Thoughts from on a plane travelling 504km/h

Air Canada, I have to say, has some snazzy planes. I have a live map of where I am in the flight, how long it will be til I get there, and to feed my OCD and need for more information than is actually necessary for any normal traveller, exactly how fast I’m travelling and at what altitude. All on an LCD panel that’s built into the seat in front of me. 1h 46 mins, touchdown at 10:02 am local Toronto time. This is definitely information overkill.
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Vacation! Blog entering low-power mode now.

While I’ve spent other work vacations claiming to put the blog in low power mode, but still managing to keep blogging at my usual rate, there’s a good possibility that for the next two weeks my blogging activities will be significantly curtailed by all the preparation and socializing that accompanies attending CONvergence.

I am very likely presently in the air on my way to Minnesota right now, assuming nothing untoward has happened (planes delayed, pilots being Raptured away mid-flight, etc). I might have a thing or two to write while I’m in the air, but I also plan to try to finally read the beta copy of Kelly McCullough’s new book so I can tell him in person what I thought of it. Yeah, the harassment fight has been keeping me from other duties. I suspect he wouldn’t mind though, considering the nature of this all-consuming conflagration, and the frequency with which he attends conventions.

I will, as usual, attempt to keep some interesting stuff pumping into my blog, but the chances of hosting a knock-down-drag-out fight over some piece of my personal philosophy is significantly lower as a result of all the time I plan on spending catching up with friends and making new ones.

Once in Minnesota, I understand I have more beers to try. I didn’t quite get through all the beers on offer last time there. I should post my notes on the last set, so I clear my “beers I’ve tried and haven’t yet blogged about” queue. I’ll also probably rely pretty heavily on working my way through some of the blog fodder backlog from links people have been sending me. But all that aside, it’s well possible I may not pay as close attention to the blogosphere as I have recently. If you need me for something, those of you who really matter already know how to get a hold of me.

And if anyone needs to pass along hugs to Stephanie Zvan, let me know and I’ll see what I can do.

Yay vacation!!

Obamacare causes unemployment

What an absolute horrorshow the coverage of the Supreme Court announcement was.

To be absolutely clear, as a Canadian, I cannot fathom how people are seriously shouting to the rafters that the health care system in the States amounts to “socialism”, considering the Individual Mandate is a demand that people buy into an insurance policy from a capitalist oligopoly on penalty of governmental fines.

Providing medicare-for-everyone, or implementing single payer, would have been significantly better moves. And those would have been rightly considered socialist moves, because they undercut a marketplace where capitalism values money over lives. Even still, the middle class will pay significantly less overall as a result of the tax credits the bill provides. This isn’t a bad incremental improvement, but doesn’t go nearly far enough to rectify your health care system’s problems. (Hint: they all have to do with making money off of human misery.)

What a shame that one guy lost his job though. Obama’s ruining your economy! ZOMG!

Lonesome George has died

The last Galapagos tortoise, Lonesome George, has died at roughly a hundred years old. Scientists aren’t sure why he died and plan an autopsy, but Galapagos tortoises were thought to have a lifespan of about two hundred years.

George was a member of the same species of tortoise that prompted Charles Darwin, on visiting the Galapagos Islands, to first formulate the theory of evolution.

The footage of George in this clip starts at 2:03, but you may want to watch the start anyway, which tells of fishermen holding George and other iconic animals hostage to fend off conservationists who have been making the fishermen’s lives difficult.

Ashu Solo increases pressure on Saskatoon prayer-mayor

I’ve covered previously Ashu Solo’s complaints to the mayor of Saskatoon for one of their councillors’ prayers during a volunteer appreciation dinner, and the CCLA asking them to stop it.

It appears that several days ago, Solo contacted me to let me know that he’s built a blog post regarding the media’s coverage of this ongoing issue, and of Atchison’s and Donauer’s odious and religiously-privileged responses. (My email has been inundated lately though, so it kinda got buried, and I’m only getting around to posting this now.)

That post is here, and includes an open letter to the pair that documents where they’ve doubled down publicly.
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Mission Creep

One of the main complaints we’ve seen recently about our ongoing conversation with regard to sexism in the skeptical and atheist communities, is one about mission creep — that we’re a community defined by our common ground, e.g. atheism/skepticism, and we shouldn’t try to hash out other differences about other things.

I couldn’t agree less.
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A scientist believes in God and invented some numbers and really bad math. Therefore, religion wins.

This should hardly be newsworthy, but The Laredo Sun thought it was. Turns out Daniel Friedmann, CEO of a Canadian aerospace company and proud owner of a master’s degree in engineering physics, believes that the non-overlapping magisteria argument is wrong, that science and religion are in fact overlapping, but he also believes that they’re compatible because they point to the same answer: that Goddidit. Oh, and he apparently wrote a book called The Genesis One Code. (Starring Brobert Blangdon maybe?)

But they both agree on the timeline for the development of the universe and life on Earth, Friedmann says. He has developed a formula that converts “Bible time” to years as we know them.

When applied to calculating the age of the universe and life on Earth, the Bible consistently matches scientific estimates derived from the study of fossil timelines, the solar system and the cosmos.

His formula — 1,000 X 365 X 7,000 –was derived from references in religious texts and science. The first number is found in Psalms, which says a year for God is 1,000 years for mortals.

The second refers to the amount of days in one solar year. The third comes from scriptural study that indicates one creation day in Genesis equals 7,000 God years.

When those numbers are multiplied in human years, each creation day is an epoch of 2.56 billion years, he says. Using the formula, the biblical age of the universe is 13.74 billion years.

Scientific estimates put the universe’s age at 13.75 billion, plus or minus 0.13 billion, he says.

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Kickstarter for Climate Crocks’ expedition

Peter Sinclair has been invited to join a research team to Mt. Baker to document the glaciers on this active volcano. His further appeal for funding is here:

Unlike well-funded, professional climate deniers, I don’t have the Heartland Institute, The Koch Brothers, Oil, Fossil Fuel, and Tobacco Companies paying my way. If this is going to happen, I have to rely on my viewers to jump in and help out, as many have in the past.

Therefore, from now until midnight, Friday, July 13th, I’m running a fundraiser on kickstarter.com, a crowd sourcing site with a good track record, and inviting any and all friends of Climate Crocks – if you’ve ever thought about what you could do to help communicate the science on the issue of the millennium, here’s one of the most direct and efficient opportunities you could have.

Worthy cause, if you ask me. Denialists are way better funded than the scientists and others who actually know how dire the situation is becoming. The Kickstarter is right here.

HUGE news from American Atheists re harassment (now with link to press release)

David Silverman, Amanda Knief, and the rest of the crew at American Atheists have put together what I feel exceedingly comfortable in saying is absolutely the strongest anti-harassment policy implemented in this entire campaign. AA just closed a conference call (to which I was invited, though my day job impeded my participation). They have gone above and beyond my wildest expectations for delineating what actions are objectionable, and what might happen if you engage in those actions regardless. The policy hasn’t yet gone live but here’s what was apparently sent around to the conference bridge participants. In the event that this policy is significantly altered after I’ve posted this, I’ll amend.
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