I know that Facebook is a wretched hive of unwanted commentary by people you barely remember from high school and college, but I’ve been pretty lucky not to see anything egregious, largely by staying away on days that I knew would just infuriate me.

So I was a bit nonplussed to find a friend of mine sharing this anti-protest diatribe today, in the wake of all the terrible shit that’s been going down in the last several weeks. I ended up responding briefly there, but I can feel the SIWOTI burning, so it’s time for an old-fashioned fisking. I don’t know (or much care) who the original author is.

Imagine yourself, 13 years old, Christmas day. Your dad was executed 5 days earlier, assassinated, shot in the head at point blank range without a fighting chance. For what? For doing his job. For dawning the uniform.

Donning. And yes, it’s rough working in a line of work where your life is always at risk. We could talk about the things police officers do (and the unnecessary things they’re required to do) that increase that risk, but let’s not pretend that policing is usually regarded as a very safe pursuit. The reason that we hold up police and firefighters and soldiers as heroes is because we recognize that they put their lives on the line to protect and serve the rest of us. The chance of being gunned down on the street is a chance they willingly take every day. It is a terrible, but not unexpected, part of being a police officer.

It shouldn’t, however, be an expected part of playing at the park or shopping at Walmart or cosplaying or getting in a car accident.

For wearing the badge. For keeping chaos, unrest, and animosity at bay every single day. For serving an ungrateful and violent public.

Unfortunately, this description of how the cops are supposed to act is at odds with how they often do. Firing on peaceful protests with tear gas canisters and rubber bullets does not keep “chaos, unrest, and animosity at bay.” Disproportionately targeting communities of color does not keep “chaos, unrest, and animosity at bay.” Shooting first and lying about it later does not keep “chaos, unrest, and animosity at bay.” Defending unfit officers does not keep “chaos, unrest, and animosity at bay.” Engaging in unethical prosecutory conduct up to and including the subornation of perjury in order to prevent police officers from facing consequences for their own violent animosity does not keep “chaos, unrest, and animosity at bay.”

Physician, heal thyself, and all that.

Imagine yourself looking underneath the Christmas tree at a gift with a tag on it saying, “From Dad”, only knowing his funeral is next week.

Eric Garner had six, and three grandchildren. John Crawford had three children. Tamir Rice was 12 years old, the kind of kid who’d be opening those presents.

This December 25th, for 24 hours, at least one cable station will be playing “A Christmas Story,” a schmaltzy nostalgic movie about a young (white) boy who wants a BB gun for Christmas, no matter what any of the adults say is sensible. The movie is beloved by many, widely seen as wholesome and funny and charming.

Now imagine that your son was fatally shot for playing with just such a gun in a neighborhood park, by police who lied about it afterward, who handcuffed your 14-year-old daughter who watched it all happen and threatened you with arrest, and were not even charged with a crime.

The people killed by police had families too. Despite what many in the media would have you believe, despite what some of the police officers themselves would appear to believe, they are not universally violent inhuman demons. It’s not “ungrateful” to be upset that police are failing in their duty to protect and serve. It’s not “ungrateful” to hold police to their own stated standards.

Imagine your Dad being blatantly murdered at the hands of a crazed and radical individual, driven by media and political-instilled hate all because he wears a Police Officer’s uniform.

Imagine your dad, brother, son, daughter, sister, mother being blatantly harassed, injured, mangled, murdered at the hands of unstable, immature, angry, fearful individuals driven by media and political-instilled hate all because they have brown skin.

Now, imagine yourself, a newly wed, ready to get your life on track with the love of your life. 2 months of marriage under your belt and you and your husband are planning your first Christmas together as a married couple. While out Christmas shopping for him, you get a phone call saying your husband has been shot and is in the hospital fighting for his life, only to find out he’d died in his patrol car for no reason.

Now imagine yourself, shopping for a cookout with your boyfriend, when the police pick you up and take you to an interrogation room. They berate you for hours, threaten you with arrest, ask where your boyfriend got a gun, accuse him of wanting to murder his ex-girlfriend, and reduce you to tears and swearing on the lives of your family that he didn’t have a gun when he entered the store, only to be told ninety minutes into the interrogaton that your boyfriend was shot to death, only to learn later that he had been carrying a toy gun that he picked up in an aisle of the store, in a state where he would have been legally allowed to wave around an AR-15 to his heart’s content. And neither officer was indicted as a result, despite there being video evidence contradicting their statements.

People are killed by police for no reason too.

This, ladies and gentlemen, is a reality we of the law enforcement community live with day by day. Every Police Officer’s goal at the end of the day isn’t to fuck you over for a speeding ticket or to pick on you because you’re black, red, purple, white, a dog, or anything.

Their goal at the end of the day is to come home safe to the loving, embracing arms of their families at home. That is it.

Surprisingly, this is also a goal of the people of color who are disproportionately stopped, harassed, and arrested by police.

But you make a mistake in that first paragraph. It’s true, not every officer’s goal is to fuck with people, but it’s not true to say that every officer’s goal is not fucking with people. Go watch that Eric Garner video, if you can stomach it. Watch him talk about how often they fuck with him. If only the officers were so zealous about tax evasion with people walking down Wall Street instead of just Bay Street. Read up on Stop and Frisk. Police Officers are human beings too, and just like any humans, are all too prone to human biases, human bigotries, and human abuses of power. Campaigning for reform, for systems that actually punish officers for abusing the badge, isn’t a self-serving ploy by criminals. It’s a way of protecting everyone from those few bad apples. As it stands, police culture protects the unfit officers, and the effect is to further endanger all officers by making them complicit, by making them accessories, and by making it clear that they are above the law.

So while you sit there, sympathizing with the criminals and becoming part of the problem by saying, “Hands up, don’t shoot” or “I can’t breathe”

First off, fuck you. This is exactly the problem: you can’t divide the world cleanly into unsympathetic criminals and sympathetic police officers. Not every cop is a hero, and not every person killed by a cop is a villain. Thinking that cops are incapable of doing wrong is why we have police departments and prosecutors’ offices who rally around bad cops to defend them from any legal consequences. Thinking that certain kinds of people–usually poor people, brown people, mentally ill people–are “criminals” is why we have cops pulling their guns without making any attempt to assess or defuse situations, why we have overpoliced communities and military tactics resulting in the continual harassment and injury of innocent people.

The problem is that we have police officers who are engaging in criminal conduct. Harassment is a crime. Assault is a crime. Battery is a crime. Murder is a crime. They do not stop being crimes when someone puts on a badge. Police should certainly be held to different standards, standards that befit their role as protectors of the peace. Those standards should not be lower than the standards that are used to judge civilians. All too often, they are. At least when unarmed teen Trayvon Martin was shot to death, his killer stood trial. At least when Jordan Davis was shot in his car for no reason, his killer was sent to jail. The cops who killed Michael Brown, John Crawford, Eric Garner, and Tamir Rice haven’t even been indicted. That’s just the murders, just the high-profile cases, not the countless other instances of police brutality that occur day after day.

It’s not ungrateful or inconsistent to say that if you kill someone, particularly an unarmed someone, you should stand trial for that act. Whether or not they wear a badge, the question of whether or not the shooting was justified is one for a trial, not one for a grand jury or a blue wall of silence. This isn’t a perfect solution–the courts are hampered by the same biases as any other human institution–but it’s a better solution than this circling of paddy wagons.

and preaching an ignorant and biased agenda against an individual who would willingly die for you in an instant, no matter if you like them or not;

I’ll leave aside the irony of this diatribe calling out ignorance and bias with its Pollyannaish view of police and Manichean approach to law enforcement. The problem isn’t that police will willingly die for us, the problem is how willing they seem to be to kill for us. Whether or not we like it, whether or not it’s warranted, whether or not it does us any good.

while you sit there with hate and distaste over the fact that they are “all racist”

Citation please.

That said, if you’re complicit in a racist system, then it’s hard to wash off the stink. Study after study shows that law enforcement, from stops and searches on up to convictions and sentences, work differently based on the skin color of the defendant. That is a problem, it’s a race issue, and denying it helps no one.

and they can hide behind the badge and without mercy, murder anyone they please-while you sit there and bask in all the hatred that has been ignited this past year, understand that they will ALWAYS be there to help you.

Yes, they’ll always be here to help me, because I am a straight cisgendered white middle-class man.

But talk to rape victims, to homeless people, to people of color, to transgender people, to people with mental illnesses, to poor people, and you’ll find plenty of examples of how the police aren’t always there to help everyone.

I’d be curious who was helped by putting Eric Garner in a chokehold, by filling Tamir Rice and John Crawford full of bullets, by threatening and harassing their families, by gassing and assaulting protestors and journalists, by putting unstable cops back on the street with freshly-slapped wrists.

Certainly not the police. If the deaths of Wenjian Liu and Rafael Ramos have taught us anything, it’s that the perception of police as violent racists who can kill with impunity endangers cops as much as anyone else. They should be leading the campaign to force trigger-happy cops to stand trial, to halt excessive force and police brutality, and to ensure that cops who are unfit for duty aren’t then sent on duty. Because even if it’s just a few bad apples spoiling the bunch, what we’ve seen so far is a movement among cops to retain and protect those bad apples, heedless of the effect on the rest of the bushel. That solidarity, the “snitches get stitches” of the law enforcement world, results in distrust and animosity between the police and the people they’re supposed to protect. That’s not making the job safer for the Lius and Ramoses of the future, nor is it making life safer for the future Garners and Rices.

How could anyone have the audacity to hate the protectors? The unseen heroes of every day life?

How could anyone have the audacity to call this kind of conduct protection or heroic?

Matthew 5:9-
“Blessed are the peacekeepers, for they shall be called children of God.”

You might want to check that quote again.
And if you call this peace-making

…I’d hate to see what you think of as war.

God bless NYPD Officer Liu-EOW 12/20/2014
God bless NYPD Officer Ramos-EOW 12/20/2014
Godspeed gentlemen, your deaths will not be in vain.

No, sadly, they will. Just like the deaths of children in Sandy Hook and moviegoers in Aurora, and students in Isla Vista and countless other victims of gun violence perpetrated by unstable individuals, the deaths of these two officers are unlikely to result in any meaningful reforms in mental healthcare or gun control policies. They’re also unlikely to result in any change to police culture, because assholes and racists and bad apples of all sorts are too intent to blame these deaths on peaceful protestors and victims of police overreach, rather than on a rotten culture that excuses and defends those who would abuse their power.

-Signed, the grateful son of an oath keeping Peace Officer.

If only all officers kept both their oaths and the peace, you wouldn’t have protestors to blame this on.

Skepticism and Language

Something has become apparent to me in some conversations recently: being a skeptic changes the way I use particular words and phrase things. I am very particular about the words “belief” and “faith,” for instance, being careful not to use the former when talking about things like science (where it’s a matter of acceptance, not belief), and being careful to use the latter…pretty much never. When I talk about things I remember, I often preface or qualify the statement with a phrase that recognizes how flawed and malleable memory is.

So, dear readers, I put the question to you: How has your skepticism changed the way you talk?

Guest Post: ‘Sup, my duggars?

Jon‘s recently gotten back into the blogging game, so I asked him to write up a brief guest post here. Without further ado…

The Duggar family basically exemplifies everything that is wrong with white people: hyper religious and preachy about it, southern, home schooled, ignorant and proud, multiple first names (let’s face it, if I read Jim Bob Duggar in a work of fiction, it would thoroughly end my ability to suspend my disbelief), desperately wants to star in a reality show, too many damn kids, and of course Republican. In fact, Duggar should be an racial slur for white people. It even kind of sounds like one.

“I almost got run off the road by that duggar in the minivan.”


“I hate Wal-Mart, that place is full of duggars.”
“At least they’re not screaming, hey mother f-er, where’s my box wine?”

Get on this, people. You might want to start using Heene while you’re at it.

Cheaper by the Dozen

So, Bronze Dog and King of Ferrets both tagged me with a meme, the rules of which are as follows:

1. Link to the person who tagged you.
2. Post the rules on your blog.
3. Write six random things about yourself.
4. Tag six people at the end of your post and link to them.
5. Let each person know they’ve been tagged and leave a comment on their blog.
6. Let the tagger know when your entry is up.

Since I got tagged twice, I might as well double it up, right? Here are twelve random things about me.

  1. I haven’t looked it in a month or so, but I was working again on memorizing some favorite poems and passages. Off the top of my head, I can do Puck’s speech from the end of “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” and the full text of Sonnet 130. I know most of Sonnet 116 and some of this bit from King Lear. I used to know all of Robert Herrick’s “To the Virgins to Make Much of Time,” but I’ve more or less lost the middle two stanzas at this point. I’ve always wanted to memorize Marvell’s “To His Coy Mistress,” so that’s high on the list, and I’ve also printed out Marlowe’s “The Passionate Shepherd to his Love” and Raleigh’s brilliant reply “The Nymph’s Reply to the Shepherd,” since I randomly quoted a line from the former recently. While in the past, I kind of focused on renaissance poetry (as ought to be obvious at this point), I also started working on Poe’s “The Raven” and Carroll’s “Jabberwocky,” the former largely because it was around Halloween when I started, the latter because it’s fun and easy (I’ve got two stanzas down just today–three if you count that the first one is repeated at the end). If I had the time and a better memory, I’d add Ginsberg’s “Howl” and Eliot’s “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock” to the list, but I think Poe and Marvell are already pushing it as far as length.

    Yes, I recognize how useless and geeky this is, but I decided to do it after I had an epiphany about the scads of useless knowledge already rattling around my head (Jaster Mereel!) and figured I could at least put some culture in there. Besides, I tend to neglect my literature geek side, and it deserves a bit of love now and then.

    Incidentally, I can recite large swaths of “Green Eggs and Ham” and “One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, Blue Fish,” which really put everything else on the list to shame.

  2. I think “The Exorcist” is vastly overrated, and I didn’t find it to be even the least bit scary. It’s been awhile since I watched the flick, so this is from a few-years-old memory, but it seems to me that it took the same approach to horror that Carlos Mencia takes to comedy. Loudly saying curse words and doing moderately shocking things for no apparent reason neither equals humor nor horror. Maybe it’s just me, but I’m seriously bothered by villains who have no discernable motivation–with the possible exception of Michael Myers in the original “Halloween,” who was more “force of nature” than “villain”–and I don’t understand why the Lord of Lies and King of the Underworld would waste his time dicking with a teenage girl and a couple of priests. Really, Satan? That’s the best you got? It’s certainly no wonder God won that war, but I really can’t fathom why fundies and such would legitimately fear you. The film makes Satan look like a petty middle-aged loser who never grew out of the pranks he pulled with his frat brothers. In fact, “The Exorcist” makes the Devil look an awful lot like Biff Tannen.
  3. For close to two weeks now, I’ve lost sensation in my big toe on my left foot. When I was moving out of my apartment, I spent a lot of time in boots, out in the cold, and I was on my feet almost constantly for eleven hours on the day I finally checked out. About halfway through that marathon of packing, I noticed that it felt like I’d worn a hole into the sole of my left boot, and my big toe was in some kind of indentation; when I took the shoes off, it felt like my toe was asleep. The sensation hasn’t gone away since, leaving about half of that toe numb. I saw my doctor, who prescribed arch supports, steroids, soaking in warm water, and a follow-up visit. So far, not much change.

    On a possibly related note, the skin on several of my fingertips has been really rough lately, and I suspect that it’s due to some frostbite, damage from the moving process, and exposure to rock salt, though I can’t be totally sure. For a couple of days after moving, though, it felt like everything I touched was made of sandpaper.

  4. I picked up the first “Fable” game, and I started playing it. I haven’t gotten very far (and I haven’t really touched it in several weeks), but so far I’m not entirely sure what the hype’s about. I expected the black-and-white moral system, thanks to chats with the Action Skeptics crew at GenCon, but I didn’t realize the story would be quite so terribly clichéd. I mean, spunky kid whose small farm town is razed by villains, killing his whole family, who then gets adopted by a wizard of some sort? Yeah, I’m pretty sure that’s even mentioned in the Evil Overlord List.

    On the other hand, I’m about as far into “Psychonauts” time-wise as I am with “Fable,” and it’s living up to my expectations so far. If someone had told me before that it had a graphic style somewhere between “The Nightmare Before Christmas” and “Aaah! Real Monsters,” I would have picked it up months ago.

  5. Speaking of XBox games, I’ve gotten burned thrice now with superhero games on the console. I posted my lengthy thoughts on Spider-Man: Web of Shadows here. I don’t regret buying Incredible Hulk, but it generally feels like a pale imitation of Hulk: Ultimate Destruction on the previous generation consoles, albeit with a more destructible landscape. I played Iron Man for an hour or so before giving up due to the terrible flight controls (I got spoiled by the near-perfect flight mechanics in Superman Returns) and imprecise directions (how am I supposed to stop the jets without killing the pilots when all I have are missiles and lasers?). Marvel: Ultimate Alliance is a great game, and DC Universe/Mortal Kombat was pleasantly surprising (because I had no expectations for it), but other than that, I don’t think I’ve played a really good superhero game on the system. Am I just stuck waiting for M:UA2, or are there games that I’ve overlooked?
  6. I’ve watched a few episodes of the “new” Unsolved Mysteries, and I’m not sure what bugs me more: the fact that they’ve dubbed Dennis Farina over the reused Robert Stack segments, the fact that the show is so insanely credulous, or the fact that I watched it completely uncritically for most of my childhood. It’d be one thing if it just went after missing persons and unsolved murders, but they throw in every bit of crazy ghost, alien, and psychic woo-woo that they possibly can. Pitting the two together lends the fantasies the credibility of the realities–inasmuch as the criminal cases are realities and not conspiracy theories.

    At least I can have a chuckle that a show which used to air exclusively on Lifetime: Television for Women now airs exclusively on Spike TV: Television for Men.

  7. Mercifully, my allergies haven’t been acting up much this break. Usually on breaks, the time I spend at home and at my girlfriend’s house leaves me in cat-induced misery, but I’ve only had one real reaction all this break, despite routinely forgetting to take my Claritin. Lucky me, I guess.
  8. Jesus' mom has got it goin' on!I recently saw another of the Jesus figures at the Wal-Mart where I bought mine. Alongside him: Mary, his inexplicably hot mom. She wasn’t particularly impressive, and I didn’t have any real ideas for fun scenes with the two of them, but I may pick her up next time I’m there, just because I’m curious if she talks, and what she would say if she did? “Blessed art I among women”?

    If they’d had Moses, on the other hand, I wouldn’t have hesitated. Incidentally, I bought a large Thor figure for god-battles, but had to return him when he broke immediately after being opened.

  9. I’ve been getting dragged to church on a slightly regular basis since I moved back home. As a kid, I spent the time mostly playing Tic-Tac-Toe or Hangman on the back of bulletins; when I got a little older, I started working on various stories or writings on the bulletins. What I generally didn’t do was pay attention to the sermons, which really didn’t hold much meaning for me. Lately, though, I’ve listened in, and it’s been enlightening. The sermon this past Sunday was one of the most inept public speeches I’ve heard since High School. It was long, it was rambling, it was boring, it was weepy, it was filled with “ums” and “likes” and the other placeholder sounds that demonstrate that you’ve not written out careful enough notes or practiced your speech enough, and it was occasionally hilarious. I’m paraphrasing, but I’m absolutely serious: ‘you know how sometimes you’re out shopping, and you find a really great sale, and you just can’t wait to call your friend so you can tell someone? Like, oh, I got such a great deal, and I thought you should know about it. You’re just so excited that you need to tell someone? Well, that’s how you should be about Jesus, so excited that you just can’t wait to tell someone!’ My eyes just about rolled out of my head at that point. “Hey Barb, didja see that Jesus is on clearance at the Cracker Barrel? You better hurry down, ’cause there’s only one left in your size, and you wouldn’t want a Jesus that’s too small.” Jonathan Edwards she wasn’t.
  10. I’m itching to liveblog A Haunting again.
  11. Shouldn't it be 'Mntn Dw'?I’m really confused by the new Mountain Dew packaging. What the hell is up with that? Are they suddenly too extreme for vowels? Does Mountain Dew make you too fast-paced to use full words? I can’t wait to try the new Sr Mist and Pps and Dr. Pepper…okay, maybe the last one is a bad example.
  12. Unlike Bronze Dog, I never managed to get into Magic: The Gathering. I’ve got gajillions of Overpower cards if anyone wants to play, though.


Hardcore Atheism

The Friendly Atheist has started a meme about how hardcore an atheist one is. I wouldn’t have posted this, but I was a little surprised by how many I hit. So, here are the guidelines:

Copy and paste the list below on your own site, boldfacing the things you’ve done. (Feel free to add your own elaboration and commentary to each item!)

And here’s the list:

1. Participated in the Blasphemy Challenge.
2. Met at least one of the “Four Horsemen” (Richard Dawkins, Daniel Dennett, Christopher Hitchens, Sam Harris) in person.
3. Created an atheist blog.
4. Used the Flying Spaghetti Monster in a religious debate with someone.
5. Gotten offended when someone called you an agnostic. (Depends on what they mean by “called you;” I’m a little offended at Ray Comfort’s equivocation on the term, but he’s never called me specifically an agnostic)
6. Been unable to watch Growing Pains reruns because of Kirk Cameron.
7. Own more Bibles than most Christians you know. (How many Bibles do most Christians own? Depending on how you count, I own between two and four).
8. Have at least one Bible with your personal annotations regarding contradictions, disturbing parts, etc. (It peters out a couple of pages into Genesis).
9. Have come out as an atheist to your family.
10. Attended a campus or off-campus atheist gathering.
11. Are a member of an organized atheist/Humanist/etc. organization. (I’m going to assume that “etc.” includes the JREF).
12. Had a Humanist wedding ceremony.
13. Donated money to an atheist organization. (I don’t know; I’ve donated to the NCSE and PMomma, and I’ve bought stuff from the Richard Dawkins Foundation, but I haven’t made a pure donation to a specifically atheist organization).
14. Have a bookshelf dedicated solely to Richard Dawkins. (It’d be closer if Ancestor’s Tale and God Delusion fit on the same shelf as Unweaving the Rainbow and Blind Watchmaker)
15. Lost the friendship of someone you know because of your non-theism.
16. Tried to argue or have a discussion with someone who stopped you on the street to proselytize.
17. Had to hide your atheist beliefs on a first date because you didn’t want to scare him/her away. (No fair! I haven’t had a first date since before I was an atheist).
18. Own a stockpile of atheist paraphernalia (bumper stickers, buttons, shirts, etc).
19. Attended a protest that involved religion.
20. Attended an atheist conference.
21. Subscribe to Pat Condell’s YouTube channel.
22. Started an atheist group in your area or school.
23. Successfully “de-converted” someone to atheism.
24. Have already made plans to donate your body to science after you die. (I’m not sure about the “donating to science,” but I plan to donate my organs, and medicine is a science).
25. Told someone you’re an atheist only because you wanted to see the person’s reaction.
26. Had to think twice before screaming “Oh God!” during sex. Or you said something else in its place.
27. Lost a job because of your atheism.
28. Formed a bond with someone specifically because of your mutual atheism (meeting this person at a local gathering or conference doesn’t count).
29. Have crossed “In God We Trust” off of — or put a pro-church-state-separation stamp on — dollar bills.
30. Refused to recite the Pledge of Allegiance.
31. Said “Gesundheit!” (or nothing at all) after someone sneezed because you didn’t want to say “Bless you!” (I’ve re-trained myself on this one).
32. Have ever chosen not to clasp your hands together out of fear someone might think you’re praying.
33. Have turned on Christian TV because you need something entertaining to watch. (Fundie Friday on TBN!)
34. Are a 2nd or 3rd (or more) generation atheist.
35. Have “atheism” listed on your Facebook or dating profile — and not a euphemistic variant.
36. Attended an atheist’s funeral (i.e. a non-religious service).
37. Subscribe to an freethought magazine (e.g. Free Inquiry, Skeptic)
38. Have been interviewed by a reporter because of your atheism.
39. Written a letter-to-the-editor about an issue related to your non-belief in God.
40. Gave a friend or acquaintance a New Atheist book as a gift.
41. Wear pro-atheist clothing in public.
42. Have invited Mormons/Jehovah’s Witnesses into your house specifically because you wanted to argue with them. (I’ve told Mormons that I’d invite them in to chat, except I was heading out to work, but I haven’t gotten the real thing yet).
43. Have been physically threatened (or beaten up) because you didn’t believe in God.
44. Receive Google Alerts on “atheism” (or variants).
45. Received fewer Christmas presents than expected because people assumed you didn’t celebrate it.
46. Visited The Creation Museum or saw Ben Stein’s Expelled just so you could keep tabs on the “enemy.” (This is somewhat pre-emptive, but I’ve had Expelled from Netflix for a month or so, waiting for a time when Jon and I can watch it together).
47. Refuse to tell anyone what your “sign” is… because it doesn’t matter at all.
48. Are on a mailing list for a Christian organization just so you can see what they’re up to…
49. Have kept your eyes open while you watched others around you pray.
50. Avoid even Unitarian churches because they’re too close to religion for you. (Almost true; I’d like to go to a Unitarian service at some point, but I don’t want to do it alone, I don’t like getting up on Sundays, and I don’t care for church).

Recycled Content!

Those of you who read my other blog already know about my computer woes. Things are going to get worse before they get better over here, despite the fact that there’s a lot of things I want to post here. Keep an eye on the “recent comments” widget on the side there, because there are some old comments I want to respond to (including weighing in on the hate crime thing, and apologizing/explaining myself to Dunc on the <A href="
http://dubitoergo.blogspot.com/2008/04/have-you-found-jesus.html”>Jesus post). And don’t get me started on the backlog of posts on my regular blogs that I have to read. I whittled down my “regular” haunts when I lost the PC (it’s been way too long since I could has cheezburger on a regular basis), and now the situation’s even worse.

But until then, I noticed that Akusai resurrected a meme he found at Bronze Dog’s place. So, since that will allow me to actually write something for the blog while looking over my shoulder every thirty seconds to make sure a client hasn’t walked in, I figured I ought to do it. Clicky-clicky to see below the fold:

Accent: Midwestern American. I say “pop” instead of “soda.” I wish I had some cool British accent, but instead I get stuck with this blandness.

Booze: Nerd Beer. And Cherry Coke, but only the real stuff. I can’t stand grenadine.

Chore I hate: Doing dishes by hand. The day I get an apartment or house with a dishwasher, I will probably fall to my knees and weep hot tears of joy.

Dog or Cat: Dog. I like cats, but I don’t like having to remember to take Claritin every day (and I really don’t like itchy eyes and sneezing).

Essential Electronics: My computer(s), my iPod, my cell phone, and my awesome new speaker system/DVD player. In that order. Oh, and does my sonic screwdriver count?

Favorite Cologne: Used to be Brut Actif Blue, but that doesn’t exist anymore. Now it’s Ralph Lauren Polo Sport, which I like, but not as much as my girlfriend does.

Gold or Silver: I only ever played Pokémon Blue.

Hometown: Right now? Macomb, IL. Hopefully not for much longer, though I’ll probably stick around in the Land of Lincoln.

Insomnia: Overrated film. Oh, you mean the condition? Not since I was a kid. I’m a night-owl, though, so it’s in my nature to stay up until I’m exhausted.

Job title: Graduate Assistant, Student Teacher, Thong Supermodel.

Kids: Someday in the distant future. Until then, I’m busy corrupting my little brother. Case in point: his requested bedtime reading for the last several times I’ve seen him has been from the Eyewitness Book on Chemistry. On Sunday, it was Mendeleyev and the Periodic Table!

Living arragements: A slightly-too-small apartment with the kitchen in the hallway.

Most admirable traits: Humility.

Not going to cop to: Not knowing what “cop to” is supposed to mean.

Overnight hospital stays: None so far. Eventually my appendix will burst and infect my tonsils and gall bladder, giving me nasty kidney stones and putting me in traction, I’m sure.

Phobias: Heights. Or, more specifically, the feeling of falling. But when I’m high up I tend to imagine that feeling, which leads back to heights.

Quote: From me? Or from someone else, of which I approve? I’ll assume the former and say “Oh my god, I think I killed a hooker,” which was on my whiteboard for a year in undergrad.

Religion: Garden, fairies, bottom, you know the drill.

Siblings: Two brothers, both younger.

Time I wake up: In the morning, when the ‘larm gives out a warning, and I don’t think I’ll ever make it on time.

Unusual talent or skill: I have a knack for remembering lots of random trivia about trivial things.

Vegetable I love: Romaine lettuce, corn-on-the-cob, carrots, broccoli (with ranch dressing), and potatoes in various forms.

Worst habit: Almost certainly procrastination and a lack of punctuality.

X-rays: Dental, both wrists (more than once), one leg, left elbow, and I think that’s it.

Yummy foods I make: Everything I make is yummy. Recently, I’ve actually gotten pretty good at pancakes. But steak, hamburger, meatballs of various nationalities, chicken in several shapes, and several sorts of pasta, to be specific. It’d be better if my oven weren’t from the turn of the previous century.

Zodiac sign: I saw it, and it opened up my eyes.

What Kind of God Would You Be?

My God is awesome!I’m trying to start a meme. More on that in a moment. First, it’s anecdote time.

It’s been snowing quite a bit lately. On for a day or two, off for a day or two, and right now it’s pretty much a white-out. The next day or two are going to be great for sledding.
Now, I like snow an awful lot, but I really, really hate the cold. And given how much I hate the cold, I generally don’t get to go out and enjoy the snow anymore. There’s too much prep time, too much cleanup, and too much numb extremities for me to want to go out and spend an hour sliding down hills and making snow angels. Every time it’s like this, I think, “it’d be great if it could snow like this when it was 70 degrees out.”

But, for such a thing to happen, the basic physical properties of water would have to be altered, and that might cause some difficulties for everything else on our mostly-water planet.

But you know what? If I was God, it wouldn’t matter. I’d make it snow when it was 70 degrees, for all those of us who love snowmen and hate the cold, and it’d work out because I’d be omnipotent, and I could make it work out.

This, naturally, led me to think about what else I’d do if I was God, with my baseline being that I’m literally omnipotent, and so I’d make it so whatever I change won’t destroy the universe; it’s an “everything will work out because I say so” omnipotence. Here’s what I came up with:

  1. I’d be obvious. I’d make sure everyone knew for sure that I existed, and what I was like. Heck, I’d have a nice, sit-down dinner with each and every person in the world(s). Let them ask their questions, levy their complaints, and voice their concerns around the dinner table. Being a deity ought to require some measure of transparency.
  2. Resources for all! What’s with this whole “limited resources” schtick? I see no reason why all people and animals shouldn’t have all the space, food, and other resources they need, and I’ll take care of the deleterious effects on the environment. It’s about time there’s such a thing as a free lunch. Speaking of which…
  3. Manwich from Heaven. Okay, maybe not Manwich, but if the Jews could get manna raining down on them in the desert, why not everything else? And since I don’t know what Manna is, it seems useful to update it to things that people normally eat. Now, I wouldn’t want the world to turn into Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs (at least, not often), so I’m thinking little Ziggy-clouds of food rain showing up when people are really hungry.
  4. Let’s cut out this whole unnecessary suffering and death bit. With unlimited resources, there oughtn’t be too much worry about overpopulation. With that in mind, I’d take care of all the really nasty diseases and accidental deaths. When people finally tired of life, they could file a death request, which would be reviewed by a crack team of divine bureaucrats, who would then deliver a nice, painless death-of-choice in three-to-four months. I figure, if the two certainties in life are death and taxes, they ought to operate the same way. The waiting period ought to give people time to mull over the decision, sleep on it, and ultimately retract it at any time, for any reason. This ought to weed out most of the “teen angst” death requests, as well as any other poorly-reasoned deaths.
  5. Free miracle day! Every person would get one free miracle every year. Obviously, there’d have to be some rules to govern this sort of thing; I’d derive them from the Genie’s rules in “Aladdin”: No harming others, no undermining other people’s free will, and…well, I don’t see why you couldn’t bring people back from the dead. The duration of effect would obviously depend on the wish. I think I’d have to ask people to submit their top three to five miracles, just in case the first couple are unfeasible for whatever reason.
  6. The afterlife. You choose the afterlife. If you want blank oblivion, hey, great. If you want the beer volcano and stripper factory, it’s yours. If you ever want to change your mind, even if you’ve chosen “eternal nonexistence,” that’s totally up to you.
  7. Not science, SCIENCE! Since my omnipotent meddling in the universe would kind of upset the whole methodological materialism thing, I’d throw a bone to the scientists, and make it so that real-life science would function more like comic book science. Achieving a doctorate would allow you to build giant Kirbyesque devices and grand draconian doomsday machines. Radiation would be more likely to cause superpowers than cancer, and genetic mutations could make you able to control the weather or travel through time.
  8. Edit: Forgot one. Major redesign of the human body. At the very least, let’s get rid of the blind spot in the eye, wisdom teeth, the various anatomical obstacles that make childbirth such a hassle, and the crossover between the trachea and the esophagus. Let’s reinforce the scrotum, move the clitoris to someplace a bit more accessible, and fix the whole “playground next to a toxic waste dump” problem. Let’s make it so that spooning in bed doesn’t leave you with one arm in some terribly awkward position. Other changes may follow as necessary and/or requested. And as long as we’re fixing humans, let’s do something about those poor, poor hyenas, too.

I think that’ll do it for now. So, here’s the meme bit, as if it’s not obvious: list at least four things that you’d do if you were God. Assume the same thing I did: you’re omnipotent (do the logically impossible!) and whatever you do will work out fine with the laws of physics, such as they are. I’d formally tag people, but I figure I’ll just leave it open to my regular readers. Just post in the comments here if you answer the meme at your blog, and link back to this page when you do. Feel free to tag however many people you want.

I’d love to see this hit PZ, Orac, Skeptico, Ebonmuse, and Vjack if possible, so get on it!

1000 facts

I got tagged. In fact, I got tagged in two different blogohedrons. Given the differences between these two blogs, I thought I’d treat the worlds of comics and science/skepticism/religion as Non-Overlapping Magisteria, and cover this meme separately.

However, the claim that these two blogohedrons have nothing to say about each other is patently ridiculous. It is a tedious cliché that this blog is here to discuss matters of science and religion, while my other blog is meant to discuss matters of comic books and geekery. But we know for a fact that these matters are not wholly separate. Comic books and science are intimately intertwined, and we find that there is even an overlap with matters of religion. Indeed, doesn’t all of this fall under the combined heading of geekery? There is simply no way to separate these two areas of study, and it is foolish to suggest otherwise.

Nah, just kidding. I’m quite enjoying The God Delusion, if you couldn’t already tell. I’ll hit up another eight facts here, right after the rules.

– I have to post these rules before I start.
– I have to tell you eight facts about myself.
– I have to tag eight people to participate.
– I’m supposed to leave a comment telling them they’re tagged and to read my blog.
– And the tagees need to write their own blog post, telling us eight things and posting the rules.

Now, since this is a blog where I often discuss matters of science and belief and whatnot, matters that are tied up in observable facts, I figure I should change things up a little. I’m a big fan of facts; there are few things I like more, so I’m going to tell you 1000 facts about myself! Think you can handle it?

1: I really dislike the new Blogger autosave feature. I had this post about half-done and even hit the “Save Now” and everything before leaving for the weekend, and now it’s all gone. I know I ought to just type in another word processor and copy to the text window, or something along those lines, but that’s a pain in the ass. I’m trying to weigh whether that’s a bigger pain than losing the occasional post.

10: I have a pet crayfish. Several, actually. More than I can count. See, last term I was in a mixed-discipline science course that went heavy on the Biology, and we had to do an experiment that explored the effects of some variable on both biotic and abiotic factors. Eventually, and after much experimental redesign, we decided to test the effects of ammonia-based fertilizer on crayfish and water. We realized early on how difficult it was to test two different things, especially when one was “living creatures” and it was all on a shoestring budget. The experiment was plagued by serious problems from the very start. By the end, we had absolutely no significant data trends, and realized that the dechloraminating treatment we’d been told to add to the water so as not to kill our crustacean specimens was probably neutralizing our ammoninum chloride fertilizer.
Well, about halfway through, we had a pair of crayfish mate, and most of the eggs had hatched by the time we were done with the experiment. We were told that we couldn’t release the crayfish into the wild (what with them being non-native species), and the other main option was donating them to someone in the Biology dept. for next year’s labs, which meant freezing the lot of them. Being somewhat reluctant to consign so many newly-hatched crayfish to such an abrupt fate, I went out and picked up an aquarium. So, I took Mama and her brood, who now occupy the place where my DVD spinner rack used to be.
At this point, I’ve settled into a pretty comfortable place with them. Not as many have died from fights and cannibalism as I expected, and a bunch of them have molted again over the past week or so, which means they’re getting really big (2-4cm) compared to when they first hatched just a couple months ago. People have asked me since I took them what I’m going to do when they all get big, and I haven’t had a real answer. It looks like I’m going to have to come up with one in the next month or two.

11: I love cooking. I’m no gourmet, but I like to think that I’m pretty decent at it. I’ve been steadily increasing my repertoire of meals over the last couple of years, and I’m at a place where I can toss a decent dinner-for-one together in a pretty short time, with not too much mess (though I have a tendency to use about twice as many dishes as I need to for any given meal). Recently, I’ve worked primarily with pasta and Italian-style stuff, since it tends to be quick and filling. I fancy myself a wizard with regard to ground beef and charcoal grills. For some reason though, the Building Manager frowns upon Weber grills in the apartments.
I’ve always been a very picky eater, so this interest in cooking has really led to a broadening of my palate. I’m pretty reluctant to throw out something I made, after all. Unfortunately, I’m also fairly reluctant to eat leftovers, which presents several problems that I need to get over.
So, if you’ve got any great recipes or know of good recipe sites, let me know.

100: I love science fiction, and I always have, though I haven’t read much in the last several years. I’m taking a class on sci-fi author Octavia Butler, and I’m really enjoying Parable of the Sower, but I’m starting to realize that I’m not nearly as well-read in sci-fi as I’d like to be. I blame a lot of that on my childhood reading habits; instead of raiding my parents’ huge collections of classic SF, I spent most of my time reading Star Wars spin-off novels and various Young Adult series. Some of it was fantastic (I will trumpet the wonders of Animorphs from the rooftops), some of it less so (The Eyes of Kid Midas? What the hell was I thinking?). I’ve read a good deal of Bradbury and a Heinlein novel or two, I’ve read The Time Machine but not War of the Worlds, and I’ve read virtually nothing from Asimov or Vonnegut, and absolutely nothing from Clarke, Herbert, Verne, Zelazny, Card, Niven (excepting of course “Man of Steel, Woman of Kleenex”), and most of the other luminaries of the field.

So, my question to you: when August rolls around and I’ve finished my classes for 20 days or so, where do I begin? I’d like to get into some of the Asimov robot stuff; I’ve heard nothing but great things about Ender’s Game despite Card’s religious weirdness and political idiocy; I have War of the Worlds, Stranger in a Strange Land, Welcome to the Monkey House, Neuromancer, and Lord of Light all sitting on my shelf, waiting to be read (and in some cases, partially read already). Anything else I could get without too much trouble. Where do I start?

101: I did DNA Gel Electrophoresis in Bio lab today. It was pretty cool, and would have been even cooler if it had worked right. It’s crazy to watch biology (DNA), chemistry (the gel and solution), and physics (the current and charge) come together like that. I’ve spent the last several years lightly making fun of Biology as a ‘soft science,’ but working with genetics the last week or so has reminded me that I used to enjoy it. I can’t stomach dissection, and it bothers me that even the simplest experiments in Biology have way, way too many variables to control and account for. But as I was drawing out a Punnett Square the other day, counting up all the phenotypes and genotypes, I got to thinking “there has got to be a better way to do this, with factorials and exponents.” It made me realize that I could really get into Biology if I stuck to theory and genetics and math-type-things. I love learning about evolution, for instance, and I’m really kind of digging the DNA stuff, which is the most enjoyment I’ve gotten from Biology since I was in High School.

110: I’m not convinced by the Superstring Hypothesis (what some scientists are prematurely calling “String Theory”), not in the least. I doubted it after seeing Brian Greene’s Nova special, I almost completely dismissed it after seeing him talk about it, and I warmed up to a different version of it through the dulcet tones of S. James Gates. Unfortunately, I haven’t heard much from the Gates camp recently, and specifically nothing that would constitute currently testable predictions or solid observable evidence. I was all set to pick up Lee Smolin’s The Trouble With Physics, which criticizes the string movement, though I’ve been a little curious since I saw that book what his alternative might be. I’d seen his name associated with Loop Quantum Gravity, and what little I’ve heard of that seems to be about the same level of plausibility as the strings.
Anyway, I recently came across Smolin’s name in The God Delusion, and I’m a little bit more wary of him now; assuming Dawkins’ brief summary of Smolin’s cosmology is correct, then Smolin hypothesizes that black hole singularities give birth to other universes, and that these ‘daughter’ universes have similar properties to their ‘parent’ universes. For universes to propagate, then, they must have physical laws that are conducive to the production of black holes, and thus to the formation of stars and massive bodies. There’s a certain logic and elegance to this idea, and I’m certainly willing to give it a chance, but it seems to me that such an idea would require us to change quite a lot of what we know, or think we know, about black holes. Does the mass and energy, then, become the starting mass of the new universe? Can inflation be explained by the influx of mass and energy from the parent universe? Does this mean that mass and energy can effectively be destroyed in some reactions? What, then, is Hawking Radiation? How can something only as massive as a collapsed star contain the necessary quantities to produce an entire universe? Why do black holes continue to exist in our universe? And so on. Smolin’s got some hurdles to overcome if he’s going to prove that one.

111: Following from the last few facts, I am apparently a colossal nerd.

1000: I understand binary. Do you?

At this point, I don’t think I know 8 people who haven’t yet been tagged. If you’re reading this and you haven’t already done an “eight facts” thingy, then consider this your tagging.

Edit: Fixed all the broken links up-top.

Atheist Confessional

Taking a cue from No More Hornets, these are my confessions:

  1. I still say “bless you” when people sneeze, and I thank people when they say it to me. I’ve never been one to append “God” to the beginning, and I’ve always found the various superstitions surrounding sneezes to be kind of ridiculous.
  2. It’s only within the last couple of years that I stopped praying before going to sleep. I started in grade school, and I said it out loud for years until I realized that if God was omniscient, he’d know if I just thought it. I still did it (silently) for the last few years, mostly out of habit, and justifying it by thinking “it’s like SETI. I don’t really think there’s anything out there, but if there is, it’s hearing my requests.”

    But I figured after a decade of having no evidence and never seeing those requests fulfilled, I decided to give it up. I’d started because I was afraid of imaginary things in the dark, and called out for an imaginary thing in the sky to protect me from them. I continued because I thought maybe if I asked really intently every night, I’d get my selfish desires fulfilled. Naturally, the things I prayed for were to “protect everyone from danger, illness, pain, and fear” and to make everyone “happy, healthy, safe, and secure.”

  3. I watch more TBN and listen to more Christian music now than I did when I was a Christian. A lot more. But it’s all for humor value. Trust me, if you watch ten minutes of “Virtual Memory” or “Miss Charity’s Diner,” you’ll want to tune in again too. Never has there been so much unintentional hilarity concentrated in one place, except perhaps at the last Republican debate.
  4. I like Christmas hymns. In fact, I prefer them to more modern Christian music. In fact, my favorite is “God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen,” the really old one which still references Satan.
  5. I get just a little too excited when I find out that a celebrity I like is non-theistic.
  6. There is no quicker way to get on my bad side than to have a “MARRIAGE=[MAN]+[WOMAN]” bumper sticker on your car. Except maybe to have “If Mary was pro-choice, we wouldn’t have Christmas.”
  7. I feel really bad about it, because there are a lot of Christians that I genuinely respect, admire, and love, but I feel just a little bit disappointed when I first find out that someone I know is Christian. I’m sorry. I get over it pretty quickly, though.
  8. I have, on more than one occasion, told Christian friends “you have something on your face” on Ash Wednesday. I’m not mocking them, I just don’t realize it’s intentional until after the words come out.
  9. I probably won’t be reading The God Delusion at work. It’s not that I’m in the closet; if someone wants to know, I’ll tell them. But I’d rather not make unnecessary waves.
  10. I don’t think it’s unreasonable to expect people to understand what constitutes valid evidence and arguments.
  11. In theological discussions, I sometimes have to think twice so that I don’t cite Jesus Christ Superstar instead of the Bible.
  12. A large portion of my philosophy is derived from Douglas Adams, Neil Gaiman, Kevin Smith, and Terry Pratchett.

I think that’s enough for now. Now, how many Pasta Nosters and Ave Marinaras do I have to say to placate the Flying Spaghetti Monster?

This should come as a surprise to no one…

You scored as Scientific Atheist, These guys rule. I’m not one of them myself, although I play one online. They know the rules of debate, the Laws of Thermodynamics, and can explain evolution in fifty words or less. More concerned with how things ARE than how they should be, these are the people who will bring us into the future.

Scientific Atheist


Militant Atheist


Apathetic Atheist




Angry Atheist


Spiritual Atheist




What kind of atheist are you?
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