Blasphemy Day, Already?

Seems even more necessary this year. As I wrote before…

Blasphemy Day is important. Not for offending people, but for celebrating the right to speak without fear that such an offense can land you in jail, or worse. Political speech often offends me, but the rough-and-tumble of open political debate is a good thing. When we coddle ideas, we allow bad ones to flourish. Religious speech is, and should be, protected in the same sense that political speech is. This includes religious speech that the listener disagrees with. A day to celebrate this idea? I like it. More after the jump:
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Long Overdue Repairs

There’s a hole in the wall, where the wind can get in
And it’s been there for fifty-some years
It’s down near the floor, where it hardly gets noticed
Till a chase, when a mouse disappears

When wintertime comes, we can feel the cold air
And remember, that hole is the reason
But then something comes up; it’s forgotten again
And the hole sticks around one more season

So now, fifty years later, I finally thought
I might seal up that hole in my house
But while taking some measurements, strangely enough
I was stopped in my tracks—by a mouse!

“For fifty-some years”, he defiantly squeaked,
“We’ve been using this hole as our door!
Generations of mice have made trips through this hole
And we’re planning a great many more!”

“By leaving this hole as it is for so long
You have ceded all rights to repair it!
To you, it’s a hole, but to us it’s much more,
So the fact is, you’ll just have to share it!”

“This hole you’ve neglected is my hole as well;
Man and mouse have to just get along!”
I listened (astonished a mouse had just talked)
And I quietly told him “You’re wrong.”

A hole in my house is a hole in my house—
Fifty years doesn’t matter at all.
So I picked up my hammer, some nails and some wood
And proceeded to patch up the wall.

There’s a hole in the wall ‘tween the church an the state
And it’s been there for fifty-some years…

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Fasting And Praying… For Mitt?

If you’re feeling some frustration
With the leaders of this nation
Do your part to help them muddle through the mess
Politicians think it’s funny
Cos they really need your money
But it looks as though they’re getting rather less

Since Obama needs defeating,
Let’s help Romney, by not eating
As a show of faith, so God will take our side
Mitt needs help, without delay,
So let’s pray pray pray pray pray!
And, God willing, that must surely turn the tide

I’ll be fasting; I’ll be praying; I’ll be leading with my heart
Though I’ve done precisely nothing, still I feel I’ve done my part

I hear cynics sometimes saying
That they don’t believe in praying—
That it cannot make a difference, which we must!
All the pundits and the scholars
Say what matters more is dollars
But the bills remind us all “In God We Trust”

So I’m praying and I’m fasting—
My support is everlasting
Money’s worth is artificial–this is real!
That’s the sort of aid I’m choosing
So if Romney is still losing
Well, I’ve done my best; at least, that’s how I feel
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Science Fact > Science Fiction. Again.

After I posted today’s Headline Muse, the following leaped into my consciousness, unbidden:

Though it promised us trips through the stars,
Cryogenics, and yes, flying cars,
Science fiction must bow
To our science facts now…
That’s the word from our robot on Mars.

Science fiction is cool. It is. I remember reading about time travel, and human colonies on distant worlds, and paranormal abilities, and robots, aliens, androids, and the future of human evolution.

And it was really cool.

But I also remember us landing on the moon. And as cool as the possibility of the moon’s being made of green cheese was, a real human footprint beat that all to hell. And then there were the various probes, and the Hubble, and orbiters around distant planets.

And great science fiction is still great. But damn, we have landed a robot, with cameras and a laser and analysis equipment, on Mars. Mars. The quintessential science fiction planet. War of the Worlds. Please. The Martian Chronicles? Even the recent Doctor Who had The waters of Mars–and don’t get me started on Marvin the Martian. (I have no doubt that my readers are well aware that I have barely scratched the surface here, and that dozens more examples of Martian literature exist.)

And every day, the Mars Curiosity Rover is kicking the ass of every single one of these examples. In the same way that falling in love kicks the ass of reading about falling in love. As it always is, and always should be. Writing about Martians is different now… now that Curiosity is tweeting from Mars.

Headline Muse, 9/27

It’s a robot—not woman, nor man
And it’s doing the best that it can
Like its pictures, that showed
Where the water once flowed,
Making up an alluvial fan

Headline: Streams Of Water Once Flowed On Mars: NASA Says Photos Prove It

NASA’s Curiosity rover has found definitive proof that water once ran across the surface of Mars, the agency announced today. NASA scientists say new photos from the rover show rocks that were smoothed and rounded by water. The rocks are in a large canyon and nearby channels that were cut by flowing water, making up an alluvial fan.

“You had water transporting these gravels to the downslope of the fan,” NASA researchers say. The gravel then formed into a conglomerate rock, which was in turn likely covered before being exposed again.

No, no, no. They are missing the big picture.

I am alive at a point in history when humans have sent a fucking robot to fucking Mars, where it is doing experiments and taking pictures and answering questions that weren’t even questions until at most just a couple of generations ago. It was just over a century ago that the notion of canals on Mars was cutting edge science.

Everything about this is wonderful. Everything about this is cool. Everything about this is the future. Everything about this is making the science fiction of my childhood obsolete in the best possible way.

Again, I am forced to wonder, what will be next? Will this eventually be seen as the space equivalent of the Model T? Or the Mars equivalent of Apollo 11? Is this the beginning of much more, or a high-water mark not to be matched in our lifetime?

The choice, really, is ours.

Ceremonial De-Deism

I turned on my engraver, and I scratched a bit of metal
And repeated this procedure many times
Now I’m looking at a little pile of atheistic money—
Godless nickels, godless quarters, godless dimes
If you want a godless penny, I’ve got some, but not too many
And I don’t have any dollar coins so far
Now you might well find it funny, scratching “God” off all my money
But you know? I like them better as they are.

So I saw the “atheists are hypocrites if they spend money, cos it says ‘In God We Trust’ on it” argument one too many times. And I’ve decided that from now on, whenever I see that argument made, I’m going to de-god another big batch of coins. I already have a marker I use on bills, but paper money only stays in circulation for maybe a couple of years, whereas coins stick around for decades. And yes, I just got done de-godding a big batch this morning, while waiting for a battery to charge so I could do my next task.

I’ve also decided that any and all donations to this site (there’s a donate button down there on the right) will be converted to coins and de-godded. Then comes the fun part–getting them into circulation. Coins tend to stick around in mason jars or cracked mugs until you get fed up and decide to roll them up and bring them to the bank–or worse, to a coin-star machine (why would anyone use those?). Godless money, on the other hand, I am very motivated to get into circulation. So I’ll be an atheist benefactor, topping off parking meters, pre-loading washing machines at the local laundromats (hey, people who use laundromats are generally people who could use some help–I remember those days well), throwing a handful of quarters into the buskers’ guitar cases, loading up the UNICEF boxes at halloween… and, yes, spending them myself–I’m only a part-time altruist; I do need to eat. But now, each quarter (or, if any of you are extremely generous, I’ll have the chance to wear out my engraver on some dollar coins!) spent will have two purposes–helping a particular individual, and spreading godless money.

Does this seem a tad obsessive? Not at all; it is the tiniest fraction of the effort used to put God on all that money in the first place. You want obsessive, try looking at the members of Congress who continue to affirm a motto that is in no danger of ever being recognized as the violation of the first amendment that it is. If this is simply ceremonial deism, then I am doing precisely nothing to these coins.

Call it ceremonial de-deism.

Yeah, But Fundamentalist Atheists Are Just As Bad!

The fundamental atheist—the fire-breathing kind—
Is as radical an entity as any that you’ll find.
He or she’s the mirror image of the faithful they despise
Though they’ll claim they’re vastly different—just another of their lies

An example of the power of the god-belief they lack?
Though we changed the pledge to put in God, they want to change it back!
We put God on all our money, but they want it taken off!
And they never say “God bless you” on the chance you sneeze or cough.

They complain about religion, which itself is quite a shame,
But they never see, their own demands are really just the same!
When we pledge “one nation, under God”, and they refuse to stand
It’s the same as forced compliance, under law, across the land

It’s a crystal-clear agenda, and it’s radical and brash
Like the lunatics who spend their time de-Godding all their cash
Fixing money in a workshop, twenty quarters at a stint
Is the same as printing millions with the power of the mint

You can see, they’re all extremists—fundamentalists, in fact—
Driven solely by beliefs they held, or those they claim they lacked;
But you never will convince them all (and Lord God knows I’ve tried)
That the atheists and faithful are the same on either side!

Over on NPR’s Cosmos and Culture blog, Adam Frank writes about Religion, Science, and Easy Answers (although, strangely enough, the URL says “religion-science-and-no-easy-answers”, and the headline bar says “Religion, Science And Magic Fairy Cellphones”; I guess there was some toying around with different possibilities). Immediately, in the comments, came the predictions, and realities, of what commenters would say.

So today’s verse comes courtesy of those who see atheists as just as extreme as fundamentalists. Even the small percentage of us who actually do cross out “God” in our money’s “In God We Trust” (as I’ve said before, I sometimes go a bit further and use my engraver to remove God from my coins as well) could not possibly be the equivalent of a the system that imposed that God on an entire population. Refusing to say the pledge cannot possibly the equivalent of requiring the nation’s schoolchildren to recite it. If the act of removing God from something is seen as radical, surely (equal and opposite, and all that) the act of putting God there in the first place must be seen as radical as well, and on a far grander scale.

Hubble Does It Again

“In the beginning, God created
The heavens and the earth”—
A most myopic story of
The universe’s birth

The lenses on the Hubble
Look through time as well as space
The ancients might have spied with it
Their vast Creator’s face

The skies they saw were very small
Those centuries ago
We’ve traded in those old beliefs
For things we really know

If we should keep exploring
All that science will allow…
Imagine how much more we’ll know
Two thousand years from now!

NASA just released their latest deep-field image–the XDF, or eXtreme Deep Field, which combines ten years’ worth of images. There are over 5,000 galaxies in this image. That would be over 5,000 galaxies more than the people who wrote about “the heavens and the earth” could even imagine.

How tiny a fragment of the sky is this? Take a look:
Deep Field in perspective

I wonder how long it will be before we look at these images as important but quaint artifacts, long surpassed by pictures with better resolution, more detail, surprises we can’t even imagine at present. I also cannot imagine thinking that a world view that hasn’t changed in 2,000 years is somehow superior to one that changes with each new discovery.

Bacon Shortage Looms; Prices To Double Next Year

I can’t hear through the noise that I’m makin’
As the bones in my knees get to shakin’
It’s the worst news I’ve seen
For Two Thousand Thirteen—
We’ll be facing a shortage of bacon!

We’ll pay more, or we’ll just do without
But the shortage is real, there’s no doubt!
The source of our pain
Is the absence of rain
We’ll be victims of this season’s drought.

With the global pig industry troubled,
Where the market collapsed ‘ere it bubbled,
Better rein in your fork
Cos the prices of pork
They expect, by next year, to be doubled.

Via the Chicago (Hog Butcher for the World) Tribune, news of an unavoidable bacon shortage in the second half of next year. The Financial Times confirms that this is a global crisis; swine herds in Poland are down nearly 10%, and informal surveys of UK farmers suggest nearly double that.

Drought conditions have led to jumps in global prices of corn (maize), wheat, and soybeans, while US politicians ignored any mention of climate change. Maybe–just maybe–the politician’s natural affinity for pork will finally make a difference.