It Must Be Spring

I’d piss off a crayfish
I’d sneak with you, deer,
Or engage in behavior
From macho to queer
As long as it’s healthy
And no one objects;
Birds do it, bees do it
And fuck, I want sex!

We’ll do it like lions—
I’ll stop when you bite
Or peregrine falcons
Who couple in flight
Or lusty giraffes, we’ll
Entangle our necks
It’s springtime, or nearly,
And fuck, I want sex!

I’ll embrace you forever
Like anglerfish, maybe
Or else, like a seahorse,
I’ll carry the baby;
I’ll lasso you close,
Like an Argentine Duck
With its corkscrew-like penis,
But dammit, let’s fuck!

We’ll make like banana slugs,
Lusty and zealous
And do stuff to make
The bonobos all jealous;

The truth is, I’m married,
And thus, out of luck,
But the spirit is willing,
So pleeeease, can we fuck?

Context here… and especially here.

Onward Christian Militias, Marching As To Jail

For toxic Christian nuttery
It’s hard to beat the Hutaree;
I’d say it to their face, except I’d rather not get shot.
A branch of Christianity
With double the insanity—
In mental evolution, they’re the land that time forgot.

In events unfolding as I write, a christian militia group is … what? Fighting the government? Preparing for the antichrist? Shitting their pants when confronted with FBI agents with guns, instead of the trees they are accustomed to shooting at?

That’s the thing about ongoing events. We can’t see the future, and these next hours and days (and, if you believe the Hutaree forums, weeks and months) could get interesting… or remain mind-numbingly predictable and dull.

Even the other militia groups are distancing themselves from the Hutaree militia, so I am guessing there is some weapons-grade lunacy there. I am not going to link to their site (their google hits have gone through the roof, so you’ll have no problems finding them), but it’s a fun little place. In a DSM-V clinical study kind of way.

I’d recommend popcorn, but it is a bit early to see if this goes Waco (or worse) on us, and I don’t want to make light of that possibility. The forum already spoke of the possibility of a government building going down… of course, taken down by the FBI themselves as part of a false flag operation.

Jesus is their General, you know. This would never have happened had they been touched by the FSM’s noodly appendage.

Sceptics Circle, 24 March 2010

The Big News in skepticism this week is a story which, in a perfect world, would not be news at all. James Randi, at the age of 81, has chosen to come out of the closet. In what is the worst or best kept secret in history (judging from people’s reactions), Randi is gay. Some in the skeptical blogosphere have used this opportunity to make observations. Some of my favorites include Jeremy at Endcycle’s musings on what the atheist movement could learn from the GLBT movement, in terms of gaining public acceptance. Ed Brayton’s bit is also nice; he notes that this announcement tells us a great deal more about society than about Randi. The Bad Astronomer (former JREF President Phil Plait) has been asked “how will this affect the JREF?” (Answer: Not at all, but it may help society as a whole.) Rebecca, at Skepchick, writes a short piece, and maybe I am projecting a bit, but it seems almost as if she, like the others linked here, are having a really tough time saying much more than “congrats”, because the skeptical community is already full of accepting, diverse, and open-minded people. I will not link to the literally thousands of blogs which have posted on this topic (a google blog search returns over 9,000 sites when I limit the search to just this week!). I do include all the above links, though, for one particular reason: it is really a wonderful thing to read through the comments of each of these posts, and to see the overwhelming support and love for Randi. I recently read through a news site with online public reaction (not about Randi, but about a religious topic), and the contrast between the commentaries could not be greater. Anyway, congratulations, both J and C!

I did not know—I did suspect,
But knew it was none of my business—
I’m glad that he has someone there;
Who cares about her-ness or his-ness!?

And so, congrats, or mazel tov!
May your life evermore be just dandy—
Now back to work—I know you will;
It’s the modus, of course, opeRandi

On to the regular edition of Skeptics Circle!

Joshua Zelinsky’s entry was the very first submitted. In a concise and informative essay, we are shown where we, as skeptics, may overstate our claim to be “using the scientific method”. It’s not that we are necessarily doing a bad job of being skeptics; rather, the claim oversimplifies what science is, what falsifiability is, and what sorts of hypotheses are or are not falsifiable. Zelinsky does a really nice job illuminating a complex subject, so I will do a piss-poor job describing it in verse:

When skeptics claim reliance
On the ways and means of science
They are often overstating, and it pays to check the claim—
It’s a complex situation,
But through close examination
We can check our core assumptions, and can re-adjust our aim.

My dearest friend PodBlack Cat blogs her report from #AtheistCon (known to us non-Twitter-types as the Global Atheist Convention). It is a nice follow-up to the Zelinsky piece, since just as the connections between skepticism and science can be examined, so can the connections between skepticism and atheism. PodBlack writes of her adventure as The Token Skeptic (no, she was not the only skeptic in attendance, but that *is* the title of her show); as always, a PodBlack post contains more than meets the eye, and is worth more than one read-through, but the bit that grabbed my eye (this time through) was the advice (and firsthand report) about contributing through public speaking. I am impressed as all hell by people who are up on stage talking to thousands, lucidly, cogently, coherently, while I seem to stutter even in print, let alone in person, let alone in front of an audience (classrooms don’t count, clearly–for me, anyway). It’s why I am a cuttlefish–I prefer to hide in my ink.

A skeptical cat is a serious matter,
It isn’t just one of your everyday cats
Our PodBlack could never be one of the latter—
You see, she wears too many skeptical hats.
First of all, there’s the blog that I’ve linked (just above this)
With posts about science, religion and news,
About all sorts of stuff (likely why you all love this)
So any at all may find something to choose!
Next, she’ll be found on the Skeptic Zone podcast
Contributing interviews, doing reports,
(With more, I am sure, than we see being broadcast)
And all of it stuff of the skeptical sorts.
Third, as a host of the Melbourne convention
Fourth as a teacher, Fifth as my friend
Sixth through One Hundredth, I’ll choose not to mention
In order to bring this poor verse to an end.

The next submission in my inbox contained not one but four excellent posts from 360 Degree Skeptic, and permission to choose what I like! I liked all of them–the blog is, from what I can see, a nicely focused skeptical blog, with some very helpful methodological critiques of some over-reaching claims. I’ll comment on one of them, which links to another of them; the two are a nice one-two punch of methodological smackdown. “Controls and crap science” focuses on the value of proper control conditions in experiments (as opposed to a mere “no treatment” pseudocontrols); all too often, a therapeutic technique “works!!!” when compared to doing nothing at all… I have even seen reference to a study in which (I wish I could find it, to have a proper quote) they found that “both acupuncture and sham acupuncture were effective, though not different from one another”. Yup, that’s called a placebo effect, and that (with different examples, and with considerable style) is what Andrew takes down in this post.

There are times, I am told, when it pays to reflect,
To look at the data you’ve chanced to collect;
Methodology’s something to treat with respect
If you wish to avoid a placebo effect.

The treatment condition—the one you select—
When compared with “no treatment” (through plan or neglect)
May return the results you have come to expect
But they may be no more than placebo effect

No need to be angry; no need to object;
Some planning ahead keeps your study unwrecked,
A proper control, and you’ll surely detect
If your changes are just a placebo effect.

So be sure your procedure you’ll closely inspect
And include each condition—make sure that they’re checked.
If you take this advice, I sincerely suspect
You’ll no longer be plagued by placebo effect.

Next, Cubik’s Rube writes “I want to be poetic and lyrically brilliant…”, throws some excuse about being sleepy and sick, and then directs me to a piece he has written where the prose puts anything I have written to shame. In disarmingly simple language, in a conversationally smooth bit of writing, James ponders the night sky. The first two paragraphs hooked me, and reminded me of the childlike wonder with which I used to look at the sky… and then he subtly gives a lesson on UFOs, teaching us that the “U” does not stand for “undeniably from some other planet”. Despite the way the term gets thrown around.

I gazed up at the nighttime sky, with wonder and with awe
The diamond constellations spread before me
if I claim that aliens are part of what I saw
You might be better off if you ignore me.
An object, unidentified, was shining in the night—
A spacecraft, and I know that they have seen us!
I’ll sound as if I’m certain, when the truth is I’m not quite,
But it’s so much more romantic than “that’s Venus”.
If something’s unidentified, you don’t know what it is,
And there’s so, so much it possibly could be
The jump to “it’s a spaceship!”, when you could just say “gee whiz!”
Is a little much, I hope you will agree.

Next in the ol’ inbox, The Uncredible Hallq (Chris Hallquist’s wonderful moniker) discusses the teleological argument of Christian apologist Wiliam Lane Craig. This is a really nice and detailed post, which it needs to be, given the delicate dance Craig does in an approach-avoidance conflict with intelligent design. Hallquist has done yeoman’s work here, so that you don’t have to; this is a nice resource to point to if anyone decides to pull out WL Craig in a creationism throwdown.

Carefully, warefully,
Hallq (The Uncredible)
Puts an apologist
Under the knife

Vivisects arguments
Not on your life!

Next in the mailbag… Martin Rundkvist, at Aardvarchaeology, one of my guilty favorite blogs. Guilty because I have no training at all in archaeology, but I just can’t get enough of it. Intellectual porn, this stuff is. And this one is no exception–a conspiracy theory involving, of all things… tree rings! Dendrochronology (damn, and I just did a double dactyl!) has its very own Watergate-Tapes-style 18.5-minute gap, of some 200 years. And wherever data are known only to a relative few experts, the non-experts are free to improvise.

Archaeologists up to no good
Hid some data–because, hey, they could
If we now ask a den-
drochronologist “When?”
We must really be asking “Got wood?”

Next up (and as of the current writing, lastly) in the mailbox is a post from One Brow, of Life, the Universe, and One Brow. (Actually, in fairness, One Brow had also submitted this post to the previous Skeptics Circle, so I link it now without comment for your perusal.) Now… I don’t know if you know me (odds are against), but I loves me some snark. And this post is full of snark, in response to a science denialist (var: global warming denialist) who thought he had done a good enough job of stepping on the rocks (old joke–ask if you don’t know it). Turns out One Brow was able to see that the denier was not walking on water at all, but just cherry-picking data (to mix metaphors). A nice, concise response, taking a denier down a notch. And some fun snark.

A chance remark once struck a spark
And lit a flame to fight the dark
And thus One Brow (please, go read how!)
In contrast stark, can take a bow.
It’s getting warm–one simple storm
Won’t do much now, we must inform.

I will close with one last entry–Joan tells me that she has no blog on which to post this, and throws herself at the mercy of the cuttlecourt. It comes with its own verse! So… I could not say no. Without further ado:

I have pretty much given up trying to convince believers who glom on to each urban legend, or scare tactic to read Snopes. The last e-mail I got back was condemning Snopes as a left wing political blog designed to promote Obama’s agenda. People will believe what they want to if they are not given the facts they want to hear. However, it looks as if deliberate obfuscation of the truth and the elimination of facts might soon be spreading from Texas to all of America’s school children. These publishers make most of their money on Texas and California. If their bottom line is profit and not truth they might well be jumping when the school board from Texas says ‘frog’

The Texas school board has redlined curricula that teachers themselves proposed and made more than 100 changes to ‘correct’ what they perceive as left-wing bias. Apparently they feel they are more educated than the Texas teachers . Following is my grim poetic take.

Good Old Golden Rule Days
Joan Ryan

They have demonized poor Darwin
With invectives mean and rotten
And if they cannot ignore him
They’ll make sure he is forgotten.
They have upped their right wing ante
And their method is no mystery
They’re altering their schoolbooks
To exclude our nation’s history.

Tom Jefferson, third president,
And creative founding father
Is excised from all the text books.
Do you wonder why they’d bother?
He’s been branded as a Deist,
Not the ‘Christian’ guy they’d thought.
And he’d early advocated that
The state should not be bought
By demanding separation
Of the church and nation state.
He chose not to leave this issue
To a less than stable fate.

Now that Texas lost their president
And Christian lobby guys,
They must eradicate these facts.
That’s not a big surprise.
But John Calvin, Tom’s replacement?
This I really do not get.
Now are scientists predestined
For the hopeless fiery pit?
Cal’s views do not fill well with
Current friendly Jesus menche
Plus he’s not an American
And we’re not fond of the French.

Next our less than stellar past
With Robber Barons in the game
Has been whitewashed. “Capitalism”
Gets “Free Enterpriser” name.
A rose by any other name
I’m told would smell as sweet.
Still I doubt that any name change
Quells the smell of tainted meat.

It’s the Texas brain saw massacre.
They’ve finally gone and done it.
They cannot distort all the past
So now they aim to shun it.

And that is it. See you next time, at Divisible by Pi, for the April 8th edition of the Skeptics Circle!


A late entry (ok, technically it was on time, but my laptop broke several weeks ago, so I did not read this one until hours after it had been sent), from The Skeptical Teacher: ( actually, there are four) <–each word is a different link, so don't miss one! So, in order not to waste any time getting these entries posted, my briefest verse yet:

Skeptical Teachers
Are wonderful creatures.

March 25th Skeptics Circle Will Be Here

Each couple weeks, some random jerk’ll
Host the latest Skeptics Circle
Thursday next, *I* (by some quirk)’ll
Take the task in hand

Write your best! Submit your entries!
High-end stuff or elementaries;
Don’t be scared–the dogs and sentries
Wait on my command.

You do not have to write in rhyme,
But those submissions made in time
May be annunced in verse sublime
(Or fair, or bad, or rotten).

The Circle–cast in verse immortal,
Worth a thought, a tear, a chortle
(Though the poems that I contort’ll
Quickly be forgotten)!


That’s right, the March 25th edition of the Skeptics Circle will be hosted here at The Digital Cuttlefish. You can email me (addy over there at the right) or use the comments to this post to submit something. Tell your friends, tell your neighbors, tell your friends’ neighbors and your neighbors’ friends. If you read something you think should be entered, please let that writer know.

The earlier you submit, the easier my job is, but don’t let that stop you from suggesting something even at the last minute, or later. (Yeah, I know, but they let you edit, after all…)

Two, They Say, To Tango

It has become such old news–this pope, that pope, embroiled in yet another sex scandal. The video that PZ linked speaks of some of what some children went through at the hands of priests, behavior which has been systematically covered up–and recent allegations suggest that the current occupant at the Vatican will be unable to deny knowledge of both abuses and coverups.

Something about the video touched a nerve–a single line, which I don’t think I’ll go back and listen for. The following is a tango; in my dream, it would be sung by Tom Waits. No one else could come close. (And yeah, I’d trade everything I ever wrote to have written just one of his songs, so *I* can’t come close either.) And yeah, writing this, in the voice of a conspirator, makes me want to go take a shower and bleach my frontal lobe.

Would you like to help the padre?
Well, we’re giving you the chance
It takes two, they say, to tango
And the padre wants to dance

We’re auditioning the choirboys
For a very special job
And you’ve come to our attention
Yes you stand out from the mob
If you’ll step this way a moment
We’ve arranged a little test—
You’ll be just fine; the padre, he knows best

This will be our little secret
There’s no need to tell a soul
We all do the work of God here
And you play a vital role

You’ll massage the padre’s stomach
While he’s lying on his back
I know you’re just a young one
But I’m sure you’ll get the knack
You’ll know when you are finished
Cos you’ll see the padre smile
And maybe you could stay for just a while…

You can hear the padre breathing
Hear him tell you that you’re good
You can take his words as comfort
You have done just as you should

Wash the semen from your hands, boy,
And we’ll send you on your way.
This will not last forever
You’ll be too old some day.
The padre is important
See, he’s friendly with the Pope
But little boys can always live on hope…

It takes two, they say, to tango
But only one of them can lead
He will claim you were complicit
But the padre did the deed

Wash the demons from your head, boy,
Try to send them on their way
The nightmares last forever
But you’ll never make him pay
The padre is important
See he hides behind the Pope
And little boys need something more than hope…

Now, a palate cleanser. The tango starts about 3 minutes in, if you foolishly wish to skip ahead (or click here for just the tango, but it’s music only, no video). Once he builds up a head of steam, it’s a thing of beauty:

Cuttlecap tips to Ed Brayton and PZ Myers.

“Oh Lord, we really prefer not to know”

Hello; my name is Cuttlefish, and I am a versaholic. (Hi, Cuttlefish!) It’s been just a few hours since my last “Rejected Canon” hymn (ok, a little more than a few–I did have to work, after all!), but I’ve fallen off the wagon! Another hymn it is… this one in 6/8 time, for those who care.

Oh, Lord, we really prefer not to know
We’ll take it on faith
No evidence needed
Lord, cognition we’ll gladly forego
And as the Lord sayeth,
His Word shall be heeded.

Knowledge is best when revealed from on high
And who’d prefer truth to a comfortable lie?

Lord, we really prefer not to know
We’ll all attend mass
And heed to your ruling
Lord, just call me enlightenment’s foe
Biology class
Is fun with home schooling!

Scientists wonder, “how ancient is Man?”
Far more important–he’s part of God’s Plan!

“In the beginning” my textbook begins
With Adam and Eve there in Eden
Knowledge is clearly the greatest of sins
The minimum’s all that we’re needin’

Lord, we really prefer not to know
Concern for our souls
Takes precedence ever
Lord, whatever you’d like to bestow
Our knowledge has holes
Still we think we’re clever

Is there a future attractive as this:
Spending our lives in an ignorant bliss?

Oh Lord, we really prefer not to know!


edited to add….

Looks like this was the straw-hymn to break the camel’s back. This was great fun, and I thank the Making Light hosts for the opportunity to write these, but I think this will be the end of it. Do read their comments, though- #80 is far, far better than any of mine; it is, in my opinion, the only verse of the lot to come close to (let alone achieve) the potential stored in the title itself. This was a wonderful little exercise, and I thank all involved.

“I thank thee, God, for buttocks firm”

One more from the “Rejected Canon” (I can’t help myself–they’re like potato chips–I can’t stop!). This one will be considered offensive by some who defend the nastier bits of organized religion. Consider yourself warned.

I thank thee, God, for buttocks firm
For skin of alabaster
For pouting lips
Eyes dark as pips
Which rouse me all the faster

I thank thee, God, for rosy cheeks
For slender, active fingers
For winsome smile
Where, for a while,
My roving glance still lingers

I thank thee, God, for perfect voice,
A clear and pure soprano
The angels long
To hear a song
In forte or piano

I thank thee, God, the Bishop said,
For this small piece of heaven
So dear to me
Too bad that he
Will soon be turning seven

“You have to admit, this sounds pretty far-fetched”

Ok, last one. I promise. But these things are like heroin to someone like me…

You have to admit, this sounds pretty far-fetched
Certum est, quia impossibile
But my mem-o-ry has it indelibly etched
Certum est, quia impossibile
There once was a garden, with Adam and Eve
Along came a serpent, with plans to deceive—
What part of this tale am I s’posed to believe?
Certum est, quia impossibile

Lot’s Wife was transformed to a pillar of salt
Certum est, quia impossibile
The bible implies she herself was at fault
Certum est, quia impossibile
The sinning in Sodom, it made the Lord sore-eyed
She didn’t obey; now she’s sodium chloride—
A message which all of the “sinners of yore” eyed
Certum est, quia impossibile

Some children once pestered a man with no hair
Certum est, quia impossibile
Who prayed for revenge, and so God sent two bears
Certum est, quia impossibile
Which mauled all the kids in a terrible fight
And killed every one, with a blow or a bite,
So that next time, the children will act more polite
Certum est, quia impossibile

Then God gave us Jesus, to die for our sins
Certum est, quia impossibile
To re-write the books, so a new age begins
Certum est, quia impossibile
And Jesus was tortured and nailed to a cross
To render us clean, through his terrible loss
(Or maybe his dad was just showing who’s boss)
Certum est, quia impossibile

And ever since then, why, the message has spread
Certum est, quia impossibile
That mankind will live, because Jesus was dead
Certum est, quia impossibile
I have to believe them, they urge and implore,
For ethics, for morals, for peace evermore…
Then battle each other, in bloodthirsty war
Certum est, quia impossibile

It’s a nice simple form, in 3/4 time; feel free to add your own verses!

“Holy” like a Donut, “Holy” like Swiss Cheese

“Holy” like a donut, “Holy” like Swiss Cheese,
“Holy” like creationists’ own brand of expertise
“Holy” like a leper with some flesh-eating disease,
“Holy” like My Saviour’s feet, beneath his holy knees.

“Holy” like a colander, or like a piercéd ear,
“Holy” like a fishnet blouse, that’s so much more than sheer
“Holy” like a movie’s plot (The Bible’s, too, I fear)
“Holy” like My Saviour’s side, through which was thrust a spear.

“Holy” like a lake’s thin ice, a helpful signal warns
“Holy” like a matador who did not dodge the horns
“Holy” like John Dillinger, whom everybody scorns
“Holy” like My Saviour’s brow, beneath a crown of thorns.

“Holy” like a bagel, or like a leaky pail
“Holy” like security protecting your e-mail
“Holy” like my engine block, which leaves an oily trail
“Holy” like religion, just a grown-up fairy tale.

As with today’s earlier post, a bit of context.

“Even Cripples Praise Your Name”

God of Wisdom; God of Beauty
God of Water, Wind, and Flame
We, your subjects, do our duty:
Even cripples praise your name.

God, who cured the lowly leper,
Plays with mercy like a game–
Eking praise from each twelve-stepper
Even cripples praise your name.

Mangled feet and withered fingers
Malformed faces hung in shame
Still this love of God still lingers
Even cripples praise your name.

Thanks to Salk and vaccination
Fewer children now are lame;
Still, I see to my frustration,
Even cripples praise your name.

God, who could have cured the sickest;
God, who chose instead to maim;
Here is where the bullshit’s thickest:
Even cripples praise your name.

God receives Earth’s bounty’s credit,
Satan, only Evil’s blame–
Hordes of faithful zombies spread it:
Even cripples praise your name.

God, it’s really hard to swallow
You’re as good as you proclaim;
Now, to me, it all rings hollow:
Only cripples praise your name.

Cuttlecap tip to HP (glad to edit in your name, if you prefer), for pointing me to a bit of fun on Making Light. The idea is to take one of Molly Wilson’s “Rejected Titles for Hymns“, and … write the hymn. I may have to have fun with a few more. You should, too!