The Digital Pack-Rat, Vol. 8

Evangelists were happy for the economic downturn–it drives people to religion! Gee, it’s almost like their god makes people miserable so that they can turn to… him for help?

It’s nice sometimes, to pray for God
To intervene and save us;
So gather all together and
Sing praises to His name!
It’s nice to be reminded by
These troubles that He gave us;
If God did not exist–why, then,
Just who’d there be to blame?

(oh, yeah, that’s right… atheists.)

And Pat Boone voiced a public opinion about… really, who cares? It’s Pat Boone!

I never, ever liked Pat Boone
The man has evil in his soul;
And not cos he’s a whackaloon,
But what he did to Rock and Roll.

Now that South Carolina’s license plates will no longer be able to say “I believe”, the residents may have to go back to expressing themselves through their cars in other ways.

My grandfather’s caddy tells anyone looking
He’s chock-full of ignorant hate;
The frame says “what would Jesus do?”
The plate says B- IR8

Our preacher, he told us he once saw a car
With blasphemy there on the tag–
The license plate read I4NIC8,
So he knew it was owned by a fag

All I want is a customized license
To hang from the back of my truck,
Expressing my hatred of science and schooling–
It says “I’m a dumb stupid fuck”

The power went out at Cuttlehouse for about 4 days. What wonderful things battery-powered radios are–why, if god had not given them to us, we’d have had to invent them ourselves!

Stuck in the dark, with the radio on,
I heard the AM preachers;
I never knew that atheists
Were such appalling creatures!
The godless have declared a war
On all of god’s creations–
This Christmas, we must all fight back
(Oh, yes… and send donations.)

Rick Warren paints us a beautiful picture of Eden, complete with dinosaurs and humans living together. It’s… inspirational.

In the Bible, they’d have you believe
That the serpent taught Man to deceive.
It was no bitten apple
But a dinosaur’s grapple–
Leviathan did it with Eve!

Yes, Eve, the original madam
Was cheating on poorly hung Adam
When it comes to good sex,
A Tyrannosaur’s Rex
As she found out the moment she had ‘im!

Though it cast them from Eden to Earth, it
Made Eve full of unending mirth–It
Spawned giggles and sighs,
And her faraway eyes
Had the look that just said “It was worth it.”

And you think *I’m* obsessive!?!

…just in case any of you have any free time at all (I currently do not–5 big projects all with the same due date: this Wednesday), I thought I’d share a great place to get completely lost in productive obsessive-compulsive behavior.

Ok, you might have noticed I have a tendency to write things in verse. Just a bit. Once in a while. But it’s not like I have decided to, say, write the entire unabridged dictionary in Limerick form. In good limericks, with proper rhymes and anapest meter and peer review. And (I’m sure there is an appropriate Douglas Adams phrase here, but as I said, I am busy) alphabetically. It began in 2004 (from an idea hatched in 2003), and has made it to the early D words so far. I have contributed about a hundred, but only just over half of them have passed peer review so far; these people are strict. And they are good. And they are obsessive! There are authors with thousands of approved limericks!

So if that sort of thing tickles your fancy, pop over and give it a try! Or, if you just need a definition for something… in limerick form… for a word that begins DA or earlier… they probably have it.

Some of mine from the site:

cuttlefish by Cuttlefish

The cuttlefish: squid-like, you think?
Just a cephalopod in the drink?
Then you also should know it
Refers to a poet,
Or any who hide in their ink.

browse by Cuttlefish

As I browsed through the books I’d requested,
The librarian had me arrested!
I cried, “Surely you’ve read
Francis Bacon, who said
That some books should be chewed and digested!”

“Some books are to be tasted, others to be swallowed, and some few to be chewed and digested.”
—Francis Bacon, Sr. (1561–1626)

brevity by Cuttlefish

The OEDILF takes the planet by storm—
Some day soon, we will find it the norm!
Words explained in great brevity
(Brief) and with levity—
Defined in the limerick form!


braised by Cuttlefish

The little 4-H-er was praised
For the beautiful calf she had raised.
The judge said, “It shows
That you love Elsie Rose.”
“Oh, I will”, said the little girl, “braised.”

Elsie Rose will be browned in fat and then simmered in a closed container.

chromium steel by Cuttlefish

She’s a robot; she doesn’t look real,
But she still has a certain appeal:
She has silicon eyes
And molybdenum thighs
And an ass made of chromium steel.

In 1921, when Karel Capek introduced the term robot, robots were assumed to be humanoid in appearance. Things have changed; most modern robots are not humanoid, and the term chromium steel has been replaced by stainless steel, referring to corrosion-resistant steel containing chromium content of at least 10.5% by weight.

chromatophore by Cuttlefish

Look again, and you might doubt your eyes:
It’s the cuttlefish, cloaked in disguise!
What’s its trick? There, within
Its remarkable skin
Are chromatophores, changing in size.

Chromatophores—cells, containing pigments, that can contract or dilate—are responsible for the amazing and ever-changing appearance of the cuttlefish. Cuttlefish make chameleons look like rank amateurs.


Much too busy to write right now. But I thought I’d share this beautiful new Digital Cuttlefish!

Now all I have to do is decide how to use it! New banner? Signature? I have to do something, so it is familiar when it graces the cover of volume 2, whenever that comes out! Any of you artistic types out there, feel free to suggest anything!

Once again, image by the incomparable Michael McRae. Click to embiggen (um… it embiggens quite a lot. Sorry.)

Happy Christmas To All Of You (From Your Atheist Friend)

I just got a nice “Merry Christmas” this morning
From someone who calls me his “atheist friend”;
He jokingly added, as if for a warning,
His greeting was truly not meant to offend.

He assumed that an atheist hated this season,
Or else he was joking, or just didn’t see;
He was wrong, though, that’s certain, whatever his reason–
Cos Christmas is really quite special to me:

We’ll all open presents, and cook a big dinner,
And share in traditions we learned long ago
But Christmas is different for this humble sinner,
No “birth of the saviour”, just people we know.

It has nothing to do with a babe in a manger
Or kings being led by a star up above,
But rather in family, friend, and in stranger,
In kindnesses done for the people we love.

A spirit of hope, and a spirit of giving,
A promise of peace in a troubling day,
A chance to examine the way we are living–
The courage to say what we’ve wanted to say.

You don’t need to think there’s a god up above you
To want to be good to your fellows on Earth.
To give to your friends, and to tell them “I love you”
Has nothing to do with some son of god’s birth.

For love, and for giving, we say “tis the season”
For caring, for kindness, for sharing good cheer
But why limit ourselves? I mean, what is the reason?
Why can’t we be giving the rest of the year?

This Christmas, my wish for each sister and brother,
To you, and to everyone you may hold dear;
Remember, this Christmas, to love one another—
Not only this season, but all through the year!

I’ll happily send him my own Christmas greeting,
And wish him a good one, and Happy New Year,
And hope he remembers, so next time we’re meeting
He’ll talk as he wants to, with nothing to fear.

Happy Cephalopodmas!

It’s still plenty of time till the plunder–
I mean “morning of childlike wonder”
But it’s such a big Earth
That, for instance, in Perth,
It’s already Christmas Down Under.

(I have recently been accused of being too snow-focused this squidmas, what with the song lyrics and all. So here’s a special Cuttlemas greeting for my dear friend Podblack Cat, for whom it is already tomorrow!)


Ah… XKCD has done it again!
(and of course my formatting screws it up–click image for the full comic!)

A cuttlefish learns, so amazing quickly,
And oh so incredibly much—
We’ve figured out chemistry, quantum mechanics,
Biology, Physics, and such;
We could, if we chose to, go traipsing through wormholes
To galaxies light-years away;
But frankly, there’s something more baffling to study,
And that’s why we’ve chosen to stay.

These rather unusual featherless bipeds,
So noisy, so smelly, so strange—
It seems they can learn, or at least they respond
To contingencies which we arrange.
They learn rather slowly, it must be admitted;
It could be their brains are quite small.
And given their habits, the evidence tells us
Some probably don’t learn at all.

They somehow invented some horrible weapons
Which all thinking beings should fear
They constantly threaten complete devastation—
I’m rather surprised they’re still here!
They keep dumping poison in lakes or in rivers
Where others get water to drink—
Although this is senseless, and foolish, and stupid,
I still believe some of them think.

They’ve hit upon something that multiplies thinking,
A process they like to call “science”,
Where each person builds on the other ones’ progress
Like standing on shoulders of giants.
Some say these “humans” are smarter than cuttlefish;
I won’t be taking that bet!
But maybe—just maybe—with science to help them,
These humans… they might make it yet.

Christmas Song, Revisited (sheet music!)

Ok, so in putzing around trying to find a way to put music here, I found a wonderful way to procrastinate! Finale NotePad has a 30-day trial period that is fully functional–with enough patience, a non-composer like myself was able to pretty much get my song down the way I hear it in my head… and a few other ways besides! (I did it the easy way–wrote it in C, then cut and pasted it into G, which apparently is the key I sing it in.) I think the Finale people have a place where they host people’s compositions, so perhaps I will put mine there, but I wanted (mostly for Kevin and Glenn, who asked) to put up the music before it is too late. Of course it is not quite the arrangement I hear, but I finally figured out what that arrangement would be–there is an album by jazz trumpeter Chase Sanborn, a small group with a woman vocalist; that is the sound I hear this song in. Oh, well.

This is just the main body of the song–the intro isn’t finished (I may edit it in later). Click for a more readable size. (UPDATE: In the comments, a PDF of the song, courtesy of the kind and talented AnthonyB.)

Oh, yeah, the other verses again:

(actual song)
Christmas is the time when I can say to you “I love you”
Kiss you if the mistletoe is hanging right above you
All through the year,
my friend we’ve grown near
And now when I see you this Christmas, it’s clear

I want to be more than friends this Christmas
I want to be closer than ever before
I want to be more than friends this Christmas
That’s what this Christmas is for.

Christmas is the time to cuddle up beside the fire
Feel the kind of love that only Christmas can inspire
Outside there’s snow,
but in here, a glow
And I’m warm when I’m with you, and that’s how I know:


Christmas is the time to hear the carols sung so sweetly
Let the magic of the season fill your heart completely
Love is brand new,
and wishes come true
I’ve just one wish this Christmas, and that wish is you:


Christmas is the time to walk the snowy world together
Face the coming year as boldly as we face the weather
Come and be strong
and join in my song
And the love that is Christmas can last the year long


The “War On Christmas”, Explained.

So it’s Christmas—my Christmas—my secular day;
The Supreme Court decided it must be that way.
As a secular holiday, Christmas can stay,
With department-store Santa Claus, there on display,
Or with Rudolph, or some other TV cliché,
And your photograph taken in front of the sleigh.

If you want, you can use this occasion to pray;
Even atheists know such behavior’s okay—
Just as long as you don’t expect me to obey,
And admit that your version of Christmas holds sway;
The establishment clause means I don’t have to play
By your rules, because every belief gets its say.

If you really think Christmas is in disarray,
That it’s war, and it’s time to make somebody pay,
Then I humbly submit, you’ve been led far astray
By some ignorant pundit who airs his dismay
By the grace of that same First Amendment that “they”
Get to hide behind, here in the U. S. of A.

Why, You’ve Grown A Whole Foot!

One of the wonderful things about babies
Is counting each finger and toe,
And seeing the miniature fingerprint whorls—
Each one is unique, as you know.
The joy’s universal, or so I would hope;
I don’t think I need to explain.
But no one expects to find fingers or toes
On a foot growing in your kid’s brain!

But three-day-old Sam is a miracle baby;
Mom sees him smile and laugh—
He’s cuter than any one kid ought to be;
He’s cute as a kid and a half!
His story, first told to a small, local paper
Has now hit the public arena;
They don’t say they’re looking for names for the foot
But the natural choice is “Athena”

A Critical Examination Of Belief

I noticed something while grading yesterday–a student had found that our class topic had presented some challenges to his belief system. Our topic often does that. He decided to write his final paper on those challenges, and to see whether the two positions might be made more compatible. (Of course, the possibility that one or the other was simply wrong did not make an appearance in his paper.) He examined the evidence to see why people would believe our topic, but apparently did not feel that he had to make any similar justification for his own belief, beyond “I believe in God”. I must admit, I have to wonder a bit about the strength of a belief that is never subjected to inquiry. I would love to see the same amount of work put into the other half of his paper, the one that should begin “I believe in God, for the following reasons…” But I suspect I know the answer.

This verse is not about him.

I’ve examined evolution, and I think I understand
Though the evidence is shaky, still I think the theory’s grand
But it’s only just a theory, so it’s only just a start
And an open-minded person should try picking it apart.
No belief without a reason! Give me proof of what you claim!
And the more I look, the more I see the evidence is lame!
When considering a tangled bank, I choose to see God’s Laws
And the reason I believe it? Just because.

Charles Darwin drew a picture of an ever-branching tree
From the earliest of creatures all the way to you and me
Other limbs produced the fishes, beetles, lizards, monkeys, ants,
Paramecia, bacteria, creationists and plants;
He supported it with evidence of every kind he could
Which I’ve critically examined, as a thinking person should;
Now I know that he’s mistaken in the picture that he draws
And the reason I believe it? Just because.

If you analyze it critically, as science says we must
You’ll find laws of physics broken, so the theory is a bust:
The second thermo-something law is busted into pieces
By the fact that evolution means that entropy decreases!
And random changes couldn’t make the creatures that we find,
So the evidence is clear, that we cannot be un-designed!
With castles out of playing-cards and armies made of straws
There’s the reason I believe it: Just because.

Now, with Darwin and his evolution clearly in the tank
There is only one alternative, if I am to be frank;
That’s the theory found in Genesis, the Holy Word of God,
And with natural selection out, creation gets the nod.
But we can’t be disrespectful to our deeply held belief,
So our critical examination, this time, must be brief
There’s no clothing on this emperor, not even filmy gauze—
But the reason I believe it? Just because.

Sure, the logic may be iffy, and the evidence is slim—
Who created the creator? And then, who created him?
Why the Genesis creation? Why not something else instead?
Can we guarantee the story is exactly what God said?
Is it literal or metaphor, or maybe outright fiction?
What’s the proper course of action when we find a contradiction?
I’m ignoring any nagging doubt within me where it gnaws
And the reason I believe it? Just because.

If I’m right, I go to heaven, which I’d really like to do
But I’ll go to hell for sure if I suspect that it’s untrue
It’s a simple little wager, there’s no reason to think twice:
You get punished if you’re naughty, you get presents if you’re nice
From the guy who watches all of us, from there behind his beard
(And who cares if it’s millennia since last time he appeared?)
And so, even if it’s really just a grown-up’s Santa Claus
Well, the reason I believe it? Just because.