Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Midsummer? Midwinter?

Someone please explain to me why we use these terms for the first day of summer and the first day of winter? Seems to me that Midsummer should be somewhere around August 4 - midway point in summer, between spring and autumn.

Friday, August 12, 2011

Saturday, August 06, 2011

More on "the end of privacy"

This article is surprising to me only in that it is so close to being an everyday reality. In fact, it's been my belief for some time that the day is approaching when you will walk down the street and and more or less instantly know the identities and other relevant (or completely irrelevant) information about the people walking past you - and they'll know it about you.

I wrote more on the issue of personal privacy in a culture of advanced technologies here if you missed it earlier.

Tuesday, August 02, 2011

Life is but a vapor....

This guy has been on YouTube for quite a long time, but I just got clued in to his channel. He does some pretty good work.

Friday, July 29, 2011

Add this to your favorite quotes

I'm currently reading "Cryptonomicon" by Neal Stephenson and came across this one:

"Arguing with anonymous strangers on the Internet is a sucker's game because they almost always turn out to be—or to be indistinguishable from—self-righteous sixteen-year-olds possessing infinite amounts of free time."

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Rap again

A year or two ago I posted an atheist rap by GreydonSquare. Guess who's back?

Most of my blogger friends are not fond of rap and were largely unimpressed. All I can say is, the guy is a lot more creative than I am. I like his songs.

How's THIS for lack of creativity?

I've been trying to change up, whip myself into shape mentally and physically, and do it whether I like it or not. Let me tell you... I don't like it. One of the tasks I've assigned myself is to put something up on my blog on a more regular basis than I have for the past couple of years.

If you're one of "The Half Dozen", as I like to call you, then you've noticed I've been tossing up videos by YouTubers who I enjoy. If I have to ride the coattails of those more intelligent and talented than myself, well, by bloody Jesus on a cross, that's better than staying in bed all day.

I'll tell you, I'm sick of hearing my opinions on things. Honestly, there's no reason on earth that you should listen to what I have say unless you are about as bored with everything as I am.

If you enjoy videos, perhaps you'll agree with my taste in them. If you do, I think I find some pretty fucking cool stuff - which would mean that you don't have to run all over looking for them. But, hey... that's just my stupid fucking opinion again.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Freedom of Speech vs. banning and blocking

One thing that is true enough about the words I write in this blog and the words I have spoken on YouTube videos - they are just another fucking opinion on the Internet. I’m not an expert in any field and I don’t have credentials to serve as a claim of authority through my deep knowledge of any subject. I suspect this is true for the majority of blogs, tweets, Facebook entries, YouTube videos and other ways we communicate with each other in the rapidly expanding, information-rich world in which we find ourselves. This is not to say there are no exceptions out there, and we should all be grateful for that fact. That we have many resources available, written by experts in every imaginable field, is enriching to all of us.

There was no real need for me to preface my coming remarks with that disclaimer. I was thinking about it earlier this evening, and it’s good to openly and honestly self-evaluate what one is doing, now and again. The fact that the above is absolutely true is not to say that my thoughts on the variety of subjects I touch upon are worthless. We all add to the discussion (or not) and thereby minutely tune the macro-society we live in. It helps clarify one’s own positions and maybe, on occasion, help others to do the same. And so, I blather on.

Recent events on blogs and channels I visit on a regular basis leads me to comment on the subject for which this post is titled. I won’t get into specific names of the players or the circumstances involved leading to the ideas expressed here. I don’t think it’s really necessary. If you have spent any amount of time in Internet discussions and disputes over such subjects as god, religion, Christianity, Islam, spirituality, superstition, atheism, science, politics and many more, you will have also had reason to give some thought to your position on (capitalized) Freedom of Speech, as it applies to these debates.

I have never blocked or banned anyone from posting their comments concerning what I write on this blog. Other than cases of clear and obvious spamming (usually to promote some product or other financial venture of the writer) I have never even deleted comments. Even in cases of a few commenters who, in my personal opinion, were nothing more than silly trolls attempting to get a reaction or just mindlessly venting against my point of view, I have left the commenter and their comments alone.

Despite this, I do not maintain that I am protecting them or the ideal of Freedom of Speech. Indeed, I don’t think this has any connection to the principle. I still reserve the right to block, ban and delete comments for any reason - should I decide to do so at some point. There is no connection between banning commenters and a violation of the human right to Freedom of Speech.

Hopefully you live in a country in which this human right is upheld. If you don’t, it’s unlikely that my words are even reaching you right now. If you do, then whether or not I ban you from this blog, your rights are still protected. You can post your thoughts on your own blog or other social networking site, or on the pages of other users where you are still welcome. Indeed, if you open your own blog, channel, etc. you can say whatever you want, as much as you want, whenever you choose to do so.

I can honestly report here that I have never, ever, invoked a protest of “Freedom of Speech”! when I have had a comment deleted or been blocked (usually, though not always, by a Christian channel or blog) and I never will. Do I find it telling when I come across a Christian blog that screens all comments before posting them and resolutely declines to do so whenever a non-believer makes a comment that is contrary to the point of view of the Christian blog owner? I surely do. But they haven’t violated my rights.

Imagine you are holding a dinner and discussion at your home. You have sent out dozens of invitations. It comes to your attention that one of the people you invited is a denier of the fact of the Nazi Holocaust and that this person is an advocate for Aryan supremacy. Further, this person very much intends to use your dinner party as a platform to push their agenda. You send them a note to withdraw the invitation and to tell them that people of their mindset are not welcome to come into your house and espouse those thoughts.

Have their human rights been violated? The answer should be obvious, and the analogy is a valid one.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

We're ALL New Yorkers now!

Just wanted to remind some of our more conservative and/or backwards Americans what they themselves were declaring just 10 years ago!

The second most populous state in the Union now gives gay and lesbian couples the same rights as straight couples - like most of the enlightened world. New York is now the 6th state to legalize gay marriage, and California (the most populous state) will again join decent humanity, as soon as Prop 8 runs out of appeals (or its proponents are simply informed that they have no standing).

Those of you who continue to oppose this should at least be honest. There is no reason to do so, other than a religious reason. That's not good enough. If your god is against homosexuality, then your obvious action is - not to marry someone of the same sex. What others do is their business.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Science saved his soul

A friend of mine on YouTube made this video late last year. He has had a fabulous response with well over 800,000 views. I think he will eventually top one million, and thought I'd do a little to help him. Philhellenes is one of the really fine atheist channels on YouTube and I suggest you take the time to watch of few of his other videos. Some of them are even better than this - though this is damned good.

Sunday, June 05, 2011

Clobbering Kalam - and William Lane Craig

If you find this interesting, you'll probably want to see the earlier video from Scott (TheoreticalBullshit) which led to Craig's weak response to a YouTuber. Actually, early in the video, Scott requests that you go ahead and watch "I Kalam like I see 'em" prior to watching this video. I don't think it's necessary to do it in that order, but however you prefer - I'll link that below this video.

I "Kalam" like I see 'em.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Looking for a new bogeyman

Almost immediately after the death of former terrorist bogeyman Osama Bin Laden, news reports started popping up all over speculating on who would replace him as the Terrorist-In-Chief. Here are a few examples. (a) (b) (c)

There is no conspiracy to keep us living in fear of terrorism. It all develops as naturally as any other public issue meme. However, it's undeniable that memes benefit some more than others. The meme of our society living under the threat of collapse due to the efforts of a relative few fanatics is of great benefit to the existing power structures; political, military and industrial power structures.

The economy of the United States is highly dependent on defense spending. For those Americans who love to chant "We're Number One", well, you can't deny that they are right - at least when it comes to advanced weaponry, computers, spy tech, personnel training and maintenance, etc. Over 40% of the world's military spending each year is done by the U.S. The second leading country in military spending is China, and they spend roughly 15% of what our country does. The 2009 U.S. budget called for nearly $700 billion in defense spending and that was before the extra $75 billion of emergency funding for the war efforts in Iraq and Afghanistan.

This obscene level of spending has to be justified somehow. With the fall of communism as a viable threat to sell us on, the Nineties left a chasm that needed to be filled and "the worldwide threat of global terrorism, primarily emanating from the Middle East in the form of Islamic Jihad" provided a flimsy cover. At least at first. Then came 9/11/2001. You could almost feel the collective sigh of relief coming out of the military/industrial complex.

So now, with Osama Bin Laden an historical footnote, the search is on for a new bogeyman to haunt our dreams and allow our government to go unchallenged in spending outlandish amounts of money to insure that you don't die this year in cataclysmic attack. Feel the fear, and don't ask questions. Your life may depend on your obedient acquiescence. It would be better if you question the $1 billion spent on women's reproductive health or the half billion dollars earmarked for public broadcasting.

Friday, May 06, 2011

You can believe in Colbert's God

News and thoughts

I was in the hospital last week after going to the E.R. and discovering a blood clot in my right leg, part of which had moved to the lungs. I'm out, on blood thinners and doing as well as ever. I can honestly report that I never said a prayer.

There's an article today on LiveScience which talks of a study about men, and how much they think about sex during the day. Seems that we think just as much about sleep and snacks as we do about doing the horizontal mambo. In all fairness, the study was conducted with college aged men. Had it included the over-50 set, they would have found that we also think as frequently about urination and various pains.

In a discussion recently, I complained that believers in various gods almost never try to engage me on the specifics of their god, choosing instead to turn the discussion to my atheism vs. some nebulous notion of god as a first cause. In turn I was told that it was me who was running from the "big question" of whether there is an ACME All-Purpose God of the Universe. Fine. I'm running. But until someone tells me exactly what they mean by god, I see no value in debating its existence.

Speaking of specific gods, I'd still like to know how Christians can be sure that Satan isn't the real Master of the Universe. Maybe Satan is the one who created everything, is every bit the joker he is described in the bible, put out this ridiculous bible to test the intelligence of his creation, and will punish all of those who die believing the Jesus fable. I'm guessing that they somehow know due to the very same reason, rationality and logic they used to become Christians in the first place.

Latest news on Osama Bin Laden - he's still dead. Ignorant Muslim fundamentalists still exist in the millions. We should get out of the wars we are in, but exploiting the on-going "jihad" is just worth too damn much money for too many people for that to happen. Besides, did you see all the monkeys swinging from trees, screaming "U.S.A! U.S.A.!" and informing our leaders that this issue has traction? Human beings (in general) are so much more ignorant than we'd like to think.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

A video titled "Crime & Abortion"

I'm guessing this will be a tad controversial. It's certainly a theory worthy of further studies, at the very least.

Saturday, April 09, 2011

Personal Privacy in a Culture of Advanced Technologies

An acquaintance on YouTube who also makes videos on atheist, agnostic, secular humanist, skepticism and science issues sent me a Personal Message (PM) this morning. I change it only in preserving his YouTube identity:

Saw your video about deleting a bunch of your videos. Had to notice that it is all your talking head videos that you have taken down. I have never done a talking head video. I never felt comfortable doing it. I live in the buckle of the bible belt. Friends down the road who are Mormon figured out [my YouTube identity]. They have not spoken to us since. I am not a coward but at my age, I don't need the hassle doing talking head videos might bring to my front door.

I also don't have a lot of faith that the new enlightenment is going to get here before the wall between church and state falls. Very dark times may be in our near future. The more the two newest religions of the Abrahamic god are revealed to be false, the more reactionary will the remaining adherents become.

[Another YouTube secularist channel] is all but gone from Youtube after he was recognized in his community. He used to make great videos, cutting evangelical Christianity to shreds. He took them all down and really can't put them back up.

Just wondering if you got ID'd in your community?

This was my response:

Your question is reasonable and it's not far from the facts, just based on something quite different from the obvious.

I indeed don't want to call attention to myself. It has nothing to do with my atheism. It's a losing battle anyway in this information-rich, privacy-scarce world we are rapidly developing, but that doesn't mean I have to hurry the process at the personal level. I really believe, should technology continue advancing at anything close to its current rate, that in the not too distant future we will have to deal with near-total transparency - for good or ill.

Of course, there's this, which could stop the "problem" while creating a much worse one (in my view) - "I also don't have a lot of faith that the new enlightenment is going to get here before the wall between church and state falls. Very dark times may be in our near future."

I agree, brother. I don't like having a knee-jerk pessimistic view of the future, but we do have to acknowledge the very real possibilities that come with the concern you express.

Yeah, for reasons I'd rather not elucidate on, I'm going to keep a lower public profile. Luckily, here on the West Coast in general and Southern California in particular, I probably have more support than disdain when opposing dogmatic religion. It's a lot more than that specific trifle for me.

So, yes, this is an interesting area of cultural change for us to keep an eye on. I have always supported scientific advances, but we can't lose sight of the fact that these advances will bring consequences; some unforeseen and not all of which we are going to be entirely pleased with. If nothing else we have been an adaptive species and we will likely succeed in doing so again. The changes now occurring are of a type our species has no precedent for using as a template.

Personally, I'd rather deal with some uncomfortable changes due to advanced technologies than to fall back into an "industrial revolution" level society - or worse. I think I'll be just fine with an almost universal lack of personal privacy, but only when such is the case for every person living within the society. When everyone knows all there is to know about others, and others know the same about them - we might actually have more empathy. Might. I have no desire to be on the cutting edge of that particular change.