Monday, January 31, 2011

10 (mocked) Ways to Boost Your Psychic Abilities

I must confess, I do love taunting the idiocy of others. Some may see this as a bit paradoxical as those who know me generally see me as someone who is incredibly caring and someone who will do all he can to help others. This is so noticeable that when I stopped by the American Red Cross today, everyone recognized me instantly despite not seeing most of them for a year (a year ago I volunteered at a shelter during an ice storm, which is where I met these people, as well as being called their "Angel in Black"). Despite how much I want to better humanity, I cannot resist a chance for a good taunting. Even with my empathy being as strong as it is so that I begin feeling the emotions of those around me, I still have to admit that I have a taste for the schadenfreude. So to satiate that, here is a little list I found on "10 ways to boost your psychic abilities"

1. Whenever the telephone rings, close your eyes and visualize the person who is calling. Then pick up the phone and discover if you’re right. Your accuracy will improve dramatically as you practice this exercise, and this exercise may help you develop your clairvoyant abilities in addition to intuition and precognition.

Oh yes, lets all use confirmation bias as a way to tell if you are getting better or not. Once you master this difficult ability to notice trends you will be left with two possibilities. 1) Either you are guessing based upon who would be calling you at this point in time or you are thinking of recent events and who it would spur to call you. 2) You notice who calls you the most so you just keep guessing that name and notice that you are right more often then you are wrong. Or maybe I'm giving you too much credit, maybe you are just too dumb to notice anything and keep guessing randomly and get happy the few times you get it right and think "this is working!". In that case, congratulations, you have completed a round in the Skinner Box.

2. When you stand in line at the bank, tell yourself which teller will serve you. This exercise is similar to the first, but you can see your “target." This exercise helps you develop your intuition and your ability to psychically connect with others who are in close proximity.

Or you will make the teller nervous, "Why is she staring at me so I about to get robbed?" This one isn't even fare. Who doesn't look at the people in front of them and think how long their particular transaction will take? It really isn't hard to predict who will be the one to serve you as you get closer to the point as it is all based on actions before you. How is that psychic?

3. When you watch a sporting event, tell yourself the outcome before the event begins. As you develop skill with this exercise, expand to predicting more statistics such as scores or top 5 placements in racing or judged events. This exercise helps you develop your intuition, precognition, and clairvoyance. Do not misuse this skill for personal gain, such as gambling, or you will likely lose your skill entirely.

Wait, so you are trying to get them to develop this supposedly innate ability, but once they do they are not allowed to use it for personal gain? What other reason could you possibly have? Oh wait...I see, if you try it for personal gain you will actually test it, thus setting up an experiment, and when the result is that you are just guessing you find you have lost your 'ability'. It basically states that you should not question us...

4. Have a friend roll a dice. Begin by calling “even" or “odd" before the dice is thrown your accuracy will increase with practice. Expand to call the number the dice will land on. This exercise helps you develop your intuition, precognition and clairvoyance (specifically your ability to see numbers).

Ok...we start with a fifty-fifty chance. I'm sure that will make someone feel good about themselves. But you push further, testing the limits of the human psyche! You ask them to dare partake in guessing something with only one-in-six chance, how devious. Why is it that each time I roll the dice they always stop on ones, like two little eyes looking at me...they know...they know all!

5. Work with a friend and a standard deck of playing cards. Begin by predicting black or red, and then have your friend turn over the top card of the deck. Your accuracy will improve with practice. When your accuracy is 80% or greater, expand to predict the suit, and later, the number or face of the card as well. This exercise boosts your intuition, precognition, and clairvoyance (specifically colours and shapes).

Yes, bring in a friend, they won't at all think that you are a bit 'special'. And they certainly are not going along with this because it is far easier then seeing you break down crying. Yes, just go with what the crazy person says, it is safer this way.

6. When you’re riding an elevator and another passenger joins you, tell yourself which button they’ll press. This exercises helps you develop your intuition, precognition, clairvoyance (number recognition), telepathy, and your ability to connect with others psychically.

So from a limited amount of numbers, we are again supposed to pick which floor they are going to...well unless you live in a city with lots of high rises you are going to be limited to three or four numbers. But I'm feeling generous, try and predict what number out of so many, I'm sure your power will be inversely proportional to the number of buttons...

7. In the morning, write down the names of people you will have important interactions or communications with that day. Don’t rely on logic. Clear your mind and allow faces or names to come to you naturally. Trust it and write it down. Using this exercise regularly will significantly improve your accuracy.

And thus guiding you towards those very people you were thinking about. What, I can think of a person and then meet them during the day...I must be psychic! Now according to this logic anything my subconscious throws at me could be my encounter....damn I just thought of a tiger...I'm screwed

8. When in line at the movies, tell yourself which movie the person or group ahead of you will request (if you overhear them say it, try again another time!). This exercise helps you improve your intuition concerning the intentions, preferences and actions of others, and it can lead to developing telepathy and empathy.

Oh! there is a limited amount of options, which movie will they pick, the one that has been here for about a week or the new flashy one. So hard to tell...But what if I'm wrong, you never tell me what to do when I'm wrong. Am I channeling my psychic energies in the wrong direction?

9. When you have a meeting or appointment, tell yourself the colour of clothing the other person will be wearing before you meet. (This does not work for all people or situations. For example, you can reasonably assume a doctor will be wearing white, or you may know someone always wears a particular colour.) This exercise improves your clairvoyant abilities and could help you develop remote viewing skills as well.

Now I have to guess what wavelength the reflected photons of some poorly made sweater are? Why can't I do something awesome like trying to see things by the polarity of light like a mantis shrimp does. How I envy those 16 opsins.

10. Ask three friends a question (such as “what did you eat for breakfast?" or “where do you want to go on your next vacation?") Before you ask your questions, your friends must decide amongst themselves which one will answer falsely, and you must write down which friend will answer falsely. Then you ask your question and listen to each friend reply. Show them the name you wrote down before you asked the question. This exercise helps you develop intuition, precognition and can lead to developing telepathy. This skill is especially valuable in life the ability to recognize deception and even predict it can make your life, and the lives of many others, much smoother.

You have three friends? Congratulations! Now I need one to deceive me? How do I know they are lying? Maybe they made up the lie about whether they lied...Anyway, you are asking them about things that they might have told you in the past or something that they generally have every day...this isn't very psychic of you.
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Saturday, January 29, 2011

David Kato LGBT hero

Imagine a country inundated by evangelicalism, where a bill that would legalize the execution of known homosexuals has been passed around parliament for years, where being 'outed' as a homosexual leads to death threats and being shunned by society. This country exists, it is known as Uganda.

But there are those who fight for a better future for Uganda. A future where sexual orientation is no longer a matter of life and death but personal preference. David Kato has fought for this future and, sadly, had his life taken for what he stood for. On January 26th, 2011, David Kato was murdered in the middle of the day in what the local authorities are claiming was a botched robbery. But friends of David Kato claim that it was an acquaintance of Kato's who had been seen in his house many times.

But how did it get to this? What made David Kato such a hero for the LGBT movement and such a perceived threat to the evangelical community? Through his life of understanding and his willingness to put himself in harms way, he supported those who would otherwise be ignored.

After completing his education in some of Uganda's best schools, David Kato became a high school educator. In the mid-90's, he moved to South Africa continuing to work as a teacher. It was here, amongst the ends of Apartheid that David Kato saw what could be done through protest and organized groups. Having come out to his family shortly before leaving for Johannesburg, seeing the ban on sodomy lifted and the gradual rise of LGBT rights inspired him to bring the same message to his home.

Upon re-entering Uganda in 1998, David Kato promptly started the Uganda's fist gay rights news conference in the capitol city of Kampala. Unfortunately Uganda was not ready for equality and David Kato was beaten by police and arrested. After being released from his one week imprisonment, David Kato sought out Uganda's LGBT underground movement. It is here where he found the group known as SMUG (Sexual Minorities Uganda). Becoming one of the founding members, David Kato took on the role of advocacy officer.

In October of 20069, a bill was brought to parliament, supported and inspired by American Evangelical Christians who claimed homosexuality was a threat to the African family. The support for this bill was incredibly strong, with backing of both the president, Yoweri Museveni, and the majority of parliament. But David Kato and other SMUG members spread the word to international new agencies. Soon the outcry became so strong that many countries threatened to withhold financial aid. With such threats of financial loss and other outcries the bill was suspended. In a pathetic attempt to appease critics, the writers of the bill replaced execution with life imprisonment, the bill floats about Uganda's Parliament to this day.

Also in October 2009, the Ugandan tabloid Rolling Stone published David Kato's name and photograph in an article listing 100 known or suspected homosexuals living in Uganda, David Kato and two other SMUG members, Kasha Jacqueline and Onziema Patience, successfully sued the newspaper to get the list removed as well as for 1.5 million Ugandan Shillings each. This smear article featured lines such as "hang them" and "Parents face heart-breaks as homos raid schools". Despite calling for David Kato's death, upon hearing of Kato's murder, the editor of Rolling Stone had this to say:
There is no need for anxiety or for hype, we should not overblow the death of one.
Those words sound far to much like those of a guilty person trying to push aside obvious evidence. To dig themselves a deeper hole, members of the newspaper went on to say:
I have no regrets about the story. We were just exposing people who were doing wrong

His death has spurred The Archbishop of Canterbury to press the U.K. goverment to allow the United Kingdom to offer asylum to any LGBT individual. In a statement US Secretary of State Hilary Clinton stated:
This crime is a reminder of the heroic generosity of the people who advocate for and defend human rights on behalf of the rest of us -- and the sacrifices they make. And as we reflect on his life, it is also an occasion to reaffirm that human rights apply to everyone, no exceptions, and that the human rights of LGBT individuals cannot be separated from the human rights of all persons.
In President Obama's statement, he said:
In Uganda, David showed tremendous courage in speaking out against hate. He was a powerful advocate for fairness and freedom. The United States mourns his murder, and we recommit ourselves to David’s work.

David Kato was truly a hero for many. May we all press forward to reach the future he envisioned.
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Microcosm: E. coli and the New Science of Life

I'm a bit of a bibliophile, I cannot resist picking up a potentially fascinating book. I've actually lost count of how many I have and doubt I'll ever have a working number. My collection is considered a bit odd as it is almost entirely non-fiction (my collection is big enough that I've given lists to local professors to compliment the rather sad science section of the library). While I do enjoy a well written story I generally prefer to come away from a book knowing more about a subject than when I picked it up. As such I've decided I might as well start reviewing some of them here. To start out with, I'll go over the one I've most recently finished Microcosm: E. coli and the New Science of Life by Carl Zimmer.

To start out with I would like to explain how I got my copy. I had ordered it online as a used copy through either Amazon or, I cannot remember which. It was being sold for only a couple dollars because it was not only used but there was some writing inside of it. This honestly did not bother me as I was just happy to get a copy at such a good price. When I received it in the mail I opened it up to see the condition. The dust cover has a minor tear, but everything else seemed in good order. I then go looking for this writing, thinking it will be just some notes. I find this not to be the case. The writing that made the seller think it was now junk turned out to be the author's signature! Apparently when Carl Zimmer released this book, he signed a limited number of first editions. I just happened to somehow wind up with one of those all thanks to someone else's ignorance.

The book itself was a wonderful read. I started reading while taking a Microbiology course and in the end, learned more from the book then I ever did in class. Granted, I am the kind who learns better on my own then through traditional classes, but the difference was still significant.

Carl Zimmer goes through the history of humanities experimentation with E. coli and how it has allowed us to unlock the secrets of genetics, gene expression, how bacteria compete and evolve, transgenics and even the origins of life itself. He describes the tangled web of gene circuitry so well that I am able to envision in my mind the basic workings of a micro-organism now.

I have known the role of epigenetics as a major function in organisms for a while but only after reading this book can I say that I have a good enough understanding to reverse engineer the process mentally. In fact it did so well as to inspire me to write my earlier post on a possible way to combat antibiotic resistant bacterial strains.

Carl Zimmer also takes a bit of his time to use the knowledge gained from studying E. Coli to destroy creationist and 'intelligent' design arguments. Including how such information was used to demolish the intelligent design arguments during the Dover trial over using ID textbooks.

I really cannot recommend this book enough for both those with just a general interest in the sciences as well as those with an extensive science background. It unravels a concept that is alien to so many of us, the inner workings and lives of bacteria, leaving the reader with a sense of familiarity and a deeper understanding.
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Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Vladimir Nabokov gets the final word

Vladimir Nabokov is best know for his literary works, most prominently, Lolita. But in all reality, he used his astonishing talent at writing to fund his greater love, butterflies. In fact he was so meticulous in his research that he developed a hypotheses that was far beyond his time.

While he had published descriptions of hundreds of butterflies he spent a great amount of time specifically on Polyommatus blues. He meticulously dissected and based on physical differences discerned that they did not have a common ancestor with their Amazonian cousins. He noticed that they were closer to lepidopterans he had collected in Asia. With this insight, he came to only one conclusion, that they had to have come from Asia, where a similar species was well known. But he didn't stop there, based on his findings, he suggested that they came over in five waves, each more adapted to the cold then the last.

At the time he was laughed at. But times change. Naomi Pierce at Harvard decided to take up the case again. When she became the curator of Lepidoptera she went through some of the old notes, including those left by Vladimir Nabokov, who had also been curator of Lepidoptera.

When she found his hypothesis of Asiatic butterflies coming to the 'new world' she set up an expedition to test his hypotheses. She got together an international group of Lepidopterits and after four expeditions into the Andes to catch the blues that Nabokov had so carefully examimed.

Using gene sequencing, Dr. Pierce found that Vladimir was right down to the very detail. That it appeared most likely that they descended from an Asiatic blue that crossed the the Bearing Strait while it was warm enough and did so in five waves. Each more cold hardy then the last.

So congratulations Vladimir Nabokov, you were right all along.

A bow to the Bad Astronomer for this information
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The Sound Of Freethinking: #8: Take Me S.I.M.

This is a song that reflects on life. It asks if we have lived a life right, how will those whom we leave behind react? This song is a hope that when that day comes, there need not be sorrow. Because this person lived the kind of life where he looked after those around him. He made sure of their happiness. To want this, and be remembered as this, well, it is quite the noble goal, one that we should all strive for. So I give you Take Me S.I.M. by Lavantgarde.

I take a trip through mind
Where I will hope to find
What People see in me
What kind of person I should be
A gentle one without mistakes
A so called friend that lies betrayed
Is no friend you need to gain
Even When honesty brings pain

But When I leave this world one day
I hope there's no one left who stays
With tears of sorrow in their eyes
I never wanted them to cry

And as I go my way
Make my mind up every day
Of what is wrong and what is right
And what is black and what is white
A human being no machine
With all his flaws that can be seen
But I still try to do my best
Until one try would be my last

But When I leave this world one day
I hope there's no one left who stays
With tears of sorrow in their eyes
I never wanted them to cry

Of all the things I've said and done
I never meant to hurt someone
Of those I love and I draw pain
Please try to take me as I am

As I am...

But When I leave this world one day
I hope there's no one left who stays
With tears of sorrow in their eyes
I never wanted them to cry

Of all the things I've said and done
I never meant to hurt someone
Of those I love and I draw pain
Please try to take me as I am

And when I leave this world one day
I hope there's no one left who stays
With tears of sorrow in their eyes
I never wanted them to cry

Of all the things I've said and done
I never meant to hurt someone
Of those I love and I draw pain
Please try to take me as I am
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Banned Mormon Cartoon

I was shown this by a friend of mine who was able to escape the Mormon Church. Apparently the Church no longer backs this cartoon. I wonder why... Anyway, grab some popcorn, a strong, strong drink, sit back and enjoy the mean entertainment!

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Terrorism in Russia

Earlier today, at the international arrivals terminal at Domodedovo Airport, a man walked in with a brief case like any other. However this was not just any person awaiting the arrival of a friend, relative or business acquaintance. Instead, he was waiting for the best time to kill. He was an unnamed suicide bomber and because of his actions, 35 are dead and another 180 were wounded. As of yet, no one has claimed this attack, though Islamic militants in Chechnya are suspected.

This is the most recent in a series of attacks Russia has faced in recent years, all previous ones were by said militants, as such, it is safe to assume this one to be claimed by them as well. In fact Russia has been plagued with terrorism attacks from Chechen Islamic militants since 1995 when Chechen rebels captured a hospital in Budyonnovsk. Here they took over 1,000 people hostage, killing 100 of them outright. In a botched attempt, Russian soldiers tried storming the building that led to dozens of deaths. From this three day event (June 14-17), over 400 were also injured.

I was going to try and write up a bit on all the attacks, but the further I delved, the more I found. For each 'major' attack I found a handful of 'minor' ones. What separates a major from a minor? The media attention. Some of them had more lives lost but were underscored by other media. This represents a state of the media which I cannot stand and is one of many reasons why I generally do not watch television as well as why I cross reference news stories before writing about them.
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Sunday, January 23, 2011

It certainly is crazy

I ran into this over at Pharyngula and couldn't help but want to spread it. This is simply genius.
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Saturday, January 22, 2011

How to deal with (and mock) sexual desires as a single

Ron Britton over at Bay of Fundie has a new post about a hilarious list on "How to deal with sexual desires as a single" written by the ever 'knowledgeable' (read bat-shit crazy) American Decency Association (I would link them so you may know the hilarity first hand but I really do not want to give them more traffic then necessary).

While Ron Britton believes that the list is stupid and hilarious enough to laugh at as it is (which it really is), why not go the extra mile in mocking this treasure. So I give you both their list and my own touch of mockery, enjoy!

How to deal with sexual desires as a single

1. Do not seek sexual gratification through masturbation.

Because we know all those studies that show masturbation to make you a healthier person and even reduce the risk of prostate cancer are the lies of the Great Satan!

2. Do not seek sexual satisfaction through touching or being touched by another person even if you stop short of sexual intercourse.

What is this? You actually want to touch that other filthy human being? Don't you know you should never touch another unless someone who has repressed his sexual urge (unless you count when around children, which, we all know, doesn't count, the Vatican says so) says magic words around you and grants you the go ahead from God (if you do it before hand, God won't know when to watch and that makes him angry, you don't want to spoil God's voyeuristic fun now do you?)

3. Avoid unnecessary sexual stimulation.

I'm not sure if these people have ever had a heated session with someone of their preferred sex, but from personal experience it very quickly becomes pretty damn necessary to get some sexual stimulation.

4. When the stimulation comes and the desire starts to rise, consciously focus on the cross of Christ instead.

Ok, so you have tried rule one through three and found them to be utter bullshit, that's ok, you are a filthy disgusting human who will never be worthy so your failure was expected. So now whenever you start to get a bit randy think of how it must of felt to be Jesus having those nails slowly penetrating him. Actually this might explain all that cross masturbation porn...

5. Pray that God would give you, in-ever increasing strength, a longing to know and love and obey him above all else.

So what you are telling me is that God wants a Sub/Dom relationship with me? And here I always thought the old guy was a vanilla.

6. Bathe your mind in God’s Word.

Wouldn't bathing your mind in anything cause massive brain damage? Though I'm trying to envision how this would be possible, would it require sending a bible through a shredder and tossing the brain in, or would the bible have to be liquefied to consider it a bath?

7. Keep yourself busy, and when it is time for leisure, choose things that are pure, lovely, gracious, excellent, worthy of praise. (Phil.4.8)

Is it wrong that all those terms made me think of the nude female form? That was what they were really getting at, right?

8. Don’t spend too much time alone.

What are you doing there alone reading? You should be out socializing not focusing on self betterment and increasing your understanding. We want to make sure you get in as many awkward situations where you can use this list as possible. But as we already said, you are a filthy unworthy human so you will fail and then you will need us for repentance...please need us, we are so lonely...

9. Strive to think of all people, especially people of the opposite sex, in relation to eternity.

Well in relation to eternity any single life is essentially nothing. Completely and utterly nothing...I think I might need some 'comfort' right about now to get around how depressing that all is, great going list.

10. Resolve to seek first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness, and he will add to you everything you need sexually.

So...I'm supposed to go seek out God and what, get a blowjob from him? Is that what people mean when they say they are 'saving themselves for god'?
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Friday, January 21, 2011

Boycotting an idiot

The Spanish Inquisitor recently wrote about an idea for a boycott that, if it is spread far enough, could create a most welcome reprieve. It was started by Dana Milbank of the Washington Post and it is aimed at trying to put a dent in all this warrant-less attention that Sarah Palin has accrued. It is called Palin Free February and it asks those who are tired of hearing about this vapid, Flintstones worshiping, hypocritical moron to not mention her one during the entire month of February (and if we are lucky, we won't have to hear much about it afterward either)

I know it may be difficult for many of us as it seems every week we find a new reason to wonder why her skull hasn't collapsed under what must be the closest thing to a perfect vacuum on this planet. But it may be one of the few ways to make the media realize that we are sick and tired of hearing from this insult to sentient thought.

I know this probably won't spread far enough into the political right to be enough to effect Faux News (other then, ironically, making them comment on our lack of commenting), but it just might be enough to calm some of the more left leaning parts of the web who, if we are perfectly honest, also contribute to the problem. As the more people on the left who talk negatively about her will almost always be accompanied by an increase in acceptance of her on the right. This will cause her to be given more venues with which she may defile the English language, and this will only further the number of those on the left who will be extolling their vitriol. The only way to break this cycle is to give her exactly as much attention as she deserves, none.

I do hope this spreads far and wide and that many others join in, as we dearly need it.
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Tuesday, January 18, 2011

The Sound Of Freethinking: #7 We Want Revolution

I decided upon this song as my own tiny bit of support for Tunisia's Jasmine Revolution. While there is still much debate about the eventual outcome of the recent events, it is my hope that the people will be able to maintain their freedom from such a ruthless dictator. Perhaps, it will even spread to other such countries, as many of the rumors have reported. For all these people and anyone else who wants a better world free of such corruption, I give you We Want Revolution By Covenant.

Kill your television
Steal the satalites
Download all the codes
Catch the public eye

Shout your maniphisto
Bring your megaphone
Stay below the radar
Join the underground

I want to car, skid and crash into the brave new world
I want to ride

We want revolution
Constant evolution
Start your engines blow your fuses
Burn the brides for the future
This is our solution

Time for retribution
Bring your target down
Beat the jungle drums
Flaunt your decadence

Underground resistance
Keeps you entertained
Feed your hungry mind
Shape the things to come

I want to car, skid and crash into the brave new world
I want to ride

We want revolution
Constant evolution
Start your engines blow your fuses
Burn the brides for the future
This is our solution
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Tuesday, January 11, 2011

The world has lost a great voice

A couple days ago, on the ninth, both Pakistan and the world lost one of its greatest voices for freedom and equality. Brought down by the very men entrusted to protect him, Salmaan Taseer, died as he had lived, in defense of equality for his fellow humans.

Salmaan Taseer was a man who would not stand down from what he believed in. He was an intellectual, a newspaper publisher, a writer, an entrepreneur, a politician and above all else, a humanist. He had established both the First Capital Securities Corporation and The Worldcall Group, both of which allowed for Pakistan to more effectively join the global economy and networks.

Under the dictator Gen. Mohammad Zia ul-Haq, Salmaan Taseer published pamphlets that spoke of the virtues of a return to democracy. For this he was imprisoned for over six months where he was kept in solitary confinement and shackled to the ground. But even during this, he stood resolute, as was shown by the single message he was able to get out to his wife, "I’m not made from a wood that burns easily."

After his release he went on into politics, first by becoming member of the Punjab Assembly from Lahore (the capital of Punjab Province) in 1988 and in 2008 he was elected governor of Punjab Province. It was here that he was able to further his talents for aiding humanity.

After the May 28th assault and suicide bombings of two Ahmadi Mosques, an event with killed a total of 95, 85 of whom where Ahmadi, and injured over a hundred others, Salmaan Taseer visited the injured in the hospital. This was done at risk to himself as the Ahmadi have been marginalized by those who believe their form of Islam to be blasphemous. Yet Taseer had no thoughts of this, he only saw his fellow human beings suffering and in need of aid.

During the massive flooding that Pakistan saw during the Summer, Salmaan Taseer went to various businesses asking for their aid and financial support. He then went on to aid in constructing shelters and consoling those who had lost everything.

There are many other examples of Taseer's acts of humanism, but there was one he had fought for especially hard. One that would eventually, cost him everything. Salmaan Taseer fought to change the harsh blasphemy laws enacted by the very ruler who had him imprisoned. He recognized the laws as unjust, and when Asia Bibi, a mother of five was sentenced to hang for an accusation of taking the Prophet's name in vain, he spoke out against the accusations, the law and his fellow human's treatment of one another.

Salmaan Taseer knew that the Islamic Fundamentalists wanted him silenced yet he would not stand down. He knew he was in the right and would not let terror and ignorance have its way. And for this, his ardent stance for a more equal treatment for the various religions within Pakistan, he was shot twenty-six times by one of his own police escorts.

But as his son, Shehrbano Taseer, stated so bravely in his recent editorial for the New York Times:
"There are those who say my father’s death was the final nail in the coffin for a tolerant Pakistan. That Pakistan’s liberal voices will now be silenced. But we buried a heroic man, not the courage he inspired in others."
And that courage will live on, in his supporters, his family and everyone in Pakistan as well as around the world who dream of a future where one can be open about their faith, or perhaps even lack there of. I will leave the closing remarks to Salmaan Taseer's son, Shehrbano Taseer:
"My father believed in our country’s potential. He lived and died for Pakistan. To honor his memory, those who share that belief in Pakistan’s future must not stay silent about injustice. We must never be afraid of our enemies. We must never let them win."
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Faith based schools

Here is the first part of a four part video featuring Richard Dawkins on the matter of Faith Schools in Britain (links to the final three parts can be found at the end of this post). As he states in the video, one third of all schools are now faith based. These schools get ninety percent of their funding from the government so, unlike religious schools in the states, are very much dependent on the state for support. But unlike the other public schools which also get their funding from the state, faith based schools can pick and choose who is allowed to attend. Effectively making them private schools but funded by the government.

To make matters worse, because of the high number of such schools, in some situations the most convenient school for a parent to choose will end up being faith based. If schools were equally placed this would not be an issue, but they are not. There are places where the only schools for miles are faith based. This, as Richard Dawkins points out, creates a form of discrimination against those parents who would prefer their children to go to a secular school.

For those who have no choice or even wish for their children to go to these faith based schools due to supposed high exam scores, many faith based schools have a system of admittance based on the parents. Not how well the student is, that is not what concerns them, what they are interested in is whether the parents are active members of the religion the school is based upon. This sort of religious coercion may even go so far as being based upon the parents contribution to the church, though the evidence for this is currently only second hand and the church denies such allegations.

One of the reasons that so many are turning towards faith based schools is there higher exam scores compared to public schools. So many parents were willing to make the sacrifice so that their children would have the best possible education (though one does question how much is lost due to the indoctrination). However, when an independent group was asked to examine the data to see if faith based schools really were better, what they found was counter to what many parents believe. They found that the only reason these schools have better exam scores is because of the push to get students into them as well as further parental push to maintain those scores. In all actuality, if parents would put the same effort in supporting their children attending public schools, the results would be exactly the same. Well not exactly, the parents wouldn't have to potentially convert or fake a religion and the child wouldn't get indoctrinated by the religious aspect. And as we know, religion is one of the largest stumbling blocks for critical thinking. So parents actually get more out of the public schools then the faith based.

Part 2
Part 3
Part 4
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Saturday, January 8, 2011

Trouble in Ontario

In many parts of Canada, the public schools are still run by the Catholic Church. So when the It Gets Better project took hold, pointing out the high rate of gay teen suicide and the treatment they far too often receive in schools, it was only natural for many regions to encourage groups such as the Gay-Straight Alliance. And most schools have welcomed this, yes, even some of the Catholic ones. Things seemed to be actually getting better for young LGBT individuals, that is until the Halton Catholic District School Board (HCDSB) Caught wind of it.

The HCDSB claimed that clubs such as the Gay-Straight Alliance were harmful to its youth...despite every bit of evidence showing it was the complete opposite. The even went so far as to ban the organization from meeting at their school. When questioned as to their reasoning, board chair Alice Anne LeMay had this to say:

“We don’t have Nazi groups either, Gay-straight alliances are banned because they are not within the teachings of the Catholic Church.”

Wait...did she just Godwin her interview? I'm sure some religious apologists would have accepted the later part of her argument (though that doesn't explain why other Catholic run schools were fine with it), but only the most paranoid of the neo-cons would think the first half was justified. Because whenever you think of a group that strives to create understanding between differing groups everyone always thinks of the Third Reich.

But there is a chance that the Canadian government will force the HCDSB to change their decision. The reason being, as of 2011, the Ontario Ministry of Education declared that all school boards within Ontario (the province the HCDSB resides) must "have equity and inclusive education policies that help schools provide safe and positive environments for students of all races, religions and sexual orientations." They even go so far as to support the foundation of clubs such as the Gay-Straight Alliance.

However the education director for the HCDSB, Michael Pautler, argues that the Ministry of Education only proposes the Gay-Straight Alliance as one possibility to harboring a greater sense of acceptance for those with differing sexual orientations. Though he did not suggest any other possibilities. Apparently after the idea to compare them to Nazis failed they simply ran out of options.

Pautler went on to say:

"Dialogue groups can achieve the same kinds of objectives, but that have a broader focus on inclusion generally, or a celebration of diversity, as opposed to focusing on any one particular expression of diversity.”

In other words, you can have a group that explores the differences in humanity as long as you don't use the word 'gay', because, as we all know, highly religious people just feel icky all over whenever they hear that word and we wouldn't want that now would we.

Though what worries me even more is this final bit said by LeMay:

“[The policy] lists gender, sexual orientation, a whole bunch of stuff, that Halton has not included in their equity and inclusive education policy"

Hold on a sec, they haven't included gender in their equal education policy? And what is this 'bunch of other stuff', does this school still think blacks need to be kept separate from the rest of the student body? LeMay says this as if it were some common thing. Is denying women equal rights and comparing LGBT students to Hitler everyday occurrences in the Catholic parts of Ontario? The Catholics are really starting to scare me more and more each day.


A bow to Xtra! Canada's Gay and Lesbian News for the information.
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Friday, January 7, 2011

The Sound Of Freethinking: #6 Infinite

I give you Infinite by Assemble 23.

Like a grain of sand
Swallowed by the desert
Like a drop of rain
That falls from darkened clouds

I am overwhelmed
I stand here awed and humbled
At the feet of giants
Whose shadows stretch for miles

Staggering and infinite
And full of ageless grace
The universe seemed limitless
Without any time
Without any place
Staggering and infinite
The beauty of it all
I feel insignificant
Never have I ever felt so small

Like a century
That passes in a day's time
Like an endless loop
That shudders to a stop

The world redefined
An existence without boundries
I am overcome
I am lost within it's scale

Staggering and infinite
And full of ageless grace
The universe seemed limitless

Without any time
Without any place
Staggering and infinite
The beauty of it all
I feel insignificant
Never have I ever felt so small

Like a drop of rain
Swallowed by the desert
Like a grain of sand
That sinks beneath the waves

Even the greatest peak
Will one day wear to nothing
Even the deepest sea
Will one day dry to dust

Staggering and infinite
And full of ageless grace
The universe seemed limitless
Without any time
Without any place
Staggering and infinite
The beauty of it all
I feel insignificant
Never have I ever felt so small

This song is far more positive then most of the songs I have posted thus far. Here, Tom Shear (the genius behind Assemblage 23) sings about that feeling of utter awe one gets when you think about the universe as it truly is. How small and insignificant you fell, yet despite this, how empowering it is. With the tempo of the music and the way he sings, you can easily tell that this is far from a lament. It is more of a joyous recollection of the seemingly boundless universe around us.

I know each and every time I I look up at the stars I feel this way. Each time I ponder the bizarre movements of the quantum realm or the great distances and speeds of the relativistic world. Or even looking at a far more limited region such as our own planet. Inspiring thoughts of the deep ocean and all the mysteries it still holds.

It is this wonder that has driven us on to understand the workings of the universe around us. Because of this curiosity, I can say I understand how the strong nuclear force works or how the Moon creates the tidal cycle on Earth. It is all from this sense of being part of something more and our desire to comprehend that has pushed us to reach for these lofty goals. And it will only be with such awe and wonder that we shall unravel more of nature's myriad mysteries.
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Times to fast

While at a friend's house, I happened to encounter a sticky note attached to their computer monitor. Being slightly bored at the time and hoping it was something that would entertain me for a few moments I decided to find out what wisdom it contained. What I found was an ever so informative piece by Chip Ingram entitled "Times to fast". Upon reading the title I knew I was going to be far more entertained and or confused then I had expected.

But before I get into what was written on that little green piece of paper, let me answer the question "who is Chip Ingram and why should we trust him on when it is appropriate to fast?" To answer this I went to his website, here I found this about Chip:

Chip Ingram's passion is to help Christians really live like Christians. As a pastor, author, coach and teacher for more than twenty-five years, Chip has helped people around the world break out of spiritual ruts and live out God's purpose for their lives.

Today Chip serves as senior pastor of Venture Christian Church in Los Gatos, California, and president of Living on the Edge – an international teaching and discipleship ministry. Over the last twenty-five years Chip has pastored churches ranging from 500 to 5,000 and served as president of Walk through the Bible. Chip holds an M.S. degree from West Virginia University and a Th.M. degree from Dallas Theological Seminary.

He is the author of eleven books, including his newest releases: Living on the Edge, Overcoming Emotions that Destroy and Holy Ambition. Reaching more than a million people a week, his teaching can be heard online and through hundreds of radio and television outlets worldwide. Chip and his wife, Theresa, have four children and eight grandchildren.

I'm sure to Christians, that is very impressive. As such, they can take his advice about when it is appropriate to deprive their bodies of necessary nourishment, right? Well let us just see what his advice is and judge it for itself.

1) Sudden calamity. Loss of a job, etc

Well this makes sense. When something horrible occurs like you losing your job or random tsunami (he did say calamity) one should stop eating. And all this time I thought you stopped eating because you no longer had the funds or available food to eat in the first place, silly me.

2) A major decision, school, marriage, i.e.

I'll try and ignore the fact that he put the I.E. in the wrong place for now as I'm sure by now his nutrient deprived body is starting to effect his brain. However I am trying to figure out how starving yourself when you are already stressed out by a major decision would be even close to a good idea. You are already using up more resources because of the stress and will need even more for the event at hand, so he tells Christians to start starving themselves? Does he hope that when the hallucinations start that they will get an answer instead of thinking they have gone insane?

3) spiritual warfare

I generally thought going into combat with a body that is close to feeding on itself to function properly was a very bad decision. After all, wasn't it Napoleon who said "An army marches on its stomach"? Maybe Chip took this quote to literally and took it to mean when the body starts breaking down the stomach for necessary nurishment after being starved.

Though I have to ask, what exactly constitutes spiritual warfare? Has Satan given up on fiddle contests and gotten with the times and settled with a game Dungeons and Dragons? Are the geeks of this world truly to be our saviors against the evil one?

4) increase intercessory effectiveness

Apparently, starvation increases the effectiveness of prayer and such. Because, as we all know, the Christian God thrives off of suffering like some sort of dynamo of anguish. You would think he would get enough from all those starving children in third world countries we see in those television ads. But apparently that isn't enough. Those people are suffering because they have to, what god really wants, what he finds absolutely delectable is the suffering that is self inflicted. God then uses your misery to make a fine wine from your fermented tears...or so I hear.

But as I look around at the world around me, I don't see a single case of supernatural intercession. So either that means their is no intercessory god or the Christians haven't been starving themselves properly. So for a Christian, the option is obvious, the reason there is no action from God as of late is because they have been eating too much, those glutenous believers. And if you take a look around the area where I live, Oklahoma, one of the most religious states in my county, then you start to think that Christians must believe that fasting means a quick trip to Burger King.

5) personal repents

Finally, my personal favorite, personal repentance. Nothing like some good old fashioned self inflicted torment to cleanse you of your guilt. But wait, wasn't that the whole point of the Jesus thing? That he would die for the Christian's sins? Or was that just supposed to be a retcon for the Adam incident? Christians never seem to be clear just how much sin was covered. Based on the accepted idea that God loves him some suffering, perhaps had Jesus writhed a bit more on that cross would we have had more of our sins accounted for? If so, why the hell did he not? He is God, or Gods's son depending on your stance on the trinity, he could endure it with ease. He supposedly could cure the sick and such, what are a few wounds to such a being? But no, because of God's oversight in this matter (what, God make a mistake, never!) Christians have to forcibly starve themselves whenever they feel guilty for something.
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Monday, January 3, 2011

Tony Porter and the Man Box

I do think this individual is on to something here. I know full well what he was talking about in this video. I have grown up around those who always had to be within this box, I was raised by those who tried forcing me into it and I am ashamed to say, that on occasion, I had do so. But thankfully that is something reliquated to the past. Now the concept of gender typical behavior only makes sense on the biological level. Anything above that is just too absurd to be worth it. Not to mention the fact that it gets in the way of so much in day to day life.

I do agree with Tony Porter on everything he says here. And if we are ever hoping for a somewhat decent existence, we must all endeavor to point out such causes of so much harm and speak out against them whenever and however possible.
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Well this is certainly one way to show your love...

I would first like to thank Misa Akane for finding the information about this event. She is the writer behind The Last Lemurisian as well as the excellent poetry blog Exhibit Number One. If you do not read her, go do so now, no you really don't have a choice in the matter. I wish you did but the Great Invisible-Omnipresent-Invincible-Ever-Changing-Neptunian Crocodile demands it and how can you argue with that?

So my state has given me yet another reason for me to want to disassociate myself with it. But this time it isn't the government but an inhabitant that is the source of my shame. All because Oklahoma resident Arthur Sedille and/or his wife Rebecca Sedille, had a rather unique sexual propensity. You see Arthur liked to hold a hand gun to Rebecca's head while they were in bed. At this point, things may seem a bit odd. But then again, they could be nothing more then the ever present rape fantasy but with a prop.

I am going to take a quick segue here for a moment to say that yes, rape fantasies are both common and normal. The most recent study on the subject showed that, depending on how you worded the question, 32-52% of women have had this kind of fantasy at least once. This is perfectly in line with previous studies. If it is phrased in the same way it often used in many romance novels (yes, romance novels are literary porn, and no, that is not a bad thing) such as 'overpowered' then researchers generally get confirmations somewhere close to the 50% mark. But if you just come out and say 'rape' then that number drops down to the low 30s. It seems that many females are worried about how it would be interpreted if such a word were used. I wonder why... But yes, rape fantasies are both common and are not linked with any psychiatric disorder of any kind (unless you count being able to read romance novels).

Now back to the original story. On December 21st, Arthur and Rebecca decided to run through the rape fantasy scenario with a gun...thing that they had except this time Arthur forgot to check the chamber when he pulled back the slide. Subsequently, when he pulled the trigger, Arthur Sedille killed his wife, Rebecca. While Arthur has been arrested he has not been charged.

I can only imagine those behind this case are thinking something similar to what I am at the moment. That they are sitting there and honestly asking themselves, "OK, either this guy is an utter moron who knows absolutely nothing about guns and was just going along with things like he said or...this guy is an utter moron for thinking he could kill his wife and just claim it was an accident involving a gun and a rape fantasy. Either way we are dealing with a complete idiot".
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Saturday, January 1, 2011

What I learned on New Year's Eve

I hope everyone had an enjoyable New Years and hopefully one that could even vaguely be defined as safe. Over the course of the night I was able to accumulate a series of rather loosely defined 'rules'. While they may not all be applicable to everyone, I believe that at least some of these can be agreed upon by most. Now in no particular order, the things I learned over New Year's Eve...

#1 There are some messages that are never ok to send.

While it has generally become an accepted part of any time of reverie, the idea of disturbing calls, texts and emails does have its limits. Unless you simply choose to ignore your phone during such times, we all know at least a few people who will send us drunk messages that make us wonder why we are still in contact with these people. Well, we all at least hope that inebriation is the source of these misanthropy reaffirming messages as the alternative is just far to depressing for most of us to wish to consider.

Granted there is the ever popular drunken ex texting/calling but this has been so over done to become almost more cliche then a truly bad decision. Not to say that it is not a poorly developed idea as, like most choices these people make while imbibing, is so chock full of fail and future regret to be painfully obvious (at least to everyone other then the person sending the message).

There are many other forms of future shame but few top one when it comes to making others disdain ever knowing you and the fact that said person's parents thought procreating was a good idea. What message could potentially be so poorly thought out as to not only be a portent of the sender's own suffering but, like some sort of mosquito of misery, sucks the joy out of anyone who is on the receiving end of it?

It is a message that is usually some variation of "I may need you to bail me out of jail later...". For those of you who have never been on the receiving end or been around those who have been sent such a message, consider yourself lucky. For there are few ways to destroy someone's enjoyment like opening up their phone and to hear or see these words.

But even more pathetic is the thought process that was behind this message (or lack there of). For the sender to have even considered to write this message they would have to realize that they are going to be putting themselves into a situation that could result in their imprisonment, yet they choose not to do the obvious thing and simply avoid it. It is the textual equivalent of noticing that oncoming semi trailer and thinking to yourself "I bet I could beat that in a game of chicken" (for those of you who agree to that statement, go try it, I'm sure our genome will thank you).

One final point about this rule. If you do not recognize any of these things as poor decisions then congratulations, you are that person and yes, everyone really does hate you.

#2 Games like Rock Band and Guitar Hero.

For the more astute of my readers, you may have realized that this isn't exactly a rule. Quite true, but that is only because there is far to much to say about this topic and it is far easier to just lump them all under one category then trying to write about them individually.

These games have, in their relatively short existence become the ubiquitous party video game. Is there a party? Is one of these games available? Then it, almost without fail, will be played. And if the person also has the microphone and drum set then the temptation to play this glorified version of Simon becomes far to great for the collective presence of the party to ignore.

It being New Year's Eve, alcohol, by law, must be available. So it will not be long before these two things are brought together into what, for the observer at least, becomes one of the most inadvertently hilarious events at a party. There is the obvious lure of seeing someone who can play any song on expert while blindfolded slowly degenerating into someone who suddenly makes your utter lack of talent at the game seem normal. As the expert player slowly begins to have to lower the difficulty setting to keep up with there increasing blood alcohol level, the game actually becomes both more hilarious for those watching and also grants the novice a chance to play alongside their betters at the game without looking quite as bad at it as they truly are. And as many of us have had the unfortunate chance to see, humans are spiteful little critters and to see their 'betters' fall to their level (even if just for a bit) makes far too many bipeds cackle with evil glee.

So in a matter of hours, a simple game of matching beats with pretty colors suddenly becomes a lesson in humanities malicious side. If this were not bad enough, those who get far to into the game begin to display another darker trait of our species, addiction. In this case to, what in all actuality, is a rather silly thing. It is not common to see someone who feels they are in 'the zone' to ignore everything else around them, including the fact that they came here with a loved one whom they promptly left to fend for themselves. All over the chance to give themselves carpal tunnel syndrome and imagine that they can actually play a real instrument.

But despite these evils, the Siren call of this game can almost never be resisted. And as the collective level of inebriation of the part increases, even these darker aspects become almost completely ignored. In fact soon it becomes almost mandatory to begin laughing at the absurd actions of those playing the game. Once this point has finally been reached, we find that we have come full circle and are once again back to the point of it just being a game to be enjoyed instead of some sort of serious test of skill.

It is usually about this time that the few people who are not putting their livers through hell suddenly realize "wait, everyone else is too drunk to really care what goes on, I can act like a complete fool and not only get away with it but shall become more liked by everyone because of it!". It is at this point that you shall see a person loose their last bits of inhibition (and actually not because of alcohol) and begin throwing in random kicks, fist pumps and otherwise acting like they are The Guitar Hero. These actions are further encouraged by their intoxicated comrades and soon one of the most hilarious synergies is formed and once again the world is made right be a bunch of humans making utter fools of themselves and loving every minute of it. Oh, and apparently it is perfectly alright to fight over who gets to sing Spider-Man by the Ramones.

#3 Explosions are amazing.

Now this one should be so obvious as to not even need further considering. The rule itself could very well be the end all and be all of this part. Except I had a chance to bear witness to something that proves just how much we humans like our booms.

A friend of mine decided to try and make a firework on his own. In the end, its incredibly simple construction led to it being little more then a gun powder bomb, yet we watched with a childish glee as it blackened the yard with its explosive goodness. Granted this was probably one of the least safe aspects of the entire night, but that is part of its allure. It represents humanities taming of such a destructive force and turning it into a source of mindless giggles.
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