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'Cuz nothing beats playing in a cardboard box!

Akari House

January 20th, 2009

In lieu of the youtube post that was taken down, I found this blog had a transcript...

Little Kitten - Lyrics to Tim Minchin’s ‘Storm’

Posted using ShareThis

July 22nd, 2008

I don't know if you few folks that still read my occassional updates here follow Pharyngula (http://scienceblogs.com/pharyngula/ ) or not, but the recent cracker madness there is just appalling.  

It boggles my mind that not only are some people so impressionable that they can take the Eucharist seriously--which in itself is as far as I can tell a bizarre, cannibalistic-themed ritual derived from a strangely overly-literal interpretation of a metaphorical statement attributed to a Mr. Christ at his last supper--but that they find even improper handling and treatment of these wafers the most heinous and unspeakable crime imaginable (to repeat their own hyperbole).  

I don't know about you, but I can think of maybe just a few things out there a trifle more despicable than that.  Even if I were to accept at face value the notion that the ritual involved miraculously transforms a cracker into a piece of the body of said Mr. Christ, I'd think that even he or his big ol' jealous sky-daddy would be able to de-prioritize someone doing that over, say, oh I dunno, abuse, torture, rape, murder, and so forth.   I certainly don't think he'd appreciate others stepping in on his behalf to make repeated death threats and scream outrage at said disrepsectful interloper.  I mean, that just doesn't seem like very moral behavior to me...but then what do I know, I don't even pretend to get what it's like to live a life believing in this kind of stuff.  

Ah well food for thought I guess.  I feel like eating some crunchy baked products now for some reason.

June 13th, 2008

This is why.

alice, marisa, touhou

Don't ever say now that you weren't told. 


Unrelated: Congrats to [info]umiushi on completing that second AA with yet another 4.0!  Next stop, UW... 

April 13th, 2007

A late congratulations!

alice, marisa, touhou
Since it's all now official and on paper, congratulations to umiushi on getting a solid 4.0 on that programming AA degree!  Best of luck on the CS one, now...

March 3rd, 2007

Belief and Biology

alice, marisa, touhou
Found this link from PZ and it blew me away. Robert Sapolsky presents a unique neurological look at how belief--and lack thereof--figures into our evolutionary heritage. Be warned, the answers he gives are rather unsettling (but ultimately rewarding) for ALL sides...


January 25th, 2007

I'm a Taurus.

This means that when I was born, the Earth was positioned so the sun would have blocked the viewing of a random assortment of stellar objects in our galaxy that in turn are so far beyond our solar system, that the light from them has taken numerous years to reach us, so anything that was happening around those stars at that very moment hasn't even reached here just yet. This assortment of stars when viewed normally was apparently thought by some ancient stargazers to resemble the shape of a bull, hence the name of the constellation.

Taurus is also "home" to one of the few first magnitude stars in the sky, Aldebaran ("The Follower" in Arabic because as the Earth turns, it appears to follow the Pleiades open cluster, also "part" of Taurus), right in the middle, known as the "Bull's Eye". Not that it is actually physically in the middle of the stars that make up the constellation, that is only seen that way because of perspective. In fact, the stars are of random distances and really have (for the most part--the Pleiades are an exception) no direct correlation whatsoever with each other. Behind Aldebaran is the Hyades Cluster, the closest stellar cluster to Earth, though many times more distant. I'll be 65 when light from Aldebaran gets here from the time I was born, though I doubt I'll notice it at the time. I think it'd be nice if I was still here when the light from the Hyades stars catches up, for that matter...

Aldebaran is about 38 times the diameter of our sun and 150 times as bright. It has a small dwarf star companion, too, which orbits it several hundred times the distance the Earth does from Sol. At about the same distance as Earth's orbit apparently lies a planet about 11 times the size of Jupiter (note that by coincidence Jupiter itself is 11 times the diameter of the Earth in size). I'd imagine it was pretty freaking hot there and most likely still is. The Pioneer 10 spacecraft, which was launched during my childhood, ought to reach that particular neighborhood in about 2,000,000 years or so, though it's not likely that even if anyone was there to catch it, that they would even notice it.

Add another 75 years and the light will get here from Beta Tauri, one of the two "horns". As for the other "horn", Zeta Tauri, we won't know that news until the year 2347. It's a hot blue-white eclipsing binary star with a yellow Sol-like companion that spins like a whirlwind and has a disc of darkish material that surrounds it as it rips itself apart.

Before the light gets here from Beta Tauri, the light will have come a couple decades earlier from HD 37124, a Sol-like star which has at least 3 Jupiter-like gas giants, of which one is in a fairly habitable area of the system, analogous to where Venus is in ours. It could well have a moon that could as far as we know be inhabited by critters that perhaps sent us a "hello" around my birthdate that we'd get in about 66 years from now. Who knows?

There's also a relatively recently added feature "in" Taurus--the Crab Nebula, a quite large (11 light-years from tip to tip) red cloud of gas that formed when a star blew up (went supernova) about 7,200 years ago. It took the light from the explosion itself 6,300 years to get here and was thus the explosion was observed on July 4th, 1054, bright enough to be seen by day and be noted in Chinese history texts. The pulsar left there is rapidly distorting the gases in something of a cosmic cyclone, and the nebula itself can still be seen expanding today, almost 1000 years later, at a rate of 1500 kilometers per second.

How does your naturalistic horoscope read?

(edit: made some minor fixes)

January 24th, 2007

Found this via PZ Myers:


Man, if even so many scientists don't get it, what hope is there for the general public at all? Sigh. Still the fact there are people like this who are alerting others to problem gives some hope. It does seem lately that more and more folks are starting to stand up and say "enough is enough".

I'm one to talk, though. The full implications of the scientific method and of science itself didn't really work its way through my compartmentalized brain until at least my late 20's, even though I understood most of the principles, somthing just didn't click, the synapses didn't bridge the gap, and denial and wishful thinking reigned supreme. It's a shame that humans seem to be so hard-wired for cognitive dissonance.

January 5th, 2007

Phil Plait sums it up

alice, marisa, touhou
I came across a co-worker's blog who has pretty similar taste in skepticism and politics to myself, and liked this October post of his below where he quotes Phil Plait of Bad Astronomy:

There's an article on BadAstronomy.com that I just found today that sums quite succinctly sums up all the problems with astrology. I recommend reading it. As for why I think you should read it, I'll answer that question with a quote from the article:

So what's the harm? Sure, astrology doesn't work, but it's all in fun, right?


For one thing, it's estimated that hundreds of millions of dollars are spent on astrology every year in the United States alone. That's real money, folks, wasted on something that doesn't work.

For another, astrology promotes the worst thing in the world: uncritical thinking. The more we teach people to simply accept anecdotal stories, hearsay, cherry-picked data (picking out what supports your claims but ignoring what doesn't), and, frankly, out-and-out lies, the harder it gets for people to think clearly. If you cannot think clearly, you cannot function as a human being. I cannot stress this enough. Uncritical thinking is tearing this world to pieces, and while astrology may not be at the heart of that, it has its role.

For a third, and this one irritates me personally, astrology takes away from the real grandeur of the Universe. We live in an amazing place, this Universe of ours, and it's quite fantastic enough without needing people to make up things about it. Astrology dims the beauty of nature, cheapens it.

Also, their blog is pretty good.

December 22nd, 2006

(no subject)

alice, marisa, touhou
Well, a week after the aftermath and I'm still pretty unsettled.

Thursday night the monsoon hits Puget Sound full force. The entire region loses power all at once as the power stations and transformers go like dominoes. On its heels is a temperature drop that plunges to freezing. Over a million homes with no power, many 10's or is that 100's of thousands still out as I write this even a week later.

Trees fall and break like bad metaphors on an average livejournal. The whole place becomes a made-for-TV-B-movie post-apocalyptic setting of sorts. Gas stations able to pump fuel become a commodity earning giant queues and food begins to rot in warming fridges and freezers.

For those of us who rely on power to breathe when we sleep, afflicted with severe sleep apnea, the days gradually melt into a hallucinatory blur, mostly spent under blankets trying to reclaim fragments of the increasing sleep deficit while gasping like walking catfish, otherwise salvaging what cold food is still good before it becomes wasted...perhaps it would have made more sense to set the food on the porch in the cold than to leave it stored in the non-functional white box, I don't know. Cold food in cold rooms and cold feet and cold hands. Cold cold cold.

Otherwise we can strike out in our fortunately fully gassed and somewhat heated vehicle to see what bits of civilization still remain. We try it, and find a bar to eat at lit by candles and a small generator that is serving drinks and has managed to keep serving food thanks to a functioning oven and fryer. Not a single traffic light or streetlight functions--every junction and intersection is backed up as cars stop and go in dazed confusion. The large strip mall the bar is at is black as coal in the night with the only illumination being from the generator powered-light of the bar itself. The stars are beautiful.

As the third night approaches, I get word from my folks that they expect their power back that evening, so we take our chances, pack what we can and head there. My mom is sick with a virus.

Things become functional there, so sleep-breathing and warmth returns. The next morning we call home to find the answer machine working, indicating power was restored there early as well (living within the same grid as the main Microsoft campus has its perks, I think). My dad has some worrisome heart trouble so we take him to the emergency room. Things turn out okay at least so we take him back and head for dinner and home. By now my bad back has really begun to act up. Later that evening just before bed I get a call.

I left my insulin at my parents.

So another forty minutes of driving to get the insulin and come back. Still no rest for the wicked.

The next morning I find myself vomitting. I've caught the damn virus. It keeps me out of work for the next three days, near the end of which I finally get something like some real rest, though along the way I throw my back out worse, too.

My precious new Castlevania game I've been playing on my DS for at least some fun during this time reveals what is apparently some never seen before critical path-blocking bug. Argh. I start the game over, hoping I don't have a defective card.

I'm a lot better now, and my back recovered quicker than I expected. But the virus has a period where it remains contagious a few more days, so Umiushi's not taking chances.

I get to go back to my folks tomorrow evening for Humanlight. My brother and his family, particularly my nephew, have all caught the virus and are still dealing with it, or at least my nephew is. They want Umiushi to come too. Umiushi's been vigilant about keeping things clean and isolating the virus so he doesn't catch it. Tomorrow is when he should be out of danger. Unless he meets with my family. In which case he could well still catch it, conveniently just in time for our vacation to Canada on Monday. Good luck getting my family to understand this.

Each year, "the season to be jolly" feels more and more a sham. Nothing's real about it...if Christ existed anything like told in the gospels, he was born in Spring. The Romans moved the Christmas holiday to the 25th of December to stomp out the Feast of Saturn. Christmas trees and Santa and all that stuff are also adopted from various pagan sources--sure there was a Saint Nicholas, but he's not what the Santa imagery mostly comes from by any reasonable stretch of the imagination. The bible actually specifically condemns the pagan Christmas tree ritual in Jerimiah 10, for fuck's sake. Even freaking Dr. Suess was Jewish...the Grinch (you know, the Boris Karloff one, not the Jim Carrey one) was meant as a secular take on the topic...and Charles Shultz died a Secular Humanist. We all go through these motions with our corporate masters pulling our (purse) strings in the name of being with family...as if being forced to do so by ritual makes it more meaningful than something done selflessly on a regular calendar day. I don't think anyone in my immediate family is even Christian anymore, let alone that I don't even celebrate the day itself, but another self-conscious construct in its place.

But you can't escape it. Not at home, and certainly not in the wild. Those who aren't forcibly enlisted into fighting the War on Christmas(tm) all seem determined to shove it down everyone else's throats whether they like it or not. The fiasco at the Seattle airport...that was sheer stupidity that had nothing to do with secularists, but of course it's been lumped into our "assualt" nonetheless. A coworker told me with a straight face that she has Buddhist friends who have an Xmas tree (Buddhists do not have a December holiday and many are compelled to decorate by the local customs in order to blend, and possibly avoid being targetted as outsiders), and nearly exploded when I suggested the possibility that the trees were a symbol of a specific religion and could be interpreted as not secular. Of course I know their pagan origins all too well, but that doesn't change what they collectively represent and are perceived as and are called ("Holiday Tree" and such fooling nobody). I don't even dislike the things myself. But it's really disingenious to pretend a Xmas tree is a secular decoration, IMHO (Supreme Court saying otherwise notwithstanding). I can understand--nay, EMPATHIZE with--why a rabbi might complain to an airport that is awash in the decorated fake evergreens and other ornaments and is playing sickly-sweet carols that mostly speak of the coming of Christ that it ought to perhaps put up some decorations honoring other customs of the time of year (even if he was only refering to his own).

It's not like I hate it all...Suess, Shultz, the Nutcracker, Jack Skellington (oops), jolly old Grandfather Winter himself and many of the fairy tales and the diverse slants from other countries (yay for Krampus!), the Japanese KFC and cake (just for going to the other extreme), toys for kids (of age or heart)...these are all good things(tm) and of course that time with the relatives is important for its own sake, at least. But it's harder to take each year as the grind keeps going and the conservatives keep hammering and the thoughtless continue to be unable to imagine a world where not EVERYONE celebrates Christmas and/or all its traditions and marketed values.
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