31 January 2008


I think I did this one before at my other blog, but it's one of the more entertaining memes, so I'll play along.

Pick up the nearest book of 123 pages or more. (No cheating!)
Find Page 123.
Find the first 5 sentences.
Post the next 3 sentences.
Tag 5 people.

The nearest book was Letters and Sayings of Epicurus....which only has 100 pages. So I scrounged a few feet further and found that Elantris was still sitting by the chair. Hmmm... I'm not sure if I'm supposed to count each stop in a dialogue as a sentence...but I suppose I will. I'll also post the first five sentences as well, to give readers at least some context.

Gallodon snorted. "I didn't see you worrying when you shoved me out into that courtyard. Seen worms on hooks treated more kindly. Kolo?"

"Ah, but you made such fantastic bait," Raoden said. "Besides, it worked. We got the newcomers and you appear remarkably bruise-free."

"A state of being that is most likely a source of grand displeasure to Shaor's dogs."

And I hereby tag anyone who reads this and has (a) not participated in this meme yet; (b) a book sitting near at hand; and (c) a blog on which to post it. So if the three conditions apply to you, consider yourself tagged. If you're feeling magnanimous, put a link to your participation in the comments.

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Run! Zeppelins!

See what they did!??! Oh, the horror! How will I ever repair the damage?!?

*sobs uncontrollably until the cameras go away*

H/T James McGrath, and a voluntary meme to anyone with a blog: post a picture of your blog being decimated by one of the nasties over at NetDisaster.

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Inside a Dove chocolate wrapper, it said: "Temptation is fun. Giving in is even better!" I realize that they meant innocuous temptations, like Dove chocolate pieces, but in general I have to disagree with that sentiment. To someone who is morbidly obese, those would not be innocuous at all. Likewise, anyone with any sort of addiction would be tempted by exposure to their "drug of choice," and it wouldn't be any fun at all. Giving in would be even worse.

So then I started thinking about other places where the word "temptation" comes up. The most obvious, of course, is in the "Lord's Prayer:" Lead us not into temptation. Now, I find this an odd line. Even interpreted as a straight forward request, there's an implication that the being to whom the prayer is addressed does sometimes deliberately lead people into temptation. Doesn't seem like a very wholesome activity for an absolutely good being, now, does it?

And I know what the so-called justification given will be: "But overcoming temptation makes you stronger/better/etc!" So what? If I give someone small doses of arsenic every day for several years, their resistance to arsenic gets stronger, too. Does that mean I'm justified in doling out arsenic to people? Then there's that slight risk factor of getting the dose wrong and out and out killing the person. Oh, but all the ones who survive will be stronger for it, right?!? The idea of any sort of "god" leading someone into temptation is appalling, and including that line in such a common prayer suggests that people have a rather low opinion of that god.

Then there's the stand-up comic version: "Lead me not into temptation, for I can find it easily enough myself!" This one implies a different meaning to the words. It's more "help me avoid temptation" rather than "lead me not." This interpretation is less problematic for a god's status. But most church-goers will recite the shorter version every week, and never once notice what it implies about the one to whom they send the prayer. It's a request for that being to stop a rather negative behavior.

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28 January 2008


Just some thoughts percolating, vaguely tied to the Anarchy post from a few days back, and inspired by this older post referenced in today's post over at Daylight Atheism.

The title is "No Commandments." For some reason, this makes me flash on Terminator 2. "No Fate." More specifically, "No Fate but what we make." I object on principle to the idea of any rule that we must follow because of who made it. Most specifically, even if it were possible to prove beyond a shadow of a doubt that a creator god had laid down a certain rule, that, in itself, is not sufficient reason to follow that rule. Ever. If it is a rule that seems to be "good" and makes sense to you, then follow it. If it is not, then break it. The source of the rule is nearly always irrelevant. It would be relevant if the source were an expert on some matter directly related to the rule: floods and weathermen; contaminated food supply and biochemists; etc.

Theists say that abandoning the inflexible approach of religious dogma risks a headlong plunge into the swamp of moral relativism. But the reality is that a consistent, objective secular morality can easily be constructed from just a few basic principles. If anything, I would venture that atheists are, for the most part, more in agreement with each other than theists are. While religious groups are forever arguing about what God's will is and how to interpret ancient books that are self-contradictory to begin with, we are broadly united by a commitment to justice, happiness, and human welfare.

Arguing about "God's will" does not put food in a child's mouth or bring a murder victim back from the dead. It serves no purpose but to delay, divide and distract. It also often serves as an excuse to do nothing. It's the same old rule-based-paranoia: if we alleviate the consequences, no one will obey the rule! Oh, the horror! Without hell, how can we make people obey the "rules" that get them to heaven?

Sorry, but if you're stuck on the "rules," you've missed the point entirely. It's not about rules. In taiji, there are principles of bodily movement that we follow. There are reasons for each of them, yet all of them are violated here and there in the forms, but with good reason. They are not absolutes, nor are they meant to be. Worse, following them absolutely results in a horribly stiff, unnatural form. We always start beginners with "the squared off form," meaning that it is stiff and unflexible. Then as they improve, we start working on "rounding off the corners" so that the movements flow more naturally. Absolute rules and commandments are for children and beginners who don't yet have the skills to work out how to apply them as needed.

But the most important part of these principles is not the principles themselves. It's what they can teach you. Absolute obedience teaches nothing.

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27 January 2008


I first ran across Elantris when it came out in hardback, and was interested, but not interested enough to pay for it in hardback. I'm not sure when, exactly, it came out in paperback, but I'd forgotten about it until the announcement that Brandon Sanderson was going to be helping to finish the final book of the Wheel of Time. I managed to hunt down a copy at the local Waldenbook, which accidentally turned out to be an autographed copy (can't complain; no extra charge), and started reading it. Fair warning, it's rather slow to get going. It took me almost two weeks to get through the first 200 pages. Then, suddenly, everything started fitting together in an exquisitely intricate manner and I didn't want to put it down. So a brief summary and a minor, but camouflaged spoiler, below the fold.

Elantris is the name of a fallen city, and I'd be surprised if the name weren't supposed to conjure up "Atlantis" in the mind. Ten years before the book starts, it was the grandest city in the world, populated by powerful people who were very nearly gods. They could draw "Aons", complicated sigils that drew on the power that made them as gods, to make almost anything happen. Healing. Lights. Instant transport. Unfortunately, they didn't really understand the source of that power, and so when it went wrong, it went wrong spectacularly. Overnight, the glowing lights turned dark and the near-gods lost their power.

Back to the present, the monarch who managed to seize power in the chaos sits precariously on this throne, his perch made more precarious by a neighboring theocracy with dreams of conquest. As for our main characters: a newly made Elantrian copes with life as a fallen god; his bride-not-to-be has arrived to turn the city upside down; and a priest of the theocracy hopes to convert the city before his country's armies can destroy it. The characters are beautifully written and amazingly complex. Highly recommended.

I have to admit, however, that the first 200 pages were slow enough that I nearly gave up on it. What kept me going was a minor spoiler, hidden above as well as here: The Elantrians' power depended on a sort of technology that they didn't understand. It could only be repaired when someone finally figured out how it went wrong. That spoiler kept me interested through the slow bits, and then became unnecessary once the pace picked up. It's fairly minor, but I figure I'll give people the option of reading it or not.

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25 January 2008

Linkworthy Notes

Fairly random assortment.

Altruism: Real or Imagined? I have to admit that I went through an "Everyone's Fundamentally Selfish" phase. I got over it when it occurred to me that I wasn't fundamentally selfish. That is, I was less likely to do something if the only person it benefitted was myself.

Yes, yes! We have to think for ourselves! "This is probably the biggest hurtle that religious tolerance faces; the mentality that allows for questioning of other faiths, but not of one’s own. It is so much easier to question the beliefs of another person than to question your own." Dead right.

How NOT to win the abortion debate. Btw, if you really want to stop abortion, make birth control methods easily available and educate people about how to use them. If you're pro-life and not willing to take that step, then, as far as I'm concerned, you are a misogynist bigot who wants to enslave half of the human race. Period.

Literally? Really? Talk about the cherry-picking required even to pretend to take this stuff literally...

Christian Culture? Good article about some of the difficulties of being a non-Christian in a strongly Christian culture. The attitudes that I have observed are that self-professed Christians are all right, the other Abrahamic traditions are vageuly respected, the Buddhists get either puzzlement or outright laughter, and everyone else is seen as a pariah or a nonentity. Atheists aren't citizens; witchcraft isn't a religion; etc, etc, etc, etc.

Odd Link for me, Isn't it? But I like the sentiment, even if I would translate it a bit differently. My version is camouflaged. Highlight if you'd like to read it. "The Enlightened Life is the ordinary human life, made fully aware of all its ordinariness, and lived out in the mind of that-which-is."

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The first philosophy club meeting of the semester took place last night. The topic was Anarchy. In colloquial usage, anarchy is equivalent to chaos, but that's not the philosophical/political version. There seem to be various formulations, but the common thread is a belief that the government does not have many (or any) rights to actually compel people to carry out or avoid certain actions. That is, the State of itself has no actual authority.

The most frequently referenced book was Wolff's In Defense of Anarchism (not sure if the entire book is there or just excerpts). We spent most of the time discussing his question of the nature of authority and autonomy. In essence, if the State has legitimate authority, then people do not have full autonomy. They have given up at least some of their autonomy. Wolff rejects this notion.

One example that was cited (probably from Wolff's book) was that of passengers on a sinking ship. The Captain bellows out orders to "Man the Lifeboat!" Wolff argues that people do not obey because he is the captain, but because it is an action that makes sense to do when the boat is sinking, and that they would "obey" whether it was the Captain or some random passenger giving the order. Okay, I would agree with that. But that's a somewhat specialized circumstance where not "obeying" puts your life in immediate danger.

So what about a no smoking sign on the deck of the ship? Whence comes its authority? That is, would we say that the sign has authority over us? Probably not. What about the person who put the sign there? Again, probably not; it was probably just a hired worker. Nor would the authority come from the person who made the sign. So, if there is any authority, it must come from the person who had the sign made and ordered it to be put up. Where does that authority derive, though?

One possibility is that this person owns the ship. It's her property. By entering onto the ship, you are implicitly accepting her hospitality, and thus her rules. If you do not accept her rules, she can have you removed from her property. Yes, I'm assuming there is such a thing as "right to property" for the moment.

Now suppose instead that the State has a rule that no commercial vessel may permit smoking. Then the one who resulted in the sign has no direct connection to the ship. What gives the State the right to place rules on a vessel that it does not own? I think the usual answer falls along the lines of "protection of the greater good," but that's not even well-defined. Another common argument uses "consent of the governed." We consented to this government and so we must also consent to its rules. I can't really make sense of either line of reasoning.

First, to clarify, I do not smoke. I think it's a rather nasty habit, and it is what ultimately killed my Grandad. However, I don't think it's the State's place to dictate where people can and cannot smoke. If a restaurant bans smoking because the owner doesn't like it, fine. If the State strongly suggests establishments that do allow smoking have this prominently posted for those of us who prefer to avoid it, again, fine. But to tell people that they cannot smoke on their own property just boggles my mind. It says that the State itself does not recognize the right to property.

Admittedly, there are mitigating factors. If people smoke outside, the smoke can be blown onto someone else's property, thus interfering with that person's right to property. It's certainly easier to ban outdoor smoking than to make smokers responsible for where their smoke winds up, but I still don't like it. Individual responsibility matters too much to me. The State diminishes individual responsibility and autonomy every time it enforces a rule for the sake of the rule itself.

So... I guess I'm an anarchist. I do not follow rules, laws and regulations because they are rules, laws and regulations. If they make sense to follow, I follow them. If it's too much bother to fight over, I generally follow them. If I fundamentally disagree with something, I do not follow that particular rule. If there are consequences, I choose to take them rather than violate my own principles. And that is the core of anarchy: taking responsibility for your own actions rather than blindly following someone else's rules.

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22 January 2008

Cat Behavior

I took the two female kittens to be spayed today. They're staying overnight. I'm sure they're pretty scared and unhappy now, but the interesting thing is that Dovienya seems to be looking for them. She keeps going to the door like she wants out, but when I open it, she only peers out expectantly. She's also been wandering the house quite a bit more than she usually does. So I think she's trying to figure out where they are. I'll be the first to admit that I could be anthropomorphizing here, but it seems like the most obvious interpretation.

One more note. Every other mother cat I've ever dealt with before has gotten sick of her kittens about the time they stopped nursing. Not just sick of them, but actively aggressive towards them, not wanting them around, etc. Dovi hasn't done this. In fact, she seems to enjoy the company. Mostly. Occasionally she clearly wants to be left alone, but, eh, who doesn't?

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Well, the first class to turn in homework go their assignments back the very next class period. If this pattern continues through the semester, it will be a fairly major miracle. However, at least this semester I don't have any nightmare days. I've got time before each class to take a calm, quiet look at the material, rather than a frazzled five minute glance over and a cross-fingers that I don't forget anything. Wednesdays are long, as I've got a once-a-week class that meets for 2.5 hours, but that's more for fun than anything else. Also, it's Levenson. Philosophy and Literature. Which reminds me that I never did post my two papers from last semester... Maybe later.

And we just had our pointless holiday-the-Monday-after-starting, as per tradition. On the plus side, I got into a bar fight with an orc (goblin?) because of it, so I can't complain too much. Except that he got away.

Also, Sunday was my mom's birthday. She got her presents Sunday but her cake yesterday. Devil's Food Cake. I'm wondering if it also needs the flour in it reduced, as the Date Pudding did. It turns out okay, just with a slightly odd texture. As for presents, I printed out some pictures of Akron (her hometown) and put them in a cheap collage frame. I also printed out a picture of Grandma (and played with contrast and brightness, as the lighting had been horrid), and put it in a very nice frame that I found on clearance. It could have been gaudy, but they got just the right amount of crystals on it.

Oh, and today nearly every school district in this part of Idaho cancelled. Except Pocatello and maybe Blackfoot. Why? Cold. It was -8 here when I got up, and -16 in IF. My students wanted bonus points for coming through the cold. I told 'em that when I was in school, the cut-off was -20, so it was plenty warm enough! ^/^

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20 January 2008

Gluten Free Tips: Bean Flours

Pretty much, all of the older gluten free cookbooks relied heavily on rice flours. I can't say for certain when bean flours were added into the repertoire, but I'm reasonably certain that Bette Hagman was a major force in popularizing them in the small segment of society that can't tolerate wheat or gluten. She is very fond of "garfava" flour, made from a mixture of fava and garbanzo beans. Now, if you like the taste of garfava flour, you're set. Nearly any place that carries Bob's Red Mill's GF products will have the company's garbanzo-fava flour.

If you're like me and absolutely loathe, hate and despise the taste of garfava flour, well, there are alternatives.

First off, why bother with bean flours at all? Two big reasons: Moisture and Protein. Most GF flours are exceedingly dry, and rice flour is one of the driest. Bean flours contain a lot more moisture and so the texture of the final product tends to be better. Sorghum and amaranth also add some moisture, though amaranth also has a rather strong flavor. Also, most GF flours are very low in protein, though for rice-based products, I've started throwing in a tablespoon or so of rice protein powder to help with that. It's still dry, but at least it's slightly more nutritious.

The good news for those of us who can't stand garfava flour but otherwise enjoy Bette Hagman's cookbooks is that any bean flour will work as a replacement. The trick is to find one whose flavor you like. Personally, I recommend soy flour. It has the most protein of any bean flour I've looked at, and adds a quite pleasant flavor into whatever you make with it. Unfortunately, I've become sensitive to soy as well, so that's no longer an option for me. Lately I've been using white bean flour. It has a very mild flavor and still adds the protein and moisture. I use it as a direct replacement for garfava flour in the "4-flour bean mix" that Bette Hagman is so fond of. Unfortunately, it's rarely available in stores.

Those are the only two I've tried besides garfava, but my advice is just to find a bean flour whose taste is either unnoticeable or enjoyable. Garfava fails on both counts for me. If you're just starting out, you may think that it's not too bad. So did I, at first. After two years of extensive use of the blasted stuff, I was ready to consign it to flames. Yech. Either Bette Hagman has weird tastes or she's completely insane on this one.

Fair warning: regardless of which bean flour you choose, there will be a rather nasty aftertaste in the raw dough. White bean flour is slightly less noticeable than either soy or garfava, but it's still there. That aftertaste does cook out.

GF Tips Index

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19 January 2008

Links to Things I Got Forwarded

My mom sent me some very beautiful pictures of an ice festival in Harbin. A bit of hunting turned up this site, which has even better (and more) pictures than those she sent. And here are some from the most recent festival. I particularly like the snow dragon:

Admittedly, it's not as impressive as some of the lit up spectacles at the festival, but I'm rather partial to dragons. ^/^

She also sent me a forward with pictures of a polar bear apparently playing with a sled dog. One or two looked iffy to me, but it turns out that they're real.

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Moonlight (again)

Okay, I'm impressed. Also puzzled. But as I don't impress easily, and what impressed me is a fairly major spoiler from last night's episode, so it's below the fold.

Once it become clear that Coraline had returned as a human, I expected her to simply disappear (or die) and then Mick would spend the rest of the series on a never-fruitful quest for her cure. Nope. He actually got the cure last night. Though it was rather predictable that, as soon as it became clear it was working, the bad guys would drop in, and he wouldn't be half as effective a fighter. Btw, the cure is not permanent. No word yet about how long it lasts.

What impresses me is that this changes the formula for the show for at least one episode, possibly several, in a way that I can only recall ever seeing Jos Whedon do. He used to tease his actors that "this is the episode where your character dies!" They didn't find it amusing, since they knew it was all too possible that he might actually do it. But he would make major changes with very little warning. Sometimes for plot reasons, sometimes for OOC reasons. In S4, the storyline with Oz and Verruca was supposed to be more drawn out, but Seth Green got a movie offer (I think it was for one of the Austin Powers movies) and wound up having to drop out early, so Jos moved the storyline up.

But most of the time, once a tv show has its formula down, it deviates from it very, very little. Moonlight has definitely borrowed some elements from Forever Knight, at minimum, but it's using them in a very distinct way.

Oh, I did decide that part of the reason I found the revenge scene so funny was the makeup they're using for Mick's vamped-out look. It's a bit too...clownish. Like, ghoulish clown, but still "clown." That wasn't the only factor, but I'm sure it contributed.

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18 January 2008

Random Product Plugs

I just got my DVD set for Sunrise Earth today. Absolutely awesome. It's an actual Nature program. That is, it shows scenes from nature, sounds included, without human interference and/or narration. Occasionally discrete captions will appear in a lower corner, but that's it. Otherwise, it's pure nature. Currently, Animal Planet is showing it at 8:00 am, but this is not a good show for network tv. Why? Because when the commercials come on, it's like the annoying idiot in the campground who suddenly turns his radio on full blast. It's horrible. So I bought the DVD set using Mom's Christmas money. Well worth it, both to be able to watch/listen whenever I want, and to avoid the commercials.

On an entirely different track, Bag Balm is an excellent curative for dry skin. It was originally designed for cows' udders, but works quite well on humans. I first tried it for a heat/moisture rash two summers ago (after trying several other things that made it worse), and it worked well on it. The cold tends to dry out my hands something awful, and bag balm is one of the few things to make a near-instant difference. Unfortunately, it's very greasy, but I think that's the price of having it work well. Incidentally, they no longer sell the actual "original" formula bag balm: It used to contain mercury. Great for infections, not so great for lots of other things.

Oh, and for anyone at all who ever has to deal with cold, wool is your friend. Unless you're allergic, in which case I pity you. So no specific product in mind, just a generic "YAY! Wool!" My winter coat is wool. My second best gloves are cashmere-lined. I'm currently wearing a cashmere sweater and wool socks. I've got a wool hat and a wool headband that just covers the ears. Best of all, I've got a wool-stuffed comforter on my bed. In years past, I've had trouble staying warm in my basement bedroom. This year I finally switched over to the wool comforter. Vive la Difference! I'm more likely to be too hot, now.

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16 January 2008

A Tale of Three Chairs

Once upon a time, my mom decided she wanted a new recliner. She didn't like either of those that she'd inherited from Grandma, but one was a bluish green and had shot springs to boot, so that one was slated for replacement. She really hates bluish green, for no discernible reason.

So she looked and looked and found nothing but swivel-rocker-recliners, which did not please her. Finally she tried an older store downtown and they could order her any color she wanted. They suggested a smaller chair that would fit her frame better. So it was ordered, and it came in a few months later... and was too small for her. (I've forgotten what she did with the old bluish green one at this point).

So she went looking some more and found another store that could order a chair that was not a swivel-rocker for her. It came in...and it was a swivel rocker. They tried again. It came in...and it was a swivel rocker. Finally, on the third try, they managed to get it through the manufacturer's thick maze of paperwork that they did not want a swivel rocker, and, lo and behold, Mom had a chair she was happy with.

But she still had the little blue one that was too small, and no room for a Christmas tree. The plan was for me to take the little blue one, get rid of my older hand-me-down greyish-beigish one, and make room for a Christmas tree. Unfortunately, I had about three days to actually clean and make room for it before Christmas. I managed, barely, only Mom decided that we'd just put up a smaller tree instead.

Last week, we finally made the swap (with Fibonacci's help), and got the blue chair to my house and the greyish-beigish to his apartment. So next year, my mom should have room for her larger Christmas tree. So long as she doesn't go ordering any more chairs. As for me, the littler bluer chair fits me just fine. ^/^

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15 January 2008

Poetry Supplement

Okay, I'm finally getting around to posting this, since keeping the page open from Sunday on. First off, go read Poetry Sunday at Daylight Atheism. I'd never heard of A.R. Ammons before, so I hunted down a few more of his poems. I don't like all of them, but Design is quite good (and below the fold). I love the textures here.

by A.R. Ammons

The drop seeps whole
from boulder-lichen
or ledge moss and drops,

joining, to trickle,
run, fall, dash,
sprawl in held deeps,

to rush shallows, spill
thin through heights,
but then, edging,

to eddy aside, nothing
of all but nothing's
curl of motion spent.

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14 January 2008

First Day Back

Apparently break was long enough, as I was actually glad to be back today. Of course, it helps that I'm teaching 123 this semester. There's a lot more variety in it than in the courses I usually teach. We're starting on voting systems and preference schedules. Otherwise, I only dealt with Math108 today. I talked half the time, had them sign the roll, and told those who didn't yet have a computer account (and hence couldn't log in to do anything) to go get one.

It was also the first day of the Logic class I'm taking. It was hard to pass up a class that had Gödel right in the name. Not entirely surprising that this philosophy class has more math majors in it than philosophy majors... The basic ideas (at the very beginning) are familiar. The names used for them, not so much. So the first bit I'll spend learning the lingo, most likely.

Tomorrow? Math143 in the morning and Math253 in the evening. So far I like this schedule. We shall see if this attitude continues.

Jumping back to last week, I went to the dentist, and they found nothing wrong. That pleased me. Also, the person who cleaned my teeth finagled my time for the next check up to make sure she got to clean my teeth again. She said she likes cleaning my teeth and even described them as "immaculate." This struck me as odd, so I asked if she'd seen some really bad cases. The look on her face indicated she had.

I think I'm rambling now, so I'll stop.

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13 January 2008

You Might be a Fundie Atheist if...

Rob Knopp's post on Fundamentalist Atheists inspired me to revisit the matter, and put a diagnostic list together. So, you might be a Fundie Atheist if...

1. You tell people they're not really Christians/theists unless they believe X, Y and Z. (More rarely applied to other atheists as well)

2. You insist that all the good attributed to religion would have happened without religion, but all the bad attributed to religion is the sole responsibility of the religion itself and has nothing to do with, for instance, the society that produced it.

3. You try to equate mystic formulations of religion with atheism, and tell mystics that they're really atheists.

4. You have ever called someone a Neville Chamberlain (or appeaser) atheist and meant it in a derogatory way.

5. You have ever insisted that everyone who disagrees with your world view is deluded, regardless of what that disagreement might be.

I'm sure this list could be expanded, but those are the ones that either come immediately to mind or that showed up at Rob's site.

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Beautiful Thoughts

I absolutely love this post over at The Buddhist Blog. There are many things to like in Buddhism. First and foremost is the insistence that there are multiple paths to the Ultimate, whatever it may be. I particularly like this:

In Buddhism, we create our own suffering and therefore have control over how deeply we suffer. There is no "Satan" out there to tempt us and mislead us down the path of spiritual destruction. We are the ones in charge of whether we experience peace and freedom or suffering and fear. We are in charge of our own destiny rather than feeling at the mercy of two "Gods" fighting over the dominion over our "souls."

I might quibble a bit, but it really depends on how you use the word "suffering." In this case, I suspect it's in the vein of "Pain is mandatory; suffering is optional."

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12 January 2008

Philosophical Health Check

From the same site as below, there's a page of similar activities. This one is another check for internal consistency (low means low conflict; high means high conflict):

Out of 30 questions, I had two conflicts. They're below the fold in case anyone wants to take the quiz fresh.

You agreed that:
The environment should not be damaged unnecessarily in the pursuit of human ends
But disagreed that:
People should not journey by car if they can walk, cycle or take a train instead

It's the "can" that I have a problem with. Technically, I can walk to Idaho Falls (fifty miles north), but it's impractical. If it said "if it is reasonable to walk, cycle, etc." I would have agreed with it.

You agreed that:
Severe brain-damage can rob a person of all consciousness and selfhood
And also that:
On bodily death, a person continues to exist in a non-physical form

There are lots of things I could say here, but what bugs me is the underlying assumption that equates "existence" to "selfhood."

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I don't get it, but I suppose I'll pass it on and see if anyone else does. I found it through the friendly atheist. It's a test of the internal consistency of your beliefs (or lack thereof) about "God." I put it in quotes, because it's clear that there's a Judeo-Christian bias. However:

You took zero direct hits and you bit zero bullets. The average player of this activity to date takes 1.39 hits and bites 1.11 bullets. 402077 people have so far undertaken this activity.



You have been awarded the TPM medal of honour! This is our highest award for outstanding service on the intellectual battleground.

The fact that you progressed through this activity neither being hit nor biting a bullet suggests that your beliefs about God are internally consistent and very well thought out.

There's a link to another odd quiz at the site: the do-it-yourself-deity. I got a score of 0.8, where 0.0 is completely inconsistent with both itself and the universe and 1.0 is perfectly consistent. But they've made some odd assumptions. For instance:
"The laws of physics do not seem to require that the universe has anything outside of itself to continue to exist. Therefore, they can't quite see what kind of evidence it would be possible to point to in order to come to the belief that God is required for the universe to continue."

Uh, who said that this deity had to be separate from the universe? That in itself is a contradiction, imo. *shrugs*

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11 January 2008

Humor, but was it Intentional?

New episode of Moonlight tonight. And, no, I don't know if they got them all written and shot before the writer's strike or what. A mild spoiler below the fold.

There was a scene where Mick goes all-out monster-vamp to exact revenge. I'm not sure what the intended effect of the scene was...but I'm pretty sure that the director wasn't going for hilarity. Between the music and the out-and-out goofiness of the place where it was set... I was busting up laughing through it. Now, I would expect the desired effect was more on the order of excitement tinged with horror/distaste/uneasiness. But it was just funny. Unfortunately, humor wasn't the prevailing mood of the rest of it.

Hmmm... maybe the director was trying to lighten the mood slightly and overdid it. That's somewhat plausible. The events immediately before and after were very dark. *shrugs*

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Friday Cat Blogging?

Eh, why not. I've got kitties now, after all. Also, it's been quite a while since I've seen all of them, Mom/Dovi included, cuddled up together. ^/^ So from the top, we have Jacques, then Dovi and Jilly (formerly Howler) together, Princess (formerly Shanghai, but she acts like a spoiled little princess), and then Pouncer...who is on his way to earning the name "Garfield." He begs for food more than some dogs.

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08 January 2008

Breaking the News

All I can say is, wow. Via Daylight Atheism, I found a post discussing this article about the Mainstream Media. Read it. I mean it. Yes, it's long. Just bloody well read it. It explains a whole hell of a lot that's been making me angry over the past five years since I discovered news sources on the internet.

I find a fascinating story. Fresh. Relevant. Important. It takes 1-6 months for it even to get a mention in the MSM. Why were people such sheep about Bush in the last election? Because they had no bloody friggin' clue what was really going on. Remember the Riddler's mind-control-through-tv-scheme in Batman Forever? You don't need anything fancy. Just a bunch of audience-pandering tenthwits who care more about ratings than actual news. I'm going to stop there, before I break into a stream of incoherent insults pocked with four-letter words. But, if you actually care about what's really happening in the world, Read the Article.

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07 January 2008


Two carnivals from yesterday:

Carnival of the Godless


Humanist Symposium #13

I found two posts from each that I thought worth sharing and commenting on:

Just a tad late, but this article onthe origins of Christmas traditions is a fascinating read, especially for anyone who doesn't realize how steeped in paganism most of the holiday traditions are.

Going a bit deeper, this article discusses intellectual laziness in regards to religion. I think this quote says it all: "Knowledge is hard work, but belief is easy."

At a different deep end, Subjectivity. This is an interesting read, but I have to admit that I'm missing something in it. It seems to be addressing two different fears. (1) is that pure rationality can/will/should/must destroy compassion. (2) is the ephemeral nature of our own existence. For (1), I would say that rational thought can sometimes put compassion on hold, but never destroy it outright.

For (2)... I remember a time when death terrified me. I was still in elementary school, and I'd heard or been reading about the Challenger explosion. I was trying to fathom what it would be like to have been in the shuttle. I was trying to understand what it was to cease existing. All I could come up with was an empty darkness in my mind. Funny. I can't remember bringing any sort of "heaven" into that mental picture at all. I remember being terrified of that darkness. I remember, but I can't feel that any more. The darkness feels like an old friend, now. I've faced it a few too many times to find any terror in it.

All that lives will die. That is what it means to live. What does fearing that accomplish? What does it change? Nothing. We began as nothing and to nothing we return. That is a profoundly beautiful truth, even if it does cause us much pain when others return to nothing and leave us behind in the empty something. There is nothing permanent in this world. Mountains rise and eventually crumble. Lakes dry up. Deserts move. Even the Self is like shifting sand. I am not the same person I was a year ago, nor two years ago, nor a month ago. Certain traits have persisted over time, and a memory trail exists, but the past is gone, never to be regained. The Self that "I" was then is dead.

On a somewhat related note, this post on Suffering and isms seems to have missed the point of Buddhism entirely: "Basically, if you have low expectations and don't care about anything then you won't be disappointed. Sad way to live if you ask me." Maybe there are some sects of Buddhism that actually teach this, but I doubt it. It's about having no expectations, except, maybe, that there will be a moment beyond this one. As for "not caring," compassion is one of the pre-eminent precepts. It goes back to Western misunderstanding of detachment. Westerners tend to see it as "cutting something off" when really it's about opening something up. It's about seeing and experiencing rather than expecting and wanting.

First, a trivial example. When I drive to work, I know that there is very little chance that I will get a parking space right next to the building where I work unless I get there before 7:30 am or after 4:00 pm. Any other time, there's not much point in trying, so mostly I head directly to an alternate parking area a few blocks away. Occasionally, for whatever reason, I decide to do a drive-by to see if there's any closer parking. I know perfectly well that it's unlikely, but not impossible, and my attitude is "there will be or there won't be." If there is, great. If not, I head to alternate parking. Getting upset serves no purpose. Whether I "want" a close parking space or not is irrelevant to whether one actually is available at that moment.

A less trivial example will have to wait, as my last attempt tried to spiral into an entire post.

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Nature Show

crow caws
kitten's attack foiled
by glass

Note: television graphic from Printmaster Gold v. 18

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06 January 2008


snow melts off
just before
the next storm

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05 January 2008

Stayed Home Today

Mainly because I had a slight fever. Don is on medications for Rheumatoid arthritis. Rheumatoid arthritis is an autoimmune disease, ergo these medications weaken his immune system. I don't know yet if I have a cold or just mild date pudding hangover*, but if it's a cold, I don't want to risk passing it on to Don. However, there seems to be an even better reason for staying home:

This is from the Idaho road report site. There was very little red or yellow when I checked before 7:00 am today. Red = bad. Yellow = mildly bad. A lot of the ones still green haven't been updated since yesterday, btw. At least one of them is recent, but mostly they're old.

*turns out that celiacs shouldn't buy pre-chopped dates; they tend to be coated in something, in this case dextrose, which I had thought was safe, but apparently can be made from wheat. *sighs* Incidentally, you will find places on the web that claim that dextrose is safe, because all the protein gets filtered out in the production process. I'd say only most of the protein/gluten got filtered out. There was just enough left to make me mildly ill, but I've had much MUCH worse effects, so there can't have been very much.

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Fun With Numerology

Every so often, I like to fiddle with this site, which will give you a free tarot reading, numerology reading, i ching, and probably dozens of others that you may or may not have heard of. Warning: it is fairly ad intensive, and every so often a pop-up gets through my blocker. But I still like to fiddle with it now and again. It just...amuses me.

So let's see what gems of wisdom it has for me today:

So... anything without a ? on it I would consider reasonable as a descriptor of myself. A tilde would be slightly questionable. Other commentary in parentheses. And just to make it more interesting, I'll score each word. I'll only put the totals after each section, but a '0' would mean "So generic it could apply to anyone." +1 would be somewhat accurate for me, -1 somewhat inaccurate... maximum of 3 in either directions

In Your Public Life...
Words that embody your presence are "Agility, Ambition(~), Author, Barbarism(?), Forest, Iridium(???), Monkey (as in Repulse the Monkey, perhaps?), Prayer(???), Shepherd(?), Shout(~), Spring (?), Violet (hey! I'm wearing purple today!), Warlock, Wisdom". +3

Words that embody the people or things that you interact with are "Africa (???), Boat (not in the middle of winter, matey), Change, Death (how does one interact with death, prey?), Fire (candles!!), Gold, Jackal (look, I've never been to Africa, okay?), Ocean (is about 900 miles away), Palace (really? is it free?), Rich (don't I wish...), Tide (okay, I do use Tide laundry detergent)". -9

Words that embody things that you may be a part of are "Transformation" (YAY! I'm a part of Transformation! Now if only that seemed to mean something...). +1

Words that embody people or things in your periphery are "Authority (very peripheral, yup), Compulsion (who's doing the compelling, I wonder...), Intimidation (c'mon, I'm not that intimidating, am I?), Sterility (they obviously haven't seen my house lately...)". -3

In Your Private Life...
Words that embody your presence are "Bliss (Right... so people bliss out due to my divine presence... I think my students would disagree `/^), Ebony (Two black kitties count?), Magenta (No... I tend to avoid magenta), Mist (for when the kitties misbehave), Steel (Nope. Don't wear armor either), Trance (You are getting sleeeeeepyyyyyyy...)". 0

Words that embody the people or things that you interact with are "Cage". (Actually... that sounds somewhat accurate. I do occasionally feel trapped by things) +2

Words that embody people or things in your periphery are "Community (in everyone's periphery, isn't it?), Fertility(???), Immunity (from what?), Infinity, Ingenuity, Kaleidoscope (lava lamp close enough?), Linguistics, Misadventure, Monolith (nah, I prefer a polylith), Platinum(?), Profanity(?), Pursuit (of what?), Puzzle (Mom and I put one together for New Year's, does that count?), Retribution (I'll get you, my pretty! You and your little dog, too!), Sculptor(???), Strategy, Technology (how else would I get to the web-site, hmmm?), Temptation (Oh, please!), Ugliness (in the midst of cleaning, what else would you expect?), Virility (???), Voyeur(???)". -3

In Your Spiritual Life...
Words that embody your presence are "Constitution". (LOL. The Constitution as a spiritual document? Sounds better than many.) 0

Words that embody things that may be a part of you are "Addiction (caffeine, occasionally), Flower (bought myself some for New Years), Ice (Duh. It's Winter), Kitten, Lingerie (Er, no), Massacre (Great! Who do I get to attack?!?), Mother, Murder (Best avoided. Legal complications an' all), Paradox, Sword". +6

Words that embody people or things in your periphery are "Crystal (makes pretty rainbows on the wall), Descendant (whose?), Ivory (if we stretch that to ivories as in piano keys, okay), Memory, Mystic, Oblivion (aka sleep), Parasite (ack. I hope not), Potency (meaningless without some other descriptor to attach to it), Prophet(???), Revival (of what?), Sentinel(?), Success, Summer (wrong time of year, me bucko), Sunset (wrong time of day, too), Talisman, Treaty, Tyrant (Vetinari?), Unity, Virus (possible cold at the moment), Waterfall (melt-off yesterday?), Whisper, Winter (DING!)". +13

So +10 overall... I was expecting it to be closer to 0. But that's exactly why things like this work. We tend to read ourselves into them whether we're really there or not. ^/^

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03 January 2008

Keeping a Weather Eye Out?

Not. Forecast for tonight: A chance of rain and snow after 11pm. Mostly cloudy, with a low around 26. South wind between 16 and 21 mph, with gusts as high as 32 mph. Chance of precipitation is 30%. Total nighttime snow accumulation of less than a half inch possible.

Current temperature: 20.

Ummm... yeah. Sure. Now, if it said the "low after midnight," I might believe it. Judging by the wind and the forecast for tomorrow, there's a warm front moving in.

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Non-Christian Christmas

Parts of this post really resonated with me, so I thought I'd share some of my own experiences. The first two years were the hardest, because I had a handle on what I didn't believe, but not really much else.

It was my senior year of high school, and I'd just started thinking of myself as an atheist. The decorations around me rang hollow. They didn't mean anything to me any more. The years before that, I was all in favor of the more overtly religious ornaments and cards and such. That year, I tried to stick with the more secular ones as much as possible. I still liked the gift-giving (and receiving, but not quite as much), and a lot of the songs still resonated with me. Even the ones that now made no sense to me were agreeably familiar, and I could sing them and enjoy it even while arguing with most of the lyrics.

If I remember correctly, by the next Christmas, I knew I wasn't an atheist, but I wasn't really sure what I was. That made it easier in some ways, harder in others. Easier, because I was happy thinking of it as a Season of Light. I hadn't learned about pagan solstice traditions yet, but symbolizing whatever the Divine might be with light made sense to me. So I was okay with star and solar ornaments, and candles, and anything on that order. Nativities...just made me feel sad. Or disgusted. Depended on the day (and the nativity).

I went through a pagan stage. Here's the thing, though... I never really took it seriously. It was mostly a sort of game to me. Light candles, wave around a magic knife (athamé), visualize a bunch of nonsense, etc, and, uh, try to figure out what the point of it all was. I think if I could have seen a point in it, I might have stuck with it; it was kind of fun. But the only point was on the knife. It did get me taking the first steps towards meditation practices, but I was still at the game stage there as well.

However, the pagan stage gave me a new outlook on Christmas, as the Solstice. There was also some weirdness about the "god" being reborn to the "goddess" (to become her lover in the spring... I think), but that part didn't resonate with me at all. The Solstice did. It was the dark heart of winter, and at the extreme edge of darkness, the only way to go is towards the light. I liked that, and I liked a lot of the more pagan imagery. If you go through my Christmas decorations (bought while still in this stage), you'll find mostly pagan-inspired symbols. Stars. Deer. Geometric symbols. Birds. Snowflakes. I still love them, but for slightly different reasons. Now they symbolize the Season to me, rather than some abstract pagan ideal.

Now? I still love Christmas. Or Yule. Or the Solstice. Or the Winter Holidays. I don't particularly care what name you want to call it. I like the colored lights and the music and the exchange of gifts and the family get-togethers. I love the snow on the ground and the chill in the air. I still avoid the blatantly Christian symbols, simply because they hold no meaning for me. Despite this, I have never missed a Christmas Eve service at my mom's church. Why? Mainly for the music. I may disagree with 90% of the things said there, but there is a good atmosphere there, especially at the candlelight service. An atmosphere of expectation, waiting for the Light to return. I don't care for what Eric's done to it, as he seems to miss the point entirely. But that's beyond the scope of this post.

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via the quixotic infidel

I liked these two the best:

Simple Impartial Qualms.

Enter a word for your own slogan:

Generated by the Advertising Slogan Generator, for all your slogan needs. Get more Qualms slogans.

More Qualms Please.

Enter a word for your own slogan:

Generated by the Advertising Slogan Generator, for all your slogan needs. Get more Qualms slogans.

Okay, I have to add a few more, but I don't think I need to paste in their code a bunch of times:

Qualms Make Everything Better

A Taste for Qualms

Qualms Keep Going and Going

Pure Qualms

Everything We Do Is Driven By Qualms

Okay... I think I'm done. For now. `/^

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02 January 2008

December Searchlight

I'm going to try to be brief this time and just list the more interesting ones.

gluten free hot chocolate (and variations thereof): Go here. This has been a surprisingly popular search term.
hoist the colors full song: probably brought on by the recent release of the third movie on DVD, but here's my post with the full lyrics.
penguin swatting game: Er, wow. I'd completely forgotten about this game.
gluten free coating for fish: ^/^ I'm glad to see that my gluten free tips post are of use to some people. Here's the relevant one. No guarantees about fish, but they work well on chicken.
importance of socks: *blinks* My sarcastic title was a search topic???
zafu fort collins: Try the Nepal/Tibet import store. It's on College Avenue, near where the Stone Lion bookstore used to be.
amber spyglass sex (with lots of variations on this theme): Strongly implied.
at world's end parachute: Unfortunate. Looked a bit too much like a parachute.
chicken stew with a good smell: Depends on what you put in it. If the stuff you put in it smells good, the stew will probably smell good.
freud useful or not: For some people, sure. For most, probably not.
i think i'm going mad blog: Well, you've come to the right place. We're all mad here. '/^
square memo paper: Is usually a lie. It's often an eighth of an inch off, which is very annoying for folding stuff out of it.
zucchini bread principles: Ummmm... Yeah... Thou Shalt not be made with Gluten comes to mind...

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01 January 2008

Gluten Free Tips: Corn Bread

Corn bread is actually fairly easy to convert to gluten free. I generally just use the recipe on the box, but make a few slight modifications. My modifications are in the brown boxes.

1 cup ALBERS Yellow Corn Meal
1 cup all-purpose flour
I use Bette Hagman's Featherlight Rice flour mix*
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1 Tbs. baking powder
1 tsp. salt
I cut this to 1/4 t, since I'm not THAT into salt
1 cup milk
1/3 cup vegetable oil
1 large egg, lightly beaten
I use two eggs; adds protein and helps it stick together
Add 1 t xanthan gum

PREHEAT oven to 400°F. Grease 8-inch-square baking pan.
COMBINE corn meal, flour, sugar, baking powder, xanthan gum and salt in medium bowl. Combine milk, oil and egg in small bowl; mix well. Add milk mixture to flour mixture; stir just until blended. Pour into prepared pan.
BAKE for 20 to 25 minutes or until wooden pick inserted into center comes out clean. Serve warm.
NOTE: Recipe may be doubled. Use greased 13x9-inch baking pan; bake as above.

*Any good GF flour blend should work here. I'd avoid ones with strong flavors, like Bette Hagman's 4-flour bean mix using garfava flour, since they'll overpower the taste of the cornmeal.

GF Tips Index

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