I can scarcely bear to scroll through just our solar system, all just to see some tiny scattered dots. There isn’t a single solitary space squid to be found, so why bother?
Mar 05 2014
Mar 05 2014
I was reading these debating suggestions from a particularly stupid wingnut with the idea that I’d just do the opposite…until it sunk in that they’re so contradictory that I can’t even do that.
So to recap, the only way conservatives can win debates is to not look angry, while publicly shaming their opponent, punching first, and calling their opponents liars and haters. And remember: all of this is equivalent to futilely pinning some kind of gelatinous dessert to a wall.
I think it’s also got like three first steps, which means I’m going to have to grow another leg.
Mar 05 2014
The cows. Thousands of years of sneaky deviousness — do not fear Skynet, it’s the time when the cows achieve full sentience (if they haven’t already) and rise up against us that you should be dreading.
Mar 05 2014
Sometimes those are good descriptors. I read a happy story for a change this morning: it’s about Arunachalam Muruganantham, an Indian man who embarked on a long crusade to make…sanitary napkins. Perhaps you laugh. Perhaps you get a little cranky at a guy who rushes in to meddle in women’s concerns. And there’s some good reason to feel that way: he starts out with embarrassing levels of ignorance.
He fashioned a sanitary pad out of cotton and gave it to Shanthi [his wife], demanding immediate feedback. She said he’d have to wait for some time – only then did he realise that periods were monthly. “I can’t wait a month for each feedback, it’ll take two decades!” He needed more volunteers.
And then a man who didn’t realize until then that menstrual periods were monthly dedicated himself to years of tinkering and testing to build a machine to manufacture sanitary napkins, which just sounds perversely fanatical and obsessive. But it turns out to be a serious problem for poor women.
Women who do use cloths are often too embarrassed to dry them in the sun, which means they don’t get disinfected. Approximately 70% of all reproductive diseases in India are caused by poor menstrual hygiene – it can also affect maternal mortality.
So Muruganantham set out to teach himself everything about making napkins, and examining and testing used menstrual pads. His wife left him. He was regarded as a sick pariah in his town — the disgusting guy who plays with menstrual blood. He was going up against traditional taboos and public squeamishness.
But he succeeded! He designed and built simple machines that take cotton and cellulose at one end and churn out disposable sanitary napkins — and it was relatively cheap, easy to maintain, and could be distributed to rural India where the women themselves could make the necessaries. And then we learn about his philosophy…
Muruganantham seemed set for fame and fortune, but he was not interested in profit. “Imagine, I got patent rights to the only machine in the world to make low-cost sanitary napkins – a hot-cake product,” he says. “Anyone with an MBA would immediately accumulate the maximum money. But I did not want to. Why? Because from childhood I know no human being died because of poverty – everything happens because of ignorance.”
He believes that big business is parasitic, like a mosquito, whereas he prefers the lighter touch, like that of a butterfly. “A butterfly can suck honey from the flower without damaging it,” he says.
Oh my god, an idealist. I thought they were all extinct! And such a fine beautiful specimen, too! I’m going to steal that metaphor, as well, just because it is so lovely.
Most of Muruganantham’s clients are NGOs and women’s self-help groups. A manual machine costs around 75,000 Indian rupees (£723) – a semi-automated machine costs more. Each machine converts 3,000 women to pads, and provides employment for 10 women. They can produce 200-250 pads a day which sell for an average of about 2.5 rupees (£0.025) each.
Women choose their own brand-name for their range of sanitary pads, so there is no over-arching brand – it is “by the women, for the women, and to the women”.
And my heart grew two sizes that day.
Mar 05 2014
Some reporters from Vice crashed a UKIP meeting, and photographed and interviewed attendees. Normally that’s a fine idea to help humanize the opposition — there has been a lot of effort to make people recognize that gays and atheists are their next door neighbors, for instance — but somehow, when it involves really fringey ideas, especially British ideas, everyone comes out looking like participants in a Monty Python skit.
I’m not picking on the UK. The same phenomenon happens with the American Tea Party, we just lack the convenient surreal television referent.
Anyway, it’s full of weird stuff. The religion of capitalism poisons everything, and when you combine it with the religion of religion, you’ve got a hopeless case.
Two people who probably weren’t caught out by booze over the course of the weekend were Sally Grant and Philip Foster, members of Christian Soldiers in UKIP – a group who claim to be "Fighting through Christ for deliverance from EU tyranny". I asked Philip why God hates the EU so much.
What lies behind capitalism and Adam Smith are basic Christian principles of personal liberty, the right to property and respect for honesty in dealings. A free market only works with an unlevel playing field. If we’re all evened out, you won’t have anything I need, and I won’t have anything you need. The European Union is not a free market. It’s a customs union, which is quite a different thing. It’s a level playing field that’s held like that by regulation. They destroy free trade. Adam Smith would be tearing his hair out.
And there he is! Palimpsest Jesus! Once you spot him, he’s everywhere. There is no real Jesus — there’s only this blank screen on which people project their imaginary ideals. So Philip Foster sees Jesus as a property rights warrior, a kind of investment banker in robes who thinks inequity is a wonderful thing (Matthew 5, Philip, or Luke 10:30).
And then I spotted him in this interview with Sarah Silverman.
And to me, I love the symbol of Jesus. It’s so odd to me that so many people on the far right use his name to justify terrible things that I can’t imagine he’d approve of.
And I just want to say to Silverman that he was a first century Jewish rabbi: he probably would have been horrified at openly gay couples, or worse, women speaking and living independent lives. At least she said “the symbol of Jesus”, the tolerant and loving myth, when the reality of Jesus was a man of his time (see Matthew 21 and 25:46).
But Jesus has become this foggy dead mysterious authority figure that you can trot out for just about any cause you care about — he’s a regular mercenary who serves any cause, on the left or the right, and can happily serve them at the same time. Abolitionists and slave-holders, pro-choice and anti-choice, capitalist or socialist, he’s right there, manning the barricades and storming them. I tune out any argument that invokes Palimpsest Jesus any more, even ones where I may agree with the side using his name.
By the way, while I criticize her silly Jesus views, the Silverman interview otherwise earns her some respect. Standing up for liberal political causes has been some sacrifice for her.
Do you worry by being so public with all of this that you’re alienating a section of your fan base?
Oh, this is terrible for my career, make no mistake. This is not good for my career, and it definitely lost me an entire kind of audience. For networks that are selling soap, I can’t imagine that it would behoove them to hire me.
First of all, I don’t let myself read the comments. I need to protect myself, because when I’ve done that I’ve found myself trembling, scared that I’m gonna get killed. People on Twitter can be really, really scary. They always have avatars that are really scary cyber monsters. The bio is always like, “Family, Jesus, America.” It’s so odd. My friend told me she wants to write a book called “Jesus Would Hate You.”
Good work, and boy, that sounds familiar.
But really, Jesus would hate everyone.
Mar 04 2014
I was reading the latest issue of Secular Nation, and one article in particular made me smile.
Why Atheist Libertarians Are Part of USA’s 1% Problem
By CJ Werleman
￼In the days running up to Thanksgiving, Walmart urged its workers to donate food to their most in-need colleagues. You know, instead of Walmart having to pay said workers a livable wage. When people ask me what libertarianism looks like, I tell them that. By people I mean atheists, because for some stupid reason, far too many of my nonbeliever brethren have hitched their wagon to the daftest of all socio-economic theories.
It doesn’t help when atheist luminaries publicly extol their libertarianism. Penn Jillette writes, “What makes me a libertarian is what makes me an atheist — I don’t know. If I don’t know, I don’t believe….I’ll wait for real evidence and then I’ll believe.”
Well, the only excuse Jillette has for his breathtaking ignorance is that he earns his living performing as a Las Vegas magician. Also, he graduated from a clown college.
Famed science author and editor of Skeptic magazine Michael Shermer says he became a libertarian after reading Ayn Rand’s tome Atlas Shrugged. Wait, what? That’s the book that continues to inspire college sophomores during the height of their masturbatory careers, typically young Republicans (nee fascists). But unless your name is Congressman Paul Ryan (R-WI), most people grow out of the “Screw you, I have mine” economic principles bestowed by the Russian-born philosopher by the time they’re legally old enough to order their first beer.
You can begin crying now: O WHY DOES HE DIVIDE THE ATHEIST COMMUNITY SO? BOOO HOO HOO.
Also look for good articles on electing atheists to political office by Edward Tabash, and Herb Silverman writing about his hopeful expectations for atheists in politics. Just not Tea Party politics, please.
Mar 04 2014
Mar 04 2014
I really do like Apple products, but there’s one thing about them that really annoys me: the ever-shifting arrangement of connectors. Every Mac device seems to have a slightly different array of ports, and you need different cables with every one. I’ve got four different video adapters in my travel bag. On my last trip, I brought the charging cable for my iPad…which doesn’t work with my iPhone, so my phone was dead on the second day. I can’t even use the power brick from my wife’s laptop on mine, and vice versa. So I’m always on the lookout for relatively cheap, non-Apple adapters of various sorts.
I like this one, from Nomad. It fits on my keychain! It’s tiny! I’ll have a connector for my iPad everywhere I go! Also, they sent it to me free on trial, so even better.
Of course, now watch: the next time I get a new laptop, it’ll have even more different cables. What I’m going to need is the Swiss Army Knife of cable adapters.
Mar 04 2014
Ukraine is a mess, and Putin is mad. Not angry mad, but George-Bush living-in-militaristic-paranoid-fantasy-land mad.
The Russian occupation of Crimea has challenged Mr. Obama as has no other international crisis, and at its heart, the advice seemed to pose the same question: Is Mr. Obama tough enough to take on the former K.G.B. colonel in the Kremlin? It is no easy task. Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany told Mr. Obama by telephone on Sunday that after speaking with Mr. Putin she was not sure he was in touch with reality, people briefed on the call said. “In another world,” she said.
And now Putin has given a press conference.
Slouching in a fancy chair in front of a dozen reporters, Putin squirmed and rambled. And rambled and rambled. He was a rainbow of emotion: Serious! angry! bemused! flustered! confused! So confused. Victor Yanukovich is still the acting president of Ukraine, but he can’t talk to Ukraine because Ukraine has no president. Ukraine needs elections, but you can’t have elections because there is already a president. And no elections will be valid given that there is terrorism in the streets of Ukraine. And how are you going to let just anyone run for president? What if some nationalist punk just pops out like a jack-in-the-box? An anti-Semite? Look at how peaceful the Crimea is, probably thanks to those guys with guns holding it down. Who are they, by the way? Speaking of instability, did you know that the mayor of Dniepropetrovsk is a thief? He cheated “our oligarch, [Chelsea owner Roman] Abramovich” of millions. Just pocketed them! Yanukovich has no political future, I’ve told him that. He didn’t fulfill his obligations as leader of the country. I’ve told him that. Mr. Putin, what mistakes did Yanukovich make as president? You know, I can’t answer that. Not because I don’t know the answer, but because it just wouldn’t be right of me to say. Did you know they burned someone alive in Kiev? Just like that? Is that what you call a manifestation of democracy? Mr. Putin, what about the snipers in Kiev who were firing on civilians? Who gave them orders to shoot? Those were provocateurs. Didn’t you read the reports? They were open source reports. So I don’t know what happened there. It’s unclear. But did you see the bullets piercing the shields of the Berkut [special police]. That was obvious. As for who gave the order to shoot, I don’t know. Yanukovich didn’t give that order. He told me. I only know what Yanukovich told me. And I told him, don’t do it. You’ll bring chaos to your city. And he did it, and they toppled him. Look at that bacchanalia. The American political technologists they did their work well. And this isn’t the first time they’ve done this in Ukraine, no. Sometimes, I get the feeling that these people…these people in America. They are sitting there, in their laboratory, and doing experiments, like on rats. You’re not listening to me. I’ve already said, that yesterday, I met with three colleagues. Colleagues, you’re not listening. It’s not that Yanukovich said he’s not going to sign the agreement with Europe. What he said was that, based on the content of the agreement, having examined it, he did not like it. We have problems. We have a lot of problems in Russia. But they’re not as bad as in Ukraine. The Secretary of State. Well. The Secretary of State is not the ultimate authority, is he?
Hey, what was that drill we learned in grade school? Duck and cover? That works, right?
Mar 04 2014
Sorry, gang. I thought this music video by Katy Perry was eminently forgettable pop, overproduced and not particularly interesting, but you get to see it anyway.
In case you had too much taste to bother, Katy Perry plays an ancient Egyptian pharoah — you know, pyramids, stilted poses, animal-headed gods, etc. — who disintegrates a series of suitors with magic and takes their treasure. Really, that’s it. Only one of the suitors (at about 1:10 in the video) is wearing a necklace with a squiggle in it that some Muslims claim resembles the name of Allah, so this video is a work of blasphemy. You’ll have to look very closely to even see it (also, it looks like the few frames where the emblem was visible have already been edited out).
I know! Why are Muslims upset? It’s all those followers of Anubis and Bastet and Osiris and so forth who ought to be up in arms! But it’s certain flaky weird Muslims who are posting a petition demanding that the video be taken down. Makes sense; the polytheistic religion of ancient Egypt, founded around 3100 BCE, and monotheistic Islam, founded around 600 CE, are so easily confused.
This is the reason for lodging the petition so that people from different walks of life, different religions and from different parts of the world, agree that the video promotes blasphemy, using the name of God in an irrelevant and distasteful manner would be considered inappropriate by any religion.
Isn’t it heartwarming that there are people who dedicate their time and effort to protecting the delicate sensibilities of invisible imaginary super-powerful beings?
Anyway, if you think Katy Perry needs some urging to resist the efforts of kooks to suppress her commercially lucrative work, there is a counter-petition. It seems superfluous to me, but OK.
The one question in my mind is why are fanatical Muslims stepping frame by frame through Katy Perry videos anyway?