30 October 2005


Some stuff I haven't posted due to being busy with Knife of Dreams...

Via an article at Magic Statistics, an examination of the modern atheist movement. It's a good read. The problem with atheism is that it has allowed itself to become a religion, rather than a simple negation of religion. It's got dogma (all religions are bad, evil, nonsensical, useless). It dismisses out of hand any claims that do not agree with its worldview (even the possibility of spirits, UFOs, magic) rather than investigating in a true spirit of scientific inquiry (note that most believers in these things have their own dogma and reject out of hand any attempt to discredit them). I have no problem with the statement "All supposed photographs of UFOs have turned out to be fakes, thus there is no photographic evidence of UFOs." That's fine and scientific. It's carried too far when "Therefore, there are no UFOs" is tacked onto it. That is speculation.

That said, the current Carnival of the Godless has some interesting and thought-provoking entries.

One that I particularly liked is plane proselytizer. I had thought my perspective on heaven/hell was somewhat unique, but apparently I'm not the only one to say, "“I’d much rather go to hell and help people than go to heaven…” Of course, that is practically the Mahayana Buddhist path: not to be dissolved into Nirvana until all beings can do so. But I've never heard a non-Buddhist westerner express the idea (besides me). But think about it. If Christianity is truly the religion of compassion, how could any Christian choose to go to heaven knowing that there will be people suffering in hell? How could any Christian be happy in heaven, knowing that there are people trapped in hell? A Christian who believes they deserve to suffer clearly does not deserve to be in heaven. Of course, all this assumes that (1) there is an afterlife and (2) Christians have correctly determined its structure. Of (1) I have no doubt. As for (2)... *shrugs* Oh, and here's a rather vociferous atheist analysis of the afterlife. He's a bit virulent, but there are some interesting thoughts in there.

Some critical thoughts on religion:

It isn't that religion causes all wars (though it contributes to many). It is that religion makes the very character flaw (fundamental irrationality) that is the source of much war and misery even worse than it normally would.

I would argue that religion does not have to be irrational. However, it does seem to bring out the irrational side of even the most rational of people. In some religious discussions with an otherwise rational person, I have provoked entirely irrational reactions by making observations about others who follow the same religion that this person does. It is...unpleasant. A stronger observation equates fundamentalism with mob mentality. If all fundamentalists could agree on what to be fundamental over, this would be more worrisome. But some groups actively hate each other. On the lighter side, here's a cartoon version.

However, I feel I should close with a more positive view of religion, from Albert Einstein:
Religion, on the other hand, deals only with evaluations of human thought and action: it cannot justifiably speak of facts and relationships between facts.
Though religion may be that which determines the goal, it has, nevertheless, learned from science, in the broadest sense, what means will contribute to the attainment of the goals it has set up. But science can only be created by those who are thoroughly imbued with the aspiration towards truth and understanding. This source of feeling, however, springs from the sphere of religion. To this there also belongs the faith in the possibility that the regulations valid for the world of existence are rational, that is, comprehensible to reason. I cannot conceive of a genuine scientist without that profound faith. The situation may be expressed by an image: Science without religion is lame, religion without science is blind.

The complete essay is not very long, and well worth reading. I've heard Einstein's religion described as "pantheism," but I have no clue what exactly that means. When I'm not feeling lazy, I'll look it up.

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Knife of Dreams

Ah, I just finished Knife of Dreams, and it's the best Wheel of Time book in a while. It's not that the others weren't good, but the last few have been very short. This one felt complete. I think the last three could have been made into two books, rather than three. The wait would have been longer, but I, at least, would have been more satisfied with them. Hmmm... so what can I say about KoD to whet rather than spoil... Well, the blacksmith and the hawk are reunited, though I won't say under what circumstances. The Seanchan have some gains, and some losses. We get a brief taste of Tuon's POV...and she has some interesting words to say. A word to would-be conquerors: don't bite off more than you can chew. Oh, and Thom finally shows Mat his letter from a dead woman. That part is going as expected, though it will have to be resolved in a later book: of course, they are going to the Tower of Ghenjei. Eventually. After some other matters are taken care of. That reminds me, plenty of darkfriends get what's coming to them in this book *grins*.

Things are coming to a head now, enough that I think Tarmon Gai'don will begin in full in the next book. I have a suspicion that the 13th book will be the last, but this is only a guess. It would be fitting to have 13 books. 13 Forsaken, 13 Black Ajah who left the White Tower, 13 women in a full circle of Aes Sedai... It would be more than fitting. On the other hand, I won't complain if there's more. I suppose it could even end on the next book but my feeling is that there is still too much unresolved to finish up in one book (though RJ has said that not everything will be resolved, just as there are always loose ends in real life). If my guess at 13 is correct, I expect all the players to be in place by the end of book 12, and that Tarmon Gai'don will take up all or most of book 13.

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27 October 2005


I ran across some new toys over at Orac Knows. And they are cute! Disturbing, but cute: Giant Microbes!. Everything from flu to ebola to the clap. So, teach your kids they have nothing to fear from these big fluffy germs! Stock up today!

Now, I'm trying to find a way to tie this into Miers' withdrawal... Maybe all the giant microbes in Washington DC scared her off. Until I read her letter of withdrawal, my estimation of her intelligence went up. After reading it... Well, read it for yourself. She claims she's withdrawing because the confirmation hearings would force her to expose confidential dealings with the president, and that this violates separation of exectutive and legislative branches. Thoughts: (1) There is something to hide in those private conversations; (2) This was the best excuse she could come up with; (3) She really doesn't get why people objected to her nomination.

I don't think Bush asked her to withdraw. I don't think he's capable of admitting a mistake and acting on it. I'm guessing that a lot of the behind-the-scenes advisors (many of whom may be indicted soon) had a few private words with her. I think a better "excuse" for withdrawing would have been "to end the backbiting within the Republican party," but that would have put the blame solely on the Republican party, and we can't have that, now can we?

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26 October 2005


Hmmm... I haven't made a personal update for a bit... I'm close to halfway through Knife of Dreams. Beautiful. Wonderful. I love Robert Jordan (in a platonic, literary way). Partially I'm happy because we're finally seeing resolutions to longstanding plot elements. Partially, the POV characters are all maintaining my interest. There have been places where I got sick of the current POV and wanted to cut back and see how Perrin was doing, or Rand, etc. That hasn't happened yet in KoD. I don't want to spoil the book for anyone, but the Prologue is probably the longest prologue RJ has ever included. And the title is absolutely perfect: Embers Falling on Dry Grass. It's one of those sections where you can just feel the Pattern shifting around each event. :-D

Okay, so that I don't start writing spoilers, not much has been happening with me. Grading papers. Lecturing. Dreaming about giant wasps... I was sitting in the back seat of a car, and there was a huge yellowjacket, three or four inches long. I scrambled to roll the window down to let it out of the car, and managed to grab it instead. Somehow it didn't sting me, but I don't think I squashed it either. It was just gone. Then I saw three more large yellowjackets (only two to three inches) and managed to get the window down for them.

I can't think of anything else right now. I'm glad this week has been less eventful than the past two, actually.

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25 October 2005

It's All About the Evidence

From Dispatches from the Culture Wars, a Dover Trial update:

He [Steve Fuller] suggested that perhaps scientists should have an "affirmative action" plan to help emerging ideas compete against the "dominant paradigms" of mainstream science.

If Fuller is right, then why did quantum mechanics not need an affirmative action program to replace the dominant paradigm? Or big bang cosmology? Or plate tectonics? Those are all ideas that were highly controversial and initially rejected by most scientists in those fields because they upset the applecart. Yet they managed to change the consense and our understanding. Why? Because instead of whining about how unfair it is that the "Copernican priesthood" or the "defenders of Einsteinian orthodoxy" won't take them seriously, they put in the work necessary to establish those ideas as valid. They didn't put acceptance before demonstration, they did the difficult theoretical and experimental work necessary to put their ideas on a solid empirical footing. Cries of persecution do not validate an idea; rigorous and difficult scientific research does.

Dave S. comments:
There is an affirmative action plan in science .... if you want your minority view to prevail, then formulate a testable affirmative case and do the tests.

Gosh that's like, you know, hard work. You mean you actually have to make up testable hypotheses that flow from your theory and test them yourself and defend them to a skeptical audience. No way anyone could do that. If they could, why they should get like a Nobel Prize or something.

It is so unfair that only well supported ideas are accepted

Heh. To paraphrase, "Show me the evidence!"

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24 October 2005

"We have always been at war with Eastasia"

Read this, now. First Amendment rights? Free speech? Not when you're in the army, apparently.

And here, we have a classic case of the Bush turn-around: "This is a very serious allegation, and we're doing everything in our power to discredit the accuser."

Remember Katrina? One day, cracking jokes about rebuilding a rich guy's house (Trent Lott, was it?) and the next attacking Louisiana officials.

Then there's Iraq:
Iraq has always never had WMD's.
We did not go to Iraq to liberate its people.
Mission accomplished uncertain...

It's one thing to make a mistake. It's another to deny the mistake and attack anyone who reminds you of it or criticizes you for it.

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Fighting the Good Fight?

Well, Anne Rice has jumped into Catholicism, and plans to write the life of Christ, from Christ's perspective. I read the Vampire Chronicles up through Memnoch the Devil, where the Catholic mythology just annoyed me, and I read one of the Taltos books (summary: weirdness, sex, weirdness, sex, sex with weirdness, etc). Does anyone remember Maharat's rant about religion in Queen of the Damned? How it's all hokey little spirits who like to play games? :-) I would be amused if that perspective made it into her life of Christ, but I somehow doubt it will.

As for my own fighting style, I seem to be Sitting Bull:

Chief Sitting Bull

You scored 70 Wisdom, 69 Tactics, 65 Guts, and 40 Ruthlessness!

You'd make a decent guerilla fighter. You are a tactical genius and you
have the balls to back it up with some follow through. But that being
said, you are most likely unwilling to torture an enemy soldier for
information, because underneath all of the hides of the buffalo you
killed yourself and that huge f***ing headdress, you have a heart.

Chief Sitting Bull rose to prominence in the Sioux warfare against
the whites and the resistance of the Native Americans under his command
to forced settlement on a reservation led to a punitive expedition. In
the course of the resistance occurred the Native American victory on
the Little Bighorn, where George Armstrong Custer and his men were
defeated and killed on June 25, 1876. Sitting Bull and some of his
followers escaped to Canada, but returned (1881) on a promise of a
pardon and were settled on a reservation. In 1885 he appeared in
Buffalo Bill's Wild West Show, but his championship of the Native
American cause was not at an end. He encouraged the Sioux to refuse to
sell their lands, and he advocated the ghost dance religion. He was
killed by Native American police on a charge of resisting arrest.

Other leaders like yourself include: Francis Marion

My test tracked 4 variables How you compared to other people your age and gender:
free online datingfree online dating
You scored higher than 79% on Unorthodox
free online datingfree online dating
You scored higher than 46% on Tactics
free online datingfree online dating
You scored higher than 84% on Guts
free online datingfree online dating
You scored higher than 25% on Ruthlessness

Link: The Which Historic General Are You Test written by dasnyds on Ok Cupid, home of the 32-Type Dating Test

One part is not accurate. I would use torture if I saw no other option and lives were at stake. I wouldn't like it, but I would use it.

And this piece from the Guardian was quite interesting. There may be a genetic component in religious tendencies. The best part, though, is below:

A Harvard psychologist named Gordon Allport did some key research in the 1950s on various kinds of human prejudice and came up with a definition of religiosity that is still in use today. He suggested that there were two types of religious commitment - extrinsic and intrinsic. Extrinsic religiosity he defined as religious self-centredness. Such a person goes to church or synagogue as a means to an end - for what they can get out of it. They might go to church to be seen, because it is the social norm in their society, conferring respectability or social advancement. Going to church (or synagogue) becomes a social convention.

Allport thought that intrinsic religiosity was different. He identified a group of people who were intrinsically religious, seeing their religion as an end in itself. They tended to be more deeply committed; religion became the organising principle of their lives, a central and personal experience. In support of his research, Allport found that prejudice was more common in those individuals who scored highly for extrinsic religion.

The evidence generally is that intrinsic religiosity seems to be associated with lower levels of anxiety and stress, freedom from guilt, better adjustment in society and less depression. On the other hand, extrinsic religious feelings - where religion is used as a way to belong to and prosper within a group - seem to be associated with increased tendencies to guilt, worry and anxiety.

The extrinsically relgious are the ones going because they think they're supposed to, and they use it as a means of and excuse for controlling and berating others. The intrinsically religious are the ones going because they believe it. And this fits. The more someone spouts off about how certain things are wrong, the less that person has internalized the values of his own religion. It's all about making people think he is religious, not about actually being religious. Whereas, the intrinsically religious (I suspect) are the ones who might describe themeselves as "spiritual but not religious" because they (we) get sick of all the extrinsic claptrap.

At Evolving Thoughts, a rather depressing essay on the chance of a New Dark Age in the United States. I hope that he's overestimating the extent of damage, but I can see where he's coming from.

Oh, and perjury is only a crime for Democrats, Mr. Hutchison? Apparently, lots of lies and dubious claims are perfectly all right for Republicans.

On a lighter note, your tax dollars at work...defending the President against the evils of satire and parody. "He use...sarcasm on them. Dramatic irony, even!"

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23 October 2005

Things that go bump in the night...

First up, some thoughts on giant creepy-crawlies from UTI. A lot of good information here, including why it would take a major structural overhaul for bugs and spiders to get big enough to really, er, bug us. The information on oxygen content in the atmosphere is especially interesting.

Check out the corpse flower if you dare! (And if you have a strong stomach for the odor of decaying flesh.

Next up, what could be scarier than a witch in hell? Hmmm... Read the joke for the answer. (Note: some Wiccans despise being called witches, some insist that only Wiccans should be called witches, and some just don't care one way or the other)

For your protection: an important lesson in distinguishing characterists.

And it looks like we don't need to worry about ancient Greek death rays. Two attempts to make an array that would focus sunlight enough to set ships on fire have produced disappointing results.

For some real-life scariness, here is some forthright analysis of the situation in Iraq. It would be nice if they were wrong... It would be even better if we got out of Iraq before we had to find out.

Even scarier, avian flu is confirmed to be infecting wild birds. So far, it doesn't seem to pass from human to human, at least not easily. The problem is that it could mutate to do so, especially in reservoir populations that do not get sick from the virus (i.e. migratory wild birds who are carriers of it).

Dark matter or not dark matter? That is the question. Whether 'tis nobler in the galaxy to spin faster than Newton allows or to take nonlinear curves against a sea of unseen particles, and by opposing, end them...

And then we have aliens, or possibly just false memories implanted in a stage of sleep paralysis. Take your pick.

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22 October 2005

Constitutional Meanderings

First up, America's godless constitution. Positive Libery has posted similar arguments, though without as much depth (at least, not since I've started reading them). So in the constitutional spirit of things, Positive Libery has an analysis of the Iraqi Constitution. Taken together, these articles are good food for thought on what makes a successful constitution. Only time will tell if the Iraqi Constitution will hold up.

And vaguely related to the Constitution, Kung Fu Monkey tells us about the real threat to marriage. And he's right: quickie divorces are a much greater threat to the institution of marriage than gay marriages, especially celebrated quickie divorces.

At the lighter end of the spectrum, here are 2005 winners for science photography. Some very interesting, and a few very beautiful, pictures there.

Hmmm... I'm losing my constitutional theme... It must be because of St. Charles' head. Here's an interesting Chinese language lesson. Beautiful, isn't it?

And randomly jumping to the Declaration of Independence, which holds that all of us have the right to pursue happiness (but not necessarily the right to achieve it), here are some thoughts on life from a Christian blog. I disagree with many of the conclusions (surprise, surprise), but there are some good thoughts in there nonetheless.

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21 October 2005

Swamp Money

Okay, I ran across an odd link, and here are the results:

My blog is worth $564.54.
How much is your blog worth?

$564.54, huh? Not bad considering I have no advertising connections whatsoever. I have no clue how this number was calculated, but I find it vaguely encouraging and rather amusing.

I also ran across a story about looking for a 16-headed swamp monster only to be disappointed and find a 3-headed frog instead.

Hmmm... Looks like the Harriet Miers nomination may have hit a brick wall. You never know in politics, but when even Bush's usual staunch defenders are looking askance at her, well... (Just for consideration: a few bloggers have suggested Miers may have been chosen because Bush is afraid the Republican majority will be overturned come Nov. 2006 and he'll be impeached; I don't think Bush is capable of contemplating a future where he is not supreme overlord, so I doubt that).

And from one of my favorite blogs, a look at famous last letters. The last one (reproduced in full) is quite a read.

Finally, some thoughts on death from an atheist blogger who goes by the handle "I AM." I find his perspective interesting, because mine was precisely opposite. I remember when I was ten or eleven, I was reading about the Challenger explosion, and trying to imagine what it would be like to die. The thought of just being "snuffed out," of no longer having any awareness of the world, scared me. Does it still scare me? Not in the same way, at least. I am convinced that consciousness is something that cannot be created or destroyed, just as matter and energy are. What form does it take after death? I don't claim to know, and I'm very suspicious of anyone who does claim to know.

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20 October 2005


My grandma finally got to come home today. They gave her an armload of prescriptions (I counted at least 9 bottles, and there may have been 11), a walker, and some instructions. She was glad to be home, but too exhausted to enjoy it much, I think. She gave me back my toy octopus. I brought it over to keep her company, and I think it did cheer her up. It's eyewrenchingly bright yellow with bright blue rings. It's got 8 tentacles, two of them extra long and with velcro so that it can "hug" you. I found it at a dollar store and loved it. Its usual home is in my office, so I'll have to remember to bring it back there tomorrow.

A note: this past week and half would have been easier on me if it had stayed consistent. First they told us Grandma could go home Wednesday or Thursday last week. Then her lungs filled up with fluid again. Then they told us she might be going home some other day (they're all running together now; I could check my previous blog posts if I really wanted to), and she went into atrial fibrillation. None of us are really sure why she didn't get to go home yesterday, but at least she's home now. If it had stayed at one level or the other (stuck in the hospital; ready to go home), it wouldn't have been so bad. But the constant fluctuation was...very annoying.

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Morning Selections

Okay, not all the Brits have lost it. A review committee is objecting to the ban of toy pigs as overly politically correct. I suspect this translates to "there was a huge uproar over it, so we figured we better step in before it gets out of hand."

Apparently all conservatives are neurotic. I haven't read through the original studies (yes, as in more than one study reached this conclusion), but I will when I have time. (Note: Is neurotic a well-define term? My impression has been that ANYone going to a psychiatrist will be diagnosed with various neuroses, so EVeryone is neurotic. *shrugs*)

At the opposite end of the spectrum, someone in Romania is suing God.

And at Evolution Blog, an article from Esquire (of all places) taking a hard look at Creationism. I take issue with one statement: "It is the province of people who can't be troubled to educate themselves about anything, and who have no higher ambition in life than to be led by a charismatic preacher." For some people, this is probably true. However, there is an unmentioned problem: people who already tend towards one side of the fence will only read material from that side of the fence. Why? Because it validates what they already believe. It takes more effort to read something from an opposite point of view (I know; I've waded through some Creationist web-sites). So people keep on reading the same ol' stuff that supports their views, and take the author's word for it that evolution has no empirical evidence and is questioned by lots of mainstream scientists. Superficially, Creationist arguments sound somewhat plausible at first. It takes only a moment's web-search to find them refuted, but that's a moment that someone who wants to believe Creationism anyway will not utilize. Moral? Tell someone what she wants to hear and she'll believe that all the arguments are plausible. (Before someone jumps up and says that scientists ignore Creationist evidence as well, go over to Talk-Origins. Scientists have heard it all before.)

ADDENDUM: I ran across this link at Pharyngula, about the nature of physical evidence.

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19 October 2005

Rubber Battiness

Some interesting links for the day:

First up, a debate over design of baseball bats. This is hilarious, nearly worthy of Terry Pratchett.

Somewhat related, an update on the Dover Case . The best part is "A leading architect of the intelligent-design movement defended his ideas in a federal courtroom on Tuesday and acknowledged that under his definition of a scientific theory, astrology would fit as neatly as intelligent design." So if we are required to teach intelligent design in biology, we'd darn well better start teaching astrology as part of astronomy and physics! (As this cartoon aptly indicates)

Next, an unexpected benefit of recycling tires into asphault.

One of the philosophical blogs I read has a link to his paper suggesting that "mind" cannot be explained by mechanistic processes. Maybe I'll have time to read it all the way through later on... :-)

And they've found a new flying lizard (at least, they found fossils of it). My only complaint is that there wasn't a picture. So here is a completely unrelated picture of a crane.

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18 October 2005

No useful title comes to mind.

First, my grandma is likely to go home today. She was looking a lot more like herself last night, and they had her off the oxygen and IV's. They finally found the right combo of drugs to get the fluid to stay out of her lungs, I guess, and had a physical therapist come and watch her walk around (verdict? she ought to have a walker, but she did ok). Also, her kidney "numbers" have been improving (not sure exactly what those numbers are, but presumably they measure how efficiently her body removes toxins via the kidneys).

Second, there was an interesting concert at ISU last night. It was a big band/swing group from Europe. Good music, lots of energy. Not perfect, but they were running on a handicap: 6 of their members missed the flight from Florida. I don't know the details, but the director did say "security problems." So maybe they got to the airport too late, or got singled out for a search, or something like that. At any rate, they found two replacement saxophonists from around here (one from Pocatello and one from IF) and had to reshuffle their program. Which is probably why there were no printed programs at the door. They handled the disruptions very well. I suspect we got more vocalist music than we would have had the entire crew made it, but the singers were mostly good. It's a bit disconcerting to hear someone speak with a European accent (Netherlands, I think) and then sing in perfect American, though.

Third, I ran across a list of the 100 most influential novels of all time. The ones that I have read are below:

Animal Farm: George Orwell
Catch-22: Joseph Heller
The Catcher in the Rye: J.D. Salinger
The Grapes of Wrath: John Steinbeck
The Great Gatsby: F. Scott Fitzgerald
The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe: C.S. Lewis
The Lord of the Rings: J.R.R. Tolkein
Neuromancer: William Gibson
1984: George Orwell
Slaughterhouse-Five: Kurt Vonnegut
Snow Crash: Neal Stephenson

Hmmm... 7 were ones I read on my own and the other 4 were required in some class or other.

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16 October 2005

Yoda I am

Another quiz... And this time I'm Yoda:

Which Fantasy/SciFi Character Are You?

Also, today I finished "A Horse and His Boy." It was enjoyable. Unlikely in spots, as only a kid's story can get away with, but pretty good. One thing that bugged me was that all the Southern Folk except for our two heroes were portrayed as evil, mean, and deceitful (wait: there was also a complete bubblehead). Cultural differences are one thing, but even in a depraved society, there will be good people. Perhaps Lewis just wanted to emphasize the nastier parts of the culture, but it bugged me (David Eddings did something similar, though not quite as heavy-handed, in the only trilogy of his that I read; that's a big part of why I didn't read further).

So that leaves four more books, but at least I've made it through LWW before the movie gets here. This is a case where I can easily see the movie being better than the book. The book is interesting, but so thin in some places. I hope those places get filled in a bit. At least HAHB didn't have noticeable thin spots like that.

I probably will take a break before continuing with the Chronicles of Narnia. Robert Jordan's newest book is out. I'll either read it next or possibly try to work my way through the first ten books of the series again and then read it. I haven't decided. It may wind up being a compromise.

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In the House of the Lord

My mom wasn't functioning well enough to play piano and turn pages at the same time, so I wound up coming to church with her. They were doing good music this week, and even if I argued with most of the lyrics, at least there were good melodies and a nice beat. I really liked the Offertory. It was a spiritual, saying that if God saved Daniel, why shouldn't he save every man? Good question. My answer would most likely conflict with nearly all Christian doctrine.

The anthem was a song that I sang when I was still singing with the church choir. Wonderful melody and rhythm, but will someone explain to me how an all-powerful God can be so insecure as to demand worship and obedience? Gad. Any Being actually worthy of worship will certainly not demand it, and most likely not want it. To me, those kind of lyrics are just fawning over the supreme being: the equivalent of "yes-men" in a bureaucracy.

The hymns were mostly blah, but there was one good one. "Cuando el Pobre" = "When the poor one." Nice Spanish melody, actual loving words, about how you know God is near when the unfortunate offer up the little they have to help others. If I can steal my mom's hymnal for long enough, I might even post the lyrics.

Oh, and there was a sermon. It was laity Sunday, and the woman who was preaching had no enunciation whatsoever. I got maybe one word in three for the first minute and stopped listening.

Here's the thing: I feel this huge disconnect between the church (any Christian church) and God. I get the impression He's looking down and laughing at the people who get hung up over petty details and labels. I ran across an interesting quote on a Christian blog not too long ago. As best as I remember, it said "How can we know that God did not choose to reveal Himself in different ways to different cultures?" How indeed.

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15 October 2005

Walt Whitman

Barnes & Noble in IF is having a mega-clearance sale in preparation for their move across the street (translation: getting rid of as many books as possible so they don't have to drag them to the new store), and I got mildly carried away today. One volume I picked up was Walt Whitman's "Leaves of Grass." I wasn't aware there were two versions of this book, but both are included in the volume I found. Tonight I read the very long poem "Song of Myself." Quite enjoyable. I posted a segement of it on my other blog. The thing that strikes me about many of the passages is that they engender in me the same feeling I get when I look at a sunset, or a flower, or notice the leaves changing. It's a breath-taking, all-encompassing sense of wonder that I never realized could be captured in words before tonight.

My grandma remains in the hospital, but I think she is improving. The doctors have been giving her "water-pills" to try and dry her lungs out, and it looks like they're starting to have an effect. She has indicated that if her kidneys shut down completely, she does not want to go on dialysis, and she refuses even to consider accepting a kidney transplant, especially not from me or Mom. "You might need that someday," is all she'll say.

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14 October 2005


Breathing is important. The lungs allow us to breathe. When the lungs start filling with fluid, it's bad. They drained my grandma's lungs once this week. She didn't get to go home today because they started filling up again. This is a classic symptom of kidney failure, or so my research indicates. The medical name for it is pulmonary edema. In my grandma's case, the cause is almost certainly kidney failure due to diabetic complications (that's probably not the official, exact name for it, but it's close enough). I have to wonder whether any of the medicines she's on to lower her blood pressure could be contributing, though... (Random Rant: some idiot tried to put her on prozac a while back; a five minute internet search indicated that NO ONE with KIDNEY problems should EVER take prozac)

Grandma's birthday is tomorrow. I really, really hope she gets to come home. I brought her some pretty flowers and a baby pumpkin (maybe 4 inches in diameter and 2-3 inches tall) to brighten up her hospital room, but it's still a hospital room. I probably should have gone to see her again tonight (I went this afternoon), but I just needed time away from everything.

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13 October 2005

Finale (I hope)

Grandma's scheduled to be released tomorrow, after they do something else to her legs in the morning. Neither she nor the nurse knew exactly what. The hypberbaric chamber took down the swelling in her calf, but her ankle and foot are still pretty bad. The nurse said that some of the veins had gotten too narrow to allow the blood to go through normally. That may be what they're trying to fix tomorrow. Not sure. But since Mom works until 17:00 and won't be back in town until at least 17:30, I'm the one who gets to take Grandma back home. This should be interesting, as I am also supposed to be in my office from 14:00 to 16:00 to answer questions for an ADA student who is (finally) taking the last stats test. Nice girl, but she's got a double language barrier: (1) she's deaf; (2) English is not her first language. *sighs*

Anyway, I brought Grandma her preferred suitcase so she could gather up the things Mom and I have taken up to her, and I think just seeing it cheered her up. She's more than ready to be back home.

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Well, they drained the fluid out of Grandma's lungs yesterday. They pulled off half-a-gallon, she said. It's no wonder she was having trouble breathing. I still don't know what they're going to do about her kidneys. The doctors may not have decided yet. One thing did turn out to be correct in my mom's ramblings yesterday: Grandma's left foot took a turn for the worse. In fact, the whole leg up to the knee started swelling up rather badly. So they put a pressure sock on it and they're (right now) taking her to the hyperbaric chamber at the other hospital to try and get it to settle down. If things go well there, she may be able to come home today. If not... *shrugs*

I don't know exactly what's happening with her leg, so WARNING: NONMEDICAL GUESSES AHEAD. As I understand it, the circulation to it has been poor for several years. They put in a stint to increase circulation. It worked. So her leg is finally getting all the blood it needs. But her leg's been deprived for so long it doesn't know what to do with all that blood, and so it's swelling up and causing problems. There's probably an actual, technical explanation, but my admittedly handwavey argument makes sense to me if no one else.

Random bit of weirdness: Grandma's hospital room has a dry-erase board. So naturally I drew a fishbowl with a fish in it (the fish is decent, except for the mouth; the bowl is rather lop-sided). The nurses have come in to update the board (change the date and put the current nurse's name up) several times, and left the fishbowl up. Grandma told them they could erase it, but they said they liked it. :-) (Note: this says nothing about my artistic abilities. I'm sure they like any positive change from the routine.)

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12 October 2005


Well, my grandma made it through the surgery all right. They got the stints in her legs, but not in her kidneys. One kidney didn't need it, and the other had too small an artery to accomodate the stint (or something like that). I was there when her doctor (the "nice Pakistani") came by to check on her last night, and he thought her toes were looking better. Her breathing was better, for sure. And we found out that today (Wednesday morning) they plan to drain the fluid out of her lungs. Not fun, but it should help her breathing, hopefully to the point that she doesn't need oxygen when she goes home.

When I left last night, I was under the impression everything was going well...but I just got a call from my mom. Grandma thinks her toes are looking worse this morning, and seems to be all freaked out. She wasn't very happy to hear she was having more surgery (understandable), and I think it may have just pushed her mood a bit past the edge. Since the doctor hasn't seen her this morning, I have no clue if there's any actual reason to worry, but my grandma's mood had obviously affected my mom. I could hear it in her voice. So I will try to get up there and visit before heading up to my office. My mom has to go to work today...she sounds like I felt on Monday, so I doubt she'll be very productive.

UPDATE^2: Okay... confused now. I went up to see Grandma, and her mood is just fine. There was no sense of increased worry in her at all. So either she calmed down after Mom left or it was my mom who was freaking out, and not Grandma at all. If anything, Grandma was in a better mood this morning, and was pleased that they let her take a shower. So I think Mom is going slightly mad at the moment. Hopefully having something to do today (i.e. work) will help calm her down).

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11 October 2005

Another quiz

This came from QuizFarm.

You scored as Cultural Creative. Cultural Creatives are probably the newest group to enter this realm. You are a modern thinker who tends to shy away from organized religion but still feels as if there is something greater than ourselves. You are very spiritual, even if you are not religious. Life has a meaning outside of the rational.

Cultural Creative
















What is Your World View? (updated)
created with QuizFarm.com

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10 October 2005


We've known for a while that my grandma's kidneys were in bad shape. About two weeks ago, they were at 12%. At 10% the doctors start dialysis (I may be off by a translation factor of 2 or 3 percent). They found this out when she was getting her legs checked out (major pain for several years; since she moved to Pocatello). Then they found out she'd had a heart attack without her even realizing it (no major damage, but still not good). Today she had a doctor's appointment, probably with the heart specialist. I just got a call from my mom that they IMMEDIATELY put her in the hospital after the appointment, and she's having three stints put in tomorrow in her legs and kidneys. Emergency surgery. I am slightly freaked out.

My mom's coming to get me in a few minutes to go up and see her. It's like I'm split in two. There's a completely rational part of me typing this out and calmly contemplating possible futures. There's a completely irrational part of me trying to curl up into a ball and start gibbering.

It was the kidney doctor, not the heart doctor. He's a "very nice Pakistani" according to my mom (and his family weathered the earthquake just fine), and as soon as he noticed how much trouble Grandma was having breathing, he decided this needed to be done right away. The problem is she's got fluid in her lungs, and they think it's because her kidneys aren't processing fluids properly. And since they're putting her under anyway (I assume), they're going to put stints in her legs to help circulation there. I guess circulation in her legs is pretty bad, bad enough that she's in danger of losing her toes.

If I seem calmer now, it's because I am. (1) I've been up to see her and I know more about what's going on. (2) Someone left a very rude and untimely advertising comment on this post and I visited said someone's blog and told them exactly how I felt about it. I will likely check back and if the comment has been deleted, I will post another just like it. Possibly worse, as I restrained myself on what I did post.

Just an observation, but my grandma and I are very alike in one respect: practicality. My mom has that to some degree, but tonight she made a comment that was so very obviously a "You'll get better and everything will be just fine!" remark that I just stared at her for a moment. Grandma's response was more prosaic, something about getting the paperwork taken care of anyway (she also told Mom where her will was). I get that Mom was just trying to cheer Grandma up, but Grandma's too much like me and much more likely to be annoyed by it.

I noticed something odd in my reactions, though. It took me a while to figure out, but I found myself not liking the idea of anyone praying for my grandma. The reason is that most people pray automatically for what they believe to be the best outcome, when they have no way of knowing that. I always wish "strength" to people, because that can be used regardless of the outcome, and does not presuppose that one outcome is better than another. It does presuppose that people may find strength useful in such situations, but I cannot see a reason to doubt that. So I am mentally sending strength to my grandma and to my mom, so they will be ready regardless of the outcome.

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Hide and Go Snooze

Someone at MIT has invented an alarm clock that runs and hides when you push the snooze button. Beautiful idea... :-) The inventor didn't expect a lot of attention, but (a) most people don't like to get up in the morning; (b) most people hate traditional alarm clocks; (c) it's a very amusing and innovative idea. It's not something I'm likely to get (assuming it makes it to market); I have never intentionally used the snooze button in my life. However, I can think of a few people who might benefit from it as a gift.

(Just a note on me: If I decide I'm too tired to get up, I decide how much more time I can devote to sleep and reset the alarm. That way I get useful sleep instead of being interrupted by the bloody beeping every few minutes. But I haven't done that in a long time. I find that the day is more productive if I get up at the same time each day.)

NOTE: I'm going to take it light on news posts for a while. I was finding myself getting irritated and annoyed over stuff I couldn't change, so I'm cutting back on reading news for a while. Not isolating myself, but at the very least I'm going to avoid seeking out political news for a while. Which means more "hiding alarm clocks" and fewer "It-Who-Was-Never-Elected" posts.

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09 October 2005

Back to Cooking

I did not quite live up to my intentions of making stew every weekend. After the fish stew, I stopped for about a month. It is not that the fish stew didn't taste good (it was pretty good); it's that I got a bad cold that hit right after I made it. Likely, it had no connection to the stew, but I just didn't want any more of it. And the next weekend, I still wasn't feeling well; not sure about the weekend after that, but somewhere in there I was gone for the weekend, going to Ben Lo's taiji workshop. But I'm back at it this week. Nothing fancy. Just chicken, three bell peppers, a sweet onion, three very large cloves of garlic, some carrots, a jicama, and a lot of rice. And my usual random assortment of spices. It smells good, and should be done in another half-hour or so.

On the subject of cooking, I discovered a primo tea for warding off colds (and flu, according to the source). Take one tablespoon of lemon juice, one tablespoon of honey, and a clove or two of garlic. The source said to slice the garlic, but I just use a garlic press (she thought that would make the garlic flavor too strong; she's obvioiusly never eaten raw garlic). Put all that into a mug and pour boiling water over it. Let sit until it reaches a drinkable temperature. Anyway, it's quite a pick-me-up, and it actually tastes pretty good.

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08 October 2005

Of Pipelines and Frowns

Gas is cheaper in Idaho Falls at the moment ($2.77 vs. $2.81 at Maverick), which means something fishy is going on. Gas is trucked into both Pocatello and Idaho Falls from Salt Lake. Idaho Falls is about 50 miles further, so gas should not be cheaper there, especially not two weeks in a row. As a sidenote, the Maverick in IF must have been having a lot of drive-offs. They now require people to pay at the pump or else go inside and prepay. In most cases that wouldn't bother me, but I wanted to buy a snack for the ride home while I was there, and it would have been easier to pay for it all at once.

The only other news for today is that I do not have to turn pages for my mom tomorrow. A brief explanation: my mom is the organist for the Methodist Church, and the choir's anthem has to be played on the organ this week. My mom insists that she can't do her usual trick of making copies and spreading them out because then she will be unable to see Robin (choir director). Normally I don't mind turning pages all that much. It's not my favorite activity, but it doesn't bother me. Except this piece was complete and utter dreck. The best it ever got was schmaltzy. Most of it was worse, in rather putrid shades of brown (it tried for majestic golds and oranges...but the brown stuck to them. Ick.). Anyway, my mom saw the look on my face after she'd played through it once, and immediately offered to find someone else. I guess she didn't want me making faces through the choir's anthem.

My mom claims the song is "kinda nice" when the choir sings along with it, but after skimming through the words I find that doubtful. Any song that proudly proclaims how humble the singers are just needs to be tossed out.

The issue turned out to be irrelevant, as the soloist for the ugly song was sick. They did Gift of Love instead, which has both pretty melody AND words, and doesn't require anyone to turn pages for my mom. (I wasn't there; my mom filled me in later)

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07 October 2005

IgNobel Prizes

Well, the 2005 IgNobel prizes have been awarded. Some of them are rather disturbing.

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Thoughts for the Morning

First, some good news. The anti-torture bill passed 90 to 10 in the Senate. Even Republicans, it seems, are sickened by the atrocities that have come to light. If it does as well in the House, there's no way that Bush's threatened veto can derail it.

Speaking of Bush, Daily Kos has a list of various politicians (many of them conservative) criticizing his latest pick for the Supreme Court. (Note: thusfar I have no opinion on Miers, but I do agree she was chosen mostly because she has worked closely with Bush) Oh, and Bush doesn't want to be embarrassed by the National Weather Service again. You may remember that 12 hours before the storm, they published an extreme warning telling everyone to get out of dodge, quick. Well, now they have to get authorization to talk to the press. In other words, the one part of the administration that did its job during Katrina is now hindered from doing so in the future.

Last link for the morning is to Skeptic Rant. I just ran across this blog this morning (found the link over at Pharyngula). The most recent post is spot on. In and of itself, lack of belief is not a religion. However, far too many atheists have turned it into a religion. As I have noted before, the religion of atheism most often takes the form of antitheism: the belief that all religion is evil/immoral/pick-favorite-negative-adjective.

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06 October 2005

Someone's got it in for my socks...

Well, the morning started off a bit late, as I had neglected to reset my alarm yesterday when I turned it off. On the bright side, I think I needed that extra sleep and it didn't make me late for anything. So I was putting a cup of not-yet-hot cocoa in the microwave and bumped against the door, splashing cocoa-milk on my right, white sock. Fine. I used the sock to wipe up everything else that had spilled and replaced it with an identical one (it's a plain white sock; I have several identical pairs). So then I cooked some sausage, and as I was getting it out of the pan, managed to spill grease on the left white sock. I didn't bother to replace that one, but there's obviously a conspiracy afoot to stain my socks!

The rest of the day went more smoothly, thankfully. I ran into Fibonacci in the math center and we discussed our varying approaches to defining Pi for hexagons (I was using area; he was using circumference). Then I gave tests in my two stats classes, and managed to finish tomorrow's Real Analysis homework while they were testing. Last week's assignment was more difficult, and I hadn't allowed enough time for it, so I didn't bother to turn it in (Note: I'm not taking the clas for a grade). If I have time tomorrow morning, I might try to finish that one up and at least get feedback on it.

Random Note: Sparkling elecricity.

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05 October 2005


I ran across a political quiz this morning, so I took it. Results:

You are a

Social Liberal
(68% permissive)

and an...

Economic Liberal
(30% permissive)

You are best described as a:


Link: The Politics Test on Ok Cupid
Also: The OkCupid Dating Persona Test

My thoughts on seeing that it placed me as a Democrat? "Whoa. Dude. The democrats have an ideology?" The democratic party, any more, doesn't seem to have any opinions on anything. Hopefully that will change, as they are at least saner than most of the republicans.

At the end, it asks you to suggest a law you would like enforced in perpetuity, so I figured I'd share mine:
"I would dictate that... anyone trying to prevent free inquiry and learning be put into stocks and forced to listen to an audiobook of the knowledge he or she wishes to suppress."

Other suggestions: eggs be declared a fruit, passing a test to have children, equal health care, mandatory education requirements

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British "Tolerance"

Well, the Brits are having a fun time of it. Muslims object to the cross of St. George, any depiction of a pig whatsoever (even piglet), oh, and the weather forecasters aren't supposed to predict storms or rain anymore. "Say mostly dry, not partly rainy!"

Okay, I can see a ban on, say, pork in the cafeteria during the Muslim holy month, but banning even cartoon depictions of pigs? Guys, if you're that easily offended, leave. Seriously. I really wish that there was a mainstream group of pig worshippers out there who could really get ticked off at this ban. The closest American comparison I can think of is the way some Christian groups want to ban Santa Claus because he's not "the reason for the season," or something like that. He's a cultural icon, and is not going away any time soon.

The Cross of St. George makes only slightly more sense. Fine, it was a symbol during the Crusades. So was the cross in general. How long will it be before they start trying to prevent workers from wearing any sort of cross? And much more recent atrocities have been committed in the name of Islam. Should we ban any and all Islamic symbols for fear of offending victims of these attacks? I don't hear anyone suggesting that (except some extremists who would like to wipe Islam off the planet; they're little better than terrorists). If people are still free to wear a Swastika (which had a very different meaning before Hitler twisted it), which reminds people of much more recent atrocities, how can anyone justify banning St. George's Cross?

At least the weather bureau story is only idiotic, rather than actively dangerous to people's liberties. However, it's worrisome that the idea of "spinning" a story has reached its way even into reporting the weather.

Magic Statistics has more on the pig issue, including links to a "Free Piglet!" movement.

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04 October 2005

Going Postal

Going Postal is the most recent Discworld novel to come out in paperback (there's a new one in hardback that I likely will not get to read for a year, until it comes out in paperback). GP is nicely done, but I have a few complaints.

  • Pratchett has done variations on this basic story several times before: A reluctant newcomer is the only hope against something big and corrupt. Each time the story is well done, and often better done than the version that preceded it, but it's still the same story.
  • The lead character resembles the lead character in Moving Pictures in many respects. Different names and backgrounds, but similar modes of behavior. (I think similar characters have shown up in other books, as well)
In spite of all that, I quite enjoyed the book. Entertaining, as always, though Pratchett seems to have taken a darker turn in his more recent books (starting with Night Watch). Yet at the same time, the quality of the writing has jumped up a notch or two (and I thought it was good to begin with). I miss the more light-hearted style, though. The trademark Pratchett sense of humor is still there, but it's muted. It makes me wonder what has happened in his life recently.

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03 October 2005


More bad news for Republicans.

Juan Cole reports on a strong possible link between Bush and Plamegate (as liberal news-sites at least are calling it; strangely, conservative news sites haven't been mentioning it much...or perhaps it's not so strange).

A leaked Pentagon report suggests that efforts after Katrina suffered due to rampant cronyism, inappropriate diversion of funds, and LA National Guard troops being stuck in Iraq. Whoa. Dude. Who'd'a thought? Oh, wait, just about everyone.

Addendum: New Supreme Court nominee, Harriet Miers
I'd never heard of her, but Positive Liberty has some analysis of conservative reactions, as well as a brief summary of what is known about her. Most people's reactions have been "Huh? Who?" with a few very vocal protestors, even on the conservative end.

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02 October 2005


"Under that view, the government can give any aid to parochial schools even for religious indoctrination, so long as it did not discriminate among religions. The government could place any religious symbol no matter how sectarian, at its seat of government. Instead of defending the central principle of church and state separation, this view would seek to destroy it." (from Defcon)

Sorry, I don't see this as destruction of separation of church and state. I see it as freedom of religion, pure and simple. A Christian judge can't hang a cross in his courtroom? A wiccan secretary can't put a pentacle on her desk? So far Taoists are safe because the yin-yang isn't seen as relgious, but how long would that last? As far as government funding goes, how is it any less discriminatory to fund only nonreligious schools?

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Kingdom of Heaven

I liked 85-90% of this movie. It started off...oddly, almost like something out of a dream. By the time it reached the end, I could see why it had started that way, but I'm not sure it was the best way to do it. I find it amusing that in a movie about a battle between Christians and Muslims, the overall flavor was Zen. I can see why a conservative Christian might not care for it. The message is that what is in your heart is more important than how you choose to worship (or not worship) God. This is something I have never had reason to doubt. Something that always struck me about the crusades was how civilized the Saracens were compared to the Christian Crusaders. That no longer seems to be the case in the modern Middle East. Pity.

One part that I did not think was done well was where Orlando Bloom's character (Valien? Balien?) was offered a chance at the throne. It was a choice that he could not accept, but neither should he have declined it. What should he have done? Chosen a middle road. In a sense, this is what wound up happening, but the Zen flavor was severely interrupted for a space of a bout five minutes. So something should have been done differently there. I think a single extra line for Orlando might have done it, but I'm too tired to think what the line should have been.

I remember when this first came out, reviewers suggested there were obvious parallels to Iraq. Beyond a war in the Middle East, I don't see that much that's similar (Okay, idiotic warhawks, but they always turn up).

Morning Addendum:
I forgot to mention what I did like about the movie. First, I liked the scene where Orlando is being taught the sword. I would have liked that part to go on longer, but of course it was interrupted by a fight scene. I liked Orlando Bloom's character, over all. And this line, uttered to a priest horrified at the prospect of burning bodies to prevent disease, was priceless: "God will understand. And if He does not, then He is not God, and we need not worry."

Also, this movie made it very clear that the only way to win a war is not to fight it. As soon as fighting begins, both sides have already lost. Oh, one may be called "the winner," but when the battlefield is littered with the bodies of friend and foe alike and the vultures fly thick in the air, how can anyone be called "victorious?" Fight only when you've no other option.

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Hmmm... I've seen this story in two different places now. The claim is that all of the 100,000 to 300,000 protest marchers are extremists who are rooting for the insurgency in Iraq. I wouldn't be surprised of some of them were, but I saw interviews with some who definitely were not. So now I wonder what proportion of the marchers are that extreme, and what proportion are just citizens fed up with the mess? (If I find links to those interviews, I'll post them)

I haven't found the interviews, but here's a very different article about the protest, from Truthout. At the very least, it refutes the notion that all the protestors were extremists. However, the more Cindy Sheehan opens her mouth, the more I think she's a lunatic: "Occupied New Orleans" "CNN is covering Rita, and not me!" "We're making history!" (slightly paraphrased)

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01 October 2005

Me and my Shadow

Whenever I try to post about this, it gets too long and I get bored before it's even finished. So I'll try again, and try to be brief. I do not belong to a mainstream religion. I do not consider myself to be religious. Once upon a time I did, and it was very important to me, but it was for all the wrong reasons. I used church as a sanctuary from my dad's insanity. I went to church to socialize and sing and have fun. I never, ever went to church to learn about God, or Christ, or the Bible. That wasn't why I was there. As soon as I realized that, I stopped going. And started thinking.

The more I thought, the less sense any of it made. In spite of going through Confirmation in 8th grade, I knew very little of the background to the doctrine the church had always taught me. I know more now. It still makes no sense to me. My first reaction was to try and create a religion that did make sense. If you ever visited the jediism home page and read their creed before they took it down, what I came up with was very similar; i.e. a melange of half-understood ideas that appealed to me. When I realized I had no more reason to believe in my system than I had to believe in the church's, I gave up. I felt I had no alternative but to become an atheist.

I didn't particularly want to be an atheist. I felt strange and isolated. About a year later, I stopped being an atheist. As I was walking back from class that day, I happened to look up into the sky, and for the barest moment I felt something, something powerful, something bigger than myself. And I knew that there was something out there that I might as well call God. Now I would call it Tao, but I didn't know anything about Taoism at that point. (Are Tao and God the same? I don't have a good answer. The God described by most Christians is clearly different from Tao, though.)

I spent the next several years trying to find a name for what I had experienced. I tended to avoid anything even remotely Christian, because the Christian POV still didn't make any sense to me. I looked into paganism, wicca, shamanism, yoga... Only a few years ago, I would have described myself as a "shamanistic yogini with pagan tendencies." Obvious note: anyone who so describes herself is obviously still searching. So how did I get into Taoism? Well, it was mostly by accident.

While exploring the internet, I stumbled across verses from the Tao te Ching. They made sense to me in a way that nothing in Christianity (or paganism, for that matter) ever had. So I went hunting for a physical copy of the book. I got the smallest, cheapest one I could find. It's not a good translation, but I still treasure that little book. At the time, I saw the verses as mostly a curiosity. A beautiful curiosity, but still only a curiosity. Time passed. I joined the Aikido club my senior year of college, and graduated, hungry for more. No aikido to be found in Pocatello, so I tried jujitsu. Didn't care for it. I tried taiji, and knew that I had found something worthwhile.

The deeper I got into taiji, the more I found the principles of the Tao te Ching embodied within it. Not that all (or even most) taiji practitioners are Taoist, but it's hard to do good taiji without understanding at least some of Taoism. The deeper I got into Taoism, the more I found that I liked. So that now I describe myself as a Taoist without hesitation. I do not see myself as religious, though, as I do not consider Taoism a religion. It is a way of life: a way of looking at life, of experiencing life, of cultivating awareness. A 'religion' is like an oak tree; it is strong, and resists any attempt to move it, so when the hurricane comes it snaps. As a 'Taoist,' my aim is to emulate the bamboo. It is a weak plant, and the hurricane blows it flat, but it is resilient enough to recover.

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Update on the "Religion study"

Postive Liberty has some interesting commentary on that study claiming to link religion to societal problems. Now, that study was very weak. It did no numerical analysis of its data. The article at Positive Liberty details a better study, done by a Christian group, that found little or no significant difference in moral behavior between Christians and non-Christians in the U.S. Other studies have found worse behavior in Christians, based on before and after comparisons. Hmmm... I wonder if anyone has looked at the situations that tend to lead people to convert? If a person is under significant stress, that might lead both to a religious conversion and to a wider range of inappropriate behavior. So a study of former Christians and their behavior before and after might be useful, since life stressors might play a role there as well. Anyway, I'm rambling. So I'll stop.

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