Not Your Average Pumpkin Pie

This is another recipe developed for our friends’ harvest festival. If you’re looking to do something a bit different but with a traditional touch this Thanksgiving, this is a fairly easy option.

Spicy Pumpkin Cheesecake Pie
1 9-inch pie crust (I recommend my husband’s, but do what you can)
16 oz. cream cheese
3/4 cup dark brown sugar
2 large eggs
1 lb pie pumpkin
3 t Ceylon cinnamon
1-1/2 t ground ginger
1/2 t ground cardamom
1/4 t ground clove
1/3 of a nutmeg, freshly grated
2 T chopped candied ginger (see below) [Read more…]

“Hard” Questions on Abortion

Adam Lee took on a set of 10 questions about abortion this morning. These are questions that an evangelical thinks should be put to pro-choice presidential candidates because they’re never asked the “hard” questions about abortion. Looking at the questions, I’m not sure they’re particularly hard, but they’re worth answering.

You should read Adam’s answers. For the most part, my answers agree with his, and I suspect many pro-choice people will produce very similar answers. As I said above, these aren’t that hard. However, I thought I’d pull out a couple questions to elaborate upon myself. Adam’s answers on these are good, but I wanted them unpacked further. [Read more…]

Cranberry Tartlets

It is that time of year again. Om nom nom.

We try to do something new every year for Thanksgiving. This year, Ben will be figuring out how to time a smoked venison roast and a grill-roasted turkey to be ready at the same time. I will be trying to get over my disbelief in bread pudding long enough to produce a good stuffing, since my mother won’t be bringing hers all the way from Arizona. We’ll see how that goes.

In the meantime, have some tasty, proven recipes in case you’re looking for something to add to your holiday meal. (Yes, I know those of you outside the U.S. aren’t having your harvest festivals this week. You can still eat well.) This one I made for our friends’ fall pig roast a month ago.

This is based on this Smitten Kitchen recipe but modified for my tastes and to get around annoying processes. It produces 10 tarts that are highly flavorful but not too sweet. [Read more…]

Whatever Google Image Search You Did

By now you’ve probably heard of Tony Harris, sexist asshole artist.

Before now, there was a good chance you admired his work without knowing who he was. The comic book industry can be thankless that way. Lots of people like what they like without paying close attention to who produced it for them. This is extra true for artists, weirdly. A comic book writer creates a story for you, but the artist brings it to life. Still, plenty of people don’t know who draws what they read.

We’ll just pretend, because it is an actual unfair thing that happens, that Tony Harris was tapping into a well of bitterness over that when he went off on a sexist tirade about why “real” geeks don’t like women cosplaying at cons. It doesn’t make it the tiniest bit better, but we’ll pretend anyway. After all, the original rant has been fisked, countered with cosplay love, and put in its appropriate social context.

There’s still one thing about it though, something I really only noticed reading PZ’s post on the rant:

And here it is, THE REASON WHY ALL THAT, sickens us: BECAUSE YOU DONT KNOW SH-T ABOUT COMICS, BEYOND WHATEVER GOOGLE IMAGE SEARCH YOU DID TO GET REF ON THE MOST MAINSTREAM CHARACTER WITH THE MOST REVEALING COSTUME EVER.

I read that, and my only thought is: Dude, you know squat about Google, and I can prove it. [Read more…]

Saturday Storytime: Sprig

Alex Bledsoe came to everyone’s attention by taking a modern-world trope and inserting it in a land of magic with his Eddie LaCrosse books. In this story, he does the opposite.

The little boy gazed up at the beautiful girl seated cross-legged on a tree stump. She wore tights, a sparkly skirt, and enormous plastic wings. Her wild hair was decorated with twigs, leaves and flowers. Her small, pointed face was painted with make-up. Strands of plastic ivy decorated the guitar across her lap.

At four, the boy was too young to realize how her tight clothes emphasized things older boys, and grown men, would find very, very interesting. He saw only a girl like his mom, but sparklier. At last, he said, “Are you a real fairy?”

The girl looked up from texting and tucked her phone under her leg. When she smiled, dimples appeared in her cheeks. “Of course I am,” she said brightly, in a vaguely English accent. “My name’s Sprig. Sprig Petalbottom. And what’s your name?”

“Cyrus.”

“Is that a frog on your shirt, Cyrus?”

“Yes,” he said. And it was, a generic frog on a pogo stick, leaping over the words, Get hopping!

Around them, the Bristol Renaissance Faire, packed on its second weekend of the summer, surged with life. The hot summer sun filtered through the large trees, illuminating people in costumes no one in the Renaissance would have recognized: elves, trolls, warriors, wizards, Lord of the Rings characters and the occasional Jedi Knight.

Outnumbering these were the tourists who’d driven long distances and paid their money for a chance to experience something out of the ordinary. Most were cynical about it, husbands leering at the girls and wives wishing their spouses had washboard abs like the shirtless young men. A few, though, saw through the plastic armor and foam swords to the magic underneath. And most of those who did were kids like this one, who added,”Those wings aren’t real.”

“Of course they are,” Sprig said, as if it were the silliest statement in the world. “How else could I fly? Now, where are your mommy and daddy?”

Keep reading.

Speaking for the Religious

When atheists criticize religion, we alienate the religious. The more harshly we criticize it, the more we alienate.

Right? That’s one of the pervasive tropes, invisible in its ubiquity. It is one reason given by some people who really want to do interfaith work and extend hands to the religious for telling us to hush up and tone it down.

We seem mean. We appear to be attacking people. Our anger and disgust are unpleasant, unattractive emotions. We’re pushing away the moderates who could be our allies.

But is it true? Well, let me tell you a little story.
[Read more…]

Atheists Talk: George Church on “Regenesis”

They are the stuff of horror and science fiction stories. They are the fodder for much political debate and public fear. Yet they may be our future and our salvation.

What are they? They are artificially created biological organisms. Authors George Church and Ed Regis, in their new book, Regenesis: How Synthetic Biology Will Recreate Nature and Ourselves, tell us they are coming, and they tell us not to be afraid. Wary, perhaps, but not afraid.

Church is a molecular geneticist, who created many of the tools we use for genetic sequencing. He is also the founder of the Personal Genome Project, which looks to sequence the genomes of 100,000 volunteers and place the data in the public domain to facilitate research into the interplay of genetics and environment in determining how we become who we are. This Sunday, he will talk to us about what we may expect from this future in which we have this kind of information and this kind of power.

Related Links:

Listen to AM 950 KTNF this Sunday at 9 a.m. Central to hear Atheists Talk, produced by Minnesota Atheists. Stream live online. Call in to the studio at 952-946-6205, or send an e-mail to radio@mnatheists.org during the live show. If you miss the live show, listen to the podcast later.

A Caution on Uganda

Melanie Nathan, an LGBT activist originally from South Africa, has posted a note of both caution and action for foreigners who are viewing the situation in Uganda with alarm and anger. It is a statement from several groups on the ground there on what they feel will and will not be helpful under the current circumstances.

Dear Partners, friends and colleagues,

We thank you for all the support you have a accorded the Coalition since the tabling of the Anti-Homosexuality Bill in 2009, and we look forward to your continued collaboration in the struggle to see this bill dismissed once and for all.

In response to the recent claims made by the Hon Speaker of the Ugandan Parliament that she would see the Anti-Homosexuality Bill passed before this year comes to a close, we urge you to adhere to the following Action Alert Guidelines and to always seek clarification where there is a difference of opinion on tactics or where there is confusion or need for further information.

We encourage you to:

1. Urgently engage with the leadership of the nation (the President, the Prime Minister, the Leader of Opposition, The Speaker, the Minister for Gender Labor and Social Development, the Minister of Foreign Affairs, the Minister of Ethics and Integrity, the Minister of Health, the Minister of Justice and any other Cabinet Ministers that you can engage with, the Inspector General of Police and the Principal Judge) to impress upon them the needlessness and imminent harm of this bill. This must however been done diplomatically and off the media. There should not be any media/public admonitions PLEASE!

2. Engage with any non-LGBTI partner organizations in Uganda that you may collaborate with or whom you fund to establish what their thinking is on the Anti-Homosexuality Bill, as well as their thinking on other related legislative moves such as the proposal to amend the Penal Code in line with the proposed Anti-Homosexuality Bill. We would strongly encourage other mainstream Ugandan organizations such as human rights NGOs and entities like the Uganda Law Society to speak out strongly against the impartiality of the speaker as well as this draconian bill.

3. Draw international public attention to issues such as corruption (tagging it to the recent corruption cases in the Ministry of Public Service and the Office of the Prime Minister), human trafficking, nodding disease in northern, land-grabbing, as well as the suppression of media freedom and civil society space, so that attention shifts to where it properly belongs; in the best interests of the country’s population as a whole.

4. Go ahead with any preparations of statements, campaigns, and other public documents for when the bill appears on the Order Paper of Parliament (you will be alerted when this happens) as well as for a worst-case scenario in which the Bill is passed into law.

5. Contribute physical, financial, or technical support to the LGBTI community as well as the exposed Human Rights Defenders working with LGBTI rights who are likely to begin to be arrested and charged almost as soon as the Bill is passed. The entire leadership of the Uganda Coalition has decided that any such assistance shall be channeled through a central point at the CSCHRCL secretariat from where it shall be communally managed.

6. Engage with your policy makers to take stronger measures to ensure that LGBTI issues are mainstreamed into calls for proposals, grant agreements, project design, implementation and evaluation as part of a long term strategy to establish LGBTI friendly services and programmes for all Ugandans as an inclusive practice.

We urge that you do NOT: 

1. DO NOT Put out any public press statements on the Bill for now. But you can express your opinion if asked about the Bill. However this opinion must be candid and practical without being ‘insulting’.

2.  DO NOT Make strong public statements threatening to cut aid or in support of such threats in response to the Anti-Homosexuality Bill, as this can lead to scape-goating of the LGBTI community as well as Human Rights Defenders working with LGBTI rights and whip up sentiments for the Bill. Please note; We would like Ugandans to take charge of this campaign for now. Only if the Bill is mentioned/programmed in the Business of Parliament or passed into law shall we encourage a fully-fledged international outcry which can come in all forms such as; Public statements (written or spoken), public letters, solidarity campaigns, peaceful protests, interviews, opinion pieces et cetera.

I reformatted the letter slightly to make it easier to read. It’s worth keeping in mind if we want to be more effective than expressive with our outrage.

Something in Common

When 1,600 atheists and skeptics come to town, the local media pays attention. PZ already linked to this article on Skepticon, calling it positive press, but I don’t think that’s entirely true, at least when you consider the underlying reality.

The first thing you need to know is that we had neighbors in the convention center where Skepticon was held. Here’s what the article had to say about them:

Volunteers have been working since Friday packaging meals for victims of Hurricane Sandy. “We work with all different groups, different churches, non-denominational, cross denominations, just everybody,” says Karen Wood with Friends Against Hunger.

And Wood says the meals a million packathon brought in just that. “We’ve had all different types of groups and they’ve done such a great job working together, we’ve seen kids from nine to 99 help package this meal and you can really see that you’re making a difference,” says Wood.

Quite nice, and almost entirely accurate. Here’s a taste of how we were covered: [Read more…]