evolution go hand in hand. Evolution does not automatically cause atheism, but most atheists are solidly behind evolution, as am I. I refuse to hide those facts, and if FSM, the Darwin Fish or even a t-shirt with Darwin's picture on it can help to spread the word, then I'm all for it. Because the church-goers already run the country. The fundamentalists set policy for the church-goers, whether anyone admits to that or not. I would advocate for larger symbols if I could. Evolution needs it's own Martin Luther King and it's own Malcolm X. Dawkins and Myers don't even come close to being that controversial. They stir up more buzz within the scientific community than they ever will outside of it. I'd love to see them, and the rest of us, do more, not less, to further evolution education in this country. The United States is the largest Western country in the world, and we produce the fewest scientists, per capita. The United States is the most religious Western country in the world, and I don't think those two facts are unrelated. Scientists are sneered at and looked down upon in certain segments of this country.

Put in that light, I just don't see the Darwin Fish or the Flying Spaghetti Monster as all that antagonistic. They don't go nearly far enough.

Revolvo Inritus

I wonder if he'll respond.

Monday, December 26, 2005

You Might Be A Christian If...

This is too good not to pass on. It's a list of 22 "You Might Be A Christian If..." quotes. My favorite is this one, though:

16) You think that a story involving a God who sacrifices himself to himself in order to circumvent a law he created himself that would have forced him to send his own flawed creations to a Hell he created himself makes perfect sense.

Sunday, December 25, 2005

The COTG Christmas Extravaganza Is Up!

You can find Carnival of the Godless #30, the Christmas Extravaganza, up over at Nanovirus. There are a lot of great articles this time around, so snuggle up to your favorite mouse and get to clickin'! Check it out!

Selective Scientific Memory

As the debate over the ethics safeguards around scientific inquiry continues over the coming weeks, I wonder how many articles will be published that mention the Columbia University Prayer Study Fraud. Something tells me that all those Chrisitian pundits who are going to jump on this bandwagon to denounce science as "lies, damned lies and statistics" won't even remember how much this study was bruited about in late 2001/early 2002. I'll keep an eye on it and see what turns up.

For those of you who don't know, this was one of the most poorly designed studies that money was ever spent on, that didn't adequately control for, well, anything, really. But the women who got prayed for by anonymous people half-way around the world supposedly had increased rates of fertility treatment success. On further review, it turns out to be hogwash, but Columbia University is being really snarky about admitting they've been duped.

I don't know what can be done to increase the enforcement of ethical standards within the scientific community, if anything, but we have to step up to the plate here and show the rest of the world that we can do our part. How can we work to increase knowledge and better mankind if we can't be trusted to tell the truth?

Thursday, December 22, 2005

Kitzmiller / Dover Backlash Pops Up In Washington Post

In an unadulterated, if slightly sneaky, article about the Kitzmiller decision, the Washington Post is giving ID much more credit than it deserves. The article can be found here. It does a really good job of trying to sound fair and balanced, but gosh-darn-it, wouldn't you know it, ID just gets all the time it needs to say what it wants. Here are a few of the more egregious excerpts:

But Behe and other proponents of intelligent design emphasized that the court decision would not cast them into the political and cultural wilderness. They have pushed their theory, which holds that life is too complicated to have arisen without the hand of a supernatural creator, to the center of legislative debates in more than a dozen states, and they intend to keep it there.
Of course it won't throw them into the political or cultural wilderness. This country is dominated by religious conservatives. The ruling did't try to move them out of politics or culture. It said that ID isn't science, because it's not. As to having their theory in legislative debates in a dozen states, well, I don't remember state legislatures being mentioned in the scientific method. Do you?

Some politically influential backers of intelligent design warned that U.S. District Judge John E. Jones III, who was appointed by President Bush, so overreached that his ruling will outrage and inflame millions of conservative and religiously observant Americans.
Please. If Judge Jones had tiptoed through the tulips on this issue and still come down on the side of "evilution", then the "millions of conservative and religiously observant Americans" would be outraged and inflamed. Of course, not all the people who fall into those categories will freak out. After all, Jones himself is a life-long Republican. And as PZ Myers pointed out recently, not all religious people disagree with evoluton.

"This decision is a poster child for a half-century secularist reign of terror that's coming to a rapid end with Justice Roberts and soon-to-be Justice Alito," said Richard Land, who is president of the Southern Baptist Convention's Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission and is a political ally of White House adviser Karl Rove. "This was an extremely injudicious judge who went way, way beyond his boundaries -- if he had any eyes on advancing up the judicial ladder, he just sawed off the bottom rung."
Heh. Any time I see a Southern Baptist get worked up over secularism, I just gotta chuckle. They froth at the mouth so well, after all. But seriously, Roberts and Alito are very conservative judges, true, but they aren't going to turn the clock back fifty years on science. The evidence is just too rock solid. Besides, what respectable human being brags about being a political ally of Karl Rove?!? Name dropper. The last line is the most telling, though. Judge Jones' job on the bench in this trial was to make the best, most prudent decision he was capable of making. His job was not to set him self up to climb the judicial ladder. That's the whole point of not having judges elected in the first place, so that they can be free to make decisions without fear of censure. This jackass just shows how dishonest and deceitful the judges on his side of the line are.

"The heart of science should be looking at the gaps in theory and trying to figure out what that's about," said Steve Abrams, a Kansas school board member. "This decision will perhaps have an effect on other states, but we don't talk about intelligent design."
I found this one especially funny. Kansas is so backwards that it's not even up to the level of discussing ID. That's bad. They're still stuck on good old-fashioned Bible-thumping, I guess. His first sentence is right, though. It's the first thing I've heard out of a Kansas school board member that was honest in at least a year.

Steve Fuller, a philosopher of science at the University of Warwick in England, whose politics tend to the left, said he worries that Jones's decision will drive an intriguing if still half-formed challenge to Darwinian theory out of the academy and into the theology schools. "The judge's ruling really puts the burden on the intelligent-design guys," Fuller said. "The judge's ruling that the theory is theology could become a self-fulfilling prophecy."
Theology school is where ID belongs. What's so wrong with that?

William A. Dembski, a philosopher and math professor at Southern Seminary in Louisville, wrote in his Web log that the loss in Pennsylvania means thousands more young people "would continue to be indoctrinated into a neo-Darwinian view of biological origins." But he wrote that the future is bright.
Boo-hoo. I don't see Dembski wearing shades. (A hat tip to the first person to comment on that reference!)

"ID is rapidly going international and crossing metaphysical and theological boundaries," Dembski wrote. "The important thing is ID's intellectual vitality."
Funny, I would think that the important thing is THE ACCURACY OF THE THEORY!!!

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

CORK-y Words

Via Thug Girl

Personnel Stuff

Let me preface this by saying that we have a mighty fine lineup of analysts in the laboratory where I work right now. We're all human, with our own quirks and idiosyncracies, but all-in-all, it's probably the best lineup I've seen in a long while. But, that being said, we lost a really good analyst last week. We'll call her Ash.

Now, this isn't really a surprise, since we all knew she'd be leaving eventually. She was getting married, and would be moving, so we knew we only had her for a short time. But she found a job a bit earlier than I, personally, expected, and before you could say whoopsiedaisy, bam! She was gone.

This is going to cause quite a shakeup, all things considered. I'm losing my partner and fellow email-funnies conspirator, known here as Thug Girl. I'll be getting one of the newbies hired to replace our wayward analyst.

Yup, that's right. I get to break in fresh meat. Again. It's getting to be a habit in the laboratory. I get to rake the newbs over the coals. I guess management figures that if they hang around after working with me for a while, they can take whatever anyone else has to dish out.

I know absolutely nothing about this newb, so I'll be starting blind, much like I did with C lo, all those many year ago. It worked out okay with him, I suppose. I got a great friend out of the deal.

But, no matter how we shake things up, move 'em around and try to fill the hole that Ash's leaving made, it won't matter. She was a good analyst and great person, and while we might find someone to fill her slot in the laboratory, she can't be replaced.

We'll miss ya, Ash. Take care, and don't forget to write. Heck, you could leave comments right here, if you wanted to. Hint hint! :)

Happy Winter Solstice!

The winter solstice sunrise 21st December 2003, photographed from the entrance of the passage tomb at Newgrange.

On The Heels Of Kitzmiller

Over on, they have a nifty article about the discovery of some basic building blocks of life that have been found in the accretion disk of a distant star. How appropriate that, just as the Theory of Evolution is vindicated in US courts, scientists announce another link in the chain.

It turns out that the building blocks of life may be incorporated into the planets before they ever form. This isn't the first time this idea has been tossed out. After all, the acetylene and hydrogen cyanide found out at that other star are also found in our own gas giants, and presumably, were present in large amounts on Earth in its early days, as well. It's a reasonable, assumption, anyway.

Anyway, scientists are pretty excited by this, since an interesting reaction occurs when you combine acetylene, hydrogen cyanide and water in the presence of a catalyst (any old surface will do in a pinch, though). All kinds of compounds pop up, including amino acids, which terrestrial life uses to create proteins, and adenine, one quarter of the base pairs used in our DNA! Yup, a basic building block of protein and a basic building block of DNA, all in one nifty little package. And the "prebiotic" components of these amazing molecules have been found lightyears away.

So-called abiogenesis might not be understood, but this is how science works, and why it excites me so much. Small clues lead to big conclusions.

It's like CSI in space.

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Another Funny From A Thug Girl

My lab partner, whom I will only get to work with for another month or so, sent this to me recently. It's worth a look.

I hope she still sends me stuff after they split us up at work!

Judge Jones Rips Dover Board A New One

In reading the ruling, I am struck by Judge John E. Jones' way with words. He is quite eloquent. Take this passage, for example:

The breathtaking inanity of the Board’s decision is evident when considered against the factual backdrop which has now been fully revealed through this trial.

Read the entire ruling here. It's a pdf, so beware of the load time. It's worth the read, though.

Dover Panda Trial Outcome

Please excuse me for a moment while I descend to the level of a two year old:

We Won! We Won! We Won! We Won! We Won! We Won! We Won! We Won! We Won! We Won! We Won! We Won! We Won! We Won! We Won! We Won! We Won! We Won! We Won! We Won!
We Won! We Won! We Won! We Won! We Won! We Won! We Won! We Won! We Won! We Won!
We Won! We Won! We Won! We Won! We Won! We Won! We Won! We Won! We Won! We Won!
We Won! We Won! We Won! We Won! We Won! We Won! We Won! We Won! We Won! We Won!
We Won! We Won! We Won! We Won! We Won! We Won! We Won! We Won! We Won! We Won!

And now this message from the Church Of The Subgenius.

Score One For The Old Home Team

Kudos to Senator Rockefeller of West Virginia for doing what little he could to insure that the Shrub can't continue to hijack the moral authority of the full body of Congress. The longer this administration is in office, the worse it gets. I'm actually beginning to long for the days of John Ashcroft, believe it or not. I wonder if this means he's going to finally try for the White House. I know that West Virginians have been wondering about it for a long time. I've met the man. I'd probably vote for him.

See the Washington Post article here.

Monday, December 19, 2005

Truer Words...

This has been a good year for the media, as far as I'm concerned. I discovered the wonderful Mike Argento earlier this year, and now I'm quickly becoming a Leonard Pitts, Jr. fan.

Here's why.

Excellent Randi Forum Post

Thanks to Ranson for this link to a post on the JREF Forums. It's extremely well written, and says many good things. The thing that really jumped out at me was this passage:

And while Pastor Lawson would have said, simply, "I don't have an answer for you," that wouldn't have prevented him from listening to what you had to say, and it would have been something which gave impetus to him inviting you over for chili dogs so the two of you could sit down and figure it out. It's a far cry from bludgeoning people to death with incessant declarations of God's glory, declarations which have no weight due to the lack of courage, love, faith, and integrity on the part of those making the declaration.

I'm a firm believer in the "I don't know" answer to a question. If you don't know something, then admitting it is ever so much simpler, more decent and definitely more honest than blustering like an idiot because you don't want to admit to ignorance. Ignorance is not necessarily a bad thing. I try to treat it as an opportunity, myself. That's why I lllooovvveee the Internet. All that easy access to information.

The next passage kind of stuck with me, as well:

See, one of the funny things about me is that now that I have some serious grounding in the real world, I understand that there's nothing wrong with demanding evidence for why you choose to believe. I don't have a real answer for that, and I'm trying hard to find it. While I'm still nominally a Christian, I'm also someone looking for solid evidence for why I should believe. I may never find the evidence I'm looking for, and the reality is that I might have to admit that it simply does not exist. It might even mean, to be completely honest, that there is no God to be searching for. I have to admit that if I'm an honest man, which I would rather be, than one deceived.
This is the essence of the scientific attitude, even if it's not being applied to a typically scientific topic. Having reasons for believing something is the cornerstone of rational thought. This guy has taken major steps in that direction. And what's better, he knows it and can endorse it as a way of life.

Kudos. :)

Sunday, December 18, 2005

My Rights End Where?

Google “My rights end where the next person's begin” or some variation and you will find hundreds of entries using this little phrase. It’s a maxim that’s been applied to the political process in the United States for decades, if not centuries. And it’s a pretty good idea, all things considered. The trick lies in figuring out where to draw the line between you and me.

Most people are going to try to maximize their own “sphere of rights”, of course. That’s just a part of human nature. Just about everyone’s going to try to extend their rights as far as possible. Humans are always pushing limits. But there are times when I just don’t understand the thinking behind some of the decisions made.

Take gay marriage, for example. This is an area where the US is woefully behind the curve. Not only is it legal in Britain now, but as Jon Stewart so aptly put it “the US is now less progressive than South Africa”, at least where gay rights are concerned. And that is puzzling to me. Under the “my rights/your rights” paradigm, as long as you aren’t inflicting any harm on me, aren’t taking anything away from me and aren’t preventing me from getting something, then I have no reason to say that you can or can’t do something. But there is a large contingent in the US that says gay people can’t get married. And it isn’t just the semantics of it. People don’t just object to the use of the term marriage, although they do that as well, as if the word was only attached to one religious doctrine.

No, a lot of people just flat out object to homosexuals of any stripe making vows of fidelity to each other. It’s as if these people think gay people are inherently more promiscuous and thus can’t honor their vows or something. And that’s a specious argument, at best. Of course, I have never actually heard anyone say this, so maybe I’m doing a bit of “straw-man” thinking. But it’s still a fact that many Americans think that gays shouldn’t be allowed matrimonial rights. And under the “my rights/your rights” paradigm, then the only way to justify this would be to show that homosexual matrimony is somehow more harmful to society than not allowing gay marriage.

When pressed on this point, people usually sidestep the gay marriage point and go straight (heh) to the so-called gay lifestyle itself. Apparently just being a homosexual makes you inherently harmful to society. Now, considering the number of gays in this country, and around the world, and considering the number of world leaders throughout history who had such tendencies, I can’t seem to buy into that concept. I mean, if Alexander the Great could conquer the known world and like a little man-on-man action now and then, why can’t Joe Sixpack sleep with Jim Shearcurtains?

One argument I hear over and over is that if we allow even more open homosexuality, it’s going to encourage more people to become homosexuals. Apparently, homosexuality is viral. Ahh, the nature versus nurture argument was bound to rear its head eventually, right? Let’s make this simple, though, and assume nature/nurture is approximately 50/50. That’s a reasonable assumption, and most science backs it up. You aren’t born to be an alcoholic, but if you have a couple in your family, you should probably try to stay sober yourself, just in case. If there’s a history of high cholesterol in your family, you should probably put down that second pork shoulder. So, by the same argument, if you’ve got the “gay tendency” in your family, then you could be born half-gay to begin with! The least little thing could send you over the edge. Seeing two grown women French-kissing could send you into flaming homosexual congress with the first penis you encounter! One episode of “What a cute little girl!” when you’re a three-year-old boy could permanently set you on the road to Queersville. Watching two people of the same gender holding hands in public could warp you for life, right!?!

Wrong! Sexual orientation is just like everything else in your personality. It’s partly genetic, partly environmental and partly choice. We’re not genetic automatons, going through the motions of life without free will. We’re also not totally environmentally forced into action against our will. Genetics gives us predispositions, environment sets up conditions and then we choose what we’re going to do in any given situation, given a certain set of opportunities.

So, given all that, how does being gay make you a menace to society? How is letting two women live together, like they’re already doing, and letting it be publicly acknowledged, like it usually is already, and giving them official responsibility for each other, like the responsibility they’ve already unofficially taken on, hurt anyone who’s not directly involved? So the question is: Where or how does it infringe on the rights of a married heterosexual couple that the people next door aren’t hetero?

Answer: It doesn’t. What it infringes on is the hetero couple’s prejudices. And that’s one thing everyone has, but no one has the right to foist off on ANYONE else.

Saturday, December 17, 2005

Kids Say The Darnedest Things

I just discovered Bith Ph. D. and all I can say is that I wished I had found her sooner. This article detailing a chat with her kid about racism has got to be a classic:

Pseudonymous Kid Learns About Racism

Just the fact that she calls her child Pseudonymous Kid is pure genius.

Friday, December 16, 2005


This article shows how funny, even if the title is inaccurate.

Darwin Defeated By Cuteness -

I may never get the image of a baby panda flying through the air out of my head again.

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

Mean Thing To Say To A Blogger

My lab partner just said one of the meanest things you could ever say to a blogger: "I don't want to hear what you have to say."

I'm hurt.

Fundamentalism And The Mistrust Of Technology

My demon-haunted coworker has a problem. Every time I need to look up a biblical reference, I go to the Skeptic’s Annotated Bible. For some reason, just because I looked up a quote there, he mistrusts it. He mistrusts it so much that even if I just give him book:chapter:verse references and tell him to look it up himself in his own Bible, he still mistrusts the quote. Just because I looked it up on a computer.

Let me make this clear. I’m not saying that he believes the website is misquoting the Bible. He doesn’t trust any biblical chapter and verse citations I find online simply because I found them online. He doesn’t trust the technology. I don’t know, maybe it’s possessed.

I got to thinking about this because I have another coworker who is computer-phobic to the point that he doesn’t check his work email more than once a month or so. He has someone else type his emails for him, even though he’s a pretty good touch-typist himself. He just doesn’t like anything pixilated. It’s the technology that bothers him, not the processes used to manipulate that technology. I’ve been worrying at it, figuratively speaking, for some time now, trying to figure out why an otherwise sharp guy would have such a problem with digital media. And then it hit me. He doesn’t understand how it works, and that makes him nervous.

This simple little realization then sparked back to demon-boy. He doesn’t trust my online citations because he doesn’t really understand how the SAB works. He has a hard time believing that this simple site that brings up some pretty glaring problems and uncomfortable truths about the Bible is actually using biblical verses. And because it’s not a book in his hands, he’s uncomfortable with the idea that it’s actually an annotated Bible. It’s like the paper version holds some special authority, simply because it’s paper, as if no one could ever misrepresent the Bible in print. There’s something almost holy and sacred about the weight of it in your hands. And I understand that feeling, being a reformed True Believer myself.

As another example, demon-boy thinks that temperature and pressure can affect the half-life of radioactive materials, even though this is patently false. Even if I explain it to him, over and over again, he still clings to the idea that temperature and pressure can change the half-life of carbon-14, and thus throw off the accuracy of radiocarbon dating. His understanding of genetics is similarly flawed. He takes the fact that some traits skip generations to mean that natural selection doesn’t actually occur. His reasoning is that if traits can skip generations, then even if you die, the trait lives on. That’s true, as long as multiple individuals carry the genes for that trait. If you’re the only possessor, however, and you get eaten by a crocodile before having children, then that particular genetic quirk is gone. I can’t explain this to him to save my life, because “that’s not how genes work.”

People like him take things they have learned intuitively and apply them to the world. They also have religious doctrine ingrained at an early age. They are incapable of decoupling either their intuitiveness or their ingrained religious teachings from their intellect, and allowing intellect to work alone. But this isn’t just an issue with my confused and mistrustful coworker. It’s a problem with fundamentalists everywhere. Take my essentially fundy friends, with whom I am sadly at odds at the moment. When I try to talk about science with their ten year old, explaining how the Grand Canyon was formed over thousands and thousands of years, and not the few biblical Flood days he had been taught in Awanas, they balk. And when I explain that the average whale’s throat is the size of a grapefruit and thus couldn’t actually swallow a man, they take exception. Even when I add the caveat that there are a few types of whale that might have been able to do so, they still have problems with it. Why? Because “science isn’t their strong suit.” Heck, they actually asked me to help them teach their ten year old science, since he’s home-schooled. I just thought I’d get a head start. I guess he can’t be taught any science that’s not listed in the “pre-approved Christian Home-schooling Science kit” or whatever other standard they are working from, assuming they have standards to work from.

And that’s the problem. Fundamentalists don’t take the time to learn the science behind the positions they are opposing.

“Abortion is wrong because the soul enters the body at conception, and therefore that’s when life begins.” Well, what about identical twins, who don’t develop separate bodies for several days after conception? “Ummm, I don’t know.”

“There’s no proof of evolution because we’ve never seen it.” Well, what about the ring species in California and other places around the world? “Ummm, I don’t know.”

“Only Christians should celebrate Christmas.” Why? “Because it’s a Christian celebration of the birth of Christ.” Then how do you explain the fact that just about everything to do with Christmas was taken from some other religious tradition, from the giving of gifts to the lighted tree to caroling to the actual date? “Ummm, I don’t know.”

Science and history are irrelevant to the fundamentalist if they refute something he believes. That’s understood. But one of the biggest problems in dealing with fundamentalists is that they don’t even understand the science behind the things they oppose and they don’t understand the history of their own traditions. Knowledge is secondary to feeling, understanding less important than conviction. This is why the myth that there is no proof of evolution is so predominant throughout American Christendom. It’s easier to believe that than it is to pick up a book and learn what the evidence supporting evolution is. It’s easier to think the world is 6,000 years old than it is to learn not only THAT astronomers and astrophysicists have dated the universe to several billion years, but how they’ve done it.

And that’s a serious problem when trying to open ANY kind of dialogue about beliefs and traditions. When you don’t even speak the same language, how do you expect to communicate anything of significance? When you live in different realities, how can you find common ground?

Monday, December 12, 2005

Observations About Sunday Drivers

There are few sights more ironic, to me at least, than that of a totaled out wreck of a car with a “God Is My Copilot” vanity plate on the front and a little Christian Fish on the trunk. It speaks to me of that special blend of ignorance and arrogance that seems to pervade a certain segment of the driving community in this country, and especially the South. Being a natural born hillbilly, I grew up with a certain respect for the speed limits around my rural home. After all, when rocks the size of pumpkins can fall off the mountainside at any moment, you tend to want some assurance that you can keep from hitting it, if you’re lucky enough to not get hit in the first place. Not to mention the fact that if you take a curve too fast in southern WV, you might end up over the mountainside. Literally.

That’s why it was such a shock to move to NC and try to deal with day-to-day driving here. I’ve driven the New Jersey Turnpike at rush hour, and I honestly think I’d rather do that every day for a week than drive through Charlotte unnecessarily. At least on the NJT, the other drivers are aware of the fact that you might want to be in the same space they want to be in. Short tempers abound, birds and other gestures fly frequently, horns are honked incessantly, but at the end of the day, the other guy (or gal) notices you and acknowledges your existence. Hell, the coal truck drivers of my own mountain home usually had the good graces to look abashed and embarrassed if they did something snarky, accidentally or intentionally.

But not here in good ol’ North Cackalacky. I have seen more blind stupidity, more willful ignorance of others, more arrogant assumption of rights here in NC in a year than I did my entire juvenile and college-age life anywhere else. And it doesn’t get better as the years go by. It gets worse. I’ve been here for almost a decade, and every year brings fresh outrages and astonishments. The speeding and casual disregard for your fellow man on the road is bad enough, but what’s worse is that it’s not just the people behind the wheel. Pedestrians are so self-assured of their right to be wherever the hell they feel like being that it’s sometimes amazing to me that children survive to be adults in this area.

Take, for example, the plethora of (mostly) women that I noticed in my first transplant year, who would step out into the middle of traffic, assuming you were going to stop for them. Now, I’ll admit, most of them had on such silly and ostentatious hats that it was actually pretty easy to track their progress from sidewalk through parked cars onto Main Street, so I was usually able to stop without smacking into anyone. But the first one almost died because I never dreamed in my entire life that a fully adult woman would step out into the middle of traffic without even looking! And the look she gave me as I screeched to a halt (from a whopping 20 mph, mind you) would have melted the steel of my undercarriage, if there had been any steel in my riceburner.

Of course, it hasn’t gotten any better. In the first three years I lived in this small NC town, I heard of no less than five pedestrians getting hit because of stepping out into traffic. Sadly, the pedestrians are nothing compared to the drivers. Recently, a four-way stop was added to an intersection near my home. I watched, time and again, as people blew through those stop-signs like they weren’t even there, usually at high speed. People just drive on automatic, too wrapped up in their cell phones/iPods/burgers/drinks/dvd players/next stop/fill-in-the-blank to actually pay attention to the road. This intersection was not new, just the signage and a fourth, small access road that NCDOT had been working on for months. When it opened, they made the intersection a four-way instead of a throughway with one stop-sign. But did people stop at the four-way? No. Every single time I came up on that intersection for a month, I watched somebody blow through it like it didn’t exist. People were so used to driving through there without stopping, so used to driving on automatic, day or night, that they didn’t even notice the difference, even though it was clearly marked and had extra signage on the lead-up to it from either end of the “main” road. The change just didn’t register with a certain segment of the people driving through there.

Now, I'm not saying that it wouldn't have happened back in WV. Of course it would have. For about a day. Maybe a week. Most people would notice the giant orange diamond-shaped warning signs and taken note, back home. But not around here. This is the land of "I was going the speed limit. I was only five miles over the posted, after all." This is the kind of thing I’m talking about when I speak of that special blend of ignorance and arrogance pervading part of the driving community. These are the same people that don’t even see you when they cut you off. Your car is just an obstacle, if that, to be avoided but not acknowledged. These are the people that are out for Number One, themselves. Their business is important. Their time is valuable. Theirs is the right of way, in all circumstances. Always and forever.

I’ve always said that you can tell when you live in the Bible Belt when the traffic on Sunday morning is heavier than the traffic on Saturday night, and I came to that conclusion right here in this small town in NC. It’s a safe assumption that the bulk of Sunday morning traffic is church traffic, and I never feel more harried, harassed and, above all, ignored, than when I’m driving home from a long Saturday nightshift, having to dodge church traffic all the way home. And more than once, on those aggravating Sunday morning drives, I’ve seen wrecks with “God Is My Copilot” on the front and a Christian Fish on the trunk. Apparently, charity and well-wishing for your fellow man only occurs outside the car. What goes on behind the wheel stays behind the wheel.

So, I think I'll let my conscience be my copilot. I have to live with it.

Sunday, December 11, 2005

Carnival Of The Godless Is Up

Check out COTG #29!

Saturday, December 10, 2005

The Difference Between Sadness And Depression

A new article in the Washington Post, found here, reports that there are psychiatrists who are beginning to "Ponder Whether Extreme Bias Can Be An Illness", to which I say: wha-huh?!?

They cite, as their first example, a forty-eight year old man who turned down a job because he feared a coworker might be gay. This homophobe has such a problem that he's "socially isolated". His shrink calls him delusional. I ask myself, "Why? What's the deeper cause of this delusion? Is it chemical? Is it social? Neither? A combination of both? Is it genetic or environmental?" All these questions spring to my mind within reading the first two paragraphs of this article. The article never answers these questions.

It goes on to claim that mental health professionals run into this kind of thing all the time. Imagine that. In a country that is filled with an aging population that can still remember segregation and the days when gay men were just "a little light in the loafers" if you know what I mean, wink-wink-nudge-nudge, shrinks see extreme racism, homophobia and other prejudicial behavior. Remember, this is the country that produced the Ku Klux Klan! Hell, my grandfather once asked me if I liked "chocolate milk" as much as "regular milk" because I spoke to a black girl in his presence. My father at least had the good graces to roll his eyes and look embarassed.

According to the WP, it seems that several pyschiatrists are thinking of adding "pathological bias" to the next edition of the DSM. Excuse the pun, but that's madness. I'll admit that one culture's mental illness is another culture's norms, but the argument that the DSM is just a reflection of our society is fallacious at best. Despite the article's left-handed assertions to the contrary, there is some science behind psychiatry.

And I find it personally offensive that anyone would try to equate homophobia with clinical depression. The first has what I would call anthropological causes, the second physical ones. In some cultures, homophobia is nearly unheard of, but depression can be found in every culture around the world, past and present. The article does touch on that, by citing Paul J. Fink, former president of the APA (found at, heh, shrinks with a sense of humor, gotta love it) as saying, "I don't think racism is a mental illness, and that's because 100 percent of people are racist," and "If you have a diagnostic category that fits 100 percent of people, it's not a diagnostic category."

I couldn't agree more with the Fink. Clinical depression, schizophrenia and various other mental disorders have very real causes. Sometimes these causes are purely chemical, sometimes it's more complex than that. But there are underlying causes that are either understood or at least beginning to be understood. "Pathological bias" is a catchy phrase that covers up the worst segment of our society's dregs with a pity label. I'm all for politeness in public discourse, believe it or not, but the ultra-PC crap has got to stop. If you're a racist in this country, in this day and age, it's not pathological. It's not an illness. You're just a racist shithead who either can't see past his own indoctrination or else likes being a racist. You never hear anyone say, "You know, I understand that black people are just as capable, patriotic, trustworthy and loyal as us white folks, but I just can't bring myself to trust 'em."

No, what you hear is, and I wish to the non-existant gods that I had made this phrase up, "Damn darkies always get the best things while we have to scratch for what's ours."

Pathological bias, indeed.

Friday, December 09, 2005

Ashley's Modest Proposal

Ashley over at has a modest proposal concerning torture. I agree, and would expand it to include the death penalty.



SkeptiWiki is up and available! Combined with and a few others, this will be an amazing resource.

Check it out!

Bush Voters Get What They Deserve

I've said ever since the 2004 election results were in that the only problem with the people who voted for Bush getting what they deserved was that I was going to get it, too. Over at Hughes For America, they explain in emotional detail just what I meant, probably better than I could ever say it myself.

Check it out.

Wine Magnet Experiment Revealed

The Guardian Unlimited of the UK runs an article called "Bad Science", and their most recent article has a really good example of a cheap experiment used to debunk the claims of a very lucrative product.

The coolest thing about it, from my perspective, was that two sixteen year olds were willing to do this experiment in the first place.

Signs of hope abound.

Human Blood Is Easy To Acquire

According to PZ Myers over at Pharyngula, it's actually easier to get human blood than it is to get animal blood. I guess all those "ethical" vampires feeding on rats have got it all wrong, eh?

Poor Angel, Jack Fleming and Louis.

Republican Idiots

And they're hypocritical, to boot.

Check out Democrat-blog's picture-proof.

State Science Report Cards

The fact that both North Carolina (my adopted home) and West Virginia (my birth home) have identical scores in both general science teaching and evolution teaching is shocking, to say the least. There's room for improvement in both, though. What's the even more shocking is that the standards in South Carolina are so excellent! If they keep that up, I may actually consider moving down there. I wonder if this is why those Christian Exodus yahoos chose South Carolina.

See the Panda's Thumb article here.

Dembski vs. Shermer on Audiomartini

Well, yesterday, Audiomartini hosted a debate between IDiot William Dembski and Skeptic Hero Michael Shermer, which can be found here. Below are my thoughts, as I listen for the first time.

1) In Dembski's very first statement, he tries to tie intelligent design to actual sciences like archeology and scientific endeavors like SETI by defining ID as "the study of patterns in nature that are best explained as the product of intelligence." He equates the patterns created by humans when making stone arrowheads and the potential radio patterns of alien cultures as being equivalent to his "unnamed higher intelligence", i.e. God. This is disingenuous at best. We all know that studying stone arrowheads is not what the Discovery Institute means by "intelligent design".

2) Shermer's response is polite, but to the point. He says that while Dembski's definition is a good one, as it should be, coming from an IDer, that everything he mentions, from evolution to the so-called "fine tuning" of cosmological constants have natural explanations.

3) Dembski then brings up Paley. *Gag* Old arguments don't equate to good ones. He goes all the way back to Cicero and pre-Socratic philosophers, for Freya's sake!

The host then asks if ID is just creationism warmed over. Hehe.

4) Shermer says that it is, and points out that if there IS a supernatural force at work, it is beyond the realm of scientific endeavor. Of course, he then points out that, like the electromagnetic forces, what was once mysterious and unexplained can quickly become integrated into science once we get a grasp of what's going on, from a purely natural perspective.

5) Dembski responds by saying that the "intelligent designer" need not be God, and that many IDers don't think it is. He never admits the point that HE believes it's God, even if he is an "old earth" creationist, and not a strict fundamentalist.

The host then asks what the "provable tenants" of ID are. Dembski's response:

6) There are two prongs:

A. Are there reliable methods of design detection? He then points out that there's a chance that the intelligent designer might mimic the effects of chance! That's right, folks, Dembski said that even if there is an intelligent designer, we might not be able to tell the difference! My question is this: If you can't tell the difference, then why bother calling anything ID? What an IDiot.

B. What happens when we apply these methods, which he claims we have, to the natural world? He claims that they are actually pointing us to an intelligence behind the systems of nature. Of course, his methods are "statistical" in nature, so they are hotly disputed. I'm guessing that, by statistical, he means that if something is astronomically unlikely, then it must have been designed. Hasn't this guy ever heard of the Theory of Big Numbers? He claims that we can't depend on random luck too much in science. He's right about that.

Notice that he never answers the question. Smooth, hunh? Well, the host cut Dembski off before it became "Willy's All ID Funtime Hour" and asked Shermer what he thought of the randomness point.

7) Shermer ripped that point apart, saying that evolution is not really random, but actually self-organized emergent behavior.

The host then tries to equate science with religion. Shermer's response:

8) He points out that if science is a religion, then so is the government, etc. He points out that science has certain metaphysical assumptions, i.e. that we look for only natural causes for phenomena, but that that's as far as it goes towards religion.

9) Dembski jumped on that point, and tries to pooh-pooh natural-only, materialistic reasons for everything in the world. *Sigh*

10) When Dembski's pushed on the prediction angle of ID, he then starts to bash on evolution, saying how there are no clear "Darwinian" paths to various things. Notice that he's making an "either-or" argument. There are unknown things in evolution, so the parts of evolution that are unknown must prove ID. Like I said, IDiot.

11) Dembski actually admits that there is jury-rigged design! If it's jury-rigged, then is it really designed? Shermer pounds on him for using the term "Darwinian", and then brings out Stuart Kaufman as an example of good science that is still controversial.

12) Dembski really likes the word teleology, too. He likes to say that ID is just positing a purposeful component to the world. Apparently, the universe has some kind of intelligence that we aren't aware of, since purpose implies intelligence.

13) Shermer then points out that if we were to find some kind of intelligent designer, it would HAVE to be an alien, and nothing more, since it would then have to be something that affects and resides in the physical world. He says that you can't be outside space and time, and thus God can't work in the universe and still be outside space and time.

14) Dembski then freaks out and says that without teleology, the world wouldn't look the way it does. He seems to think this weird built-in purpose is a necessity. He brings up "directed evolution", for Freya's sake! Directed evolution! ARGH! This guy is terrified of randomness. It's like he has to have a purpose that's been given to him. He seems to believe that we can't have a reason to live that comes solely from within. Maybe he's read The Purpose Driven Life one time to many. I dunno.

The host then changes the subject, bringing up irreducible complexity. Dembski jumps around the definition really quickly, not really saying anything new.

15) When asked for two quick examples of irreducible complexity, though, he brings up the bacterial flagellum (surprise surprise, he brings up Michael Behe's favorite) and the blood-clotting cascade.

The host quickly flips over to Shermer, since he has now apparently realized that Dembski is just a gasbag that will blow forever if allowed to. Shermer's response:

16) Essentially, he says that Dembski is full of crap, although he does it a lot nicer than I would have. He brings up co-option and exaptation, and points out that both Dembski's examples have had explanations proffered in detail, specifically in response to Behe and Dembski and their ilk.

17) Dembski's rebuttal is that it's all speculative, since we don't have a historical pathway that shows these evolutionary developments. Essentially, when a reasonable, rational, natural, but only possibly accurate, explanation is given to him, he sticks his fingers in his ears and goes, "Nyah Nyah Nyah! I can't hear you! It's not real!" Pathetic. For someone who is positing an unseen meddler as a necessary component of the universe, he seems to be very fixated on seeing things happen from beginning to end, without any extrapolation. I guess only HE gets to extrapolate from given data to conclusion.

The host then asks Dembski if we should just fill in the gaps in our knowledge with "Holy Spackle"! I love that phrase. I think I'll steal it. HOLY SPACKLE! HOLY SPACKLE!

18) Dembski disagrees, and tries to bring up engineering principles. Shermer then points out that this brings God down to the level of a tinkering engineer. Hehe.

Note that Dembski has now started specifically talking about God as engineer, and thus indicating that he believes the intelligent designer is God.

19) Shermer and Dembski then get into a little tiff about whether God is just a "ramped up" human or not. Dembski tries to turn it around, but it doesn't really fly. He's missing Shermer's point, that there doesn't have to be anything supernatural or spooky about the principals Dembski's pointing out. He's trying to say that, in effect, God doesn't have to be injected into the physical world, to explain the physical world. Dembski's biases are so prominent, though, that he can't wrap his head around this concept long enough to even comment on it.

The host then goes back to Dembski and asks him once again about provable points of ID. Dembski's response:

20) Limits of evolvability. As a practical example, he says that we may, one day, be able to develop an antibiotic that exceeds the ability of bacteria to evolve resistance to it.

The host then points out that all of ID is "some day, maybe" and nothing now. Dembski refutes, and brings up Douglas Axe. This guy is shaky at best. Axe's claim to fame? The fact that the NY Times wrote an article about him. Ooooooohhhhhh.

The host then asks Shermer what's wrong with teaching ID, and Shermer lays it out nicely.

21) He says that ID fits in nicely with religious creationism, and that it engenders introducing religion into science. He then points out that there's nothing wrong with talking about it in other kinds of classes. He also says that science classes should be talking about the gaps in the theories of science, but that ID has more of an agenda than just doing science.

The host then brings up the Wedge Document, and reads some of it aloud.

22) Dembski, as a Senior Fellow of the Discovery Institute, then says that he had no hand in creating the Wedge document, and that it was just a money-making scheme, devised to draw funding from the people who would support them. Essentially, he goes, "Not me! Not me!"

He literally calls the Wedge Document fluff! Hahahahahaha!

The last portion is talking about the Dover Panda Trial, and there's not much content there.

All in all, I'd say that while Gasbag Dembski got the most air-time, Michael Shermer ended up sounding better. I hope this gets wide play, so that more and more people wind up hearing how much Dembski just sticks to the Discovery Institute's "pary line", hitting the same talking points over and over again, while Shermer tries to inject some rationality and reason into what he's saying.

Once again, Michael Shermer shows why he's one of my heroes.

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

Al Shaprton Has Lost His Mind

It's rare that I link to anything from the Washington Post, but this article about the Rev. Al Shaprton being a car title loan pitchman just needs to be seen to be believed. It just goes to show that there are crazy liberals out there, too.

One wonders if Rev. Sharpton's deity told him these weren't predatory loans, so it was okay to work for LoanMax.

Cthulhu Slippers and Plushies

I wish I had seen these:

before buying my new set of house slippers. They would have been a shoo-in, or is that shoe-in?

Also, check out the Tales of the Plush Cthulhu. Someone had too much time on their hands. I wish I'd thought of it, though.

Science With British Accents

Hehe, check out this bouncy bit of science humor.

Be aware of the Credits, though:

Because we care we present this toon dedicated to helping you learn more about the world around you. Contains Flashing effects so if you are epileptic then stay away. If you're not sure consider this a handy tool for finding out.

I would also suggest you not hit the "Just Dance" button at the end, or else you'll have the tune stuck in your head all day.

(via Pharyngula)

Scott Adams Digs A Little Deeper

Adams just won't quit. And what's worse is that his arguments are getting more and more out there, making less and less sense. Will he be frothing at the mouth next?

He has put up yet another ID article, and his big question breaks down thusly: If lightning strikes the Washington Monument and puts messages from God there while many people videotape the event, should science teachers be allowed to talk about it in science class?

Well, duh! Of course they would. I would like to see someone try to keep science teachers FROM talking about it! The problem is that he's equating this phenomenon with what IDers are doing, and it's a false analogy, because IDers have no evidence. There is no IDer equivalent of the videotape.

Scott Adams begins his post by mentioning "the Dogbert way". Maybe he should admit that, at least on this, he's following more of "the Ratbert way".

I Never Knew Biology Could Be Political

Canadian Alien Craziness

I just heard about this over on the JREF website. It seems there's a former minister in the Canadian government, by name of Paul Hellyer, that wants the Canadian government to begin talks about "exopolitics". Yup, he wants us to start negotiating with the aliens.

Apparently, the highest levels of government both in Canada and here in the US know all about the aliens and this guy is worried that without the oversight of the people, yahoos like Bush will get us into an interstellar war we don't even know about.

I wish I were making that part up.

Once again, it's good to know that the US doesn't have a lock on the crazy person market.

Monday, December 05, 2005

More Demon-Haunted Politics

Well, it's Monday and I'm not working today, which means I worked with my demon-haunted coworker yesterday. As usual, he came into the lab to check his fantasy football standings about 18,000 times, and for some strange reason, to talk to me. He seems to like to do this. I don't know what it is about me, but he really likes to dig at me. I think our best exchange this time went something like this:

Him: "Well, I hope that some day you wise up and see the truth of God."
Me: "Well, I hope that some day you crack a science book."

Well, I had read the op-ed piece by Leonard Pitts, Jr. of the Miami Herald about Ruben Cunta. For those of you who have never heard of him (I hadn't), he's a man who was put to death (in Texas, of course) for fatally shooting a store clerk during a robbery. This was back in 1993, which is probably why I had never heard of him. I was finishing up high school and starting college. My world was still pretty narrow back then. The kicker about Cunta is that it now looks like he was innocent. There is pretty strong evidence that that's the case, anyway.

So, I had just finished reading this op-ed piece in the local paper (who picks up Pitts in syndication), and I snorted in disgust. As all four of my loyal readers know, I'm pretty much a social lefty. I think the death penalty is a barbaric custom that cheapens this country's reputation as a world leader in civil rights. Reading about Cunta just makes me feel even more strongly about that. Demon-boy happened to be walking into the lab right about then and he asked me what was up.

Now, I knew where this was going to go if I said anything. I know myself and him well enough to know this was going to turn into a debate, but I just couldn't stop myself. I told him what I'd just read, and brought up the salient point from Pitts' article, i.e. if an innocent man is put death in the name of the people, then isn't his blood on the people's hands?

He immediately brought his deity into it, saying that his understanding of the Bible let him accept the death penalty. I then pointed out that this didn't answer my question. As you can see, he had already dropped into the stock answers without putting any kind of thought into what he was saying. He was just throwing out stuff he'd heard somewhere. You could almost hear it in his voice. It was like he was reciting something he'd memorized, not giving an actual opinion. He does this a lot. It's how he supports most of his positions.

So, I pointed out that he hadn't answered my question, and he said that if the people involved had done it intentionally, then they should be tried for murder, just as Cunta had been. Now, this I thoroughly agree with, and said so. But he STILL hadn't answered my question. The conversation went on like this for a little bit and then I finally pinned him down on whether the people who allow the death penalty to continue are in any way, shape or form responsible for the death of an innocent man. His response was that no, death penalty supporters aren't to blame. The corrupt system is to blame.

"Aha!" I said. "But if the system is so corrupt that it can't be trusted, then why should you support it?"

Well, he danced a bit around that issue, and then changed the subject. He went directly into the "What if it was one of your loved ones who had been killed, and you watched it happen?" argument. In response, I tried something I hadn't ever done before. I reversed the situation on him and said, "What if it was your daughter that was the one being accused of doing something you didn't think she'd done?"

His answer? "I'd work my hardest to get her a fair trial, and God would protect her if she was innocent."

I don't know about you, but I'd like to think that the American justice system doesn't depend on God's will to protect the innocent. God's will being so sketchy, and all.

There was a somewhat bright spot in this conversation, though. He actually admitted that, while I could never sway him on his faith (which I don't want to do anyway), his opinions on the death penalty could change. An admission of possibility is better than I've ever actually gotten from a member of the Religious Right.

Maybe there is hope, after all.

Christopher Titus and Dungeons & Dragons?!?!?

'Tis true. Check it out:

Dungeons and Dragons Asskicking

Here's a second version without Titus, but it's pretty funny, too.

Dungeons and Dragons Asskicking, Version 2

There's some naughty language (imagine that, with Titus involved), so you might want to turn it down if you're at work.

A Message For Dad

'Nuff said.

Baby T-Shirts From Hell

Below are some baby t-shirts that I just had to share. These are direct from my work partner, L.D.

This one is my personal favorite.

This one seemed to get a lot of laughs, too.

This one I may buy for my own daughter, assuming I ever have one.

Friends of mine with children, beware. One of these may wind up on YOUR kid's back the next time I babysit.


Christmas Depression

Well, I just finished my Christmas shopping for my wife. Hooray!

I wish I could recapture the thrill of Christmas when I was a kid. I used to get so excited when I knew it was time for the Holidays. And yes, a big chunk of that was the presents. But it was also seeing my family all gathered together. I loved to visit my grandparents on Christmas. On Christmas Eve day , we would almost always go to my mother's parents first, and have either a late breakfast or an early lunch. My grandmother's biscuits were the best in the world, and I can taste them to this day, even though I've not had them in over a decade. After that, we'd go to my father's parents, where the grandkids would all be together, playing, chattering, getting into trouble and generally enjoying catching up with each other. I was closer to my cousins when I was a kid than I was to most of my friends, and they all lived a goodly distance away, so that I didn't see them very often. At my dad's parents on Christmas Eve was where I learned to love salty ham and marshmellow-soaked sweet potatoes, an aunt's fudge and my mother's carrot cake. The day was a lot of fun and I'd always go home exhausted.

Then, on Christmas day, we'd get up early, open presents (always fun), play with everything for a bit, and then go back to mom's parents for the day, and I'd catch up with my cousins on that side. I was never as close to them for some reason, even though they lived closer. I was always drawn to my youngest aunts on mom's side, since they were the closest to me in age, for the most part. Heck, mom's youngest sister is young enough for people to think she's MY little sister. So, it's no surprise that I was always bugging mom's three youngest siblings.

That was Christmas for me as a kid. Of course, I'm leaving out all the bad stuff, the snapping and sniping of my parents, ostensibly over money but in truth over the fact that mom was depressed on Christmas and didn't know it or how to deal with it. The frustration of my dad as he tried to deal with this and the less savory elements of both his blood relations and his in-laws. The snarkiness of said relations over the years. But these things either went unnoticed by my childhood self or else they were fleeting annoyances on the road to Christmas bliss.

But as I got older, and mom's parents passed away, things just seemed to get worse. The visits to mom's parents, obviously, went away, and no tradition grew up in it's place. Mom's family seemed to splinter, to my eye. Thanksgiving and Christmas were the outward symbols of the bonds they shared through their parents. With those parents gone, it seemed like there was no reason to get together for Thanksgiving or Christmas as a large family anymore. And that was a problem, because mom's family needs regular get-togethers, because they have such different views. You see, mom and her two oldest sisters are Baby Boomers. Her three brothers span the time from the tag-end of the Baby Boomers through the middle of Generation X. Her three youngest sisters go from the middle of Generation X through the beginning of Generation Y. This kind of generational span gives them all very different views of the world and outlooks on life. So their getting together on a regular basis was important, to reaffirm the very real and strong bonds of fraternity and sorority that they shared. With the death of mom's parents, those meetings went away, and her family started to fracture. Over time, particularly as the brothers age, this is starting to reverse itself, and lo and behold, they are starting to get together again for the holidays, although not like when I was a kid.

As to dad' family, well, I've spoken about them before, so there's no need to get into that again. Suffice it to say that as I got older, they seemed less and less appealing as a group. Most of them are great people who are worth spending time with, but as they say, one bad apple can spoil the whole bunch. And there's a couple bad apples, from my perspective, in dad's bunch. That makes me sad, because I miss the fun I used to have there at Christmas time.

On top of all this, I'm pretty sure I'm developing the same habit of Christmas Depression that my mother apparently struggled with when I was a kid. It's understandable, I suppose. The shopping, the cooking, the decorating, the travelling, etc. etc. etc. It's all stressful, and high stress triggers mood swings in me. It probably did the same for her. I find myself getting cranky easily, staring off into the distance for no reason, going from being emotionally warm to cold in the space of a few minutes, all the signs of my disorder, only writ larger. I fight this as hard as I can, because Christmas used to be a joyous time for me, and with the loved ones I have now, both friends and family, and especially my beautiful wife to spend it with, I want Christmas to be a joyous time for me again. But my medicine and all the little techniques I've developed over the last year just aren't enough right now, for some reason. Maybe it's the decrease in sunlight, maybe it's all the overtime at work, maybe it's just that I'm freakin' tired and need a rest. I don't know.

What I do know is that I am trying my hardest to not ruin things for everyone else. I can't stand the thought that I'm in some way bringing everyone else down. I know I've done that in the past, maybe not at Christmas, but at some joyous time or another, I've been an absolute ass in response to my extreme moodiness, and I don't want to do that anymore. It's a struggle, and I have a feeling it's only going to get worse, before it gets better, assuming it ever does.

Merry Christmas.

Friday, December 02, 2005

Dancing Purple Hippo In A Thong

Believe it or not, the title of this post is not a joke. Check it out:

(via Thug Girl)

Thursday, December 01, 2005

Blue Bulleteer

Yet more from my "boring" friends.

The two year old's dad asked me tonight if I had ever heard of the Blue Bulleteer, a comic book character. I hadn't, and he described her, in somewhat disturbing detail. So, of course, I ran home and googled her (my wife is laughing as I write this....she seems to think I've written something naughty). This is what I came up with:

Hmmmm....his wife's pregnant again. I wonder if he's getting a mite....peckish.

R., you wanted me to write about ya. >:)

Christmas Things You Hear

Here's a couple of Christmas entries into the Things You Hear When Hanging With A Two Year Old:

Dad: "Son, the snowman doesn't want to ride the train."


Mom: "If you break my ankle, I promise I'm going to be very angry with you."


Two Year Old, with his face against his father's butt: "Daddy, you fart!"

These are the "boring" friends, too.

My "Boring" Friends

One of my friends (the ones with the two year old I'm so fond of quoting) asked me tonight why I never write about them. Then she asked me if it was because they were boring, i.e. they don't piss me off, they agree with my politics, etc. etc. etc. And I gotta say that that's probably accurate.

But then she proceeded to threaten her husband with bodily harm. Here's the conversation:

Her: "If you don't stop it, I'm going to beat you to death with a tire iron."
Him: "Yeah, but will they find the body?"
Her: "Oh, yeah, baby."
Me: "Of course. It'll be a warning to her next husband. Or her prison bitch. Same thing."

Like I said, boring friends.

More Weird Wife Dreams

Here's another installment in My Wife's Crazy Dreams.

I got up to use the bathroom during the wee hours of the morning this morning and when I crawled back into bed, my wife scrunched herself over as far as she could get, so that she was sleeping on the edge of the bed. When I asked her what she was doing, she said, "I'm giving you room to fill out your list."

I went A-hah! because I had cleverly deduced that she was dreaming. (Aren't I clever? Heh.) So, I waited a minute or so and then snuck my arm under her head and said, "Come here." This is our clue that the speaker wants to snuggle. It's an old tradition in my household. She rolled over, looked me dead in the eyes and said, "Have you finished your list yet?" in that stern school-marm voice that she can have when she wants to. I said that I had, and she rolled back over and proceeded to snuggle.

I love my wife.


"Loyalty to petrified opinion never broke a chain or freed a human soul..." -- Mark Twain


Fire does not wait for the sun to be hot,

Nor the wind for the moon, to be cool.

-- the Zenrin Kushu