Archive for the ‘Philosophizing’ Category

Because she made me do it.

What the hell, I haven’t memed in ages.  Schnarfed from Az:

I am in high school
I am in college/university
I’ve graduated college/university
I like my job
I’ve worked a job I’ve hated
I’ve never had a job
I am shorter than 5’5
I wear glasses
I have a tattoo
I have more than one tattoo
I don’t have tattoos but I want some
I’m vegetarian
I have allergies
I’m self-conscious about my body
I’m sarcastic when annoyed
I’m shy (for which I try to cover with humor)
I’ve been called over-emotional
I have a strange sense of humour

I’m atheist
I have red hair
I have blonde hair
I dye my hair regularly
I wear a piece of jewelry at all times (never, not even a wristwatch)
I am an only child
I have more than three siblings
I have a niece (two)
I have a nephew
I’ve failed a class
I couldn’t choose a favourite song

I can play an instrument (more than one)
I can speak two or more languages (sorta, and I can read about five or six)
I’ve hugged someone in the last 24 hours
I’ve kissed someone in the last 24 hours
I have a best friend
I’ve known my best friend for more than 10 years
I have met a friend from the internet (hell, I’ve met a partner on the internet)
I’ve kissed someone of the same sex
I’m in/have been in a long distance relationship

I’ve had a one night stand
I’ve had sex in the past month
I’ve been dumped more than I’ve dumped someone
I’ve cheated on someone
I’ve met someone famous
I’ve been out of my home country

I’ve broken a bone
I’ve spent more than six hours straight online (pff!  Six?  Amateurs!)
I’ve done volunteer work
I’ve won a prize at school
I have friends who are married
I have friends who have children of their own
I have been in a wedding party

I’ve ridden in a limousine
I am a morning person (much to my shock)
I am a night owl
I like anime
I like Disney movies
I like comedies more than action films
I like action films more than comedies
I always order dessert
I hate fast food
I can’t cook
I enjoy puns
I enjoy being alone

I read for pleasure
I don’t play video games
I believe in ghosts
I believe in aliens (but not that they’ve been here)
I enjoy conspiracy theories (and think they’re all bullshit)
I’ve been somewhere considered ‘haunted’
I’ve stayed up all night for no reason
I’ve had a Skype call with more than four people
I can’t keep secrets
I’m good with children (odd, considering where I work)
I’ve cheated on a test
I’ve watched an entire season of something in one day
I am wearing something green right now
I am wearing something yellow right now
I am wearing something purple right now
I’ve never tried alcohol
I’ve had alcohol while underage
I’ve played a drinking game

I’m scared of snakes
I’m scared of heights
I’m scared of spiders
I’m scared of clowns
I collect stamps
I collect comic books
I keep old bus/train tickets
I have more than three keyrings on my keys (I have three exactly)
I don’t know the words to my national anthem
I’ve been to a professional sports game
I’ve had my hair cut in the past month
I’ve cosplayed
I can’t swallow pills
I miss someone right now

Stray thoughts part n, where n is a large but finite number

Re: the USA/Belgium World Cup match Tuesday. Now I know why Douglas Adams uses ‘belgium’ as a swear word. Well done, Red Devils, but dayamn.


I’m about ready to get a handlebar-mounted camera for my bike so I can record my trip to and from work, and use the stills from it to start a photo blog called “Stupid £µ¢«ing Assholes”. You know, the idiots who count bicyclists as if they’re the same as a break in traffic, or who think red lights and stop signs don’t apply to them, or are really just convinced that they drive the only real vehicle in the universe and everything else on the road is a hallucination — that last applying especially to local cab drivers.

That was odd. Pleasant, but odd.

Among my vices, I’m a coin collector, and I always go to the Ohio State Coin Show which is held the day before Labor Day every year. Now, it’s held up at the Crowne Plaza in Dublin, which is where OVFF used to be, and uses much of the same convention space.

So even though I know intellectually I’m going to turn a corner and bump into a coin dealer, I keep half expecting to turn a corner and bump into a musician. It’s a fun kind of weird. There is a fountain pen show up there two weeks after OVFF, and no doubt if I were to go to that, I would get confused by the lack of guitars and coins. :D

Huh. Is there any numismatic filk? Maybe written with a fountain pen?

So I was thinking, again.

I’m going to be 50 this year, and it really doesn’t scare me, not the way 40 did. I got the ol’ salt and pepper going, I wear bifocals, I take glucosamine supplements to keep my knees from sounding like Rice Krispies, and my digestion isn’t what it was 20 years ago, and in gay years it means I’m already dead, but you know what? If this is going-on-50, it doesn’t suck. Mentally, I still feel twenty-something, and I feel like I still have half my life ahead of me rather than most of it over with.

Heh. Back when I was going on 40, I kept seeing things saying ’40 is the new 30!’

Now I’m seeing ’50 is the new 30!’

Well, hell, if I can just keep resetting to 30 every ten years, I don’t mind that. Anyone care to wager if 60 will be the new 30 in ten years?

I will say this: there are a few things I want to live long enough to see.

I want to see equal marriage rights across the country. I give it about a 65% chance of happening this year or next, depending on when the cases hit the Supreme Court.

I want to see another manned landing on the Moon, and I don’t care which country does it. I give it 75% within the next 15 years. I want to live to see us reach Mars with people rather than robots. 40% within the next 30 years.

I want to see microbial life discovered on another planet or moon in our system. I give it 50% for Mars (once we get a mission to where the water is — permafrost, polar caps, or northern frozen sea if that theory pans out), 60% for Europa, and 15% for Titan. Everything we’ve seen about life just on our own planet is that once it gets a foothold, it doesn’t let go and it will find a way to make a living. As long as Mars’ climate change from warm and wet to cold and dry wasn’t catastrophic, I think any life that arose early on found a way to adapt. It won’t be more than microbes, but microbes would be enough. Europa, we need to get under the ice. It’s quite possible, maybe even likely, that the tidal stress Jupiter puts on it is enough to keep its core molten and therefore it should have an active geology — see Io — which means something quite like the black smokers in the Atlantic are likely there. If microbial life ever took hold, it’s had plenty of time to become multicellular, and maybe even more complex. As for Titan, I’d love to have something turn up there just to see life based on something other than water. It’s not likely… but something has to explain the excess acetylene in its atmosphere, and life is a possible source for that. You have a solvent and an energy source… whether it was enough to ever start anything, I don’t know, but if it did, wouldn’t cold methane life be an astonishing and awesome thing to be able to study?

I want one confirmed SETI signal. Given the size of the galaxy and all the other variables involved (I think the most difficult is: will we even recognize it when we see it?), I’m going to give it 1% within the next 50 years — but 100% within the next thousand.

I’d also like a MegaMillions hit. I put the odds of that at 0+ε% :)

Stray thoughts

I haven’t posted an entry for a while (discounting the brief one I just did), so this is going to be a mish-mash of a lot of things that have been on my mind.

Let’s start with NASA, Curiosity, and Mars: YEEEAAH!  I watched the landing online.  And I jumped up and yelled and cried when word came back that all was well.  And then I went to the BBC News website (my preferred news source, since they actually do weird things like… report the news, real news, not celebrity antics masquerading as news and distracting people from things that really matter) to do battle with the commentors who were inevitably going to say that it was a waste of money.

First and foremost: it’s not a waste of money.  There was a Chase Econometrics study done in the wake of the Apollo missions.  D’you know what it found?  It found that every $1 spent on the project generated $14 in the terrestrial economy.  That is what I call a return on investment.

Consider what we spend on NASA as a percentage of the annual budget.  No, it’s not twenty or ten or even five percent.  It’s $18.4 billion – or 0.48%.  That’s all.  That’s the tiny amount begrudged the program–while corporate welfare accounts for about $100 billion of the budget.  Oh, and how much is spent on social welfare programs?  About half that.  So arguments about the cost of NASA don’t cut much cloth.  We could double social spending and still have another $50 billion to spend on NASA if we’d quit bankrolling private corporate interests.

I’ll have more to say about it later — I’m still settling my thoughts — but I’ve been contemplating the Long Now Foundation and the idea of truly long-term thinking.  Seeing as how most long term thinking in the world consists of trying to decide on what to have for lunch when it’s already 10.30 in the morning, I’m finding the perspective shift refreshing.

Third: Romney/Ryan.  No shock.  Romney needed someone to bring in the teabaggers who aren’t really convinced about him.

The danger to the public aside, I think it’s funny that the GOP convention might get hit by a hurricane.  Funny as in funny how you never hear “it’s god’s punishment/judgment/whatever” when it happens to them, but if it were the Democratic convention, it would be the televangelist talking point for weeks.

Where’s my resignation from the human species form?

So some bigoted fuckwad decided to “commemorate” yesterday by breaking into a local Arab market and spray-painting “9-11” on what windows he didn’t bother to smash, just when I thought we’d dodged a bullet from that lunatic in Gainesville and his Koran-burning plans — or not, since there were dozens of equally lunatic cretins nationwide doing their copycat acts of mental masturbation.

Is this what 9/11 is going to be from now on, an excuse for an annual anti-Arab Kristallnacht?

If it is, then congratulations, America. The terrorists won, they reduced you to their level.

By the way, and relative to both this and another “news” item getting play this last month, it’s not a “mosque on Ground Zero”. It’s two blocks away and not even visible from the Ground Zero site. It’s also not a mosque. It’s a community center, with a prayer room, just like many Christian community centers have. Here’s the Wikipedia entry on Park51 (the real name of the place).

Even if it were a mosque and actually at the site, what is wrong with that? All Muslims are terrorists? Are all Catholics child molesters? Are all Evangelicals clinic bombers and doctor killers? Hey, then let’s make sure no one ever opens a Christian church near a school or a medical center. You know how they all really are…

Oh, wait, suddenly that doesn’t sound reasonable?

Good. It shouldn’t. It’s not reasonable.

All Catholics are not child molesters, only a vanishingly small number. All Evangelicals are not bombers and snipers, only a vanishingly small number. And all Muslims are not terrorists, only a vanishingly small number.

If you found yourself nodding at the first two and shaking your head at the last, congratulations. You are both a hypocrite and a bigot.

Here is where annoyance starts

What I should be annoyed about is the fact that my car is broken again, for the second time in as many months.

What I am annoyed about is the premonition I had walking up to it in the parking lot that something was grotesquely wrong with it. I mean, I knew there was something wrong with my car, even though I had just driven it back from the store not an hour beforehand (without incident or symptoms), even though what is wrong with it is utterly and completely not visible externally.

Because I can’t think of a good reason how it is I should’ve known something was about to go awry. It doesn’t fit with my world view. I don’t want to accept premonitions as a real part of the universe, not without a good scientific explanation, and I can’t think of even a passable one at the moment.

And your new oxymoron for the day is…

Spiritual Atheist.

Because I think that’s what I am.

Five years ago today, we laid my grandmother to rest, the first grandparent I lost. She was buried, coincidentally, on what would have been the 66th birthday of her son, my late uncle, who died of complications from HIV a month after I came out.

I always had a real touch for timing.

Anyway, this is not about how I still feel her presence or anything like that. In any real, tangible sense, Grandma is gone and I’ll never see her again except in my memory–and besides, though I loved my grandma, she was not what I would call a role model or guiding light. She was an alcoholic, and a hypochondriac. Comparing notes later, my mom, my sister and I have come to the conclusion that she probably also suffered panic attacks which certainly contributed to the alcoholism and hypochondria, because the three of us get them periodically, and that couldn’t have helped things either.

Grandma wasn’t a saint. But neither am I. I loved her for being my grandma, and for the things I saw in her when she wasn’t drinking and when she wasn’t “on vacation” in a hospital bed.

I am continually amazed and irritated by people–unfortunately including my mom, to an extent–who seem to think that because I am an Atheist, that I have no use for such things as love, that I am selfish and cold, that I never look beyond surface details.

I am an Atheist specifically because I look beyond surface details. I was raised Roman Catholic, I converted to Paganism, then to a sort of Unitarianism, before finally settling on Atheism. Because I asked myself, setting aside sociology, what changes if you take a divine entity out of the picture?

And the answer is: nothing. The Universe still comes into being. Man still evolves up from a lower life form. The stars continue to shine, and a sparrow falls whether watched or not. The only thing that changes is how people interact with the universe, internally. A desire to glorify a god has been behind much of the greatest art and music in history … but art and music are creations of man and would exist anyway.

And I think you find less war, not more. Not that wars were started for religious reasons per se, but religious reasons were given for wars of aggression and conquest. What basis do you use to sell the populace on for the Crusades, the Thirty Years’ War… or even the current “War on Terrorism” which is being run and sold as a war on Islam? What excuse, without religion, do you have for the persecution of the Christians by the Romans, the persecution of “heretics”, “witches” and “heathens” by the Christians, the persecution of the Jews by the Nazis? Without religion, what happens to the struggle between Irish Catholics and Protestants in Northern Ireland, between Israelis and Palestinians, between Hindus and Muslims in India?

I did a meme once on LiveJournal, asking (among other questions) what one thing in the history of mankind I would do away with. My answer was not religion, but fundamentalism: the inner assuredness that one is right and everyone else is wrong and it’s therefor one’s duty to make sure everyone else believes the same thing whether they want to or not. Because religion serves a sociological purpose, providing for a sense of unity and belonging. I trust in future days mankind will outgrow such things, but so far mankind has not, because now religion stands in the way of unity and inclusiveness. In its baser expressions, it tells people that it’s okay to look down on others because they don’t believe the same. It tells people it’s okay not to think too deeply about things. At worst, it tells fundamentalist “Christians” that it’s okay to blow up women’s health clinics and kill doctors. It tells fundamentalist “Muslims” that blowing themselves and as many innocent bystanders up as possible is a good thing. It tells fundamentalist “Jews” that treating Palestinians in lesser but similar ways the Nazis treated them is all right.

I also know that this is not the way of all religious people. Belief is not mutually exclusive to intellect and reason. Unfortunately, I also know how much society values intellect and reason: not much.

As for myself: I believe not only in the here and now, but in the there and then. I believe it is our responsibility to leave a better planet for my nieces because they’re going to have to live in it. I believe that mankind has the potential to do wondrous things in our little corner of the galaxy.

I believe that the unpleasant things that have happened to me in my life that are not the result of my own bad choices are due to chance, not some unknown and unknowable plan–and I feel better that way, rather than wondering what it might be that God has it in for me, because I’ve been through some pretty horrible things.

If there was another Job-like wager with the devil, then God loses this one.

I reject the inherent contradiction in terms that is belief in an all-powerful deity who does nothing to stem the crimes and cruelty done in his name. I believe that an all-powerful being who allows evil to be committed in his/her/its name becomes complicit in that act and that evil.

Metaphysically, I am a Missourian: show me.

And I have seen some things for which I do not have a ready explanation, things for which I do not rule out a metaphysical explanation. But I need to exhaust all other explanations before I settle on that one.

I leave the question open, instead. Because the non-believing fundamentalism of James Randi is just as bad as the believing fundamentalism of any religious extremist.

In reality, I’m probably more a hard Agnostic. I admit to the possibility that I am wrong … but so far, there is no contradictory, reproducible, objective data. If there is an afterlife, I will be annoyed about being wrong … and then I expect to set off on a glorious tour of the Universe.